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March 17, 2005

Team Health Reports

New York Yankees

by Will Carroll

Looking for your favorite squad's Team Health Report? Try this link.

Hitters

Yellow light C Jorge Posada: Posada has escaped serious injury throughout his career. Some will call it luck, but if there's one quality I want in a catcher, it's not an electric arm--it's pain tolerance.

Red light 1B Tino Martinez: Martinez was brought in to take the field in the stead of Jason Giambi. Giambi has had well-documented health problems, but Martinez has plenty of his own. This move is more about the clubhouse than first base and it might not work in either place.

Yellow light 2B Tony Womack: Womack came back from Tommy John surgery in just five months, putting together a healthy career year. His legs are his key asset.

Green light SS Derek Jeter

Green light 3B Alex Rodriguez

Green light LF Hideki Matsui

Red light CF Bernie Williams: Williams is just a shell of the player who has an arguable case for the Hall of Fame. Never a strong thrower, arthritis has sapped his ability to throw effectively. Matsui would be a better option than Williams or Doug Glanville.

Yellow light RF Gary Sheffield: His left shoulder is still a bit of a problem. Coming off surgery, he's not back to 100%, so some of the power numbers might be off in the first couple of months.

Red light DH Jason Giambi: No one knows if he can come back. When we talk about the gains of steroid users, why don't we point to Giambi or to Jose Canseco's long history of injury just as much?

Pitchers

Yellow light SP Randy Johnson: He's still pitching on knees without cartilage, after all. It's an unknown, but you have to like what he did in 2004 and his chances to do it again.

Yellow light SP Mike Mussina: Once elbow problems start in a pitcher, they seldom just vanish. His little "drinking bird" maneuver from the stretch bothers me to no end.

Green light SP Carl Pavano

Red light SP Kevin Brown: Anger management is as much an issue as injury management with Brown. Older pitchers tend to fall into pattern. Injured pitchers stay injured, while healthy pitchers stay healthy. You know which one Brown is.

Red light SP Jaret Wright: Wright's had as many surgeries as Joan Rivers has. His one good post-surgical season got him a big contract and gave the Yankees the riskiest pitcher in the majors.

Yellow lightCL Mariano Rivera: Rivera had his annual elbow problem early this season, missing a week of spring training. He'll probably have a couple more instances of this, with another season of domination when healthy. His cut fastball may be the best in history.

--

People buy insurance to lay off some of the risk. If you wreck your car, you don't want to have to buy a whole new car. If your house burns down, you don't want to have to pay to rebuild it. That's the idea of insurance--risk management based on financial need.

For a team like the Yankees, there is no need, and therefore no risk. If they lose a player, they don't seem to mind the financial loss, heading back to the checkbook. Unlike teams that don't spend money--and yes, I realize that no team has built up their financial resources like the Yankees have--a bad contract or a risk that bites them doesn't kill them financially. This tendency toward self-insurance--acceptance of risk--is what gives the Yankees yet another advantage.

The Yankees can safely ignore the age or injury history of players in search of upside. Jaret Wright is a risky pitcher, one that is going to be expensive enough that that risk would keep most other teams away, but not the Yankees. If he collapses, they'll find another and if not, the media will point to their financial advantages rather than their risk-management profile.

More teams could do this. Short contracts with a higher degree of accepted risk could work for every team to some degree. It would just take a better, more educated guess on the risk than most front offices can put together now.

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