Watching A.J. Burnett get absolutely pounded last night in Arizona, and seeing my beat reporter pals deal with Burnett-hating Yankees fans on Twitter, I couldn't help but think once again about the Yankees' eternally memorable 2008-09 offseason.
$82.5 million on Burnett. $161 million on CC Sabathia. $180 million on Mark Teixeira.
I thought it was insanity then. Now? Pretty much the same.
Note that Burnett, Sabathia and Teixeira are all on pace to put up worse 2010 seasons than they did in 2009. Absolutely, all three have plenty of time to bounce back. But this 43.2 percent of a season has generated concern about Burnett's erratic nature and inability to get the most out of what he has; Sabathia's arm mileage and girth; and Teixeira's pull-happy tendencies from the left side.
They all own World Series rings now, and as one competing general manager told me last year, "If they crush people in their first few years, then their fades in the later years won't seem as bad." I don't know, though. Already, there is zero love for Burnett out there, and not much more for Teixeira.
And when this topic comes up, I always flash back to Bernie Williams, who signed a seven-year, $87.5-million contract with the Yankees after the 1998 season. Bernie was just brutal his last three years of that deal; in 2005, his Wins Above Replacement was -0.6.
The fans seemed to take a "Love the Sucker, Hate the Suck" approach. They never stopped showering Bernie with standing ovations and the like. Yet they screamed, "We need a new centerfielder!!!"
Maybe Burnett will somehow keep it together through his age-36 season in 2013; as NaOH pointed out in a comment last night, Burnett and his old Marlins teammate Josh Beckett have been pretty similar pitchers the last few years, but Beckett gets little criticism in comparison. Maybe Sabathia will overcome his heavy workload and general heaviness and still be a useful starting pitcher at age 35 in 2015. Maybe Teixeira will still be above replacement level at 36 in 2016, be it at first base or DH.
I wouldn't bet on all three rosy scenarios, however. And while time may forgive those final years - people generally overlook the late Williams years, although the 2005 Yankees obviously would have benefited from a better centerfielder - when you're living through them, as a fan or as the people running a team, they're not a great deal of fun. They're obstacles to be overcome.
--Phil Hughes will skip a turn in the Yankees' rotation, and it seems as though the Yankees are going to keep Hughes within his innings limit (about 175) far easier than they did last year with Joba Chamberlain. If he stays healthy, he should be at about 100 innings by the All-Star break. With 73 games following the break, Hughes would be in line for 14 starts.
If the Yankees skip just one start after the break by using an off day to keep the other four pitchers on their standard four days' rest, then Hughes could average just less than six innings per start and get to 175. If Hughes skipped two starts, then he could average a tick over six innings per start.
There's no doubt that the Yankees hurt Joba Chamberlain last year by the odd way they enacted the innings limit. As team officials point out, however, the real problem was that Chien-Ming Wang's injuries didn't give the 2009 Yankees the sort of rotation leeway that this club has with Burnett (his current slump notwithstanding), Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez.
--Last year, the Mets seemed to do everything in their power to bring back their myriad injured players, and nothing worked. This year, you could say (but I never would. Never) that the Mets are doing everything in their power to keep away their injured players. Here's a comparison of last year versus this year, from David Lennon.
--At Johan Santna's charity bowling event, Santana and two teammates (Mike Pelfrey and Francisco Rodriguez) supported a trade for Cliff Lee or another big-time starting pitcher.
--Just for the heck of it, here are your updated PECOTA-adjusted playoff odds from Baseball Prospectus. How much fun would it be if the AL East and NL West really wound up this close?
--I'll check in later from Citi Field, where the Mets will try to end their two-game losing streak against Detroit ace Justin Verlander.