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A Big Day for Me and Other News

A roundup of sorts:

I suppose I should lead with a bit of personal news: I am leaving Baseball Prospectus, my home of nine years away from the Bible, to become one of two Lead Baseball Writers at Bleacher Report. It is a day of both sadness and excitement for me. For more, please see my final BP column of more than 400 or so. The Pinstriped Bible rolls on, of course, as it has in various forms since the 1990s.

Meet the Fat Bearded Yankees Guy
Although I’m leaving Baseball Prospectus, I have a couple of pleasant duties yet to undertake. Next week, I will be making two appearances, one in New York, one in Washington, DC, and I’d be glad to see you at one, the other, or both:

Date: Monday, March 5, 2012
Time: 6:00 PM
Barnes & Noble @ 18th Steet
105 5th Avenue
New York, New York 10003
BP Staff: Cecilia Tan, Jay Jaffe, Steven Goldman, Ben Lindbergh, Tommy Bennett, Rebecca Glass

Date: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Time: 7:00 PM
Politics & Prose Bookstore
5015 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20008
BP Staff: Derek Carty, Jay Jaffe, Steven Goldman, Ben Lindbergh, Adam Sobsey

It’s Money That Matters
Hal Steinbrenner, yesterday:

"If you do well on the player development side, and you have a good farm system, you don’t need a $220 million payroll," Steinbrenner said, in a rare public appearance Thursday. "You don’t. You can field every bit as good a team with young talent."

Easier said than done, of course; the Yankees haven’t necessarily done "well" on the player development side in decades. It just wasn’t a priority for Hal’s dad. He gave up first-round pick after first-round pick to sign free agents, often players who just weren’t worth the price. I have printed this list many times over the years, but it is still a rather amazing history of Yankees decision-making:

Yankees first round picks from 1979 to 1989:

1979: None, for signing Tommy John.
1980: None, for signing Rudy May.
1981: None, for signing Dave Winfield.
1982: None, for signing Dave Collins.
1983: None, for signing Steve Kemp. The Yankees also lost their second-round pick for signing Bob Shirley and their third-round pick for signing Don Baylor.
1984: Jeff Pries, 22(C). Al Leiter was their second pick.
1985: Rick Balabon, 28(HS). Compensation pick for losing Tim Belcher. New York’s regular pick went to San Diego for signing Ed Whitson.
1986: None, for signing Al Holland.
1987: None, for signing Gary Ward.
1988: None, for signing Jack Clark.
1989: None, for signing Steve Sax.

Al Holland? I mean, I was there, I was around. Still: Al Holland?

The Yankees have done far better since the 1990s, but for the Rafael Soriano signing, a move which sent outfield prospect Mikie Mahtook into the arms of the rival Rays. Pitchers, particularly international signings, have developed rapidly. We’re still waiting on the position players, especially now that Jesus Montero is a Mariner. The other impediment to a cheaper-yet-competitive Yankees team is the long, long, contracts given to Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira.

Steinbrenner’s newfound commitment to austerity, adopted to get the team under the luxury tax threshold, could make for a more interesting Yankees team, one where fans will root for products of the farm system more often than they do rented mercenaries. To me, that is a far more interesting team than one in which the Tony Womacks of the day flit in and out for a moment in time before making room for the next veteran import.

Of course, When the Yankees pass on upgrading at the trading deadline because it’s too pricey, I may sing a different tune, but as a general principle, I prefer canny baseball thinking to throwing money at the problem. Contrary to what Pete Townshend wrote, maybe the new Boss is not the same as the old Boss.

Brien Taylor Arrested on Drug Charges
He had everything but character, and sometimes, perhaps often or always, that matters just as much as raw stuff. At first it seemed as if the Yankees had made the right pick but the player just had bad luck. Now I wonder if the team had truly examined Taylor closely enough. You can only go so far second-guessing, however; that was a tough first round, with a great many misses. On the other hand, it's fun to think about a counterfactual history in which Cliff Floyd or Manny Ramirez started out as Yankees.

A.J. Burnett Injured
I really wanted to see what he would do in his new environs, if he could get his career back on track. I hope he can come back quickly. The question with an orbital bone injury is not so much the setting and healing of the bone, but if there is any damage to the eye itself. I have not yet heard if this was the case or not. As one who has gone without vision in one eye for almost ten years now, I know how vulnerable a Cyclopean pitcher would be on the mound, only having 5 percent of a view-screen with which to duck incoming liners. Best wishes to him.