This is the Cubs year. Really. (cont.)
Williams about to extend his deal; Cashman may, too
Meanwhile, a coterie of GMs at the top of their field are cashing in with new contracts this fall. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein recently agreed to a three-year deal for what is now believed to be about $7 million total, which still puts him at the top of the pay scale (I originally over-estimated his yearly take to be around $3 million annually), and Mets GM Omar Minaya agreed to a four-year extension.
Minaya's extension is no great surprise in that he has an excellent relationship with Mets COO Jeff Wilpon. The faith of Minaya's bosses goes beyond the standings; Mets ownership also appreciates the young players who enabled them to trade for starter/savior Johan Santana and also the young players who are helping them stay in the NL wild-card race.
SI.com also has learned that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is about to bestow a multi-year extension on GM Ken Williams. The Sox's front-office contracts have been kept unusually quiet through the years (it isn't even known when Williams' current deal expires, though it is believed to carry over into the 2009 season). But Williams, who's said to be amenable to the extension, is deserving of a new deal for having built the 2005 World Series champions and the current team that could still win the AL Central.
Additionally, Brian Cashman has been requested by the Yankees-owning Steinbrenners to let them know by next week whether he intends to return. And while Cashman is under contract through Oct. 31, he knows he will have options without picking up a phone. It seems to be pretty well known in baseball circles that at least the Mariners would be interested should he become available.
And while word is getting around that Cashman has some level of interest in the rebuilding chance, it is still very hard for those who know Cashman best to envision him leaving New York after the first season in which the Yankees failed to reach the playoffs. The best guess here is that Cashman will decide to return and be given a contract for close to $2.5 million a year.
Girardi's big clubhouse question
No one said it was going to be easy replacing legendary manager Joe Torre, and beyond the Yankees' failure to reach the playoffs for the first time since before Torre was manager, Joe Girardi may have to begin next year by repairing a few key relationships in his clubhouse.
According to people inside the clubhouse, several players, including some from the vaunted "old guard" that helped the Yankees to world championships in 1996, '98, '99 and 2000, were said to badly miss Torre.
Derek Jeter, the leader of the old guard and captain of the Yankees, was confronted on Sunday as to whether it was an adjustment playing for Girardi instead of Torre and predictably denied there was any problem (Jeter instead began peppering me with questions about what I knew about the situation). Jeter is famous for avoiding controversy and so adept at it he could probably teach a class in the art.
While Jeter wouldn't admit there's any problem (or any difference really), I've heard that several key Yankees see Girardi as tending to be autocratic and militaristic, especially compared to Torre's low-key way.
Girardi scores high points for his nimble handling of the bullpen. And while his bosses note the devastating injuries suffered (ace Chien-Ming Wang missed half the year and so did starting catcher Jorge Posada), they also noticed the underperformance of several key players, which falls on Girardi.
Around the Majors
Agent Fern Cuza said Pedro Martinez will "absolutely'' pitch again next year. Martinez himself is slightly less definitive, saying it's been a tough year and he needs to take some time before making a decision. The illness and eventual death of his father weighed heavily on Martinez this year.
Cuza said Moises Alou, though, hasn't decided whether to try to play next year. Alou has been very slow to recover from his calf injury this year
Hendry expressed great faith that free agent pitcher Ryan Dempster will return to the Cubs. "He likes it here, and we like him,'' Hendry said. "We haven't lost free agents we wanted to keep in the past.''
The Yankees will likely make a big play for Pirates center fielder Nate McLouth this winter.
White Sox shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who ensured he won't be returning next year, would have been better off waiting a few days to rip teammates. But this week on WSCR-AM (670) in Chicago, with the Sox battling the Twins atop the AL Central, Cabrera was asked how this Sox team compares to others he's been on and said, "The one thing that we're missing as a team ... is that we don't come out every night as winners. We come out hoping to win a ball game. I don't think that's the right attitude.''
The White Sox's bullpen, after a fast start to the year, has been killing them.
The Metrodome is still the hardest place for a visitor to play.
The Twins have the advantages now, after their sweep of the White Sox. They play the Royals while the White Sox have to navigate Cleveland (AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee pitches Sunday). If the Sox can stay alive through the weekend, they'll have to face Freddy Garcia, who won every clinching game for the Sox in 2005, then became annoyed when Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he should sit out this year rather than return, which he did, signing with the Tigers in August after shoulder surgery kept him out until then.
Not enough people appreciate the greatness of Twins closer Joe Nathan.