Self Parody Alert: The New York Post declares Lance Berkman "A True Yankee"


This morning I mocked Joel Sherman of the New York Post and others who talked up all of that “Berkman will never be able to hack it in New York” junk at the time of the trade. A close relative of that specious line of thinking is the little game in which New York columnists and radio people decide who is and who isn’t “a True Yankee.”

It was a meme that sprung up around the time the Yankees traded for A-Rod. He was better than Derek Jeter, you see, and the tabloid guys just love, love, love Derek Jeter, so they had to find a way to elevate Jeter and diminish Rodriguez. The “true Yankee” thing was great for that. It was so malleable! It could be about leadership. It could be about championships. It could be about character. Whenever there was a need to distinguish between heroes and villains on the Yankee roster, the designation of “true Yankee” did the trick.

I thought that all went away last year, but I guess not, because Sherman and the Post trotted it out again today for Lance Berkman. The headline: “Crucial hits make Berkman true member of Yankees.” Sherman:

Lance Berkman resided
in an interesting place as he came to bat in the fifth inning last
night. Technically, he was a Yankee. He had the uniform, drew a paycheck
signed by a Steinbrenner, enjoyed the company of a clubhouse saturated
with All-Stars. But even Berkman admitted he wasn’t really a Yankee.

I think that’s stretching it, by the way. He acknowledged that he wasn’t all that helpful down the stretch and that his teammates were the ones carrying the team to the playoffs. He said that he didn’t feel “part of the team” due to his lack of contributions. That’s reasonable. But that’s a different thing altogether, I’d argue, than admitting that he was not “a True Yankee” as that loaded phrase has come to be used. That there was some performance threshold that must be exceeded — in terms of numbers, clutchness, character and dramatics — before one can be a True Yankee

Thankfully, however, none of that matters now:

spending the majority of his career as a play-against-everyone No. 3
hitter and first baseman for the Astros, Berkman has been relegated to a
platoon, eighth-place-batting DH — an accidental tourist on the world’s
most famous traveling team. Yet, he considers this heavenly
nevertheless . . . . the
homer and double last night were particularly sweet. They allowed him
to step inside the velvet rope and really join the Yankees.

While I’m tempted to ask whether Sherman realizes just how much of a self-parody this kind of thing has become, I won’t. Rather, I’ll congratulate him for finding a new use of the concept of “True Yankee.”

Rather than merely be deployed to keep someone out of the club, now it’s far more versatile: it’s a means of covering the writer’s butt when his original take on a guy (Player X can’t hack it in New York) proves inoperative and a new, slightly less-ridiculous take must be deployed.

The Diamondbacks met with Johnny Cueto’s agent

AP Photo/David Goldman
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Diamondbacks spoke with Bryce Dixon, the agent of free agent starter Johnny Cueto. However, Rosenthal notes that Cueto’s price tag is expected to exceed the Diamondbacks’ comfort level.

Cueto, 29, is one of a handful of highly touted starting pitchers in this offseason’s free agent class. He is joined by David Price and Zack Greinke, among others. Jordan Zimmermann inked a deal in the neighborhood of $110 million over five years with the Tigers on Sunday morning, which will serve as a barometer for Cueto.

Cueto finished the 2015 regular season, between the Reds and the Royals, with a 3.44 ERA and a 176/46 K/BB ratio over 212 innings. He made 13 shaky starts with the Royals, but outside of a shellacking in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, pitched well in the post-season. Cueto pitched a complete game in Game 2 of the World Series against the Mets, helping put the Royals up two games to none at the time.

As a result of switching teams during the season, Cueto was not eligible to receive a $15.8 million qualifying offer. This means that Cueto, unlike Zimmermann for example, does not come attached with draft pick compensation.

Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski is reportedly trying to trade Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez
AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

Nick Cafardo provides this interesting nugget in his Sunday notes column at the Boston Globe

Hanley Ramirez, 1B-DH, Red Sox — There’s now talk in the front office that Dave Dombrowski is trying to move Ramirez in a deal. The Mariners, Orioles, and Angels seem to be the targets, and all three make sense.

Cafardo notes that “there are huge hurdles to cross” before a trade could happen — like how much of Hanley’s remaining salary the Red Sox would have to eat and what positions the soon-to-be 32-year-old is able to play defensively at this point in his career.

Boston’s higher-ups have asked Ramirez to learn first base and drop 20 pounds this winter. Whatever team is looking to acquire him would probably have to be comfortable with him serving primarily as a designated hitter.

Hanley is owed $68.2 million over the next three seasons and he carries a $22 million vesting option for 2019. He batted just .249/.291/.426 in 105 games this past year.

Ben Zobrist is the “Mets’ No. 1 target”

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Ben Zobrist posted a cool .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 126 games this summer between Oakland and Kansas City while appearing defensively at second base, third base, and both corner outfield positions.

His steady bat and defensive versatility make him a fit for just about every club in Major League Baseball, and the defending National League champions are among the teams in hot pursuit …

It’s a little odd to see the rebuilding Braves listed there given that Zobrist is 34 years old, but Rosenthal says the interest stems from a “desire for him to serve as [a] model for younger players” as the club prepares to open a new ballpark in 2017. Wasn’t that supposed to be Nick Markakis‘ job?

Zobrist and his agent Alan Nero are believed to be seeking a four-year deal.

Tigers agree to deal with starter Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Hey, the hot stove is finally generating some real fire …

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Tigers have agreed to terms on a contract with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. It’s a five-year deal worth around $110 million, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports.

This should have a domino effect on a loaded starting pitching market. David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Jeff Samardzija are just a few of the names still out there.

Zimmermann, 29, posted a 3.66 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 164/39 K/BB ratio in 201 2/3 innings this past season for the Nationals. He had a 2.66 ERA in 2014 and threw a no-hitter on the final day of the regular season.

Zimmermann’s free agency is tied to draft pick compensation because he rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Washington, but the Tigers finished with one of the 10-worst win-loss records in 2015 so their first-round pick in 2016 is protected. Detroit will give up its second-round pick instead.