Since it’s been a pretty busy week, now seems like a good time to catch up on some lingering topics that I wanted to discuss but didn’t have enough time to do earlier.

The uncertainty about whether or not Andy Pettite will be a Yankee in 2009 continues to linger.  After rejecting a $10 million one-year offer, Pettite sits in limbo as the Yankees ponder who will join Joba at the back end of the rotation.  Various beat writers from Pete Abraham and Mark Feinsand, and bloggers from Mike Sommer to Greg Cohen seem pretty united on this one–not only is money the issue here, but Pettite is probably not worth more than $10 million per year, if that.  I’m pretty much in agreement with them.

I’m a big fan of Pettite.  He’s always been a money pitcher for the Yankees, especially in the post-season–18-7, 3.96 ERA.  It’s impossible for die-hard Yankees fans to forget how he bounced back from his disastrous Game 1 start in the 1996 World Series to pitch 8 1/3 masterful innings to best the new Red Sox John Smoltz 1-0, in the last game played in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. From the get-go, he’s been a stopper after losses–an underestimated aspect of both his career and of pitching generally.  He was accountable, didn’t lay into reporters, didn’t make excuses after losses, and stood tall amidst Steinbrenner’s open discussions of trading Pettite in 1999 after he struggled through the first three months, going 5-6 with a 5.53 ERA.  Back on June 30, 1999 Buster Olney, then of The New York Times, reported that the Yankees had at Steinbrenner’s behest strongly considered trading Pettite to either the Giants for lefty Shawn Estes, and inquired about Pittsburgh’s Jason Christiansen and the Orioles about–Arthur Rhodes.  Yes, that Arthur Rhodes.  Thank goodness Pettite righted his ship in the last three months and for the most part was good throughout the World Series run that year.  Thank goodness the Yankees didn’t make any of those trades, especially for Rhodes, the perennial punching bag for the Yankees who, among other acts of generosity, surrendered the go-ahead homer to David Justice in Game 6 of the 2000 ALCS that careened off the facade of the upper deck in right.

But those years are long behind Pettite.  He went 14-14 last year with a 4.54 ERA.  He faded down the stretch, in no small part due to a sore arm.  He also admitted during the off-season to using HGH back in 2002, probably serving to distract him.  Mike Mussina certainly showed last season that aging veteran pitchers can have terrific bounce-back seasons late in their careers.  Pettite might do the same.  But Mussina had the benefit of getting the opportunity to do so in the second year of a two-year deal at just over $11 million per season.  This was down from his free-agent contract that in 2005 and 2006, the final two years of the deal before it was renegotiated with an extra, less-expensive year, brought Mussina $19 million in those years.  That is, Mussina took a considerable pay cut in his last two seasons with the Yanks, 2007 and 2008, after the Yanks declined his option–after Mussina went 15-7, 3.51 ERA, 1.110 WHIP.  He turned 38 that off-season.  Pettite will turn 37 in June and came off a worse year than Mussina’s 2006.  Should he return, Pettite should get no more than Mussina did in 2007 and 2008.  Right now, after Pettite declined the Yanks’ offer, neither side is budging.

Pettite is not a $16 million per season starter anymore, no two ways about it.  Readers here know I’m pro-player much more often than not in contract negotiations, individually and collectively.  I can’t be in this instance.  $10 million would be a relative steal in this market–for Pettite.  I don’t see him getting close to that from anyone else.

In response, the Yanks have asked Phil Coke to get ready for 2009 with the possibility of being used as a starter.  I’d prefer that they kept him as a reliever, where he thrived for the Yanks late last season–1-0, 0.61 ERA, 0.682 WHIP in 12 appearances.

The Yanks also signed Jason Johnson to a minor-league deal with the idea that he, with Coke and others, will compete for the last open spot in the rotation.   Am I missing something?  This is the same Jason Johnson who has gone 56-100, 4.99 ERA in 11 major-league seasons.  The Yankees creamed him in June 2006 when he was with Cleveland, then shellacked him in Game 1 of the double-header August 18 when he was with Boston, starting Boston Massacre III.  Boston released him after the game, which I thought might end his career in the big leagues.  This Jason Johnson is actually going to compete for the open spot? I can’t consider him anything more than an extra arm luring in SWB in the event that any other pitcher–possibly including Kei Igawa–can’t pitch.  Speaking of which, how far has Kei Igawa fallen when the Yankees bring in a tomato like Jason Johnson and media reports openly discuss him competing for a spot in the rotation?

Jason Giambi has taken his bat and thong to the A’s, signing with his first major-league team.  He completely lost his ability to hit for average with the Yanks, he was never a good glove at first, and he took PEDs.  Plus, the locker room thong alone should have gotten him released from the team.  However, he was a character based on Pete Abraham’s various accounts of him.  He was good to newer players with the Yankees and was by all accounts a good teammate.  He also had his moments when he could carry the club for a good stretch, fueling the Yankees’ amazing comeback in 2005.  Though he was more down than up in the post-season with New York, especially against Detroit in 2006, the Yankees probably don’t win Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS without his two solo homers to keep the game somewhat close before the great eighth-inning comeback and Boone’s blast.  Best of luck, Big G.

Shelley Duncan, his forearms, and hard slides have been DFA’d by the Yanks.  He never got much of a shot last year, and didn’t do well when he did.  But he was a likable enough kid.  Hopefully he gets a shot somewhere, and doesn’t break a teammate’s arm during a home-run celebration.

The Yankees inked Angel Berroa to a minor-league deal for him to compete with Cody Ransom and others for a back-up utility infielder position.  YawwwwwnAs Mike Sommer pointed out, Berroa wrongly won the 2003 AL Rookie of the Year over Matsui, and has done little since 2005.  I strongly prefer Ransom, especially his bat and versatility.  Do you think during Spring Training that Matsui might approach Berroa with his interpreter in tow to ask for the ROY trophy?  Nahh, Matsui’s too nice a guy–though he should.

Lastly for now, reason #2,867 why I’m glad PaVoldemort–the $39.95 million walking gauze dummy who shall not be named or, as Beth from Yankees Chick has termed him, “Ol’ Glass Ass”–is gone.  What a whiny zero.  At least with Cleveland, PaVoldemort is assured of enough bank to repair his Porsche the next time he hydroplanes it into a garbage truck and doesn’t tell them about his rib injury.  Good riddance.

Published in: on January 10, 2009 at 2:26 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. good stuff jason. remember after the season was over most of our small band was ready to say a fond farewell to andy but i suppose that was before he revealed that he’d been pitching hurt for us in the second half. now it seems everyone -me included is hoping he returns. i guess it can be summed up by the need for 200 reliable ( or better ) innings. after all the money they have spent it’s hard to believe that they would risk next season with both joba and phil or some other rookie filling 2 spots in the rotation. i’m shocked at the way andy has behaved. no need to re-hash all that has been written about this issue here and everywhere else, but let be just ask the question..

    isn’t the $100,000,000 + that andy has already earned in his career enough to support his lifestyle? if not, then wouldn’t an extra 10 mill do the trick?

    poor shelley, girardi never gave the guy a chance. i wish him nothing but the best

  2. It’s a good point about his career earnings, Mike. I understand Pettite’s position and that money from negotiations conveys respect and appreciation as much as financial and team worth. I also think that Pettite is looking at this through the lens of his personal experiences with the team, which also involve his being relatively snubbed after the 2003 season. However, throughout his career he’s received more than enough respect and appreciation through big salaries. It’s also far from a stretch or disrespectful to not consider Andy a $16 million pitcher anymore. The Mussina comparison in the post illustrates that.

    I agree about the need for quality innings and my hunch is Pettite will bounce back strong should he return. But $16 million on a hunch? Mehhhhh.

    I knew you wouldn’t be happy about your boy Shelley, Mike.

  3. I think that it may be worth it to up the money to say $12 or $13 million if that is what it takes to get Pettite for one year. I would rather have Pettite for one year and $13 million then two years, $20 million or so. That will take pressure off of Hughes so he can start in the minors. Then when someone gets hurt or is ineffective, and of course if Hughes is pitching decent enough which he should, they can call him up.

    To be honest though, if I am Pettite I might want to go to the Mets, as bad as that may sound to you guys. The Mets don’t have Hughes breathing down his back, the national league is slightly easier to perform well in it seems, which must be intriguing to an aging pitcher/player, and that park ( I heard the new park may be more pitcher friendly) and that defense look awfully appealing if I am a pitcher. But I assume that you all would despise Pettite in a Mets uniform.


  4. I wouldn’t mind seeing Pettite back for that money Joe, though not more than that and not for more than a year. I’ve heard that about the new Mets stadium too, that the dimensions in the alleys and in center are much more pitcher-friendly than Shea. I wouldn’t despise Pettite, though others might disagree. I don’t like the Mets, but I realize that the anti-Mets passions of others may exceed my own.

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