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2012 Trade Deadline Update #2 7/23: Ichiro in Pinstripes, Anibal and Omar to the Tigers?

Monday July 23rd, 2012

Bernie Olshansky: Over the past few hours, a couple of big trades have gone down. Here’s my take on them: 

Ichiro to the Yankees

Wow. What a day. At about seven p.m. EDT, the Mariners and Yankees announced a swap that involved Ichiro for two minor league pitchers and cash. Sure I expected some blockbuster trades, but this? Ichiro was an icon for the Mariners. He broke the all-time hits in a season record for the Mariners and helped them win 116 games in 2001. Ichiro was an excellent player to say the least. He hit .322 over his 12 seasons with the Mariners and will most likely enter the Hall of Fame. But, over the past two years, he’s lost a little bit of luster. He’s slowed down a bit due to his age, and has stopped hitting over .300. Last year he hit .272 and had less than 200 hits for the first time in his career. This season, he’s hit an even worse .261. The Mariners have struggled over the past years and were definitely in need of a move. They acquired Jesus Montero from the Yankees this offseason in a trade for Michael Pineda, but Montero hasn’t exactly caught fire. Read the rest of this entry

Sunday MLB Insider Report: Our Views on the Latest Baseball News


Sunday September 4, 2011



MLB reports:  Here is our weekly look at Major League Baseball and the latest news, together with analysis and of course, our opinions:


I am about to finish the latest baseball book that I am reading and will be posting a review this week.  “The Fastest Thirty Ballgames”, by Ballpark Chaser extraordinaire, Doug Booth.  I don’t want to give away much of my report, that will be saved for the review.  Needless to say, the book has inspired me to fulfil my goal of seeing all thirty MLB ballparks.  While it takes me ordinarily a couple of days to a week to complete a baseball book, this particular book has taken me much longer.  I have read and re-read this book over and over, going back to read favorite sections.  For any baseball fan who loves baseball road trips or is thinking of taking one, this book is the perfect travel companion.

One of the biggest topics on the lips of Yankees fans is the contract status of C.C. Sabathia.  After Ivan Nova, the Yankees have several question marks as to their rotation going into the playoffs.  Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett are all in the mix.  But if Sabathia were to hypothetically opt out of his deal and test free agency, the Yankees pitching staff could collapse like a house of cards.  It appears that Sabathia has enjoyed his time thus far in New York and plans to continue pitching as a Yankee.  Although Sabathia will likely opt out, both player and team will do everything possible to keep the big guy in pinstripes.  Sabathia will become even richer on a new deal, as Alex Rodriguez was on his decision to opt out and sign a new Yankees deal.  For the team with the highest payroll in baseball, to contend it will re-sign its ace in the offseason.

Rumors are circulating that many MLB General Managers will be wooed to change teams in 2012.  Brian Cashman of the Yankees, Andrew Friedman of the Rays and Theo Epstein of the Red Sox are all apparently in demand, as is Billy Beane in Oakland and Mike Rizzo in Washington.  From all the best GMs that will be considered for the Cubs position, the only one I could see is Cashman.  With his contract up in New York and the Steinbrenner regime exercising control in decision-making (see the Rafael Soriano deal), Cashman may have had enough and makes the move to the Windy City.  All of the other GMs are in great positions, with little or no incentive to make the leap.  Some have called for the Astros to make a strong play for Friedman, but I see him staying put in a great situation with a strong talent base.  Friedman will see his team through to an eventual World Championship.

I had several conversations with baseball people about the World Baseball Classic, with the third edition coming up rapidly in 2013.  As discussed in a previous article, there are some changes to the WBC that have been instituted, including a qualifying tournament in the fall of 2012.  New countries in the mix include Great Britain, France, Israel and Brazil.  In all there will be 12 new countries, together with 4 holdover countries vying for 4 open spots into the tournament.  From the 16 existing WBC countries, 12 were granted automatic berths into the tournament.  The challenge facing MLB and WBC officials is to have eligible players play for their respective countries.  One particular country I discussed was Israel.  Imagine a team lead by Ian Kinsler, Ryan Braun and Kevin Youkilis.  Quite the powerhouse offense.  To have this tournament ultimately succeed, star players that are eligible for new and less known baseball countries need to play for these countries and increase the exposure of the sport in those regions.  That is really what the WBC is all about.

For fans in Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Washington, and San Diego, please be patient.  Your teams will be better.  It might be hard to believe and some of you must be sick of hearing it, but your teams have great young talent and each will be a contender one day.  The only variable against you is time.

With their victory over the Giants last night, the Diamondbacks now hold a six game lead in the NL West.  How Kevin Towers remained on the market so long before being hired in Arizona is beyond me.  Derrick Hall and company have put together a nice young team, with strong management on the field and in the front office.  Towers has put together the team and manager Kirk Gibson has molded them into a contender.  It goes to show that a bleak situation can be transformed almost overnight, if you have the right people in place.  Baseball, as much as any other sport, starts with the people in charge.  A solid management foundation flows through the whole organization and can make or break a major league team.  Arizona is the team of destiny in the NL West in my mind and while they will have a very difficult time passing the Phillies if they make the playoffs, just playing in October this year will be considered a huge victory for the team.

Outside of New York and Boston, many baseball fans are apparently sick of talking about the Red Sox and Yankees.  For as much as fans may despise the teams, as baseball fans they should still respect them.  Baseball, without the history and tradition of the Red Sox and Yankees, would have a large void.  During my recent trip to Cooperstown (with a full report on my experiences coming soon), I was fascinated by the Babe Ruth exhibit and all the features on the two powerhouse squads.   There are no guarantees that either the Red Sox or Yankees will be in the World Series this year.  But having the teams in baseball is a good thing.  Attendance figures on the road when either team in town shows the demand.  You may hate the Red Sox and Yankees.  But you love to hate them.  For those of you that are either Red Sox or Yankees fans (can’t be both), you are some of the most passionate and knowledgable fans in baseball and I salute you.

I have been speculating since spring training that Jonathan Papelbon will leave Boston and join the Phillies this offseason.  I read some speculation this week that the Yankees may look to add him as the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera.  I could only imagine the feeling in Fenway the first time Papelbon would step foot on the mound in Pinstripes.  Unlikely to happen in my opinion, but speculating can be fun sometimes.  Until I hear otherwise, I am predicting Papelbon to the  Phillies.

With the playoff races in baseball almost completed, it is time to turn our attention to October and thinking about the teams that will play in the World Series.  My picks at this point are the Rangers and Phillies.  Call it a hunch.  Call me crazy.  I am seeing a Texas Philadelphia matchup and one of the best fall classics in recent history.

Finally, I made a point on Twitter yesterday that the regular season is almost done.  If you have not made it a live game yet this year or even if you have gone to twenty or more games, try to attend as many September games as you can.  When November hits, the winter can be quite a sad time for baseball fans.  Unless you can make it out to Arizona or Mexico, chances are that you will not be able to watch winter ball.  With the internet, those games can be found to be viewed on your computer.  But as fans can attest, nothing beats a live ball game.  Enjoy as many of those games as you can now. 



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Back Stiffness or Sitting Out, The Posada-Gate Report

Sunday May 15, 2011

MLB reports:  A big tilt was scheduled for last night, Yankees vs. Red Sox.  Always a classic between two of the biggest rivalries in baseball and all of sports.  While both teams have taken time to get out of the gate, signs were starting to appear that each was starting to come around and getting ready for a dog battle for the AL East crown with the Rays all summer long.  One minor sidenote was the lineups, which was shaken up by Yankees manager Joe Girardi.  Struggling DH Jorge Posada, normally batting somewhere in the middle to lower-end of the Yankees lineup, was dropped to the #9 slot.  Considering that Jorge was batting .165 and struggling all season for the Yankees, most baseball fans and analysts would not have given the move a second thought.  In fact, most would have applauded Girardi for making the necessary move to most help his ball club and perhaps ignite his stagnant DH.  But something happened along the way that resulted in Posada missing yesterday’s matchup.  As the mystery of the missing Posada is unfolding, tongues cannot stop wagging and the baseball world has its focus on New York to attempt to solve “Posada Gate”.

From the news and people that I have spoken with, it is clear that Jorge Posada came to manager Joe Girardi before the game and asked to be taken out of the lineup.  Girardi accommodated Posada in his request and changed the lineup.  Somewhere along the way Posada made mention of “feeling disrespected by the Yankees” as well.  The issue becomes blurry as it does not appear that Posada indicated at the time of his removal that he had any sort of injury and the comments on being disrespected is being directed to being placed in the #9 slot in the Yankees batting order.  During the game last night, damage control was in full effect.  Posada’s wife, out of all people, tweeted during the game that her husband was suffering from back stiffness and that was the reason for him missing the game.  The “back stiffness” account was confirmed by Posada’s agent as of this morning and by Posada himself last night after the game.  But something seems awry and not sitting right with me.  Let’s dig deeper to see if we can get to the bottom of this.

Brian Cashman, the Yankees General Manager, informed the media that Posada had removed himself from the game and did not make it known that any injury was behind the decision.  From reading Cashman’s comments, I had the distinct impression that the Yankees were not impressed with Posada’s actions.  Having Posada indicate that he felt disrespected was the kick in the teeth, the igniter of this Yankees fire.  I cannot understand what Posada was thinking in making such a statement, but it is clear that both player and team need to work towards finding a quick resolution to Posada Gate.  The team does not need such a distraction coming from one of its elder players and possible future hall of famer.  But in order for such a resolution to arrive, both team and player need to come clean, apologize and move forward.

Lets be clear from one end.  The New York Yankees do not owe Jorge Posada a single thing.  In 2007, the Yankees granted the then 35-year-old Posada a 4-year, $52.4 million contract.  On the open market, coming off back-to-back 20+ home run, 90+ RBI seasons, Posada would have been lucky to obtain a 2-year, $20 million deal.  The Yankees were essentially bidding against themselves and out of loyalty and reward for Posada’s years of service to the team, compensated him with one last big score.  The team knew full well that Posada would not be able to play out the contract as a catcher and would like move to 1B or DH at some point, making him less valuable from a financial standpoint.  But the team gave Posada his due and he happily accepted the contract.

Taking a look at the situation following Posada’s signing, the value has not been there.  Posada was injured for much of 2008, limited to 51 games.  In 2009, Posada at 37 had his last big season, with 22 home runs, .285 AVG and .885 OPS.  But as we recall, Posada and teammate A.J. Burnett were having issues, as A.J. was insistent that Molina catch his games rather than Posada, based on Posada’s eroding skills behind the plate.  While much of the blame was directed at Burnett, Posada did little to calm the waters.  The Yankees stood behind Posada then, even considering that his defense was no longer acceptable at the major league level.  Going into 2010, Posada remained the Yankees catcher and played 83 games behind the plate.  Finishing the season with a .248 AVG, the Yankees were in a bind.  They had one more year to go with Posada with a monster contract.  Despite needing to make a change sooner, the Yankees showed Posada loyalty by sticking behind him up to that point.  But with the highest payroll in the game and team performance and team results coming first, the Yankees made the right move.  Former all-star catcher Russell Martin was signed as a free agent after being let go by the Dodgers.  The Yankees were able to outbid the Jays and Red Sox for his services and have been handsomely rewarded with Martin’s strong play behind the plate and with the bat.  Beating out the Red Sox, with the second-worst hitting catching tandem in baseball, makes the signing that much sweeter.  With also three of the top catching prospects in the game sitting in their farm system, the Yankees clearly had options.  Jorge Posada, based on his declining numbers and skills, was not one of them.

So here is where we sit today.  Jorge Posada got his big contract.  The team stuck with him through injuries and poor play, despite the fact that it was not the best decision from a baseball standpoint.  Going into 2011, the Yankees said “no more” and moved Posada to DH full-time.  To be able to save wear and tear and focus on offense, experts agreed the move was best for the team and player.  Posada offered little resistance, although he did indicate in the media several times that the adjustment was difficult and one that he did not necessarily enjoy.  But sitting in the middle of May, hitting .165, Jorge Posada was not in a position to make demands or question his manager’s authority.  Posada should be embarrassed with his statistics and working towards improving himself, rather than blaming others.  My feel for the situation, is taking a look at the lineup card Posada did remove himself from the lineup out of pride.  But where is the pride when he collects his giant paychecks every 2 weeks and does little to show for it?  That is the problem with baseball and sports.  When a player does well and is underpaid, he demands higher compensation out of “fairness”.  But when a player is making a lot of money and does not perform, the player does not return the money despite the fact that the team is not receiving its value.  “Respect” seems to go one way but not the other and that is not right.

The Yankees are justified in being upset with Posada, as they have shown him respect to-date as shown above.  When Posada removed himself from the game, the team justifiably took it as a slap in the face and called the player out for his treason.  Coming to his senses and realizing I believe the mistake of his ways, Posada is now trying to justify the situation by claiming “back stiffness” caused his decision to not play yesterday.  But why would he conveniently forget to tell his manager this piece of information?  If the team was aware of Posada’s injury, Cashman would have responded differently to the media.  Posada looks to me like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar and is now trying to get himself out.  The truth would have been best but now with the injury claim, Posada has made himself and his team look terrible and guilty.  Nobody wins in these situations.

The Yankees, don’t get me wrong, are not without fault.  I do not agree with how Cashman spoke to the media.  If Cashman spoke to Posada about the situation, both the player and team should have issued a joint statement after the fact.  But airing one’s dirty laundry in the media is not the proper method to use.  While the team is justified in being upset over Posada’s actions, it should have dealt with the matter privately and in-house.  Now the cat is out of the bag and difficult to hide and clear away.

I have seen this situation time and time again with teams and veteran players.  The issue is not as much the Yankees and Jorge Posada, but teams giving big money and long-term deals to older players.  It rarely works and often blows up in everyone’s faces.  Think to Frank Thomas, Raul Ibanez, Milton Bradley, Aaron Rowand, Barry Zito…how many of these big contracts to older players ended up working out.  What kills me is that the teams pay $10s of millions of dollars and its the teams that are seen as disrespecting the players by sitting them, moving them around in the lineup or releasing them.  That is not fair in my estimation.  If the players are cashing their cheques, there comes a point where they need to shut up, play and do as the team tells them.  But this notion is getting lost in baseball and is being lost in the Jorge Posada story today.

Where Posada Gates goes from here, few of us know.  The likely scenario is that the player will stick to the injury story, the team will grumble under its breath and the relationship will continue smoothly for the rest of the year.  Posada’s agent surely told him that he did not have a leg to stand on and to keep his reputation and contract in check, sticking to the injury story would be best for his image.  After all, if Posada did come out and state that he sat yesterday because he was upset for being dropped in the lineup, he would branded and blasted in the New York media.  But truthfully, I would have respected him more if he had come clean rather than rely on the childish cover-up attempt after the fact.  At the end of the day, the deed is done and we all need to move forward.  Both player and team need to say their respective stories, make peace and move forward.  But based on the Yankees loyalty shown to Posada, let’s remember the full story before we jump to conclusions.

Jorge Posada will be a free agent at season’s end.  The Yankees have already indicated that he is not in their plans and that they will be moving forward come to 2012.  I do not know of many teams that are looking for ex-catchers in their 40s hitting .165 as their lineup targets.  Baseball is evolving like we have never seen before.   Teams are going away from 40-something DHs and keeping the spot open for younger players to rotate throughout games to keep everyone healthy.  With the steroid era at an end and team salaries at an all-time high, baseball is becoming more than ever a young man’s sport.  While many players used to hang around till their 40s to pad their career numbers, players like Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa and Jermaine Dye essentially had mandatory retirement thrust upon them by a lack of interest.  Jorge Posada is one of the lucky ones.  He is getting to play to his 40th birthday and earning a maximum career salary.  While many players in their mid-30s need to play on minor league deals and incentive structures, Posada is getting full and unconditional pay.  Posada had to realize this year that he could no longer play in the field and is looking towards the future and realizing that he soon may not be able to play at all.  Rather than blaming the team, it is time to look in the mirror and to think how much he has left in the tank.  For a team that has given him so much money, opportunities and shown so much faith in him until this year, it is time for him to pay the Yankees back.  I hope to see everyone take the high road on this one at the end of the day.  It is better for the player, the team and the game.  Posada Gate was interesting and provided all of us with good conversation piece.  Now let’s be done with it and turn our attention to the only thing that should matter:  baseball action on the field.

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