Thursday, November 29, 2012

Maybe Jay-Z Should Buy the Yankees

Stay with me on this one. On Wednesday, the Brooklyn Nets got into a fight with the Boston Celtics on the way to defeating the pride of the TD Bank Garden. You see, along with the Brooklyn aesthetic of the new uniforms, the newly located Nets have also adopted a bit of the Brooklyn attitude. Well, the old Brooklyn attitude, not the current hipster-defined "apathy" that pervades the increasingly pointless and ever faraway borough.

Wouldn't we love our Bombers to do a bit of the same? Wouldn't it be nice if they had some Bronx in them instead of always calmly explaining to the press how the eight hit Yankee batters in today's game were all likely unintentional? Wouldn't it be nice if we got a little mad when every at-bat in the postseason proved futile instead of simply blowing large bubbles with our big-league chew on the way back to the dugout?

All the Nets needed was to make Jay-Z a nominal partner, giving them an excuse to move the team to Brooklyn. But while Jay-Z may not make many of the business decisions, he brings a level of street-cred to the organization that they seem to be feeding off of.

If only the Yankees had some of that. You get the sense that rather than start a brawl, my kid has a thing later and the sponsors and whatnot. Even when Derek Jeter literally broke his ankle trying to make something of this postseason, the best we got was Nick Swisher saying the fans hurt his feelings. Why not tell the fans to go @#$& themselves, smack one of them in front of their mother, and then get a hit an inning later with a man on second? Why?

Oh, and Russell Martin just signed a two-year, $17 million deal with Pittsburgh. "Too rich for my blood," says Hal. Also, we were busy nailing down deals with two players who were unwilling to play anywhere else, so there's that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cause of Slow Winter Found

If you have been paying attention to the hot stove season this winter, you've probably noticed that it has been going pretty slow.  Not just for the Yankees mind you, but for all of baseball.  Though a few players have signed here and there, and one blockbuster trade between and Miami and Toronto has been hashed, overall the pace has moved as slow as the discussions about the fiscal cliff.  RJG sent out its investigative reporting team to find out the cause of this slow winter.

It was a brisk November evening when we met with a free agent player who's identity will remain anonymous out of respect for his on going negotiations.  Sitting in a midtown cafe, this player revealed to us the real problem with the off season.

"Us players are scared of the fiscal cliff."  He said.

"What?"  We answered.

"No one wants to sign a multi-million dollar contract without knowing if it will be taxed at the Clinton era tax rates, or at the Bush era tax rate.  Its keeping us all fearful of signing a deal."

Still confused, we pushed on.

"How will your decision be different if you're under the Clinton era tax rates as opposed to the Bush era rates?"

"How won't it be different?  Here in the states, I could sign a deal for $13 million a year, but under the Clinton era tax rates, I'll be seeing much less of that.  So if the Clinton era tax rates are instituted, I think I'll go overseas.  I'll make about $10 million less, but at least I won't be taxed as highly for it."

"So you would take a $10 million dollar pay cut to avoid paying higher taxes?"

"Yes.  You don't understand how hard it is.  My oldest will be 18 soon.  How will I afford to send them off to school in outerspace?" 


"Yeah, you know, to study the universe.  How else will they do it?  With a telescope?  Like some animal?  Only in Obama's America."

It turns out this sentiment was widely felt throughout the baseball world.  Non-free agent, but holder of the largest free agent contract ever, Alex Rodriguez, expressed his concerns on the matter.

"I understand why players are worried.  You can't expect to increase taxes on us, and have us be okay.  I mean, we're job creators.  How will I keep creating jobs if I only get to hold onto millions of dollars instead of millions and millions of dollars?  Its incredibly selfish."

Asked what jobs he was creating, A-Rod surprisingly gave some concrete examples.

"Just last year, my underperformance made the Yankees sign Eric Chavez.  It also made them trade for Casey McGehee mid season.  That's two jobs I created that would have never existed had I not been taxed under the Bush era tax rates."

Asked how the Bush era tax rates had anything to do with those two players getting brought to the Yankees, A-Rod answered:

"Well it happened under the Bush era tax rates, so there has to be a correlation."

So there you have it.  The fiscal cliff is scaring free agents from signing contracts here in the states, causing the slowest hot stove season in recent memory. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

RJG Discusses Potential Moves With Brian Cashman

With the winter proceeding at a snail's pace, we decided it was time to call up good friend of the blog, Yankees GM Brian Cashman, to find what was going on. The following is a transcript of our conversation:

BC: Hello?

RJG: Good morrow, sir! How is the Bronniest of the Cashman's doing this fine evening?

BC: Fine I gue . . . wait, what?

RJG: How are you doing this fine evening?

BC: Yeah, I get that, but you just said 'good morrow'. Bid me. You just bid me 'good morrow'.

RJG: And?

BC: Well is it morrow or evening?

RJG: Well, uh . . . hmm . . . you see . . . the thing is, we're in different time zones, so that's probably the cause of the confusion.

BC: I can see your area code on my caller ID, we're not in different time zones.

RJG: That's not really the point is it? I mean, seems like you're just being mean right now for no reason.

BC: I'm sorry. You're right. It's just that I'm frustrated with my Christmas gift ideas and I'm taking it out on you, which is unfair.

RJG: Christmas gifts, huh? I can help you with that. What do you got so far?

BC: Well, for my wife, I was thi . . .

RJG: Ex-wife.

BC: . . . nking . . . wait, what?

RJG: Ex-wife. For your ex-wife you were thinking.

BC: It's not final yet.

RJG: When the New York Post has a whole series of articles on your affair with a crazy woman, it's pretty final.

BC: Are you going to help me or not?

RJG: I can't help you if you won't be honest with me, and that starts with you being honest with yourself.

BC: For my WIFE I was thinking a 3D TV.

RJG: Seems expensive, but you can afford it. What's wrong with that idea?

BC: The 3D thing bugs me a bit.

RJG: Pray tell.

BC: Well, it's just a weird technology. Like, when you watch a movie at home, how often do you sit there and think, 'Man, if only I'd paid an extra $1000 for this TV so I could wear sunglasses while watching it?'.

RJG: How hungover am I?

BC: Like a standard hangover.

RJG: You're right, I never think that.

BC: You see?

RJG: Yeah, that's a dilemma. Well what else you got?

BC: Well, my daughter is a big Star Wars fan and I thought about the Blu-Ray set for her.

RJG: Sounds reasonably thoughtful. What's the issue with that one?

BC: Well, they wen't a little overboard with the extras.

RJG: Totally! I wish George Lucas would stop fussing with the originals and just leave them in the brilliant form we all remember from our childhood!

BC: No, I mean like the deleted scenes and stuff.

RJG: What's wrong with the deleted scenes? Fans love stupid $#!% like that.

BC: Yeah, but there's some weird stuff on there. Like, you know that scene in A New Hope when the guy loading R2 into Luke's X-Wing is all, 'Don't you want a new droid? This one's a piece of crap!' And Luke is all, 'No way man, me and that droid have been through a lot together'?

RJG: Yeah.

BC: Well, in the original scene Luke delivers that line and then knowingly looks at R2. Then they immediately cut to a flashback love scene between the two.

RJG: That's #%&@ing weird.

BC: Yeah, and then there's this really awkward scene where 3PO finds out about it.

RJG: I can see why you don't want your kids exposed to that.

BC: You see my dilemma? I'm pretty much nowhere with this stupid list!

RJG: I know what you can get! You can get Yankees fans a finished roster. Or something like that. You know, doing your job and the like.

BC: It's not all about you, RJG.

RJG: You do know my name isn't RJG, right?


Well there you have it folks! The Yankees' winter plans are in process and soon we will all have a team to be proud of.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

RJG Reviews Skyfall

With Baseball news fairly limited at the moment, RJG has continued to visit local theatres in order to preserve our connection to broader cultural trends. Recently I saw Skyfall, the 103rd Bond film, and the third starring Daniel Craig in the title role (the two films in which he played the minor role of Ms. Moneypenny are less fondly remembered).

2006's Casino Royale introduced us to a different Bond, one not reliant on (encumbered by?) fancy gadgets and inexplicable acrobatic equilibrium. When a bad guy jumps through a small window in a building currently under construction, this new Bond simply crashes through the drywall paneling. No more grace. A blunt instrument.

Fast-forward to 2012 and Skyfall begins with an opening sequence that harkens back to the pre-Craig Bond films. Bond can do everything the bad guys can do in this film, only with more grace and skill. He can ride motorcycles on Turkish roof tops (oddly, the same roof tops that Taken's daughter ran along throwing grenades and evading bad guys just a couple months earlier). He can slide down the metal sided islands separating escalators, propel off the end, and land in a running sprint (not simply on his feet mind you). He can tear the back off a train with a bulldozer, jump onto the train from the bulldozer's arm, land on his feet, quickly adjust one of the cufflinks that helps complete a suit that cannot be stained by blood or dirt, and keep chasing a bad guy. Admittedly, that was awesome and beyond criticism.

This new, more familiar version of Bond, however, is a development of dubious welcome. By the end of the film, you have an M, a Ms. Moneypenny, and an M's office that all harken back to Dr. No. Hardly the new Bond audiences fell in love with in Casino Royale.

This return to the Bond of yore is in line with the film's central critique of a contemporaneity blinded by the promise of the democratizing force of new technology and its supposed promise to create entirely new economic arrangements that transcend prior economic relationships. Not so fast, cries Skyfall, even an online and service based economy will still rely on the 'antiquated' modes of production necessary for making actual things. You can't eat an app, or sleep in one, after all.

The central message of this Bond film is simple: old $#!% is great! Hence it ends the way we remember old Bond films beginning. But in its critique of technological idealism it seems to forget that while we may never be able to fully part with the old, we cannot remain in some sort of nostalgia-defined reality. Bond's not trying to hear that though. The most it will do to acknowledge changed times is engage the platitude that some of our best secretaries are black! (Ms. Moneypenny is now black, so racism is over). Everything else stays the same.

But this isn't the biggest problem with the film. The biggest problem is that Daniel Craig spends the better part of this film pulling a previously unnoticeable gun out of a very form fitting suit. Where the hell was he keeping that thing?

Kuroda's Coming Back!

The Yankees are bringing back Kuroda on a one year $15 million deal that includes $1 million in incentives.  This is quite the lofty raise from last years $10 million deal and certainly confirms that he read the market right when he turned down the $13.3 million qualifying offer.  I get the sense that for proven starters entering the latter part of their careers, its better to sign one year deals.  Every year you're open to the highest bidder, and every year, teams need pitching.  Teams feel safe with a one year deal, so they're typically willing to overpay for that one year.  We saw this repetitively with Roger Clemens.  He basically wrote the terms of his contract, and handed it to Cashman to sign.  In other news, the Yankees continue claiming pitchers off waivers, which is smart.  Middle relievers are notoriously inconsistent year to year, and building a bullpen out of competition assures that the best performing pitchers will be on the big league roster.  The players they claimed on waivers have names, but I can't recall them right now, so I'll go with Mike and Doug, and maybe a Greg somewhere in there.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cash Gives Exclusive Interview, Explains Yanks' Strategy

The Yankees seem headed for a winter of discontent, or at least mediocre acquisitions. With such gloom hovering over the future of the team, it was time to fire up the old satellite video phone and call good friend of the blog, Yankees GM Brian Cashman. The following is a transcript of our conversation:

BC: Hello?

RJG: Yes, hello, this is a courtesy call from your electricity provider. Is your refrigerator running?

BC: Um, why yes I believe it is.

RJG: Well [muffled giggling] then you better run after it. [uncontrolled laughter].

BC: Wha?! Huh?! Who is this?! I demand satisfaction!!

RJG: Relax Bronny. You've been drinking again. Why are you letting Toronto show you up so bad?

BC: While I am still furious, I will answer your question. What you have to understand is, the last couple of years have shown what happens when teams not named the Yankees try to throw money at their roster problems. Look at the Miami and Boston fire sales this past season. Toronto is just repeating an age old mistake at least two years old.

RJG: So far that seems a lucid explanation, but how are you going to build your own roster knowing you are facing a $189 million fiscal cliff?

BC: We have to rethink the game, streamline processes, make our roster more efficient.

RJG: Yeah, but you've already got like $150 million dollars wrapped up in seven players for 2014. How do you find a way to spread the remaining money to the rest of the 40-man.

BC: Well, there's a perfect example of an opportunity to rethink the game. 40-man? Why 'man'? Under federal law, if we hire women, we can pay them $.70 on the dollar. Or why '40'? Do we really need '40' players on the roster when you can never have more than nine on the field at a given moment?

RJG: It doesn't seem like you're taking this serious.

BC: Why do we need so many utility infielders? Why do we need so many infielders at all? With today's shifts, do we really need a second baseman? We have to rethink the game. Find inefficiencies, and exploit them to our advantage.

RJG: What have you been drinking and is it legal in my home state?

BC: Yes and no.

RJG: That doesn't make any sense.

BC: It isn't all about you, Respect Loser Pranksters.

RJG: Really?


There you have it folks. The Yanks have a strong plan for building their roster in the foreseeable future.

We've Figured Out The Yankees Plan!

If you are looking for insight as to what the Yankees will do this off-season, look no further.  We at the RJG have figured it out.  The Yankees long-term plan looks like this:

2013 - Sign aged veterans to one year deals.
2014 - Sign aged veterans to one year deals again.
2015 - Spend lavishly!

How does this work?  Well basically, the Yankees mandate is to be under $189 million for 2014, and one of their key stars (Cano) is a free agent after next season.  These two points are going to make the Yankees timid about signing any deals into the year 2014.  Once the Yankees have picked up a ton of 1 year players for 2013 at a low cost, these positions will be open for 2014 when the Yankees will likely pick up a bunch of 1 year players at low costs again in addition to signing Cano.  Then in 2015, after two years of mediocrity, the Yankees will strike!  The luxury tax rate will be reset, and they'll be happy to start paying for some big free agents. 

So there you have it.  The long term plan, is short term deals. 

The Baseball World Is Happening

Earlier in the week, the Blue Jays and Marlins worked out a blockbuster trade, sending Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonaficio, and John Buck, while trading away Yunel Escobar, John Mathis, and a host of minor leaguers who's names are too many to write.  Does this change anything in the AL East?  Josh Johnson should be good, and Mark Buerhle can be effective, so adding two solid pitchers to your staff certainly can't hurt your chances.  Jose Reyes should also be an upgrade as a leadoff hitter.  All things considered, the AL East got a little bit better, but with the Red Sox running out the Pawtucket Paw Sox lineup, and the Yankees trying to cut payroll, it stands to reason that the AL East will not be as competitive as it once was.  So perhaps the Blue Jays just put themselves in position to strike.

Two days ago, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young, and last night Miguel Cabrera won the MVP.  Dickey, at age 38, can throw a 60 mph knuckleball, and an 80 mph version, the result of which is success at the major league level.  Miguel Cabrera overcame alcoholism and a host of related personal problems to become the best hitter in baseball this season, and win the first triple crown since Yastremski.  Some sabermatricians may have preferred Mike Trout, but Cabrera won a triple crown.  Some prefer Trout's intangibles, but Cabrera won a triple crown.  Some like Trout's hussle, but Cabrera won a triple crown.  Are you following the argument? 

Lastly, during the last off season, the Rays picked up something like 50 first and supplementary round draft picks because of free agents signing with other teams.  That means that they had they were able to draft a ton of players in the early round of the 2012 players draft.  Although this probably means nothing for this year, the Rays tend to draft and develop players well, so expect the Rays to have a host of hungry young players around the same year that we're expected to be under $189 million on our payroll.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How the Yankee Postseason Will Continue

If you've been paying attention to the Yankee post-season, and have been listening carefully, then you've probably noticed that nothings happening.  We haven't signed anyone, not even the guys who want to play for us (Kuroda and Mariano I'm looking at you!), and we haven't pulled off a block buster trade.  The Yankees have been linked to Mike Napoli, but probably because Russell Martin is getting considerable attention from other teams.  So how will the Yankees proceed this winter?  Pretty much the way they have been thus far: by doing nothing.  Here's why...

The Yankees have aimed to be under $189 million in 2014, but this number includes every player on the 40-man roster, not to mention all the benefits, travel expenses, health insurance premiums etc, that Cashman said was about $10-12 million, putting the effective payroll goal at $177 million.  Payroll is decided on the average annual value of a players contract, so even though A-Rod is set to make $25 million in 2014, the average annual value of his contract is $27.5 million.  The Yankees currently have 4 players signed into 2014:

CC Sabathia - $24.4 million
A-Rod - $27.5 million
Teixeira - 22.5 million
Jeter - $9.5 million (Player's Option)

Total - $83.9 million

In other words, nearly half of the projected payroll budget for 2014 is already allotted to 4 players.  The Yankees also are interested in signing Cano to a long term deal after next season, and though no one knows how much he'll make, he's currently playing for $15 million.  Signing Cano will give the Yankees 5 players that are making well over half of their projected payroll. 

The Yankees currently have a whole host of openings that they're unwilling to spend big on.  They can probably get around this by offering a lot of 1 year deals, but this really just pushes the problem off to next year.  So in conclusion, Cashman either needs to pull off a Red Sox/Dodgers style salary dump trade of Granderson, A-Rod and Teixeira, or we'll be seeing a lot of names in our lineup that we're not familiar with. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How The Yankees' Postseason Began

"What do you mean, 'swept'?"

The question punctuated the devastation in the room. No one was prepared for it. No one saw it coming. No one.

It didn't change the reality. The Yankees would not be the World Series champions.

For months experts had warned that the Yankees did not have the hitting with RISP to win the World Series. They scored runs, but not against elite pitching. The numbers didn't lie.

The Yankees, insulated by their own private media apparatus with a narrative of its own, assured us—or perhaps just themselves—that the 'experts' were wrong. The 'experts' weren't taking into account the return of Pettitte, explained the information bubble in which the Yankees had insulated themselves. The 'experts' didn't understand that a September of playoff-intensity baseball had given the Yankees the momentum necessary to carry them to a championship. They just didn't get that the Yankees were going to be the champions. Had to be.

It didn't change the reality.

There were rumblings that this loss would chasten the Yankees. That it would force them to rethink their power-heavy approach to building a line-up. Remind them that you have to welcome more diverse types of hitters into the roster.

Denial ensued.

“If you have a philosophy you believe in, that’s been tested, I have no problem with people asking about it, clearly trying to challenge it, trying to dissect it and tear it apart. But I am not going to turn myself into the Bronx Bunters because all of a sudden we didn’t hit for this week in October. That’s not our DNA. That’s not what makes us successful and that’s certainly not what’s getting us in the postseason every year but one year since I got here.” (Source).

Now the Yankees face a winter of uncertainty. They deal with an utterly reconfigured landscape. Other teams have power hitters too, and they're younger, and they also have pitching. The demographic advantage that once seemingly allowed the Yankees to buy up postseason appearances had faded.

For years, the threat of moneyball had been mocked. The Oakland A's, after all, never even won an ALCS. But now teams that had learned the lessons of moneyball, and had spent redistributed revenue-shared dollars—dollars that leveled the playing field and gave everyone a shot—smartly, were now in the ascendancy.

Will the Yankees compromise with their own legacy, or will they insist that the only path to a Championship is the one they remember nostalgically from yesteryear?

Only time, and at least $189 million, will tell.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Orioles in on Hamilton

According to this report, the Baltimore Orioles are in on Josh Hamilton.  And why not?  This year the Orioles made it to the playoffs, and that run of success had its financial benefits as well.  The Orioles sold 346,779 tickets over what they sold in 2011.  At an average MLB ticket cost of $26.92, that's more than a $9.3 million boost, not including concession sales, which I'm sure they make a killing off of.  It turn out, winning sells more tickets, generating more revenue.  It pays to win, and getting a premium talent like Hamilton could possibly boost those ticket sales even higher, earning them what it cost to sign him.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Considering the Free Agent Market

With the Yankees aiming to get under $189 million for 2014 it appears that they will not be a major presence in the free agent market this year.  So the hopes of landing Zack Grienke, Josh Hamilton, and Edwin Jackson as our set up guy are fading quickly.  However, the Yankees did free up about $65 million of their payroll and though they need to still settle arbitration contracts, they should still have a hefty chunk of cash in hand.  Add this to the fact that we're shy a right fielder, 2 starters, a catcher, a closer and a DH, along with a host of bench players, it would appear that the Yankees have to do something in the free agent market.  Assuming that they bring back Kuroda, Pettitte, Martin, Ibanez, Ichiro and Mariano, they've filled all these roles, but only one of those players (Martin) would likely be back for more than one year.  It would mean that the Yankees would go into 2014 with only Sabathia, Hughes, and Nova, as sure options.  It is for this reason that if the price is right, the Yankees should consider one Anibal Sanchez.  A solid 3 guy, who could bolster our rotation, will be 29 next season, and pitched well for the Tigers, posting a 1.77 ERA in 3 starts in the postseason.  A 4 or 5 year deal for a reasonable annual salary (maybe $13 million per year?) could be worth securing a starter beyond 2013.  He's had a history of injury, but has posted about 195 innings in each of the last 3 years.  He's entering that point in his pitching career where pitchers start pitching smarter not harder.  What do you guys think?

Friday, November 2, 2012

That's Classy

The Yankees announced earlier in the week that they are set to donate $500,000 to Sandy relief efforts.  The Yankees typically step up for things like this, and its always good to see a team that is generous.  This would be a good time to announce that after tallying up the post season and regular season homerun totals, the RJG is set to donate $504 to the Children's Health Fund, which is about $499,496 less than what the Yankees are donating to the Sandy relief efforts.  The Yankees are forever trying to eclipse us.  They've managed to succeed this time.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Day I've Been Waiting For: Soriano Opts Out

It was reported yesterday that Rafael Soriano opted out of his $14 million contract, to pursue a new contract as a free agent.  After the Yankees pay his $1.5 million opt out fee, they will officially be out of the second worst contract in Yankee history, the first of course being A-Rod's.  Some will argue that Soriano's performance last year merits the contract he got, but they would be wrong.  He missed most of 2011 due to injury and although he filled the closer role when Mariano stepped out, he was never worth the contract he was given.  Now that the Yankees have freed up $12.5 million from next years budget (That's $14 million minus the $1.5 million opt out fee), perhaps they have just enough to start working out Pettitte and Kuroda's raises.  The true mystery revolves around Mariano, who is still not sure whether he wants to return, and if he does, how much of a contract he will command.  How much do you give a closer who spent almost an entire year on the DL and ate $15 million worth of payroll in the process, and, by the way, happens to be the greatest closer of all time?  I suppose this year we will find out.