Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yankees Sign Randy Winn, Lose

According to Joel Sherman on Twitter, the Yankees have come to terms with Randy Winn for one year for just about the elusive $2M Brian Cashman was dangling in front perspective free agents.

Last year for the Giants, Winn was nothing short of dreadful at the plate, racking up a smooth .262/.318/.353. He's going to turn 36 this season so he's less likely than a younger player to rebound from such a poor effort.

Here is the first positive thing: he's a good defender. Winn put up some gaudy UZR totals in the corner outfield positions over the last few years so even if those are overstated, he's still likely to be quite a bit better than average.

Last year he was atrocious against left handed pitching. Like real atrocious. Which is fine because he's going to be platooning with Brett Gardner and facing primarily... wait. Fuck.

He could probably still play centerfield in a pinch, but so can Gardner and Jamie Hoffmann. What the Yankees needed was a bat and what they got a glove that's not any sort of an improvement over the two they already have.

Whatever, it's only $2M dollars - 1% of the payroll. But as Matt mentioned to me on GChat, with the power of hindsight, the Yankees could have had Jim Thome DH for $2.2M and then had enough to bring Johnny Damon back instead. Without having to go back in time, the Yanks could have just inked Reed Johnson who mashes lefties and is no defensive slouch himself. I don't really get it.

The best part about this? It will be at least a year until we have to read another article talking about Johnny Damon coming to the Yankees. That and the endless amount of puns we will be able to make using Winn's last name when he inevitably sucks.

Anyway, that just about rounds out the 2010 Yankees aside from the few bench spots that will be up for grabs in Spring Training. We'll probably have more on this tomorrow, but what do you Fackers think?

21 Days Until Spring Training: Paul O'Neill

According to George Steinbrenner, #21 is a Warrior. Given his respect for the immortal General Douglas MacArthur, I’m entirely sure that there can be no higher praise from the Boss.

O’Neill is my 2nd favorite Yankee ever after the chronically under appreciated Bernie Williams. His intensity for the game was unmatched matched. He truly cared about the team and his success. He was the antithesis of the increasingly common type of athlete who just wants to make sure his salary is being paid. His desire is best summed up by the number of water coolers that have slammed the concrete of the old Yankee Stadium dugout and the number of his bats that have been furiously tossed on the famed Kentucky Bluegrass of the diamond.

When Paul finished his Yankee career, which began in 1993, he hadn't complied the most impressive numbers. Prior to his tenure with the Yankees, O'Neill's numbers were even worse. He was sported a line of .259/.336/.431 in Cincinatti and only hit more than 20 homers once (in 1991) before was traded to the Reds for Roberto Kelly. Yankees fans were LIVID. Stick Michael, being the genius that he is, thought he could become something much better with the help of the short porch in Yankee Stadium. During the dynastic run of the late 90's, Paulie was the heart and soul of the team.

O'Neill had his share of postseason drama at Yankee Stadium, but none more poignant than the clinching Game 4 of the 1999 World Series against Atlanta. That morning, Charles "Chick" O'Neill, Paul's father, had died of lung and kidney failure at age 79. Paul had visited his father daily at Manhattan's Lenox Hill Hospital where the senior O'Neill had undergone heart surgery. Paul openly wept in the clubhouse before the game, but told Torre he felt he could play. Said first-base coach Jose Cardenal, "Paulie wanted to see if he could get through batting practice first. He thought being in the game would take his mind off things."

O'Neill also had what was perhaps the best plate appearance in Yankees history. In Game 1 of the 2000 World Series, down 2-1 in the top of the 9th against the Mets, O'Neill worked a 10 pitch one-out walk against Mets closer Armando Benitez. Subsequent singles by Luis Polonia and Jose Vizcaino loaded the bases before the Yankees tied the score on a sacrifice fly by Chuck Knoblauch. The Yanks won it in the 12th on a bases-loaded single by Vizcaino and went on to win the Fall Classic in 5 Games.

In 2001, his last year with the Yankees, at age 38, he became the oldest player ever to have a 20/20 season.

Since his retirement, his number 21 had not been worn by any Yankee player, leading to speculation that it will be officially retired. Yankees relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins briefly wore the number in the 2008 season but, on April 16, 2008, Hawkins switched to number 22 in response to the criticism and boos he received from many Yankee fans.

O'Neill was a Cincinnati native, but like fellow Ohio native Thurman Munson, embraced New York fully. "Playing in New York really worked out for me," O'Neill said. "It was the best time of my life."

Paulie has also provided great Seinfeld memories. In the episode entitled "The Wink," O'Neill is accosted by Cosmo Kramer in the Yankees' locker room and is told by Kramer that he must hit two home runs in the same game so that Kramer can retrieve a birthday card signed by all the Yankees from a little boy who wasn't supposed to get it in the first place. O'Neill angrily replies that this is very difficult and that he is not usually a home run hitter; he then asks Kramer, "How'd you get in here anyway?" In the ensuing game, O'Neill does hit two home runs, but one of them is an in-the-park home run and scored a triple due to the other team's error, so the little boy Kramer is trying to appease is not totally satisfied. Kramer manages to get the Yankee-signed birthday card back from the boy, but he has now promised the boy that O'Neill will catch a fly ball in his hat during the next game.

His playing career ended on a sour note when Luis Gonzalez's blooper fell onto the turf in Arizona but he received a poignant send off during his last game in the Bronx. In Game 5 of the 2001 World Series when the Yankees were losing to the Diamondbacks 2-0 in the top of the 9th Inning, Yankees fans, anticipating the fact that it would be O’Neill’s last game ever at The House That Ruth Built, cheered for him by chanting his name endlessly. Paulie responded with tears in his eyes and by tipping his hat.

O'Neill was one of the few Yankees that fans have embraced completely despite coming up with a different organization. Part of it was that he expressed the frustrations that fans sometimes feel by he slammed his bat or destroyed a water cooler. It has even more to do with the fact that Paulie came on-board in 1993 when the Yanks were still finding their way out of the dark period of the late 80's and stayed with them until they were on top of the baseball world.

21 Days Until Spring Training: Spud Chandler

(Relax, Joe is going to do one on good ol' Paulie O'Neill later)

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if you're reading this blog, you probably weren't alive to see Spud Chandler pitch. His last appearance was on October 2nd, 1947, so you would have to be at least 69 to stake a reasonable claim to remembering him as a Yankee, even during his last season. Neither of my parents were alive at that point, but praise be to the bounty of these here interwebs, I can hop on Baseball-Reference and Wikipedia and write him a mini-biography like I'm his agent or something.

Chandler grew up in Jaw-juh, and was a three sport athlete at UGA, playing halfback for the football team, pitching for the baseball team and running track.

If I told you Mr. Chandler had a ten year career, you'd probably guess he started when he around 23-26 and retired at about 33-36. Oddly, he was born in 1907, but didn't make his debut until 1937, in his age 29 season after spending five years in the Yankee farm system. Lots of guys make their major league debuts at 29, not many of them have 10 year careers. He started only 12 games in '37, but threw six CGs, including two shutouts.

The following season, he threw 172 innings to a better than a league average ERA, but had a microscopic 36 strikeouts. At age 31, he was relegated to only 11 relief appearances and looked as if he was headed out of the league. In 1940, he was re-installed into the rotation and for the next three seasons complied successively more innings, more strikeouts and a lower ERA, setting the table for his 1943 season.

Granted WWII inflated the stats of the bona fide Major Leaguers that were still around, but Spud Chandler's 1943 season was still pretty damn incredible. The marginal pitcher I just described to you, at age 35, busted out with 253 innings of a 1.64ERA and a .992 WHIP, gave up only two home runs all season and went 20-4. He received 246 out of a possible 336 points in the MVP vote and pulled off the rare feat of winning the award as a pitcher. He pitched two complete games in that World Series, including a CG shutout in the clinching Game 5.

In 1944, after starting only one game, Spurgeon F. Chandler was enlisted in the Army. He returned towards the end of the 1945 season but appeared in only 4 games.

At age 38, Spud had another truly great year. He set a career high in IP (257.3), strikeouts (138), and shutouts (6) and had a 2.10 ERA with a 1.12WHIP. Spud made the All-Star team and even got a few points in the MVP voting again. Starting only 16 games in his final season (1947), he still pitched to an ERA a full run lower than league average (2.46).

Chandler was a part of three World Series winning Yankee teams (1941, 1943, 1947) and was named to four All-Star teams. He had one of the odder career trajectories and had one of the finer seasons ever as a Yankees pitcher. Yankee history is somewhat lacking in the pitching department but Spud is one of the more interesting characters of the bunch, even if he wasn't one of the greatest.

Yesterday In Yankeedom

Good morning Fackers. Well yesterday was a relatively busy day in Yankee-related news, and at this time of year that qualifies as a big news day. So let's get to it:
  • Ben Sheets signed with the Oakland A's yesterday. The Yankees were linked to Sheets early in the off season, but that went out the window with the Javier Vazquez trade. Of greater pertinence is that Johnny Damon was rumored to be the A's back up plan in the event they were unable to land Sheets. Setting aside the obvious question as to how signing an outfielder could be a viable back up plan for failing to land a starting pitcher, it would appear that Damon has one fewer potential suitor. Except maybe the A's are still interested. Or maybe they're not. I have no idea anymore. I wish Damon would just sign somewhere and/or Spring Training would start.
  • Xavier Nady signed with Cubs. Like Sheets, the Yankees were in on Nady earlier in the off season, before deeming his price to be too high. Interestingly enough, apparently the Yankees' price for Nady was higher than the Cubs price. Nady signed for $3.3M with $2M in incentives. According to Joel Sherman though, Boras' last proposal to the Yankees was for $5M. No word as to whether that was $5M guaranteed or total, but if it was the former it doesn't bode well for the increasingly icy relationship between Boras and Cashman.

    It'll be interesting to see how Nady fares returning from a second Tommy John surgery. By inking a deal with an NL club he has no DH safety net in the event his arm can't handle the rigors of playing the field. With Nady now off the market, there is one fewer suitor for the other right handed outfielders on the market, all of whom have some level of appeal to the Yankees.
  • The Yankees made a deal of their own yesterday, trading minor league infielder Mitch Hilligoss to the Rangers for recently DFA'd outfielder Greg Golson. Hilligoss posted good numbers in his first two pro seasons, but is coming off back-to-back abysmal seasons at high A Tampa.

    Golson was a first round pick of the Phillies in 2004 and was traded to the Rangers for John Mayberry Jr following the 2008 season. He's 0 for 7 with 5 Ks in 7 Major League games over the last two years and has a .263/.308/.395 batting line in 2780 minor league PA, with 140 SB in 178 attempts (78.7%). But, the Yankees are lacking outfield depth at the upper levels of the minor leagues. If nothing else, he gives Scranton a center fielder for next year, which is important because they'd give up a lot of triples without one.

    For what it's worth, Frankie Piliere, who we noted yesterday is a former Rangers scout, tweets that Golson is "an interesting tools guy" and calls it a good deal for the Yankees. There's already speculation that Golson might be 2010's Freddy Guzman. And that may be true, but does it warrant the 40 man roster that Golson now occupies?

The acquisition of Golson leaves the Yankees with 39 players on their 40 man. Still room for you Johnny...