Tagged: Al Leiter

2 1/2 Weeks to Tampa…

The Yankees’ Migration to Florida Begins…

When the calendar page turns next Friday, we will enter a month WITH Yankees baseball for the first time since last October. It may not be “real games” but we’re getting the band together again in Tampa, FL and the Yankees will be playing their first organized exhibition game in less than a month when they travel to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers on Saturday, February 23rd to take on the bullpen-challenged Boston Red Sox.

I don’t know about you but I am ready to see the guys at Steinbrenner Field and watching the navy blue spring jerseys in full force.

Before pitchers and catchers report to camp in roughly two and a half weeks, I’d really like to see the Yankees formally introduce their off-season acquisitions in a press conference at Yankee Stadium. It doesn’t appear it is going to happen but I always loved it when the Yankees held press conferences at the Stadium followed by photo sessions down on the often snow-covered field. It seems like ages ago when the Yankees acquired James Paxton, yet we’ve only heard his voice in interviews. Most of us have yet to see the smile on his face and the Big Maple tattoo on his arm as he talks about the excitement of being a Yankee.

Photo Credit: The Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)

If I owned the Yankees, I’d pull Paxton, Troy Tulowitzki, DJ LeMahieu, and Adam Ottavino to New York before they head to Tampa. Heck, Ottavino is already there so it would save Hal Steinbrenner some money.

Nice post yesterday by Bryan Van Dusen entitled “Bryce Harper Will Be a Yankee”.  It’s worth checking out if you haven’t already done so. The way the market is playing out seems to be opening the possibility that Harper could find his way to Yankee Stadium. While I’ve long been a Manny Machado guy, I don’t really see the fit with Manny anymore given the infield acquisitions and the optimism Didi Gregorious could be back sooner than expected. Will there be a mid-summer “acquisition” better than Didi? I don’t think so. But as Bryan outlined yesterday, Harper fits the Yankees so many ways. I am sure they’ve heard the words of the newest Yankees talk about the reasons they joined the team. The theme of of an organization that wants to win every year resonates as does the lifelong dreams of wearing the famed Pinstripes. We know Bryce desires to be a Yankee. Hal Steinbrenner can make it happen and provide Yankee fans with one of the greatest young players in the game today (to go with our collection of other great young players).

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

The Boston Red Sox are seemingly hamstrung by their payroll. Not that I want the Yankees to be in a similar position, but the time to strike is now. Show no mercy. I want a roster that ensures the Red Sox are the team battling for Wild Card position this season and not the Yankees. The weakest position on the team, in my opinion, is left field. Brett Gardner is simply no longer the player he once was. Getting old sucks. I have no trust in Clint Frazier’s ability to stay healthy until he proves that he can. Jacoby Ellsbury? Please. Bring Bryce Harper to New York. His presence would help the other guys in the lineup and he’d deflect pressure off guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez.

If the market moves in the Yankees’ favor and they do sign Harper for less than original estimates, it will be one of Brian Cashman’s best moves in his Yankees career. Bryce Harper, New York Yankees. It sounds so right (or should I say ‘so lefty’?). Works for me. Let J.A. Happ pick out a new number. I hope he has that problem.

Staying with the “it’s just money” theme, the Yankees got a good idea what it might take to retain CF Aaron Hicks when the Los Angeles Dodgers signed oft-injured CF A.J. Pollock to a five-year, $60 million contract this week. Hicks, if he can stay healthy this season, figures to command an equal if not greater deal. I probably wish Estevan Florial was closer to The Show but the Yankees will have some tough choices next off-season with Hicks, Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances.

It’s great to see the finalization of Adam Ottavino’s three-year contract. I am really excited about his presence on this year’s team. I wanted Ottavino to wear Number 0 but I understood the concerns of those who didn’t want the Yankees to issue a number that has never been worn in the history of the franchise. In the end, I am glad the Yankees made the decision to allow Otto to wear his number. I know many wanted Number 2 to be the last single digit worn but there’s no disrespect with Otto continuing the tradition of single digits. I was a little surprised when the Yankees retired Joe Torre’s Number 6. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the manager and I loved the championships he brought to the organization, but it’s not like he played on the field with number 6 and it’s not necessarily a number we strongly associate with him. I get retiring Casey Stengel’s number but honestly I think retiring numbers should be reserved for players, especially when the organization has so many retired numbers. Aaron Boone managed 162 regular season games last year plus the Wild Card game and ALDS, yet we could probably count on one hand the number of times we actually saw his number. Boone could win the next five consecutive World Series but I wouldn’t retire Number 17. The recognition should be for the players, not the coaching staff. Players have a greater effect on the success of a manager than the manager has on the players. The point is, Number 6 should still be in circulation, and Otto’s number 0 should not be the last single digit.

Well, since Number 6 is retired, I do think they should honor Roy White and give him equal credit for the number in the way Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra share the retirement of Number 8. Roy White was such a huge and consistent part of the Yankees in the early years of my fandom. The lifetime Yank deserves his day in the sun at Yankee Stadium, and recognition with a plaque in Monument Park. White played 15 years for the Yankees from 1965 through 1979. He was always overshadowed by the bigger names but he was the consummate professional and the glue on so many of those great Yankee teams. Maybe his numbers did not warrant the sole retirement of his number but he deserves credit for it as much as Joe Torre in a shared capacity, in my opinion.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Speaking of retired numbers, it will be interesting to see if the Yankees take Number 35 out of circulation now that Mike Mussina has been elected to the Hall of Fame. I was pleased to see Mussina make the HOF but he was never a lock to make it in my opinion. There are certainly a number of players who are equally deserving, or maybe even more so, that have never gotten the call. Nevertheless, I am proud of Mussina’s accomplishment. I had felt he should go into the Hall of Fame with his Orioles cap but I was pleased with his decision to go in with no logo like fellow Hall of Famer Roy “Doc” Halladay who was equally great on two teams (same as Moose).

Mariano Rivera. What else can you say? The first man unanimously selected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame. There is no one better deserving of the honor and recognition.  We were privileged to see one of the game’s greatest and the best to ever play his position for so many years at Yankee Stadium. Growing up, I always thought how cool it would have been to see Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle (in his prime) play. As it stands today, I am glad I was able to see guys like Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter, and the Sandman. It makes up for never having seen the earlier legends. Congratulations Mo! You were one of a kind and we may never see someone of your greatness again. It was our pleasure to watch you.

Lastly, I was disappointed to see Al Leiter’s departure from the YES Network. I get his reasons for stepping down (to spend more time with his family and mentor his 18-year-old son Jack who will most likely be seen on Major League mounds in about a half decade or so). I was glad to hear Al will continue to appear on MLB Network but his voice will be sorely missed in the YES Network broadcast booth.

I am excited that Baseball is right around the corner. After next weekend (the Super Bowl), all eyes will turn to America’s greatest game. Well, maybe not basketball fans and March Madness, but for the rest of us, the dawn of the 2019 season is on the horizon. Can’t wait.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Like it or not, here comes the 2015 season…

What’s the plan?…

Well, it’s January 2015.  The Yankees roster is slowly evolving.  The latest addition/return was the surprise re-signing of Stephen Drew which certainly makes sense.  While I still prefer to see Rob Refsnyder win the second base job outright, Drew certainly provides great insurance at both second base and shortstop.  It’s no sure thing that Didi Gregorius will be successful and I’d prefer not to see Brendan Ryan as the only other choice, even if he is a slick fielder.

I am still concerned about the starting rotation.  Reading CC Sabathia say the knee is fine is hardly a ringing endorsement that he’ll be the CC of old.  I think best case he is a strong #3 in the rotation if he is able to come back healthy.  His days as the team’s ace are over…in my opinion.  The hope of the rotation lies with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Obviously, there are health concerns with both pitchers.  Even though Ivan Nova will return later in the year, I do not expect him to be back up to par until 2016.  Nathan Eovaldi is the project.  The Yankees apparently think they can turn him around and perhaps they can.  It would be good to get him to the point that he is as reliable and consistent as Hiroki Kuroda was.

While I get why the Yankees will not pay $200 million for Max Scherzer, I wish they would make a play for James Shields.  With a rotation containing so much uncertainty, the Yankees really need a dependable starter without question marks.

I have heard some rumblings that the Yankees now have the prospects to make a trade for Cole Hamels, but I am not sure that’s one I would pursue.  I like prospects such as Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and want to see them succeed in pinstripes.  It was tough when I was a kid and the Yankees were always trading youth for veterans.  Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, Fred McGriff, Al Leiter, J.T. Snow, Brad Ausmus.  I know the list is much longer than this, but it was tough watching guys like that succeed elsewhere.

I don’t think that Cole Hamels would be the missing ingredient to suddenly make the Yankees the World Series favorites.  So, if he is not the difference maker, then the Yankees shouldn’t raid the cupboards to bring him aboard.  I’d rather see Hamels go to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The fear of course is that he’ll be calling Fenway Park home next season.

At this point, I still do not see the 2015 Yankees making the play-offs.  I think the Baltimore Orioles will still be the team to beat.  They suffered off-season losses, yes, but they’ll also be getting back Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.  The Toronto Blue Jays look to be the most improved team and they’ve been a team of potential for a few years.  Boston will be stronger, and it’s best to never underestimate the Tampa Bay Rays even if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman are no longer calling the shots.

There’s still time for GM Brian Cashman to make the moves to propel the Yankees into contention but so much is riding on better seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira.  Of the group, McCann is the only one I feel is capable for turning it around.  Beltran and Teixeira are in their decline years, and that slippery slope is steeper for some guys.

Hear the voice of the Bard!…

There’s a nice piece in Nick Cafardo’s column today (Sunday Baseball Notes in The Boston Globe) about the comeback of Daniel Bard.  It would be good to see Bard successfully return to his position of bullpen relevance after years of struggle.  Perhaps that’s a buy low signing the Yankees should pursue.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  There was a time when Bard was a Yankees draft pick although he never signed.  Even if he goes back to Boston or another team, I truly hope that Bard is successful.

Short walk to the Hall…

Congratulations to the Hall of Fame inductees:  John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, and Pedro Martinez.  I think all of the selections were justified.  It was sad that it was the final ballot appearance for Don Mattingly, but it was a given that he was not going to make it.  Maybe he can take the Joe Torre route…great managerial success to go with a strong playing career…to gain access to the Hall.

25 years is long enough…

Put me in the group of people who want to see Pete Rose allowed to enter the Hall of Fame.  He remains one of the best players I’ve been privileged to see play in my lifetime.  This is not an endorsement of Pete the man and I feel what he did was wrong, however, Pete the player was one of the best players of all-time.

I am glad that this is the last full month without any baseball activity.  Looking forward to the opening of spring training camps next month.

–Scott

Where’s George Steinbrenner when you need him?…

Missing the point…

Life has been incredibly difficult since the Yankees, expectedly, lost to the Detroit Tigers in the play-offs last October.  While the Angels were adding Josh Hamilton to go with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout and the Dodgers were adding Zack Greinke to go with Clayton Kershaw, the Yankees did nothing.  Okay, they did fork over the cash to bring back senior citizens Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, but there was nothing to excite the fan base.

Excite the fan base…

Why is that so difficult?  So, we watch Russell Martin leave for the 2013 version of the 1950’s Kansas City A’s…the Pittsburgh Pirates.  No worries, rather than chase a proven catcher like A.J. Pierzynski, the Yankees announced that they’ll go with an in-house candidate.  So, that leaves a career back-up, a AAA catcher last year, and a minor leaguer who missed most of last season due to injury.  Nick Swisher leaves, but no worry, we have an aging 39-year-old former great player in Ichiro Suzuki who is now sporting more gray hair than Bill Clinton and was clearly a player on decline until a brief renaissance after his trade to the Yankees.

Last year’s closer, Rafael Soriano, departs so what is the response?  We have ace set up man David Robertson returning and a rehabilitating former closer in David Aardsma on the roster.  If memory serves, Robertson was not effective during his brief stint as closer following Mariano Rivera’s season-ending injury.  Plus, Rivera is a not-so-young 43 years old.  He is a first ballot Hall of Famer and my favorite Yankee for a number of years, but time is destined to catch up with even the greatest.

The bench strength (Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez) depart, and the Yankees answer by signing former rival Kevin Youkilis and role player Matt Diaz.  I sent a picture of a clean shaven Youkilis to a Red Sox friend asking if this was really THE Kevin Youkilis (as he looks so less intimidating than those goatee’d Red Sox years).  The response was, “I hear he’s hurt (oblique)…yes, that’s him”.  The only thing I know about Diaz is that he pronounces his name DYE-az rather than DEE-az.  All I ever saw him as was a part-timer for the Atlanta Braves.

We go to camp and the calendar doesn’t even turn to March before we hear that Curtis Granderson is lost for 10 weeks due to a broken forearm.  Immediately, the response from the Yankees is that they’ll cover the loss in-house.  Believe me, I get the reasons for why you wouldn’t chase down Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells for 10 measly weeks but Granderson represented a major part of the team’s offense.  You KNOW that Mark Teixera’s bat won’t show up until at least June.  Derek Jeter is another year older and coming off injury. The outfield is full of those Dave Collins type players…speed first, light hitting outfielders.  It’s too bad that Billy Martin isn’t around to consult with Joe Girardi on the fine art of small ball.

My trust in the Yankees farm system to produce a quality major league starter is weak at best.  We hear how great Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are, yet now we sit with Banuelos recovering from Tommy John surgery and Betances proving himself to be Prince Overrated.  I look at guys like Al Leiter and Doug Drabek.  They struggled when called up to the Yankees but prospered as quality major leaguers elsewhere.  It has been awhile since a Jeter or Robinson Cano burst onto the scene.  So, my faith in the minor league system producing a surprise that immediately helps the Yankees this year is weak.

Today, the news comes out through GM Brian Cashman that the Yankees did make a significant offer to free agent to be Robinson Cano.  Given that the news didn’t say the Yankees actually signed Cano, I see this as a negative move.  If there is resistance on the player’s front, this is most likely going to lead to Cano’s free agency in the fall.  With Hal Steinbrenner’s “financially responsible” approach, that most likely means that some other team makes an incredibly ridiculous offer to snatch Cano from the Bronx.

As I write this, the Yankes are 1-6 in spring training.

Excite the fan base.  Why is that so difficult Mr. Steinbrenner?…

–Scott