24 December 2002

More Nintendo Baseball...

Given that you are reading this now, I think it's fair to assume that most of you like both baseball and computers. This being the case, it is probably also fair to assume that at least some significant portion also likes video games, or did at one time, especially baseball video games. One of the fun things to do, in the sense that throwingthings at a neighborhood dog you never liked while it's tied to a tree is fun, is to trade all of the really good players from the other teams to your own favorite team. If, like me, you play such games to relax, rather than fooling yourself into thinking that you're developing some useful "skill".then you have no moral quandries with such tactics. You do, however, have a practical, logistical problem: How to find playing time for all those great players?

The New York Yankees, virtual masters of the reality video game called Major League Baseball, have such a problem as well. As outlined in this post, just a few days ago, the signing of Hideki Matsui gives the Yanks five outfielders who could start on most teams (Shane Spencer was apparently non-tendered and is now a free agent), and still only three outfield spots to play. First base and DH are positions in the lineup aptly and alternately filled by Jason Giambi and Nick Johnson, so there's really no room in the inn for White, Mondesi and/or Juan Rivera. Or, no room in the out, to be technical about it. And since White's got a history of injury and the Yankees already have Toronto eating some of Mondesi's contract, look for Raul to be traded. No surprise there.

Now it seems that Yankees brass was not content to have a glut of starting outfielders, nor were they apparently content with the glut of starting pitchers they already had. Steinbrenner definitely would not permit complacency, feigning a vague desire to reduce payroll, while the Arch Rival Boston Red Sox went out and spent their hard-earned money on a second potential ace pitcher. Jose Contreras, the erstwhile ace of the Cuban National Team, was signed by the Yankees on Tuesday, Steinbrenner's Christmas present to himself. Or Hannukah. Or something.

After the signing, Yanks' GM Brian Cashman was at least forthright about the order of priorities in the Yankees' front office:

"We couldn't, the right word is we wouldn't, sacrifice the opportunity to sign these talents on the basis of reducing payroll first...The mindset is still for me to reduce payroll...Obviously, when the opportunities to sign Hideki Matsui or Jose Contreras presented themselves, it was time for us to make decisions, to move now and continue to work on cutting the payroll down the line.''

Or not at all, as will likely turn out to be the case. But that's OK. It's King George's money, and last time I checked, he was still allowed to spend it pretty much however he wants. MLB, however, is also free to tax the hell out of him and give the money to his competitors. That's one of the risks he runs.

This brings the total of starting pitchers on the Yanks' roster to seven, not including Roger Clemens, whom most experts agree will be winning his 300th career decision in a Yankee uniform in 2003 as well. Which means that next year's starting rotation will be Clemens, Mussina, Pettitte, Wells, and probably Contreras. That means that Jeff Weaver will be left as a spot-starter/long reliever, making $4.1 million. No wonder they didn't want to pay Ramiro Mendoza $3 million to do the same job. It also means that Orlando Hernandez and Sterling Hitchcock will most likely be traded before next year. If they're lucky, they'll get three or four mid-level prospects out of whatever deals they make, and only end up eating half of the two contracts. Last time I checked, they can still afford it.

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