Round Two is all about the Yanks! I had the chance to sit down with the writers from Bluebird Banter, DRays Bay, Camden Chat, and Over the Monster to discuss the AL East. This is part two with Marc Normandin of ((Beyond the Box Score) moderating.
Marc Normandin Question #1: The Yankees were relatively quiet compared to most offseasons, but still managed to make a few noteworthy transactions. What was the best move for NY this offseason, and which one would you rank as the worst?
Pinstripe Alley: Farnsworth is a huge piece of the bullpen puzzle because Gordon choked so much in the playoffs. He can close if anything happens to the greatest closer of all time-Marian Rivera. I know he was terrible against Houston in the playoffs, but if he does the job along ( hopefully not catching the Ed Whitson disease) with Villone and Meyers then this bullpen could be excellent- but it's a big if. I'm glad that Bernie will get a farewell tour this year. He certainly deserves one, but I feel that if he struggles in the first half he'll retire rather than hit .200 for the year.
Over the Monster: Touch choices here, but I think their best move was signing Kyle Farnsworth. He's a fireballer that can really pitch. He could self-destruct in New York, however. There is a tie for worst move. Signing Johnny Damon, I believe, was a bad move. It wasn't really the signing part, it was more of the money part. Damon still has a few years left in his ... batting average? ... but to give an aging center fielder that is losing range, speed and has no arm a $50+ million contract is borderline insanity. The move that ties the Damon signing would not be re-signing Mr. Reliable, Tom Gordon. Sure, he's getting old, but he's still one of the best relief pitchers in the game. More importantly than that, he's a proven New York pitcher. You can't count how many pitchers have cracked under the pressure of New York. So why lose a proven pitcher (relief pitcher, for that matter) that you know will perform well in New York? Bad move by the Yanks. Plus, his contract he signed with Philadelphia was pretty cheap compared to other relievers. So it wasn't like the money was too much.
DRays Bay: Well, I think their best move this offseason was to resign Matsui. He's a legit hitter. Damon is too overrated to be a great pick up and Farnsworth is going to be the worst. He will be engulfed by playing in Yankee stadium.
Bluebird Banter: I felt the best move of the offseason, probably by default, was signing Johnny Damon. He'll be a significant improvement, both offensively and defensively, over Bernie Williams. Two concerns: the length of the contract and the fact that he'll probably bat leadoff. The other additions are mostly bullpen-related, so their impact on the team likely won't be as significant. I don't think they really had a worst. In fact, the signing of Damon, is likely to rank as either the best or worst move of this offseason. I'm very unsure of how he'll fare over the course of his contract.
Camden Chat: Their best move was only adding one more major contract because sooner or later this is going to really catch up with them. Their worst, as much as I like The Farns, was adding Farnsworth. He should be a lot of fun with that much pressure and that much attention. I just don't think that's going to be a match made in heaven at all. Considering they have about 37 pitchers, they should be able to scrape out a staff again, though, and they're well-stocked in case of injury or incompetence.
Pinstripe Alley: Can the creaky arms of Randy Johnson, an already injured Pavano and Jaret Wright hold up? Wang and Chacon I think are for real while Mussina is on his last legs even though he'll pitch a big game from time to time.
Camden Chat: Yeah Moose's tank is about empty. I think by the end of it they'll be looking to replace Johnny Damon as Bernie Williams with Johnny Damon as someone else all over again.
Pinstripe Alley: They will always add a piece by then. I think they're hoping for two great seasons out of Damon and if they get a ring the 40 mil will be worth it to George.
Bluebird Banter: Crisp would've been a more suitable replacement, but who could the Yankees have given up? If only Ed Yarnall were still with the organization. It seems like that guy was part of every trade at one point.
Pinstripe Alley: That was the problem with the White Sox and Rowan-they didn't like the Yanks farm. Damon was really the only choice they had.
Camden Chat: They could have stood pat with Bubba Crosby and had him run over my second baseman again. The jerk.
Bluebird Banter: What does Melky Cabrera's future look like now?
Pinstripe Alley: Well Melky was only 20 last year. He had a really nice winter ball, but who knows with him. It was painful watching him in Boston.
Bluebird Banter: I'd like to go on record as saying that "Big Unit" is the greatest nickname ever. Much better than poor Ryan Anderson being called "Little Unit." Poor guy.
Pinstripe Alley: He pitched much better in the second half but sucked against the Angels. I think with his stuff he should have a good year outside of an injury- little unit. lol
Camdenchat: I think the biggest problem with Randy Johnson is he's 42 years old.
Pinstripe Alley: Oh yea? Gordie Howe. Didn't he play until he was sixty?
Marc: 52...that is my offhand guess, someone can call me on that.
Bluebird Banter: He was in his sixties in another pro league (I believe)
Camden Chat: Howe's last real season was at 51, I guess it extended until he was 52 though
Pinstripe Alley: If you'e a lefty and throw 92-95 with a good slider you can pitch till Gordie's age, but I think you're right about his age. If he makes the proper adjustments, he should win 18 next year, but remember we have Aaron Small in the wings.
Bluebird Banter: He played a game in the IHL in 1997-98. He was almost 70 by that point. That's insane.
Marc Normandin-Question #2:: Is this the team that is going to win the division, or will another rise to take its place?
Pinstripe Alley: I think this team is built to win this year. A-Rod, Matsui and Sheffield have a lot to prove in the playoffs. If they fail this year, I foresee big problems the next few until they canland some young-stud like starting pitchers, which won't be easy.
Camden Chat: Boston wins the division.
Over the Monster: The pitching will break down. I guarantee it. Randy Johnson's age will be a huge factor this year, and no matter how badly the Yankees want Mike Mussina to be a big time pitcher again, odds are it won't happen. Shawn Chacon pitched well as a Yankee last year, and I won't be surprised if he has the best numbers in the rotation next year, but he lacks control and that'll bite him in the end. The rest of the pitching staff is questionable. We'll see how well their new relief pitchers will do in the Bronx, but I only expect worse numbers from guys like Farnsworth and Octavio Dotel. You know who I want to win the division.
DRays Bay: The Yankees will compete for the division, just because of their hitters, but they're going to have to improve their pitching staff in the future or they're in for a bad 4 years to finish up the decade.
Bluebird Banter: As of now, they should be the favourites. Their rotation is weaker than either Boston's or Toronto's, but not by all that much. Their offense, however, is leaps and bounds ahead of the others'. Considering the advanced age of the Yankees' core, a sudden, and rather ugly, decline isn't out of the question. In other words, it's not all that improbable for them to finish third.
Marc Normandin-Question #3:: Are Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon the real deal? Or was their time in 2005 with the Yankees an aberration?
Pinstripe Alley: I really think they are the real deal. I saw every game they pitched. For some reason Small made the most of his limited stuff and when you have success in NY, it elevates your confidence. Chacon also saved the Yankee season. Getting out of Colorado proved that his ball can move and to me movement is what pitching is about. He seemed to have a bit of cockiness to go along with it.
DRays Bay: Aaron Small's 2005 was a combination of being flukish and being at the right place at the right time. I believe that Shawn Chacon is a great and vastly underrated starter and deserves a spot in the rotation over Wang.
Camden Chat: Aberration. Major, major, major aberration. Such an enormous aberration. No they are not the real deal. One of them is Aaron Small for pete's sake, and the better one is just Shawn Chacon.
Bluebird Banter: Their poor strikeout rates worry me, since it means they'll have to rely on the Yankees' less than stellar defense far too often. Small sample size -- No pun intended. Chacon is more likely to succeed out of the two, but I expect both to regress a fair bit. That doesn't render them useless, mind you, but I don't think they can match last season's success.
Over the Monster: Aaron Small was a fluke, but Chacon, I think, will be a pretty solid pitcher. He won't be pitching in the 2s for an ERA, but he'll do pretty well, and one of the better ones on the staff. I expect Small to lose his job at some point in 2006.
Camden Chat I think Chacon will be, at best, league average. Small will be off the team by June.