Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye

We typically don't like to delve into the gossip pages around here, but it's the off-season and news is starting to dry up.

You've probably heard by now that A-Rod and Kate Hudson apparently have split. And well, if those two crazy kids can't make it then what hope is there for the rest of us?

Hudson was credited with helping Rodriguez find peace this year. So without her, he'll surely go back to being a self-centered, socially-awkward, post-season choke artist. It was fun while it lasted.

Don't feel bad A-Rod. You aren't the first one to lose out on this one.

That's it for today Fackers.

Granderson Dons Pinstripes, Chooses #14

During a press conference held at Yankee Stadium this morning, Curtis Granderson slipped a Yankee Jersey over his head for the first time. The 28 year old center fielder wore number 28 during the majority of his time with the Tigers (except during his first call-up during 2004 when he wore 26), but had heard that Joe Girardi was eying the number in honor of the pursuit of the Yankees' 28th World Series.

“I know how tradition is and superstition is from an outside standpoint, so I don’t want to mess with that. Hopefully he’ll continue to wear it and we’ll move forward and keep on knocking people’s numbers out of the way,” Granderson explained. Instead, Curtis chose a number that had worn in high school, which also happens to be 28 divided by 2 - 14.

By choosing #14, Granderson joins 37 former (and one current) Yankees to have worn the number, the first being pitcher George Pipgras back in 1929 (who would have been given #13 if not for superstitious purposes) and the most recent Eric Hinske in Game 5 of the World Series. In between there have been 35 other players including 5 time All-Star Moose Skowron, former player and manger (and current Cubs manager) Lou Pinella, Braves manager Bobby Cox, Late-90's Dynasty role player Luis Sojo and for a short time, Robinson Cano.

More numerous though are the largely forgotten likes of Depression era pitcher Bump Hadley, World War II veteran and scab Butch Wensloff, the amusingly-named Cuddles Marshall, Italian-born Rugger Ardizoia, consummate journeyman Harry Bright, puss-y toad Hideki Irabu, utility man Miguel Cairo and recent PeteAbe age-joke punching bag, Angel Berroa.

Last winter, I wrote a post about some of the lesser know (and more poetically-named) players to have worn 14. Here is the complete list, courtesy of the excellent
George Pipgras
Hank Johnson
Ed Wells
Russ Van Atta
Bump Hadley
Jerry Priddy
Butch Wensloff
Monk Dubiel
Bill Bevens
Cuddles Marshall
Lonny Frey
Rugger Ardizoia
Ted Sepkowski
Gene Woodling
Moose Skowron
Harry Bright
Pedro Ramos
Jerry Kenney
Bobby Cox
Ron Swoboda
Lou Piniella
Mike Blowers
Pat Kelly
Hideki Irabu
Wilson Delgado
Luis Sojo
Joe Oliver
Enrique Wilson
Russ Johnson
Andy Phillips
Robinson Cano
Miguel Cairo
Matt DeSalvo
Kevin Thompson
Wilson Betemit
Angel Berroa
Although this is a pretty extensive list, #14 is only the 18th most worn number in Yankee history, trailing 26, 28, 27, 29, 38, 39, 18, 17, 22, 36, 47, 34, 12, 25, 24, 19, 21, 43 and tied with 20 and 40. The Yankees were not technically the first team to wear numbers on their backs - that would be the Indians by virtue of an Opening Day rain out in 1929 - but they have been wearing them continuously since.

Granderson will probably not be the Yankee who gets #14 retired, but with a couple of good seasons he'll be close to the top of the list of the best Bronx Bombers to wear that number.

Did Philly Really Need Roy Halladay?

Yesterday one of the biggest, most complex, and - to me at least - confusing trades of the past several years was finally completed. The Phillies sent Cliff Lee, who they acquired at last summer's deadline for a package of prospects after they and Toronto couldn't agree on a package for Roy Halladay, to the Mariners for a package of prospects. Philly then sent a package of their own prospects - one nearly identical to the one they balked at less than five months ago - to Toronto for Roy Halladay and $6M. Then, Toronto took one of the minor leaguers they received from Philly, Michael Taylor, and flipped him to Oakland for Brett Wallace, who was the centerpiece of the package Oakland received for Matt Holiday just five days before Philly pulled the trigger on the first Cliff Lee deal. Got all that?

What confuses me isn't keeping all the players and parties straight. It's that I can't figure out what Philly is thinking here. Don't get me wrong, the Phillies hauled in the unquestioned best player amongst the nine on the move in this deal. But I don't get why they're willing to pay virtually the same price for Halladay now that they refused to pay in July, and to do it for a half a year less of his services.

Further, I can't figure out why they would pay that cost now, essentially decimating their farm system, to make an incremental upgrade from a top ten pitcher in Cliff Lee to a top five pitcher in Halladay, especially when they were universally lauded for making a smart deal for Lee when the Halladay price was too high five months ago. Lee is more than a year younger, has 1,060 fewer professional innings on his odometer, is half as expensive as Halladay in 2010, and they had to commit a $20M per year extension to Halladay that will carry him through his age 36 or age 37 season.

But let's back up the train a bit. In July, Toronto was apparently asking Philadelphia for J.A. Happ, Dominic Brown, and Kyle Drabek - son of former Yankee pitcher Doug Drabek. The Phils continually balked at that request, deeming Drabek untouchable and were willing to offer Carlos Carrasco instead. When a Halladay deal couldn't be reached Philly turned to Cleveland, and were able to bring in Lee for Carrasco, Jason Donald, Jason Knapp, and Lou Marson. The Lee trade allowed them to keep all the proposed chips from the Halladay deal but cost them their number 2, 3, 4, and 10 prospects according to Baseball America.

Less than five months later Philly chose to make the deal for Halladay, surrendering Drabek, as well as Michael Taylor in place of Brown and Travis D'Arnaud in place of Happ. In surrending this package they give up their number 5, 6, and 7 prospects, but did get to keep their top prospect in Brown, as well as Happ, who has proven himself capable of pitching at the Major League level.

In order to afford Halladay, and to restock their beleaguered farm system, Philly then shipped the younger, less used, less expensive Lee to the Mariners for Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, and Juan Ramirez. Aumont ranked as Seattle's third best prospect, Ramirez as their fifth. Gillies didn't rank, though he did profile as their system's top base runner and best outfield arm.

Then just for good measure, Toronto flipped Taylor to Oakland for third baseman Brett Wallace. Hypothetically, if not for the Halladay deal, Philly could have made the same trade with Oakland and received Wallace, which in turn may have prevented them from committing three years and $19M to 34 year old - and declining - Placido Polanco, who has made just 43 appearances at the hot corner over the past seven seasons. Making that hypothetical trade and saving the Polanco money might have allowed them to use that money and the money they'll be paying Halladay towards an extension for Lee.

I don't know that this was bad a series of trades for Philadelphia, but I'm unsure that they were necessary. I suppose the regime change in Toronto had something to do with it. And I suppose Seattle's apparent willingness to go all in for 2010 played a role in the decisions as well. But it boils down to Philly trading seven of their top ten prospects, and six of their top seven, to get Halladay, two of Seattle's top ten prospects, a third Seattle prospect, and $6M - or enough to cover slightly more than 75% of the 2010 salary difference between Halladay and Lee.

Now not all prospects are the same and not all systems are created equal. Perhaps the package Philly received from Seattle is comparable to what they gave up for Lee in the first place. But it doesn't appear to be. Instead, they've given up seven of their own guys - guys who they drafted and developed and know very well - to get a pitcher who's only slightly better than the one they gave had and three other prospects about whom they don't know nearly as much. It just doesn't add up to me.

Yankee Bowl To Freeze Winter Classic Out Of Stadium?

Good morning Fackers. We've been pretty critical here about the Yankees' desire to host football games, including a college bowl game for the next three years, at Yankee Stadium.

Last year, there was talk of the old Yankee Stadium hosting the NHL's Winter Classic as a sort of final sendoff. For a number of reasons it didn't pan out, but one would imagine Yankee Stadium is still in the running for the future. Except the Stadium's football commitments might make that a problem. Puck Daddy takes a look:

This is a problem if you're planning on the NHL hosting a hockey game on New Year's Day in the next few seasons. Even if the bowl game was played on Christmas Day, that would give the NHL six days to prepare not only the rink, but also the stadium to their standards and the Winter Classic isn't an event, especially in New York, that the League will look to rush in and out of quickly. As we're seeing in Boston, the NHL wants to use their portable rink in as many entertaining and profitable ways possible. Not to mention the bowl game organizers would have to breakdown the field in a given amount of time to allow Dan Craig and his crew to get to work. Two high-profile events being held on the same field in such a short period of time would also be a big concern for the Yankees, who do not want to have their maintenance people fixing divots in the field in the months before Opening Day.

The NHL told us that they have a seven-day build out plan for their Winter Classic venues, so Yankee Stadium on New Year's Day between 2011-2013 seems like a fantasy.

It goes on to speculate that Yankee Stadium could lose out to the new Giants Stadium or (gasp) Citi Field.

Despite being just a two year old tradition, the Winter Classic is one of the best sporting events each year. The NHL shows no indications of abandoning their new found New Year's tradition. In fact, yesterday there was talk of expanding the Winter Classic to include a Canadian game. Perhaps such an expansion might allow for a Canadian game on New Year's and a game at Yankee Stadium some days later.

This year's Classic is at Fenway Park, where the ice is already down. In typical Fenway fashion, the ownership group will try to maximize their bottom line on this one, adding open skates, prep school games, and a pair of college games to the schedule over the next several weeks. I'll be there to see Boston College face Boston University on January 8th. I hope that I have the opportunity to see an outdoor hockey game at Yankee Stadium one day too.