Per Yahoo! Sports’ very own Jeff Passan, the Nationals have signed Rafael Soriano to a two-year deal worth $28 million, and the Yankees will get a supplemental first round draft pick. Although a slow market had many thinking Soriano had erred in exercising his opt-out, Scott Boras exacting two years at $14 million with a vesting option for the third from a team that saw its closer utterly collapse in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the NLDS this year.
With this signing and because Soriano declined a qualifying offer, the Nationals lose their first round draft pick, and the Yanks gain another compensation pick. According to Jim Callis, that would be the 32nd pick of the draft. The draft order could move a bit when Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn finally ink deals, but for now, it seems as though the Bombers will have around $5 million to spend based on the slotting system. Three late-first round picks will allow the Yanks a nice talent grab at the end.
After a 162-game grind, you would think you know a team pretty well. After watching the same group of players face off for nine innings every night, winning many more games than they lose and scoring runs in bunches, you would think that the same team would show up for another round of games as they work toward a World Series title. You would think.
Instead for the past eight games, since their ninth inning outburst in Game 1 of the ALDS, we’ve watched the Yankees’ great bats disappear. While Alex Rodriguez has taken the blame, it was truly a team effort. Robinson Cano put up a historically awful post-season while Nick Swisher, despite his meditation efforts, continued his trend of vanishing once the clock struck October. Eric Chavez was abysmal as A-Rod’s erstwhile replacement. Curtis Granderson failed to get a hit against the Tigers, went 3 for 30 with 16 strikeouts in the playoffs and is batting .208 with an OBP under .300 since June 6. Mark Teixeira managed one extra-base hit and drove in one run, and even the Yanks’ stellar pitching couldn’t overcome this offensive malaise to prove true the adage that pitching wins championships.
Here at RAB, we’ve tried over the years to explain baseball. One of the beauties of the sport is how, after enough at-bats, innings, games, trends and patterns emerge. We see how a team should perform over the long haul, and what their strengths or weaknesses are. As I’ve watched the Yanks disappear, my main thoughts have focused around the confusion of it all. Rather than being angry, I simply don’t get it. How could a team that was this good during the season, that finished the year 16-5, that nearly led the majors in runs scored turn into a worse version of the Astros?
Most of the explanations I’ve heard turn the Yanks into some cut-rate version of The Wizard of Oz. With runs at a premium, no one could find a way home. Spooked by boos raining down on them from the Yankee Stadium faithful, the team had no courage. The players played with no heart, and of course, the coaches and Joe Girardi had no brain. That’s not a particularly satisfying conclusion to the 2012 season.
Maybe there’s no real reason for the Yanks’ slide. Maybe they all started pressing. Maybe the Tigers and Orioles had their scouting reports down to a tee. Maybe an aging club saw its flaws exposed, and maybe the Yanks’ brain trust panicked a bit too much when the club struggled to score runs early in the postseason. Maybe, as John Sterling likes to say, you just cannot predict baseball. But something happened, and right now, I have no idea what that was. All I know is that the 88-win Tigers — the 7th best in the AL — made besting the Yanks look like a walk in the park.
So we wait out the off-season now. It will be a tumultuous one as A-Rod trade rumors swirl, and Brian Cashman reimagines a team. I think we’ll leave the last word with Ichiro though, who summed up everyone’s frustration perfectly. After the game, the quotesmith had this to say: “The feelings of dissatisfaction and hurt inside right now is something that I hadn’t experienced in a while. So to be able to experience even this pain right now, I’m just so grateful to the Yankees to give me this opportunity to do that.” It is a pain we all know too well today. May it not return next year.
At one point in the fifth inning of the Yanks’ Monday night affair against the Braves, the Bombers had yet to get a hit, and CC found himself in a spot of trouble. When a potential double play ball ricochetted off of Sabathia’s glove, the Braves found their inning still alive. A Michael Bourn single scored a run, but CC allowed just one more hit over the final four frames. The Yanks’ bats came alive, and the winning streak reached 10.
With the Yanks rolling as they’ve rolled since 2005, it’s gotten easy to enjoy their play. After a weekend of sweeping the Nats even without much hitting with runners in scoring position, Derek Jeter capitalized with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 5th as the Yanks took a lead they would not relinquish. Home runs by Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano gave the team a nice cushion, and CC cruised through the ninth.
For the Big Man, it was his eighth Yankee complete game and another double-digit strike out effort. He struck out Jason Heyward on a nasty slider to end the game and kept the streak alive. “You don’t think about it when you’re out there,” he said, “but you don’t want to be that guy. You’re watching everybody have good starts. We all pull for each other, and push each other, so you don’t want to be the guy to mess that up.”
So the Yankees are now 20-4 over their last 24 games, and they’ve won 10 in a row, all against teams above .500. With R.A. Dickey — CC’s next opponent on Sunday — stifling the Orioles for another one-hitter, the Yanks gained a game on second-place Baltimore as well. The team hopes this one goes to 11 tomorrow night when Hiroki Kuroda and Tim Hudson face off for the second time in a week. What a run it’s been lately. Can the Yankees keep playing the NL clubs forever?
As always, ESPN has the box score. The Fangraphs chart follows.
After two attempts at a trial and eight weeks of testimony, a federal jury needed just 11 hours to decide that two-time Yankee pitcher was not guilty on all counts of perjury. Clemens had been under prosecution for lying to Congress in 2008 when he claimed he never took steroids or HGH injections during his playing days. The acquittal, a nice victory for Clemens and his lawyers, was hardly surprising concerning the reports from the courtroom.
Clemens, whose name will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time later this year, could have faced up to 10 years in prison for perjuring himself. Instead, the D.C. jury found that none of Clemens’ 13 statements under the microscope were untrue beyond a reasonable doubt. It seems likely that this is a case in which the difference between innocent and not guilty is a big one, and it ends a chapter of poor decision-making by government prosecutors.
With the 30th pick of tonight’s amateur MLB draft, the Yanks went for the highest ranked player still on the board as they selected right-handed pitcher Ty Hensley in the first round. Hensley, 18, is a 6-foot, 5-inch, 220-pounder out of Santa Fe High School in Edmond, OK, and was 23rd on Baseball America’s top 500 list. In a capsule write-up a few months back, Mike noted Hensley’s mid-90s fastball, a change and a curve. He can push that fastball up to 97.
During his interview on MLB Network after the selection, Hensley spoke about his influences and cited both Roger Clemens and Roy Halladay. He also mentioned his pre-start Chipotle ritual. Kevin Goldstein called the pick “highway robbery,” and the Yanks are high on his future. As a high school senior, Hensley struck out 111 in 55.1 innings and went a perfect 10-0 with a 1.52 ERA. We’ll have much more shortly.
Along with a subpar May, comparisons to 1965 and premature eulogies for Alex Rodriguez, unsourced whispers of an impending Yankee sale seem to crop up annually. This year, it all happened during the same week as a few hours after Joel Sherman compared the 2012 Yankees to the 1965 crew and A-Rod homered twice to end a long dinger drought, The Daily News reported that the Yankees may be for sale.
The article itself announcing the alleged sale was replete with Wall Street insiders and baseball sources. No one wanted to go on the record saying much of anything. “There has been chatter all around the banking and financial industries in the city for a couple of weeks now,” a baseball source said.
Noting that the Dodgers’ sale could lead to a $3 billion valuation for the Yanks, another unnamed source agreed on the timing. “It would definitely be the right time for the family to sell,” the source said. “The value of the team couldn’t be higher, but at the same time, it’s an older team in a division with younger teams getting better at the same time a lot of the Yankees’ core veterans are starting to go into decline.”
Of course, the age of the current team would have little impact on the intentions of someone looking to make a long-term investment in the Yanks. No one today cares about who was on the Yankees in 1973 when George Steinbrenner bought the team.
Reading the Daily News article closely though, we see the thesis begin to fall apart. The unsourced quotes concern timing. Everyone agrees now would be a great time to sell the Yanks, but “now” is always a great time to sell a baseball team. As baseball is growing with no signs of slowing down, any team — and especially the Yankees — is a valuable commodity. The News’ strongest argument for the sale seemingly is Hal Steinbrenner’s reluctance to hand out large contracts and his hands-off ownership approach. I’m not so sure either of those are negatives.
The Yankees, meanwhile, went into full-scale on-the-record denial mode. “I can say to you there is absolutely, positively nothing to this,” Randy Levine said. “The Steinbrenners are not selling the team.”
“I just learned of the Daily News story,” Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. “It is pure fiction. The Yankees are not for sale. I expect that the Yankees will be in my family for many years to come.”
Even as Bill Madden stuck by his story, Lonn Trost too denied the rumors. “We’re aghast at such a story,” he said on the radio this morning.
“My impression is not only do they all love being part of it, I think they are interested in handing it to their kids,” Yanks’ GM Brian Cashman said to Joel Sherman. “I think they want the family to be involved for generations to come. The Steinbrenners love owning the Yankees — and they are damn good at it. I have gotten no impression that they want to do anything but own the Yankees. They are the only ones who know the truth, but my impression is they are not even entertaining selling the Yankees.”
Furthermore, Major League Baseball, involved in the sale of all of its member clubs, put out its own statement: “Major League Baseball has received no indications from any representatives of the Yankees or anyone else that the Club is for sale.”
So on the one hand, we have speculation that the club could be put up for sale, and on the other, we have everyone on record denying that the club is for sale. That doesn’t even account for Richard Sandomir’s note on the Yankees trust. In my mind, the fact that the family would incur significant tax penalties is likely the biggest factor keeping the club off the market.
As fans of the team who have long grown accustomed to the Steinbrenner’s free-spending and largely hands-off ownership, what are we to make of this? Yankee fans live in fear that a rich New York family with sports ties such as the Dolans could buy the team and ruin it. No names, though, have been attached to this offer. So are the Yanks floating this story to gauge interest? The across-the-board denials suggest not. Is someone trying to make interest in the team known? Perhaps.
Right now, we know what’s on the record: The Yankees are not for sale, and no one is on the verge of buying them. But money talks, and if the right offer comes around, the Steinbrenner family will be tempted to cash out. It’s only, after all, a business, and the Yankees today aren’t for sale until the day they are.