Monday, December 13, 2004

Yankees and pitching -- how the Mets screwed all other teams

Problem Number One in all baseball contracts of any significance (major-league multi-year deals) is that they are guaranteed. That means that no matter how useless the steroidal freak, limp-armed wuss, or injury-prone stiff (two words: Cliff Floyd) is during the course of the contract, he still gets every nickel the owners contracted to pay him. That's why Albert Belle was a $13M/year albatross on the Orioles for 2.5 years -- his degenerative hip ended his career and the O's had to pay him $30M+ to go home and sit on his rear. That's why the Rockies are going to be reeling from their moronic signing of Mike Hampton (120M/8 years) until 2008 and it's why the Yanks are trying desperately to shed Giambi's contract on various technicalities.

Problem Number Two is the stupid f---ing contract problem. This is exemplified by the Red Sawx sheling out 26M/4 to Jose Offerman during the '98-'99 offseason, the 32M/4 the Mess gave Al Leiter after 1997 (their faith was rewarded, but Leiter's track record didn't warrant that deal), the 15M/per the Dodgers gave Kevin Brown and the preposterous $55M/5 that the Dodgers gave the occasionally healthy Darren Dreifort. And don't get me started on how imbecilic the D'Backs were to sign Troy Glaus for 45M/4 considering his injury history and their own level of sucking.

This year, the Mess screwed every other major league team by shelling out $22.5M/3 to Kris Benson. That's the same Kris Benson whose ERA and homerun frequency got WORSE after moving from decent hitter-park PNC Field in Pittsburgh to the pitcher-friendly Shea Stadium and the pitcher-friendly NL East (crap offenses and pitchers' parks everywhere but Philly). The Benson deal set the market benchmark, and set it too high. And the fallout is everywhere: Russ Ortiz (too many walks, too many HRs, going to crap team in hitters' park) to the D'Backs for 33M/4; David Wells to the BloSax for 16M/2 (injuries galore); Jaret Wright to the Yanks for 21M/3 (injury history, history of brain farts); Jon Lieber to the Phils for 21M/3 (injury history, hitters' park). And that's just the beginning. Wait until Matt Clement, Kevin Millwood, Odalis Perez and Eric Milton sign. What an offseason for the midlevel pitchers who've shown flashes of brilliance without sustaining it (Wells is the exception).

The Mess offer to Benson resulted in the Yanks losing Lieber -- their second-best pitcher last year. Now the Yanks have scrambled around to try to ape the '03 Marlins and win by Peter Gammons' favorite staff characteristic: YPAs -- Young Power Arms. Hence, their pursuit and signing of Wright -- who once threw a constant 97+ and now is consistently 93-95 but has an injury history longer than my arm and has been a mental midget on too many occasions in the past. Hence, the Yanks' pursuit and imminent signing of Carl Pavano, who generally throws hard and low (more grounders than flyballs) and hence their pursuit of Milton who throws hard and high (thus, his ridiculous ERA of 4.75 and his high homerun total).

I like Pavano because he has guts and because his career arc seems to follow some other pitchers who reached their peaks in their late 20s after injuries and some fits and starts (most notable = Leiter). But a Yankee defense with Tony Womack and Giambi (yipes) on the right side of the infield, a year-long diet of AL hitters and a friendlier hitters' park will mean a tougher adjustment ON PAPER than Javy Vazquez seemed to have (and Javy is a better strikeout pitcher). Thankfully, Pavano doesn't walk anyone and doesn't give up a lot of dingers. Hopefully Pavano will keep his head on straight, which Vazquez failed to do, and the ball in the yard.

I like the THOUGHT of Wright at his peak, but coughing up 21M guaranteed to this guy is questionable at best, stupid at worst. Always be wary of a guy coming off one aberrationally GOOD year. And Wright fits that description perfectly.

Milton is useless and the Yanks are idiots if they sign him. He had a ridiculous ERA and homer total in the NATIONAL LEAGUE where every pitcher gets a break for 22% of the opposing lineup because all the 8th-place hitters suck and the pitchers bat. Milton wants 33M/4 and I only hope he overplays his hand and the Yanks look elsewhere. If the Yanks need a lefty starter to get lefties out that badly, invest time and energy into Brad Halsey who is in their system and shut down lefties in his last callup.

Or better yet, work a deal with Toronto to get Ted Lilly back. Lilly is a RedSawx killer with a decent track record and has performed well in the playoffs. He's also a lefty with a quirky delivery that messes up lefty hitters, and is a strikeout pitcher.

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