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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
We've long known that the Bloomberg Administration bent over to deliver all manner of financial favors to the Yankees, but now the emails are out, and it's pretty ugly:
Mayor Bloomberg's aides secretly pressured city tax assessors to inflate the value of land under the new Yankee Stadium so the team could qualify for nearly $1 billion in tax-free bonds, city e-mails show.
This is important, because the higher assessment allowed the Yankees to take advantage of a billion bucks in tax-exempt bonds that an honest assessment would not have.
New Yankee Stadium is built on a foundation of graft. The sad thing is, this fact will almost certainly not be mentioned by the announcers when the Bombers take the field for the first game in April because there will be too many fancy baubles on which to train the cameras.
ShysterBall's International Correspondent, Ron Rollins, alerts us to this interesting development in the final and deciding game of the Philippines World Series (or whatever it is they call it):
Joseph Orillana made Game 2 of Baseball Philippines Series 4 finals a one-man show.
As Ron put it: "The series winning run scored on a squeeze by a guy hitting .461? Somewhere, a sabermetrician's head just exploded."
By the way: Ron, who is a longtime friend of ShysterBall -- one of the longest, in fact -- has his own baseball blog now called Baseball Over Here, which focuses on the game from an international perspective. Ron, a father, an Army veteran, a Missouri native, and Royals fan, has somehow found himself living in the south of England for the past several months, and his experiences there have caused him to look at the game from a new perspective. Based on some of the crazy stuff he has found in the past few weeks, it may end up being baseball's version of News of the Weird. Wherever it goes, however, I highly recommend that you check out his blog.
But do it quickly! Once the restraining orders keeping Ron away from Trey Hillman and Dayton Moore expire, he may be back in Missouri.
I find it insanely difficult to pretend to care -- let alone genuinely care -- about the WBC. Thankfully, there are guys like FanHouse's Matt Snyder around who do. Matt has put together a Team USA roster which, at first blush, looks pretty darn good.
My only quibble is a political one: I'd have Youkilis and Howard as my first basemen. Not because of skill, necessarily, but because I'd really like to have a Jewish and a black player lead our team to victory and really stick it to that dirtbag Hitler.
Like I said, I really don't follow the WBC all that closely.
The Rangers are spending a few million bucks for upgrades at The Ballpark. One of them makes sense:
The Rangers also announced they are widening the home-plate screen an extra 50 feet so that it will run from one photo well to another next to the dugouts.
But another is simply terrifying:
The Rangers are also installing 91 premium seats in front of home plate . . .
Personally, I'd prefer to sit in foul territory, thank you very much.
In response to the Yankees' reported interest in Manny Ramirez, Jason at IIATMS says "But three years? On THIS team? With this many 35 year olds who will need to have a day or two in the DH role? Good lord, no!!!!"
Good point! Everyone knows that the Yankees are getting old, but it's worth remembering that, if Manny signs, the opening day starters would look something like this (2009 season-age in parenthesis):
C Posada (37)
1B Swisher (28)
2B Cano (26)
3B Rodriguez (33)
SS Jeter (35)
RF Nady (30)
CF Cabrera or maybe Cameron (24 or 36)
LF/DH: Some combination of Manny, Damon, and Matsui (37, 35, and 35).
That's not a baseball team. That's the cast of "The Big Chill," with Cano playing the Meg Tilly character. Between innings they can listen to oldies and talk about what happened to their vanished youth.
Peter Schmuck has a good column today about an arbitration most of either forgot was going to happen or knew nothing about in the first place: The Sidney Ponson Case:
Ponson was a highly talented young pitcher who came up through the Orioles' system and seemed ticketed for stardom. He also was a wild child who loved to party and wore his devil-may-care attitude proudly on his sleeve. The more successful he got, it seemed, the more fun he tried to have after hours and during the offseason, which led to a series of incidents that would eventually persuade the Orioles to terminate his contract.
At issue is the $11 million the O's still owed Sir Sidney when he was cut from the team. I agree with Schmuck that, based both on Ponson's history with the O's and the way these things tend to go in baseball generally, Ponson will probably get the money the Orioles withheld.
Should he? In my view it's hard to find a guy who has done more to waste his talents and harm his teams than Sidney Ponson has. In an ideal world, teams would have a right to void their deals with guys who utterly refuse to take care of themselves, behave horribly, or refuse to obey club rules. The problem, though, is that while it's relatively easy to make the call when a guy is a drunk or puts on a hundred pounds or punches out a teammate, it's inevitable that teams would use any precedent set by the Ponson case to cut and not pay guys for more questionable reasons, and it's the very broadness of the conduct clause Schmuck quotes that would allow for that undesirable situation.
What, exactly, is "first-class physical condition?" It's different for a shortstop than it is for a corner outfielder, right? It's also dependant on how the player performs. My guess is that, if the teams are afforded greater power in connection with the conduct clause, the Phillies wouldn't exercise the clause in the less-than-svelte Ryan Howard's contract as long as he hit 47 homers a year, but they'd think hard about it if he hit 22, even if he lost a few pounds. And what of the "high standards of personal conduct?" Quick: can the Yankees cut A-Rod for messing around with that stripper? What if instead of a stripper it was a prostitute? What if a utility infielder in Minnesota was messing with a prostitute, but didn't have his dalliances splashed on the front page of the New York Post? Is the clause aimed at bad behavior or just bad publicity?
I'm sure if I thought about it I could come up with a dozen more tough calls in connection with the conduct clause, and for this reason, baseball has to be extremely careful if it wishes to give teams a stronger hand in policing player conduct. I'm not sure I have any good ideas on the best way to go about it, but my suspicion is that a boilerplate conduct clause like we have now isn't the answer.
Sabermetricians! Whoa. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of Whiteyball, Dude, at least it's an ethos.
I read stuff like this . . .
Rafael Furcal might not be an Atlanta Brave just yet, much to the dismay of the Atlanta Braves.
. . . and can't help but wonder if these sorts of backs and forths have always happened with most deals. It's just that now there are 539 outlets covering each deal, each of which has a monster incentive to get whatever whiff of anything they hear out in the open before the competition does.
Think about it: it's very possible that, as you're reading this, the Furcal matter has been settled and he is going to sign with either Atlanta or Los Angeles. Ten or 15 years ago, yesterday's drama would have unfolded all the same, but would have gone mostly unreported. Maybe a quick blurb on the evening SportsCenter, but nothing else. Today or tomorrow the newspapers would have the story of the signing, with very little if any mention of the Atlanta-Los Angeles dynamic.
It's just a news nugget, but one made bigger and more complicated by quick-to-press nature of things these days. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I like it because it gives us something to talk about in the winter. It's just something to keep in mind as you read stuff about all of the alleged intrigue surrounding Furcal's signing.
I got a pretty informed and insightful comment regarding the Astros bugging out of Venezuela and I thought I'd share it with the rest of the class. It's from reader James Van Awesome (pretty sure that's German), who is writing his undergraduate thesis on baseball in Venezuela. James writes:
In my opinion, the Astros’ operations in Venezuela have been in jeopardy at least since Andres Reiner’s resignation in early 2005. With Andres and Gerry Hunsicker gone, there was no one left to fight for Venezuela.
Sounds pretty right to me, James.