Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: A Retrospective

We have thus far steered clear of anything reflecting on the year or decade as 2009 has drawn to a close, but we finally cracked on December 31st. Perhaps it's out of some sort of preemptive nostalgia but from where we sit right now, 2009 seems like a pretty special year in a lot of respects. I think that we owe it at least one post.

Here's a look back at the year that was through the eyes of this blog:
When the year began, we were worried about Derek Jeter's poor 2008 but he rebounded in ways that no one was predicting.

We bid adieu to the Giambino.

We questioned the clutchiferousness of CC Sabathia, but he happily proved us wrong when it mattered most.

A-Rod was A-Fraud then A-Roid. He admitted some stuff, made some faces, and then admitted some more. He was injured and returned (with a bang). He copped a feel. He went from choke artist to clutchmaster. He and Kate Hudson came and went. An entire post could be written just about his year - and it already was.

Andy Pettitte returned and returned again.

The Yankees played pool.

The New Stadium opened to mixed reviews, but we eventually came to embrace it. Literally.

After a long offseason the Yankees got off to a slow start and some of the more fragile among the fan base lost their minds.

Nick Swisher pitched.

There were baked goods.

Damaso Marte went missing.

We were introduced to Slade Heathcott.

The Yanks kicked ass and took names in the second half of '09, going 51-22 after the All-Star Break. No team was safe from the fury.

Derek Jeter climbed "the Yankees' Mount Olympus".

The regular season was almost gone. And then it was.

Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson brought things full circle.

On a personal note, 2009 was an eventful one for me as well:

We got "extremely" drunk in Boston and New Jersey.

I had some second thoughts and made some first impressions. I got fired and time turned elastic. I enjoyed myself. For a moment, I was a legend. Then I moved upstate.

We lost some heros, innovators and great Yankees this year. We parted ways with a radio host, a singer and a beat writer (but those guys aren't dead). Gone are the likes of Melky Cabrera, Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy, Hideki Matsui and most likely Johnny Damon. Here now are some old familiar faces and some we don't yet know very well.

The New Stadium isn't so new anymore and we aren't getting any younger ourselves, but there is plenty to look forward to in 2010.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

'Tis The Season For Analysis And Reason

Good morning Fackers. One of the positive things about the slow news cycle that we are going through in the baseball world at the moment is that it gives some very smart writers the chance to do long-form pieces that don't get done when the offseason news is reaching its peak. While some may yearn for the heat of the hot stove, a whole lot of writing and thought gets expended on the the same signings and trade with a relatively small amount getting added to the discussion. Without many rumors flying, some have been using their time well and posting tremendously interesting analytical pieces that have in some cases taken on a life of their own.

Joe Posnanski recently cranked out 5,000 words comparing the Baseball Hall of Fame with the Baseball Think Factory Hall of Merit. Larry from Wezen-ball explored the illogical nature of the voting process for Cooperstown. There was an interesting discussion yesterday about putting a third team in New York which began with a piece on by Tim Marchman, and was picked up by Craig Calcaterra of Circling the Bases and Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew (among others) before Marchman responded to the responses. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs discussed the diminishing value of a marginal win for the Yankees which was further explored by River Ave. Blues and Rob Neyer. Cameron's colleague R.J. Anderson used a quote from Peter Gammons to explain the Time Value of Money as it relates to Jason Bay's contract.

Perhaps the best example of this analytical collaboration are the Mike Silva Chronicles that Tom Tango is currently posting over at The Book Blog. Silva is notoriously suspicious of advanced statistics while Tango is responsible for creating a great many of them and inspiring still more. Recently, Silva compared the necessity for the newly-created stat wRC+ (just like OPS+ but based on wOBA) from FanGraphs to "Cool Ranch Doritos, New Coke, or a colorful cover for the iPod". Tango replied in the comment section, "As I keep saying on my blog time and time again, summary opinion without evidence is the very definition of bullsh!t. And Mike’s statement here is pure bullsh!t."

What might have spiraled into a war of words has instead turned into something productive. Tango agreed to answer ten of Silva's questions about advanced metrics, ranging from the accuracy and utility of UZR to the concepts of replacement level and win shares, pulling back the curtain a bit in attempt assuage some of the doubts that many have about newer stats.

Although these two guys are coming from ends of the statistical spectrum, they are meeting at an important common ground. One of the reasons old school baseball thinkers like Silva distrust advanced metrics is because they doubt their accuracy. The people who understand these measures the best understand their limits because they created them. It could be argued that the people who use UZR and WAR without understanding their blindspots are just as bad as those who refuse to acknowledge their utility at all.

Even if you aren't a stathead, I'd recommend stopping by The Book Blog and taking a look at Silva's questions and Tango's responses. They did five questions yesterday and I believe the next 5 should be coming soon. Although the names of some of the newer stats make them seem vague and complex, I think you'll find that hearing someone explain what they are and why they were created while simultaneously acknowledging their limitations to be quite interesting.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Brian Bruney: Bearded Optimist

Few tears were shed among Yankee fans when Brian Bruney was flipped to the Nationals in December in exchange for the first pick in the Rule 5 draft, which eventually became Jamie Hoffman. It seems that the feeling is mutual. Despite being traded to a team that has lost 100 games two years in a row, Bruney told's Bill Ladson that he's happy to be a National (via MLBTR): What was your reaction when you found out that you were traded to the Nationals?

Brian Bruney: I feel good being a National. I think there is a better opportunity for me there. I'm going to enjoy helping a team that hasn't been a winning franchise. We are going to be the 25 guys that make it a winning franchise. It sounds like you are excited to be a member of the Nationals. Why?

Bruney: It's a new journey. It's a new challenge. You have to continue to challenge yourself. It seems it's going to be a lot of fun. When you expect to win every night like we did in New York, I don't know if the winning is as fun as when nobody expects you to win. You are the underdogs every night and you prove people wrong. I think that is a lot more fun. That's the part I'm looking forward to --- being on a team where nobody expects us to do anything. Hopefully we'll put some wins together, get on a roll and play good baseball for six months. We'll see where it goes.
To be fair, Bruney's bit about the expectations of winning as it relates to being on the Yankees sounds pretty similar to something I wrote after the Vasquez trade, but let's see how much fun winning is when you only do it 60 or 70 times a year.
Bruney: I can finally grow some facial hair after four years. That's great. That was one of the first things I thought about. When I was traded, I said, "Wow, finally, I can grow a beard."
"Yeah, fuck winning World Series, I'm gonna grow a beard!" We kid Bruney because we love him. Actually, we don't. But the man is a renegade, and the fact that he is going to a terrible team is probably better for his career.

Later on in the interview he makes it clear that he wants to compete for the closer job with newly-acquired free agent Matt Capps. He clearly wouldn't never have been given the opportunity on the Yankees and if he can finagle his way into a set-up or closing job for the Nationals, it will help with his arbitration value and his price on the free agent market when he eventually gets there. He's shown some flashes of brilliance throughout his career, so maybe he could actually win the closer's role over Capps. And as Fernando Rodney proved last season, you don't need to be a good pitcher to save games.

Is Vazquez A One Year Rental?

Good morning Fackers. It's been a week now since the Javier Vazquez trade. Aside from the non-sensical talk of "he can't pitch in NY!!!11!1", "home run Javy", and the focus on the small role he played in a team wide failure that resulted in the greatest post-season collapse in baseball history, the post-trade talking point that I'm most tired of is the presumption that this is a one year pick-up.

Yes. Javier Vazquez is only signed through the 2010 season. Yes, Cliff Lee, Josh Beckett, Brandon Webb, and others are slated to hit the free agent market following the 2010 season. Heck, maybe the Mariners are willing to shop King Felix at that point, or the Royals Zack Greinke. But at this point there's no telling who will be shopped or who will sign an extension by this time next year.

What we do know is that by this time next year, Andy Pettitte will be 38, a free agent, and doing the will-he-or-won't-he retirement dance for the fifth consecutive off-seeason. CC Sabathia will have one year left before before he has the right to opt out of his contract, and A.J. Burnett will be nearly 34 years old and either coming off his third consecutive injury free season or facing health concerns for the umpteenth time in his career.

So why do we just assume that the Yankees are going to let Vazquez walk? Sure the draft picks would be nice, but so would a pitcher who could give you 200 above average innings each year. Maybe the club wouldn't want to commit even a three year deal to the then 34 year old Vazquez, especially considering that he'll have about 2,700 ML innings on his arm by then.

But presuming that 2010 is the last year of Andy Pettitte's career, allowing Vazquez to walk would leave the Yankees with two openings in their rotation. One would go to the loser of this coming spring's Joba/Hughes competition. The other? If the likes of Lee or Beckett fail to hit the market or land in the Bronx the next tier of free agent pitchers is no better than Vazquez, and the same is likely to hold true for any of the in-house options (McAllister, Nova, Bleich).

I'm not saying the Yankees should sign Vazquez at the conclusion of next season. But before we presume that this will be another one and done stint in the Bronx, I think should consider some of the pitching situations the Yankees may be facing at this time next year and let the 2010 season play out.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Impromptu Movie Review: It Might Get Loud

It Might Get Loud is the kind of ambitious project that needed a name brand director. I can't imagine how else they would have convinced Jack White, the Edge and Jimmy Page to do it. Each of the three represents a different musical generation and distinct background, giving the film three dissonant storylines. It's subjects are three guitarists, but it's more about music in general than guitar.

It begins with a scene showing Jack White building a one string guitar from some scraps of wood and a coke bottle and later documents the Edge's never-ending quest to find the perfect sound through hundreds of knobs, switches and sliders. The antithesis of the overproduced sounds of the Edge, White tends towards the organic: hence the minimalist opening. At one point the Edge, sitting in his studio packed with amps and computers, demonstrates that the riff he's playing is unsurprisingly only a cavalcade of effects. Later on, White listens to a record featuring a man with no instruments - only his voice and some manual percussion - in what appears to be his attic. Somewhere in between, are Page and his ever-present smile, at times playing a double necked guitar and others strumming a mandolin.

As the film weaves together the formative years of each guitarist, revisiting scenes of their youth, backdrops roam from a farmhouse in Tennessee to an English manor to the bleak grayness of Dublin, culminating on a well-lit soundstage in Los Angeles.

It's on this soundstage that the film comes together (and gets loud). It attempts to unite the musicians with a summit and jam session featuring a song from each of them. What that meeting lacks in synergy it makes up for in authenticity. Being that these are guitarists and not lead singers, it shouldn't be surprising that each comes across as genuine.

The film doles out pieces of that jam session in tiny bits and it's clear that the different styles blend about as seamlessly together as the movie does - which is to say not very well. But it's still enjoyable to see happening. If you've got some free time and want to check it out, you can watch the entire thing in ten minute sections on YouTube or obviously, buy it since it was just released on DVD shortly before Christmas.

Fifteen Hundred

Good morning Fackers. Hopefully everyone had an excellent weekend of food, family, tradition, presents and of course drinking (and if not, Chinese food and movies). It was a busy one for me, starting with a friends party on Wednesday night, then a Christmas Eve Wigilia at my aunt's house, Christmas Day at my Mom's and a huge annual gathering with my father's side of the family yesterday, scheduled squarely over the Giants' game miserable and embarrassing failure. Luckily there was no TV so I was spared the agony.

Amidst all the festivities last year, including a trip up from New York, I managed to find some time to write the first post for this blog (well, technically the second). Fast forward exactly one thousand five hundred posts and you'd arrive at this one.

I didn't have a specific goal in mind when I started Fack Youk other than to write about the Yankees and when we started off, it was much less Bronx-centric than it is now. We didn't have the Casey Stengel banner picture, the knockoff Red Sox font, the motto that turned away countless advertisers, the black and white photo policy and aside from me, the cast of characters here was totally different.

There was a lot I didn't realize about writing back then. I didn't understand that it wasn't as much about what you say but how you say it. And that who is saying it matters even more. The most important thing about maintaining a blog is establishing a voice and not coincidentally, it's the hardest thing to do. A lot harder than I expected.

The humble thing to do would be to say that we've come further than I could have imagined over the past year, but that's not really true. Success is easy to imagine. You write a couple of posts, people like them, you get a few links and it's easy to imagine that in no time you'll be rolling in pageviews and ad revenue. In reality, what look like ramps to untold amounts of traffic are really just spikes that return a certain baseline in a few days (at most). What makes a blog successful is the day to day grind.

As our pal Craig (then only of Shysterball) told me when I reached out to him for advice shortly after this whole thing began:
Work on pacing yourself and putting out regular, predictable content that people can come back to on a regular basis, and soon they'll bookmark you or put you in their reader, and from there things grow steadily.
The thing that I truly could not have imagined is how much content we produced over the past year - over four posts a day, including weekends. Those are the kind of details that you usually gloss over when you set out to accomplish something (even if you don't know what that something is). There was no way I could have possibly fathomed the amount of hours that I'd spend playing the role of Sisyphus in an attempt to put something new and interesting on the top of a web page. It's somewhat ironic that in a medium so instantaneous, true success and progress takes a long time.

Thankfully, the Yankees had about as good of a year as could be expected and have continued with a great offseason thus far, which has made all of the effort put into this blog seem more worthwhile. We all got awfully lucky in that respect.

Last but certainly not least, thanks to everyone for stopping by. There are a ridiculous amount of Yankee blogs out there and the fact that you choose to come here is what makes it worth putting in all the effort. Hopefully this time next year we'll have more to celebrate and be thankful for. In the meantime, we'll continue with the vulgarity and analysis.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day Viewing

Just a heads up, Ken Burns' Baseball is on the MLB Network today. It started at 6:00 this morning and runs until tomorrow at 5:30AM.
It was our intention to pursue the game — and its memories and myths — across the expanse of American history. We quickly developed an abiding conviction that the game of baseball offered a unique prism through which one could see refracted much more than the history of games won and lost, teams rising and falling, rookies arriving and veterans saying farewell. The story of baseball is also the story of race in America, of immigration and assimilation; of the struggle between labor and management, of popular culture and advertising, of myth and the nature of heroes, villains, and buffoons; of the role of women and class and wealth in our society. The game is a repository of age-old American verities, of standards against which we continually measure ourselves, and yet at the same time a mirror of the present moment in our modern culture — including all of our most contemporary failings.
But we were hardly prepared for the complex emotions the game summoned up. The accumulated stories and biographies, life-lessons and tragedies, dramatic moments and classic confrontations that we encountered daily began to suggest even more compelling themes. As Jacques Barzun has written, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball."
My plan: turn it on and hide the remote. Sure beats watching A Christmas Story over and over again.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Fackers. Hope you found what you wanted under your tree this morning.

We'll take a page from WPIX, which was home to Yankee games for many years and the yule log every Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas The Night Before Christmas

... and all through the blog
not a creature was stirring
not even a frog.

Instead of more bad poetry, here are two Christmas-ey tunes from the Derek Trucks Band:

Greensleeves (starts after Mahjoun at about the 3:40 mark)

My Favorite Things - from a show I was at earlier this year in the city in which I was born

... and I heard him exclaim
as he drove out of site
"Happy Christmas to all,
and to all a good night!"

Say Uncle

Christmas is a time to be with family, so as we take it slow here at Fack Youk over the next couple days here are two family related baseball notes:
  • Mark Feinsand reports that former Yankee third base coach Larry Bowa played in role in steering his nephew, Nick Johnson, back to the Bronx. Bowa encouraged Johnson to return, citing the uniqueness of the Yankee experience and the opportunity to win. Perhaps most noteworthy about this is that Bowa seemingly hasn't completely soured on the organization. He left for LA with Joe Torre two years ago and was clearly on Torre's side in the aftermath of that messy breakup.

  • Earlier this year we poked a little fun at Gregg Zaun and his website. Zaun's uncle is one time Yankee and longtime Oriole Rick Dempsey. Dempsey apparently is trying to one-up his nephew on the embarassment scale and has released his own Christmas album. Dempsey's got a long way to go to replace my favorite Christmas song though:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Fine Line Between Awesome & Awful

Monday at The Hardball Times, Nick Steiner attempted to figure out what stats (particularly Pitch f/x) could tell us about the difference between a pitcher at their best and at their worst. We continually lean on clichés like "He didn't have his best stuff today" to explain why a pitcher has a bad outing. It seems apparent fairly early in a game, at least in hindsight, when a starter is dealing or is not.

But how much of that is confirmation bias? In other words, how much does the outcome of the start effect how we remember our perceptions of the beginning of the game? Maybe the difference between a 7 inning shutout and a 7 run disaster isn't "stuff". Perhaps, from the pitcher's perspective, there isn't much difference at all. Is it possible that Joba Chamberlain really did "throw a lot of good pitches" in some of his poor outings?

For a subject, Steiner chose A.J. Burnett, because of the stark difference between his best and worst outings. When sorted by Game Score, Burnett's 10 best starts in 2009 added up to an ERA of 1.06 while his 10 worst came out at 9.13. He went (6-2) in his top 10 and (0-6) in his bottom 10.

There should be some major differences between these two groups of starts. You'd expect to see some patterns emerging in terms of velocity, or movement, or location or pitch selection, right?

In short, no. There was almost no difference at all.

Steiner dug through all of Burnett's Pitch f/x data for this year, painstakingly categorizing it by pitch type (4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, change up, curveball, slider), movement (horizontal, vertical), location (outside, border out, border in, middle), batter (lefty, righty) and count (pitcher's, hitter's, neutral).

He sliced the data in lots of intuitive ways but found almost no significant differences between Burnett's good and bad starts. And for every directional variation which might explain his better starts (fewer pitches down the middle in good starts), there is another which runs counter to what is expected (better velocity in bad starts). In my own look at the numbers, I found that Burnett actually walked fewer batters (29) is his bad starts than he did in his good ones (32).

So what separates a great start from a terrible one, if not for pitch selection, movement and location?

For one thing, there is a whole lot more luck involved with pitching than we realize. In a span of three starts this year, Burnett bookended a 4 2/3 inning, 7 run outing against the White Sox with two shutouts against the Rays and Red Sox, each at least 7 innings. Three starts, two absolutely brilliant ones and one that a AAA call-up would be ashamed of. (Relax conspiracy theorists, Jorge Posada caught all three of them.) There are few other professions where such wild variations between success and failure are common at such a high level.

Part of this is the fact that it only takes one pitch to alter the outcome of a game. One three run home run can change the complexion of a start entirely. And the difference between it ending up as a round tripper and a fly ball on the warning track is a matter of a fraction of an inch on the bat. That's just one pitch out of 100 or more.

If you look beyond Pitch f/x, some other things turn up in Burnett's starts. While his percentage of strikes looking was almost exactly the same regardless of the type of outing (18.7% to 18.5%), the occurrence of strikes looking was much higher in his better starts (10.4% to 6.6%). He also allowed almost twice as many fly balls and line drives in his 10 worst starts while ground balls were between 7% and 8% in both.

Are we to believe that he is throwing the same quality of pitches in both groups of outings and getting wildly different results just based on luck? If it was a random chance, the swings and misses, line drives and fly balls would be more evenly distributed. I think it's more likely that there is something that Pitch f/x isn't capable of telling us.

Especially in a broad analysis like the one Steiner conducted, it's difficult (maybe impossible) to zero in on the things that separate a curve ball that induces swings and misses from one that results in an opposite field single. It would have a hard time telling a fastball down the middle in a 3-0 count (unlikely to be swung at) from one when the batter was ahead 2-1. It can't tell which locations are preferable to which hitters, given that some like the ball inside while others favor it out over the plate, for example. Mistakes made with men on base are most costly than ones with the bags empty. What about pitch sequencing, or the amount of pitches hitters saw, how often Burnett was working from behind in the count and so on and so on...

One of the great things about baseball is the amount of data available, but it's a double-edged sword. It makes general questions like this one almost impossible to answer because of the endless number or variables. No two outings are exactly alike and something tells me that even if there was a parallel universe where two of the same games began at the same time, they would probably turn out completely differently anyway.

How Good Is Too Good?

Good morning Fackers. Yesterday, when I first heard about the Javier Vazquez trade, I had an inescapable, reluctant sort of a feeling. I knew the trade was one that would make the Yankees a better team next year without question, but I wasn't excited about it by any stretch.

It was unfortunate to see Arodys Vizcaino get sent to Atlanta just days after he been placed in the top half of the Yankees' top 10 prospects by both FanGraphs and Baseball America, but that wasn't what was bothering me. I had no particular attachment to Mike Dunn, so his loss certainly wasn't it. You don't want to part with a homegrown switch-hitting center fielder like Melky Cabrera who is only 25 years old and has already put in four years for the Yanks, but I don't think I'm going to miss him that much either.

Who we got back wasn't the issue. I don't expect Vazquez to have a year that in any way resembles his dominance in Atlanta, but he'll go a long way towards rounding out the Yankees rotation. What happened during his previous tenure in Pinstripes doesn't bother me at all.

The Braves were looking to unload payroll and the $11.5M Vazquez was making was the next best thing to dumping Derek Lowe. Regardless of what Mark Feinsand's source told him yesterday, this trade was a salary dump to some extent and I think that's what made the deal seem so uncouth. It's not to say that it wasn't a move that made sense for both teams - the Braves had six starting pitchers and the Yankees had four center fielders - but something still feels wrong about it.

The Yankees just won the World Series and they added a pitcher who was among the four or five best in the National League last year to be their third or fourth starter. With CC Sabathia making $23.5M, A.J. Burnett $16.5, Andy Pettitte $11.5, and now Vasquez another $11.5, their top four starters will make $62.5M in 2010, or more than the A's, Pirates, Padres and Marlins spent on their entire teams last year. Sure, the Yanks' total payroll bill for next year will probably come in somewhere near $200M, but staying close to that massive, arbitrary number isn't exactly something to be proud of.

Spending a ridiculous amount of money is nothing new to the Yankees - in 2005, they paid out $85M more than their closest competitor - but it's not as much the dollar amount as it is the players. Now that the Bombers are allocating those resources efficiently, it's hard not to understand how much money $200M actually is. Throughout the middle of this decade, the Yanks were continually paying the likes of Jason Giambi, Randy Johnson, Gary Sheffield, Jose Contreras, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano and Hideki Matsui far more than they were worth. Now survey the current roster. It looks pretty damn lean by comparison.

I know that it's borderline irrational for a Yankees fan to feel any sort of guilt about the amount the team spends. They make a ton of money - some of which comes from me - and if they don't spend it on players, it's just going to be sucked up into a corporate vacuum, never to be seen again. The more they spend on payroll, the more enjoyable it is going to be to watch them on any given day during the season.

And perhaps that's the issue. Maybe this is just an offseason problem. As the summer moves along and the season develops, it's likely that the Yankees won't actually be as good as they are on paper right now and it won't seem as unfair that they have assembled an absolutely ridiculous collection of current and former All-Stars and future Hall of Famers. Even if they win 110 games next year, they are still going to lose at a 32% clip. Given that a 94 win team loses 42% of the time, it doesn't seem all that different over the long run - one game out of every 10.

Everyone wants their team to be awesome. But I think people want to see their team come together and exceed expectations rather than attempt to live up to impossibly high ones. Ideally, you'd like your team to be better than others by virtue of something other than their relative willingness to shell out tens of millions of dollars. Being a bona fide Goliath doesn't take away from the satisfaction of winning a World Series, but it tempers the enjoyment of every step along the way.

As it stands, the 2010 season will end in one of two ways: an expected victory or a major failure. So while the moves the Yankees have made this offseason have ensured they have a better chance to win a World Series coming into the season than they have had in quite some time, they have also guaranteed that they will have more to lose than ever before.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vazquez Trade Reactions

We posted our initial take on the deal earlier this morning, but here is a collection of what else is being said around these here internets about the acquisition of Javier Vazquez:
Will from IIATMS looks at what this might mean for the Yankees' defense. Aaron Gleeman from Circling the Bases asks a similar question.

Ben from River Ave. Blues revisits Vazquez's last time in the Bronx.

Joel Sherman was the first to name Vazquez as the target this morning and has an in-depth breakdown of the trade. He also explained that the Yankees valued a starting pitcher over a left fielder and are still looking to keep their payroll under $200M, meaning LF will likely be filled on the cheap. They are also planning to deal either Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre before spring training.

There are over 200 comments on the BBTF trade dedicated to the trade as well.

And some quick quotes, taken completely out of context:
Dave Cameron, FanGraphs: "The reaction to this deal on Twitter has not been kind to Atlanta, with most people concluding that the Yankees got Vazquez for peanuts. I’m not so sure."

Joe Posnanski: Sigh. The Yankees traded for Vazquez to be their NUMBER FOUR starter. And the Royals signed Jason Kendall to be their starting catcher.

Keith Law: "At this point, the Yankees now have a rotation close to that of the Red Sox, and they could very well enter 2010 a better team on paper than they were at the same time before 2009.

Peter Abraham, Boston Globe: "You knew this was coming. Once the Red Sox signed John Lackey, there was no way the Yankees would go into next season with a rotation of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and two question marks."

Jonah Keri, via Twitter: "To be fair to the #Braves, any time you can acquire dryer lint for one of the best SP in baseball, you gotta do it.

Tyler Kepner, via Twitter: "Yanks use 6 prospects to get Granderson and Vazquez, yet keep Hughes, Joba, Montero, Melancon, Romine, McAllister. Not bad."

Ben Kabak, River Ave. Blues: "As much as it strengthens the team’s rotation, it also weakens their outfield. The leftfield situation currently looks like a Brett Gardner/Jamie Hoffmann platoon, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence."

Rob Iracane, Walkoff Walk: "Let it be known that this guy (points to self) would rather have dismissed Nick Swisher, who cannot field his position, run the bases, or dress like a grown-up. But hey, Vazquez strikes out batters like it's his job (note: it is his job) so as a Yankees fan, I am pleased."

Satchel Price, Beyond the Box Score: "Considering what the Phillies landed for one year of Cliff Lee, arguably a superior pitcher, at a cheaper salary, I think that Atlanta got a pretty solid return for Vazquez, even if it doesn't include the impact bat that Atlanta sorely needs."

Kevin Kaduk, Big League Stew: "It's often been said that Vazquez is a pitcher that throws best when the expectations are low and his stats do back that up. "

Josh, Jorge Says No!: "Make no mistake about it though, if Vazquez can give the Yankees 200 IP with 190+ K's, and a 3.75 ERA, then there is no reason why he won't be able to win 15+ games with the Yankees the way this team is constructed."

And It Comes Full Circle: Javy Vazquez Returns

When Matt created the Nick Johnson trade tree last week, he had to go all the way back to the trade that sent Johnson to the Expos for Javier Vazquez. Since then, Johnson's been oft-injured but productive when healthy, putting up .402 career OBP. A year after being acquired from Montreal, Vazquez was traded to Arizona for Randy Johnson, who was disappointing in his tenure in Pinstripes. In the five years since that trade, he's thrown over 200 innings every season, with a combined ERA+ of 110.

It seems that Brian Cashman is now attempting to right those wrongs as the Yankees have reportedly acquired Javier Vazquez from the Braves along with lefty reliever Boone Logan in exchange for Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino, who was just named the Yankees third best prospect by Baseball America after an excellent campaign in short-season Staten Island.

Vazquez is coming off a terrific season for the Braves in which he threw 219 innings to a 2.87 ERA. He'll be making $11.5M next year (the last on his contract), so he won't come cheap, but he's very similar to Andy Pettitte in that he's likely to pitch a whole lot of innings at a better than average ERA. The Yankees might have bought at the peak of his value, but this is a salary dump to a certain exent as well because they didn't give up a whole lot.

Boone Logan is a 25 year old lefty who was traded to the Braves along with Vazquez from the White Sox last winter in exchange for two minor leaguers and two of the least manly-named baseball players imaginable - Tyler Flowers and Brent Lillibridge. Logan's career ERA is north of 5.00 and it's not a whole lot better in the minors, but he'll likely compete for a spot in the bullpen now that both Mike Dunn and Phil Coke are gone.

It's sad to see Melky go, but he's starting to get fairly expensive and hasn't displayed the kind of tantalizing ceiling that makes you think he is going to be an All-Star caliber player in the future. Dunn is a converted outfielder, so he is still early in his development as a pitcher. He could very well turn out to be a solid reliever, but for now his walk rate is awfully high. Arodys Vizcaino is a long, long way from the Majors, but he flashed a lot of potential this year and is the one piece that could be the most painful to see in another uniform in the long run.

My overall impression is that this is a great deal for the Yankees for this year. They get a very solid starter to fill out the back of their rotation (and a possibly lefty for the 'pen) in exchange for two fringe MLB players and a pitcher that is still several leaps and bounds from the Big League club.

However, this means that top 4 members of the Yanks' starting rotation will be making $62.5M this year. It also means the Yanks will most likely have to go outside of the organization to fill the hole in left field. I guess it's good that the Yankees are spending the money they are making instead of stuffing it in the coffers, but the talk of a "budget" that was prevalent early in this offseason is getting more and more laughable by the day.

Montero To Scranton

Good morning Fackers. When we profiled top prospect Jesus Montero two weeks ago, I speculated that he could start 2010 at AA Trenton before moving up to AAA Scranton some time around midseason. Yesterday, Chad Jennings reported that Yankees Vice President of Baseball Operations Mark Newman stated that the organization plans to have Montero start the year at Scranton as the regular catcher.

This serves as further evidence of the confidence the Yankees have in Montero. To have a 20 year old in AA is very rare, to have one in AAA - with less than a full season's experience at either AA or high A is nearly unheard of. Offensively at least, Montero hasn't encountered anything remotely resembling a challenge in his professional career. It will be interesting to see if that holds in the International League next year.

As we covered last week when Baseball America announced their top ten Yankee prospects, there is tremendous depth at catcher in the Yankee system. Starting Montero at AAA allows number two prospect Austin Romine to be the regular catcher at Trenton while highly regarded Kyle Higashioka slots in at low A Charleston. Other top prospects JR Murphy and Gary Sanchez will stay in extended spring training before being farmed out later in the season.

The one potential negative to Montero starting the year at AAA is that the organization will likely find it exceedingly difficult to stash a Major League caliber emergency catcher at Scranton. With the #3 prospect in all of baseball there and playing nearly everyday, no fringe player with Big League credentials is going to want to play back up / mentor to Montero. This is a minor point relative to Montero's development, but as we saw last year, it's tough enough for the Yankees to convince a decent emergency catcher to sign a minor league deal. Montero climbing another rung on the ladder will make this even harder.

With any luck the Yankees won't face a similar situation this year. But with Francisco Cervelli graduating to the back up job and Jose Molina presumably elsewhere, the Yankees likely won't have any sort of veteran back up plan in the event of an injury to either of their Major League catchers. If that were to occur, minor league veterans Chris Stewart or P.J. Pilittere would likely be first in line. Either that, or perhaps the Mets could loan them one of the seven back up catchers they've inked this off-season.

[UPDATE: Just after I finished writing this last night the Yankees signed Mike Rivera to a minor league contract. So just ignore those last two paragraphs]

Monday, December 21, 2009

Welcome To Winter

At 17:47 GMT today (about quarter to one EDT) the sun reached its southward solstice. Although the days have been short and it has been cold out for quite some time, today is officially the first day of winter. On one hand, it seems as though we are just beginning our descent into the cold and gray, but astronomically speaking, we are already starting to emerge from it.

Like most people who choose to live in the Northeast, I both love and hate this time of year. It's tough to take the shortened days and frigid temperatures that keep outdoor activities to bare minimum. There's not much worse than starting your car in single digit temperatures and waiting for it to warm up, but there are few things I enjoy more than looking outside when I wake up and seeing snow falling under the orange glow of a street light. It's like you're watching the world slow down.

I still remember hardly being able to sleep on nights when there might be a snow day back in elementary school. I could almost sense whether it had snowed or not before I pulled back the curtain to look outside, but that didn't prevent the crushing feeling of gazing upon the naked pavement and brown, frozen grass and knowing that I still had to go into school.

Winter lends itself to a different range of human emotion. I think everyone suffers from some degree of Seasonal Affective Disorder; unless you live someplace where it is warm all year round how can you not? Life is better when the weather is nice and you can be outside. It sucks when you finish work and it's already dark outside. Mowing the lawn beats shoveling the driveway. You'd rather wear sandals than sweaters. A cold beer is better than a hot cocoa.

By the same token, some kinds of music seem more appropriate for the winter. They might be a little slower and more acoustically layered. They might sound sadder and more contemplative. Or maybe they just have words like "Winter" or "Ice" in the title. Anyway, here is a cursory collection of tunes that - for one reason or another - sound like winter to me:

The Easiest (And Cheapest) Outfield Solution

It's been almost two weeks since the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson and during that time, their 2010 roster has begun to congeal. Andy Pettitte was re-signed, Jamie Hoffman was acquired via the Rule V Draft, Nick Johnson was signed as a free agent, Hideki Matsui became an Angel and it is widely assumed that Johnny Damon's career as a Yankee has come to a close. However, in the game of musical chairs which will determine the outfield configuration for 2010, it's not even clear that all the participants have been identified. The music is most certainly still playing.

At the moment, the Yankees have 5 outfielders on their 25 man roster: Granderson, Hoffman, Nick Swisher, Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner. The good news is that 4 of them are capable of playing center field. The bad news (aside from the fact that only one of them can do so) is that only two of the five can hit like Major League corner outfielders (Swisher and Granderson).

Even though there has been some sporadic talk about Swish being traded this offseason, let's simplify this by assuming that he will be the Yankees' right fielder come Opening Day. That leaves four players for two starting jobs, one of which will certainly belong to Granderson.

When the Yankees picked up Granderson, I hoped aloud that they would consider putting him in left field and keeping the center field platoon from 2009 intact. Not only would it require no further trades or acquisitions and be relatively inexpensive (~$15M), but it it would result in one of the better defensive outfields in the league. And as they say, "a [run] saved is a [run] earned".

Granderson has been above (+12.9), below (-9.4) and just about average (+1.6) defensively in 2007, 2008 and 2009, respectively, according to UZR. Using a 3-4-5 weighted average of those scores, his UZR/150 is approximately +3 over the past three years. Given that he was a slightly better than average center fielder, it would be safe to assume that he would be a significantly better than average left fielder. Left field in Yankee Stadium is plenty large so it's not like stashing a rangy defender there would be a waste.

I'm going to refrain from citing the exact UZRs for the Gardbrera Duo due to small sample sizes, but I'm willing to assume that Brett is a very good fielder while Melky is probably about average or slightly below. Combine them and the Yanks are a tick better than average in CF.

In terms of offense, there are two leaps of faith that I am taking here:
1) Granderson's offensive output will be closer to 2007 and 2008 than to 2009.

2) Cabrera and Gardner will be as good as they were last year or better at the plate.
Neither of those are trivial considerations, but there are reasons to be optimistic.

Granderson's BABIP of .275 is likely to improve from last year given that it is significantly lower than his carreer mark of .322. Bill at the Detroit Tigers Weblog estimated that about half of that drop was due to Granderson's approach and the other half to luck. Hitting in the New Yankee Stadium should also help. Additionally, it would be a lot easier to find a solid hitting right-handed platoon partner for Granderson (like Reed Johnson) who can play LF as opposed to one who can play center.

Melky has already experienced years in which he regressed instead of improving in his young career and there are good reasons why Gardner won't necessarily improve next year. But they are both in their mid-20's and should be able to at least replicate what they did at the plate in '09 barring an injury.

The Yankees have an infield full of star-caliber hitters, a DH with a .400 OBP and a right fielder who hits about 30 HRs as well. They won 103 regular season games (and the World Series) last year with Gardner and Melky splitting CF duty. I think they can afford to configure left and center field in a way that would maximize defensive production while being close to average at the plate. There are other ways to fill those holes, but they would likely cause the Yanks to get older and more expensive in the process.

Lunchtime Links

As Chad Jennings pointed out this morning, it's going to take a lot to top last Monday, but there are a few odds and ends (some from over the weekend) worth checking out.

Over the weekend, E.J. from The Yankee Universe advocated making Brett Gardner the Yankees everyday center fielder.

On the other hand, Joe Pawlikowski from River Ave. Blues compared Gardner to Scott Podsednik, warning against using projections to predict his production in 2010. Unfortunately, the latter of these two posts provides the more realistic assessment.

Mark Carig from the Star-Ledger asked a person who used to do statistical analysis for a major league club for their reaction to the Granderson deal. The first sentence: "What a deal".

According to the Daily News, the Yankees and the Cubs could be trading partners. Gardner or Melky Cabrera are the likely targets since the Cubbies are in need of a center fielder, but it's not clear what the Yankees would want in return. Carlos Zambrano's name was mentioned but the asking price was reportedly "high". Even higher is his salary, so file this one under "Things We Aren't Buying".

Joe Posnanski saw Up In The Air over the weekend and wrote an epic post about movies and travel inspired by it.

This morning, Lar from Wezen-Ball dug up an interview with an ex-Yankee from the well-respected Weekly World News.

Bill Madden says that their agents have left Johnny Damon, Matt Holliday and Jason Bay out in the cold by mis-reading the free agent market. Easy there Bill, it's not even Christmas yet.

The Post says that Cashman is hoping to acquire a starter by New Years and names Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro and Ben Sheets as targets. MLBTR adds a few more.

Sports Illustrated has an interview with Peter Gammons.

Digging Out From The Weekend

Good morning Fackers. Hopefully you have managed to shovel yourself out from the storm that buried much of the East Coast throughout the day on Saturday and into Sunday morning. Since it was the last weekend for people to roam the malls in search of Christmas gifts, retailers are predictably acting like they were just held up at gunpoint.

The Bears and Ravens ended up playing in Baltimore despite the fact that the Bears were stuck in Chicago until late Saturday night and M&T Bank Stadium being covered with almost two feet of the white stuff. The Ravens claimed it cost them almost $500,000 to remove all of it. According to the Redskins they've employed 1,200 workers to relocate the 25 million pounds of snow on FedEx Field before the Giants and Redskins play tonight.

Unfortunately, the storm didn't manage to put a damper on the opening weekend for that movie with the blue people that I refuse to name, which has been annoying us with their contrived promotions for two fucking months. Is there no justice in this world?

In baseball news, after waiting more than a week for Mike Lowell to take a physical for the Rangers, the Red Sox saw the trade that would have sent him and $9M to Texas in exchange for catching prospect Max Ramirez fall through. Lowell failed that physical because it indicated that the third baseman will need surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. Recovery time is supposed to be 6-8 weeks and he should be ready for Spring Training in some capacity, but D.J. Short over at Circling the Bases thinks the Red Sox are pissed at Lowell, even if they aren't saying it:
...You have to understand how frustrated the Red Sox are with Lowell for not having the problem addressed sooner. Not only because of the nixed trade, but what might have happened had the Red Sox stayed with the status quo. Lowell likely wouldn't have had the thumb examined during the offseason at all had Texas not tentatively agreed to a trade. They have every reason to be be furious with Lowell, even if they will say otherwise publicly.
Lowell's injury also devastates his trade value when the Sox are finally able to move him. Even if the Sox are willing to eat $9M of his contract, almost every team is going to have committed to another option at third base by then. Furthermore, although the injury isn't assumed to be very serious, teams are likely to be skeptical that he will make a full recovery.

This turn of events has left the Sox in a very difficult spot. The easiest thing to do would be penciling in the Youkstah at 3B and allowing Casey Kotchman to man first. But over the past three years, Kotchman has been only league average at first base, hitting .279/.346/.421 (101 OPS+) in 1521 plate appearances. They could venture into the free agent market to find another third baseman, but it falls steeply after Adrian Beltre to guys like Joe Crede, Melvin Mora and Mike Lamb. Do they overspend to cover their asses for this year, or take their chances that Lowell can be productive at the plate and his defense will rebound from last year? Neither of those are very appealing options.

Lowell was signed for $37.5M over 3 years after his World Series MVP and hasn't played more than 120 games or been significantly better than league average offensively in either of the first two seasons of the deal. The third one doesn't look a whole lot better.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Nick Johnson Trade Tree

With the Yankees on the verge of re-signing former top prospect Nick Johnson, I've been thinking about the trade that initially sent Johnson from The Bronx. It's the start of a very interesting trade tree.

On December 16, 2003, the Yankees sent Johnson, Juan Rivera, and Randy Choate to Montreal for Javier Vazquez.

Just over a year later, the Yankees flipped Vazquez, along with Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro, to Arizona for Randy Johnson.

Two days short of two years later, the Yankees sent Johnson back to the desert for Luis Vizcaino, Steven Jackson, Alberto Gonzalez, and Ross Ohlendorf.

Vizcaino departed the Yankees as a free agent after the 2007 season. Jackson was DFA'd in 2009 and picked up by Pittsburgh for the waiver fee.

Alberto Gonzalez was sent to Washington at the 2008 deadline for Jhonny Nunez. Nunez was part of the package sent to the White Sox for Nick Swisher last November. Exploring the lineage of that trade is really interesting and lengthy and may be a post for another time. For now, let's just say it includes such luminaries as Kevin Brown, Jeff Weaver, Hideki Irabu, and Xavier Hernandez before finally concluding at Steve Sax.

Ross Ohlendorf was part of a package with Daniel McCutchen, Jeff Karstens, and Jose Tabata that was sent to Pittsburgh for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte.

So over the past six years, the Yankees surrendered Nick Johnson, Randy Choate, Juan Rivera, Brad Halsey, Dioner Navarro, Daniel McCutchen, Jeff Karstens, and Jose Tabata. All they have left to show for it is Damaso Marte, the waiver money from losing Steven Jackson, and a portion of the Nick Swisher trade.

They further received three years of mediocre pitching between Vazquez and Johnson, one year of relief from Luis Vizcaino during which he was abused into ineffectiveness by Joe Torre, and 276 plate appearances from Xavier Nady.

At least Nick's back now.

Johnny Damon Would Give Himself A 4 Year Deal

One of the more absurd tidbits of the offseason emerged yesterday when Larry Stone of the Seattle Times dropped the following chestnut into an article about the Mariners' interest in signing Johnny Damon (h/t BBTF):
One other rather bizarre Mariner-related Damon anecdote. I heard from someone who works around the Mariners that after Bill Bavasi was fired in 2008, and the Mariners were searching for a new general manager, Damon actually was telling people he would be interested in the job. This person insisted that Damon seemed dead serious, even though he was still an active player. It didn't go anywhere, of course, but I always thought it was an interesting notion. I meant to ask Damon about it last year when the Yankees came to town, but never got a chance.
Johnny Damon seems like a pretty decent guy and when his career is done, he'll probably be a borderline Hall of Famer. He's played for four different organizations (including ones run by Billy Beane, Theo Epstein and Brain Cashman) and been on two World Series winners. The man certainly has an eye for talent. All that said, campaigning for a front office position is one of those times that being a self-proclaimed "idiot" (and "writing" a book about it) might work against you a bit.

Clearly no team with any brains is going to hand over the keys to their franchise to Johnny Damon; I'm certain that any number of assistant GMs or scouting directors or other front office personnel would make a better general manager. If this is true, it makes his request for a four year deal seem downright realistic by comparison.

The Return Of Nick The Stick

Good morning, Fackers. It appears as though the Yankees are close to signing Nick Johnson to a one year, $5.5M deal. Johnson can play exactly one position, first base, and since Mark Teixeira is as much of an everyday player as there is on the team, it looks like Johnson - health permitting - will be a more or less full time designated hitter. Apparently the Yanks weren't so intent on rotating the DH slot to their aging players after all.

With a career OBP of .402 (.426 over the last three years), Johnson is a powerful offensive asset who sees lots of pitches, has excellent strike zone discipline and hits left handed pitching well (.440 OBP against LHP last year) despite being left handed himself. Sticking a guy like that in the 2 hole - in front of Teixeira and A-Rod - is going to lead to a significant increase in RBI opportunities for those two. Nick the Stick's power has declined over the past three seasons (SLG .520, .431, .402), but it would be reasonable to assume that Yankee Stadium would help in that capacity.

The most obvious knock on Johnson is that he's injury prone, suffering ailments ranging from stress fractures in his hand to a fractured cheek bone to a broken femur to back problems to torn ligaments in his wrist. As a result, he has appeared in an average of only 93 games over the past 8 years (including the 2007 season, which he missed entirely). Conventional wisdom says that stashing him away at DH would help prevent injuries, but that's far from a guarantee.

It would have been nice to bring Johnny Damon back but that seems very unlikely if the deal for Johnson goes through. He was asking the Yankees for twice as much money as Johnson over a contract three times as long. Sure, the fact that Damon is able to play the outfield would have increased the flexibility of the roster, but if other players really need a day off, there isn't a good reason that Joe Girardi can't just give Johnson a rest.

As far as Hideki Matsui goes, I think Johnson is a better fit for the Yankees offense. Granted, they both provide next to nothing defensively, but at the plate, they are very similar. Johnson has a career wOBA of .371 and was at .373 last year. Those numbers for Matsui are .367 and .378, respectively. However, Matsui's numbers are predicated on power (which is volatile) while Johnson relies on the more stable on OBP.

I'd rather have someone with a gaudy OBP who A-Rod and Teix will continually have the opportunity to drive in than another, lesser power hitter behind them. Both Matsui and Johnson are injury prone, but the former suffers from chronic knee injuries that are only getting worse while Johnson seems to have been afflicted with more random and flukey ailments.

For what it's worth, Johnson was $1M cheaper than Matsui and it might have been more. As Brian Cashman noted in reference to Bobby Abreu, a player is less likely to take a pay cut from their former employer than from another team.

I don't want to hear about the money that Matsui makes for the organization over in Japan, because that's the team's problem, not the fans'. Who cares how popular the Yankees on the opposite side of the world? We don't benefit from the money they make over there. The fact that Matsui has performed well in the postseason is great, but there's no guarantee that he'll repeat that performance next time around.

Overall, I like this move for the Yankees. It carries limited risk and if Johnson can grind out his usual production for 500 or so plate appearances, he will be a tremendous asset to the line up.

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.