Thursday, December 29, 2005

Rocket Fuelled up for one last trip?

The best bubbling story under the surface in Boston and New York is whether former star Roger Clemens is going to don those Red Sox or those Pinstripes for one last hurrah. The seven time Cy Young award winner has indicated that should he pitch on next season then the two AL East giants are among the four he'd consider playing for, the other two are both in his home state of Texas with the Rangers or the Astros.

Clemens' 13-8 record last year doesn't should overly impressive when you consider he was playing for a team that went to the World Series but when you look closer as you all know, he led the Major Leagues with a 1.87 ERA last time around and that includes pitching half his games in a big hitters park. His home ERA was lower than the next best and quite simply he was awesome. He added to his legacy by coming out of that bullpen in the bottom of the 15th inning and coming into the 4th game of the ALDS as a pinch hitter against the Braves. Yes you read that right, he entered as a pinch hitter. He pitched three innings of stellar shutout ball and then in the 18th took two swings trying to end it all before the next batter Chris Burke did exactly that.

His last outing to date was cut short by injury, is that the way the Rocket wants to finish, with a damp fizzle? I don't think so, so what has it got to do with the Yanks and Sox? Well I think there is a 100% chance he'll pitch next year and a 90% chance is that he'll pinch in the AL East. Both clubs would jump to sign this guy to a 1yr/$15m deal and whilst Neil H isn't at all convinced he'll return to baseball, he does think that if he does then the Sox have a 'higher risk of overpaying for the one year Roger revival tour than they did before the Boston media started on their "clueless" campaign.'

I am sure that Roger will get the itch soon enough and in the New Year he'll instruct his agents to talk to all four clubs and get a feel of what is out there. I think he'll pitch until he doesn't feel that he can do himself justice and at this time he is still a genuine ace and would anchor pretty much any rotation out there. He doesn't need the money, he is more than wealthy enough to look after himself and his family for generations to come, but he does need the game and the heat of a pennant race. Some people play the sport because they are naturally gifted and it is a great career, some play it because they are naturally gifted but also because they need to play. Roger has one of those characters and he isn't done yet, there is another chapter to be written in this great Hall of Fame story and I think it'll be in New York or in Boston. At a push I think he'll end up in Fenway for one last year as a Red Sox before he goes into the Hall with a Boston cap (although I still contest he should choose what cap he wears but thanks to Wade Boggs that right has gone).

If the Sox get Clemens then it is a massive coup for them, as it would be if the Yankees brought him back. Love him or loathe him for what he's done in his career, it is hard not to marvel at his drive and success. Whoever he pitches for will get a great player and the winners will be the general public who'd get to watch him for at least another year.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Happy Holidays

The staff behind 3,079 Miles... (ok Neil and I) would like to wish all our readers Happy Holidays, or if you are from the UK and are more traditionalists then Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

We have both enjoyed writing this blog since we put it together one day back in Spring Training and look forward to taking the blog onwards in 2006 as we endeavor to continue to write about our respective clubs and the major baseball issues in general.

Thank you for all your support and comments/e-mails throughout the year and we hope to add enjoyment and opinion to your day for many days to come.

Neil's H & M

Friday, December 23, 2005

Yankees set for 2006

The New York Yankees are set for the 2006 season after the signings of Damon, Bernie and Dotel this week. The only move that could happen would be Roger Clemens if the future first-round Hall of Famer says he wants to play on in 2006 then I have little doubt that the Bronx Bombers would be interested.

The question is though is this squad good enough to win it all?

The simple answer is of course yes, but that doesn't mean that they will.

Lineup wise then the Yankees look very impressive. Damon's signing will enable Jeter to return to that #2 hole giving the Yankees a 1-2 punch like they had with Knoblauch and Jeter back in the dynasty days. Lots of conjecture around how the lineup will look behind them but I'll go with Giambi, A-Rod, Sheffield and Matsui before going into Jorge, Bernie and the nipper at 2nd hitting in the #9 hole.

On paper it is a cracking lineup.

Rotation wise we look ok but certainly aren't anything special. We go into the 2006 season with many questions surrounding our starters. Will Randy be the Randy we expected? Will Moose pitch like pitchers seem to in a contract year? Can Carl Pavano earn his money? Are Chacon and Wang for real? So many questions and we won't know the answers for a good while yet.

Down in the pen we still have Mo at the end but with newcomers in the form of Dotel, Farnsworth, Villone and Myers joining two from Sturtze, Proctor, Small and Wright then you'd have to say we've moved forwards on that front. Dotel won't be ready until June in most likelihood but I really like his signing as he gives Joe a real option down in the pen. Whether or not Farnsworth will be able to pitch under the full glare of the NY spotlight remains to be seen, but again on paper it looks a decent move.

So ladies and gentleman, barring any major injuries we don't know about as yet and any big shock moves, here are your 2006 New York Yankees:


Jorge Posada
Kelly Sinnett


Jason Giambi
Andy Phillips
Robinson Cano
Derek Jeter
Alex Rodriguez
Kevin Howard


Hideki Matsui
Gary Sheffield
Bernie Williams
Bubba Crosby
Johnny Damon


Randy Johnson
Mike Mussina
Carl Pavano
Shawn Chacon
Chien-Ming Wang


Mariano Rivera
Kyle Farnsworth
Ron Villone
Mike Myers
Jaret Wright
Aaron Small
Tanyon Sturtze

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Damon is a Yankee

Well the first words out of my clock radio this morning (and that really isn't an exaggeration) were 'Damon signed a 4 year deal with the Yankees...' Morning Neil...

I really do have mixed reactions to this deal - Damon's re-signing would have provided some stability in an off-season that has been relatively turbulent so far - but staying the same for staying the same's sake is usually not productive. Truthfully, Johnny Damon isn't worth $13m per, not even as an icon, particularly not as the icon of a team that peaked 2 years ago.

The Red Sox are going through an interesting period in their history where a number of significant 'marque' players are reaching free agency in a relatively short period of time - Garciaparra (who didn't quite make FA), Martinez, Lowe, Varitek and now Damon. And it is interesting because the consensus arguement on the most significant of these who have departed, and the one who stayed, is that the players were likely worth high money for two years... but after that... was Pedro worth his 4 year deal? is JD worth is his 4 year deal? is V'tek worth his 4 year deal - well the Sox will only have to live with the consequences of one of those deals, and I still think that they made the right decison in all of these cases.

The Yankees continue to follow the 'pay for past performance' model - and they are perhaps the only team that can continue to afford this approach. Paying for past performance tends to have predictable results - particularly when the performance you are buying is wrapped up in a (season age) 33 year old packet. Neil may not believe me, but players tend to regress as they age, players with certain skill sets - say those where a large part of the value the generate is based on speed - decline faster. You may get my subtle point - JD's skill set will typically decline faster than, say, a hitter whose value is generated by their power.

But in Johnny's, and Pedro's, case, the 'next year' Red Sox are poorer for their departure - that is known. Making the arguement that the 2008 and 2009 Red Sox are better off... that may be true, but it is not much consolation, particularly today.

There have been quite a few things said today about the deal that I wouldn't mind noting, with a raised (insert your favoured Bond actor here) eyebrow!
  • "The Yankees, meanwhile, have no major holes. Their off-season work is all but complete, and they have done it at the expense of their rivals." New York Times
  • "I think the leadoff role has been under-appreciated. A good leadoff hitter is tough to find and I think New York just found the best leadoff hitter in the game." Johnny Damon
  • "So now your Boston Red Sox have no center fielder, no shortstop, and no first baseman to go along with no Theo Epstein and no clue." CHB - The Boston Globe
  • "when you factor in that YS swing that Damon has" Neil M
Let's start at the top -
  • yes the Yankees had a hole a CF, but really, it wasn't a $13M hole - and to state that a team with that starting rotation has no major holes... well ok.
  • ah Johnny, we may miss your beard and flowing locks... but I for one won't miss the idiot act.
  • why does CHB cover the Red Sox - he clearly hates the task? Why not retire, give someone else the job?
  • when I run the statistics / eyesight debate in my mind it is this kind of comment that drives me to statistics. If you look here MLB provides a tool to determine whether someone has a YS swing, and truthfully you need to hit a lot less singles than JD does to take advantage of the "short" left field porch in NY. Two HR's in one post season don't give him a YS swing - as evidenced by 3 HR's in 180 or so YS AB's.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Damon's a Yankee

So between going to bed last night and waking up this morning, the New York Yankees and Scott Boras got together and agreed on a deal that would see Johnny Damon rove around CF in the house that Ruth built for the next four years.

Whilst I think 4yr/$52m is too much money, I am actually very pleased with this deal. It isn't stupid years, for the next four years Damon will be an above average CF and for the next couple he is probably in the top two or three in the league. His range is above average and although his arm stunk last year, my colleague when discussing Damon with me earlier in the off season said that he had shoulder trouble and would be good to go for 2006 and look a lot better in the field.

Whilst Damon will most likely bat lead-off, I wouldn't be overse to him batting in the #9 hole leaving Jeter at the top of the order but that is unlikely to happen. So this move edges us towards this line-up for the 2006 season.

Damon, CF, L
Jeter, SS, R
Giambi, 1b, L
A-Rod, SS, R
Sheffield, 3b, R
Matsui, LF, L
Posada, C, S,
Cano, 2b, L
Phillips, DH, R

Whilst this move makes sense for the Yankees, it also weakens our #1 rivals in both lead-off and in CF. I would now expect Jeremy Reed to wind up roaming CF next season.

You have to give Cash props for this deal. He steadfastly stated that four years was his limit and stuck to it like glue. Boras wanted seven, then six, then five with an option, then five, but then when it came down to it he needed two teams in the hunt and when the Yankees offered 4yr/$52m and said it was on the table until close of play Tuesday then it forced the agents hand. If the Yankees were out then it seriously weakened his hand so they took the offer and ran.

So to summarize, nice move by the Yankees, they do not, I repeat do not give up the #21 pick in the 2006 player draft, they've added range and offense to CF and when you consider Bernie's arm last year then they've even added arm strength and when you factor in that YS swing that Damon has then you have to actually like this deal, you really do.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

So this Jeremy Reed lad...

I have news for you all, the starting Centerfielders for the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in 2006 will most likely be Johnny Damon and Jeremy Reed. Who knows which club will have which player but Damon only has two suitors and both of those suitors have spoken numerous times with the Mariners over Reed.

The Mariners are keen on both Bronson Arroyo and Chien-Ming Wang, but the Sox prefer to ship Matt Clement away whereas the Yanks would prefer to jettison Carl Pavano in any said deal. The Bronx Bombers have already turned down a straight up Reed for Pavano deal but would be interested in possibly adding another player to the deal should they miss out on Damon.

Reed has yet to prove he can hit Major League pitching but after being a monster in the minors, you have to expect that he will be a fine ML hitter. When you add that to his outstanding defense and the fact that he can swipe a bag or two then you can see why he is rated so highly by scouts.

Damon today declined arbitration meaning the Red Sox have until January 8th to reach an agreement with the lead-off guy. Should they fail to sign a deal by then, you'd fully expect to see him end up in the Bronx as he will not be sitting out until May to play for the Sox.

Both players have their upsides, one is a fine defensive CF with an interesting future in the bigs whereas the other is one of the best lead off hitters in the game, and he has that classic Yankee Stadium swing if he ends up in the Bronx...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Nomahhhh in pinstripes?

Answers on a postcard - how will Red Sox fans respond to Nomar coming to bat at Fenway... in pinstripes.... and you have to hope that he swings at that first pitch and pops up to 1st in foul territory, it would only be fair...

But I really have to take issue with this - I mean seriously, I think the guy is trying to be humorous, but "
the Yanks are monopolizing the market of quality starting shortstops"... erm, the Yankees have one quality starting shortstop (and I'm sorry Neil but...) and they don't play him at shortstop.

I loved Nomar... my first game at Fenway... Nomar's home debut in '96... the first autographed baseball I bought... Nomar... but how can we take any comment seriously from someone that wants to include Nomar in the statement "the Yanks are monopolizing the market of quality starting shortstops"?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

All new, new guys, same old, old guys

Well the suspense is over, and sadly I wasn't chosen as the new GM of the Red Sox - I thought my interview went well (I wouldn't have hired a manager who wouldn't have lifted Pedro, I wouldn't have offered Manny an eight year deal...), LL and I seemed to click (he wants a new SS for the Holidays), but something wasn't quite right apparently.

So today the Red Sox hired these two - and you know you are getting old when GM's, just like policemen, are getting younger and younger. I think that this is the safe pick - despite popular misgivings over the 'co-GM' tag. Both have insider knowledge of the team, the minor league system and what it takes to work with LL, while both have shown in the last few weeks that they aren't scared to pull (or at least help pull) the trigger on big transactions.

One other outcome from today's announcement - I think the return of Theo in some role is more and more likely.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The number you are looking for is... area code 410

I guess you would describe the last few days as interesting...

The Sox made a nice pick up yesterday, obtaining Mark Loretta from the Padres for Doug Mirabelli - I am disappointed to be losing Mirabelli, but more in a, 'he was a good guy to have on the roster', rather than disappointment over the talent we are losing.

And then today...

Renteria just didn't work out... that doesn't mean he wouldn't have worked out, or that he won't work out in a Braves uniform, but I think that the Red Sox had to take this deal, though I am surprised that we are sending quite as much money (reportedly $11m over the next 3 years) as we are... but in return we get this guy... or more pertinently, this guy (one of the things I really like about John Sickels blog is this type of article). So the Sox get a very nice talent, but they do leave themselves with a hole at SS, less than a month after trading away the SS prospect who was blocked for the next three years...

Marte is generally regarded as the top prospect in the Braves system, but one who was blocked by Chipper Jones - it is interesting that the Phillies and the Braves had the same problem this off-season and dealt with the issue in completely the opposite way - the Phillies traded the veteran to allow the rookie to play, the Braves... well after re-working Chipper's contract, no one can be overly surprised that the Braves have gone down this route.

And then...

It couldn't be this easy could it?

Monday, December 05, 2005

A letter to the North Pole...

I could ask for a new starting pitcher, I could ask for some bullpen help, I could ask for a big hitting first baseman, or if I wasn't so shallow, I might ask for peace, contentment and food for all...

Instead, this (the East Coast version) will do!

Friday, December 02, 2005

One in and...

The New York Yankees didn’t take long to replace Flash Gordon in the bullpen as they inked Kyle Farnsworth to a three year contract worth $17m. The right-handed reliever who gave up just five round-trippers through the regular season last year is best known for him meltdown in Game 4 of the NLDS in Houston, where he gave up the Grand Slam to Lance Berkman in the 8th and the 2 out game tying Home Run in the 9th.

Whilst some my think this leads to the Yankees hiring a choker, I firmly disagree as everyone can have a bad game. I wouldn’t turn down Brad Lidge if he was offered to me even though that shot by Albert Pujols is still rising. Farnsworth’s live arm and devastating slider gives the Yankees a real option in the late innings and I hope he can harness his stuff.

Farnsworth turned down a 3yr/$15m offer from the Braves and also said no to the Rangers 4yr/$21m offer, a deal which would’ve been worth a lot more to him due to the lack of taxes in the state.

Whilst his career ERA is a scarily high 4.45, his arm has always been respected around the leagues and scouts have drooled over it since he entered the bigs. The only thing needed was him to learn the art of pitching and under Leo Mazzone in Atlanta, he did just that.

All in all though, a good move by the Yankees in my eyes. out

The New York Yankees and Tom Gordon have parted company after two good years with each other. The former setup man for Mariano Rivera has finalised his move to Philadelphia to become the new closer for the Phillies after Billy Wagner moved to NL East rivals the New York Mets.

Gordon gets $4.5 million next year, $7 million in 2007 and $5.5 million in 2008. The Phillies have a 2009 option of $4.5 million with a $1 million buyout. The 38 year-old had been angling for that guaranteed third year all off season and the Phillies were the first club to offer him that and the deal was sorted extremely quickly.

He’ll be 41 at the end of the deal, 42 if they exercise his 2009 option. Most Yankee fans (including me) will be sad to see him depart as he still had something very good to offer the club. However with Flash being a type A Free Agent, the Yankees will receive Philadelphia’s first round pick as well as getting a supplementary pick at the end of the first round of the 2006 draft.

As long as Flash wasn’t accepting a two-year deal then the Yankees did right to let him walk, this club needs to stop giving out dumb contracts and slowly they seem to be doing just that.