November 2009

Sorry, I Can’t Support Trading For Halladay

Roy Halladay in pinstripes?
If the news reports from SI.com over the weekend are correct, the Yankees have apparently inquired about the Toronto Blue Jays’ asking price for their ace righthahnder.
I know that this gets Yankee fans excited because just imagining a potential rotation of Halladay, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte (should he elect not to retire) would just about assure the Yankees of a return to the playoffs.
What is not to like about Halladay? At age 32 Halladay is among the best pitchers in baseball. The 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner is coming of a season in which he was 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA. 
Throwing out injury-plagued 2004 and 2005 seasons, since 2002 Halladay has averaged 18 victories a season for a Blue Jays’ team that has never won a AL East title. The thought is just imagine what he would do for a very good Yankee team with a talent-laden offense.
But there are a few points to be made before we go printing up playoff tickets and scheduling parades down the Canyon of Heroes for 2010.
One big drawback is that Toronto will not accept Shelley Duncan and Chien-Ming Wang for Halladay. They are not stupid. They will be looking for a lot of players — some major league and some prospects.
The last time the Yankees chatted with Toronto about Halladay the asking price reportedly was both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes among other players. So it stands to reason that the asking price will include one or the other, perhaps both.
With the Jays having shed Alex Rios and being forced to keep an untradeable and expensive Vernon Wells, it stands to reason that prize outfielder Austin Jackson will be part of the deal too. They also could ask for one of the Yankees prize catchers, Austin Romine or Jesus Montero.
That is a pretty steep price to pay for any pitcher, much less Halladay.
I have seen this script before with the Yankees. They go through stages where their minor-league talents ebbs to nothing. Then it begins churning out talent. The Yankees, desperate to add a pitcher here or hitter there, then trade their prospects away in return for established players.
That’s OK when it works. But, so often in the past, it hasn’t.
Take the case of poor Jose Rijo. Rushed to the major leagues at age 19 because “Boss” Steinbrenner insisted the Yankees have a pitcher to compete with the Mets’ rookie sensation Dwight Gooden, Rijo was not prepared for the rigors of the major leagues.
He was 2-8 with a 4.76 ERA in 24 games with the Yankees in 1984. Rather than patiently wait for Rijo to develop, the Yankees shipped him off to Oakland before the start of the 1985 season.
The Yankees looked like genuises because Rijo bounced back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation for three years before the Athletics sent him to Cincinnati before the 1988 season.
But the Yankees and A’s looked like fools when he reeled off five seasons over the next six seasons with 13 or more wins with his highest ERA during that period was an injury-marred 1989 season when his ERA ballooned all the way to 2.84!
He was the Reds’ 1990 World Series Most Valuable Player and he followed that with his best season in 1991 with a 15-6 record and a 2.51 ERA. 
Arm problems shortened his 1995 season and he only pitched one more season before leaving the game in 1995 at age 30. He made a brief comeback in 2001 and 2002 with the Reds as a reliever before retiring for good.
He was 116-91 with a career ERA of 3.24. I just wonder if the Yankees would have had the patience to have kept him while he was developing. But patience sometimes is at odds with the Yankees’ stated goal of winning the world championship every season.
That impatience also claimed Doug Drabek in 1987. After a rookie season in which Drabek dared to go 7-8 with a 4.18 ERA the Yankees dealt him to Pittsburgh to obtain 33-year-old Rick Rhoden. 
At first glance, the Yankees made a great trade. Rhoden was 16-10 with a 3.86 ERA in 1987. Drabek was 11-12 with a 3.88 ERA for an awful Pirate team.
But in 1988 Rhoden quickly declined due to arm problems and was 12-12 with a 4.29 ERA and he was shipped off to Houston for his last season. He was 2-8 with a 4.28 ERA and he retired. 
Drabek, meanwhile, developed into the ace of the Pirates’ staff and was 22-6 with a 2.08 ERA in 1990 and won the NL Cy Young Award. He pitched two more season for the Pirates before he was traded to the Houston Astros in 1993.
Toiling for poor Astros teams for four seasons, Drabek eventually fell off and had poor seasons in 1997 with the White Sox and 1998 with the Orioles before having to hang it up. Pitching for some real bad teams, Drabek still was 155-134 with a 3.73 ERA in his career.
The question is would the Yankees have been better off in 1990 having held onto both Rijo and Drabek?
Considering that the best starting pitcher on the Yankees staff that season was Tim Leary and he was 9-19 with a 4.11 ERA I would say the answer is yes.
The Yankees also traded away Al Leiter before they knew what they had. More recently there was the trade of Ted Lilly. People also forget that Steinbrenner wanted to trade Andy Pettitte during the 1998 season in which he finished 16-11 with a 4.24 ERA. Steinbrenner was upset because Pettitte was 18-7 with a 2.88 ERA the year before.
Steinbrenner felt Pettitte was in decline at age 26. But then-manager Joe Torre insisted that good lefthanded starters do not grow bountifully on trees and General Manager Brian Cashman agreed. 
Pettitte stayed. 
Good thing, too. Pettitte pitched five more seasons in New York and won 13 or more games in each season, including a 21-8 record in 2003 — his last season before leaving the Yankees to pitch for the Astros.
The point of all this is to remind fans that no matter how good the pitcher the team may be acquiring, that the fact is that Halldaday’s best days are well behind him. The prospect of him breaking down now is more likely now than when he was 25.
When you trade a Phil Hughes away you are losing a chance to ever see what his peak will be because he has not hit it yet. He is only 22. Can Yankee fans accept a possibility that Hughes might be a Cy Young Award winner for Toronto in  2013 while Halladay is trying to hold on as a relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies?
If the answer is no then the Yankees should steer clear of any deal that includes any young prospect the Yankees want to keep. 
Trading away the future is never the answer. The key is to make the roster younger each year as your older players lose their skills and retire. That also is a great way to reduce payroll gradually.
So as much I would love to see Halladay a Yankee uniform, I am not in favor of a potential deal in this case. I also have not even addressed the fact that Halladay, because he would a free agent for the 2011 season would have to be signed to very lucrative long-term contract before he will even agree to waive his limited no-trade clause.
Wouldn’t it be easier just to sign John Lackey to a free-agent deal, keep your current prospects and just lose a player in the annual baseball draft?
Lackey may not
be as good as Halladay but Lackey would certainly fit in well with what the Yankees have. And the Yankees would keep Hughes and Chamberlain and all the good young minor-league pitching they have.
Isn’t that a good thing?

Yankees Might Want To Pass On Granderson

The first big juicy trade rumor of the Hot Stove season came out of the recent winter meeting in Chicago. 
The Detroit Tigers, a team steeped with a huge payroll and yet not getting much in results on the field in the American Central, have dangled centerfielder Curtis Granderson as trade bait.
Granderson, 28, is an excellent fielding ceterfielder who is coming off a season in which he hit 30 home runs, drove in 71 runs and hit .249 for the Tigers. 
In his past three seasons with the Tigers, largely as the team’s leadoff hitter, Granderson has averaged 25 home runs, 70 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, 108 runs scored and a .277 average.
 
Granderson also was the starting centerfielder for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic last spring.
The Yankees were mentioned as a potential landing spot for Granderson because the Yankees might lose outfielders Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon to free agency. The word came out of Chicago via SI.com that General Manager Brian Cashman met with the Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski in Chicago.
If the Yankees are willing to pony up some top prospects and young major-league stars, Granderson is all theirs. But that is the stumbling block. Trades are dicey because you may want to hold on to 22-year-old outfielders like Austin Jackson, who may prove to be more valuable and better than Granderson.
The Yankees also have a good young third baseman in Brandon Laird, the brother of Tigers catcher Gerald Laird.
The other problem is the Tigers surely will want to talk about pitchers like Phil Hughes, David Roberston and even Joba Chamberlain. I am not sure the Yankees can afford to be shipping out any of their young pitchers for Granderson.
Here is another big downside to acquiring Granderson: You may have to sit him every time the Yankees face a left-handed starter. Granderson simply can’t hit them to save his life.
In 180 at-bats against left-handers last season, Granderson had two home runs, nine RBIs and batted a paltry .183. And should you choose to platoon Granderson with another Yankees centerfielder you do not have any choices.
Melky Cabrera most likely would shift to left to replace Damon and even if Damon was re-signed, Cabrera is a better hitter from the left side. Backup centerfielder Brett Gardner bats left-handed also. 
Could the Yankees bear with a starting centerfielder who hits .183 against lefties to play every day? I am not sure it makes sense.
Plus, Granderson is not a typical leadoff hitter. He strikes out nearly twice as much as he walks. In his last two seasons he has averaged 71 walks and 126 strike outs. That means he is not the patient hitter like most of the Yankees are.
He also is not a gifted basestealer, despite the fact he is very fast. He had 23 triples in 2006. Though he has a 85% success rate on the bases the past three seasons, Granderson never has reached the 30- or 40-steal mark scouts had predicted for him. 
On the surface Granderson appears to be a good alternative for the Yankees. But when you dig a little deeper you can see why the Tigers may be willing to shop him now. In my opinion, Cashman and the Yankees should take a pass on him
BAY WINDOW

Reports say that outfielder Jason Bay turned down a four-year, $60 million offer from the Red Sox to test the free-agent waters this winter. This can’t be good news for Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein, the self-proclaimed “smartest man in baseball.”
Epstein obviously hoped this dreadfully underwhelming offer would coax Bay into not seeking other offers. But it looks to me like Epstein was merely playing to the Boston media and Red Sox Nation rather than really being serious with signing Bay.
It is no secret that the Red Sox really covet Matt Holliday and they want him more than they want Bay. Though they both are great right-hand power hitters, Holliday is considered the better hitter of the two.
If the Red Sox fail to sign Holliday and a Bay with wounded pride spurns the Red Sox too, there will be hell to pay for Epstein. 
The team is already in the market for a shortstop and it is no secret they want to find a replacement for Mike Lowell at third base. They could solve that by trading for Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and moving Kevin Youkilis to third.
But they also have issues in right field, uncertainty about whether David Ortiz will continue to decline and they may need another starting pitcher. They also have to decide if they want to make a long-term commitment to Jonathan Papelbon as their closer or deal him before he becomes a free agent at the end of 2010.
Whatever course they decide to do about Holliday and Bay, this off-season is going to cost the Bosox some young prospects and awful lot of currency to get back into contention with the Yankees in the American League East.
The fact that the Cubs are in the bidding for Blue Jays’ ace Roy Halliday also can’t be good news to the Epstein either. The more suitors get into the game, the more talent the Red Sox will have to part with for Halliday and we know how Epstein like to operate: Give up nothing and rob the other GM blind.
I am not sure it will work this winter. Theo better keep that gorilla suit pressed and cleaned.

Matsui Better Choice To Keep Than Damon

When I wrote about the New York Yankees’ potential free agents, I got a lot of feedback. I do appreciate that and please keep it coming. Most of it involved the fact that I thought the Yankees would be better off keeping Hideki Matsui instead of Johnny Damon. I would like to explain my reasons why.


RAW NUMBERS

First of all, Matsui is 35 and Damon is 36 so there is no real issue here. Both are looking for the last contracts of their career.
It is odd to be saying this but Damon is the most durable performer because he has never played less than 141 games in a season and he has been on the disabled list only once in his  14 full seasons in the major leagues.
Matsui was the Japanese version of Lou Gehrig, having never missed a game in his career there. But his professional consecutive games played streak came to an end in 2006 when he broke his wrist attempting a shoestring catch. Since then Matsui has been bothered by injuries to both knees.
He played in only 93 games in 2008 and he was unable to play the outfield in all of 2009 because of his recovery from knee surgery. However, Matsui said he would like to return to the outfield and is determined to get his knees in shape to do it in 2010.
2009 BATTING STATISTICS

Damon tied his career high set in 2006 with the Yankees with 24 home runs last season. The rightfield porch and the supposed “wind tunnel” in the new Yankee Stadium seemed perfect for his swing, He hit 17 home runs at home. 
Damon, batting second for the first time with the Yankees, drove in 82 runs, led the team with 107 runs scored and batted .282. Damon’s career batting average is .288 so he is a consistent performer for sure.
Matsui started slow this season because of his surgically repaired knee. He hit .241 in May and .204 in June. But Matsui became a beast from July on, hitting 18 home runs, driving in 62 runs and batting .299. He carried that hot streak into the playoffs, hitting .349 with four home runs and 13 RBIs. 
In the World Series he hit .615 with three home runs and eight RBIs and he was named the World Series MVP.
WHO BATS FIFTH?

If the Yankees allow Matsui to sign elsewhere, they will be missing the only player on their 2009 roster who could properly protect Alex Rodriguez. Early in the season, Robinson Cano was inserted into the No. 5 spot.
Manager Joe Girardi quickly realized that Cano was much better at killing rallies than extending them. Cano simply was the Yankees’ worst hitter with runners in scoring position and with runners on base. Girardi finally gave up and shifted Cano to seventh where he stayed most of the rest of the season.
Jorge Posada was fine in the No. 5 spot except that the Yankees could not DH him with only two catchers on the roster and when he rested that left only strikeout prone Nick Swisher available to bat fifth.
The only way the Yankees could justify letting Matsui go is they find a free agent who can replace his 28 home runs and 90 RBIs such as free-agent outfielders Matt Holliday or Jason Bay. In this case it would make sense to let Matsui walk, sign one of these outfielders to play left and shift Damon to DH.
LEFT ON LEFT

Matsui simply kills lefthand pitchers.
In only 131 at-bats in 2009, Matsui hit 13 home runs, drove in 46 runs and batted .282 against lefthanders. His slugging percentage was .618. 
Damon hit 20 points lower against lefties with only seven home runs and 24 RBIs. His slugging percentage was .444. 
If the Yankees decide to sign Bay or Holliday there are caveats in both of their games. They are both righthand hitters, which means the Yankees would have to flip Mark Teixeira to fourth and Alex Rodriguez to third in the order with Bay or Holliday batting fifth.
Bay kills lefties all right (11 HRs, 34 RBIs, .292 average) but he struggles somewhat with righties (25 HRs, 85 RBIs, .257 average). 
Holliday is an anomaly. He hits righthanders better than lefthanders. But he does it with much less power. He hit only three home runs off righthanders. He had 22 home runs and 89 RBIs off lefthanders. 
But why would you want to stack your lineup with two power-hitting righthanders like Rodriguez and Bay or Rodriguez and Holliday in Yankee Stadium?
There are not that many good starting lefthanders in baseball. You don’t face them that much during a season. Managers would much rather see righthanders facing those power hitters.
Having Matsui batting fifth insures he will face a lot of righties to be sure because A-Rod hits ahead of him. But when Matsui does face a lefty starter or a specialty reliever, he certainly makes them pay.
Of the Type A free agents available in addition to Bay and Holliday, the only other power hitter left is Jermaine Dye and he hits righthhanded. Matsui is the only Type A power hitter who bats lefthanded. He also is the only one who hits lefthanders like he owns them.
DOUBLE AGENTS

Damon is represented by Scott Boras. Matsui is represented by Art Tellum.
There is a big difference here. Boras is asking for a four-year deal for about the same $21 million per season that Derek Jeter makes. That an investment of $84 million on a 36-year-old  outfielder.
Hmmm!
Tellum obviously is looking for at least two years for his client. He also is looking for about $15 million a season. But Tellum has a big problem: Matsui’s interest from National League teams is limited because Matsui hasn’t proven he can play in the outfield.
If General Manager Brian Cashman is looking to lower payroll, Matsui would be the cheaper option because he will get fewer offers than Damon. Matsui also may be coaxed to accept fewer years than Damon is seeking.
This reason alone is worth looking into keeping Matsui and letting Damon walk. Boras can be a real jerk when it comes to negotiations. His clients love him because he is considered the best agent in baseball.
But GMs have a much different view. They respect Boras and try to remain cordial with him. But they do not like the tactics he uses and the public way he carries on negotiations. This could sour the Yankees on Damon in a hurry, especially if Damon will not accept anything less than four years.
CONCLUSION

Matsui has less value than Damon and yet he may be a more valuable player to the Yankees. With the dollars the Yankees save on signing Matsui, they can pass on Holliday and Bay too. 
That gives them more money to spend on what they really need: a starting pitcher. That means they can make an offer to John Lackey similar to the offer they made A.J. Burnett and keep the payroll in line.
They also could make an offer to a cheaper free agent like Chone Figgins to replace Damon in left and take over as the Yankees leadoff hitter. 
That is my view and my case for it. I can see why people would favor keeping Damon. But I just do not the think the Yankees can afford him at this point.

Lackey Likely Yankees’ No. 1 Free Agent Target

Earlier. we reviewed the Yankees seven free agents and assessed whether they would likely be kept or not. Another aspect that could determine their fate is whether the Yankees intend to shop seriously in the free-agent market to patch holes or replace what they are losing. Last season, General Manager Brian Cashman jumped in with both feet and came up with two starters and a first baseman. Will he do it again or will he just dip his toe in the water? Let”s see what is out there.

OUTFIELDERS

There are only three potential outfielders in whom the Yankees might have an interest: Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. You could plug in Chone Figgins here also because he can play the outfield as well as the infield.

Holliday is considered the cream of the crop. After having two monster seasons with the Colorado Rockies in 2006 and 2007, Holliday’s numbers slipped in 2008 (25 HRs, 88 RBIs, .321 average). Knowing his free agent season was looming, the Rockies dealt him to the Oakland A’s and Holliday’s stock dropped even further.

Though Holliday was surrounded by non-power hitters like Orlando Cabrera and Kurt Suzuki in a punchless A’s’ lineup, he did himself no favors by hitting .286 with 11 HRs and 54 RBIs in 93 games before the A’s traded him to the Cardinals. 

Holliday then became a beast again, pounding 13 home runs, driving in 55 runs and batting .313 hitting behind Albert Pujols. He helped lead the Cardinals to the Central Division championship, though his horrific error in leftfield cost the Cardinals dearly in the playoffs.

The Cardinals would love to have him stay and they do have enough Budweiser dollars to keep him. But the Cardinals have made it clear they will not get in a bidding war with the Yankees or Red Sox. The Red Sox would seem to have the most interest because they are not sure they can sign Bay and Holliday is a better player in their view.

The Yankees could sit it out entirely if they plan to re-sign Johnny Damon and/or Hideki Matsui. But I do think that Cashman will at least take a pulse on what Holliday is looking for in terms of dollars and years and see if the Yankees can make a reasonable bid. But it stands to reason that if the Yankees do land Holliday, Damon and Matsui are gone.

Holliday would give the Yankees another strong right-hand bat. The Yankees likely would bat Alex Rodriguez third, Mark Teixeira fourth and Holliday fifth and Holliday’s presence would certainly give the Yankees a true Murderer’ Row in the power slots.

Signing Bay would accomplish two things: It gives the Yankees another powerful right-hand bat to replace Matsui and it creates a big hole in the Red Sox outfield if they can’t sign Holliday to replace him. 

Bay, who came to the Red Sox in midseason trade from the Pirates to replace Manny Ramirez, had 36 home runs and 119 RBIs and hit .267 in 2009. Though the Red Sox would love for him to return, Bay has a chance to cash in on a huge payday because he and Holliday are the only true power hitters in this year’s free-agent crop.

Because the Red Sox also have so many other spots on their roster to fill, Bay or Holliday could drive up their payroll for 2010 considerably. There are also other teams in the mix who have the money to make a run at the two outfielders.

The Mets, the Cubs and the Angels certainly have the resources to sign either one. The Yankees interest in Bay will only come if (1) Holliday signs elsewhere and (2) they have decided not to make an effort to keep Damon and Matsui.

Figgins might be an interesting signing for the Yankees. No. 1, Figgins is a very talented and versatile player. The Angels played him at third base out of necessity but Figgins has also played second base, shortstop and in the outfield.

Last season he raised his on-base percentage to a sparkling .395 by drawing a career-high 101 walks. He batted .298 with five home runs and 54 RBIs and he stole 42 bases and scored 114 runs. His horrible postseason aside, Figgins has been a thorn in the Yankees’ side for years at the plate, in the field and on the bases.

He could solve the Damon “problem” by taking over in either left or centerfield for Damon and batting leadoff ahead of Derek Jeter. The captain has distinguished himself in both spots and really would not care if he hit second again. 

Figgins is 31, which is usually when the wheels starting slowing down some. But, make no mistake, Figgins would be the best speed player the Yankees have had since the days of Rickey Henderson and manager Joe Girardi likes the speed game to go along with the power game.

Of course, any signing of any of these players would not only be bad news to Damon and Matsui, they also would be bad news for Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson — young players who will be trying to take starting jobs in the next two seasons. 

Gardner’s stock has fallen some since he did not play well after he came back from a broken thumb that shelved him for two months. He enters 2010 as a backup outfielder. Jackson is considered two years away from helping the Yankees but is the best outfield prospect the Yankees have had since Bernie Williams.

STARTING PITCHING

There is only one real big fish swimming the free-agent stream and that is righthander John Lackey, the ace of the Angels with a 102-71 record and a 3.81 ERA in eight major-league seasons. Lackey shook off early elbow problems to post an 11-8 record and a 3.83 ERA this season.

The Angels would love to have him back, but because Lackey is the only real Type A starter this winter, he is going to reap a big bonanza in contract offers. Teams all over baseball need pitching and Lackey could be a No. 1 starter for most teams.

The Yankees are going to have an interest. A real interest.

For one reason, they are unsure if Andy Pettitte will return for another season. If he retires, they lose 14 regular season wins and a bulldog in the playoffs. Lackey would not be a bad replacement because he has 12 career postseason starts and he is 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA in those outings.

Another reason Lackey would make sense to sign is that, even if Pettitte decides to return, he can be a great fourth starter and allow the Yankees to shift Joba Chamberlain back to his former eighth inning bullpen role. Comparing Chamberlain’s stats as a starter to what he did in the bullpen in the postseason is no contest.

Chamberlain is better suited to be a reliever despite Cashman’s claims that he is a starter. We all know plans can change. Just ask Phil Hughes.

Speaking of Hughes, he will enter 2010 as a starter again, but he will be restricted to about 130 innings pitched. The likely scenario will be that Hughes will start the season in the rotation and shift to the bullpen in favor of swingman Chad Gaudin at about the All-Star break to keep his innings down.

That is all the more reason to h
ave Lackey in the fold. 

It also stands to reason the Yankees would like to have four pitchers they can count on in the playoffs. Though the three-man rotation ended up with the Yankees winning a championship, neither CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett or Pettitte pitched “lights-out” baseball in their second World Series starts. Lackey’s presence would mean the Yankees would not have to use that tactic again.

Finally, the Yankees are not sure what they have in Chien-Ming Wang. First, they are not sure they will re-sign him. They may choose to let him go and try to re-sign him for less money. Coming off serious shoulder surgery, it is unclear when Wang will be able to pitch. In addition, it is unknown if he will regain his 19-win form.

Lackey will draw interest from a number of teams, including the Cubs, Mets, Red Sox and the Rangers. But the Yankees do have the money to pony up to bring him to the Bronx. My guess is he is the No. 1 player on Cashman’s list of free agents.

The only other Type A starter is veteran lefty Randy Wolf and I do not think the Yankees will have much interest in him. 

I think Cashman will pull out all the stops to sign Lackey and he likely will pass on Bay and Holliday unless another depressed market drives down their prices. But also do not be surprised if Cashman makes a run at the cheaper option of Figgins to replace Damon and the Yankees decide to bring Matsui back.

Those moves would make the Yankees stronger for a run at championship No. 28 in 2010.


Pettitte Should Return To Yankees In 2010

The champagne has flowed, the parade down the Canyon on Heroes is over and now the New York Yankees must make the difficult decisions about what to do about the roster for 2010. What free agents should they keep and who should they let go. The choices made this winter will affect the team’s chances to repeat as champions. Let’s examine these choices one by one and see what General Manager Brian Cashman and his staff may be weighing before the first warrmup toss is made in Tampa this spring.


PART 5: ANDY PETTITTE

The question is will Andy Pettitte retire?
If we have the answer to that question then we will kno
w how General Manager Brian Cashman will handle Pettitte as a free agent. He will most assuredly sign him.
The reason is pretty clear if you caught any of Pettitte’s postseason starts. Pettitte won the Yankees’ division-clinching game, the American League Divisional Series clinching game against the Twins, the American League Championship Series clinching game against the Angels and the World Series clinching game against the Phillies.
Pettitte also became the all-time major-league leader in postseason victories with 16. 
It stands to reason that if the Yankees’ goal is to go back to the postseason and repeat as champions in 2010, it would love to have Pettitte back to pitch in those critical postseason games.
Last winter, Pettitte wrestled with retirement and chose to come back. But the decision cost him quite a bit of money in the process. Paid $16 million in 2008, Pettitte turned down a $10 million offer from the Yankees only to have the free-agent pay market implode in the winter of 2009.
By the time Pettitte and his agent got back to the Yankees, the offer was $5 million plus incentives that brought the contract to about the $10 million Pettitte had declined. But I am not sure Pettitte is truly motivated by money.
“Obviously, you can imagine what’s going through my head right now,” Pettitte told Jon Lane from back home in his Deer Park, Texas, ranch. “I’m just going to try to take a little bit of time here and I want to do the right thing. I want to do the right thing for my family more than anything. And I don’t want to continue to play baseball trying to accomplish selfish goals because I’ve never done that before, and I feel like that if you try to start doing that you’re not going to be able to be successful as a teammate as you need to be. There’s a lot of things I need to factor in and think about.”

Pettitte is coming off an excellent 2009 season in which he was 14-8 with a 4.16 ERA. But that does not tell the whole story. 
After the All-Star break, Pettitte was 6-3 with a 3.31 ERA in his 14 starts with 78 strikeouts in 86 innings. The Yankees were 9-5 in his second-half starts and they were 21-11 in his starts this season.
Though CC Sabathia was clearly the Yankees’ ace this season, Pettitte actually was manager Joe Girardi’s second-best starter. Pettitte proved that even more clearly in the playoffs, where he was 4-0 with a 3.52 ERA in five starts.
So Pettitte only has to inform the Yankees he wants to come back and he likely receive a fair offer to return for 2010. Cashman is in a bit weaker bargaining position this time around. The Yankees may actually need Pettitte more than Pettitte needs the Yankees.
With Sabathia and A.J. Burnett having paid immediate dividends from the signings last winter, the Yankees’ rotation choices after them are not plentiful. 
It is not clear that Joba Chamberlain (9-6, 4.75 ERA) is really cut out to be a starting pitcher because he looks so much more comfortable in the bullpen. Exhibit A is his 1-0 record with a 2.84 ERA in 10 games in the postseason.
Though the “Joba Rules” were set up for the 24-year-old righthander to become a 200-inning starter, some in the Yankee hierarchy are now saying that Joba belongs in the bullpen in 2010.
Meanwhile, Phil Hughes may be headed back to the starting rotation after his sensational work as the eighth inning bridge to Mariano Rivera in the regular season. His hiccups in the postseason aside, Hughes always has been considered a starter.  If Chamberlain does move back to the bullpen it gives the Yankees the luxury of  starting Hughes.
But beware of “Phil Rules.” Because Hughes pitched in 92 1/3 innings in 2009 he will be limited to about 120 innings in 2010. That means Hughes could not pitch as a starter for more than 20 games if he averaged six innings per outing.
The likely plan is Hughes will be utilized as the No. 5 starter and will be skipped whenever possible and pitch as a starter until the All-Star break in 2010 then be shifted to the bullpen to finish his remaining innings he has under the limit.
That leaves the Yankees with two other starting options: Chad Gaudin and Chien-Ming Wang.
Wang is a free agent and the Yankees could let him go because he will not be ready to pitch in the spring and may not be ready to resume pitching until midseason. Wang is coming off serious right shoulder surgery and his recovery period will be a long one.
But, if the Yankees do choose to keep Wang, he could be ready to take over for Hughes at the midpoint of 2010. How he will fare in his return is anyone’s guess. Wang lives off his sinker and without it he is cannon fodder as he showed last season.
Gaudin provides insurance in case Wang is not ready. He could easily pitch as a long reliever out of the bullpen in 2010 and take over for Hughes as a starter after the All-Star break. Gaudin’s versatility makes him invaluable to the Yankees next season.
There also is the free-agent market and the Yankees are looking at signing John Lackey of the Angels to a deal similar to Burnett’s. If Lackey does sign with the Yankees, he is great insurance if Pettitte retires. If Lackey signs and Pettitte does come back, the Yankees will not have to use just three starters in the postseason in 2010. They will have four playoff-tested starters next season.
But the question remains. Will Andy decide to come back?
My guess is yes. The fact Pettitte has not filed for free agency is telling in itself. Pettitte is not looking to go anywhere else other than the Yankees. So if Pettitte does pitch in 2010 it will be with the Yankees. I think Pettitte has proven he still has enough left in the tank at age 37 to pitch one more season.
I think the lure of another championship will be enough to bring Pettitte back. The Yankees need him and I don’t think he will want to disappoint his teammates. He saw Mike Mussina retire one year too early and I think he knows how important he is to the team’s success.
Bank on it. Pettitte will be back in 2010.

Yankees Should Try To Keep Both Damon, Matsui


The champagne has flowed, the parade down the Canyon on Heroes is over and now the New York Yankees must make the difficult decisions about what to do about the roster for 2010. What free agents should they keep and who should they let go. The choices made this winter will affect the team’s chances to repeat as champions. Let’s examine these choices one by one and see what General Manager Brian Cashman and his staff may be weighing before the first warrmup toss is made in Tampa this spring.


PART 4: HIDEKI MATSUI AND JOHNNY DAMON

It is very rare for a championship team to have two integral parts of their offense go on the free-agent market, but here the Yankees are with the No. 2 and No. 5 hitters on the market.
Will the Yankees re-sign both? Will they even re-sign one?
General Manager Brian Cashman is playing his cards close to the vest but word leaked out that before the World Series the Yankees were looking to keep just one of the two: Damon. But after Matsui won the World Series MVP the Yankees may be rethinking their strategy.
That may be a good thing.
Matsui may be 35 and coming off a pair of crippling knee surgeries but he also provides power, production and a good batting average, In his four healthy seasons with the Yankees, Matsui produced 24 home runs, 109 RBIs and batted .294. 
In 2009, Matsui had 28 home runs, 90 RBIs and hit .274 in about 140 less at-bats than he normally gets because the Yankees could not use him as a designated hitter in National League parks and he had two brief rests to have his knee drained.
Matsui says he wants to return to playing the outfield again and he plans to work on getting his knees in shape to do it. That is also a good thing because the Yankees would like to be able to rotate the DH spot to give their veteran roster players rest from the field during the long 2010 season.
Though Matsui will never win a Gold Glove in the field, when he was healthy he was at least fundamentally sound in the field. He lacks speed to cut balls off from the gaps but he has an adequate arm. The question for Cashman is will Matsui’s knees hold up as an outfielder?
That may be a big reason Matsui is let go. Cashman may feel Matsui might not hold up in the field.
But Matsui’s calling card is his bat and he was the only player on the roster this season who could adequately protect Alex Rodriguez in the No. 5 spot. How many managers walked Rodriguez and brought in lefthanders to face Matsui only to have Matsui make the managers pay for that strategy?
Matsui absolutely pounds lefthand pitching like no other player the Yankees have. Matsui had 13 home runs, 46 RBIs and hit .282 against lefties in 2009 in only 131 at-bats. Think about that: 13 home runs in 131 at-bats.
If the Yankees do decide to let Matsui go then Cashman better have a player capable of producing 25 home runs and 100 RBIs because it would be hard for the Yankees to replace that kind of production without hurting the overall strength of the lineup.
Matsui’s agent is Art Tellum and Tellum is already pounding the pavement for his client and he says that he is receiving interest from other teams. No doubt that is true. But Matsui has spent seven seasons with the Yankees and it is obvious he might even take less money to stay in New York.
My guess is that unless they Yankees have received word that fellow free agent Xavier Nady could DH until his elbow is healed or Cashman plans to make offers to free agents Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, the Yankees should go out of their way to re-sign Matsui to a three-year deal.
Matsui simply has proven to be the best clutch hitter the Yankees have and that is something you do not really notice it is missing until it is gone. 
As for Damon, you have to give him credit for proving Red Sox “Genius” GM Theo Epstein wrong. Epsteain refused to give Damon a four-year deal because Epstein said he doubted Damon could remain healthy and productive over four seasons.
All Damon has dome in his four seasons in the Bronx is play 141 or more games in all four seasons and he has averaged 19 home runs, 74 RBIs and batted .285. This season, shifted to the No. 2 spot in the batting order, Damon tied his career high with 24 home runs, drove in 82 runs and hit .282.
Because he batted behind Derek Jeter, Damon did not run as much as in years past but he did steal 12 bases and was not thrown out once. He also made the baseball history books for a pair of steals he made on the Phillies in Game 3 that sparked a three-run rally to give the Yankees a critical victory.
Consistency is one of Damon’s hallmarks but he proved with his daring dash to third against the Phillies he was a heady player too. 
Will the Yankees want him back in 2010?
One big problem with Damon is his chronic calf problems. Had there been a Game 7 of the World Series, Damon would have been watching it from the dugout because he pulled a calf muscle in Game 6. Health for Damon at age 36 is a concern even with the fact he has been on the disabled list only once in his career.
There also is the arm issue. Damon’s arm in left is a liability to the Yankees. Teams run at will on him and there just isn’t much the Yankees can do to disguise it. Manager Joe Girardi does like to shift Melky Cabrera over from center and use Brett Gardner in center to tighten the defense. But has Cashman decided Gardner is ready for full-time duty in center?
Or will he return Matsui to left and let Damon walk as a free agent?
My guess is because the Yankees appear to be more sure of Damon’s health than with Matsui’s, they are leaning in keeping Damon — if they can afford it.
One big problem is Damon’s agent, the infamous Scott Boras, is seeking a four-year deal citing previous four-year deals given to Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera at a similar stage. I do not pretend to know what Cashman is thinking but one thing I do know is there is no way Damon will get another four-year contract from the Yankees.
If he can settle for a two-year deal with a club option for a third I think Damon can be brought back into the fold. I think it would be wise for the Yankees to do so because Damon is a tough, disciplined hitter and he fits in perfectly hitting in front of Mark Teixeira and Rodriguez.
Matsui and Damon combined for 52 home runs and 172 RBIs last season. Unless the Yankees have an outfielder and DH laying around somewhere who can do the same things, I think it would wise for Cashman to bring both of these players back in 2010.
At the very least, Matsui should be brought back because of his value as a No. 5 hitter. There are options to replace Damon considering Gardner is younger, faster and has potential. But the Yankees better make darn sure Gardner is ready.
They also have their No. 1 player in the minor leagues, Austin Jackson, waiting in the wings but he ma
y be a year away from being ready.
So the Damon-Matsui decisions may be the most critical ones for Cashman. The fate of the 2010 could hang in the balance.

Nady Would Only Have Value To Yanks If Matsui Walks


The champagne has flowed, the parade down the Canyon on Heroes is over and now the New York Yankees must make the difficult decisions about what to do about the roster for 2010. What free agents should they keep and who should they let go. The choices made this winter will affect the team’s chances to repeat as champions. Let’s examine these choices one by one and see what General Manager Brian Cashman and his staff may be weighing before the first warrmup toss is made in Tampa this spring.


PART 3: XAVIER NADY

The X-Man. The Forgotten Yankee.
I don’t doubt there are some Yankee fans who did not know he was still on the 40-man roster. But Xavier Nady remains one of the most intriguing free agents the Yankees have to decide upon this winter.
For one thing, Nady was obtained ostensibly to provide right-hand power to the Yankees when he was acquired along with Damaso Marte from the Pirates in 2008. I would say that Nady delivered on that. 
In 2008, Nady had one of his best major-league seasons, hitting a career-best .305 with 25 home runs and 97 RBIs combined between Pittsburgh and New York. It was this breakout season that allowed General Manager Brian Cashman to let rightfielder Bobby Abreu walk and clear $16 million off the payroll.
Nady was supposed to be the replacement for Abreu in right as spring training approached. Then, after Mark Teixeira was signed to 10-year free-agent contract to play first base, Nick Swisher was thrust into a potential platoon in rightfield with Nady.
But Swisher lost even a part-time job in spring training to Nady and the X-Man was primed for a big season batting sixth in the Yankees batting order. Unfortunately for Nady, his season lasted for just seven games and 28 at-bats.
Making a throw from rightfield at Tropicana Field on April 14, Nady felt a pop in his right elbow. Because he had previous surgery on the same elbow, Nady knew exactly what it meant when he came out of the game: He had torn a ligament again.
However, Nady did not immediately undergo Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery. He elected to try to rehabilitate the elbow through rest and therapy. He did it because he thought he could possibly help the Yankees in the playoff chase down the stretch and he wanted to be a part of it.
He did this realizing that if the rehab program failed his value as a free agent would plummet because the surgery and subsequent work to get the elbow in shape would take more than a year and that would mean he would not be able to begin the season with any team.
As an indication on how unlucky Nady could possibly be that is exactly what happened to him. In a rehab stint at Triple-A Scranton, Nady felt pain in the arm and immediately left the field knowing he had to make a date with a surgeon for his second Tommy John surgery.
The thought immediately among Yankee fans was that Nady’s stint with the Yankees is over. Nady just turned 31 and he has played in five full major-league seasons and parts of three others. He has 87 home runs and is a career .280 hitter.
But out of Nady’s misfortune Swisher emerged at the team’s rightfielder and he pleased the team with a wonderful comeback season in 2009. He hit 29 home runs and drove in 82 runs in batting .249. But the low ba
tting average was misleading, Swisher drew 97 walks and had an on-base percentage of .371.
This was coming on the heels of a season where he hit 24 home runs and drove 69 runs but hit an atrocious .219 for the Chicago White Sox. Cashman saw enough in Swisher to trade infield reserve Wilson Betemit to the Chisox for him. 
That trade ended up being one of the “steals” of the 2009 season. Betemit hardly played with the White Sox and eventually was shipped to the minor leagues. Swisher simply saved the Yankees’ season when he replaced Nady as the team’s regular rightfielder.
But now does Cashman bring back Nady? Does he even make him an offer?
The answer to this question is tricky for the Yankees. One of the reasons is because the Yankees have two other veteran outfielders on the free-agent market: Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon. You add Nady to this pair and this could be some team’s starting outfield in 2010 and it would be a real good one.
The other aspect that makes a decision on Nady tricky is because the top free agents available this winter include outfielders Matt Holliday and Jason Bay. Both will be seeking big money and there are teams out there willing to pay it.
That makes Nady a nice little bargain for a small market team who can’t afford Holliday or Bay and are willing to wait out his rehab period. For teams looking beyond 2010, Nady could be a nice pickup as protection for a team that has only one big longball threat. He also would have value particularly with American League clubs who could afford to let him DH when he is able to play in 2010.
I would caution Cashman to be very careful before making an arbitrary decision to cut Nady loose. I would not do it unless I had decided to re-sign Matsui. 
Here is the reason why: There is only one player on the Yankees’ current roster who can bat fifth behind Alex Rodriguez and hit more 20 home runs, drive in 100 runs and hit .290.  That is Matsui. But, if the decision has been made to let Matsui walk, the Yankees should consider signing Nady as a cheaper alternative.
If they don’t they will have to rely on Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano or Swisher to “protect” A-Rod. OK, let’s say you are a major-league pitcher. Would you be more likely to pitch to A-Rod knowing Matsui or Nady is on deck? Or would you tend to pitch around A-Rod to face Posada, Cano or Swisher?
See my point.
Nady’s value to the Yankees will go up if Matsui leaves as a free agent. He still could be a bargain pickup even with Matsui on the roster. But the Yankees will have much less of a need for Nady with Matsui back.
But give Nady credit for loyalty to the Yankees. The question is should Cashman reward it? I say he should if Matsui is allowed to sign elsewhere. I think Nady’s bat still has some pop and he can be a valuable addition to any team he signs with.
The X-Man looks to be ready for a comeback and he really deserves it after his luckless 2009.

Yankees Unlikely To Offer Contracts To Hairston, Hinske



The champagne has flowed, the parade down the Canyon on Heroes is over and now the New York Yankees must make the difficult decisions about what to do about the roster for 2010. What free agents should they keep and who should they let go. The choices made this winter will affect the team’s chances to repeat as champions. Let’s examine these choices one by one and see what General Manager Brian Cashman and his staff may be weighing before the first warrmup toss is made in Tampa this spring.


PART 2: ERIC HINSKE AND JERRY HAIRSTON JR.

Yankee fans may forget that the Yankees began the 2009 season with a bench comprised of Jose Molina, Brett Gardner, Angel Berroa and Melky Cabrera. Brett Gardner was starting in centerfield and Cody Ransom was filling in for an injured Alex Rodriguez at third base.
By the time the season reached the trade deadline, General Manager Brian Cashman added veterans Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston Jr. to the team to strengthen the bench.
Both paid immediate dividends. 
Hinske hit five home runs in his first 21 at-bats with the Yankees after coming over in a deal in July with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Though he only hit two more home runs the rest of the season, Hinske provided a veteran power bat off the bench and he played the corner outfield spots and third base.
Hairston, who is capable of playing every spot in the field except pitcher, hit .237 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 45 games with the Yankees after being acquired from the Cincinnati Reds at the July 31st trade deadline. He also filled in at all three outfield spots and at third, shortstop and second.
Hairston might have produced more with the bat but he was suffering from a painful left wrist injury that he tweaked late in the season with the Yankees. In the playoffs he contributed a key hit and scored the winning run in the 13th inning of Game 2 of the AL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Angels.
Both Hinske and Hairston are free agents and Cashman must decide whether to offer them contracts to return.
In Hinske’s case, it is unlikely that he will be offered a deal to come back unless the Yankees can get him at a huge discount. The Yankees have options at the minor-league level with left-hand hitting first baseman Juan Miranda and right-hand hitting Shelley Duncan, who can play the same positions as Hinske.
If the Yankees are not satisfied with their bench options this spring, they can always hit the free-agent or trade markets and land a veteran bat like Hinske.
Hairston is another story. Because he can hit for average and run and he plays good defense at any position he is asked to play, he has some value to the Yankees.
With Ransom and Berroa out of the picture now because they both failed to deliver any offense subbing for A-Rod, the Yankees do have Ramiro Pena to play third, short and second, however, he is not considered capable enough to play the outfield.
The Yankees sent him back to Triple-A Scranton during last season and asked him to try playing centerfield, but it is doubtful Pena will rise to the level of versatility that Hairston has reached.
Hairston has also played 12 seasons in the major leagues without playing for a championship team until last season. So Hairston might be willing to come back to the Yankees for a chance to win another title.
But whether he would sacrifice some dollars elsewhere to do that is a question mark.
Cashman would love for a homegrown player like Pena to stick with the Yankees as a reserve. Pena did hit .287 with one home run and 10 RBIs in 69 games in 2009. He also swiped four bases.
So the decision Cashman will make comes down to whether he feels the Yankees have enough outfielders to able to allow Hairston to go in favor of Pena.
My sense is that Cashman will elect to do that and Hairston would only return if he does not receive an offer from another team and would be willing to take a pay cut to rejoin the Yankees. That is the only scenario where I see Hairston coming back.
Given Hairston’s ability to play so many positions, the likelihood of him receiving no competitive offers from other teams is extremely unlikely.
So it is more than likely that both Hairston and Hinske will not be back with the Yankees next season. And, of the two, Hairston would be the only one the Yankees might be interested in keeping.

Cervelli Catching On Likely Means Molina Will Go

The champagne has flowed, the parade down the Canyon on Heroes is over and now the New York Yankees must make the difficult decisions about what to do about the roster for 2010. What free agents should they keep and who should they let go. The choices made this winter will affect the team’s chances to repeat as champions. Let’s examine these choices one by one and see what General Manager Brian Cashman and his staff may be weighing before the first warrmup toss is made in Tampa this spring.


PART 1: JOSE MOLINA

Molina is 34 and he has been in the major leagues since 1999. When the Yankees acquired him from the Angels during the 2007 season the Yankees knew what they were getting: an excellent defensive catcher, a good game-caller and a backup catcher with a cannon for a right arm. The fact that he was not much of a hitter did not deter the Yankees because they had Jorge Posada to do the hitting.
In his two and a half seasons with the Yankees, Molina has hit .229 with five home runs, 48 RBIs and even two stolen bases! You can look it up. He stole two bases in 2007. Since he may be one of the slowest runners in baseball we may want to keep the identities of the two catchers he stole on a secret.
But, make no mistake about it, Molina’s defensive and throwing credentials have always been his calling card. There is no doubt the Yankees are pleased with what he provided when Posada was rested or hurt, as Posada was throughout most of 2008.
But two things happened to Molina in 2009. No. 1, he injured a quad muscle running the bases on May 7 in a game against Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium. Posada had injured a hamstring running the bases on May 4 against Boston on the same field.
The Yankees were suddenly without either of their catchers for at least three weeks. The Yankees recalled veteran catcher Kevin Cash from Triple-A and rookie Francisco Cervelli from Double-A to fill the void.
The funny thing is that Cervelli not only hit well during that period, he also called a good game and showed off a pretty good arm too. Cervelli hit .300 even though he was hitting only .190 in Double A.
He also drew praise from pitchers like CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte for calling a good game and looking like he belonged in the big leagues.
Posada returned to the lineup May 29 but Cervelli remained as his backup. The veteran Cash was sent back to Triple A. Molina’s quad injury took him two months to heal. So Cervelli got more starts as Posada’s backup. So Molina’s injury led to No. 2: Cervelli establishing himself at age 23 as a creditable backup to Posada.
When Molina returned on July 7, Cervelli completed his first tour with the Yankees with a .269 average, one home run and nine RBIs. The home run actually came at a key moment in a game against the Atlanta Braves and led to a come-from-behind victory that sparked a long winning streak for the Yankees.
Cervelli came back when the rosters expanded in September and finished his brief 2009 season with a .298 average and even made the postseason roster for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
So Cashman must now weigh whether it is just the right thing to do to bring Molina back as Posada’s backup out of loyalty and reward Molina for his great work behind the plate. 
One thing in Molina’s favor is that he became the personal catcher of A.J. Burnett in September and throughout the playoffs after Burnett gave up nine runs in five innings in disastrous start that Posada caught on Aug. 22 at Fenway Park.
But Cervelli is 11 years younger, is a better hitter (though mainly just a singles hitter) and just a shade behind Molina defensively. Cervelli also can run a little bit because he originally came up as an infielder.
This decision will determine the look of next year’s team because it has an impact on deciding on whether the Yankees are going to get “younger” and trim payroll as Cashman has wanted to do for many years.
Don’t get me wrong, the Yankees, by and large, will remain a veteran team with the likes of Posada, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez around. But the sprinkling in of Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, Joba Chamberlain, Brett Gardner and Phil Hughes to replace veterans is also taking place.
Cervelli is one of the Yankees’ own. He is a product of their minor league system. Though the future of the catching position after Posada retires likely rests in the hands of the development of minor league catching stars Jesus Montero and Austin Romine, Cervelli may actually provide a nice bridge between the two.
That is what is Cashman is weighing before deciding whether to contact Molina and make him an offer on a new contract.
My sense is that Cashman and the Yankees will likely decide to let Molina go on the free-agent market and they will elect not to re-sign him for 2010. Cervelli has showed enough ability to handle the defensive aspects of the game and he provides a bit more offensively to warrant a promotion to the major-league roster as the Yankees’ backup catcher.
He kills a lot of birds with a single stone and, for those reasons, I think he has earned the job. Molina will get many offers from other teams who lack a quality backup. So he will flourish in a new environment.
Meanwhile, expect Cervelli to shine in the role he was meant to play. 
“Sometimes, for one person to shine, something has to happen to someone else,” Yankees bench coach Tony Pena said earlier this season. “Defensively, Francisco Cervelli is as good as any other catcher. There are very few catchers who can move behind the plate the way Francisco Cervelli moves.”



Five Reasons Why the Yankees Won and the Phillies Lost

I hate to say I told you so but I did tell you so. In my World Series preview post on Oct.28 I predicted the Yankees would win in six games. I also said they would win with their superior pitching. That prediction was an honest one and now let’s look a little deeper for the main reasons why the Yankees beat the Phillies.


No. 1: STARTING PITCHING

In my preview I wrote this:
“Neither the Rockies or the Dodgers have a pitcher of the caliber of CC Sabathia or can boast of a more experienced postseason pitcher than Andy Pettitte.  In contrast, the Yankees might struggle some with Cliff Lee but they could feast on Pedro Martinez, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton.”

This is exactly what happened. Lee was 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in the series. Hamels, Martinez and Blanton were a combined 0-3 with a 7.08 ERA. I don’t think I have seen such a great team like the Phillies get this far in the postseason with basically one competent pitcher. But they did.
The Yankees’ trio of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte were 3-2 with an ERA of 4.46. Those numbers may not seem dominant but in the games Lee did not pitch, the Yankee starters were better than the pitcher they faced.
I also wrote this about Pedro Martinez:
Pedro Martinez did pitch well in his only start in the postseason. He went seven innings in a no-decision the Phillies eventually lost to the Dodgers in Game 2. He has the ability to shut down the Yankees. But he also has been beaten many times by the Yankees in the past. Hideki Matsui, Pedro? Remember him?

I don’t think Pedro wants to see Hideki Matsui in the batter’s box ever again after Wednesday night.
Starting pitching is a key in any series and, though none of the three Yankees’ starters pitched  great on short rest, they pitched well enough to expose the weakness in the depth of the Phillies’ starters.
No. 2: RYAN HOWARD

Someone told me there was this huge first baseman for the Phillies who hit mammoth home runs and was an MVP. I wonder what happened to him because I did not see him. I did see a big guy who hit one home run, drove in three runs and hit .174 with 13 strikeouts in 23 at-bats. But that could not have been Howard. Could it?
Unfortunately, for the Phillies, it was Howard. Though Pettitte gave up an “Oh, by the way” two-run home run to Howard in Game 6, he was MIA throughout this series because the Yankee lefties pitched him consistently outside and made Howard chase pitches out of the strike zone.
Of course, Howard was not the only problem with the Phillies’ offense. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino combined to go 9-for-45 (.200). That is why Chase Utley hit five home but only had eight RBIs. 
No. 3: THE BULLPEN

I wrote the following in my preview:
By miles. Not inches but miles, the Yankees bullpen is better than the Phillies. It could be the one key reason, the Yankees are favored to win the series. The fact that only Cliff Lee can possibly give the enough length in his starts to cover up the Phillies deficiencies in the bullpen is quite telling. The Yankees simply feast off middle relievers and shaky closers. Just ask Joe Nathan of the Twins and Brian Fuentes of the Angels. I would not want to be Brad Lidge in this World Series.

The Phillies’ bullpen gave up three earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game 3 and Brad Lidge absolutely imploded as I predicted in the ninth inning of Game 4. Chad Durbin did not help Martinez much by giving up three runs in one-third of an inning in Game 6. So in three of the four defeats, the Phillies’ bullpen did not get the job done.
The Yankees on the other hand got 5 1/3 scoreless innings and two saves from Mariano Rivera. Lefty specialist Damaso Marte retired all eight batters he faced. The rest of the bullpen pitched 10 2/3 innings and that was not to expose the weakness here with Phil Hughes struggling. Give manager Joe Girardi credit. He used his bullpen wisely and it was far superior to the Phillies.

No. 4: THE DH FACTOR

This is not just because Hideki Matsui was named the Series MVP and was 8-for-12 with three home runs and 12 RBIs despite not starting in half the games. Nope. This is also because Matsui was a factor in this series and Matt Stairs was not.
Stairs is another Phillies power threat from the left side. But because lefthanders Sabathia and Pettitte started four of the six games, Stairs only started Game 2 as a DH. He singled in a run in his first at-bat. But he was 0-for-7 after that and was not a factor the rest of the way.
Ben Francisco started two games and was 0-for-7. So the Phillies got absolutely nothing from their bench and Stairs was neutralized by the fact he could not hit lefties well enough to allow manager Charlie Manuel to start him.
No. 5: INTANGIBLES

I warned Manuel about this in my preview:
As long as they have Derek Jeter, they have a chance to turn one slight mistake into a play that can turn a series. You know the Twins and Angels came into the playoffs as two of the most fundamentally sound teams in baseball. Look what happened to them. The Yankees just have a way of waiting for a team to make a mistake and jumping all over it.

Well, even if Manuel had read this, it would not have mattered. But the game-changing and series-changing play was the great at-bat Johnny Damon put on poor Brad Lidge in the ninth inning of Game 4 and the decision to swipe third on Pedro Feliz because the Phillies had no one covering third.
OK, quibble that it took A-Rod’s hit to score him. But, remember this: Damon’s presence at third made Lidge throw fastballs, which is his second best pitch. A-Rod got a fastball to hit because Damon’s daring dash, which could go down in history as the smartest play in World Series history, made Lidge ditch his devastating slider.
You just did not see the Yankees beating themselves at all this postseason but you sure as heck have seen them take advantage of a litany of blunders by the Twins, Angels and now the Phillies. That is no accident either. Good teams do this.
That is just five reasons why the Yankees are the 2009 world champions.
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