Tagged: Albert Pujols

Take 2 Runs and Call Me in the Morning…

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

Yanks win on two-run homer by El Gary…

A deep drive by Gary Sanchez and some stellar pitching were the right ingredients for the Yankees on Sunday night as the winning streak continues. The Yankees won their ninth consecutive game with the 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

With a runner in scoring position (former Yankee Chris Young at second) in the bottom of the ninth and two outs, the showdown between Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler was electrifying. As we are continually reminded, “Baseball’s greatest player” (Mike Trout…why do I always want to call him Steve?) was standing in the on-deck circle, putting increased pressure on Chapman to end the game with Kinsler. The seven pitch at-bat concluded with a swinging strike for the final out.  Mike Trout could only stand and watch as the Yankees congratulated each other on the field for the series sweep, his bat resting to await the arrival of the Baltimore Orioles.

CC Sabathia pitched much better than I expected him to and the Yankees were, no doubt, the beneficiaries. The Yankees lose this game without CC’s exemplary start. Sabathia shirked the notion that he has become a five-inning pitcher (well, not really) by delivering seven strong.  He held the Halos to five hits and one run, while walking one and striking out four. The run came courtesy of a wild pitch in the sixth inning after Justin Upton had reached base on an infield single and Albert Pujols singled, his 2,996th career hit, to advance Upton to third. It was vintage Sabathia and the Yankees needed every bit of it on this night.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press (Mark J Terrill)

Credit to Angels starter Tyler Skaggs for holding the Yankees offense in check. When Giancarlo Stanton doubled in the top of the fourth inning, it was the first hit for the Yankees.  Gary Sanchez followed with a home run to left, a shot that traveled 447 feet to give the Yankees a two-run advantage.  Skaggs departed in the sixth inning due to a high pitch count, but those two hits in the fourth and an infield single by Gleyber Torres in the fifth were the only hits Skaggs allowed. He struck out eight Yankees over 5 1/3 innings and only walked two.  He pitched well enough to win but, thanks to Gary Sanchez and CC Sabathia, he did not.

The Yankees (18-9) kept pace with the AL East division-leading Boston Red Sox. The Sox ended the Tampa Bay Rays’ eight-game winning streak on Sunday in a battle of bullpens which saw Rays closer Alex Colome cough up the winning run in the bottom of the eighth. Craig Kimbrel closed out the win for Boston.  Bummer, I was really enjoying Boston’s losing streak and was pulling for the Rays to sweep. Sadly, all good things must end. The Yankees remain two games behind the Red Sox as we enter play on the final day of April.

Today the Yankees are in Houston, Texas to face the defending World Series champions and the site of last year’s heart-breaking Game 7 of the AL Championship Series that ended the Yankees’ season. I am sure that all Yankees fans on the East Coast are delighted the Yankees are in the Central Time Zone and no longer three hours away in the Pacific Time Zone.

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I suspect the Yankees winning streak will end while the team is in Houston, but it would be nice for them to get at least ten in a row before it is over. I love ten-game winning streaks and we are so very close.

ESPN staff writer Coley Harvey posted this Giancarlo Stanton quote. “We can all click even more. So we’re getting the timely hitting, the things we need to win ballgames, and if it stays hot like that where it’s a different guy every night contributing, then we’ll be tough, tough to beat.”  I agree but it is going to take solid pitching too.  Sonny Gray takes the mound tonight and admittedly that scares me. Right now, I have the least amount of confidence in Gray among the Yankees starters. I never thought I’d say this but I want Gray to pitch like former Yankee Caleb Smith did yesterday. Smith picked up his first win of the season, going seven innings against the Colorado Rockies. He held the Rockies to two hits and no runs, walking only one batter while striking out nine. I’d love for Gray to deliver that type of performance for the Yankees. I seem to be losing faith in Gray with each start so selfishly speaking, I’d like to see him reverse the trend. I’d really like to see Gray pitch like he did in Oakland one of these days.

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The Yankees will miss Gerrit Cole this series but they’ll face every other Astros starter since we are playing four games this week.

Here are the scheduled starters:

Monday, April 30th

Yankees:  Sonny Gray (1-1, 7.71 ERA)

Astros:  Charlie Morton (3-0, 1.86 ERA)

Tuesday, May 1st

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (2-0, 3.76 ERA)

Astros:  Justin Verlander (4-0, 1.36 ERA)

Wednesday, May 2nd

Yankees:  Luis Severino (4-1, 2.61 ERA)

Astros:  Dallas Keuchel (1-4, 4.00 ERA)

Thursday, May 3rd

Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.37 ERA)

Astros:  Lance McCullers, Jr (4-1, 3.71 ERA)

This will be a tough series. Although the Yankees currently have a better winning percentage (.667 to .655), the Astros have the second highest win total in the American League with 19 wins (one behind Boston). The Astros have shown no World Series hangover and it is clear they’ll be a force to be reckoned with come October. The first test begins tonight. I just wish we were leading with our best foot forward (in other words, not Sonny Gray).

I am ready to win a game (or better yet, games) in Houston. Tonight does seem like a good time to start. C’mon, Sonny, don’t let me down.

Go Yankees!

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The Land of Confusion…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

He’s out or was he?…

I couldn’t help but think of the old Phil Collins/Genesis song during the eventful sixth inning of last night’s game between the Yankees and Angels. The title; not necessarily the lyrics although I could hear the music in my mind when Giancarlo Stanton was ruled out for not tagging second base on the near-home run by Neil Walker that was caught by the Angels’ Kole Calhoun above the right field wall.  Video replay showed Stanton did tag up when Walker’s fly was caught so he should not have been doubled off second.  The photo above occurred earlier in the game when Stanton stumbled after hitting his single in the second inning but it seemed appropriate for the game’s events.

Even though the Yankees could not specifically challenge the tag play at second, they could have challenged the overall play which started with the catch by Calhoun and would have encompassed the ‘did he or didn’t he’ play at second. By the time the Yankees figured it out, it was too late to challenge. So much for Joe Girardi as the only manager in Yankees history for not getting a challenge call right. Sorry Boonie, we still love you.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Fortunately, the Yankees scored a run on the play when Didi Gregorius tagged from third and scored ahead of the questionable tag out of Stanton at second.  There was some doubt whether Didi touched home plate prior to the out at second but the Yankees got that call which was perhaps the only one that eventually mattered. Kudos to Didi for starting that inning by reaching base on a perfectly placed bunt to third.

As the saying goes, all’s well that ends well. Didi Gregorius ensured the continuation of the Yankees winning streak with a tenth-inning home run, the margin of victory preserved by Aroldis Chapman (despite a two-out double by Zack Cozart) to close out the game, for the 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Didi Gregorius is doing it all for the Yankees right now. It’s amazing that he hit 25 home runs last year and didn’t play his first game until a year ago today.  This year, Sir Didi enters April 28th with 10 home runs and 30 RBI’s. He is batting .368/.459/.828 with 1.286 OPS. Forget Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the Yankees are going to need big money to re-sign Didi at this point if he keeps up his All-World performance. And he’ll be worth every penny.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Didi Gregorius for President.  But he’s not as good as Derek Jeter or one of the ten best shortstops in the game, right?  There is no other man I would want covering shortstop for the Yankees right now than Sir Didi.

When I lived in the Los Angeles area, I would frequently attend the Yankees games in Anaheim and was always amazed at the high number of Yankees fans among the Sea of Red. So it was no surprise to me that the seemingly partisan-Angels crowd called Didi out for a curtain call. Weird for a road curtain call but then again the Yankees are like traveling rock stars especially when they are doing well. The Bandwagon is open, hop aboard!

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

The game’s first score came courtesy of a second inning solo shot by Japanese rookie Shohei Ohtani.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters (Jayne Kamin-Oncea)

I had viewed this game as a match up of the Yankees off-season targets. The guy they got against the guy they didn’t. Although he departed the game early (trying to run out a ground ball in the bottom of the fifth) with a sprained ankle, the first matchup goes to Ohtani over Stanton for his home run. Stanton was 1-for-4 (single) but struck out twice and did not score a run. Hopefully Ohtani is okay and won’t miss much time. I am still not happy about how the Ohtani signing went down but I certainly do not wish any ill will on the player. I am a firm subscriber in the belief that to be the best you have to beat the best so I want the best Angels on the field.  I had been looking forward to today’s match-up featuring Masahiro Tanaka against Ohtani but I assume we’ll most likely have to wait for another time.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Granted, Gregorius was the star of this game (as he is in nearly every game), but one has to throw mention to Brett Gardner. His ninth-inning sacrifice fly with the bases loaded tied the game and set the stage for Didi’s dramatic game-winning home run. Gardy rolled off the bench and pinch-hit for Ronald Torreyes in the key spot, simply doing his job. It was the first blown save of the season for the Angels’ young new closer Keynan Middleton. It would have been great to pick up a few more runs but the Angels could have easily shut the Yankees down from there to emerge with the victory. Brett was unwilling to accept no for an answer and delivered the game-tying sac fly.

Angels first baseman Albert Pujols picked up a hit in the game and now has 2,995 hits for his career. It’s not outside the realm of possibility for Pujols to join the 3,000 Hit Club this weekend but it will most likely happen for him some time next week. He’ll be able to feast on Orioles pitching when the Yankees leave town. I liked the stat Yankees starter Luis Severino was only 7 years old when Prince Albert got his first MLB hit.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

Thanks to the win, the Yankees (16-9) were able to gain a game on the division-leading Boston Red Sox.  The Red Sox lost a one-run game (4-3) to the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park. The game featured a home run by former Yankee Robert Refsnyder, his first of the year. Thanks Ref! It’s always great when the Yankees win and the Red Sox lose. The Yankees are now only three games behind the Red Sox after Boston’s scorching start to the season. The Rays have matched the Yankees game for game on this current seven-game winning streak as they are unbeaten in the same number of games. I hope their winning streak continues. For whatever reason, the Red Sox Nation does not seem to be beating their chests like they did earlier this year.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Jae C Hong)

I am grateful for a night game this evening even if the East Coast Yankees fans pay the price with lack of sleep. My afternoon features Avengers: Infinity War so I have my priorities. Thanks for your “willingness” to bypass sleep so that I can see the latest and greatest superhero movie.

Go Yankees (and Avengers, of course)!

Putting Two (Bald) Heads Together…

Credit:  MLB.com

Yankees 7, Blue Jays 0…

The Yankees now have as many wins at Rogers Centre (two) as they had all of last year.  They’ve also assured themselves that they’ll leave Toronto later today with no worse than a split of the four-game series and have the potential to take three of four.

There were questions about Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery coming into the game.  Even Manager Joe Girardi was a bit testy before the game when the subject of hot prospect Chance Adams was raised.  “Are you kidding me?”, Girardi said.  “Chance Adams has one or two starts in Triple-A.  That kid was like 16-5 last year between Double-A and Triple-A.  He’s pitched really well here.  Give Chance a chance to get ready.  I like what he’s doing and he might pitch for us one day, but we’re not ready to start that.”  Adams has actually had four starts at Triple-A and was 13-1 last year between High-A and Double A but that’s beside the point.  The best answer to the Chance Adams question is to pitch like you belong in the Major Leagues.

Jordan Montgomery answered that question.

The tall lefty limited the Blue Jays to three hits over six innings.  He did walk 3 batters but struck out 5 in lowering his season ERA to 3.67.  It was a great performance by the 24-year-old and one that shows he wants to be part of the fun that is called the 2017 New York Yankees.

Credit:  Tom Szczerbowski-Getty Images

The game was really a tale of two stories.  The first half was a tight pitcher’s game as the Yankees were only able to score two unearned runs in the third through the game’s first six innings.  In the third, with one out, Rob Refsnyder reached first base when Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki booted a ground ball twice for an E-6.  Ref stole second (let’s see Chris Carter do that) to put himself in scoring position.  After Brett Gardner flied out for the second out, the Aarons followed with doubles as Hicks scored Refsnyder and Judge scored Hicks.  Those were the only Yankees hits until the seventh inning.

The Yankees finally scored an earned run off Blue Jays starter Joe Biagini in the seventh but it was a very good performance by Toronto’s 27-year-old right-hander.  However, on this day, Montgomery was  better.

With the pitching duel out of the way following the departures of both Montgomery and Biagini, the game turned into a Home Run Derby in the eighth inning for the Bombers.  With reliever Jason Grilli, a former closer, on the mound, it was time for some fun.  Brett Gardner opened the inning with his 12th homer of the year with a shot to right to put the Yankees up 4-0.  After the Aarons contributed the first two outs of the inning, it was time for the show.  First up, Matt Holliday.  Obviously upset that his Bald Brother, Gardner, had taken the lead in their home run battle, evened the score with his 12th.  “I gotcha Gardy!”  I loved that line as Holliday returned to the dugout.  The next batter, Starlin Castro, with the 9th pitch of the at-bat, just cleared the left field fence for his 9th home run of the season.  That brought Didi Gregorius to the plate.  With a shot to right, Didi completed the back-to-back-to-back homer barrage, ending Grilli’s day and capping the Yankees’ scoring.  Man, I hated to see Grilli go…

Credit:  Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters

Credit David Cone of the YES Network with the reference to Rodney Dangerfield in the movie Easy Money when talking about the Bald Brothers.  “Why don’t you two put your heads together and make an @$$ out of yourselves.”  The ending of the quote may not be appropriate for these two but it is a blast watching Holliday and Gardner match each other homer by homer.  

It was an interesting stat that the Yankees won this game without hitting at least one single.  All of the hits were either doubles or home runs.  

Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances combined for three innings of hitless relief in support of Montgomery (3-4).

The Yankees (32-21) increased their AL East lead to three games as the Baltimore Orioles slipped back to third following their 5-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox.  The O’s are 3 1/2 games back.  

Odds & Ends…

I need to preface this by saying that I hope Jacoby Ellsbury is not seriously hurt and will not have long-term health implications.  According to the Yankees, Ellsbury has suspended baseball activities and will see a neurologist in New York tomorrow due to continued headaches after his concussion.  I was glad to hear that Aaron Hicks will continue as the starter in center field although I hate to take satisfaction at Ellsbury’s expense.  Ellsbury aside, Hicks has proven he deserves to be a starter in the Major Leagues.  The former top Twins prospect is having a career year and is such a part of the success so far this season. 

There is not much to report from AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  The RailRiders were two-hit in a shutout loss to the Toledo Mud Hens so it was an off-night for everybody.  

Although the talk is that Gleyber Torres will be promoted to the Yankees later this summer if Chase Headley continues to scuffle, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is reporting that New York is more likely to pursue a more proven veteran for the hot corner if the Yankees remain in the pennant chase.  

Congratulations to Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels who hit his 600th home run in grand fashion…a grand slam off Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins.  

Credit:  Mark J Terrill-Associated Press

Also, a shout out to Miami Marlins starter Edinson Volquez.  He threw the season’s first no-hitter yesterday against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Miami.  He accomplished the feat with just 98 pitches and he did it on a day when he paid tribute prior to the game to his good friend and former teammate, the late Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura.  Yesterday would have been Ventura’s 26th birthday.  After the game, Volquez dedicated the performance to late Miami ace Jose Fernandez and Ventura.  

Credit:  Wilfredo Lee-Associated Press

Have a great Sunday!  Hopefully the Yankees can continue the winning feeling today to help make the flight back to New York a happy one.

Baseball and bad decisions…

 

A swing and a miss, another miss, yet another miss…

This morning, I saw a post on the MLB Trade Rumors website (http://www.MLBTradeRumors.com) that asked the poll question of which MLB team had the best draft in 2002?  Of all the examples shown, no Yankees were anywhere to be found.  For a draft that started with Bryan Bullington and B.J. Upton, there was some great talent uncovered in the 2002 draft.  Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Joey Votto and a guy who would eventually find his way to the Bronx, Brian McCann, were among the great choices by their respective teams.  But sadly, not a single Yankee selection stuck that year.

Number 26 selection Phil Coke is a major leaguer but with the Detroit Tigers.  He had his moments in the Bronx but was never anything special and was sent to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson-Austin Jackson trade.

But removing Coke, there are 50 rounds of names that Yankee Stadium never heard from.  I really do not recognize any of the names outside of the first round selection and that’s only because he was later the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns (Brandon Weeden).

I know that there are many sad tales among the 2002 draft picks, like 2nd round pick Alan Bomer, a pitcher, who reinjured his shoulder after a previous injury several years earlier, bringing an end to his major league hopes.

But it’s also a testament to the drafting ability of major league teams and 2002 was clearly not a good vintage for the Yankees.  I know the team’s re-focus on the minor league system didn’t occur until a few years later but hopefully barren draft years like 2002 are a thing of the past.  But looking ahead a few years, it’s not too pretty.

2003 really wasn’t much better with top pick third baseman Eric Duncan long gone from baseball.  The only name that stands out to me from that draft is Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard.

2004 was the year the Yankees selected pitcher Phil Hughes and can only wonder what could have been.  Time will tell if he can fulfill his promise in the Twin Cities or if he was simply one of the most overhyped young players of our time.

For the Yankees, solid draft picks do not appear until 2005 which Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson were chosen.  Interestingly enough, the Yankees also chose pitcher Doug Fister that year but he opted to return to college for his final year, and was taken by the Seattle Mariners the next year.  Granted, Fister is currently on the Nationals’ DL, but he’d certainly look good in the Yankees rotation about now.

In 2006, the Yankees made some good choices, but it’s rather humorous that the first round pick went to Joba Chamberlain, a journeyman reliever for the Detroit Tigers, while current Yankees closer, David Robertson was selected in the 17th round.  Ian Kennedy and Zach McAllister were both chosen after Chamberlain, and they are solid starting pitchers for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians, respectively.  Dellin Betances was also taken that year and after years of hype, he’s finally contributing as a force in the Yankees bullpen.  Mark Melancon, currently the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates due to Jason Grilli’s injury, was also a draft selection.

Of the decisions the Yankees made regarding trades, the one I didn’t like was dumping McAllister.  He went to Cleveland in 2010 for Austin Kearns who only stayed in the Bronx for the remainder of the season.  That trade felt like the foolish ones that we had grown accustomed to in the 1970’s and 80’s.  McAllister is having a very solid year for the Indians and is another guy who would have looked great in the Yankees rotation.

I will never find fault with the decision to trade Ian Kennedy even though he almost won the Cy Young after leaving the Yankees.  I just never found him to be a good fit in New York.

2007 was another disappointing draft year as the Yankees really only have catcher Austin Romine, currently at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre, to show for it.  Top pick Andrew Brackman was coming off a major injury at the time of the selection and was never able to find his way back.

As I advance to 2008, it’s disappointing to see how poor, outside of 2006, the draft has been for the Yankees.  Atop the list in ’08 is a pitcher the Yankees were unable to sign and who is now entrenched in the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole.  Talk about another guy who would have been a brilliant option for the Yankees rotation.  What could have been…

This really shows how incredibly difficult it is to determine those who will be able to achieve results and success at the Major League level.  It also shows how many people fail to find their way for whatever reasons.

It’s a small wonder that the Yankees have had to spend so much in the free agent market to ensure the team remains competitive.  In a statement of the obvious, the Yankees would be smart to improve the quality of their scouting and development to ensure that the older players are replaced by younger, cheaper talent with high ceilings.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals are solid teams because of their drafting ability.  For the Yankees, they are successful despite it.  I get why owner Hal Steinbrenner believes in the power of the farm system.  This is not rocket science.  Sustainability will only be maintained through youth and controlling costs.

Stupid is as stupid does…

The fans of the Boston Red Sox took great delight when Michael Pineda was tossed from a Yankees-Red Sox game last week due to the blatant smear of pine tar on his neck.  After the fiasco caused during his previous start against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium (“brown dirt”), he had to have known he would be under the magnifying glass.  Yet, he risked detection by continuing the use of pine tar and ended up applying a more generous amount than he had intended to.  So, Boston manager John Farrell had absolutely no choice but to call out Pineda.  This is one instance where I felt the Red Sox were 100% correct in a controversial decision involving the Yankees.  Pineda’s 10-game suspension hurts the Yankees, at a time when they’ve already lost starter Ivan Nova for the season due to an elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery.

For a rotation that looked so strong and full of promise for a few starts, the Yankees now have to replace both Nova and Pineda, plus the top of the rotation has been questionable at times with CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.  The only source of consistency has been Masahiro Tanaka, who faces an incredibly difficult challenge today against the Los Angeles Angels and the likes of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. 

Baseball is a team-first sport and Pineda made a “me-first” decision.  I hope that he learns a valuable lesson during his suspension and comes back with choices that are for the good of the team.

For the record, I do believe that Major League Baseball should allow pine tar to some degree for gripping purposes only in colder temps.  But until the rules are changed, it’s a violation and should be handled accordingly.  Baseball has been tolerant of discreet behavior regarding its use, but to blatantly violate the policy warrants the appropriate punishment until such a time the rules are changed.

 

–Scott

 

And the WINNER is…

 

For months, the talk centered on prized Japanese pitcher Mashiro Tanaka.  He was highly touted as the most valuable free agent pitcher on the market.  Of course, his free agency began slowly when there was doubt if his Japanese team would allow him to be posted, particularly after the posting fee was capped at $20 million.  Nevertheless, Tanaka was subsequently posted, as we all know.

Almost immediately, the Yankees were regarded as the frontrunner.  But given that any team to offer to pay the $20 million posting fee, it opened the field to any team that wanted to make a run at the latest Japanese import.  Early on, there was talk that the Seattle Mariners would make a play for Tanaka.  It was said that the Los Angeles Dodgers would not be outbid, and the Chicago Cubs were completely enamored with the idea of Tanaka headlining their rotation.  The Los Angeles Angels and the Arizona Diamondbacks were other teams mentioned as strong possibilities.

I read that the Mariners were favorites because the team is predominantly owned by Nintendo and Los Angeles was cited because of its close proximity to Japan and its strong Asian community.  There was talk that some team would make a surprise late bid, kind of like what the Angels when they signed Albert Pujols.

I never really expected the Dodgers to be “all-in”.  They had their own pending free agent to be in Clayton Kershaw and they couldn’t make a ridiculously high bid without driving up their costs to retain Kershaw.  They subsequently re-signed Kershaw to a $215 million deal, but I still didn’t think they’d go hard after Tanaka.  I did think the Chicago Cubs were a strong challenger for Tanaka despite prior rumors that he preferred a coastal destination.  If I have learned anything with Major League Baseball, it’s to never underestimate Theo Epstein.

But fortunately, when Tanaka finally made his decision, he was a Yankee.  Almost instantly, the stories about his superior talent turned to questions about how he’ll make the adjustment to life in America and how he is a #2 or #3 starter at best.  Everyone is now quick to say that he does not have the talent of Yu Darvish, and I’ve seen the name “Kei Igawa” more than I’d care to in recent days.  But still, this was a move that the Yankees HAD to make.  With a weak farm system at the upper levels, they had no choice but to overpay for young pitching talent with solid upside.  With the hype surrounding Tanaka (who went 24-0 in Japan last year), he also represents a gate attraction.  With Tanaka in the fold, the Yankees become the second major league team to have two Japanese players in their starting pitching rotation (the first was the Dodgers with Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii).  If the Japanese media made it a circus following Hideki Matsui, they’ll have a field day following the trio of Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki.

The realist in me knows not to expect top of the rotation stuff from Tanaka.  I know the Yankees want more, but I’d be very satisfied if he could give the Yankees what Kuroda has for the last two years.  This is most likely Kuroda’s last year, and it is good that Tanaka will have a year to spend under Hiroki’s wing.  I think that will greatly aid his transition to the United States and MLB.

I thought that it would take a contract of 7 years, $140 million to sign Tanaka.  So, the Yankees did overbid in that regard.  Today I saw an article that one GM speculated the next highest bid were the Cubs and D-Backs at $120 million.  I really doubt the gap between the Yankees and the others was that great.  The same source mentioned the Dodgers were at $119 million which doesn’t make sense as everyone knew it would take $120 million plus to sign Tanaka.  My guess is the Cubs and Dodgers were in the vicinity of $140 million plus.  Not bad for a pitcher who has never thrown a major league pitch.

While I would still like to see an additional pitcher brought to camp, there is potential with a rotation that features CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda or David Phelps.  If Pineda could possibly show the potential that caused the Yankees to trade for him (prior to the injuries), the rotation could be very strong.  While I would not be opposed to seeing Bronson Arroyo or Ubaldo Jimenez signed, I think the Yankees need to focus on the infield.  Yes, they’ve brought in San Diego’s Dean Anna, signed Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Scott Sizemore, and still have Eduardo Nunez but there are too many questions.  What happens if Mark Teixeira struggles in his return, or Derek Jeter?  Neither of those positions are air tight without getting into the holes at second and third.  Jeter will be 40, and Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter.  April could be a very challenging month.

My preference would be to find a decent third baseman so that Kelly Johnson could be the primary second baseman.  But the team is probably enamored with the idea that Roberts is capable of rebounding from the injury filled years that have plagued him since 2009.  Scott Sizemore is nothing more than camp fodder.  One magazine I read said “But other than OK pop and a few walks, offers little even when healthy”.  Anna is nothing more than a potential reserve.

Catching and the outfield is set, but there is still work to be done in the infield and in the bullpen.  I agree with the choice to anoint David Robertson as the closer, but there needs to be an insurance plan in place.  Grant Balfour would have been a great option but he is now a Tampa Bay Ray once again.  I don’t want Fernando Rodney, but the Yankees need someone who is capable of closing games if Robertson is not up to the task.  If Boston can find an elite closer as their fourth choice last year, there are potential arms that can be found.  I really hated to see the departure of Boone Logan.  Not much has been written about it, but I can only hope that Matt Thornton is a capable, albeit older, replacement.  I know the team has long admired lefty Cesar Cabral so perhaps this is Cabral’s year to take it to the next level.  I’d also like to see Dellin Betances take advantage of his opportunity and become a force in the pen.  I guess every team thinks they can follow the Tampa blueprint for bullpen success given how the Rays are always able to craft something out of nothing.

With pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp in a few weeks, I am sure that the transaction wires will be busy as teams, and most notably the Yankees, look to create playoff caliber rosters.

For the Yankees, while it will be great to see Brian McCann show up to become his orientation with the Yankee pitchers, the cameras and the reporters will be flocked around #19, Masahiro Tanaka, as he begins his pinstriped career.  Time to build upon last year’s 85 wins and return the Yankees to October baseball.  With the commitment the Yankees have shown this off-season, it’s clear their last move was not their “last” move.

Go Yankees!

–Scott

So little time yet so much to do…

 

For Whom the Beltrans…

Well, it’s finally official.  The Yankee fan is finally a Yankee.  With today’s introductory press conference, the Yankees have continued to rebuild the team’s offense following the departure of Robby Cano and his bat.  Carlos Beltran talked about how he has long looked up to the Yankees organization.  The backhanded swipes at the Mets certainly didn’t hurt boosting his stock in the Bronx, particularly after those comments made by Curtis Granderson during his Mets press conference earlier in the off-season (even if the Grandy Man was just being lighthearted). 

It’s always nice to see guys who genuinely want to be in the Bronx.  Brian McCann certainly conveyed that message and Carlos Beltran did the same today.  I think Jacoby Ellsbury is just as excited but his situation was a bit different and he is coming off a World Series championship.

Listening to Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi talk, it clearly sounds as if the Yankees outfield will be consisted of Brett Gardner, Ellsbury, and Beltran.  Three centerfielders, with two playing out of position.  I know, there are a multitude of reasons for why it makes sense to keep Gardner, but he is really the only major league trading chip and the Yankees still need rotation help.  They have not shown any desire to pursue the likes of Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, or others that can be had for a simple cash outlay.  Johan Santana’s name has been bandied about, and I would see no harm as long as the Yankees clearly invest in a Plan B to go with it.  My primary hope is that Michael Pineda can finally show us the potential he had in Seattle.  But that’s for the #5 spot.  The Yankees should roll the dice with the young organization pitchers, including Pineda, for the last position in the rotation but not both #4 and #5.  For #4, the Yankees need a proven performer.  Santana is a huge health risk, but if healthy…I know, that’s a big IF…he would significantly solidify the rotation and help mask any further regressions by CC Sabathia or Hiroki Kuroda. 

It’s unfortunate the Yankees have to keep an eye on the Alex Rodriguez situation to determine what their next moves will be.  I just hope they aren’t caught looking while waiting to find out if A-Rod and his behemoth contract will be an obligation for 2014 or not. 

But regardless of what happens for the remainder of the off-season, it goes without question that Carlos Beltran was a good signing.  The reports have surfaced that free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo turned down a 7-year, $140 million deal from the Yankees before they turned to Beltran.  I would prefer to go with the 3-year Beltran deal as opposed to locking into 7 years with Choo considering the Yankees are already on an extended hook with Ellsbury.  At some point, the young talent in the lower levels of the farm system have to make their way to the surface.  I have high hopes for Aaron Judge, and I really hope that Slade Heathcott can bring his game to the next level within the next couple of years. 

Much has been written about Beltran replacing the lost production in St Louis when Albert Pujols signed his $240 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels and is now being asked to do the same with Cano opting for money over a win-first mentality.  However, there is a big difference.  The Cardinals have Allen Craig and Matt Adams as two very capable first baseman.  The Yankees are not so lucky at Cano’s former position.  There are no immediate farm system solutions.  With Beltran now scheduled to start in Ichiro Suzuki’s position, it is a foregone conclusion that either Ichiro or Vernon Wells will soon be an ex-Yankee.  Pitcher Brett Marshall may have paid the price for Beltran’s spot, but I expect Ichiro or Wells to go when the Yankees create roster space for their latest additions.  The Yankees will have to include cash if they move Ichiro so that makes Wells the more likely one to go given that the Angels are still paying the majority of his salary. 

I keep getting sidetracked when the main topic is Beltran but he opens up much discussion in other areas.  I am glad that he’s a Yankee and I truly hope the Yankees can make the additional moves that will be necessary to return one of baseball’s great play-off performers to October.  Pitching, pitching, pitching…

Meanwhile, at Second Base…

Kelly Johnson, Eduardo Nunez, Corban Joseph…

None of the names are exciting and it’s more likely that Johnson, with a platoon-mate in Nunez, will be asked to cover third if A-Rod is suspended for a lengthy period as expected.  Joseph is not ready so the Yankees signed long-time Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts.  Roberts was once one of the best 2B’s in the game, but injuries have robbed him of playing time the last four years.  I do not expect him to be a major force at the position this year assuming that he makes the team.  It is a curious move for a beloved Oriole to join a hated AL rival.  I know that Mike Mussina did it but he was still in his prime.  I know, there’s Jacoby Ellsbury too, but again, that player, despite his past injuries, still has prime years ahead.  Roberts has seen his better days.  At that point, I’d probably go out of division or out of league even if it sacrificed a few dollars to maintain my legacy with the original team. 

Roberts will always be a great Oriole.  There’s nothing that he can do to take away his quality years.  Hopefully, the Baltimore fans will recognize that it was time for Roberts and the O’s to part ways, particularly given their acquisition of second baseman Jemile Weeks.  Mike Mussina had quality years with both the O’s and the Yankees.  Roberts will be like Luis Tiant.  The best years were with the home team, and the last year or two were with the Yankees. 

At this point, it does appear the Yankees will be heading to spring training with Roberts, Nunez and Johnson covering second.  However, things will change when the A-Rod drama is finally put to rest.  I was surprised the Yankees didn’t try harder for Omar Infante.  It’s not often the Kansas City Royals beat the Yankees in free agency. 

As for third…

It’s a given that A-Rod will be lost for a certain amount of time.  It’s just a question for how long.  I would like to see a trade for the San Diego Padres third baseman, Chase Headley, something that has been mentioned on and off for the last few years.  We know that it won’t be a return of last year’s third base wannabe, Kevin Youkilis (thwarted by injuries to the surprise of no one).  Youk in stating a preference to being closer to his West Coast home, decided to take his family on a one year vacation touring Japan.  I am not quite sure how the DL works in the Japanese League but I guess we’ll find out.  I loved Wallace Matthews’ quote that Youk will probably be injured on the plane trip to Japan. 

Another third base possibility, and former Yank, Casey McGehee, signed with the Miami Marlins.  So, like second base, pickings are getting very slim at the infield positions.  I fully expect the Yankees to lose one of their promising young catchers in any trade.

The Bullpen…

I was disappointed to see Boone Logan go.  Good for him in signing the three year contract with the Colorado Rockies.  Denver is a wonderful city and I do not begrudge anyone who wants to be a part of that community.  But still, he was a solid option in the pen for the Yanks and will be missed.  To replace him, the Yankees signed former Sox (both White and Red) reliever Matt Thornton.  A great lefty, no doubt, but one that is 37.  All things considered, I would have preferred a few more years of Logan.  I’d like to see a younger guy like Nik Turley take it to the next level but I am fearful that Turley will be a roster casualty with the additional moves the Yankees have yet and still need to make.

I am not sure how I feel about David Robertson as closer.  When Mariano Rivera was hurt in Kansas City early in the 2012 season, Robertson failed in his brief appearance as closer.  If memory serves correctly, he was injured and it opened the door for Rafael Soriano to grab the job and run with it.  If the Yankees opt to go with Robertson, they need another Plan B like Soriano in place.  Yes, I know, there are only so many spots on a 25-man roster for Plan B…

On the bright side, catcher and center field are locked up…  😉

I don’t expect much in the way of Yankees news next week so Operation Improvement will have to be resumed in January.  Meanwhile, Happy Holidays to All!  Enjoy!

–Scott

 

 

 

 

This is not 1998, sadly to say…

 

Sorry, the Glass is Half Empty…

I am not going to lie.  I am not holding my breath in anticipation of the Yankees making the play-offs in October.  It’s hard to have great faith and confidence in a team that is relying upon a binding agent made up of low budget, past their prime ballplayers.  No offense to Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Alfonso Soriano, and others, but this team would have looked substantially better in 2003 than 2013.

This is why I have mixed feelings about the Yankees being “buyers” at the trading deadline.  Even if…they still do not have the horses to advance very deeply in the play-offs.  Recent years have shown the Detroit Tigers own the Yankees and New York has not done anything to put themselves on a level playing field with the Bankrupt City.

Please do not get me wrong.  I have enjoyed watching the return of Alfonso Soriano.  After a non-existent bat in his first two games back, he homered and knocked in the game winner in his third game.  He is an improvement in left field.  I am not sure how far out Curtis Granderson is from returning, but Soriano is better than what the Yankees were rolling out every day.  Soriano has been a professional throughout his career.  I remember how much he loved being the Yankees’ second baseman, and when there was talk of the Yankees moving him to the outfield, he expressed some displeasure.  Of course, he moved on to other teams and they did exactly that (moved him to the outfield).  So now he is back and is embracing left field and the occasional turn at DH.  The nice thing about Soriano is that there is no “breaking in” period.  He knows how to play in the Bronx and he has the added bonus of being a fan favorite from the start.

The Soriano trade does show what a mistake it was to sign future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki to a two year deal.  I am not sure if the Yankees will re-sign Granderson or not, but there is a potential crowd in the outfield.  Given Granderson’s horrific contract year, the odds are probably better that he stays in New York than if he had a repeat of his 2012 season.

Character First, A-Rod Last…

Sounds like the book is finally going to be thrown at Alex Rodriguez.  I am glad.  I would be very disappointed if he only received the first-timer’s 50 game suspension.  He needs to lose a season at the very least and if I had my way, the rest of his major league career.  If A-Rod never puts on a Yankees uniform again, it will be too soon.  I truly hope that I’ve seen the last of #13 in pinstripes.

Remind me again who’s the #1 starter?…

I am not sure what to make of CC Sabathia this year.  Very ordinary to say the least.  Meanwhile, Hiroki Kuroda, who I always thought of as a #3 starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has been stellar.

Healthy is over-rated…

As I am typing this post, I see that the Boston Red Sox have acquired Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy.  Good move by Boston.  I worry about the health of Peavy but when he’s right, he’s dangerous.  Earlier rumors had the Sox in on Cliff Lee which I thought would have been a mistake as Lee is clearly on the downside of a once magnificent career.  The Phillies asking price is too great for Lee, so I am very hopeful that the Yankees, having previously been burned by Lee, stay out of the picture.  But Boston’s acquisition of Peavy gives them the leg up over the Yankees.  I think the Tampa Bay Rays will win the division as Boston still has a few too many question marks, but I’d be surprised if the Sox do not make the play-offs.

I can still remember watching Jake Peavy’s major league debut in San Diego against the Yankees.  He showed that he was a major league caliber pitcher that day.  I guess he’ll get a few more shots at his debut opponent in the coming months.

Let someone else overpay…

Albert Pujols’ lost 2013 season shows me why it is not worth paying an aging superstar outrageous sums of money.  Hey, throw Mark Teixeira into that mix.  How much better off would the Yankees have been had they let both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira go to the Boston Red Sox?

The trading deadline is always a fun time of year.  I am not sure that the Yankees will surface with any more transactions before tomorrow (particularly given the lack of interest in Phil Hughes) but it’s always fun to speculate.  But at the end of the day, I am not willing to give up on any promising young talent and I know that GM Brian Cashman feels the same way.  If the Yankees had a shot at a World Series title this year, I’d say ‘screw it, let’s go the championship!’ and let go quality talent to achieve that end.  However, this is not a World Series Yankees team.  Sorry, Ichiro, I know you were once great but those days have passed.  So, hang on to the talent and let’s build for 2014.  I guess I’ll echo what life is like for a Chicago Cubs fan:  “We’ll get ‘em next year!”.

–Scott