Tag: Hal Steinbrenner Page 1 of 2

Thoughts as the Yankees continue to embarrass themselves

Sums it up, no?

How many of you went to sleep with the Yankees up 7-4 and the bullpen seemingly locking things down? Or during the second rain delay, fully expecting the game to be called at five innings? I envy you all. Much better than staying up past 1 o’clock in the morning to watch that abominable loss.

Hal Steinbrenner is going to speak to the media this morning, and as I noted yesterday, don’t expect him to say anything that will satisfy the masses. He’ll probably state his frustration, reiterate his belief in the current group, but note that this is unacceptable. A bunch of words that won’t do much of anything. Bleh.

So, I have thoughts, rambling ones at that. I don’t know if they are coherent as I’m operating on five-ish hours of sleep, but let’s get to’em.

Highlights From The Gerrit Cole Press Conference

This is Cole’s first win.

The big day is here. After an eleven year pursuit, the New York Yankees will unveil their new ace Gerrit Cole today. He was the main target of the offseason plan and they gave him 324 million reasons to put on the pinstripes. This is clearly a significant day in recent Yankees history. We will have all the highlights along with some brief thoughts of the presser.

  • Sitting on the dais for the press conference are Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman, Aaron Boone, Lonn Trost, Randy Levine, Michael Fishman, Matt Blake and Scott Boras. The team brought out the heavy hitters of the Yankee brain trust. This signing is a big deal and the team is not shying away from it.
  • Brian Cashman begins his statement with the story of Cole making the decision to turn down the Yankees draft offer to attend UCLA. Cashman goes on to detail the journey the team went through to acquire Cole through trade and free agency. Cashman acknowledges the hard work Cole has put in to be one of the elite free agents in the game. He believes that process created this moment as the right time for both the player and the team. Cashman also notes there is no guarantee for future success with this partnership.
  • Aaron Boone says this is a big deal for the franchise. He got the word three or four weeks ago that the Yankees were going to pursue Gerrit Cole. Boone describes meeting with Gerrit Cole as a privilege. The process of getting to know a player and person like Cole is a privilege in his mind that he did not take for granted. Boone understands how great of a player Cole is, but he was blown away by Gerrit Cole the person is. Aaron stresses the importance of culture to him and he believes Cole will be a tremendous addition to the locker room. Boone was especially impressed with Cole’s ability to communicate the processes, the nuances and approach of his craft. The Yankees manager is looking forward to experiencing the ups and downs of their journey that will ultimately be a fruitful one.
  • Gerrit Cole is officially number 45. I would love to know what he offered Luke Voit to get that number if anything at all.
  • Cole looks amazing in pinstripes if I say so myself. I say that with absolutely no bias at all.
  • Gerrit Cole brings up Hal, Boras and his wife Amy to present the original sign from when he was eleven years old and attended Game 6 of the 2001 World Series. This is the same sign from the now famous picture of Cole hanging over the outfield wall. Cole then says “I’ve always been here.” That was a very dope moment.
  • Cole gives thanks to his teammates, coaches, Boras and former teammates. He also took time to shout out Marvin Miller entering the Hall of Fame and Curt Flood pioneering free agency for the current group of players. It was a really impressive gesture to recognize those who came before him to pave the way for this historical contract. Gerrit Cole is pretty involved in the Player’s Association and this is an example of that involvement. That moment reveals a lot about Cole the person that both Boone and Cashman went out of their way to acknowledge.
  • Cole says he joined the Yankees because it was his dream. He believes it is the best organization in the league. It was his second chance to join them and he took it. He feels a lot of confidence in the organization and Cashman’s vision. It also helped that the Yankees were his favorite team.
  • Cole became a Yankee fan through his father who went to school for a few years in New York. He said it was hard not to fall in love with the Yankees during their dynasty years. The Yankees were on tv a lot right after school ended since he lived on the west coast and he watched a lot of the games.
  • It was extremely tough to turn down the Yankees after he was drafted. Cole and his family wanted to honor their commitment to UCLA and even more importantly, to education. His father is a PHd and education is paramount in their family.
  • “Pressure is a privilege.” The pressure of pitching in the playoffs is the reward for playing well in the regular season. He felt like he could see a title in his sights with Houston, but they weren’t able to accomplish that goal. Cole doesn’t think there is a better place to finish that championship journey in New York.
  • He explains the 30 pound contraption! It is a gold plated home plate that opens up and reveals an iPad. It gives a history of the New York Yankees, where to live in the city and outside of the city and other pertinent information that would inform him and his family about the organization and the city. Cole also mentioned that after he signed the Yankees gave him a Yankee hat and he didn’t take it off for about three days.
  • Cole makes it very clear that he wasn’t thinking of free agency when he took the mound in Game 3 of the ALCS. He understood the magnitude of the moment and the challenge in front of him so signing with the Yankees was the last thing on his mind.

Here are some immediate feelings from the presser:

1. If you could win a championship for a press conference, Gerrit Cole just won his first ring. He was smart, engaging, funny, reflective, selfless and confident. You could immediately see all of the qualities that would make him attractive to any franchise beyond his golden arm. He said all the right things that Yankees fans wanted to hear today.

2. The most important quote from the presser is “pressure is a privilege.” I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a t-shirt in the near future. The phrase perfectly captures Cole’s competitive character. He is embracing the challenge and journey of winning a championship in the largest market in the world. There wasn’t any doubt that Cole wanted to be a Yankee. He mentioned his decision to join the Yankees came down to his heart. There is nothing sweeter to Yankees fans ears than hearing an elite player say they wanted to put on the pinstripes. His ultimate goal is to at least win championship number 30 for the Yankees. Those are lofty goals and I am here for all of it.

3. We have to talk about the sign. That moment was awesome. It feels like this was Cole’s first big Yankee moment and he hasn’t taken the mound yet. Showing everyone the sign was great, but what that gesture represents is even better. It perfectly captures his fandom of the team. This was also a rare moment when a free agent expressed genuine and raw excitement to be a part of his new team. Cole was not putting on a show here. Gerrit Cole signing with the Yankees was truly a dream come true scenario moment for him and he didn’t shy away from it. The Yankees wanted him and he wanted the Yankees. It’s like a feel good ending from some rom-com and I am here for all of it.

4. We all may learn about the craft of pitching over the next nine years. Cole is so impressive when he talks about his process and use of analytics. He is very aware of what makes him good and he is skilled at articulating it. He is also not shy about sharing that information with the public. I go back to his post game interview on the field with Ken Rosenthal after his Game 3 ALCS victory. He succinctly summed up his game plan to attack the Yankees lineup and briefly discussed the adjustments he had to make when he knew he didn’t have great command. The Yankees have mentioned a few times that Cole knows who he is and can go into great detail of what makes that possible. It feels like we’ll all be smarter fans with Cole on the team now.

5. This is a perfect fit. CC Sabathia was a perfect fit when he signed in the winter of 2008. I would say this is an even better match. The Yankees fan plays for his favorite team. The Yankees clear need for an ace. The clear embrace of the market and expectations by that ace pitcher. The established core of the 2020 Yankees team. The arrival of the new, cutting edge pitching coach who emphasizes non traditional approaches to the craft. This is all really exciting. If you don’t want the season to start tomorrow after experiencing this then nothing will. I am fired up and ready for the new season.

Now and Later

2019’s Yankee ace? Close enough. (MLB Gifs)

At the beginning of each school year, my students ask me about tests, exams, and the like. I tell them there won’t really be any. Sure, essays count as exams and serve as ‘tests’ when we finish reading units, but I remind them that it’s English class and the line between a ‘right’ answer and a ‘wrong’ answer is pretty blurred. As a student who struggled with math, I always appreciated that flexibility, the power of interpretation. Last week, the Yankees–Hal Steinbrenner specifically, served up something ripe for interpretation:

Right now, these words mean more than one thing. On their face, they mean Hal believes in his pitchers, as he should; they’re talented and capable of great things. And from a practical standpoint, he has nothing to gain by pointing out whatever shortcomings they may have.

The words also serve as a bit of posturing to gain leverage in any potential free agent or trade negotiations. By sounding content with what they have, they’ll appear less desperate and needy on any open market. This interpretation is logical, but part of me wonders if it’s a bit dated. In this information age of baseball, everyone knows the same sorts of things. Is there really an edge to be gained here? Eh, I’m not so sure anymore. But it’s still worth doing; it may not help much, but it certainly doesn’t hurt, either.

Those two interpretations are optimistic. They see Hal’s comments as necessary for morale and harmony, as well as, at the least, a directionally neutral step before the markets really open. But there is a more pessimistic interpretation we’ve acknowledged before.

Hal’s comments were a little too on the nose. Many have predicted he and Brian Cashman would use the return to health from Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery as an excuse for passing on elite pitching talent like Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. To those people, this statement reads like it’s laying the groundwork for the inevitable explanation for not signing or trading for a big time pitcher.

All three explanations are about equally plausible. We won’t know which one is ‘true’ for a long time. Hal’s statement is a starting point, the beginning of the offseason’s journey, to be dramatic for a second. The meaning of the statement will hardly be static; with each twist and turn of the winter, it may change meaning from time to time until Spring Training starts and the roster is set. As frustrating as that is, we’ll have to wait until then.

When will then be now? Soon. And soon we’ll find out if Hal’s words were simply posturing or the foundation for an excuse.

Going For The Gusto

The MLB playoffs are not a crapshoot.

Yes, it is small sample size theater. A bad bounce of the ball can alter the outcome of a singular game. A poorly located pitch can change the complexion of a series. These things can all be true, but playoff games are won with talent, attention to detail and execution. Victories in October don’t come from the luck of the draw.

The idea that “anything can happen in the playoffs” isn’t a trustworthy or foundational ethos when looking to construct a championship contending team. We’ve heard too many times from Yankees brass that they just want to make the dance. You punch your ticket to the tournament and see what happens. Well, what’s happening is each Yankees season ends at the hands of a team that built their roster to win in the playoffs. Yankees opponents are aggressively putting their teams in positions to succeed. As each postseason disappointment builds upon one another for this current version of the Yankees, the organization needs to be proactive in building a roster that is built for October and not solely the grind of the regular season.

The Yankees continue to operate with a fatal flaw. We are all well aware that the starting rotation isn’t championship caliber. There is a ton of talent, but there are inconsistencies, durability issues and a sheer lack of pitching length in games. Instead of acquiring players that directly address this weakness, the Yankees repeatedly circumvent them. The decision to maximize the bullpen feels partly based on the Kansas City model, but it is also a smart way to keep payroll in check.

It is unfortunate that the desire to stay under the luxury tax coincided with the rise of this tremendously talented roster. We’re seeing the impact of this balancing act. To be clear, I do acknowledge the importance of operating the franchise with the big picture in mind. This is a multi-billion dollar company and there are responsibilities that fans will never have to consider. Some of the success and good health of the franchise depends on this big picture view. With that said, it feels like this balancing act is hampering the Yankees ability to go big fish hunting. And a big fish is exactly what this team needs.

The Yankee need an ace, but just as importantly, they need the competitive resolution to say they’re absolutely going to acquire one. They can’t continue to settle by spreading the money around with more complimentary pieces. The DJLM, Urshela, Tauchman and Maybin moves are all fantastic. But they can’t continue to bring in J.A. Happ types. We can’t get the *a healthy Severino and Jordan Montgomery are difference makers* talk anymore. The last time the Yankees solely targeted an elite pitcher they ended up with CC Sabathia (I view Tanaka in a different vein). They immediately won a title and CC became a Yankee legend.

You can look across the field to see the impact an organization’s go for broke attitude has on team performance and results. The Houston Astros built up an incredible core (despite the not so cool way they went about doing it) and were bold in their decisions to supplement it. In 2017, they were short a pitcher and took a risk on Justin Verlander. In 2018, they weren’t satisfied with winning one title so they acquired Gerrit Cole. Despite having a two-headed monster this season, the Astros acquired another ace to address their pitching depth in Zack Greinke.

In each scenario, Houston was proactive in bolstering their roster with the absolute best available. They didn’t balk at price. The team wasn’t handcuffing itself to potential rosters in 2023 and 2024. They didn’t operate with the idea that anything can happen in the playoffs. Houston’s approach was they were going to make things happen in the playoffs. That difference in ethos makes all the difference in the world. It fields a team that dictates the game to their opponents because of the imposing talent they possess. Unfortunately, we saw this play out in the ALCS.

After every playoff series loss, Yankees fans and baseball media ask a now aged old question: was the Yankees season a failure? This question feels rooted in privilege. The question’s foundation hints at an assumed ownership of a title. This doesn’t feel like the right question to ask. The more appropriate question is did the organization do everything in its power to put the team in the best position possible to win a championship? The answer to that question for this current group is a resounding no. The results are the ultimate measurement of the process. Their chief competition continues to make bold moves to put their team in as optimal a position to win in the playoffs. The balancing act needs to end. It is time for the Yankees to be bold in addressing their weakness or we’ll be back here next season lamenting another lost opportunity.

Mailbag: Trade Deadline, Waiver Wire, IFA Money, Clarke Schmidt, Astros Payroll

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Happy Friday, everyone. The Yankees are set to take on Boston for a 4-game set tonight, and you know what? I’m really excited for it. I think even splitting this series all but finishes Boston. I am here for that. Enough with the Red Sox, please. It’s always great when they lose but even better when it’s the Yankees doing it. Let’s just hope our Bombers bring the heat.

It will also be nice to have real games to focus on again, as the last few days have been fairly exhausting. The discourse! Folks, sometimes it gets old. But hopefully not too old: as you can imagine, this week’s mailbag is defined by deadline questions. For good reason! So all 5 chosen questions today focus on the deadline, the new rules, or the fallout from the deadline.

Mark Asks: The Yankees passed on Keuchel, who they could have had for nothing but money (prorated at that, and only through the end of the season) because they wanted to get an impact starter in a trade. But then they refused to pay the price in prospects for an impact starter. The latter is a valid strategy — and I support keeping prospects and bringing in a SP for dollars alone — but you can’t have it both ways. Either you spend the money, or spend the prospects. Instead, the Yanks did neither and let the Astros blow right by them in terms of AL championship odds. I guess I need to ask a question, so here it is: How mad should I be?

It is certainly frustrating, and I think I’ve said everything I can say about their process already on this here website. I do think it’s really annoying, and I spent the 4-5 pm hour on Wednesday extremely irritated. I won’t deny it. It’s clearly true of many Yankee fans, frankly. And for good reason: we all just want the team to put itself in the best position to win.

But I also think that some of the reaction (including from yours truly) was a bit hyperbolic. The Yankees are extremely good and will likely win the division for the first time since 2012. That means no Wild Card game for once. Rejoice! And remember, once you get into the playoffs, literally anything can happen. A dominant rotation like Houston seems impossible to beat, but we know from watching the 2014 Tigers, the Braves throughout the 1990s, and the 2010s Phillies that it really is just a crapshoot. Anything can happen.

I remind myself of this constantly these days. It’s not worth it. The 2019 Yankees are a fun ride, and sports are supposed to be entertaining. We have it really freaking easy as Yankee fans. The last time they were under .500 for a full season was 1992. More than a quarter century of success, and that’s not counting the multiple titles, pennants, division championships, playoff runs, and individual performances that have made this fandom so rewarding. We are extremely spoiled. Can things be better? Of course. Obviously. But as I said, the 2019 Yanks are a fun ride. Just enjoy going on it with them and hope we all get to celebrate in late October.

Matt Asks: What’s the DFA process look like now that there’s no August trade deadline?

This is the first year of the new trade deadline, and it does impact the waiver wire in August. Players can still be placed on waivers/DFA’d, but the process is a bit different. Any team that claims a player on the waiver wire is responsible for a straight waiver claim. In other words, they take on the full remaining salary for that player and they cannot receive financial incentive or send another player to the original team. That’s it. We might see a few of these happen across the league, but I highly doubt they’ll impact the Yankees, who are so far down the waiver wire as to essentially make this irrelevant for their planning.

Paul Asks: Did they at least trade for international money to sign the folks they have a deal with?

No, the Yankees did not trade for IFA money, which surprised me…until I learned that the deadline for that is actually a bit softer. Teams, believe it or not, can still trade players on MiLB contracts. News to me! What does that mean? Essentially, it means that a team could swap a prospect for IFA pool space or something like that. So it’s true that the Yankees used most of their $5.4m allocation on phenom Jasson Dominguez, but there’s still a change to open up more space.

For what it’s worth, it’s really not worth criticizing the Yankees for this–it’s just an interesting observation. They know what they’re doing. If they need more IFA pool space, they’ll get it. You can take that to the bank.

Mark Asks: Why aren’t we talking more about Clarke Schmidt as a possible future rotation piece and/or trade chip? First round pick who would have been top 5 (probably, MLB draft is weird but still) had he not gotten hurt pre-draft.  He’s got a sub 3 FIP, and is striking out 9.5 per 9 at high A. One would think that means he’ll get promoted to AA in the next few weeks. If he continues to pitch well at AA he could be in the major league rotation by next year. Is he just having his shine stolen by Garcia? Does he have flaws we haven’t discussed?

Funny you mention Clarke Schmidt, because as it happens, people were talking about Clarke Schmidt. And by people, I mean Brian Cashman and Arizona Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen. According to Jon Heyman, the Diamondbacks requested Schmidt as a part of a package that would have bene headlined by Clint Frazier for Robbie Ray. The Yankees, quite obviously, did not find that deal worth it.

Schmidt is having a good year in the minors, to be sure, but there are still serious question marks surrounding him. He has been plagued by injury his whole career. I mean, he has only thrown 85 professional innings . So, yeah. He’s someone to keep an eye on for sure. The Yankees loved him enough to draft him despite the nasty injury, so definitely keep following him. But we will all need to see more before having a real, honest evaluation.

Jose Asks: In light of the oh-so-relevantly-disappointing trade deadline and constant narrative about the Yankees staying under the second luxury tax tier all while posting historic revenues, I can’t help but wonder about the Astros financial situation. With their recent acquisition of Greinke, Sanchez, and Biagini (not to mention Verlander 2 years ago, Cole, and even signing Michael Brantley this past offseason) I’m curious of what their payroll currently sits at? Are they in a luxury tax tier? If so, which one? And what percentage of their revenue goes to payroll?

Per Spotrac, the Astros now have a payroll totaling $168,256,950, which falls $22,029,310 short of the first luxury tax threshold ($206 million). The Greinke contract is a big one–his annual salary is $32 million–but Houston did get relief in the move and owes Greinke only $53 million between now and the end of his contract in 2021. I don’t think this should take away from the fact that the Astros added a huge contract to their roster, but it’s worth keeping in mind: they have more so-called “flexibility” under the soft cap. They used it. Good for them.

I understand why Yankee fans are frustrated, though, because if you peel back the layers a bit you see that no two franchises are the same. It’s apples to oranges. Percentage of revenue spent on payroll is an imprecise and yet still useful (in my opinion) metric to judge teams’ willingness to spend, but it’s an imprecise science. We have access to rough figures estimating 2018 revenue for the clubs, but obviously not yet for 2019. So if you excuse some back-of-the-envelope math and understand that there are assumptions underpinning all of this, here is how the Astros payroll as a percentage of their revenue compares to the Yankees in 2019 alone:

So, yeah. Again, this is an imprecise science. It’s likely that both teams percentage figures are actually a bit lower than what I listed there. That’s because the trend is that teams are generating more revenue overall and it stands to reason that the two best teams in the AL are among those. It is absolutely fair to say that this is frustrating.

Now, I harp on this constantly, so I do want to say that the Yankees do have a lot of debt and bonds owed to the City of New York. That’s how the team financed the construction of Yankee Stadium. Hal is absolutely, 100% correct when he says so. It is an empirical fact that they took out $1.3 billion to pay for Yankee Stadium. Moreover, in 2017, Crain’s New York Business reported that the Yankees pay $92 million a year to service that debt (and also that they failed to refinance their debt as they’d hoped). That is a lot of money!

As for whether or not the team spends enough money on payroll, well, it’s just another thing to keep in mind. But remember, payroll hasn’t changed in real terms in 15 years. That’s worth keeping in mind, too.

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