YES Network.com


Mike Cameron was an option

Yankees had eyes on veteran CF, but he's off to Milwaukee
01/11/2008 5:19 PM ET
By Steven Goldman / Special to YESNetwork.com

Cameron patrolled center for the Mets for two seasons.(AP)
The indefatigable Ken Rosenthal says the Yankees are chasing free agent center fielder Mike Cameron, figuring that even if they don't end up making the Johan Santana deal, they can swap Melky Cabrera for... something. Rosenthal speculates that Cameron would get a two-year deal, giving Austin Jackson a chance to filter up from the farm system.

Such speculation ended, however, on Friday when the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Cameron agreed to a one-year deal with the Brewers.

Towards the end of last season, as Cabrera tanked his second straight September, I came around to the idea that Cabrera's perceived value is probably higher than his actual value. I haven't really changed my feeling about that, though seeing that BP's PECOTA projection system is fairly high on his long-term outlook did give me pause.

Still, it seems unlikely that he is going to grow far beyond his current combination of moderate offense and defense, so if he's the only thing standing between you and getting a Johan Santana, you make the deal. That said, given that he is one of the few tradeable non-pitchers the Yankees have, you wouldn't want to throw him away on something wholly speculative. If a Cameron were to be signed just so Cabrera can be dealt away for another Humberto Sanchez/Kevin Whelan package, it's not worth bothering. If he's going to get you a coming slugger, that's a different story.

Cameron is a risky player. He turned 35 three days ago, and while he still has his center fielder's legs, they won't last forever. They may not last two years. He's a career .250 hitter who would have come over from the National League if he was en route to the Bronx. His 2007 rates of .242/.328/.431 were deflated by his home park (he hit .254/.341/.449 away from San Diego), but given age and the increased difficulty level in the AL, you would have expected his production to be right about where it was.

If age or the transition hit him harder than that, you're looking at .220/.310/.410. For that kind of exchange, Melky had better bring you back Hercules.

RANDOM THOUGHT ON THE UNFAIRNESS OF LIFE
Yankees who have hit into a triple play in my lifetime: Damaso Garcia; Bucky Dent; Roy Smalley (sort of - it was a strikeout/caught stealing/caught stealing); Rick Cerone; Rickey Henderson; Rafael Santana; Steve Balboni; Chili Davis; Shane Spencer.

Yankees who have turned a triple play in my lifetime: none. The last time the Yankees turned three, the play went 1-5-3: Dooley Womack to Bobby Cox to Mickey Mantle. At least they got two Hall of Famers in there.

For those who further wish to explore the triple plays of their lives (in a nice way, I mean), SABR has a comprehensive list.

FAVORITE HEADLINE OF THE WEEK
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Tribe to play in Progressive Field."

It didn't mean what I hoped it did, not even in an election year. I'm not certain how that would have worked anyway. All season ticket holders get affordable health care? The problem is, if you can afford season tickets, you can probably afford health care too, so that's not solving any problems. As it turns out, "Progressive" is an insurance company. Insert joke here. Any one will do...

ONE MORE DAY
Anyone read Marvel's sweep-Mary-Jane-away mini-series within a series? I've read the first three with the fourth on deck, but I have an idea that it might not be worth finishing.

CLICK HERE TO COMMENT


THURSDAY, January 10: Posted at 1:37 p.m. ET

IT'S SO FRUSTRATING THE WAY YOUR SOCKS ARE CONSTANTLY WEARING OUT
Today's New York Post has the Yankees interested in 31-year-old free agent outfielder Jason Lane as a potential first baseman. While it never hurts to roll the dice on free talent, it seems unlikely that Lane can help much. Over the last two years, Lane has batted .192/.295/.375 in 539 plate appearances. He has hit 23 home runs and walked 65 times over that span, but that's not a whole lot of return for a player who just never reaches base. Prior to 2006 he hit .271/.327/.507 in 824 plate appearances, which is a lot more interesting, but there's a lot of small-sample noise in there. In 2005, his one full season, Lane hit .267/.316/.499, taking just 32 walks in 145 games. He didn't hit lefties well (.237/.300/.449), and did just about all of his hitting in the friendly confines of Minute Maid, hitting .298/.343/.543 vs. .239/.290/.460 on the road.

It never hurts to take a look at a player, especially when that player is likely to come cheaply. You might just get lucky. That said, Lane seems an unlikely source of lucky. Shelley Duncan probably isn't much more than a spare part to be used with great care and specificity, but his specific role, an off-the-bench/platoon punisher of left-handed pitchers, is something he can probably do reasonably well. Not only has Lane not shown that he can do that job, but even if he could, you don't need two of those guys. Benches are small these days-a consequence of not having 120 innings-relievers like Goose Gossage-and you need to have some players with speed and defensive value on it too.

The Yankees' first base plans are a mess, but they're not going to get sorted out until after this season, when Jason Giambi comes off the roster (what the Yankees do will be fascinating, because they don't have a ready replacement in the system and if Mark Teixeira doesn't make it to free agency, next winter's class won't have many good options). Jason Lane seems like a complication, not a path to adding some rationality, predictability, productivity to the situation.

CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS: THE MILLION DOLLAR BASH
From a Clemens/baseball point of view, I don't have much to say about this that I didn't say here a couple of days ago, or over in the New York Sun on Tuesday. I've heard many people, people I respect, say that Congress should have better things to do, and maybe they should. Unfortunately, Congress isn't an efficient organization, and never has been, so complaining about what they should be doing at any moment is a waste of energy.

In any case, Congress has its nose in most aspect of American life, and many read the Constitution to say that that is what they should be doing. This is a sloppy reading of our rule book, and one that necessarily elides a lot of history and debate (I'm prepared for the lawyers in the audience to rake me over the ol' coals), but Section I of the Constitution says that Congress is empowered to collect taxes for the "general welfare" of the country (if you can collect it, you can spend it; it's not the piggy bank clause), and then later on says it has the power "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper" for carrying out the powers the Constitution vests in Congress, which would seem to include that general welfare stuff. Since "general welfare" isn't defined, it amounts to a very large brief, and pretty much right from the beginning, "general welfare" has been used to allow Congress to range far and wide over the country. To say "Congress has better things to do" may be true, but it isn't an accurate description of its role, because it has everything to do.

Now, the question of HOW bugging Roger Clemens and pals promotes the general welfare is a whole other question, but I imagine you can think of a few rationales without trying too hard, however thin they might be. Keeping sports clean so that Americans are seeing true contests rather than a confidence game; to protect the athletes from doing harm to themselves; to restrict a negative influence on children and other aspiring athletes. As for myself, I dig the first choice: this may sound funny given that we're talking about Congress, but promoting integrity in all phases of American civilization definitely contributes to the general welfare. Sure, there are better ways: having real oversight of the war(s), reforming the tax code, and so on, but we're not going to get those things out of Congress right now, will never get them until we demand them, so, as I said above, complaining that Congress isn't doing those things is a waste on multiple levels: (1) Congress does lots of things, not just big-picture government items; (2) the prevailing interpretation of the Constitution's Article I, Section 8 is that it's their job to do lots of things; (3) if that means that they neglect the things you think they should be doing, well, tough. We have the government we deserve, no better, no worse. We'll get statesmen when we elect statesmen. In the meantime, enjoy the hearings.

CLICK HERE TO COMMENT


TUESSDAY, January 8: Posted at 9:34 a.m. ET

ROGER CLEMENS GETS WHAT HE WANTS, AT LEAST FROM ME
Call me gullible, call me a sucker, but listening to Roger Clemens' taped conversation with Brian McNamee, I came away feeling more certain that McNamee had lied. At the beginning of their talk, McNamee told Clemens that his son was very sick, and Clemens expressed sympathy. Later on, there was this exchange:

Clemens: "For the life of me I'm trying to find out why you would tell guys that I used steroids."

McNamee (shouting): "Roger, tell me what the [expletive] you want me to do. My son is dying. He's 10!"

There are two ways of interpreting that response. Either it was a non-sequitur, or it was an explanation. I heard it as an explanation.

It sounds like a movie. There have probably been a hundred over the years with the same plot, where a parent breaks the law to help their child. This is a variation on that: the man who falsely rats out a friend to stay out of jail to help his child. I write more about this in Tuesday's edition of the New York Sun, with more to follow in Tuesday's Pinstriped Bible here at YES.

Even if my interpretation is correct, there is one aspect of this for which I blame Clemens: he picked the wrong friend. Knowing which of the people around you are human beings and which are cockroaches is a skill that we acquire over time. We learn that no matter how attractive certain people are, regardless of the interests we might share with them, that this is someone who is dangerous either because they are self-destructive or heedlessly destructive of others and we learn to keep them no closer than arm's length.

I was thinking about this yesterday while I was reading a profile Kevin Goldstein wrote for the Baseball Prospectus annual about a pitcher who has tremendous pitching ability but also has a taste for drugs and bad company. His team is making an effort to play him as far away from his home as possible so that he can stay away from bad influences. I don't know the pitcher from a hole in the ground, but I don't believe he will. Wherever he goes, he'll find new bad influences. Maybe he's just self-destructive and he'll seek them out, or maybe he just can't tell the difference in the first place.

I would be willing to bet that if every person reading this, if they look back over their lives, will find more than one person, in the non-romantic department even, where they will say, "Wait... I called that thing a friend?" That's what Roger Clemens is doing now, only with even more regret, because as McNamee said on the tape, Clemens made him a part of the family. This is my whole point: you have to have the intuition not to let a viper into your home — and it's oh so easy to be fooled.

Yet, McNamee was a viper. As the Mitchell Report says, "federal law enforcement officials identified Brian McNamee as one of [Kirk] Radomski's customers and a possible sub-distributor." According to the Report, Radomski was a major enabler of baseball PED culture. Clemens should have known that his friend and trainer was involved in illegal activities. If he did know, and turned a blind eye, he's reaping the results of his tolerance. As Benjamin Franklin said, you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

In this sense, if Clemens is innocent of cheating, but did know what McNamee was up to, then he's the modern Buck Weaver, the Black Sox third baseman who did not throw World Series games but sat in on meetings in which the conspiracy was discussed. His silence condemned him. No one is saying Clemens had to speak out; perhaps his reputation was doomed the first day he shook hands with McNamee no matter what he did. If he had just had the sense, that first day in Toronto, to stay away, he might have held onto his place as the greatest pitcher of all time. Now he's just another player with an asterisk.

CLICK HERE TO COMMENT

Steven Goldman's Pinstriped Blog appears daily on YESNetwork.com. "Forging Genius," Steve's biography of Casey Stengel, and "Mind Game," the story of the Red Sox' 2004 championship, and "Baseball Between the Numbers," from the authors of Baseball Prospectus, are now available at Amazon.com. More Steve is available on YESNetwork.com in the Pinstriped Bible, and the Baseball Prospectus Web site. Your questions, comments, suggestions welcomed at oldprofessor@wholesomereading.com. The opinions stated above are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to anyone connected in an official capacity with the YES Network.
YESNetwork.com comments


Yankees

More Headlines »