I thought it was time I did a sports related post. I realize this is old news, but now that the dust has completely settled, my thoughts have too.
The "big 3." That's the nickname for Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. The last time I heard that nickname used it was for Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder when they were all on the A's. Let's see......what happened to them? Hudson's doing pretty well and he's pretty consistent. I wouldn't use the word "big" when describing his talents anymore though. I'd use the word, medium. Mark Mulder has barely pitched in the last 2 years because of injuries. And, well, Barry Zito signed the big money contract with SF, and sucked in his first season with them.
Would all of this have happened if they weren't broken up? One might say no if they believed Samson lost all his strength when his hair was cut off. I personally don't believe that myth, well, I believe it, but I don't believe it was his hair that did it. I think his hair was an excuse/metaphor for his self-confidence. Do I think the old "big 3" had more confidence together rather than apart? Probably. There's something to be said about knowing your fellow starters can also get the job done and pick you up the next game if you had a bad outing. While I say probably, I still think their careers would've taken the same course. Zito did fine with the A's once the other 2 left, fine enough to earn that big money contract. The thing is, he was already in a decline, so people should've anticipated his below average season. Now, I do think he'll bounce back and do better in '08, but he'll never be the pitcher he was years ago. The types of injuries Mulder's had would've happened no matter what, and Hudson was never a power pitcher.
With that said, I turn to the talks of trading 1 of the pitchers who you might call the future of the Yankees that took place during the offseason. Like I said, breaking up the established, older "big 3" didn't alter their careers, and I don't believe it would've happened here either. They haven't come close to spending enough time in a starting rotation together to get comfortable. Doesn't mean they shouldn't get that opportunity though.
Much back and forth went on between the Twins and teams competing for the services of arguably the best pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana. The Twins understandably wanted to get the best package of players for him. The Twins also held out hope they could strike a deal with Santana themselves. Their offer even went as high as 5 years for $100 million. He wanted 7 years. The Mets wound up getting Santana for 4 prospects thought to be beneath the offers the Twins got from the Yankees and Red Sox. Ok, fine. The Mets needed him more than anyone anyway, he's now out of the AL, and most importantly he's not a Red Sox.
While the Yanks are now the 2nd place team in the AL East chasing the Red Sox, I truly believe they made the right decision. I myself waffled between salivating over Santana and wanting to keep the homegrown youth who had already been cultivated to understand the NY/Yankee way from conception in the minors. You can't put a price on that. New York is the hardest market to play in, I don't care what anybody says. Now, if Santana was about to be traded to Boston, the Yanks should've done whatever they had to, to prevent that from happening. A rotation with Santana and Beckett at the top of it for years to come is formidable. I still shudder at the thought.
I also shudder at the thought of signing a pitcher to a 7 year contract that includes a no-trade clause. I know some will disagree with me, but I don't think any team can justify that. I understand the Mets did, but they were pretty much backed into a corner considering the other starters on their team. So, they threw the money and years at him, gave him whatever he wanted. At what cost? While Santana has proven extremely durable, it's unlikely he never spends any time on the DL for his entire career. I know, that could be said of any player, but what about skills. A pitcher's skills are more likely to decline with age than a position player's. That coupled with higher probability of injury makes a pitcher a more risky investment than a position player. Ok, that's common knowledge, but I'm saying this in the context of 7 years. History has shown that pitchers given such a lengthy contract have not lived up to it. Even pitchers given less years haven't lived up to it.
The Yankees had a choice to make; either trade youth which is the direction they've been trying to move toward, or keep them, and go in a different direction than they've gone for the past 7 or so years. Those 7 or so years proved to be failures in Yankeeland with no World Series rings. When one method doesn't work, it's time to try another. The other part of this choice was either signing an ace for 7 years at $140 million who probably wouldn't live up to all 7 years, or keeping 2 potential aces and a #3-4 starter for less money than that combined. I'm sorry, the business end of baseball has to be considered in all transactions. It would be nice if it didn't, but that's reality. To me, the choice became easy after weighing all the odds, prices and talent.
I can't wait to see these kids perform for a whole season. Go Yankees!