SJK: Matsui/Damon/Melky versus Johnson/Granderson/Gardner: Who wins that triple-tag team match?

RN: I’ll take the youth and the defense of the latter troika.

SJK: With the addition of Javier Vazquez, it looks like Joba Chamberlain may be put in the bullpen once again. What is your opinion on how the Yankees have handled Joba since being called up to New York?

RN: I don’t have a single argument with how the Yankees have handled Chamberlain, if only because it’s almost exactly what I would have done. Which of course doesn’t make it right…

SJK: Who do you think actually has better potential as a starter: Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain?

RN: In his career, Hughes is 8-9 with a 5.22 ERA in 28 starts. Chamberlain is 12-7 with a 4.18 ERA in 43 starts. Seems pretty cut-and-dried, doesn’t it? But you know, I’ve always been a big believer in Hughes’ talents, and I have to admit that all the doubts about Chamberlain have gotten to me a little. Which of them is more likely to win 100 games, or even 200? I won’t say it’s impossible to say with any precision, because I think almost anything is possible. But I’m glad I don’t have to decide between the two.

SJK: In every single article we’ve read, no one has mentioned the idea of moving Granderson to LF and making Gardner, who was one of the best CFs in baseball last year, head up the outfield defense. We’ve been advocating that idea for over a month now. What do you think about that idea and do you think there’s a chance it could happen?

RN: I think it’s a fine idea, in a vacuum. But the Yankees don’t play in a vacuum. For one thing, a lot of people would wonder why they traded for — and why they’ll spend at least $26 million on — a left fielder who doesn’t hit a ton.

But I think it’s more than that. If you do move Granderson, you’re essentially announcing to the world that Granderson’s not good enough to play center field. Which is fine …until you decide that Brett Gardner’s not good enough to play every day (or two-thirds of the days), either.

Keeping Granderson in center field today might cost the Yankees a few runs over the course of the season, but it also leaves the Yankees’ options wide open. Down the road — this summer, next year, whenever — if the Yankees want to pick up a center fielder, they can do that and move Granderson. But if they want to pick up a left fielder, they can do that, too.

SJK: Andre Dawson – Great Hall of Famer or the Greatest Hall of Famer?

RN: Is there a third choice? I wouldn’t have voted for him, but he’s far from the worst outfielder in the Hall of Fame. He does have the worst on-base percentage (by a lot!) among Hall of Fame outfielders, and it was a little frustrating to read his supporters among the voters suggesting that OBP should somehow have been off-limits when evaluating Dawson’s career.

SJK: With the proliferation of sabermetric websites and research, do MLB teams know anything major that fans don’t about evaluating players and strategy?

RN: Sure. Every team knows lots of things that fans don’t know. But the odd thing is that there are still plenty of teams that don’t care to know things that you and I know. There is still this willful ignorance that some baseball executives wear as a badge of honor.

SJK: Seems like defensive value is gaining more and more traction among baseball nerds everywhere. And it seems like we can see it gaining momentum among MLB teams, especially when you look at what Boston has done with Cameron and Beltre. Do you expect this trend to be a secular one, and do you think defense is as important as hitting and pitching?

RN: It’s absolutely not as important as hitting or pitching. Not close. What makes it particularly important, though, is that there’s far more uncertainty surrounding defense than hitting or pitching, which means there’s still a competitive advantage to be gained there, with a little hard work.

SJK: Best move of the offseason / Worst move of the offseason?

RN: Lots of candidates for best moves … Just off the top of my head, I think the Twins made a great move in trading Carlos Gomez for J.J. Hardy (who’s primed for a huge comeback), and of course you have to love the Mariners somehow adding Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins.

Among the worst was the Astros signing Brandon Lyon for three years and $15 million. Obviously that’s not a great deal of money; it’s just silly and suggests that the organization doesn’t have any idea what it’s doing.

SJK: In Bloodsport, Ray Jackson refuses to listen to Frank Dux when he tells him to go for Chong Li’s gut. Why was he so ignorant?

RN: I think Jackson was more stubborn than ignorant. After all, he’d been well-trained in the tradition of vale tudo – anything goes. Jackson wanted to do things his way, and it almost got him killed.

SJK: After this season, the Yankees will face the mother of all contract negotiations as Derek Jeter becomes a free agent. What type of contract do you envision him receiving?

RN: I don’t believe the negotiations will be difficult at all, because everyone’s going to start with exactly the same end-point: paying Derek Jeter a great deal of money and ensuring that he never wears another franchise’s uniform. Exactly what that means in terms of dollars and years, I don’t know. But I think it’s smart for the Yankees to wait until after this season, because Jeter’s unlikely to duplicate his 2009; his value will only drop (a little). Everything will come out okay in the end, though.

SJK: Do you have any new projects in the works?

RN: As always, I’ve got a half a dozen books kicking around in my head that I would like to write. But right now I’m jazzed about Rob Neyer Baseball, which I’ll humbly submit is the most sophisticated, accurate, and playable simulation game you’re going to find. So I’m doing my best to 1) spread the word, and 2) learn the game to the point where I’m not routinely getting waxed by the guys in my league who’ve been playing a lot longer than I have.

Thanks to Rob for checking in with NoMaas.

*Props to Moses Hightower, Louis Winthorpe III, Vizzini, Jake Fratelli, Marshall Seymour, Mick Shrimpton, and Reginald Cornelius III for also contributing to this inteview.