Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Five More Invited To Spring Training

Sometimes it's better to be invited to the party late than not be invited at all. Last week we took a brief look at the Yankees twenty non-roster invitees to Spring Training. Yesterday they added five more invitees to the list. No word as to whether the three new pitchers were notified before yesterday or if they will be given extra time to report if they were not. Here's a look.
Pitchers (3)
D.J. Mitchell
Dustin Moseley
Ryan Pope
Mitchell was a tenth round pick in 2008, made his professional debut last year, and turned in an outstanding season between Charleston and Tampa. Moseley has made 64 appearances for the Angels since 2006, but missed nearly all of last year with elbow and hip injuries. He was signed to a minor league deal that was also announced yesterday. Pope was a third round pick in 2007 and spent last season at AA Trenton. None has any realistic chance of making the team, though Moseley could provide depth at AAA.
Infielders (2)
Brandon Laird
Jorge Vazquez
Like fellow non roster invitee Colin Curtis, Brandon Laird had an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League. He's lucky not to be playing in the Arizona Penal League this year, following his arrest, and that of brother Gerald, at a Phoenix Suns game this winter. Vazquez, like Alfredo Aceves, Ramiro Pena, and Manny Banuelos, was signed out of Mexico, which is becoming a lucrative pipeline for the Yankees. Vazquez' season at AA Trenton was cut short by injury, but he did some serious damage with the bat while healthy. That said, it should be noted that Vazquez was quite advanced for the league at 27 years old.

Laird is a third baseman who may be switched to first, Vazquez is a first baseman who has experience at third, catcher, and the outfield from his days in the Mexican League. They are the only infielders amongst the non-roster invitees and have absolutely no chance of making the team.

The five additional non-roster invitees brings the total number of players in camp to 65.

Spring Training Countdown Epilogue & Table Of Contents

As Matt conveyed in both his Bobby Murcer piece yesterday and Oddibe McDowell post this morning, our Spring Training Countdown has reached it's conclusion and it's time for baseball, however informal it may be when camp begins. If you we were reading this blog a year ago, you might remember our first crack at the Countdown. Matt wasn't yet on board but we had other contributors like Joe (who came up with the idea for it), Boston Bren (who is responsible for the layout of the blog), and Cliff (who helps out with behind the scenes stuff here) all chipping in. The idea was to infuse the doldrums of the offseason with some history.

This year we left a few behind (Roger Clemens, Jorge Posada) but brought forward a lot of those posts and made significant additions and edits. With Matt now in the fold, he was able to draw on his vast reservoir of Yankee knowledge and add depth to many of the pieces, even those that have my byline on them.

I originally thought that resurrecting the Countdown would be a time saver. We could pull the posts forward, make some minor changes and have some easy content. But it turns out that every time I got to editing one of them, it would seem woefully incomplete or clumsily arranged. It ended up being a lot more work than I had anticipated, but the end result is 34 pretty interesting pieces, most of which we can build upon when next year rolls around.

Hopefully you the reader got something out of them too. Maybe some knowledge about Joe DiMaggio's time with the San Francisco Seals or some background on a player you didn't know much about like Gil McDougald or Spud Chandler. Perhaps some sympathy for Dave Righetti being thrust into the closer's role or a newfound respect for Roy White's career. Something interesting about the outlook for Mark Teixeira or Robinson Cano's upcoming season. Or were just reminded of some fond memories of Phil Rizzuto, Bobby Murcer or Thurman Munson.

I know I learned a lot by putting together the ones I did, and even more by reading Matt's work. Hopefully when next year rolls around, though, we'll look at this series with fresh eyes, dust off these pieces and make them more complete. Perhaps we'll decide that we need to pay homage to Moose Skowron, Jimmy Key, Bobby Richardson and Vic Raschi. Maybe we'll start with #32, Elston Howard.

0 Days Until Spring Training: Here Comes The Sun

Good morning Fackers. This is Oddibe McDowell. McDowell was drafted an astounding six times, including once by the Yankees, before finally signing with the Texas Rangers in 1984. A once promising prospect and member of the loaded 1984 U.S. Olympic team, McDowell became a middling outfielder for the Rangers, Indians, and Braves. He spent parts of just seven seasons in the Majors, finishing his professional career with fourteen games for the Columbus Clippers, the Yankees' AAA affiliate, in 1995.

So why does Oddibe appear here? Because no Yankee has ever worn zero on his back. One time Yankee Cliff Johnson wore 00 during his time with the Blue Jays in the 1980s, but I can't find any pictures of it. So Oddibe, the one time Yankee draft pick and minor leaguer, who wore 0 during his time at Arizona State and with the Rangers as a numerical representation of the first letter of his first name, brings our countdown to Spring Training to the magic number of zero.

And with that, here we are. My area in Connecticut got walloped with about ten inches of snow yesterday. My commute home took twice as long as usual. My driveway was a sheet of ice this morning. And I don't care. Because as of today, it's baseball season.

At some point today, thirty five Yankee pitchers and seven Yankee catchers will report to the team's complex in Tampa. Lockers will be filled. Physicals will be taken. And tomorrow, official workouts will begin, and I will never be so enthused about pitchers' fielding practice.

Welcome back baseball. It's been a long, cold, lonely winter.

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it's alright,

Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter,
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here,
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it's all right.

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces,
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here,
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it's all right.

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting,
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear,
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
And I say it's all right.

Jonathan Papelbon ≠ Mariano Rivera. Ever.

I'm sorry, what?

Again, but just the second part:

Whose path?

Mariano Rivera's "path" began in Puerto Caimito, Panama playing baseball with makeshift equipment in the streets. He signed with the Yankees for $3,000 and spent 5 years toiling in the minors. Now he's won 5 World Series, is the greatest closer ever and has accomplished it all with a freakish reliance on one pitch. Jonathan Papelbon was a starting pitcher in the minors, has one World Series ring and closes for a team in the AL East, but you lose me after that.

Now, aside from the fact that both guys have three vowels in their last name, what are these amazing off the field similarities?
When you compare the earnings curve of the Yankees' icon and the Red Sox All-Star, there are definite parallels, especially in the way both have worked on one-year deals in the early years of their careers.
Yes. Them and 75% of the other players to reach the Major Leagues. See, there is a process called arbitration, and most players aren't offered multi-year deals that buy out... Nevermind. Maybe I'm nitpicking here, but "off the field" usually refers to a player's life away from baseball, not his contract status with his team.

But continue, Gordon, with these uncanny parallels:
Rivera had two Series rings when he became eligible for arbitration for the first time in 1999 and signed a one-year deal for $4.25 million. He went to an arbitration hearing before the following season, 2000, and lost, receiving a contract for $7.25 million after asking for $9.25 million. His $3 million raise was just $100,000 short of what Papelbon received.
Yes, what a coincidence that Papelbon and Rivera both performed well, went through the same process and got similarly proportioned raises. It's almost as if Papelbon's agent used Rivera as a precedent!

And now for the part where Edes completely submarines his own analogy:
Papelbon has demonstrated that he will not settle for anything less than what he considers fair value for his talents, and the Red Sox may not be willing to pay eight figures for a closer. And unlike the Yankees, the Red Sox have a prospective closer-in-waiting in Daniel Bard.

The last Yankees closer before Rivera was an All-Star named John Wetteland, who was named MVP of the 1996 World Series after saving all four games against the Atlanta Braves. But after the season, the Yankees allowed Wetteland to leave as a free agent because Rivera was in the wings. And we all know how that worked out.
Got that folks? Jonathan Papelbon = Mariano Rivera. Until the last paragraph, wherein Jonathan Papelbon = John Wetteland and Daniel Bard becomes Rivera.

Was Jonathan Papelbon raised in a fishing village in Panama? Did he once work upon a commercial shrimping boat? Is he devoutly religious? Is he fluent in Spanish? Does he own a steakhouse in New Rochelle?

No. Jonathan Papelbon is a blithering ignoramus who picks out names for his kids based on whether they are "badass" or not. He says stupid things without thinking. He's a demonstrative douchebag on the mound. He does not throw a cut fastball. He's part childish buffoon and part ungracious asshole. In short he's the anti-Mo.

Rivera is as distinguished of a player as there is active in baseball. He conducts himself with dignity and class in every facet in his life that is visible to the public. It's nothing short of insulting to Mo to equate him to Papelbon in an way. To do so is to stoop to lazy, hacky journalism. Eventually, someone may follow in Mariano Rivera's "path" to some extent. But that person will not be Jonathan Papelbon.