Derek Jeter’s New Yankee Contract Should Be 10 years – $200 Million

January 31, 2010

Johnny Damon was discussing his divorce from the New York Yankees to any media outlet who wanted to listen. On the WFAN radio show in New York, Damon discussed his Yankee divorce with host Mike Francesca. I want to say that I did not hear the interview live, but listened to the podcast and read its excerpts in the New York newspapers.

It is not the first divorce in Damon’s professional, or even personal life. One of the reasons bandied about Damon wanting to play solely for more money is that he lost millions in the divorce from his first wife. Then he supposedly lost even more in the Florida-based Allen Stanford $8 billion investment scandal.

Damon might have been better off marrying Stanford and investing money with his first wife.

During the interview Damon said, “Hopefully this doesn’t happen with Derek next year. I say there’s no way Derek can go anywhere else.”

While Damon did acknowledge that Jeter’s situation is completely different, he hopes Jeter doesn’t encounter similar negotiating difficulties with the team when the franchise’s all-time hits leader becomes a free agent next winter.

“… I hope he’s not offered a 40-45% pay cut. But I know Derek’s going to go out and produce this year and I know they will treat him with respect.”

I guarantee, Johnny, that the Yankees will treat Jeter with respect, and that Jeter will treat the Yankees with respect, too.

Jeter is the home grown winning Yankee star of my 12 year old son’s generation, just like Thurman Munson was of my generation and Joe DiMaggio was of my father’s generation. Those three players were our childhood heroes of three generations of Joseph DelGrippo’s. (Wow, three generations of opinionated sports fans is just way too much.)

All three of those Yankee greats were private individuals who won back to back World Series titles. Munson was the consummate family man, ultimately dying because of his desires to see his family during the season.

Jeter was more similar to DiMaggio. Both single, classy, and New York City savants who owned the Big Apple – if they so wanted, but both usually stayed behind the scenes loving their privacy.

Jeter knows his Yankee history, knows his place in that history as the leader of the late 90’s dynasty and the latest in the short list of Yankee Captains. He respected the Iron Horse when he broke Lou Gehrig’s All-Time Yankee hit record, he respected the Yankee fans with his great impromptu speech after the last game at the previous Yankee Stadium.

And he will respect the great DiMaggio by leaving the Yankees the same way the Yankee Clipper left the team (and the game) after the 1951 season, by retiring when he felt he was beginning to embarrass himself on the field, and “the game was no longer fun.”

Speculation has run over the last several years what the Yankees will do with their current icon. With all the money spent over the last three seasons on Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees have doled out many future millions to these star players.

Will Jeter want or get similar money? Yes, he will.

That is why the Yankees will re-sign Jeter to an approximate 10-year, $200 million contract extension before, during or immediately after the 2010 season. Same length as his current deal with a little bit more money, so as not to have that Damon “pay cut” situation. Derek will then be a Yankee forever, and the long contract will eliminate all speculation about his future.

Why would the Yankees sing an aging (albeit very productive) 35 year old player to a 10 year contract?

The key to this deal is that the Yankees will not even have to pay the entire contract.

According to the MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement, if a player is placed on the Voluntary Retired list, he forgoes his contracted salary. It happened recently with Salomon Torres, who retired from the Milwaukee Brewers after the 2008 season, leaving almost $4 million on the table.

Jeter will retire well before that entire new contract will be over, and the Yankees will not have to pay the entire $200 million.

Jeter is the type of Yankee hero and dignified person that he will not let his career spiral downward to that of Willie Mays or even Mickey Mantle, guys who every else knew was done well before they retired.

Mays was a shell of his former self his last two seasons (ages 41 & 42), and should have retired after the 1971 season – on top. Mantle often said the one regret he had was he did not hit .300 for his career (he hit .298) because he held on too long. Jeter will not let that happen to him and, similar to DiMaggio, will leave well before it begins to get embarrassing.

Lets say Jeter signs that type of big contract, gives the Yankees five more good to great seasons and, while beginning to shows signs of declining productivity he reaches age 40 with about 3,700 career hits. He will be on the precipice of becoming the third player to garner 4,000 hits.

With the Yankees penchant for milestones, they will allow him to get to 4,000….if Jeter wants. If Jeter is productive enough, he will continue to play to get that number or if begins to “not be fun” Jeter will elect to bow out of the game gracefully – while on top.

Jeter has always wanted to be the shortstop for the New York Yankees and will be able to play that position as long as he wants. But if Jeter begins to decline significantly, he will not let milestones or even millions of dollars affect his decision. And he will not go to any other team, ever.

And that type of spending is different to what Damon went through with the Yankees.

First, Jeter is a home grown Yankee icon, and paying him that type of future money is a bonus as much for his past heroics and it is for future production. This is similar to how the Baltimore Orioles overpaid at the end for Cal Ripken’s services and the Chicago Cubs overpaid for Ryne Sandberg.

At that time in 1992, both Ripken’s and Sandberg’s contracts were the highest ever in baseball.

Second, Jeter is not the greedy soul that Damon appears to be, and will not stay on just to collect the money.

He has too much class for that. Grace and class like DiMaggio playing the game on the field and exiting the same game moving off the field.

Jeter will leave the game before his career has a chance to end.

Advertisements

Johnny Damon May Have Overplayed his Hand

December 12, 2009

I thought he was better than this. I thought that this time it would be more about the team, more about the fans, more about the prestige of putting on the Yankee Pinstripes.

I was wrong.

With Johnny Damon, no matter what he said in November after helping the Yankees win the World Series, is still only about the money.

And that is just plain stupid of Damon.

I wrote a piece recently saying it would be in Damon’s best interest to stay with the Yankees as long as he can. To stay hitting behind Derek Jeter, who gets on base an average of 40% of the time, and to hit in front of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez would greatly enhance Damon’s career stats.

And after winning two rings and making $100 million during his career, Damon’s only section to fill on his career resume is consideration for the Hall of Fame. And playing in New York always increases your chances for the Hall consideration. (Sorry Padre and Royal fans). This is not to say that Damon is HOF material (I don’t believe he is Hall worthy), but other voters might see differently if Damon hangs on to get 3,000 hits. Check out his stats here.

And padding career stats would be easier in that Yankee lineup rather than say, the Chicago White Sox lineup or the San Francisco Giants lineup.

Damon is saying through his windbag agent, Scott Boras, there are teams who might be willing to pay for 3 or even 4 years of his services. Even now, after the Winter Meetings trade which brought Curtis Granderson to Yankees, reports indicate Boras and Damon are insisting on four years and around $45 million, while the Yankees are looking at two years at the most.

Damon and Boras thought they could outlast the Yankees.

Damon and Boras thought wrong. Although Boras has worked with Yankees GM Brian Cashman on several occasions (Teixeira, Alex plus Damon 4 years ago), they underestimated Cash, who had other ideas for the Yankees 2010 outfield.

Cashman traded for Granderson – getting younger, getting faster and getting better defensively. Manager Joe Girardi could easily slide Melky Cabrera to left field and have speedster Brett Gardner as the fourth outfielder. Also, newest Yankee, Jamie Hoffmann, (who is that guy sponsoring his BR.com page?) acquired in the Rule 5 draft is a right handed power bat who can play all three outfield positions. He is really good defensively, too, ranked the last few years as the Los Angeles Dodgers best minor league defensive outfielder.

What Damon and Boras keep spouting is that there is a market for Damon’s services. There isn’t. What teams are going to give Damon three or four years? What teams have seriously looked at Damon at all?

None. The teams often mentioned as possible destinations, the San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox, have actually been media speculations based upon team needs, not actual attempts by those teams to sign Damon.

And if the Yankees decide after their internal deadline (likely Christmas) for Damon to accept a one or two year deal, then the Yankees will turn elsewhere. And Damon might end up like Bobby Abreu last season, signing only a one year deal at $5 million. But again, what team is going to pay Damon considerable money like the Yankees?

Many big market teams like the Yankees (why they only want Damon for one year), Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels are trying to nurse through one year of a stop gap in left field. Get through one more year in order to participate in the expected Carl Crawford free agent sweepstakes next off season. Although the Red Sox offered Jason Bay a four year deal to play left field (and still could be interested in Matt Holliday), right fielder J.D. Drew could be gone after next season, either in a Mike Lowell type trade where the Red Sox pick up most of Drew’s 2011 salary, or through two escape clauses the Red Sox put into the original contract regarding Drew’s propensity for injury.

Crawford is widely expected to test the waters in his first opportunity at free agency, but with the prospects of the talented player going to one of those rivals, especially the Yankees or Red Sox, I expect the Rays will come to their senses and sign Crawford to a five year deal for around $80 million to keep him in Tampa. Even though Crawford was upset at the Rays a few months ago, a big contract with the only organization that he has known will soothe any ill will he might hold.

Although I want Damon back in New York in the #2 hole behind Jeter for 2010, what the Yankees should do just after Christmas is go Damon-lite.

With an ever crowded outfield corps with the additions of Granderson and Hoffman, the Yankees should package Gardner and a minor league pitcher (maybe Ivan Nova?) to the Kansas City Royals for LF David DeJesus, a New Jersey product. At 30, DeJesus is six years younger than Damon, a better defender and has been durable the last couple seasons. DeJesus put up a line of .281/.347/.434 with a 106 OPS+ last season and hit 13 home runs, the most he has had in one season. He also hit double digits in homers (12) in 2008.

DeJesus is similar to Damon that he was once a center fielder and was eventually moved to left field. He is a lefty hitter who hits left handed pitching well and would likely put up even better power numbers in Yankee Stadium.

As a bonus, the Yankees would save money, too. In this tough economy, even the Yankees are looking to save dollars (trading Brian Bruney to save $2 million, non tendering Chien-Ming Wang) and DeJesus is signed through next season for $4.6 million with a club option of $6 million ($500k buyout). If the Rays do not sign Crawford, the Yankees would definitely go after him with gusto, but he does re-sign, the Yankees could pick up DeJesus’ option. At that rate, both seasons would cost the Yankees less than it would take to have Damon in the lineup for only 2010 alone.

Johnny Damon is a good player, fits well in the Yankee lineup and would help the team immensely in 2010. But, his presence is not mandatory as the Yankees have other options at their disposal.

Damon has overplayed his hand to his detriment, both for his overall career numbers and possibly his bank account – which is the only thing it appears he cares anything about.


Johnny Damon Needs the Yankees More Than the Yankees Need Damon

November 29, 2009

While every one is pondering why Roy Halladay is needed on the Yankees (he isn’t), I want to focus on the first free agent deal that Brian Cashman will attempt to get done.

After Johnny Damon finally helped the New York Yankees back to the World Series, and winning their first title since 2001, he is a free agent again. And every time Damon has been a free agent, he has changed teams. He was the good corporate guy who said all the right things before, during and after the big parade down the Canyon of Heroes.

Damon would “love to be a Yankee again,” and he wants “to end my career in New York.”

But after making the defining play of this years World Series with his double steal, smart dash to third base, it appears Damon does want more of the Yankees…more of their money and more years in his contract.  

Before his breakout in the 2009 post season, it was widely thought that the Yankees and Damon would agree to a one year deal with incentives, similar to what Andy Pettitte signed with New York last off season. That type of situation would work well for both sides; the Yankees would retain the popular Damon with reasonable dollar figures and Damon would continue to play his usual 150+ games per season.

Damon would play mostly left field and occasionally DH to give his 36-year-old legs a rest.

Now Damon (his wife, Michelle and agent Scott Boras) says that many teams are interested in his services, and he has told friends that he will not give the Yankees a discount to stay with the World Champs.

There is no other way to say this – Johnny Damon is a moron. Simply put, if he leaves the Yankees then he is a very stupid individual.

While a member of the Boston Red Sox, Damon was considered one of the “idiots” of their 2004 World Series title team.

That name aptly fits this older version of Damon, too.

After finally experiencing a World Championship in the best city to win a sports title of any kind, Damon wants more money. His agent has bandied about needing a four year deal for the 36-year-old outfielder. But Boras’ free agent rants never get his client wha he says they deserve.

In separate interviews Boras has said that Damon should get the same type of deal that Yankee catcher Jorge Posada (also 36 at the time) received prior to the 2008 season. Then Boras said that Damon “made Derek Jeter” by hitting behind him this season and his client compares favorably (saber and fantasy stat wise) to the Yankee Captain over the last three seasons. He stated that “whatever the Yankees plan on doing with Jeter long-term, Damon deserves similar consideration.”

Problem for Boras and Damon is that the decision on Johnny will come well before any work on Jeter’s new deal begins.

Also, Boras does not realize (or maybe he does and is just blowing his usual smoke), that the Yankees really needed Posada that off season, as they had nothing in their system at the catching position remotely close to the major leagues and the other choices available in free agency or via trades were terrible.  At that time Francisco Cervelli had finished his first full season in the minors at High-A Tampa.

In fact, the Yankees were willing to give Posada a three-year deal, but had to go the extra year because Jorge was being courted by Omar Minaya and the New York Mets, and at that time, the best available catcher was their own backup Jose Molina or free agent Paul LoDuca. Also, Alex Rodriguez had already opted out of his Yankee deal at that time, and the Yankees were in desperate need of  right handed power, something the switch-hitting Posada provided.

Also, Posada plays a more demanding position (although not as well as his younger years) and was a mainstay Yankee from their dynasty years, part of the vaunted Core Four.

Not quite the same situation as with Damon is it Mr. Boras? But when have you ever been reasonable in your free agent demands?

And in regards to comparing Damon to Mr. Jeter, a five-time World Series winner, de facto leader of the Yankees over the last 10 years, this generation’s version of Joe DiMaggio and a sure fire first-ballot Hall of Famer… well I guess I just said all their needs to be said.

As the title of the piece says, Damon needs the Yankees more than the Yankees need him. Their are quite a few left fielders available via free agency (Jason Bay and Matt Holliday) and within the Yankees own system – they can promote Austin Jackson, and have a trio of Jackson, Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner man center and left field. Lefty power can be supplied by Juan Miranda or re-signing Eric Hinske.

Or the rumored trade involving the Yankees and Detroit Tigers for center fielder Curtis Granderson would move Cabrera or Gardner to left field and Granderson in center will supply the lefty power Damon provided last season. While I personally do not like Granderson for the Yankees, it is another option for Brian Cashman.

According to reports Damon has options, too. Remember that even Damon said several teams have shown interest. Those teams include the San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox (very early reports). But lefty hitters are a dime a dozen. What most teams need is righty power such as Bay and Holliday. The Red Sox, Rangers, Rays and a dozen other teams fit this category.

And from what I remember, Damon hits left handed. So I do believe some teams are interested in a guy who put up a line of .284/.365/.489 this season with an OPS+ of 126. It is just that those teams are not good and would be in Damon’s worst interest to sign with them.

Damon needs to think about himself first, but not in the monetary sense, but in terms of legacy. It is what every person wonders – how will I be remembered in this game, business, job, family etc? And in major league baseball, legacy is determined by World Series Championships and the Hall of Fame.

According to baseball-reference.com, Damon has made a tick over $97 million in his baseball career. Assuming he hasn’t blown it all (and TMZ is more busy following Tiger Woods’ life), he is pretty well set, as are his children, his future grandchildren AND THEIR future grandchildren!

Unless you are Montgomery Brewster, a person can’t even begin to spend all that cash.

In other words Damon doesn’t need any more money.

What Damon does need is more career hits, runs, doubles,  HR’s and RBI’s. Evidenced by his never being in the Top 10 of any MVP vote, Damon has not been dominating in any aspect of his game during any part of his career.

Damon needs to accumulate stats to even get a whiff of the Hall of Fame. He has two World Series rings, but Damon needs to get 3,000 hits, needs to get to around 1,800 runs scored, needs 600 doubles, needs 300 homers and needs about 1,300 RBI’s.

Is Damon going to get to those numbers hitting second in the White Sox lineup? Will he get there hitting in spacious AT&T Park in San Francisco, hellish for a lefty hitter? No and no. The Red Sox might need a left fielder this year, but Damon can never go back there.

Damon bests interests  for HOF consideration (and a great legacy) in playing for the Yankees where he gets to hit in cozy Yankee Stadium, hitting behind a Hall of Famer in Jeter and in front of Mark Teixeira (potential HOFer) and Alex Rodriguez (lock HOFer). Hitting in that lineup, while in that park will get Damon more of the accumulated stats he needs to get serious Hall of Fame votes somewhere around 2020.

It would be great for Damon if they can work out that two year deal, and a TEAM OPTION for a third, which would keep Damon hungry for more.

Here is what Damon said during the parade, “I want to continue to be on a team that can win and to play in front of great fans – and we know that the Yankees fill both of those,” Damon said. “I think everyone knows my desire to come back. Still, every time I’ve been a free agent, I’ve ended up switching teams. It’s the nature of the beast. If people are interested, I’m going to listen.”

Go ahead and listen to them Johnny, because when you take that bigger contract in San Francisco for more money and years, but fall short in career numbers for the Hall of  Fame, you only have yourself to blame. Imagine a 70-year-old Damon sitting on the front porch answering another reporter’s question about his thoughts on falling short of the Hall of Fame?

Don’t be an “idiot” this time around Johnny, but be a man and tell your agent, Mr. Boras, to get a deal done with the Yankees.

It will be in your legacy’s best interest.


A Relentless Yankees Lineup Takes No Prisoners

September 3, 2009

The Yankees bashed their way to another win Tuesday night in Baltimore, pounding six Orioles pitchers for nine runs, 12 hits and eight walks. That is 20 base runners.

The Yankees were behind tonight 1-0, and 6-5 before they tied the game in the 6th inning on an Alex Rodriguez two-out RBI single. Then they rode Nick Swisher’s* two-run homer and Eric Hinske solo shot for a three run 7th. The back to back homers gave the Yankees a lead they wouldn’t again relinquish.

* I wasn’t a big fan of the trade which brought Swisher to New York. Not because of Swisher’s abilities, but mostly I thought the Yankees could get away with using guys from their won system like Juan Miranda and Shelley Duncan in a platoon at first base. Swisher was supposed to be the starting first baseman in 2009, as this was a trade done well before the Yankees signed free agent Mark Teixeira. At least the Yankees did not give up Alfredo Aceves in that Swisher deal.

I was incorrect about the Swisher deal as he is a valuable member of this team, and helps lengthen the lineup more than the Yankees have had in several seasons.

Hinske’s 7th inning blast was especially interesting, as the left fielder for the Orioles, Jeff Fiorentino, tried to catch the ball over the fence but the hoard of Yankee fans in the left field bleachers literally snatched the ball away from his glove.

And on Wednesday night, with Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada both resting the entire game, Swisher hit third (2-4, 2 walks, 2 runs) and played first base, while Hinske played right field.

And even with two of the Yankees’ switch-hitting big boppers out of the lineup, they still put up a 10 spot on the Orioles, including a big seven run 9th inning to ice the game.

Alex Rodriguez had TWO very big two-run singles, the first in the 7th inning gave the Yankees the lead. The second big hit was during the 9th inning, giving the Yankees a big three-run cushion at 5-2 before they continued to pour it on.

It is a lineup that is relentless, never giving in and always confident that they can get the job done, not matter if it is the first inning or the 9th. Many times I have witnessed the Yankees going quietly the first time through the order, but in the 3rd through the 6th innings, score runs in bunches.

There is not a break in the lineup at any of the nine spots, with even Melky Cabrera having a good year, it makes it tough for an opposing pitching staff to work efficiently. Too many of the hitters (Teixeira, Swisher, Posada) work counts, and while I believe they take TOO MANY pitches, including many good to hit first pitch strikes, you can’t argue with their overall success.

The key is that while they get runners on base, they also drive them in. Witness last night’s game, where the Yankees were 7-15 with runners in scoring position (RISP), and the Yankees league all the major leagues in runs scored with 763.

Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Robinson Cano are also having great seasons, and A-Rod is in the midst of an 11 game hitting streak to lift his average to .275.

There is always two or three guys on this team who are always red-hot at any given time.

The key to the lineup is the structure. The Yankees have four switch hitters (Tex, Swisher, Posada and Melky), the two big righties in Jeter and A-Rod plus lefties Damon, Matsui and Cano. And when that lineup is in late, it is very difficult (although they try) to mix and match because the Yankee lefty hitters hit lefty pitchers very well. Click on the names above to see their splits.

And I don’t know of another lefty hitter in baseball right now who goes the other way better than Cano.

Many people are talking about how teams don’t want to face certain teams in a short series because their starting pitching (mostly the top two guys) could be so dominating. Those teams include the Red Sox with Josh Beckett and Jon Lester; the Angels with John Lackey and Jered Weaver (now Scott Kazmir); the Cardinals with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright (you could also throw in Joel Pineiro); the Tigers with Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson; and the Giants with Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum.

All playoff teams usually have a really good top two, but very few teams have a really strong 1 through 9 lineup like the Yankees have.

This is a lineup which has beaten Beckett, Halladay, Johan Santana, Verlander, Jackson, Matt Garza and even nemesis Cliff Lee this season. And when they get beaten down by a top starter, they can counterpunch with their own dominating pitchers.

If I was part of one of those a pitching staffs, I wouldn’t want to face the Bronx Bombers relentless lineup. It would be a nightmare having to continuously face those nine hitters in a short series.


Hideki Matsui Need NOT be a New York Yankee in 2009

August 14, 2009

His game last night was awesome as he went 4-5, with 2 HR’s, five RBI’s and four runs scored. He is one of the more professional hitters on the Yankees and in baseball today.

He also will be 36 years old next season and answered post game press questions with two big ice bags strapped to his well worn knees. He looked like Patrick Ewing of the Knicks used to after games. It was painful to watch and likely even more painful to endure.

Matsui played nine full seasons on the tough carpets in Japan, where every step he took upon the concrete foundation turf tore at his young knees. That did not seem to affect him in Japan or his first three seasons in the Bronx. During the 2003-2005 period in New York, Matsui played every single game, further extending his professional consecutive game playing streak to 1768 games.

But Matsui missed most of 2006 with a broken wrist (that injury ended his consecutive games streak) and last year his knees began bothering him to where he only played in 93 games, while his production suffered. The 2008 season is the only one Matsui has had an OPS of less than .800.

His bad knees resulted in him becoming primarily a DH, and when Hideki made it to left field last year, it was a nightmare. His defensive exploits make Johnny Damon look like Carl Yastrzemski.

Hideki also has had to be rested on many occasion this year. He was having a horrendous June until he was forced to sit in the National League parks during inter-league play. After pinch hitting through those eight games, Matsui was on fire, beginning to hit like Yankee fans loved and remembered. Once the interleague games ended, and Matsui had his rest, he hit .310 with nine homers and 30 RBI over 36 games and had a .402 on-base percentage.

But while he hit then, and is hitting well now, Matsui should not be re-signed for next year and beyond.

At this point in his career, Matsui is solely a DH and the Yankees need that spot in the lineup to give to Jorge Posada, Johnny Damon (if re-signed) A-Rod, Derek Jeter and other Yankee thirty-something year olds who need periodic rest next season. Guys like Francisco Cervelli, Brett Gardner and maybe Austin Jackson will need more playing time next season.

And don’t forget about the big guy in the minors, Jesus Montero, whose bat is major league ready now (except I guess for his currently broken finger). Montero should be in the mix next season at least for some DHing duty.

If Matsui continues to hit this season and have a good post season, he will be in demand from some of the American League teams who would need a lefty DH (Detroit, Seattle, Texas?). He will not be able to consistently play in the National League, and likely will not play for the San Francisco Giants.

At that point, Matsui might command a multi-year deal, at least two years. But, in reality, his career could come to and end. Would he want to play elsewhere? His two professional teams, The Yomiuri Giants in Japan, and the New York Yankees in the United States are each the premier teams in baseball.

But he has enough money, would he want to endure other cities and a knowledge that he might not be a pennant contender each year?

I have written before that the Yankees need to get younger and some of their top position prospects (Montero, Austin Jackson) are about ready for the majors and they need roster spots. Also, the Damon situation is hanging over the Yankee hierarchy, too. Do they sign Damon to a multi-year deal. He does have some talent still to play the field, and he is a total offensive threat in the new, new Yankee Stadium.

If Damon is signed, and the Yankees should try and get him on a series of one year deals, that is another player who can do all what Matsui can do–and more.

Matsui is expendable and should not be a Yankee next year–no matter how well he hits the balance of this season.


Yankees looked Vibrant but Boston Looked Like it Needed Viagra

August 11, 2009

The four game weekend series with the Boston Red Sox is over (finally!) and now most of us Yankee fans can get back to normal baseball. You know, a couple games against Toronto (the first one a tough 5-4 loss), and a long 10 game trip which includes four with the Mariners, three with the Oakland A’s and three more back east at Boston.

What? Boston didn’t get enough this past weekend? They want more?

And once again, that Saturday game (8/22) is on Fox (I wonder if Yaz will be there as he turns 70 that day?) and the Sunday game is on ESPN at 8 PM. You know that game will go past midnight! On weekends, I like watching the Yankees during the day (especially on Sunday) and getting a chance to see other teams at night.

And Saturday games are ridiculous while listening to Joe Buck sound off ad nauseum about everybody’s use of steroids and other off the field topics. It’s like Buck is applying for a job at TMZ!

That next road trip is the first of TWO upcoming West Coast trips for the Yankees. Last years trip near the end virtually killed their chance at the playoffs. So after the recent four game sweep over Boston, Yankees fans can’t puff out their chest that much just yet.

There is still a lot of work to do for this team, and baseball can change in an instant. One bad week and it could be sweatin’ time again.

However, in watching the four games, it appears both teams switched uniforms from the first series of the season when Boston swept New York up in Fenway. One game was a run producers dream while the other two were nail biters, including an extra inning affair which saw a Boston comeback in the 9th inning, and win it on a walk off by their clean up hitter.

At that point in the season, pundits nationwide (at least from here to Boston) were saying the Yankees were looking old and slow while Boston had the energy of a much younger lineup. They had clutch hitters Jason Bay, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Lowell with Bay providing dramatics with a two-run, 9th inning homer off Mariano Rivera.  

At that time one of the Yankees main power threats, Alex Rodriguez, was out of the lineup with an injury. This past series Alex was back in the lineup hitting big home runs, but Bay was out of the lineup.

This past series saw the same type of games, A-Rod hitting the walk off homer, and it is the Red Sox (with 34+ year olds JD Drew, Lowell, Varitek and Ortiz) looking old.

Meanwhile, Melky Cabrera and Robinson cano had great series’, both in the field and at the plate. All three off season free agent signings (CC and Tex still are under 30) earned their money, and even the elders Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon made significant impacts all weekend.

See how the tables have completely turned?

There were positives for the Sox, however. They didn’t play as bad as the 0-4 record suggests.  They received great starts from Lester and Beckett. (It’s funny when I have to write “great starts” when the guy only goes 7 innings). Clay Buchholz wasn’t that bad either, although he walked more than his norm, but he made good pitches when he needed to and the free passes did not hurt him that much.

And if the Sox realized that Smoltz was a shell of himself one start earlier, anybody else would have pitched better on Thursday night, and the Red Sox could have won that game.

But the Yankee older players definitely outplayed their aging counterparts.

I remember a few seasons ago when Alex mentioned his off-season early morning workout routine did not “include taking kids to school” and that Varitek and other Red Sox guys ridiculed Alex for bragging about his workouts. Eveybody works hard in the off season was the Red Sox sentiment.

Coming back for his hip injury, A-Rod (and the other Yankees) looked much more spry than their Bosox counterparts.

Looks like the Red Sox players could use A-Rod’s workout routine now.


Johnny Damon’s been good in 2009, but should he be a Yankee in 2010?

July 25, 2009

For a few weeks early in the season, Johnny Damon was the entire Yankee offense. At various times this season A-Rod was not yet back from hip surgery, Mark Teixeira was struggling in April, Xavier Nady was out (for the entire season now) and even Robinson Cano, who started so brilliantly with the bat, had begun to struggle, especially with runners in scoring position.

But there was Damon, he of the walk off homers and other game winning blasts. (The Baltimore pitcher that day< Jim Johnson, also allowed the recent GW HR by Hideki Matsui). Damon sported a decent April with .295/.385/.500/.885 OPS with 4 homers and 10 ribbies, and in May he really hit well, hitting .304/.355/.565/.920 OPS with 10 doubles, six home runs, 25 runs scored and 21 RBI’s, the most important stat on offense, including the two game winning HR’s.

But in July, Damon has only put up a .226/.342/.355/.697 OPS with two homers and eight RBI’s, three of which came in last night’s victory over Oakland. Defensively, he continues to be a nightmare, never looking sure even on the easiest of catches and still possessing that Little League throwing arm.

Damon’s 4 year/$52 million contract he signed before the 2005 season expires at the end of this year, and Damon seemingly has the ability to be an offensive force at the age of 36. 

Despite his great start and production 2009 season, the Yankees should not sign the lefty hitting outfielder on a multi-year contract in the off season.

Many Yankee fans will disagree, and maybe even Yankees GM Brian Cashman will disagree, too. Both the fans and Cashman will think that the Yankees need Damon’s offense and he could be a viable player for several more years.

Maybe he will, but the Yankees don’t need him.

Even though Damon says he wants to stay in New York and play for the Yankees, he also has the desire to go for 3,000 career hits( he currently has 2,365). That means he needs to play four more seasons after 2009 and based upon a nice ending to 2009, Damon would for a three-year deal in the off season.

That is too much time for the Yankees, who need to continue to get younger as a team, not older. Without PED’s in teh game today, getting younger and more versatile is the trend in baseball.

Think Kevin Youkilis and Ben Zobrist, not Johnny Damon.  

The Yankees will likely be relieved of Hideki Matsui’s contract (unless, of course, he has a big season, too and then the fans will want him back next year) and Xavier Nady, who has been nothing during his time with the Yankees.

Have I mentioned before how I hated that Damaso Marte/Xavier Nady trade with the Pirates?

They can therefore certainly afford Damon, but with youngsters Austin Jackson coming ready soon, and Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner becoming important parts for the Yankee team, is Damon (and a multi-year contract) what this team needs? The younger guys style of play is good for the team, so why bring back an aging player?

Where will the Yankees play him next year? Despite being only 22 and needing more seasoning at AAA, Jackson could be ready, Swisher is an New York media darling, while  Gardner and Cabrera play great roles on this team and show they belong.

Damon won’t play in left field as his defense is brutal and his arm is terrible. He looks timid out in the field, and just can not go back on this ball any more. Jackson, Cabrera, or a free agent signing (or trade) will patrol left field in 2010, especially if Matt Holliday impresses down the stretch for St. Louis.

Don’t get me started on that free agent disaster waiting to happen.

Damon also can’t exclusively DH, because where will Jorge Posada play most of his games next year? Posada is slowing down behind the plate (he is lazy and can’t block pitches anymore) but will catch some in 2009, 2010 and 2011, as he is signed through those years. With the emergence of Francisco Cervelli, however, and a plethora of catchers in the system (namely Jesus Montero and Austin Romine), Posada’s days behind the plate are numbered.

As I mentioned previously, Montero is the next big bat for the Yankees.

The Yankees are all tied up with long term deals with Teixeira and A-Rod and don’t need another aging, one dimensional player in Damon for the next several years. If Johnny wants to play towards getting 3,000 hits on one year deals for the next couple of seasons, that will be beneficial to both sides.

Seriously, with limited defense what National League team will take him? And where in the AL could he play?

Interestingly, Damon’s best bet for 3,000 hits might be as a Yankee hitting in front of Tex and A-Rod on a series of one year deals. Keeps him hungry and motivated. It is a much better scenario than going to play out his career in an unappetizing setting somewhere else.

Cashman needs to play hardball with Johnny Damon this off season, and let the broken bats fall where they may.