Friday, December 09, 2005

Sans Stats

I was going to skip Sans Stats today, mainly because I’ve been linking to other articles and commenting on them all week. But that was for baseball’s Winter Meetings, and Sans Stats does not discriminate the sports. Everyone will be ripped on equally, and that goes doubly for ESPN’s Skip Bayless.

Honestly, there is no question in my mind as to Bayless’s stupidity and his rank as the absolute worst sportswriter I have ever read. But his latest article (which I am very reluctant to link to) makes me want to gouge out my eyeballs with a screwdriver – phillips head, of course. In this article, he makes quite a bold statement: the Colts are going undefeated, and the only team that can stop them are the Bengals. Or at least that’s what he implies.

What are the consequences if Bayless is wrong? None, of course, since he only implies that the Colts are going undefeated. He never actually says those concrete words, though he is by his own admittance a wimp. Couldn’t agree more, Skip. And what makes him more of a wimp is the cop-out to end his column:

Better judgment: "Be a man. Predict the Bengals will be the first and last team to beat this year's Colts, on Jan. 22."

Inner wimp: "I have a headache. I'll finish this column later."

Are you kidding me? A column full of “Bengals are great, Bengals are great, they can beat the Colts, I want to perform fellatio on Chad Johnson,” and all we get is a non-ending like this? ESPN pays this guy?

First of all, I think predictions like this are friggin’ stupid, especially coming from a sportswriter. If Chad Johnson wants to say the Bengals will score 40 points a game and land in the Super Bowl, that’s his prerogative. But for a hack like Bayless to make half a prediction, and kind of back off it is just inexcusable. In fact, that’s why the column is so bad: there is absolutely no point to it. If he’s trying to be bold and make a prediction, he failed because he never actually said it.

I’m not a Cold Pizza watcher, mainly because I try to avoid all ESPN content except games and the occasional Sports Center. But I might be inclined to tune in on Monday morning if the Jaguars knock off the Colts on Sunday, which is well within the realm of possibility. I know Woody Paige (who isn’t a genius himself) will call him out on it, and it will be interesting to hear Bayless’s defense of his ambiguous column. Actually, it will probably be just that: “the column was ambiguous, Woody. I never actually said that the Bengals were the only team that could beat the Colts, I just said there’s a good chance it will turn out that way.”

In which case I will turn off the TV and lose all respect for ESPN. Not that I have a ton left, anyway.

Down in sunny F-L-A, Mainland High School is entrenched in controversy over plans to erect a statue of alum Vince Carter.

“There have been many students graduated from that school who have made wonderful contributions to their fellow man — in science, health, theater. Where are their statues?" Board member Judy Conte asked, to which she added, “Plus, he’s a dick. Why do we want a statue of a dick in front of our school?”

Carter made plenty of headlines last season, after allegedly dogging it for the Toronto Raptors, which forced them into a trade with the New Jersey Nets. In exchange for Carter, the Raptors received 40 acres and a mule.

I think people are missing the real point here. Per, “The sculpture will feature his image holding a basketball and two children at opposite ends of a granite footbridge.” Wait, wait, we need to back this one up. Children? The statue is going to feature Carter with children? I think the important question to ask here is: would you trust Vince Carter with your children?

Apparently Vince plans to open a youth basketball clinic at the gymnasium, where he’ll teach children that if you bitch and moan enough, you’ll get your way.
(That’s some pretty terrible advice. Well, he’s a pretty terrible citizen).

Manny Ramirez’s house is on the market, reportedly for $6.9 million. Some real estate brokers think this is too steep an investment, which means this could just be a publicity ploy. If Ramirez fetches the near $7 mil and ends up staying with the Red Sox, he could easily find a place at a better price and wind up making a pretty penny from the sale.

Chances are, however, that he will neither see the $6.9 million nor be traded from the Red Sox. There are very few suitors left for Ramirez, none of which could offer compensation that would nearly make up for Ramirez’s bat. Though, if the situation becomes dire, they know Omar Minaya will always be ready with a Lastings Milledge package.

Over in the NFL, New Orleans/San Antonio/Baton Rouge Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks threatened to quit if the team moved one more time. No, I’m serious. Here’s the quote, if you don’t believe me:

"We move one more time and I'm quitting."

So many elementary school jokes to make here, and they’re all so good. To use one would be an insult to the rest. At least by making this…bold…statement, Brooks has ensured that he won’t land a starting gig next year – which inevitably means he’ll be picked up by the Jets.

And finally, the Idiots of the Week:

John Schuerholz – Marte for Renteria? Are you effing kidding me?
Mike Mularkey – For suspending Eric Moulds. Okay, so maybe Moulds deserved it, but it’s easier to blame Mularkey because he won’t be around next year.
J.P. Ricciardi – Obviously for Burnett. I heard somewhere that 1/6 of his strikeouts were the pitcher. Don’t know how accurate that is, but it makes me feel better.
Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette – for repeating the same mistake over and over again. Add bats when the pitching scene seems hopeless. Flip side of this award goes to Miguel Tejada, for being the smartest player in Orioles history, demanding to be traded.

And THE Idiot of the Week goes to: Matt Millen! It’s unanimous in Detroit.

It’s been real, and it’s been fun. But was it all real fun? Have a good weekend, folks.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Skinny On The Womack Deal

It is reported by Reds beat reporter Marc Lancaster that the compensation for Womack is Kevin Howard and Ben Himes. And, since I know jack about either of them, I can only find it appropriate to break down their minor league stats.

Let’s start with Himes, who plays the outfield (though I have no idea if that’s center or a corner). He split time in 2005 between the Class A Dayton Dragons and the Advanced A Sarasota Reds. And now it’s table time for Himes:


Not bad at all. It’s not exactly the largest sample size, but Himes should be starting for Trenton when the season starts. I’m very impressed with his isolated power digit, which came with the help of only nine home runs. Doubles and triples, my friend. His biggest weakness: way too many strikeouts per at bat. But we all know that’s something that can be worked on.

Paging Kevin Howard. Howard? Kevin Howard? He spent the entire 2005 season with the Chattanooga Lookouts, the Reds AA team, and also played for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. Table, table, table.


Decent year in AA, exceptional stint in the AFL. Kinda like Eric Duncan:

Grand Canyon94.362.423.734.061.37229

This has to make one wonder about Duncan’s actual trade value. Howard had a better regular season than Duncan (at the same level), a slightly less stellar AFL season, and was traded with someone else for Tony Womack.

So I don’t think the Yanks did all that bad in this move. They acquired a 24-year-old second baseman (Howard) and a 24-year-old outfielder (Himes) for essentially nobody. If they develop well, they could be used as further trade bait, or hell, maybe even play a backup role on the major league team. I’m just glad the Yankees reeled in some prospects rather than dishing them out.

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, the Yankees neither took anyone nor lost anyone in the Rule 5 draft, which was held on Thursday.

More Winter Meetings notes as they come in.

Winter Meetings: Thursday

Updated: 4:15 p.m.
Yanks Land LOOGY Myers

Well, at least this came after the Red Sox declined to offer him arbitration, thus not costing any draft picks. Could have been better (Rincon), could have been worse (no one). I'm decidedly on the fence with this one.

Tigers Land Lefty Rogers, Closer Jones

Two links there. So the Troy Percival experiment is seemingly over, though the Tigers could make good use of both him and Jones in late innings. I've grown to like Todd Jones, mainly because my buddy Andy always hypes him up. He was also part of our MVP Baseball Dodgers dynasty, so he has an automatic soft spot with me.

As for Kenny Rogers, well, someone was going to pick him up for sure, and the Tigers were as logical a choice as any. Sean Douglass is probably the odd man out of the rotation at this point, which is shaping up to look like this: Bonderman, Rogers, Johnson, Robertson, Maroth (though not necessarily in that order). Not great, but not shabby either. I guess Carl Pavano won't be headed there after all.

Mets Close to Deal for Franco

No, not John, but a Franco of the Julio type. I like this signing, as the Mets are now adding depth to their heavy lineup. Now if they can just find an adequate second baseman. Tony Graffanino, anyone?

O's Snag Catcher Hernandez

This surely pushes Javy Lopez to the DH slot, further solifying the Orioles offense. Why I'm not scared: they add offense every year, and every year they have a gaping hole in the pitching department, which has become exacerbated by losing B.J. Ryan.

I'm not so high on Ramon Hernandez ever since watching his at bat in the bottom of the ninth in Game One of the NLDS. Three pitches that were at least a foot outside, three times he swung blindly.

Woo Hoo!!!!

Yep, Tony Womack is gone, headed Cincinnati way. What will the Yanks get in return? Unknown at this point, but I think a souveneir baseball will do the trick.

45.6 Percent of "Sports Nation" Retarded

I'll have to update this link, since those Sports Nation polls get moved frequently. But 45.6 percent of repondents said that they enjoy hot-stove season more than the regular season. These people obviously watch "Trading Spouses" and just plain hate baseball. How can you enjoy people switching teams more than watching those players actually play the game? Have we all gone bonkers? How could that poll be so close?

And if I offended anyone with that last paragraph, eff you. Watch the friggin' games. Otherwise, what's the point?

Renteria to Braves for Marte

Rumors were abound with this one, and it has finally come true. The Red Sox has effectively shored up their defense by subtracting 30 errors, and the Braves have filled the hole left by Rafael Furcal with a esser player.

Marte doesn't look quite major-league ready and could spend the bulk of 2006 in Pawtucket. He just recently turned 22, so there's plenty of time for him to come around, especially considering the Red Sox still have Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell, who both could be dangled as trade bait at this point.

But the question now is: who will start at short for the Red Sox? They dished their #1 guy, Hanley Ramirez, in the Josh Beckett deal, effectively leaving them with no one in the six hole. More on this as it develops.

Bernie Backy, Baby!

The Bergen Record is reporting that the Yankees and Bernie Williams have agreed in principle on a one-year, $2 million contract. Now, hit those weights, Bern, and let's see if you can't provide some of that coveted coverage in center field.

Soriano to...Nats? Wilkerson, Sledge, Minor Leaguer Compensation

Well, I think we can safely say no one saw that one coming. Wilkerson was one of the guys I liked for the job in the Bronx, but it appears he'll stick in Texas, thus a trade of Kevin Mench is a near certainty.

I don't know much about Terrmel Sledge, other than the fact that I discovered him playing MVP Baseball 2005. He had a decent offering in 2004 before spending most of 2005 on the DL. Obviously, his name is his selling point.

This still doesn't look like the kind of package Texas had previously been seeking for Sori, but that's what happens when your options turn to squat. The Twins got Castilla, the Red Sox got Loretta, the Pads are turning their attention to Nomar, and the Mets seem more interested in Grundzielanek.

The article further mentions that he'd move to left field. Good luck.

As Predicted, Overbay Lands With Jays

Ricciardi wanted a bat, he got one. Though Overbay is no Manny, he still adds a bit of offense to the Jays for the 2006 campaign. And all it cost them was David Bush -- who isn't all that bad -- Gabe Gross -- who could come around if given at bats -- and a minor leaguer. Not a bad deal all around. At least I can't think of anything wise-ass to say. Well, except maybe, "Gross Bush Attracts Overbay."

Wickman Doesn't Mind Being Second Best

After the Indians failed in their bid for Trevor Hoffman, they quickly re-upped with closer Bob Wickman. Great feeling, isn't it, to know you weren't in the cards until Plan A fell though.

Oh, and my personal favorite:
Yanks Offer Bernie Arbitration

Surely he'll decline, but I'm glad they're still keeping the door open. Just remember, math majors, the equation is very simple. Bernie > Sierrra.

Also at the above link, you'll find that Frank Thomas, Braden Looper, Bengie Molina, Jarrod Washburn, Scott Hatteberg, Erubiel Durazo, Mike Piazza, and Octavio Dotel all weren't arbitration. My apologies in advance to Thomas and Piazza, who were once great, but the theme of Arbitration 2006 is obvious:
What? You're Friggin' Mediocre!

Oh, there will be more.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Winter Meetings: Wednesday

Update: 3:00 p.m.
Mirabelli for Loretta Near Completion

That certainly help beef up the Sox lineup. It also means Tony Graffanino will be available, though more likely as a starter than a utility man. Would I sign him and then trade Cano, Wang, and Hughes to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, as George King has offered up as a rumor? A hundred out of a hundred times. Too bad the Marlins would need a collective lobotomy in order for that deal to go through.

Braves Trade Backstop Estrada to D-Back for Relief

Lance Cormier and Oscar Villarreal are the guys headed to the ATL. Cormier, while young, has been atrocious in his one-plus years in the majors, posting low strikeout rates and high walk totals. His saving grace is the high hits per innings number, which many attribute to luck rather than hitters being able to mash the pitcher. I just think he serves up pitches prime for tattooing.

Villarreal had a stellar season at age 21, but has only pitched 31 2/3 innings in the anteceding two years. A gamble for sure, but he's only 24 at this point. Considering the Braves seemed a bit desperate to unload Estrada, this may work out for them.

Astros May Not Offer Clemens Arbitration

Ken Rosenthal points out that the Yankees may become immediately interested should this be the scenario. And you know what? If Clemens could be had on a one-year deal, I'd do it. Sure, he sort of double-crossed the Yanks by "retiring" and then coming back with the Astros. But he's proven that he can still chuck the ball, and could be an excellent complement to Randy Johnson. Plus, it makes Carl Pavano more expendable, possibly netting a center fielder like Jeremy Reed or some much needed bullpen help.

Of course, this is quite a long shot, as I would expect Clemens to retire if he's not back with the Astros next season.

Cubs Close To Deal For Pierre

Looks like they'll part ways with Sergio Mitre and another pitching prospect to get the deal done. I guess that's the luxury of having a slew of young arms. I would imagine that if this deal was consummated, the Prior for Abreu trade (as ridiculous as it already is) would be dead.

Phils Still Talking Abreu, Dodgers Offer Penny, Lowe

That's Penny OR Lowe, for those of you confused by my headline writing. This is a bit perplexing, since there were Prior for Abreu talks yesterday. Lowe and Penny aren't quite on the same level, and yet the Phils might be throwing in David Bell in this deal as well. Should Abreu end up in L.A., would that mean Bradley's departure is a certainty? Unless the Dodgers plan to move J.D. Drew, I would say yes.

More Rumors of Damon to Yanks

Looks like he's not so enamored with the Red Sox and their three-year, $27 million offer. This situation conjures up images of Bernie after the 1998 season, though there is no Albert Belle that the Red Sox are pursuing (actually, they're looking to dump a Belle-esque player -- well, without the degenerative hip problem). Damon's interest in the Yanks could merely be a ploy to get Boston to up their offer.

I'll reiterate this: I wouldn't mind Damon on a three-year deal. Up it to four, and I'm right out.

Casey to Bucs for Lefty Williams

Looks like the Pirates may be staging a coup in the NL Central, bringing in another bat to complement Jason Bay. Plus, with Sean Burnett, Oliver Perez, and Zach Duke, Williams becomes expendable. Not like he's ever posted below the league average in his career, anyway. Mark Redman may be next (please, oh please send him to the Red Sox).

Red Sox Shopping Renteria

The proposed deal sends Julio Lugo to Boston, Renteria to Atlanta, and a prospect to Tampa Bay. Why don't the Braves just trade the prospect for Lugo? Do they seriously want Renteria more than Lugo?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Winter Meetings: Tuesday

Some stuff I’ve gathered from the Winter Meetings thus far.

Updated at 2:45
Nixon to the Bucs?
The Red Sox are also talking to the Pirates about a trade involving Trot Nixon for either Kip Wells or Mark Redman.

Yankees have to be crossing their fingers, stroking their rabbits feet, and praying to Pan the Goat God for this one to happen. But really, I don't see how it could, and if it did, I wouldn't count on Manny leaving town. Nixon is lethal against righties, which would put yet another hole in the Sox lineup. And then they'd go with a rotation of Beckett, Schilling, Wakefield, Arroyo/Clement, Wells/Redman?

And that's not to mention the Soriano for Manny rumors, which would send Clement out of town as well. Regardless, there is not one truly reliable pitcher in that rotation. And with the diminished offensive capabilities, the Sox may finish third this year to the Blue Jays. I'll undoubtedly do a detailed analysis of the Sox as soon as more develops on these situations.

It's Official: Burnett A Bird

I can only imagine the exchange between GM J.P. Ricciardi and owner Ted Rogers:
J.P.: Ted, I took your $102 million dollars down to the bank, and got it changed into quarters!
Ted: So?
J.P.: So now I can dump them into this little pool and swim in them all day long! Yeeeeeesssss! Ted's money!

Phils, Cubs Talk Prior For Abreu

Because when you have the chance to turn a 25-year-old who has proven he can pitch in the Bigs into a 31-year-old outfielder, you do it every time.

Mueller to Choose Pirates or Dodgers

Let’s see, perennial loser or team that has a chance to contend? Jack Wilson and Jason Bay, or Jeff Kent and Rafael Furcal? Something tells me that transitioning from the Sox to the Bucs might be a bit traumatic.

And what’s proving to be the biggest news…
Burnett, Jays Close To Deal

Five years, $55 million. Makes the Pavano deal seem reasonable by comparison.

Don’t worry, the Yanks are still making a few headlines.

Yanks Considering Nomar, Bernie

Neither would necessarily be a starter in the Bronx, but each would provide an invaluable service: quality men off the bench. The Yankees bench has been thin of late, and it certainly has hurt the team in recent seasons. But with adequate bench hitters like Bernie and Nomar, combined with the Dave Roberts-eqsue ability of Tony Womack, the Yanks might be in decent shape next year. That is, if they can land a guy to patrol center on a daily basis (see Jeremy Reed piece below).

More to come, surely, as it develops.

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

What I really want for Christmas this year is a plane ticket to the Winter Meetings in Dallas. That, and a miniaturization device so I can roam the premises and hear what the GMs are talking about. I know it’s a little more than I’ve asked for in previous years, but I also think that it would sate me more.


Seriously, what would be more interesting to a baseball lunatic than hearing the names being thrown around in the Lone Star State? I also would like to find out if teams deal differently with the Yankees than other teams like most of us highly suspect, but can’t exactly prove.

But really, I just want the inside scoop on what Cashman is doing to solve the center field conundrum. Rumors have been abound recently about a rejected deal with Seattle, in which they would send us young center fielder Jeremy Reed in exchange for Carl Pavano. I can understand why Cashman rejected it, but if I was him, I wouldn’t end the exploration of such an exchange.

Reed would be an ideal fit right now, mainly because he is young and has shown tremendous potential. He would be one of two youngsters among a group of veterans, which is usually a good combination. He could bat in the two hole or late in the order, expanding the flexibility of the Yanks lineup.

Just because I love pointing out potent statistics, here are Reed’s minor league numbers (Iso-D is isolated discipline, OBP minus average, just like Iso-P is isolated power, Slugging percentage minus batting average):

2002A - Kannapolis.319.377.448.018.129
2003A – Winston-Salem.333.431.477.098.144
2003AA – Birmingham.409.474.591.065.182
2004AAA – Charlotte.275.357.420.082.145
2004AAA – Tacoma.305.390.478.085.173

I have to say, those are quite impressive minor league numbers. The most important ones, in my opinion, are the isolated statistics. Hitting for average involves a certain degree of luck, hence the constant fluctuations of batting averages. But isolated statistics, most notably isolated discipline, try to curb that luck element a bit. For a bit of context, here are Reed’s numbers from his one full year in the majors.


Remember, these numbers were accumulated at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, which could be part of the reason for the diminished isolated power number. And while a .068 discipline mark isn’t exactly enamoring, it is a mark that can be improved upon. Not everyone comes up as a rookie with the ability to take pitches.

So it would appear that trading Pavano, an expendable asset, for Reed would make sense. So why did Cashman reject it? Well, I’m sure he’s not going to jump on anything on the eve of the Winter Meetings, a forum for him to find the best possible price for Pavano, if in fact he is on the market. And while Reed may end up being the optimal deal here, Cashman should be able to squeeze a prospect out of Seattle.

Remember, Reed went down with a wrist injury at the end of ’05. Any time there is an injured player involved in trade talks, the team receiving said player has a bit of leverage. I’ll refer to the Javy Vazquez deal, in which the Arizona brass wavered at the last minute over Javy’s injured shoulder, forcing the Yanks to throw Brad Halsey in on the deal. Quite a considerable throw-in, considering Halsey had some major league innings under his belt. I wouldn’t expect a throw-in of the same caliber from Seattle, but maybe something along the lines of an undervalued relief pitcher.

The biggest problem in acquiring Reed, however, is the reality that J-Wright will be in the starting rotation. I have been on the record saying that I wouldn’t mind him as a fifth starter, but the closer that becomes to a reality, the more nervous I get. Plus, it lessens the depth the Yankees have with starting pitching, which is as invaluable an asset as any. With the top of the rotation consisting of older, more injury prone guys, having sixth and seventh options could be integral to success in 2006.

Throwing another wrench into the problem, should Cashman shop around and find that Pavano for Reed is the best deal out there, he may have considerably less leverage by the end of the week. That would probably mean no throw-in player. Even so, the deal seems to make more sense than the other options being thrown around.

I’ll be following this issue blog-style (linking to media sources and commenting), as well as most of the Winter Meetings. Should be a good week…

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Johnny Damon Conundrum

From the Rhode Island Providence Journal:

There were unconfirmed reports last night that the Yankees had made Damon a three-year, $39-million offer.

That’s just an (unconfirmed) offer, one that Damon and agent Scott Boras could very well balk at. But the center field situation has become so dire that I’m actually pondering this one, which would pay Damon $13 million a season, the same amount for which Hideki Matsui recently re-signed.

I have been rather adamant in the past with my “please, no Damon!” campaign, but I have to stop and think about this deal. Really, it boils down to available funds. If Steinbrenner decides that he’s going to continue to pour money into personnel, I can see doing it. If, however, this brings the team anywhere near some unknown George Salary Cap, I would nix it in a second.

The luxury of being the Yankees means the ability to spend exorbitant amounts of money on players that other teams can’t afford. It means the team can take gambles on high-priced attractions.

At three years, Damon could be a worthwhile acquisition. He has plenty of upside, and the contract will expire when Damon turns 35, and by that time the team should have a good idea about the rate of his decline.

Chances are, though, that this deal will be rejected outright. Boras has been adamant in his stance that Damon deserves a seven-year deal, and likely will settle for nothing less than five. In that case, I couldn’t advocate signing him at all. But three years seems too enticing to just throw out the window (unless you’re my father, who doesn’t want Damon out of principle).

And you know what? I don’t want to inundate the Yankees roster with former Red Sox, either. But this is a solution to the center field problem that doesn’t involve sacrificing prospects (though it would mean a draft pick forfeited to the Sox, which is basically a prospect). There is little chance that Damon’s skills will diminish abruptly over the next three years. This is also a plus for the Melky fans out there, as this will give him adequate time to develop in the minors. He could enter the majors in the third year of Damon’s deal, a year in which management shouldn’t hesitate to give him some time in the outfield.

For the downside, once again, it could be payroll crippling. Remember, though, that Moose’s gi-normous contract comes off the books following this year, as does Sheffield’s (should the Yankees not exercise his option, which I figure they actually will by July). Actually, the only way I wouldn’t sign Damon to a 3-year, $39 million contract is if it would inhibit future spending. Period. Other than that, I think it could work.

And I know there are about a billion dissenters out there.

I Heart Anna Benson

Sorry, I just couldn’t lay off this one. There was an article in today’s Daily News about Kris Benson’s wife, who by the way is a hottie. Though it’s not as if the article failed to mention that fact. In fact, the only terms used to describe Anna Benson referred to her optimal face bone placement (and her smokin’ body).

Some reasons why I find Anna Benson amusing:

1) She threatened to sleep with the entire Mets team should she find her husband cheated on her. Come on, that’s hi-larious! Definitely conjures up images of Roger and Susan Dorn. Plus, doesn’t that count as incentive for free agents? If headlines broke that Kris has been caught cheating, don’t you think every free agent on the market would be submitting lowball offers to the Mets?

2) She called out Carlos Delgado for not standing during “God Bless America.” This wouldn’t be nearly as funny if Delgado hadn’t agreed to stand for the 7th inning favorite after he signed with the Mets.

3) She consistently stated that the Mets were trying to trade “us.” While I do find that assessment accurate, it’s not exactly like the Mets are in a war room trying to figure out what teams are interested in Anna Benson (all of them).

Quite honestly, I’d be a bit miffed if I was Kris. The last thing he needs at this point is his wife intervening in his professional life. If anything, Anna’s little diatribe will make dishing her husband a bit more of a priority. What, do you think the Mets brass wants to deal with publicity like this for an overpaid No. 3 starter? Surely not.

Moving from satire to a bit of analysis, it will be interesting to see if the Mets can deal Benson and what they can get for him, considering the similar pitchers being dangled at this point (Vazquez, Pavano, Clement). Reports are flowing through the mill that a Benson for Vazquez deal, but that deal would be all Diamondbacks. Remember, they are now obligated to trade Vazquez, and getting a similar pitcher for him straight up would be cause to rejoice. The Mets would just be swapping out Benson for a guy who sucked across town.

Honestly, if the Mets can’t add a viable 2nd/3rd starter, they should stick with Benson. The have an ace in Pedro, but beyond that is a series of question marks. Glavine can produce, but probably not over the duration of the season. Steve Trachsel will be available as a No. 4 guy, Heilman may be plugged into the rotation, and Jay Seo might finally get his shot, but all of these guys are far from sure things. Benson has shown flashes of a No. 2 starter, but most likely will be third in the rotation, which is ideal for him.

On Free Agency

Just like any other baseball fan, I’m always fascinated with off-season transactions. That’s mainly because I have an obsession with learning how to build a winning ball club. But being a fan of the Yankees is a unique experience in that regard, since there is always talk about the biggest free agents landing in the Bronx.

The Yankees modus operandi in seasons past has been to throw large chunks of money at the biggest free agents in order to eventually field a team of nine All-Stars. As we all know, that is no efficient way to build a baseball team.

The real question is: why not? The object is to win, and what would give a team a better chance of winning than fielding the very best at every position? This is where the intangible of team chemistry and guts come into play. It’s very difficult for a team that doesn’t get along to win. I know it has been done in the past, but it’s the exception, not the rule. But even more important than team chemistry, I think, is guts, and that’s ten fold when playing in New York.

Let me clarify this before moving on, as “guts” has an ambiguous connotation. You can label it what you will – intestinal fortitude, mental toughness, the desire to win at any cost. But in New York, it boils down to the ability to play baseball knowing that any string of bad luck will have you ostracized by the fans and the media.

Problem is, there is no empirical measure of guts. Other than interviews – which are usually directed by public relations officials – there is no real way to figure out if a guy has the guts to play in New York. We can all make conjectures, but they’re really nothing more than educated guesses.

Isn’t there some way we can figure out if a guy is going to perform in the Bronx? I’ve thought about this for many hours spanning many years, and only one idea has really stuck out to me.

Of course, I love signing big name free agents. It’s exciting, and it gives more hope for the following season. But, I wouldn’t want a player who signed with New York merely because they put the fattest contract under his nose. There has to be a desire to play in the spotlight of the Bronx.

So many players are motivated by a big payday that they’ll sign wherever they get the most cash. And since New York has a seemingly never-ending supply of green, it is the logical stopping point for many free agents. What happens when these guys sign deals is that they become content making millions, and their lack of desire is their downfall in New York.

This should mean a new approach to free agency for the Yanks. They should be offering market value contracts to all potential suitors, and avoid outbidding their adversary. That way, the deciding factor comes down to desire, and if they choose to sign on with New York for the same amount they were offered in Cleveland, there’s more of a chance that the guy is a gamer.

Of course, that means missing out on a few big names that might have turned up huge in New York. However, I believe that’s just the price of smart business. The team can’t be wondering “what if,” lest they get caught back up in the same game of outbidding everyone.

This idea would also discourage prospects-for-All Stars trades. Though they’re not a terrible idea, mortgaging the farm for guys who don’t necessarily want to play in New York shouldn’t be a common occurrence. Sometimes it’s Tino Martinez, sometimes it’s Ken Phelps. There is so much uncertainty involved in these transactions that they should be few and far between, and obviously highly scrutinized before consummation.

New York is a unique place to play ball, with all the tradition and intensity involved. So why not adopt a bit of policy from the Atlanta Braves, since it makes sense in the New York market? Why not hold on to draft picks (read: don’t go splurging on free agents) and make educated, Billy Beane-esque selections? And why not keep them together as a unit and instill them with the sense of Yankee pride?

There was a great article in the Sports Illustrated college basketball preview about Coach K and the “Duke Way.” It mainly dealt with the five incoming freshmen and them adapting to this style of team play that Coach K is famous for. Aren’t the Yankees in a similar boat? Isn’t the “Duke Way” similar to “Yankee Pride?” If Coach K can get his team to fight and die for each other because of tradition, can’t the Yankees do the same?

The Yankees are in a situation that creates unnecessary risk with every acquisition. More than any other team, they should be focusing their efforts on developing young talent in the Yankee mold, since players who grow up in the system are more likely to come with the required intensity than imported parts.

Currently, the farm isn’t geared towards such a mentality. The guys go to play every game, knowing that their number could be called at any point, and off they go to another team’s farm system. That doesn’t really inspire team unity, does it? But if they know, for the most part, that they’re being groomed for the big stage, wouldn’t that have an effect on how they played not only as individuals, but as a team?

I know this strays from my normal, statistic driven diatribes, but the game sometimes goes beyond statistics. Cliché Alert: the stars of the team aren’t getting any younger, and the team needs to be creating a new blueprint for building a ball club in the unique setting of the Bronx, lest they regress to the 1987-1993 versions of the Bombers.