I have to admit that I wasn’t a believer. I did not think that CC Sabathia could make the transformation from a young dominant power pitcher to a crafty veteran at the top end of a starting rotation. Weight issues, age, injuries, alcoholism…whatever the cause…I didn’t think he could do it. He has proved me wrong.
After Saturday’s 3-2 win over the St Louis Cardinals, Sabathia leads the team with a 2-0 mark, compiling a 1.47 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with 11 strikeouts. While the most dominant single game belongs to Michael Pineda, Sabathia has been the most dominant overall.
I had gotten to the point where I thought of Sabathia as a five inning starter. Yet, here he was on the mound on April 15, 2017 at 36 years of age, throwing 7 1/3 innings, allowing only three hits and one run with just one walk. He punched out six. THAT was not the Sabathia that we had come to expect in recent years.
I am so glad that he has been able to make the transformation. I don’t know if it is the time he has spent with Yankees legend Andy Pettitte but we tend to hear Pettitte’s name come up a lot in interviews with not only Sabathia but other pitchers when they talk about success. Pettitte’s annual visits to training camp for a few days always seem to have such a tremendous impact. I think Pettitte is an assistant on a high school coaching staff these days, but I would love for his return to New York as an eventual successor to Larry Rothschild.
At the beginning of the year, I felt it was obvious this would be Sabathia’s final year in Pinstripes. With the youth movement in full bloom, I didn’t see a future for Sabathia or a veteran’s salary in Team Hal’s budget for 2018. If Sabathia expects to make his 2017 salary ($25 million) next year, I still think it’s unlikely he returns. He’ll have to take a pay cut to stay and perhaps he will. But for now, I am just enjoying the ride. I love watching Sabathia’s accomplishments this year, and I know that he is a huge influence on the younger pitchers. If Sabathia, Pineda and Severino can continue pitching like their most recent starts, this is definitely a team that can outperform expectations in 2017. Of course, Greg Bird does need to start mixing in a hit or two.
I was reading an interview with Jordan Montgomery this morning. Or should I call him “Gumby”? I had to laugh when I saw him refer to the famous Serendipity 3 on 60th Street as “some dessert place”. Give him time. He’ll figure the City out. If he keeps pitching like we know he can, he’ll be here for a very long time.
With the inability of Matt Holliday to play on Saturday due to lower back stiffness, I hope this is not a sign of things to come. His final years with the Cardinals, while he was still playing in the field, came with significant DL stints. I had hoped the ‘DH-only’ role would help preserve his health. Hopefully, this is just an aberration and he’ll back with bat in hand shortly. The loss of Holliday did show the significance of having Chris Carter on the roster as Carter provided what proved to be the winning run in Saturday’s game with a run-scoring single in the sixth inning.
As for Greg Bird, he needs to figure this out soon. His 1-for-26 start is dreadful. I remain hopeful that he’ll work through the challenge and will start to hit like he did in Spring Training. He is too much of a professional hitter for the current sample to be representative of his ability going forward. No offense to Chris Carter, but I strongly prefer Bird at first in any scenario. I wish that Tyler Austin was closer to returning but he’s not an option for now and there’s no one else in the organization that would be superior to the current duo of Bird and Carter. Rob Refsnyder is only hitting .192 in AAA and Ji-Man Choi is not on the 40-man roster. Choi is batting .280 but he has only 2 RBI’s and no home runs.
I hate to be politically-incorrect, but the words of former Arizona Diamondback Mark Grace resonate in my ears when I think of Bird’s slump. “A slumpbuster is if a team’s in a slump, or if you personally are in a slump, you gotta find the fatest, gnarliest, grossest chick and you just gotta lay the wood to her. And when you do that, you’re just gonna have instant success. And it could also be called jumping on a grenade for the team.” Bird, just do it…take one for the team.
Have a great Sunday! Hopefully, it will be a sweeping success for the Yankees!
As Jordan Blackmon Montgomery prepares for his first Major League start later today, the Shattered Dreams Award must reside with reliever Tyler Webb. Webb had been selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates last December. As a lefty, he stood a decent chance of making the Pirates roster. His Spring numbers for the Pirates were legit. In 13 innings pitched over the course of 8 games, he did allow 13 hits and 4 runs (2.77 ERA), but he walked only one and struck out 11. However, he lost the roster battle to former Yankee (and fellow left-hander) Wade LeBlanc and was returned to the Yankees organization.
Back with the Yankees and not on the 40-man roster, Webb was assigned to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
On Sunday, in the second game of a double header with the Buffalo Bisons, Webb replaced starter Joe Mantiply for the RailRiders with two outs and two on in the bottom of third inning. He struck out Rowdy Tellez to end the threat. So far, so good. The next inning started nicely, with the RailRiders nursing a 3-0 lead, as Webb struck out the first batter. Then, unfortunately, the wheels came off. When Webb was pulled from the game after two outs in the bottom of the fourth, he had allowed six singles and a double. The Rail Riders had scored 6 runs to take the lead. Webb did strike out the last batter he faced (Rudy Tellez for a second time). So, for one inning of work, recording all outs by strikeout, the 6 runs left Webb with an ERA of 54.00. Oddly enough, he wasn’t the loser as the RailRiders tied the game in the top of the fifth. His replacement, Tyler Jones, took the loss by allowing three Bison runs over the next couple of innings. It must be a horrible feeling to stand on the cusp of making a Major League roster, only to see your dream die and then you subsequently get shellacked in the minor leagues. At 26 going on 27, Webb is not going to get too many more opportunities. Performances like Sunday will not exactly open any doors, except for the one leading out of baseball. Hopefully, he’ll be more effective next time around and will be ready the next time he gets the call to The Show. Otherwise, it’s nothing but shattered dreams, shattered dreams…
Credit: Pete G. Wilcox, Times Leader
So far, the only quality starts thrown by Yankees pitchers are pitchers who stand tall on the mound (6’6” or greater). We’re on a roll with two consecutive quality “tall” starts. Sunday belonged to CC Sabathia (6’6”) with 6 innings of work and two earned runs (three total) even if he didn’t get the decision, and Monday featured the near perfect game by Michael Pineda (6’7”). He went 7 2/3 innings, allowing only one run. Jordan Montgomery (6’6”) looks to continue the “basketball pitcher” streak today. If Montgomery struggles, perhaps Dellin Betances (6’8”) steps in to assist. I have to admit that I kinda feel like Ronald Torreyes trying to high five Aaron Judge with this pitching staff. When Aroldis Chapman is brought in behind these guys, it must seem like Tyrion Lannister following Jamie Lannister. Or me chasing after Aroldis.
I am all for whatever edge the “downward angle” brings for Montgomery. This is an exciting start and it is one that I am hopeful is very successful. I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a Yankee-born pitcher since Andy Pettitte.
According to Forbes Magazine, the New York Yankees are the most valuable MLB franchise, worth an estimated $3.7 billion. The Los Angeles Dodgers are second, trailing the Yankees by nearly a billion dollars ($2.75 billion). The others in the “billion dollars behind” category are the Boston Red Sox ($2.7 billion), Chicago Cubs ($2.675 billion), and the San Francisco Giants ($2.65 billion). I have no problem thinking of a billion reasons why the Yankees are better than the rest of Baseball. Now the proof is in the pudding. But as much as I love the Yankees, I would seriously have to consider selling the team if my name was Steinbrenner.
Happy Retirement to former Yankees outfielder Brennan Boesch. Boesch was a decent platoon outfielder for a few seasons with the Detroit Tigers at the start of his career. He played in 23 games with the Yankees during the 2013 season until his release in July of that year. During his brief Yankees career, he batted .275 (14-for-51) with 3 HR’s and 8 RBI’s. After his release by the Yankees, he subsequently played for the Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati Reds. Last year, he was in the Boston Red Sox organization at the AAA Level, but missed the majority of the season with a broken wrist. He was unable to get a spring invite from a Major League team this year. Boesch is a player I liked and hoped would succeed but it wasn’t meant to be. I wish him the very best in his post-playing career.
Credit: David Richard, USA TODAY Sports
Happy Wednesday! Let’s get a win today!
You had me at…, um, no, you didn’t…
We are supposed to simply accept a handwritten apology? Right. Sorry, I don’t buy it and I don’t think it would matter if A-Rod spoke before a packed house at Yankee Stadium. Alex Rodriguez is sorry for only one thing. He got caught. He could care less about you or me. Honestly, at this point, the only thing that I’d accept out of A-Rod’s words would be a retirement announcement.
I saw a few New York sportswriters commenting that home runs will bring the fans back. Are we so shallow that we could forgive Alex for his behavior by simply forgetting all with the first ball that clears the fence? I know that I will not be a fan of Alex Rodriguez today nor would I be one if by September he has hit 40 home runs. My days cheering him are over. I am still a Yankees fan, and of course, I want the team to win. I would not wish for A-Rod to do anything detrimental to the team (well beyond the damage that he’s already done) but I will only accept his contributions as team contributions, not individual accomplishments.
I admit that I hope Alex plays so poorly in the spring, the Yankees bite the $60 million bullet and release him. But that’s too far fetched to be possible. He won’t need to do much to hold his own on the roster. Rob Refsnyder could play twice as well in spring training and end up in Scranton/Wilkes Barre while A-Rod is the team’s full time DH. But still, the thought of an outright release would be the best possible outcome in my mind.
As good as the Boston Red Sox’ front office has become, it’s too bad they weren’t better back in 2003 when they failed to acquire A-Rod from the Texas Rangers. How differently things might have been had A-Rod gone to Beantown.
Ifs and buts, I know…
It’s a numbers game…
There was a time when it seemed odd that Phil Hughes wore #65 or that Joba Chamberlain wore #62. Now, with the announcement plans to retire numbers 20, 46 and 51, the lower numbers are slowly going away. Of course #2 will soon be retired for Derek Jeter and I’ve always wondered if some day #21 will be taken down for Paul O’Neill. Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams were all great Yankees and they deserve becoming legends of Monument Park. It was also very classy of the Yankees to announce plans for a plaque for former second baseman Willie Randolph.
It thought it was cool when Manny Ramirez wore #99 for the Los Angeles Dodgers a few years ago. Now, we’re probably just a few seasons away from someone donning the same number with the Yankees. Hopefully, I won’t live to see the days when players are wearing triple digits.
Make or break a farm system…
Based on all reports, I would love nothing more than to see the Yankees sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada. However, based on what I’ve read, I do expect the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the bidding. I hope the Yankees emerge victorious. Given they’ll be limited in the international market for the next few years, Moncada would be icing on the cake for the fantastic international draft they had this year. I know that there are no certainties but Moncada does sound like the real deal. I guess if the Dodgers win the bidding, I shouldn’t fret too much since I live just a few miles away from Dodger Stadium. But after an off-season of largely inactivity, signing Moncada would make this winter well worth the wait. I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks.
Open the door…
Count me among those who hope that new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred re-opens the Pete Rose case. It’s time to let Pete the Ballplayer take his rightful place in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. I will never defend Pete the Man, but I saw the ballplayer play, and he remains one of the greatest that I’ve ever seen. He has served his sentence and deserves to stand among the game’s greats.
* * *
It’s hard to believe that it is time for pitchers and catchers to report. With this off-season’s inactivity and losses, it is hard to envision October baseball in the Bronx. Yeah, yeah, if all things go right and everyone stays healthy, I know they have a chance. But realistically, this is a third place team at best with the potential for the cellar if things go horribly wrong. As always, I will throw in the caveat that I hope I am wrong. But if anything, I do think the Yankees are laying the groundwork for future success.
Let’s play ball…
What more could we have asked of the Steinbrenner family? Seriously, the Steinbrenners opened their purse strings this off-season even if the infield is in a state of flux. Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts, Matt Thornton, Andrew Bailey, and last but not least Masahiro Tanaka. For a team that stood pat the previous off-season, the Yankees over-compensated this year.
It would have been nice to Robinson Cano’s bat mixed in with the new offense, but if he had stayed, it’s likely that Tanaka would be in Chicago or Los Angeles, and Beltran would be with the Red Sox or another team that expressed interest. Time will tell if it was the right move, but I think the Yanks were wise not to throw a quarter of a billion dollars at Cano.
When Brett Gardner re-signed with the Yankees this week, he mentioned that it didn’t matter if he got what he did or twice as much, it wasn’t going to change his lifestyle and he wanted to be a Yankee. It’s the last part of the previous sentence that Cano didn’t feel. That only reinforces the Yankees decision to move on. I do not realistically expect Brian Roberts to recapture his glory days. I would have preferred Kelly Johnson at second with the Yankees bringing in another third base solution, but when you spend as much as the Yankees did in the last few months, something has to give. With the Yankees, you know that a spring trade or a July deadline deal is not out of the question.
Sure, the team is banking on another stellar managerial performance by Joe Girardi, but I feel much better going into this season than I did last year. Last year, it literally felt like a team that wouldn’t make it the distance. This year, I feel the team has a legitimate shot. A few guys need to step it up a level but that’s within the realm of possibility. It’s not exactly like we are asking Brendan Ryan to be the second coming of Derek Jeter.
The wild card is obviously Michael Pineda. If he continues to pitch like he is capable of, he will bring so much to the end of the rotation. A healthy and productive Pineda is far superior to the inconsistency that Phil Hughes provided. With Jesus Montero 40 lbs overweight in Seattle, this could be the year that Pineda makes “the trade” pro-New York.
Masahiro Tanaka may be billed as Andy Pettitte’s replacement but next year, he’ll most likely be current teammate Hiroki Kuroda’s replacement. But for now, I am very glad that Kuroda is there to serve as mentor for his countryman. I’ve wondered if Kuroda’s presence, along with the Yankees money, brought Tanaka to New York. If I was coming to a foreign country, the idea of another American would be very appealing to me.
With the Yankees extending Brett Gardner, and the Cincinnati Reds doing the same with Homer Bailey, there should be no more Gardner for Bailey rumors. As a hopeful optimist for Michael Pineda and his spot in the rotation, this is a best case scenario. I am a bit concerned with two speed-first guys in the outfield (why do I keep thinking about Dave Collins?) but Alfonso Soriano brings the bat along with Carlos Beltran. I am anxious to see how Jacoby Ellsbury’s bat plays in Yankee Stadium for 81 games rather than just the usual 9 or 10.
Andrew Bailey. I am not quite sure why the Yankees signed Bailey but he’s a hedge against a David Robertson meltdown. Of course, Bailey won’t be available until late season so if Robertson fails miserably, they’ll need another solution. While Robertson has proven to be a great set up guy, the 9th inning is a different story. He failed in his brief audition before getting hurt the year Mariano Rivera was lost for the season with the knee injury suffered in Kansas City. Rafael Soriano stepped in and provided super relief following Robertson’s unsuccessful stint. With Soriano now entrenched as the closer for the Washington Nationals, there’s no safety net. Bailey offers the only proven closing experience yet he’s not going to be an option until July or later. My hope is that Robertson seizes the role. I was skeptical when Mariano Rivera replaced John Wetteland and that one turned out okay. Alright, a little better than okay…
Sorry that my posts have been infrequent but I’ve been in the midst of a move from the West to East Coast. I am not in a major league city but I can get to New York for a weekend so that’s all that matters. This should be a good year for making home games at Yankee Stadium after a few years of only away games while living in the Golden State.
I am so ready for the regular season to begin and yet the spring games are still a day or two away. Oh well, that’s more time for the Yankees to strengthen the infield…
Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox…
I know, I never expected to see the words appear on my blog. But you have to give credit where credit is due and the 2013 Boston Red Sox proved that they were the best team in baseball. This is a team that hit the bottom with the 2011 collapse in September that cost beloved manager Terry Francona his job, followed up by a year of Bobby Valentine that ranks as one of the worst teams in recent memory.
Proving that he is nobody’s fool, GM Ben Cherington deserves much of the credit. I am not sure how much the decisions can be attributed to Cherington or to Larry Lucchino, but the deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year to unload salary-draining dead wood was genius. The malcontents were shipped to the West Coast, while the recaptured dollars were re-invested to good clubhouse types like Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara among others. The pieces made for good chemistry and the team, beards and all, became a very cohesive unit.
This may have been the first time that I ever pulled for the Red Sox in the post-season but they gained my respect and I thought they were the team to beat.
Naturally, I hope this is the end of the Sox championship run that started in 2004, but for this off-season, they are the champions of Baseball. Again, congratulations to the Red Sox, the city of Boston, and the Red Sox Nation.
Turns up like a bad penny…
I am so tired of Alex Rodriguez and anything A-Rod. His battle against the MLB is extending the inevitable suspension and is likely throwing a monkey wrench into the Yankees off-season plans. For a team that appears bent on getting under the $189 million salary cap, A-Rod’s salary is substantial. Will they be freed of it, for a season, or will they be responsible for some portion thereof, or does A-Rod win to bring his salary back in full? I think the latter is very remote if impossible. I, for one, would accept a year of no A-Rod even if it means the entire salary counts against the cap. The guy is poison and I don’t think the team will win again with him on the roster. Yes, they won in 2009, but teams generally do not win with such narcissistic players.
Rest assured that no decision Alex Rodriguez makes will be in the best interests of the Yankees and Major League Baseball. MLB needs the authority to end this foolish A-Rod farce and banish him for his sustained PEDS use and lies. I’d love a lifetime ban but I doubt that happens so I want nothing less than the original 214 game suspension.
Introducing the 2014 Yankees…
Check back with me in a few months.
There will be changes, but I am not sure that they will be the moves necessary to return the Yankees to AL East and American League prominence. I saw one New York paper running an article this morning that indicated the Yankees may go after the Detroit Tigers’ Omar Infante should free agent Robinson Cano. No offense to Infante, but what a drop off. I don’t think it is smart to pay Cano $300 million, but hopefully the Yankees and Cano can find common ground that is mutually rewarding for both.
I have seen the Yankees linked to free agents Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Ervin Santana, and A.J. Pierzynski. Yes, Beltran is a good post-season performer but you need to get there first. As a McCann fantasy owner this past season, I was frustrated with how much time he spent on the DL. I’ve always thought Santana was a decent pitcher, but he’s not a frontliner. Then again, when you’ve lost Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and possibly Hiroki Kuroda, you just need arms. The Yankees will most likely lose Curtis Granderson so the Yankees will spend most of the winter just trying to fill holes rather than being able to focus on adding significant upgrades.
It would be nice if some members of the farm system were ready to take the major league stage but that does not appear to be the case. We may see Dellin Betances in the bullpen as the Yankees look to find a quality setup specialist for new closer David Robertson.
I do not want to lose Robinson Cano but then again, I do not want the Yankees to give him an A-Rod like contract that will become a financial albatross in future years. I may be the only one who feels this way, but I am not excited about a 40 year old Derek Jeter at shortstop with bad ankles. The Yankees really need to find a younger shortstop who can spell Jeter and perhaps push #2 to DH more times than not.
Mark Teixeira, cold starts and a bad wrist. Second base…currently there are nothing but crickets. Shortstop…see aforementioned comment about DJ. Third base is really anybody’s guess. Catcher needs more than a backup catcher who can’t hit and a proven PEDS user. Right field is even older than shortstop. Left field, at the moment, only shows the largely unreliable Vernon Wells. Centerfield is truly the only position that I feel comfortable with, and even that carries some injury risk. On the pitching staff, CC Sabathia is starting to show that he’s on the downward slide, and Hiroki Kuroda could very well be pitching in Japan next season. The enigma, more commonly referred to as Ivan Nova, will be in the rotation but who really knows what we’ll get. Adam Warren, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos (if he can make it back), Michael Pineda and others form the pool that Joe Girardi will be picking from.
In the bullpen, it is no sure thing that David Robertson will succeed as a closer. In 2011, when the great Mariano Rivera went down for the season, Robertson had first crack at the job and failed. He gave way to Rafael Soriano who proved very capable in the role. Going into 2014, at the moment, there is no safety net for Robertson. This is truly an off-season of uncertainty and it doesn’t help that A-Rod is doing his part to ensure greater uncertainty.
The Red Sox, the Rays, the Jays, and the O’s must be loving this. I can only hope that GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner Boys prove that they can check Ben Cherington’s move and bring championship baseball back to the Bronx where it belongs.
Wait, we’re not playing?…
This is odd. The AL and NL Division Series are underway and no Yankees. Yes, we’ve been spoiled but I still do remember those horrific 1980’s. This year kind of had that ‘Steve Kemp’ feeling to it, except that manager Joe Girardi managed his butt off to ensure the team didn’t finish in the cellar.
A week or so in, and it’s already been an odd off-season with Alex Rodriguez and his battle against MLB. Personally, I hope MLB throws the book at A-Rod and that his sentence turns out to be more than 211 games. I was surprised he decided to sue MLB and the Yankees doctor who treated him, and that he feels MLBPA representation is not in his best interests. In other words, it’s A-Rod’s world and we live in it. The moon, the sun and the stars revolve around him. He is simply the most egotistical player that I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t alive when Ty Cobb played so I cannot compare the two.
It’s disappointing that A-Rod’s fate will be drawn out through December or later. I hope that it does not impede the Yankees’ off-season. They should proceed as if they will not have A-Rod and I am sure that would be their wish as much as it is mine. If the team (i.e., Hal Steinbrenner) wants to come in under $189 million for the 2014, the key will be an A-Rod free season so that the Yankees can have some salary relief. But if they wait to see how the A-Rod situation plays out before addressing third base, we’ll be looking at a season with a Lyle Overbay-type player at third. I would like to see the return of Kevin Youkoulis, but Youk has proven you need a strong Plan B when you put him on the field.
Age is just a number…
I really do not know what we’ll get from Derek Jeter next year. I don’t believe that he’ll have the stellar farewell tour that Mariano Rivera had. Not that next year is DJ’s last year, but it will be the descent to the end. He could be the starter at short, and he could be a regular fixture at DH. He might be a continued regular on the DL. It’s anybody’s guess what we’ll get next year. But the known fact is that we’ll not get the All-Star of past years. At 40 years of age, his better days are clearly in the rearview mirror.
Windy City Joe…
As hard of the Chicago Cubs have made it known they want Joe Girardi, I would be surprised to see his return to the Bronx. I know that he’s talked about the Yankees being his dream job and he enjoys a good relationship with Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, but at the end of the day, Girardi is still a Chicago guy. The guy who wins a World Series for the Cubs will be a legend. The next guy to win a World Series for the Yankees will be #28. From a sheer challenge standpoint, history and tradition aside, I’d have to go with the job that presents the greatest challenge. For this reason, I am fully expecting Girardi to bolt for Chi-town. As a huge Donnie Baseball fan, I’d like nothing more than to see #23 return to the Bronx. If the Los Angeles Dodgers underachieve in the play-offs, there’s a good chance that he can be had. So, if there’s a possibility of Mattingly coming back to New York, I have very mixed feelings about the Girardi situation. I like Girardi as a manager and he did a great job this year. But I will always be a Don Mattingly fan above any others.
My only hope is that I don’t lose out on both…
No, the Grandy Man can’t…
Now that the Chicago White Sox have apparently expressed interest in Curtis Granderson, I don’t really see a scenario that Grandy stays in New York. He is a Chicago guy and at 33, it does not make sense for a team that needs to get younger, to give a long-term deal to an older player. So, I think we’ve seen the last of the Grandy Man in pinstripes.
Years with lots of $$$$$$$…thanks, but no thanks…
So, that leave us with Robinson Cano. I have truly enjoyed this guy as a Yankee and he has been a great second baseman. But the A-Rod situation has proven to me that very long-term deals never pan out and eventually become an albatross. So, as much as I like Cano, if another team throws a 10-year deal out there, it’s time to cut bait. I’d rather go with a younger team that has the potential of challenging for a World Series in a few years than try to hang on with older, long-in-the-tooth players and hope for lightning in a bottle.
Looking to the future…
I am not sure what this off-season will bring. I am not sold on Hal Steinbrenner as a Yankees owner. So far, he has struck me more as a bean counter than a passionate owner who wants to win. I admit that I could be so wrong about this perception and I truly hope that Hal does prove me wrong. We do not need wreckless, stupid decisions that hurt baseball, but Hal can make the decisions to field the best possible team in 2014. I do not feel that we did that in 2013. We went with the ‘bargain basement’ specials to field the team and there’s no way the team would have succeeded had they made the playoffs.
The Yankees were really hurt that no prospects took it to the next level to the main show this year. There are no Derek Jeters or Andy Pettittes or Jorge Posadas or Mariano Riveras waiting in the wings. I am really not sure where the next core is going to come from. At the moment, the New York Mets have the more promising future rotation. As we know, pitching wins championships.
Last year, the Boston Red Sox looked like a bloated, past their prime team. But with that spectacular deal to unload salaries with the Los Angeles Dodgers, they made the right moves to win the AL East this year and should most likely advance to the ALCS or World Series. Can the Yankees do this? It’s really up to Brian Cashman to produce. There was no optimism last off-season as a Yankees fan. I really hope that changes this year, but the realist in me expects it to be more of the same…
I was never a fan of good-byes…
Sadly, the 2013 Major League Baseball Season has come to an end. Well, at least for the New York Yankees. It was an eventful final week that saw a farewell to the great Mariano Rivera that was unmatched by any I have seen in recent years or even during my lifetime. Mo’s final game at Yankee Stadium turned out to be the final game of his professional career as he chose not to pitch during the season-ending series in Houston to preserve his Bronx goodbye as the final exit for a storied and soon to be Hall of Fame career.
I have been a Mariano Rivera fan since the days when he set up John Wetteland in the bullpen. His 7th and 8th inning appearances before the cardiac appearances by Wetteland were electric. The ball seemed to come screaming with blazing speed yet Mo seemed so effortless in letting the ball leave his hand. He made it look easy, and for the length of his career, he proved he was just a little better than everyone else. Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way. A couple of key blown saves in critical games, but these were few and far between. His success rate was far superior to any failures, and in those failures, you knew that Mo had left his all.
Looking back, I certainly have no regrets. It was an honor and privilege to be a Yankees fan and to witness the career of the latest Yankees legend. He’ll be someone that my grandchildren will be talking about, and I can say that I saw him pitch from the beginning to the end. Mo showed how special it was to play for one team, and he is forever embedded into Yankees lore. Ichiro Suzuki will be immortalized in Cooperstown one day as a Seattle Mariner, but Seattle will never be able to call Ichiro exclusively their own. They may have had his best years, but he still is playing his final years as a Yankee, not a Mariner. Fortunately, we never had to see Mo in another uniform or his former catcher, Jorge Posada.
I have been a Yankees fan since 1974 when free agent Jim “Catfish” Hunter, then my favorite pitcher, signed with the Yankees. I had grown up very intrigued by the Yankees with their great history and tradition. Those early 70’s were still a tough time for the Yankees organization, but they were about to turn the corner following the acquisition of the team by George Steinbrenner and his partners. To digress, I always loved the quote “There is nothing in life quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner”. This quote is attributed to former Yankees minority owner and later Houston Astros owner John McMullen. The first baseball biography I recall reading when I was little was a book about Lou Gehrig, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since. So, when Catfish made the decision to join the Yankees, it was very easy for me to follow.
During the course of my Yankees fandom, I’ve considered the following players to be my favorite Yankees. Hunter, Thurman Munson, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Don Mattingly, and Mariano Rivera. All those years and I can still count my favorite active Yankees on one hand, well until today with Rivera’s retirement. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect other Yankees over the years, these guys just happened to be my personal favorites at the time they played.
Being someone who appreciates history and tradition, I’ve always felt that Rivera was the perfect man to take Jackie Robinson’s number to retirement for the final time. Mo proved that he had the character to stand with greatness, and he served the legacy of Jackie Robinson very proudly and understood its significance. I am glad that the last guy out of baseball with #42 wasn’t some thug just trying to hang on to a lost career, with rumors of a steroid past. He wears #13. Okay, sorry, I didn’t mean that, or maybe I did, but you get the point. Jackie Robinson was a great man who dealt with more adversity than any of us will ever knew. He did it while turning the other cheek and proving he was the better man. He did this while carving out a Hall of Fame career on the field. If there was a man who deserved to have his number retired across baseball, it was Robinson, and if there was a man who deserved to be the final one to walk off the field with it, it was Mo. The Baseball Gods made sure this one played out like it was supposed to.
Mo, we thank you for simply being you. You did it your way, and you never strived to be anything other than what you were. You proved better than most in shaking off the game’s failures and you never gloated in its successes. You were proud of your teammates and respectful of your opponents. Baseball needs you, and I hope that this is just the beginning as you move into the next phase of your career. I am proud, very proud, when I say that I am a Mariano Rivera fan. He exceeded my wildest expectations and he leaves as the best ever at his position. He deserves to be a first ballot entry to the Hall of Fame. Anything less is unacceptable. He was ours and he proved he belongs to the Hall like no other that I’ve personally witnessed during my lifetime. Farewell, Mo. This is not the end, but simply the closing of one chapter and the opening of the next.
AP Photo (courtesy of LoHud Yankees Blog)
The gaze from under the brim of his cat…
While the focus of this post is Rivera, I would be remiss for not saying thanks to Andy Pettitte. Time and again, he stopped losing streaks and he was clutch when it mattered most (October). He never had the brilliant stuff of Felix Hernandez or Roy Halladay, but he was a winner. His passion showed and he was a champion. It was tough watching him leave via free agency for those three years in Houston, but I am glad he came back. Even during his time in Houston, you’d hear stories about how Andy still followed the Yankees. He is part of the Yankees family and history and always will be. It was so very fitting that his final game was a complete game win in his hometown of Houston. A bit ironic that the opponent was named Clemens (Paul Clemens, no relation to Roger). For the final game of the season, Roger Clemens did make an appearance to wish farewell to Mariano, and he gave Andy a hug. There has been a lot of mudslinging between the former close friends and regardless of what Roger may have or have not done, I was glad to see the small reconciliation. Baseball is greater than any one of us, and at the end of the day, Clemens, Pettitte, and Rivera were teammates and they represented the our team. I fully expect to see all three at future Old Timer’s Day games and I am hopeful that old scars can be healed and that the game itself can move forward.
Back to Andy, he will be a hard act to follow. When you look at the Yankees pitching staff, there is not one that can match Andy’s heart. CC Sabathia appears to be on the downside of his career, Hiroki Kuroda could very well head to Japan for his final season or two, Phil Hughes has worn the pinstripes for the last time, Ivan Nova is a roller-coaster and the jury is still out on David Huff. Next season will be one of transition and it is unfortunate that we’ll no longer have Andy as an anchor to the rotation. Andy’s ceiling was never as a #1 pitcher. He came to the major leagues with question marks, but he left as one of its greatest post-season performers. We were lucky to call Andy one of our own, and I am glad that he was never dealt away in one of those knee-jerk type of trades that we saw during the George Steinbrenner regime. Sorry, George, I miss you but you gotta admit that some of those trades left a little bit to be desired…
Getting back on track, Andy leaves the game being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest lefty in Yankees’ history, the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford. The Core Four (Rivera, Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter) did an excellent job in reaching the pinnacle of their positions in franchise history. Posada may not have matched Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey or Thurman Munson, but he can stand in the same room. DJ is obviously one of the greatest shortstops in the team’s history (along with Phil Rizzuto). For a team so stacked in history and tradition, four contemporary players reaching the upper echelon is amazing. It is the end of a terrific Yankees era, and as much as I hate to see Derek Jeter go out with an injury filled career, I would prefer for him to leave now rather than to come back next year for what most likely will be a year of reduced relevance on the roster.
What does the future hold?…
I really do not know what to expect next year. At the moment, it is uncertain if Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson will be back. Joe Girardi is talking about needing time to decide if he wants to come back which is not a good sign in my opinion. Mark Texeira will be back next year, but he is deteriorating as he ages. I am not sure that CC can get back to being the dominant pitcher he once was, and the line-up is filled with age and injury-susceptible players. The farm system at the upper levels is weak, at best. While many of said that this has been a great year of managing by Joe Girardi, I’d argue that it has not been one of Brian Cashman’s best years. I do not know how much he has been constrained by ownership, but the 10 wins that the team could have used this season could have been acquired through smart and strategic moves. The farm system is very lacking at the upper levels and I know that injuries have played a part, but at some point, Cashman has to be held accountable. Like fine wine, it is harvest season except the Yankees do not have anything to harvest. They’ll have to overpay and to give up too much young talent to field a championship squad next season. Unfortunately, neither makes sense even for the Yankees, so it feels as though we are in the midst of an era of transition. Hopefully, greatness will be waiting on the other side…