|Talking Baseball with Jon Heyman||08.28.08 at 9:32 am ET|
Veteran SI.com baseball writer and D and C favorite, Jon Heyman, who has covered the Yankees longer than Buck has covered the Red Sox, was nice enough to do a Q and A with me regarding the state of the New York Yankees. Thanks again to Jon — this is much appreciated.
Iggy: The Yankees’ put a lot of faith into their young starters, Philip Hughes and Ian Kennedy, going into the season — both did nothing this year. Is there hope for these two in ’09?
Jon: No, their season is a lost cause. Make that a double lost cause. Yankees people are wondering why it’s taking Hughes so long to return after suffering an early-season ribcage injury, and they think a lot worse things than that about Kennedy, who seems to continually irk them by saying how well he’s pitching and how his not-so-great outings don’t especially bug him. Besides having the stuff of a No. 4 starter, Kennedy’s foot-in-mouth disease could lead to his banishment from the organization this winter. But if they do trade him, Yankee fans will wonder why they sold low, and didn’t take advantage of the high value he carried last winter.
Iggy: Will the Yankees sign Pettitte and Mussina in the offseason?
Jon: The Yankees have to try to bring back Mussina. They have no choice about that. While their great goal is to get younger, where would they be without their perpetually snarling 39-year-old MVP? That’s right, down their with Mussina’s old team, the O’s. As for Andy Pettitte, it’ll probably be up to him. If he wants to return on another one-year deal, and there’s no real reason to think he wouldn’t, I think the Yankees will have him back. Now that assumes he gets his act together in September to some degree and doesn’t throw up a string of clinkers to rival what we saw Tuesday night in the Bronx. I am starting to suspect Pettitte’s public pangs of retirement were subconsciously learned from his former good buddy Roger Clemens, the ex-running mate he might have to see in a courtroom at some point. But Pettitte and his wife do truly like New York, as opposed to Clemens, who just liked the spotlight and money New York brought him, at least back then, when he used to revel in the spotlight. That’s changed lately.
Iggy: Are the NY Yankees in good hands with Hank and Hal. Red Sox fans love them — as they make for great villains.
Jon: It’s too early to tell how well they’ll carry on for their father. One thing seems sure, and that’s that they aren’t particularly close. Hank is a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants sort who’s in his early 50s and likes to bluster like George, circa 1985. Hal is a buttoned-down, behind-the-scenes sort who appears much more deliberate when making decisions. Hank’s big tabloid talk would suggest he had more power than Hal. But long-term Hal would appear the more likely winner of any power struggle. It appears Hal is about to win a big battle, as well, as Hank apparently has come to see Hal’s view that keeping GM Brian Cashman is the only prudent call for the organization.
Iggy: Will Joe Girardi manage the Yankees longer then Willie Randolph managed the Mets?
Jon: I would have said definitely yes coming into the season. But it’s been a long season. Girardi has the backing of Brian Cahman and Hank Steinbrenner (as long as he retains power) but seems short of media allies (and wins, to this point). Barring an incredible September rally, I think the pressure is on for a big sophomore season now. Coincidentally, both of Girardi’s two most-cited blunders are Red Sox connected. Pitching to Manny Ramirezwith a base open must have been a case of vapor lock. Though sitting ex-Red Sox Johnny Damonin Minnesota coming off five straight multi-hit games wasn’t such a great idea, either. Still, it’s tough to judge Girardi’s season. Though it’s unseemly to cite injuries when you have a $200-million payroll (and Girardi generally refrains from doing so), he does have some built-in excuses if the Yankees miss the playoffs for the first time since 1993. At this point, I’d put Girardi’s chances to outlast Randolph at only slightly better than 50-50.
Iggy: Why would Girardi not just shut down Joba? Is Hank calling the shots on him?
Jon: I don’t believe Hank’s calling the shots on Joba. Hank may do a lot of talking in public, but I believe GM Brian Cashman, the organizational pitching people and Girardi are the ones weighing Joba’s fate. They have always been careful with Joba and I think they will continue to be. But as of Monday, the Yankees probably thought they were in the race. They are taking it slow, anyway. But if they continue to falter, and they fall further behind, I do suspect Joba will be shut down.
Iggy: How much control does Cashman have? Does he have as much as he was promised when he signed his last contract?
Jon: Nobody has as much control as they’re promised when they sign a contract. And no GM will ever have full control with the Yankees. But Cashman has stayed in that job for 11 years now, and while he doesn’t love the fact that other GMs have more power, he also understands they have the highest payroll and he’ll be one of the two or three highest-paid GMs if he stays. It’s not the perfect job, but hey. it’s better than most.
Iggy: Is A-Rod the most interesting Yankee you have ever covered?
Jon: Yes, definitely. He regularly puts up about the best numbers in baseball, smiles often and appears to try to say the right things. Yet, he has managed to engender a lot of detest by failing to play his best in crucial situations and occasionally failing to say the right things. His life off the field has become a soap opera, adding to the intrigue. Who’d have thought he’d find a female friend to hang out with who’s richer than he is?
Iggy: Lots have been made of Jeter’s defensive slide. Is this true? Was he ever a great defensive player?
Jon: Ithink at one time he was very good. He could never go to his left. It was like there was a blind spot. Not as bad as Spike Owen’s, but pretty bad. Yet, at his best, Jeter was great going to his right, going out on popups and coming in on slow rollers. He also has a great arm and gives all the intangibles. So I believe he earned the Gold Gloves he won. Maybe I am in the minority on that one, but that’s what I think. That said, he’s been anything but great the last few years. I don’t believe he’s as bad as the range factor suggests. But he’s at best an average defender now, I’d say.
Iggy: There doesn’t seem to be a lot of anger coming from Yankee fans regarding this season. Is that due to Brett Favre, Mad Dog Russo not being on the air or something else?
Jon: While Yankees fans may be spoiled, hopefully they understand that this playoff run was going to come to an end at some point. I do think the anger, except when directed at A-Rod, has been fairly subdued. Is it possible they are just more mature fans than anyone realized? Or maybe you are right. Maybe they are preoccupied by some other issue. If I had to guess, being Yankee fans, maybe it’s the plummeting stock exchanges that have distracted them.
Iggy: Will you miss Yankee Stadium or do you say good “who cares, the new place will be better?”
John: I’m all for progress. Bring on the wrecking ball!
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