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CC Joining the Red Sox, Evaluating Niese, Joe Torre Loves OTB, Underrated Byrdak



By Mike Silva ~ August 7th, 2011. Filed under: Morning Digest.

The Yankees and Red Sox went to battle over Mark Teixeira in the winter of 2008. Could they be headed for another one-on-one rematch for CC Sabathia this offseason?

Many believe Sabathia returning to the Bronx is a fait accompli. He loves the city, has a beautiful home that was featured in Architectural Digest, and has the Yankees limitless funds to write him a check. Nothing is a guarantee, however, as the Yankees learned after the 2003 season when Andy Pettitte took the Astros money and went home to Texas.

Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald outlines this possibility yesterday. He even suggests the Yankees could counter by signing their longtime nemesis, Big Papi David Ortiz, to counter a potential Sabathia signing by the Red Sox.

Sabathia, Lester, and Beckett? That would be an awesome threesome. Signing Sabathia would also hurt their main division rival.

Many believe Sabathia is very comfortable in the Tri-State area. Even if that is the case, playing in Boston is close enough where not much about his personal life has to change.

Earlier in the season I wrote about how re-signing Sabathia is not as easy of a decision as everyone thinks. If I were his agent, the fastest way to get whatever you want from the Yankees is to strike out a bidding war with Boston.

As for Ortiz; the Yankees signing the aging Sox slugger would be equivalent to countering Daisuke Matsuzaka with Kei Igawa. Ortiz is having a fine season, but his age (35), body type, and suspicions of steroid use make him a perfect candidate to fall off the map in the near future. Since the All Star Break he’s hitting .225 with 2 homers and 16 RBI. We haves seen Big Papi go into extended slumps, only to turn it around with an extended hot streak. Just when you are ready to write him off he turns it around. I wouldn’t give him a multiyear deal to DH for my team based on that flimsy logic.

Besides, the Yankees already have a full time DH in waiting in Jesus Montero.

***

The old adage is the first third of a baseball season is spent evaluating your team. The second third is spent trying to repair the identified flaws. And the final third is when, if all goes as planned, your team will make a run. Right now, the Yankees are in the third phase, which will end with them finishing no worse than in the Wild Card spot. Why is it that you get the feelings that Yankees fans aren’t happy with the season?

All year there have been complaints about the starting rotation, worries about the bullpen without Joba Chamberlain, and even some that stressed about the offense when it slumped in May and early June. Now the concern is CC Sabathia, who is 0-3 with a 6.16 ERA against the Red Sox. My response is who cares! Josh Beckett has a 5.52 ERA career ERA against the Yankees, and I don’t think it matters if he takes the ball against them in Game 2 of the ALCS.

Part of it is the media’s fault (including me), because we need things to discuss, debate, and sometimes stir the pot for fun. When you look at the big picture, the Yankees are in better shape than most teams. Very few championships team go through the season with a perfect journey. Maybe the 1998 Yankees are the exception. So sit back, relax, and take it from me: When CC Sabathia is right he can beat anyone. This includes the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees problems are another team’s dream.

***

Jonathon Niese has sometimes been compared to a young Andy Pettitte. Unlike Pettitte, Niese wasn’t thrust into a championship ballclub. We are now almost at two full seasons into his big league career, and I am not yet sure what to make of his performance.

My take on Niese is he seems to be very good, or very bad. Rarely, is there an in-between. His ERA in losses is 5.61. Compare this to R.A. Dickey who is over a run lower (4.54). He seems to benefit from spacious Citi Field (3.28 ERA) versus the road (4.64 ERA). Like last year he had a good May-June, but seems to be tiring as we get later in the season. The Mets always seem to have a good offensive night when Niese is pitching, which has helped him reach 11 wins.

His advanced stats are pretty good. His xFIP is 3.20, he has a 52% groundball percentage, and the BABIP (.323) indicates he’s been trending more towards the unlucky side.

When you factor everything in, I still think he can be a solid #3 starter. I do worry about his ability to go deep into games. There is, however, no indication that he can be a top of the rotation type like Pettitte. He is still young (24), but by that age Andy Pettitte was an All Star, won 20 games, and finished third in the Cy Young vote.

Niese is a very solid rotation piece, but not the type of young anchor that I had hoped. The good news is he is lefty, and sometimes they mature late.

***

Looks like Luis Castillo is speaking out about the Yankees. No, not the former Mets second baseman, but the former Bat Boy for the team from 1998 to 2005. In his book “Clubhouse Confidential,” there are the usual stories about how great Derek Jeter is, A-Rod’s high maintenance ways, and David Cone‘s clubhouse jokes. I think the story that will stand out- especially to the anti-Joe Torre crowd- is Castillo being asked to get OTB results for Torre and Don Zimmer during the game:

I found out about this quirk of his during a late-season game. Torre called me over in the dugout, and from the dark look on his face I thought it was something serious. He waited until I was close and then lowered his voice. “Go down to my office,” he said. “I want you to check the score on the Off-Track Betting channel and see who won.” I was stunned. It was during a game! I had never before been asked to leave my post.

“Make sure you find out the exact track and horse,” he added.

This book seems a bit different than the one by Matthew McGough, who wrote “Bat Boy: Coming of Age With the New York Yankees.”

I actually enjoyed Matt’s book quite a bit when I read it in 2007. He appeared on my show that season, and shared some great stories about his experience with the early nineties Yankees.

***

You know who might be the most underrated free agent acquisition for the Mets? Tim Byrdak. No, I don’t say this because we ran a song contest for him on the radio show. I say this because of his performance out of the bullpen.

Byrdak has been asked to warm up nightly, sometimes pitch to difficult right handed batters, and clean up various messes left by his teammates. After his scoreless inning last night, he is striking out over a batter per inning (10.5), held lefties to a decent .701 OPS, and stranded over 80% of his inherited runners.

He also showed me a lot two weeks ago when he came into a difficult situation in Cincinnati. Jay Bruce had homered off him to win the NL Central in 2010. He struck out Bruce in a big spot during the first game of that series. The next night he was asked to get Bruce out to earn the save. Pressure spot, game on the line, bad history, and small ballpark is a lot going against a pitcher. He, unlike some other members of that bullpen, seems to embrace these situations. Those are the kind of pitchers you want out there late in the game.

Out of all the big name LOOGY’s that were available this winter, only Randy Choate is having a breakout season. Byrdak replaced the best LOOGY in team history, and probably the league, in Pedro Feliciano. That is probably why fans kind of feel indifferent about his performance. Not many pitchers perform at the level of a Pedro Feliciano. It’s patently unfair to compare Byrdak to his predecessor.

Want to talk about value? Byrdak is making about a million dollars this year. Arthur Rhodes was recently designated for assignment and is costing Texas $4 million. Trever Miller of the Cardinals is making over $2 million to get one batter out.

Byrdak is also known to be the team jokester. Howie Rose said on last night’s radio broadcast that Tim does play-by-play in the bullpen during the game. It prompted Can’t Stop the Bleeding to ask if Byrdak could replace Wayne Hagin in the booth when he’s not pitching.

Amazin Avenue pointed out last month how Byrdak “photobombed” an interview with R.A. Dickey. Good work there Tim.

During Spring Training, Byrdak was on SNY doing a Harry Carey impression. I couldn’t find video of it, but it was pretty good.

Perhaps we can get Tim to do it for us on the radio show after the season is over.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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2 Responses to CC Joining the Red Sox, Evaluating Niese, Joe Torre Loves OTB, Underrated Byrdak

  1. Samuel

    The term is “fait accompli.”

    Not Feta compli. That sounds like a cheesy Greek dish.

    If CC opts out, the Yankees should let him go.

  2. FromThisSeat.com

    Big Papi to the Yankees and then Sabathia to the Red Sox? If that doesn’t magnify the need for a salary cap, I don’t know what does.

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