Monday, November 29, 2010

Time has come for Yankees, Jeter to kiss and make up

You have to hand it to Hal Steinbrenner: He's more than just a man with a outstanding wave of auburn hair. There are some serious brains under that Superman coif.

Imagine if someone asked you, in one word, to describe the last week of As The Jeter Negotiations Turn. Now throw out "stupid", "awkward", "embarrassing", "unnecessary", and"distasteful". What are you left with?

You said "messy", right? If so, you just came up with the exact word Hal used to describe the then-pending Jeter talks on Michael Kay's radio show in October.

In case you're still in an A.J. Burnett-induced coma, here's a quick rundown of the events of the past seven days:

Sunday: Jeter's agent, Casey Close, makes the calculated decision to bring negotiations into the public forum. He laments the Yankees' "baffling" bargaining strategy.

Tuesday: The Yankees lose containment on Hank Steinbrenner when an AP reporter reaches him via telephone. “As much as we want to keep everybody, we've already made these guys very, very rich, and I don’t feel we owe anybody anything monetarily. Some of these players are wealthier than their bosses.”

Ladies and gentleman, Hank Steinbrenner!

Meanwhile, Brian Cashman — obviously rankled by Close's comments — challenges Jeter. “We’ve encouraged him to test the market and see if there’s something he would prefer other than this,” Cashman told ESPN. “If he can, fine. That’s the way it works.”

Translation: I have a straight flush. You're holding a 3, 7, 8 and two joker cards. Now what?

A Boston-area blogger named Sully writes that Jeter is overrated and shouldn't win Gold Gloves. Sully becomes the 20,000,000th person to use the internet to express this opinion. He is recognized with a $20 gift card for use at the Dunkin' Donuts in Medford.

Jeter has an outstanding Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends at his Tampa compound. Girlfriend Minka Kelly sits beside him, presumably in a form-fitting top and hot teacher glasses. Even in these uncertain times, the difference between his quality of life and yours is startling.

Friday: The Daily News reports Jeter had demanded a six-year, $150 million contract -- an average of $25 million a year -- from the Yankees, who have offered him three years at $15 million per. The New York Times reports a similar demand. Close's e-mail response: "The recently reported terms of our contract proposal are simply inaccurate."

This week will be an extremely important one in the negotiation process. The longer this drags out, the nastier this situation has the potential to become. Both sides made statements last week that poured accelerant on the fire. Another week of he said/she said could create an inferno neither side can control.

If both sides are smart, they should realize the time for posturing is over. We're nearly in December now. The winter meetings begin in a week and Cashman's attention should be squarely on acquiring Cliff Lee.

Speaking of Lee, if the Jeter talks get uglier, you have to imagine that would send a bad message to both the pitcher and that sweet angel of a woman he calls his wife. After all, would you want to get into bed with a team that was publicly dogging their biggest star since Mickey Mantle?

Full disclosure: I've been more on the organization's side on this. I believe three years for $45 million is more than fair compensation for a player with as many miles on the odometer as Jeter has.

That said, this is Derek Jeter we're talking about, so the Yankees are going to have to show some flexibility. That doesn't mean they need to roll over like they did in the A-Rod opt-out negotiations. That was like Briana Banks at the AVN awards-level flexibility.

We're talking a subtle bending of their thought process. Perhaps they take a page out of the A-Rod deal — please, one page only — and include some escalators that kick in at certain milestones. 3,000 hits, 3,500 hits, 2,000 runs. Nothing too crazy, just something that would theoretically take the contract into the $50-55 million range.

Everybody wins in that scenario. The Yankees wouldn't have to grossly overpay for Jeter's return, and Jeter can face the public without it seeming like he came crawling back.

Is it just me, or does this not seem like it should be so complicated?

There's a thin line between messy and ugly. The Yankees — and Jeter — would be wise not to cross it.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jeter Watch: Yankees lose containment on Hank Steinbrenner

Tsk, tsk, Yankees. You should have known better.

Once agent Casey Close made the Derek Jeter negotiations public this weekend, proving Hal Steinbrenner's "things could get messy" prophecy as true, the team needed to be thinking two steps ahead.

Unfortunately, Yankee officials were playing checkers when they needed to be playing chess, and that's how a reporter from the Associated Press managed to get through to Hal's loquacious brother, Hank, on Tuesday.

I worried about this exact scenario just a day earlier. After the agent told the Daily News he was "baffled" by the Yankees' negotiation strategy, I braced for a reaction by Yankee brass that would further divide the gap between icon and team.

As I said Monday, we're talking about very rich men with very rich egos, and Close insinuated someone was dropping the ball. That's a big rich dude no-no. Rich dudes live to project infallibility.

I figure there has to be a panic room at the Yankees' Tampa headquarters, a place where George was hidden away in his "fuzzy" years and the skeletal remnants of the scout who vouched for Hideki Irabu could be safely stored. That poor man's family ...

And if this mystical panic room does indeed exist, Hank Steinbrenner should have been resting comfortably there with a gallon of whiskey, six cartons of Marlboro Reds and all of Andrew Dice Clay's stand-up specials on VHS.

Brian Cashman had to have realized the press would want Hank's thoughts on the situation. After all, this is same man who once said, "Red Sox Nation? What a bunch of bulls**t that is."

Because of his propensity to speak his mind, Hank is a reporter's wet dream. When Close challenged the organization, it was obvious the media would come after Hank the way your skeevy college roommate came after the drunkest girl with the lowest self esteem at a frat party.

It was all so inevitable, and yet, late Tuesday came word that Hank had been compromised.

“As much as we want to keep everybody, we’ve already made these guys very, very rich, and I don’t feel we owe anybody anything monetarily,” the Yankees co-chairman said. “Some of these players are wealthier than their bosses.”

Never mind the fact that it was during Hank's brief reign of terror as chief decision-maker that the franchise signed A-Rod to the worst contract in the history of mankind. Seriously, as insanely clueless as his commentary is, let's set aside that irony for now.

Instead, we'll focus on the smaller picture, which is we now have another member of the Yankee brass on record basically calling Jeter's bluff.

It's now being widely reported that New York's offer stands at three years at $15 million annually. Earlier in the day, Cashman expressed his surprise at Close's "baffling" dig, and was blunt in his assessment of the situation.

"We understand his contributions to the franchise and our offer has taken them into account," Cashman told "We've encouraged him to test the market and see if there's something he would prefer other than this. If he can, fine. That's the way it works."

Then, curiously, he added a little dagger.

"We've made an offer and we hope they strongly consider it," he said. "[But] there are things we have concerns with — his recent performance over the last few years, and his age. And that has to be factored into this negotiation."

Ugh. Each day that goes by the teeth seem to be getting sharper on both sides. Again, this was Jeter's choice to go public. You have to wonder if he's regretting that decision now.

As for Hank, we need to get him in that panic room. I absolutely adore the man and all the limitless entertainment he brings both to this blog and my life in general. But he needs to be muzzled. If we need to put the Dice Man himself in that room, make it happen.

I'm guessing he's available.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Talk's not cheap: Derek Jeter and Yankees begin dangerous dance

If you asked me two days ago what I thought would have to happen for Derek Jeter not to re-sign with the Yankees, I'd basically have only three educated guesses:

1) He decided to focus his attention on his new chain of Derek Jeter's Taco Hole restaurants.
2) He was forced from the game when MLB instituted a ban on players with the fade buzz cut popularized by 90s hip hop group Kid 'n' Play.
3) His fiance Minka Kelly demanded he retire, and since she looks like this, he immediately obliged.

That's it.

In case it's unclear, I hadn't been taking the various reports about discord between the Yankees and Jeter seriously. And why should I have been? Of course both sides would make it work. Why would you ever dissolve the perfect marriage?

To paraphrase the great philosopher Kanye Omari West: The way schools need teachers, the way Kathie Lee needed Regis, that's the way the Yankees need Jeter.

But things took a turn for the queasy on Sunday morning, when Jeter's agent, Casey Close, made the very deliberate choice to publicly express his frustrations with the negotiation process.

"There's a reason the Yankees themselves have stated Derek Jeter is their modern-day Babe Ruth," Close told the Daily News. "Derek's significance to the team is much more than just stats. And yet, the Yankees' negotiating strategy remains baffling."

Baffling? Uh oh.

After months working under the assumption that player and team would keep all talk of a deal in-house, it took Close just 34 words to swing the front door wide open, potentially letting out a whole bunch of demons in the process.

It's ironic that Close referenced Ruth, when Ruth himself was once coldly disposed of by the same organization his client is attempting to make a deal with. I think it's safe to say that playing out the string with the Boston Braves wasn't the Bambino's personal preference.

It's now clear that Close, and ostensibly, Jeter have made the decision to let the public into the negotiation process. Public sentiment will always be incredibly strong for Jeter, but the move still strikes me as curious.

Jeter is coming off the worst season of his career, after all, and at 36, better days may not be ahead. You don't have to be an expert in the contract negotiating business to know that the captain is in a vulnerable position.

That's why I disagree with the decision to go public. It smacks of desperation, like a trailing football team going for it on 4th and 15 from their own 30.

To the Yankees' credit, I think they've handled a delicate situation fairly well to this point. With Hal Steinbrenner's "things could get messy" slip a notable exception, the organization has taken a very reserved tone regarding all questions pertaining to the future of No. 2.

Now Jeter's camp has put the Yankees in a position where they can very easily decide to fire a return shot. Remember, we're talking about a lot of very rich men with healthy egos. You can bet there was an emergency meeting down in Tampa on Sunday, with club officials trying to decide if Close's comments warranted a public response.

That's what makes this a tricky situation. If Hal slips up again, or the outspoken Randy Levine decides he needs to respond, or God forbid anyone put a tape recorder in front of Hank's face, the rancor between player and team could multiply ten-fold.

It all makes you wonder how Jeter himself feels about how the situation is playing out. Surely he trusts his representation, but does he have the stomach for a Texas standoff? It's hard for me to imagine Jeter — a man practically allergic to drawing attention to himself — digging his heels into the sand and holding the Yankees hostage for a contract he knows he's probably not worth.

Then again, I'm surprised things have even reached this point. Baffling indeed.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sabathia's empty trophy case nothing to cry over

What does it mean to be a Yankees fan?

It means never having to say you're sorry. It means coming to expect, no, demand greatness. It means unparalleled success and (non-transferable) riches that would make a pre-bankruptcy MC Hammer blush, even in the "You know what would be a great idea? Making all my bathroom fixtures solid gold!"-phase of his VH-1 Behind The Music episode.

As such, the common Yankee fan is spoiled. Probably a little entitled. This is the reason everyone hates you.

And if you're the type of Yankee fan who believe things like prosperity, glory, destiny, Aura & Mystique™ are your birthright, then you probably weren't very happy with the announcement that CC Sabathia failed to win the American League Cy Young award on Thursday.

The big man didn't even come in second as it turned out, finishing behind Tampa Bay's David Price and the winner, Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez.

Carsten Charles will have no choice but to sully his Scrooge McDuck swimming pool of gold bullion with a worthless bronze medal. Poor guy.

Let it be noted that this award was Sabathia's for the taking. As much as the crusty Baseball Writers Association of America wanted to show the public how hip they are to the statistical revolution — and I imagine them to be more desperate for cool-kid cred than Jared Leto — they probably would've preferred not to give it to a .500 pitcher from a 101-loss team.

If you would have asked me in the beginning of September, I would have told you Sabathia had the award in his expansive back pocket. I say that because in the beginning of September I wrote a piece titled, "Forget Cy Young: Sabathia is the AL MVP".

Yes, the headline is mainlining hyperbole, but I very much meant what I wrote at the time. Sabathia had just one-hit the A's over eight innings to win his 19th game of the season. His ERA sat at 3.02. He was essentially carrying a Yankee rotation made up of clay, sticks and other composite parts.

Sabathia had five regular season starts remaining from that point on, and had he performed representative to his earlier work, I have no doubt he gets the hardware. Unfortunately for the big man, there was a good deal of turbulence on the horizon, a bumpy ride that lasted all the way through the postseason.

Let's take a look:

9/7 vs. BAL: 6.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, L
9/13 @ TB: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, ND
9/18 @ BAL: 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, W
9/23 vs. TB: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, L
9/28 @ TOR: 8.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, W

Five starts, two gems and two absolute Burnett-level stinkers. Worst of all, the dud in his second Rays start came at home with the Yankees fighting Tampa Bay for the AL East title. You can be sure voters around the country took note with a little red marker.

Had Sabathia performed better in even one of those starts, I think he probably wins the award. I honestly believe that.

As I said earlier, I think the baseball writers who voted for Hernandez liked the idea of marginalizing the win. The win is the dunderheaded enemy of the statistical revolution. If BABIP is Radiohead, then the W is Creed.

That said, I just don't think they would've had the guts to do it had Sabathia finished 23-5 or even 22-6. 21-7 was just the right record where giving Hernandez the nod was acceptable.

And you know what? I'm cool with it. Sabathia's rocky finish left the door open and Hernandez walked right in, throwing 38.1 innings in his final five starts with a 1.64 ERA to close out a spectacular six months of pitching.

The Mariners sucked hard, but King Felix most certainly did not. I think even the most loyal Yankee fan can admit that.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Getting into the mind of Cashman at the GM meetings

Can anyone explain to me exactly what goes down at the general managers' meetings?

They happen every November, and the public is always told (in an almost aggressive way) not to expect any actual baseball news to come out of the event. The business, as they say, is more likely to occur at December's winter meetings, which technically is held in the fall.

It's kind of confusing.

My theory is that it's just a vehicle for baseball's GMs to get away from their families for a week, get their pasty on by the pool, drink lots of scotch and crack jokes about Billy Beane behind his back.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said in a press conference Tuesday that he has a "small player move" that could go down this week. That's no way to talk about Andy Stankiewicz, but as I said, Cash was probably six Johnny Walker Reds deep when he made the remark.

The Yankees will likely kick the tires on any player that crosses their radar in the next few months, but as it stands, this offseason looks to be all about the dulcet tones of Clifford Lee & The Core Four.

You all know the subplots surrounding Lee, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte at this point. I include Jorge Posada because I'm not entirely convinced he doesn't have a multi-tier assassination plan in place for every catcher in the Yankee system, ala The Godfather Part II.

That said, don't rule out the Yankees making a splash we didn't see coming. In retrospect, we probably shouldn't have been surprised by the Teixeira signing in 2008; Giambi had just come off the books and we were being told the entirely unproven Nick Swisher would be his replacement.

It was during that 2008 offseason that the Yankees looked at a roster littered with holes, then systematically plugged each one with borderline pathological abandon. Today, let's get into the alcohol-addled mind of Cashman and see what he might see when he looks at the Yankees' current roster.


SP - CC Sabathia
SP - ?
SP - ?
SP - Phil Hughes
SP - A.J. Burnett

Analysis: Lee and Pettitte are the two clear targets here. Not sure there's much of a backup plan in place unless you count Zack Greinke, who would probably spontaneously combust in his first start at the Stadium. A personal rule of thumb: Never trade for self-arsonists. Ivan Nova, who showed flashes of friskiness in '10, could work his way into the equation if Pettitte decides spending 12 months a year in Deer Park, Texas isn't the worst idea in the world (which clearly it is). By the way, that sound you're hearing is me banging my head on the desk remembering that our No. 5 starter will make $16.5 million this year.


C - ?

1B - Teixeira

2B - Robinson Cano

SS - Jeter

3B - Alex Rodriguez

DH/C - Posada

Reserve C - Francisco Cervelli
Reserve INF - ?
Reserve INF - ?

Analysis: The hope here is one of the team's young catching prospects (read: Jesus Christ Montero) will make the leap. It's a scary thought to have a rookie catching all those big-money arms, but Posada and a veteran Yankee staff should help with the learning curve — again, all assuming Posada doesn't have a first-degree felony up his sleeve. I'm fine with any backup first baseman that isn't Nick Johnson or Tony Clark. Jeter isn't technically on the roster, but let's not be silly. Ramiro Pena could be replaced as primary utility guy if Eduardo Nunez has a strong camp. Juan Miranda will likely bat behind Juan Gonzalez for the Long Island Ducks next summer.


RF - Nick Swisher
CF - Curtis Granderson
LF - Brett Gardner

Reserve 1 - ?
Reserve 2 - ?

Analysis: The Star-Ledger reported on Tuesday that the Yanks may have interest in talented D-backs outfielder Justin Upton. I'd be surprised if they made a move that changed the starting lineup in the outfield, but Cashman should attempt to beef up the depth chart. Watching the likes of Kevin Russo and Colin Curtis last season showed us the farm isn't exactly teaming with talent in this department.


Closer: The G.O.A.T.
Eighth-Inning Guy: ?
Other Guys: Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Alfredo Aceves
Lefty Specialist Guy: Boone Logan
Long Guy: ?

Analysis: Obviously some roles need to be defined behind Rivera, whose only bit of free agent intrigue will be whether he signs for one year or two. I still have a sense that Joba will be moved before spring training, perhaps in a package that acquires a closer who will shift to the eighth-inning role. I still feel Robertson has the chops to become an important piece of the puzzle, but he was far too inconsistent during the regular season and playoffs this year. The Yankees have reportedly shown interest in free agent left-hander Pedro Feliciano. Cashman said on Tuesday it's doubtful we'll see the rehabbing Damaso Marte in a Yankee uniform in 2011.

Happy boozing, Cash! And remember: Don't. Trust. Epstein.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Why The Yankees Must Acquire Cliff Lee

I had a terrible dream last night.

It was opening day, and the Yankees were visiting the American League champion Texas Rangers on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

Much to my dismay, Cliff Lee was making the start for the Rangers. I had a front-row seat, with Nolan Ryan to my left and Kristen Lee to my right. Each time Lee struck out a batter, his wife would spit on me and Ryan would give me a Robin Ventura-style noogie headlock.

After Lee fanned the side on eight pitches (Mark Teixeira gave up after strike two), the Yankees took the field with free-agent lefty Plan B, Erik Bedard, on the mound. Bedard's shoulder literally exploded during his first warm-up toss. It was gross.

As he stumbled toward the dugout like a zombie from The Walking Dead, his replacement, Carl Pavano's Mustache, was carried in from the bullpen. It immediately strained its buttocks.

At that point, rabid Rangers fans surrounded me, each with razor sharp claws for hands and antlers affixed to their skulls. Hank Steinbrenner put a cigarette out on my forehead, just because he can get like that sometimes.

Ron Washington approached and offered a speedball, the size of which would make Chris Farley blush. Understanding what life had become, and that things probably wouldn't get better, I went to town on it. I died. I died right there in Ron Washington's culpable arms.

End of dream.

I think what my subconscious is trying to tell me — besides the fact that I need psychological help — is that my favorite team really needs to sign Cliff Lee.

It wouldn't surprise me if Brian Cashman was having similar night terrors. He looks at the Yankee rotation he assembled and sees a mountain of liabilities.

Andy Pettitte is 38 and in the midst of the will-he-or-won't-he stage of his offseason. Phil Hughes won 18 games in 2010 and somehow still emerged a question mark. A.J. Burnett is the most expensive No. 5 starter in the history of the sport.

The only part of the equation that Cashman probably doesn't worry about is CC Sabathia, who, for the record, a) turns 31 in July b) weighs 300 pounds c) just had knee surgery and d) has thrown 1,015 innings in the past four years.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think we've reached the point where you worry about Sabathia still being an elite pitcher. I'm just saying the big man could use a security blanket. After all, the playoffs made it exceedingly clear that having that second ace-level starter increases your odds for success immeasurably.

Look no further than the San Francisco Giants, who paired Tim Lincecum with Matt Cain and blew through the postseason to win it all.

The Yankees thought they had their version of Cain when they signed Burnett. They probably still hoped that was the case heading into 2010. But that's all over now. It's hard to imagine Burnett ever having a truly important role in a Yankee playoff series going forward.

Cashman already knows snagging Lee will cost north of $120 million. He's also aware that he has $240 million in salary already promised just to Sabathia and Burnett. I'm sure there's a part of him that is very wary about adding another monster salary to the rotation.

But part of the process of acquiring Lee is the admission that the Burnett signing was a failure. That takes some pride swallowing for Cash and the organization, especially since Burnett still has three (long) years remaining on his deal.

After Lee, the drop-off in the free-agent market is steep and stomach-turning. Hiroki Kuroda? Jake Westbrook? Um ... Javier Vazquez? To stay a true contender, the only logical move is to acquire Lee to play Robin to Sabathia's Batman.

Everyone wins in that situation: Sabathia wouldn't feel the need to be perfect every time out, Cashman would regain favor amongst the fans, and Lee would be rich enough to buy a Pope-Mobile to protect his wife in New York. Best of all, the bad men in my head would finally go away.

Seriously, Cash. Make this happen.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees blog, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jeter not immune to the anti-Yankee movement

For the first time since he was 18 years old, Derek Jeter is not associated with the New York Yankees.

When the clock struck midnight on Saturday, New York's exclusive window to negotiate with its shortstop officially closed, making Jeter an unrestricted free agent free to sign with any of Major League Baseball's 30 teams. It may only last a few days, or perhaps weeks, but for now, Mr. November is Mr. Unemployed.

Despite the lack of drama — it's widely believed Jeter's return to the Yankee fold is a foregone conclusion — this has become a substantial national story.

That's not all that surprising when you think about it. We're talking about the captain of the Yankees after all, a star of Seinfeld, and a bachelor prolific enough to rightfully claim, "I got Mariah when she was hot." Newspapers and websites looking for content to drive readership will always gravitate toward a a figure of Jeter's magnetism.

It's the same reason Brett Favre sits at the nexus of the sports universe year after year (after year). People care, even if they say they don't.

So no, the publicity surrounding Jeter's unsettled employment status isn't much of a shocker to me. The condescending nature of so much of the coverage is a different matter, however.

"Derek Jeter is going to be paid Ryan Howard money for putting up Marco Scutaro numbers."

That's how ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews began his report Monday under the headline, "Source: Yanks will overpay Derek Jeter". Matthews, whose been covering the Gotham sports scene way too long not to know better, simplistically painted Jeter as a player worth nothing more than his twilight statline.

I use Matthews as an example because the tone of his open is similar to how many in the media have covered this story. The angle isn't so much about when and if Jeter will re-sign, but rather how much the Yankees will end up overpaying for this old man who can no longer hit, field, run, or (I'm guessing) bathe himself.

As I've written before, being a Yankee fan comes with an unwritten set of ground rules. For every fan you meet who loves the team as unrequitedly as you, there are three others who despise that same team with every fiber of their being.

As a fan, you can let it bother you and thus negatively effect your fandom, or you can understand where the animosity comes from and simply brush it off.

(Aside: There's also a third option, where you embrace the hatred and feed off it like a "Ravishing" Rick Rude-level wrestling bad guy. This can be fun, especially if you a) have been been drinking or b) go to a Boston-area college. The downside of this option is that it's very easy to come off as a huge, unlikable dick. Slippery slope there. P.S. If you have a Yankee tattoo, you definitely fall under this category.)

The anti-Yankee movement has picked up serious steam in the 2000s, as the YES Network and a $1.6 billion stadium have turned the New York Yankees from a baseball team into a very literal business empire. An evil one, even.

None of that should have anything to do with Jeter, whose been an ambassador to the sport, all while displaying a level of dignity almost unheard of from the modern athlete. I naively expected Jeter to be immune from the guzzling of the Yankee Haterade. That seems pretty foolish in retrospect.

Like I said, you can let it bother you or you can brush it off. I suppose I'm doing a little of both here. But be warned haters: I'm thisclose to getting my "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase on.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees blog, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Friday, November 5, 2010

What to do with Joba Chamberlain

There's a funny Twitter hashtag making the rounds this week called #tweetyour16yearoldself.

As you've probably already deduced, the idea is to send yourself an imaginary tweet — I suppose my message would show up on a beeper, or at a creepy AOL chatroom — that provides you a heads up on future events.

A few examples:

Don't grow attached to Crocodile Hunter. #tweetyour16yearoldself

Hold off on getting that Third Eye Blind tattoo. #tweetyour16yearoldself

Do not see the Pearl Harbor movie. #tweetyour16yearoldself

If I could tweak this theme and make it #tweetyour2007self, this one would probably be right up there:

Don't invest in Joba Chamberlain memorabilia. Will be mop-up man by 2010 playoffs. #tweetyour2007self

Receiving that message probably would've knocked 2007 me off my chair. After all, back in 2007, most fans believed Chamberlain's career was heading in one of two trajectories: 1) Joba was the next Roger Clemens 2) Joba was the next great Yankee closer.

We all know how the last three years played out. Chamberlain couldn't hack it as a starter, and as a reliever he only intermittently flashed the promise of his summer of '07. In 2010, he couldn't win a rotation spot in spring training, then butchered his way out of the Eighth-Inning Guy role during the regular season by pitching to a 4.40 ERA. Something insane called "The Joba Rules" was sprinkled through the entire process.

Eyebrows were raised when Joe Girardi didn't even use the right-hander in the ALDS sweep of the Twins. By the time Chamberlain saw a mound it was the ALCS, it was in low-pressure spots where the game had already been decided.

You could even make a case that Girardi's loss of faith was a major reason behind New York's ALCS loss. If you recall, it was Chamberlain who was warmed and ready in the Yankee bullpen when Girardi made the fateful decision to allow A.J. Burnett to pitch to Bengie Molina in the sixth inning of Game 4.

Molina's eventual three-run homer was the "Oh crap" moment of the series, the exact moment you realized the Yankee season probably wasn't going to last into November. Burnett hadn't been on the mound in 17 days and was coming off a season in which he posted the worst ERA of any starter in Yankee history. And yet, he was still decided to be the better option than Joba Chamberlain.

If you knew the promise that once accompanied Chamberlain, this was an incredible reality.

Chamberlain eventually did enter Game 4, allowing a run and three hits in getting four outs. I wrote that night we had probably just witnessed his last appearance in pinstripes.

Removed from the emotions of the playoffs, I still believe that. Chamberlain's luster has dulled considerably, but it's conceivable that another organization will remember the electricity of his '07 debut, see no major medical issues, and will be willing to take a flyer on him as a reclamation project.

If you're Brian Cashman, what's to keep you from cutting the cord?

Again, if you would have told the 2007 me that I'd be writing this post this morning, I would have punched you right in the face then explained my stance on violence toward crazy people.

But now? Dumping Joba doesn't seem so crazy. In fact, it kind of seems like everyone involved could use a fresh start.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees blog, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hal Steinbrenner stumbles on the slippery Jeter slope

In case you haven't noticed, we're smack in the middle of — wait for it — Sports Owners Inserting Privileged Foot Into Mouth Week!

First, we were treated to the comedic stylings of one Chuck Greenberg, whose random act of aggression toward Yankee fans finally made America aware that beating the ever-living crap out of Robin Ventura isn't a job requirement to gain ownership of the Texas Rangers.

On Tuesday it was Hal Steinbrenner's turn, albeit in far less flammable circumstances. Hal, who differs from brother Hank in that he has better hair, a stronger jaw line, and no debilitating nicotine addiction, was making the rounds on the New York sports talk radio scene to discuss the state of the Yankees.

A typically mundane interview took a turn when 1050 ESPN's Michael Kay asked about potential hurdles in the upcoming Derek Jeter contract negotiations.

“There’s always the possibility that things could get messy,” Steinbrenner said. “Our fans are very emotional and that’s what we love about them, but I’ve got to try to do my job on behalf of the partnership and everybody involved in the organization. Hank and I need to keep a level head and realize that we’re running a business here."

First off, I find it cute that he included his big brother in the discussion. I'm not even sure Hank is aware Jeter is still on the team.

But getting back to the point, obviously it was the first sentence that created headlines. I can picture Hal slapping his palm against his forehead the moment he uttered the m-word.

Needless to say, when Steinbrenner appeared on Mike Francesa's show 15 minutes later, he had cleaned up his language. This no doubt disappointed the ultra-competitive Francesa, who was probably tempted to give Hal a "Youwwwre lawwwwst" and Hand Wave ™ before abruptly cutting to Minko's 20/20 flash.

As I've felt all along, it would take a communications breakdown of calamitous proportions for shortstop and team not to come to an agreement here. The Yankees need Jeter as much as Jeter needs the Yankees. The prospect of the captain playing for another team is about as likely as Dave Eiland sending Brian Cashman a Christmas card.

What I think Steinbrenner was trying to express to Kay was the possibility that negotiations could reach an impasse over a sizable disconnect in value, i.e. the Yankees offering $50 M over three and Jeter's agent (Casey Close) countering with $100 M over five.

That said, it's unlikely any truly "messy" stalemate will occur. Jeter, at 36 and coming off his worst season, knows his leverage isn't great, and the Yankees would never low-ball the person they hope will be the team ambassador for decades to come.

We'll wake up one morning not far from now and see on ESPN's ticker that an agreement has been struck. Yankee fans will exhale, bloggers and columnists from around the country will belittle Jeter with stories about how undeserving he is of the contract.

In other words, Jeter will still be in pinstripes and people will keep finding reasons to hate the Yankees. The world keeps turning.

In the meantime, my advice to Hal would be to take it easy. Stop talking for awhile. Maybe sit the next couple of plays out. You know what I mean?

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees blog, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rangers owner speaks out of turn, sees dreams crushed shortly thereafter

When news broke that Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg had delivered a verbal smackdown on Yankees fans on Monday, two things immediately came to mind.

1) Wait ... doesn't Nolan Ryan own the Rangers?
2) Chuck Greenberg must, at all costs, be destroyed.

In case you missed it, Greenberg had this to say when asked about the fervor of Rangers fans during the 2010 postseason:

“I think our fans have been great," Greenberg told KESN-FM, which I can only assume plays insufferably shitty country music about drunk wives and dead dogs. "I think particularly in Game 3 of the World Series they just blew away anything I’ve seen in any venue during the postseason. I thought Yankee fans, frankly, were awful. They were either violent or apathetic, neither of which is good. So I thought Yankee fans were by far the worst of any I’ve seen in the postseason. I thought they were an embarrassment.”

Chuckie, Chuckie, Chuckie.

(takes deep breath, cracks knuckles)

Let's break this down, Zapruder film style:

"I think our fans have been great."

Yeah, nothing says baseball passion like Texas Rangers fans. Two years ago, before wearing claw and antler T-shirts became fashionable in the Lonestar State, the Rangers drew less than two million fans to The Ballpark in Arlington, ranking them 11th in attendance out 14 American League teams. So maybe your fans were great, but that's only since they began to exist.

"I think particularly in Game 3 of the World Series they just blew away anything I’ve seen in any venue during the postseason."

Oh, you mean the same Game 3 that doubled as the first World Series game in your franchise's meek 50-year history? Put it this way: If your fans weren't hyped up, call the National Guard, because you have 50,000 brain- and entrails-craving The Walking Dead-level zombies all in one place.

"I thought Yankee fans, frankly, were awful."


"They were either violent or apathetic, neither of which is good."

Apathetic? Sure. The entire lower bowl of our stadium is filled with multi-millionaires. But violent? Maybe Chuckie accidentally switched over to Yankees Classics on YES and saw 57,000 disco fans trying to rip Chris Chambliss' head off at the conclusion of the '76 ALCS. We used to do violent better than anyone. We were ... the best. If violence at public sports facilities was a tournament, we'd be Sly Stallone in Over The Top. But no longer. (wipes away tear)

Tangibly related point: The Yankees have lost 6,449 games in their history, but remain undefeated on Yankees Classics. A remarkable achievement.

"So I thought Yankee fans were by far the worst of any I’ve seen in the postseason."

This is where Chuck really goes off the reservation. I'll admit Giants fans put on quite a display in their World Series home games. Right time, right place for an underrated fanbase. But Texas' other playoff opponent was the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays drew a measly 1.6 million fans in 2010 despite having the American League's best record. Their fans' only forms of expression come by way of the cowbell and the circular waving of adult diapers. C'mon now.

It's also unfair to judge Yankee fans on the three ALCS games in the Bronx. The Yankees were outscored 18-3 in the first two games, then got stuck with an 4:05 first pitch in the middle of the work week in Game 5.

Come to think of it, I didn't notice much of a decibel difference between Cliff Lee dominating the host Yankees in Game 3 of the ALCS and Tim Lincecum dominating the host Rangers in Game 5 of the World Series. Hmmmm...

"I thought they were an embarrassment."

See, of all the things I miss about George Steinbrenner — and believe me, after the ALCS breakdown I was dreaming of a nasty Boss missive — what I miss most was his uncanny ability to twist the knife into a fallen opponent.

Steinbrenner knew how to do it. H always waited until he was already at the top of the pile before firing off the putdowns. The term "sore winner" is based on the man in the white turtleneck. Greenberg taunting with his team down 3-1 in the World Series was a classic amateur hour move in knife-twistage.

Greenberg can take solace in that he's not the only privileged millionaire to fail this way. This happens all the time. Most recently, San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York said his team was going to win the division when it was 0-5.

Even bloodline doesn't guarantee effectiveness. George's son, Hank, ran his mouth with regularity in the initial months after he and brother Hal were given control of the Yankees in 2007. It wasn't long before Hank was silenced, stripped of a defined role in the organization, and sent off to a horse farm in Tampa, Fredo-style.

Greenberg, perhaps sensing a similar fate, changed fields on Tuesday, personally apologizing to New York front office members and issuing a statement that he “unfairly and inaccurately disparaged fans of the New York Yankees.’’

“Those remarks were inappropriate,’’ Greenberg added, backtracking so fast he tumbled out of his private box. “Yankees fans are among the most passionate and supportive in all of baseball.’’

Well then.

If Greenberg was looking to put himself on the map with this stunt, mission accomplished. And since I now know who he is, you can bet I'll be scouring the local Dallas papers for his reaction on Dec. 18, 2010, when the Yankees sign away Cliff Lee and his pretty wife.

The richest people can say the dumbest things, after all.

Dan Hanzus writes the Yankees blog River & Sunset and can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.