In attempt to make one last pre-season push for Yankees Annual 2009, Maple Street Press has put my article online for free. While you should still buy Yankees Annual 2009, you can read my entire article here.
It is a great honor to have my article selected to represent the magazine, and it means that I can now share the entire article with you.
Why should you still buy the magazine even after reading my article? My favorite part is the player scouting reports. Want to know how often C.C.Sabathia throws down and away to left handed batters? Or how Mark Teixeira bats on cureveballs from right-handed pitchers? The Annual contains full hit zone, spray, and scouting report charts for every Yankee player. This is unique data that you’ll rarely see online. It also contains great articles by Peter Abraham on Chien-Ming Wang, the story of Brian Cashman by The Record’s Pete Caldera, and an honest analysis of the problems that plagued the 2008 Yankees by the Star-Ledger’s Dan Graziano.
Oppenheimer came in with a resume well-suited for the job. He was a protégé of Gene Michael, architect of the Yankees’ 1990s dynasty. Oppenheimer started his career as a scout for the San Diego Padres following an unremarkable career in NCAA baseball. He signed on as a cross-checker for the Yankees in 1994, and quickly made his way to the major league advanced scouting team. There he worked with Gene Michael. Michael, renowned for his good judgment and attention to detail when scouting young players, no doubt shaped Oppenheimer’s career. Oppenheimer worked his way through the often-treacherous politics of George Steinbrenner’s Tampa operation in the 90s. He displayed a hybrid style of scouting, using knowledge gained from the artistry of Gene Michael combined with newly popular “Moneyball” techniques among baseball organizations.
The result was that when Oppenheimer was elevated to the position of Director of Player Development in 2005, he was ready to dramatically change the organization’s approach. The Yankees had previously kept their scouting department on a tight budget in order to save money for the major league team, but Cashman gave Oppenheimer a virtual blank check for the draft with a unique directive.
Most Major League Baseball teams are risk averse at the draft. They run to safety, not wanting to waste their limited amateur budget trying to draft a player who is likely to wash out or go elsewhere. The Yankees were not interested in searching just for “safe” players, but instead decided to use their limitless pocketbook to take as many risks as possible. Teams will often pass on drafting a player whom they believe will cost too much to sign, who might opt for college, or whose health is considered a risk. These players are first-round caliber talent, but are available in the later rounds for the same price. Paying 1st-round bonuses to later round picks is called going “over-slot”.
I promise that this is my last attempt at shameless self-promotion until this time next year.