Back in the day, the Yankees might not have even have bothered bringing Curtis Granderson into Yankee Stadium for a news conference. The trade went down last week, during the winter meetings, and the media got him on the phone when it happened.
But now, with the YES Network running the show, it's not just a matter of introducing Granderson to the local media. It's also a matter of fresh, live baseball programming in the dead of winter, which is no small thing. Even if Granderson isn't as famous as the two Yankees players, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia, who popped in, serving as the supporting cast.
The benefit for you, the hard-core fan, is access to plenty of important people in the Yankees' universe. So, without further ado (since there has been way too much already...)
1. Hal Steinbrenner
--asked what the chances are that the Yankees re-sign Johnny Damon, he said, "I can’t really speak to the chances. W all love Johnny Damon. He’s a big part of the reason we won that championship. But I think right now there’s a difference of opinion as to what the pay is, quite frankly."
--asked how strict the 2010 budget is - it's believed to be about $190-$195 million - he said, "I think Brian (Cashman) understands that, if it’s a matter of really getting one player we need, I’m not going to slam the door in his face. Let’s put it that way. But I am a budget person, and he did get a number, and we’ve already spent 17, 18 million (on Granderson and Andy Pettitte). I don’t believe we’re done yet. As I said, my door’s always open, and I’ll always listen to what he has to say."
--on Boston's moves: "It’s concerning. We play them a lot of games. They’re in our division. Anybody in your division, you’ve got to pay close attention to what they’re doing . Of course it’s a concern. They’re going to have a great pitching staff this year. But I think we have a great pitching staff, too. Is there room for a little bit of improvement here and there, on our team as a whole? Yes. We’re going to look at things."
--On the departure of Hideki Matsui: "He was a great Yankee, and just a great man. Change, I think, is inevitable. From time to time, I think, it’s a healthy thing. Some of us cope with change better than others. We’re going to miss him, no doubt, but I really like the direction we’re heading in, and I really like the move you’re all here for today."
2. Joe Girardi
--He said he hasn't spoken with Johnny Damon in about three weeks.
--There has been much discussion, including here, about the notion of the Yankees using their designated hitter spot as a "resting place" for their regular players. The Yankees are now backing off that notion, even with Matsui gone. Here's what Girardi said. "I like the idea of having an almost, full-time DH, if that makes sense. A situation where you can DH Alex a day, and you can DH Jete a day, and you can DH Tex a day. It’s kind of like a day off for them. I considered Matty our full-time DH last year, but he didn’t have 600 ABs.
--Granderson wore number 28 for the bulk of his time with the Tigers, but he changed to 14 - "my number in high school," Granderson said - to accomodate Girardi's desire to change from 27 to 28, signifying the Yankees' new goal of a 28th World Series title.
To Girardi's credit, he's not too sold on this idea. Said the skipper: "I want to talk to Curtis a little more. He said he liked the idea of what he did here and he didn’t want to change it. But I want to talk to him more to make sure he’s comfortable."
My take: Let Granderson have his number. The 27 thing was cute in a nauseating sort of way, reflecting the desire of the tortured Yankees fans to end their long drought without a title. But if you're gonna take away the uniform number of an All-Star player, then you're sort of putting yourself above the team as a whole, which is a large part of the reason the Yankees' front office soured on Joe Torre in the later years.
-Concerning his contract status, Girardi, signed through 2010, said, "I wouldn’t expect them to bring it up until it’s over. I’m under contract. I woujldn’t worry about it. I worry about what we’re going to do in 2010." Obviously, Girardi has tremendous job security at the moment.
3. Brian Cashman.
--He continued to offer every possible hint that the Yankees, mindful of the bigger picture, won't go hard after Jason Bay or Matt Holliday. His explanation is verbose, but sensible:
"The budget number is hard and set. As we move forward, we have obviously Jeter (as a free agent next year). We have Rivera coming up next year. We’ve got huge financial commitments.
"We were very aggressive in last year’s free-agent market. It turned out, for good reason, there were terrific players available. This market's a lot different. So we played in a better market last year. We’ll be less aggressive in this market.
"As we move forward, we’ve got to be careful. We’ve got a lot of commitments we’re locked in on, and with quality players that we’re excited about, but as we move forward, you have to be very careful what you do on a long-term basis with certain guys. (There are) conversations that have yet to be had with our own players on our roster, as well as the potential of next year’s free agent market, which is incredibly more impressive than this one."
--He also explained why the team continues to want Damon back, even as club officials are frustrated by the pace of negotiations: "Damon is a perfect two-hole hitter for this place. He is perfectly set up to hit behind Jeter and in front of those guys in the three and four hole, and that’s got a lot of value. There’s no doubt about it. If I can’t do it with him, is there somebody else I could do that with?
"…If Johnny doesn’t come back, you’ve got to play around with, who’s gonna bat two? Then, it doesn’t necessarily flow as smoothly."
--Cashman added that Joba Chamberlain won't have an innings limit in 2010, while Phil Hughes will.
4. Alex Rodriguez
He said that he doesn't need any more hip surgery before the start of next season. He seemed in good spirits.
5. CC Sabathia
Honestly, Sabathia is usually such a vanilla quote that I didn't even tape what he said. But he got fired up when discussing Boston's starting rotation, proclaiming that the Yankees' rotation doesn't get enough respect. Good stuff. It'll be in Erik Boland's story.
All right, back to work.
UPDATE, 6:27 p.m.: George King is now reporting that the Yankees' one-year deal with Nick Johnson could be announced tomorrow morning. The two sides are indeed talking seriously - Johnson, who loved his time in New York, wouldn't object to turning in his first-base glove and becoming a full-time DH - although Johnson hasn't taken a physical exam yet.
Also, the Mets officially announced their two-year deal with Japanese reliever Ryota Igarashi.
UPDATE, 6:45 p.m.: It's safe to say that the Yankees are further down the road in discussions with Johnson than they are with anyone else for their DH slot. Would a Johnson signing mean goodbye to Johnny Damon. Probably 98 percent yes, the caveats being 1) if Damon dropped his asking price dramatically, and 2) if the Yankees decided to include Melky Cabrera as part of a trade package for a starting pitcher.