Wednesday, November 3, 2010

2010 Yankee Report Cards Part I: The Bench

In taking a bit of a belated look at the 2010 Yankee season, we'll start at the back end and work our way forward with the bench first.  Oh, and I'm only counting guys who had 75 or more ABs and weren't injured.  Sound good?  Good.

* Francisco Cervelli- C+: This season proved that Frankie was nothing more than a backup catcher as his offensive numbers over extended at-bats were painful to look at (.335 SLG, .694 OPS).  He does get bonus points for hitting well with RISP and the couple of very hot streaks he had at the beginning and end of the regular season, but loses some for his less than stellar defense this year and Jorge-like inability to throw out runners.

* Marcus Thames- A-: Gets bumped to the bench slot because Nick Johnson was supposed to be the everyday DH, but Thames did exactly what he was supposed to do this year: destroy left-handed pitching.  But he also held his own against the righties, actually posting a higher tripleslash (.896) than he did against lefties (.812).  He loses points for being a complete disaster in the field, but he would be welcomed back next year by me for sure.

* Ramiro Pena- C: 154 at-bats this year put the final doubts to rest about whether or not the kid can hit at the Major League level, and the fact of the matter is he can't.  A .227/.258/.247 line with only 2 XBH in those 154 at-bats is ugly any way you look at it.  He can provide a solid glove on the left side of the infield, but doesn't have any other tools that make him a more attractive option than Eduardo Nunez.

* Lance Berkman- B-: In 106 platoon at-bats at DH and 1B, Berkman showed that his power is pretty much gone (1 HR, .349 SLG) but that he can still work a count with the best of them (.358 OBP).  The injury he suffered after joining the Yankees didn't do him any favors and he actually did swing the bat batter upon returning from the DL and filled in admirably at first in Teix's absence.

* Austin Kearns- C-: He started off strong and got some big hits while filling in for Brett Gardner, but then turned into a walking strikeout in late September.  He's got all the tools to be a solid 4th outfielder and is a better stick than Randy Winn, Kevin Russo, Chad Huffman, or Colin Curtis, but doesn't have enough to overtake anybody on the Yankee roster as a starter.

* Eduardo Nunez- B+: OK, I lied about the 75 ABs thing, but Nunez is a worthy candidate for breaking that rule.  In just 50 at-bats Nunez showed some patience and some toughness at the plate (14 hits), a little pop (1 2B, 1 HR, 7 RBI), and the potential to improve with more chances.  He also was a perfect 5-for-5 in steal attempts and can play a better SS than Jeter and just as good a 3rd base as A-Rod.  Supposedly he was the deal breaker in the Cliff Lee trade in July so the Yankees have plans for him.  I'd like to see him step into Pena's role in 2011 and see what he can do with a couple hundred at-bats.

For the rest of guys (Juan Miranda, Russo, Winn, Huffman, Curtis, Chad Moeller, Greg Golson), I'll give them a collective "C" grade.  Yeah, they're numbers don't look at all impressive when you put them all together, but you wouldn't expect them to in the first place when you look at that list of names.  These guys were brought in to provide depth and to help fill out a lineup card when injuries struck and they did that job admirably.

** Tomorrow we'll cover the bullpen. **

Preach, Hal. Preach!

Hal Steinbrenner on the Jeter contract talks:

"We absolutely want him back. ... But having said that, we're running a business here, so if there's a deal to be done, it's going to have to be a deal that both sides are happy with."

"You just never know with these things. Both parties need to be happy with the deal, and that may make things more complicated, I don't know."

"There's always the possibility that things could get messy."

"I know our fans are very emotional and that's what we love about them.  But I've got to do my job on behalf of the partnership and our partners and everybody else involved in the organization.  Hank and I need to keep a level head and realize that we're running a business here. We have to remain somewhat objective and we're going to do that." (used courtesy of

Now before I get too into this, let me state that I am a huge Derek Jeter fan.  He has been my favorite Yankee of all-time and the first player I really became attached to and followed when I became old enough to appreciate baseball as a true fan.  I know I've got a post coming up some time in the next week or 2 about how hard it's been for me as a fan to watch Jeter struggle this year and accept that possibly my greatest sports hero has started his decline into athletic mediocrity.  But that being said, I fucking love everything that Hal said yesterday and I completely agree with his assessment of the situation.

Everybody has just assumed that the Yankees were going to bend over for Jeter after the season and give him an otherworldly contract that he didn't deserve because of who he is and because of what he's done and because of the whole "Yanks need Jeter/Jeter needs the Yanks" argument.  But the truth of the matter is, Derek Jeter needs the Yankees far more than they need him.  They could plug in Eduardo Nunez at short next year, put him in the 9-spot in the lineup and end up with decent offensive production from the SS position with far better defense at a much more reasonable price while also maximizing their value and production from the leadoff spot by moving Brett Gardner there.

The Yankees aren't dumb, they know this shit.  And they probably also know that this season wasn't just a blip on the radar, it really was the beginning of the end of Derek Jeter as a productive Major League Baseball player.  And not only do the Yankees know this, Jeter knows this.  He would never admit it in an interview, but he has to know he's starting to slip.  You don't ground into that many DPs in a season and swing late on that many low-90s fastballs because of bad luck.  You do it because of deteriorating skill.  And in most cases, when guys start to deteriorate, they either don't get re-signed or they start getting signed for less bucks.

So Hal, knowing what the situation is with Jeter, goes on the offensive about the contract negotiations and makes a bunch of unexpected, but perfectly honest and reasonable statements about the contract, and thereby gives the Yankees the upper hand in the negotiations.  Of course they want Jeter back, and they should have him back.  The guy is a fucking Yankee icon and for what he's done for the team over his career he does deserve to get paid far more than market value.  But Hal knows damn well Jeter isn't worth A-Rod money or Pujols money as far as a contract goes and he knows the team doesn't want to be saddled with a 4-year deal or more for a guy who flat out can't play short anymore and doesn't really have another position to play right now.  And Jeter knows this too, and knows that even if he doesn't get a 4-year, $72 million deal from the Yankees, he isn't even going to come close to that with any other team out on the open market.  Even at less than he wants, he is still going to make the most money playing for the Yankees.

This was the perfect tactical move by Hal in giving the team some leverage in this negotiation and ultimately doing what's best for the organization in the short and long run.  The team will still bring back Jeter, no doubt, but now it will probably be for less than we all originally thought.  Jeter really has no choice but to accept the player he is and accept the deal the Yankees offer him, knowing it's still going to be the best offer he gets by far.  The Yankees can shorten the years up (and maybe lessen the dollars too), still honor Jeter's reputation and standing within the organization, and not be stuck with him into his late 30s-early 40s when he's officially washed up.  And if Jeter doesn't play ball with the team, suddenly he becomes the bad guy in the media for not wanting to come back.  And we all know how that worked out with Johnny Damon.

So bravo, Hal.  Bravo indeed.  Now just don't be an idiot and hand the guy a 4-year deal with a player option for a 5th after all this tough talk.

P.S.- My deal I would offer to Jeter?  2 years/ $30 mil, club option for 2013.  Fair?  You decide.