Tagged: Babe Ruth

Thinking Baseball on Football Sunday…

I may be a Minnesota Vikings fan and looking forward to seeing how the team performs today against the Washington Redskins with Teddy Bridgewater standing on the field for the first time in 15 months, albeit in a backup role…for the moment. But truth be told, I am more interested in the moves that can be made to continue the growth and development of the 2018 New York Yankees.

Ohtani or Otani?…

I’ve spelled it both ways but I guess I’ll go with Otani moving forward. I continue to see it spelled either way and I don’t have Ohtani/Otani on speed-dial to clarify.

Credit:  Getty Images

The Associated Press reported that Shohei Otani held a news conference on Saturday. Otani’s words included, “The other day I met with team officials and stated my intentions. My request was met with warm words of support, so I hope to do my best in America from next year on.” While it would be financially wiser to wait until he turns 25 to enter Major League Baseball (when he could be a free agent with no restrictions), Otani wants to raise the level of his game now rather than wait. “I am not a complete player yet, and I want to go to an environment where I can continue to get better”.

Otani apparently had a desire to go to MLB straight from high school but instead opted to sign with the Nippon-Ham Fighters with assurances that he could play a two-way role for the team. While he would like to continue hitting and pitching, it sounds like he is a realist and wants to see what situations are available to him in the United States. “Just before I turned professional, I didn’t imagine I would be able to do both, but since then, the fans have encouraged it,” Otani said. “That has left me with a strong desire to keep doing it…not only for me, but for them.” The DH role seems to tilt the scales in favor of the American League and the big market endorsement opportunities ($$$$) seem to favor the Yankees.

The Yankees remain the frontrunners but until he is formally posted and signs a contract with a MLB team, it’s anybody’s guess where he’ll ultimately end up. I hope he is a Yankee and that the presence of Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka in the organization are deemed as huge positives for him. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe cites the Toronto Blue Jays as a possible  dark horse destination for Otani but, seriously, the Blue Jays do not bring the honor and prestige of MLB’s most-storied franchise.

My off-season goal remains to see the headline, “Yankees to sign Otani”, followed closely by “Yankees trade Ellsbury”….

Eric Wedge…Seriously?

The second name on GM Brian Cashman’s interview list was the former Indians and Mariners manager.  Ummm, next please. I do not want to see the former backup Red Sox catcher as Manager of Baseball’s greatest franchise. I don’t buy the ‘third time’s a charm’ logic for the two-time managerial loser. This name reinforces to me that I want someone with connections to either the Yankees or to the city of New York and its surrounding region as the next skipper.

Aaron Boone is another name receiving much attention and he’ll most likely be included on the interview list in the not-so-distant future.

With the GM Meetings on tap for this week, starting Monday, it will be interesting to see if Cashman is able to continue with the interview process or if he has to take a brief pause. The big name agents will be present at the meetings to begin dialogue for potential signings leading up to next month’s Winter Meetings. So even though there probably won’t be any significant trades or signings this week, the groundwork is being laid. Perhaps Cashman spends just a day or so at the GM Meetings before excusing himself and leaving his chief lieutenants to represent the Yankees.

I don’t know the Yankees time frame, but I am hopeful they resolve the managerial search by Thanksgiving so the team knows its leadership as we head into the very busy and vital December trading/signing period.

Albert Abreu, Ace or Bullpen Duty?…

I personally like Yankees prospect Albert Abreu, the young 22-year-old right-hander acquired from the Houston Astros in the Brian McCann trade, as one of my favorites in the farm system.  But scouts seem mixed regarding whether he is the next Luis Severino or is deemed to be a more valuable component to add to the bullpen mix. Of course, it was only last off-season the same question was being asked about Severino. I prefer to see Abreu start, but opportunity will play a major role. If the Yankees sign Otani, the Yankees rotation seems fairly solidified with Otani, Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. That’s already considering young arms like Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield (plus Domingo Acevedo) are waiting in the wings. But I can never think of a season off the top of my head where a team’s sixth or seventh starter didn’t play a key role at some point in the season. Abreu must take advantage of any opportunities that he is given. He’s one of the arms that I’ll be paying close attention to next Spring.

Credit:  Zachary Lucy, Four Seam Images via AP

Brian McCann may have picked up a World Series ring, making his acquisition a huge win for the Astros, but the Yankees did very well picking up Abreu and RHP Jorge Guzman for the former Yankees catcher. I’ve seen a number of pro-Astros articles that claim a huge Astros victory for the trade, but in time, I think the Astros and their fans will rue the day they let Abreu and Guzman go.

Where will the path lead Giancarlo Stanton?…

I know that it’s been written on this site that the Yankees should go after Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, but it’s not going to happen on Hal Steinbrenner’s watch. With the team committed to getting under the payroll cap to reset luxury tax penalties, I don’t see the Yankees parting with the young prospects that it would take to acquire Stanton or committing the necessary dollars to take on Baseball’s largest contract. Yes, Yankee fans can dream but it is not going to happen for the Pinstriped faithful.

So, where does Stanton go? There is talk that early conversations are being held with the Boston Red Sox. I fully expect the Red Sox to add a big bat this off-season but I’d be surprised if they went after Stanton. It’s scary to think of Stanton in that lineup, but the Red Sox will need big dollars for their young, cheap talent like Mookie Betts and Chris Sale. Betts made just $950,000 last year and is now arbitration-eligible. The Red Sox have Sale for two more years  and will need lock him up on a long-term deal to avoid losing him through free agency. Those are two guys who will command a healthy chunk of Red Sox payroll over the next few years. I think it is more likely the Red Sox pursue someone like free agents first baseman Eric Hosmer or outfielder J.D. Martinez to help fill the void when David Ortiz retired after the 2016 season. Nevertheless, it’s within the realm of possibility for Boston to get “greedy”. After all, Sox owner John Henry has to feed the beast, otherwise known as the Red Sox Nation.

Another team mentioned for Stanton is the St Louis Cardinals. I don’t see the Cardinals ponying up the cash to take on Stanton’s contract, let alone the prospects that it would take. While it now looks like a very prudent financial decision, they let their franchise player, Albert Pujols, one of the all-time Cardinal greats, depart through free agency a few years ago over money.

The other two teams mentioned as possible destinations are the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the course of the off-season even if we are forced to be bystanders as Team Hal looks at the bigger picture and of course the bottom line.

Well, let’s see what this week brings. Go Yankees!

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Dancing Among The Legends…

Credit:  Getty Images

Yankees 2, Blue Jays 1…

It may not have resulted in the AL East championship, but CC Sabathia gave the Yankees what they needed to propel the team to the narrow victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon. Give credit to the Yankees for making the Boston Red Sox earn the division title and not handing it to them. This was a game for the ages, raising the names of Whitey Ford and Babe Ruth…

Sabathia locked into a pitching battle with Toronto’s Marcus Stroman for the first few innings. The game was scoreless until the bottom of the 4th when Aaron Judge belted a monster blast over the left field seats (484 feet) for his 52nd home run of the year.  All Rise!

Credit:  Jim McIsaac-Getty Images

But the Yankees weren’t finished. Didi Gregorius hit a one-out single to left, a ball that nearly grazed the top of the glove of Blue Jays shortstop Ryan Goins. While Starlin Castro was taking his hacks at Stroman, a wild pitch got away from catcher Russell Martin (a bouncer through his legs) allowing Didi to advance to second. With the count full, Castro singled to center, past a diving Ryan Goins who barely got a piece of his glove on the ball, to score Gregorius. The Yankees were up, 2-0.

The Blue Jays changed pitchers for the bottom of the 5th with reliever Aaron Loup replacing Stroman. Loup walked two of the first three batters he faced (the two Aarons) to put Hicks in scoring position, but the Blue Jays pulled Loup and inserted Carlos Ramirez who shut down Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius on a strikeout and fly out, respectively.  

The top of the 6th brought a little drama and memories of the Jeffrey Maier incident years ago the then 12-year-old reached out to catch Derek Jeter’s fly in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS and Jeter was awarded a home run. With one out, Ryan Goins got a hold of a Sabathia pitch and sent it high to right. Momentarily, it appeared to be a home run but replayed showed a young fan reaching out to catch the ball. The play was reviewed but the call on the field (ground-rule double due to fan interference) was upheld. Goins took second and the fan was shown the exit. Sabathia struck out Teoscar Hernandez for the second out but with Josh Donaldson on deck, CC’s day was done. Chad Green came into the game and got Donaldson to hit a fly to left for the final out. The shutout remained intact much to the delight of Sabathia. Sabathia finished with 5 2/3 innings pitched, and giving up only four hits with no runs or walks. He struck out six in what may have been his final Yankees regular season start.    

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Tommy Kahnle took over for Green in the top of the 8th and unfortunately gave his best impersonation of Dellin Betances (the bad version). The first batter he faced, Ezequiel Carrera, hit a soft dribbler on the third base side and beat the throw from Kahnle to first. Miguel Montero, pinch-hitting for Rob Refsnyder, drew a walk so the Blue Jays had the tying run on base. Kahnle was pulled and replaced with David Robertson. Ryan Goins struck out but D-Rob missed with a full count fastball to walk Teoscar Hernandez. The bases were loaded with only one out. Josh Donaldson hit a fly to left for the second out, with Carrera coming home to score on the sacrifice. Brett Gardner had to run to make the catch as the wind pulled it back, and his throw to the plate almost nailed Carrera but Gary Sanchez couldn’t hold on to the ball. 

Credit:  Bill Kostroun-AP

Robertson came through big when he struck out Justin Smoak swinging to preserve the Yankee lead by the slim one-run margin.

Aroldis Chapman on the for the 9th inning and it was 1-2-3 game over with Starlin Castro running to his left to catch Darwin Barney’s line drive for the final out. The Yankees win!

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees (91-70) saw their hopes for the AL East title dashed in the clubhouse when the Boston Red Sox completed their 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros. David Price got the Sox out of a bases-loaded jam in the 7th inning. Former Yankee Brian McCann did his part with a homer in the 9th inning but it wasn’t enough. The Yankees will host the AL Wild Card Game against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night. The winner will advance to play the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. The Red Sox will continue their current series with the Houston Astros in their ALDS matchup, moving from Boston to Houston for Game 1.

Congratulations to CC Sabathia (14-5) for his successful season. I know that I had given up hope for the aging pitcher, like many fans, but he showed that he is capable of reinventing himself ala Andy Pettitte. The win was Sabathia’s 237th of his career, passing the legendary Whitey Ford. 

Credit:  Reuters

The troublesome knee is still a concern but CC Sabathia earned his right to be part of the 2018 Yankees. Hopefully, the team and the player can come together for a mutually rewarding contract in the off-season.  

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Judge will most likely not play today so if that’s the case, he finishes with a .284 batting average, 52 home runs and 114 RBI’s. His homer was the 33rd of the year at home, breaking the franchise record set by none other than the immortal George Herman “Babe” Ruth in 1921. It’s been an incredible season for the highly talented young slugger. First full season and he’s rubbing shoulders with the greatest  of the greats in franchise history.

 

Odds & Ends…

Andrew Romine of the Detroit Tigers became the fifth player to play all nine positions in a Major League game. To play catcher, he used a ‘hand me down’ glove courtesy of his brother Austin. Romine pitched in the bottom of the 8th inning with the Tigers nursing a 3-2 lead over the Minnesota Twins. He retired the only batter he faced, Miguel Sano, on a ground out to third. He handled all of his defensive chances cleanly. A very nice accomplishment for Austin’s older brother.  

Credit:  Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

There was a nice Twitter exchange between Aaron Judge and Marcus Stroman after yesterday’s game.  

Stroman:  @TheJudge44 is creating history. He hits baseballs extremely far too. Lol looking forward to competing against him the rest of my career!

Judge:  Much respect @MStrooo6!! Love your fire and passion for this game!! Keep that chip on your shoulder!! 👊👊

Stroman:  Always my man. The future battles will be legendary. Good luck in the playoffs young king!

Personally, I would rather see these two become Yankee teammates…

Have a great Sunday! The final game of the regular season. Let’s bring home a victory in preparation for Tuesday. Go Yankees!

$200 Million doesn’t buy what it used to…

 

Maybe the Yanks should be spending some extra cash on PowerBall…

I get that $200 million is a lot of money, and the Yankees have been the only team to play in that neighborhood “salary-wise” until the Los Angeles Dodgers joined the party.  But I am surprised to hear Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner making comments about the disbelief in fan reaction to the team’s non-activity outside of re-signing its key free agents.  Yes, that point is huge.  Re-signing Huroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and Andy Pettitte were essential to the team’s hopes for 2013 so I do not dispute the importance of the team taking care of those players.  While I like the signings of 3B Kevin Youkilis and DH Travis Hafner, there are huge injury risks prevalent with both players.  I could be wrong but I doubt either player gives the Yankees at least 140 games this year.

My point and frustration with the Yankees ownership is the loss of free agents catcher Russell Martin to the Pittsburgh Pirates and right fielder Nick Swisher to the Cleveland Indians.  Catching is left to a couple of career back-ups, including one recently associated with PED rumors, unless touted prospect Austin Romine can step it up and make his presence felt in the Bronx sooner rather than later.  In right field, the Yankees do have Ichiro but he’s not getting any younger.  He certainly won’t provide the pop that Swisher could.  He’ll make more happen on the base paths, but isn’t that what Brett Gardner is for?  Sometimes, a team needs to make a move to excite the fan base.  I do not equate that to throwing money away to satisfy the fans, but making calculated, smart moves that give the team something to build upon.

As it stands, the possibility the Yankees lose Robinson Cano to free agency is high.  Yes, ownership makes the comments about how they want him to be a Yankee for life.  However, I seriously doubt the organization is going to give an 8 to 10 year deal to a 30-year old veteran player even if he is the team’s best player.  We have A-Rod to thank for making ownership a bit gun shy, and rightfully so.  I think the single biggest detriment to keeping the Yankees from winning the World Series in the next few years is A-Rod.  If you could take those dollars and invest them in better, cheaper resources, the team would be much stronger and the goal of coming in under $189 million next year would be possible.

If catching is a debacle and the older Yankees show their age, this is going to be a very long season.  Personally, I think this will be Manager Joe Girardi’s most challenging year.  He’ll be riding the hot seat all year long, especially if the Yankees get off to a sluggish start in April.  It is a given that Mark Teixeira’s bat won’t show up until around Memorial Day so I am fearful the team will become too dependent on guys like Youk and Hafner which could overexpose them and increase the likelihood of injury.  Now would be the time for infielder Eduardo Nunez to step up in a huge way…

The argument can be made that every team in the AL East has the ability to play better than .500 ball, and all have the wherewithal to win the division outright.  My guess, at this point, is the division goes to the Toronto Blue Jays, leaving the Yanks, Red Sox, Orioles and Rays to fight it out for a Wild Card spot.

But it’s a long season, and there is always the potential the Yankees do make the necessary moves to ensure a strong chance for October success.

The Giambino back in the AL…

I saw a report this morning that former Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi has signed a $750,000 minor league deal and invitation to training camp with the Cleveland Indians.  It seems a bit strange to see Giambi on a team managed by Terry Francona, but if used in the right way, Giambi could help the Indians.  As the Toby Keith song goes, “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was”.  While I think Giambi should have retired, I am sure that he’ll begin his coaching career soon enough and it’s not a bad idea to learn a trick or two from one of the better managers in baseball.

It’s just a number…

Although the Yankees active roster on MLB.com has not been updated, it looks like Kevin Youkilis is going to wear #36.  I would have preferred to see the team dust off Jorge Posada’s #20 given that was Youk’s number in Boston.  I am not trying to be disrespectful to Jorge, but I’ve never been a big fan of retired numbers unless the guy was an absolute legend like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig.  Posada had a great career, but I simply do not put him in the same category with catching greats Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra or Thurman Munson.  With all the retired and reserved Yankee numbers, it is inevitable that many players will be joining Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain in the 60’s or higher.

Time to head to Florida and Arizona…

With all the snow Boston has received this weekend, it’s hard to believe that baseball training camps start to open this week.  It feels much more like baseball weather where I sit in California as temps are expected to reach the 70’s this week, but for my friends in Boston, I am hoping all are safe and warm.  It was a good thing that Truck Day happened before the weather emergency.  Even as a Yankees fan, I would never wish ill will on the Red Sox or their fans.  As they say, you have to beat the best to be the best and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.

Play ball!…

–Scott

 

Mr Rightfielder, are you out there?…

Why not dream big?…

Admittedly, I keep hoping the Yankees announce the acquisition of a proven slugger for right field, but the realist in me knows that the Yankees are truly serious about getting salaries beneath $189 million by next year.

I’ve also come to realize that whenever the Yankees are publicly attached to a certain player through rumors or expressed interest, those deals rarely come to fruition.  Such was the case with Washington Nationals first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse who was subsequently dealt to the Seattle Mariners.  I thought Morse would have been a good replacement for the departed Nick Swisher, but the Yankees obviously felt the cost in terms of prospects was too much.  Of the remaining options, there’s always the chance that GM Brian Cashman can parlay his good relationship with Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers into a deal for outfielder Justin Upton.  I am really not enamored with other possibilities like Vernon Wells.

I guess I am still waiting for that next Paul O’Neill type of deal to bring a fixture to right for years to come…

What if Boston’s acquisition of A-Rod had come true so many years ago…

Before I write these next words, please know that I am not a fan of Alex Rodriguez.  Therefore, my words about him will always be jaded.  My personal opinion is that A-Rod was as immersed into PED’s as the newly admitted doper Lance Armstrong.  I look forward to the day when A-Rod no longer wears the pinstripes.  When the reports about A-Rod’s ailing hip came to light, there were comments by his doctor that it was directly attributable to his poor play late last season.  But today, the news headline is that the cartilage damage was “less than expected”.  So, of course, my immediate thought was maybe the hip had nothing to do with A-Rod’s performance…he just tanked it as he always does in pressure situations.  The man who lives for his own personal stats is not a friend of mine and certainly not someone I want on my team.

Yogi Berra’s heir-apparent…

I am very pleased to see Jorge Posada accepting an invitation to spring training as a guest instructor.  There’s no doubt his exit from the Yankees could have been handled much better, but it is time to make amends and to embrace Jorge as a Yankees Legend.  Without question, the uncertainty of the 2013 starting catcher is a great opportunity for Jorge to mentor the right candidate for the job.  I think the starter will be Francisco Cervelli or Cervelli in a platoon with another catcher.  As much as I like Austin Romine, it’s just not quite his time yet.  Welcome back to the fold, Jorge!  Hip-hip, Jorge!

Andy, just say “no”…

I know that Andy Pettitte has not committed to the WBC or Team USA yet, but I really hope that it does not happen.  I am not convinced that the Yankees can get an entire season out of Pettitte who missed part of last year due to injury.  I do feel that 2013 most likely will be Andy’s last season so I hope that we can get the best possible Andy for his swan song.

I guess Jenny Craig does work…

After seeing all those photos of “fat” Derek a month or so ago, it’s clear from current photos that he’s in pristine condition and ready to take the field.  Derek has never been my favorite player (sorry, but Mariano Rivera has held that position since 1996), but he’s a future Hall of Famer and his number will be between Billy Martin and Babe Ruth in Monument Park after his playing days are over.  Derek has impressed me with many things over the years but his renaissance after talk he was declining shows how truly special the player is.  I have trust in DJ to know that when his time comes, he will walk away.  He will never be a burden to the Yankees roster…unlike his teammate to his right.

Youk!…

Back to A-Rod, I really hope that Kevin Youkilis holds third base for the entire season…

My favorite manager is…

I can’t help but think the stars are aligning perfectly for Don Mattingly to return to the Yankees as manager.  I do like Joe Girardi and I’d be in favor of an extension, but the Yankees’ sudden budget conservatism places the Yankees in a potential “letdown” season.  If the team loses, can Girardi hold his job?  Meanwhile, baseball’s new salary leaders, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have soared expectations to unimagined heights.  So, if the Dodgers underachieve, is Mattingly a potential fatality?  Mattingly has become a good manager so if the circumstances yield a result with Girardi unemployed and Donnie Baseball available, is #23 the next manager of the Yankees?  It could certainly happen.  As a huge Donnie Baseball fan, I’d like to see this outcome.  Sorry Joe…

Spring training is getting closer and closer.  I am ready…

–Scott

All Quiet on the Eastern Front…

 

How come there are no players available through Groupon?…

It’s a new year but the new fiscally-responsible Yankees are still in late-2012’s penny-pinching mode and all remains quiet at River and 161st.

The latest move is the waiver pickup of utility man Russ Canzler who can play the corners and some outfield.  By all accounts, he is less talented than the guy he replaced on the 40-man roster (outfielder Chris Dickerson) but a better fit overall.  I only hope the Yankees are able to flip Dickerson, who was DFA’d, for a decent prospect.  There’s no doubt the Yankees need good depth behind third baseman Kevin Youkilis who has not exactly been the pillar of health in recent years.

At this point, I would be really surprised to see the Yankees make any bold moves.  It appears they are willing to go to spring training to see what shakes out.  A few years ago, when Mark Teixeira left the Los Angeles Angels via free agency, the Angels’ farm system produced Kendrys Morales as a very capable replacement.  When Morales went down to a season-ending injury a year or so later, Mark Trumbo stepped up.  Of course, the Yankees do not have that type of depth in the farm system, particularly at first base, but there’s always the possibility that someone somewhere unexpectedly takes it to the next level.

Clearly, the Yankees would benefit greatly by having a few more cost-controlled young players on the roster.  But as far as major league ready prospects go, the Yankees need another year or two as the best talent is still in the lower levels.  I guess that means we’ll see more Russ Canzler type moves as GM Brian Cashman tries to capture lightning in a bottle.

If the Yankees underperform in 2013, are manager Joe Girardi and/or Cashman at risk for losing their jobs?  Or does the team’s current reduced spending posture mean ownership will be more tolerant of losses?  It remains to be seen but this is clearly putting Girardi and Cashman in the proverbial hot seats.

Scott Hairston, if your choices are the Mets or the Yankees, what are you waiting for?  Your brother looked great in pinstripes and you can too!  With Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, and Ichiro Suzuki as the starters, you are assured of receiving numerous quality at-bat’s in the Bronx and you are wanted by the team.  I might be biased but who wouldn’t want to put on the same jersey as Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and so many other legends?…

Maybe we should just flip a coin to see who makes the play-offs…

I am glad to see the NHL has finally resolved its differences with the players and have agreed upon a new collective bargaining agreement.  However, it will be tough, admittedly, to be energized about a 48- or 50-game season.  If your favorite team struggles at the start of the season, it could possibly cost them play-off contention.  An entire season would have looked radically different than the upcoming shortened season.  Every year, new stars and heroes emerge and I wonder about the guys who could have been that star but now may never get the opportunity.  I guess pure talent perseveres, but still, there were far too many sacrifices made for the lockout.

Play-off loss, but a very successful season…

I was not optimistic about the Minnesota Vikings’ chances against the Green Bay Packers last weekend, particularly given the game was being held at Lambeau Field.  I did not realize that Christian Ponder’s elbow injury threatened his ability to play so Sunday’s announcement that he had been ruled inactive came as a shock.  The designated starter, Joe Webb, had not started a NFL game in two years.  Say what you will about quality practices and reps, but there’s nothing better than playing the games.  So, I did not expect Webb to provide a championship performance.  He didn’t, and the 24-10 loss was pretty much as expected.

Nevertheless, what a terrific season by the Vikings!  At the beginning of the year, the talk was the team would be drafting high in April 2013, perhaps as high as second or third.  Yet, the team won 10 games and made the play-offs over the Chicago Bears.  Adrian Peterson’s 2,097 rushing yards was an incredible accomplishment.  I remember being envious of the Bears when Walter Payton was playing as it was clear he was head and shoulders above everyone else.  But the Vikings have that guy in Peterson.  It was a special season to build upon and hopefully it will propel the Vikings to legitimate contender status in 2013.

Happy New Year to All!

–Scott

 

Wanted:  Clutch Hitter – Only the experienced need to apply!…

Although there have not been any official explanations for the DH plans this upcoming season, there’s been reports that the Yankees are content with a rotation to include Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones and Derek Jeter, with Eduardo Nunez sliding around the infield filling the holes.  My concern last season and it gave me a bad feeling heading into the play-offs that the Yankees had missed the clutch bats they enjoyed when Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui were on the roster.  Damon’s home run in the 2004 ALCS helped propel the Boston Red Sox to a comeback victory over the Yankees, and propelled the Sox to their first World Championship since the days of Babe Ruth.  I’ve heard minor league slugger Jorge Vazquez mentioned as a possibility, but I am with those who believe that he skills do not translate to the major league level.

In my opinion, the Yankees need to do something.  I am not looking for a $10 million slugger who would command 90% to 95% of the DH at-bats.  I am content with someone who could take the majority of the at-bats, allowing for the A-Rod/Jeter rotation, and would know and accept their role.  That’s why I feel that either Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui would make complete sense.  I know the Yankees want to limit their payroll at this point and I get that.  But if the difference in making the World Series or not was an additional $5 million, would it not be worth it?  Yeah, yeah, it’s not my money and $5 million is a lot of money.  But when you are spending $210 million, what’s $215 million?  Wouldn’t the return on a championship more than replenish the difference?  The Yankees have options and I know that’s why they are not in a rush.  I’ve even heard Raul Ibanez’ name mentioned and would agree that he would be a viable option.  I guess I have greater affection for guys who have proven they can win in pinstripes.

It’s funny but the Philadelphia Phillies look like geniuses for signing Jim Thome early in the off-season.  At the time, it looked like a bad fit.  Maybe he stays with the Phillies, but they could actually move him for something at this point given the DH desperation that exists for a number of teams besides the Yankees (like the Detroit Tigers, for example).  If GM Ruben Amaro could somehow swing Thome for a decent prospect, he’d build upon his legacy as a great general manager.

It will be interesting to see how the coming weeks play out, but the Yankees clearly need a guy who can come through in the clutch.  Now more than ever…

If he is older than dirt, what does that make me?…

Congratulations to Jamie Moyer for his minor league contract with an invitation to spring training with the Colorado Rockies.  I was really surprised when I heard that Moyer intended to make a comeback following his recovery.  At 49, the odds are probably against him, but you have to love his no-quit mentality.

Sometimes good fans are the difference…

Similar congratulations go to reliever Joel Zumaya, who signed with a quality organization (the Minnesota Twins).  Ironically, it was at Target Field where Zumaya’s elbow exploded a couple of years ago.  I remember when he was hailed as THE flamethrower in the league, and was a huge part of the Detroit Tigers bullpen.  It’s anybody’s guess what kind of pitcher he will be going forward, but it would be good to see him recapture success for an organization that deserves better than last year’s 99 losses.  With the departure of Joe Nathan and the inconsistency of Matt Capps, there’s certainly going to be opportunity with the closing and set up roles for the Twins.

It was a bit hard to imagine Zumaya throwing from the mound at Target Field this morning as the temperature reading in my car read -10 degrees in downtown Minneapolis.  The weathermen were reporting that with the wind chill factor, it felt like -38.  In weather like that, it’s hard to imagine that the lights of Target Field will be back on in just a couple of months.  While I admit that the 16 degrees I experienced in Winnipeg, Manitoba a few weeks back felt much colder, there’s no question that in temps like this you just want to go from your heated house to your heated car to your heated work.  This past summer, I was in Phoenix when it was in the 120’s.  All things considered, I’ll gladly take -38 in Minneapolis as opposed to 122 degrees in Phoenix.  I don’t care that it’s paradise in Arizona right now…

Deux Sorianos?…

Back to the Yankees, I’ve wondered if some kind of deal involving the Chicago Cubs would work.  The Yankees want to unload A.J. Burnett, and he’d clearly benefit from a change of scenery.  He’d also be more effective in the National League at this point.  I wouldn’t say that the pressure would be less in Chicago, but I think A.J. could more himself.  Conversely, the Cubs have an albatross with Alfonso Soriano.  Soriano could still be a fairly productive DH at this point in his career.  Not that I want to give two rosters spots to over-paid, under-productive Sorianos but it would be a potential solution.  I think I can speak for most Yankees fan when I say that we’ve rode the Burnett train about as far as we care to.  Now that Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda have all but pushed Burnett out of the rotation, a win-win trade with the Cubs would certainly make sense.

Yeah, you and what bank?…

If I’m Cole Hamels, I am going for free agency in the fall of 2012.  Don’t even talk to me about an extension!  If the Texas Rangers will lay out $110 million for an unproven, albeit very highly talented, pitcher, there’s no question what a championship performer like Hamels can command on the open market.

I choose you, no, maybe you…

I am glad that Bartolo Colon was able to find a home with the Oakland A’s, but admittedly, I am glad that he is not returning for an encore performance in the Bronx.  I am not quite sure with what happened between Colon and the Arizona Diamondbacks (he apparently agreed with them and then reneged, ala David Wells a few years ago), but I am sure he had his reasons for why Oakland was a better fit.  But I guess those reasons didn’t include W’s…

Those pesky Nats!…

As for the ongoing Prince Fielder sweepstakes, I just wish the Washington Nationals would put one of those ridiculous Jayson Werth type contracts in front of him and get him signed.  I’d be surprised if the Texas Rangers were financially able to sign both Yu Darvish and Fielder but stranger things have happened.  I really don’t want to see Fielder in for Mitch Moreland on the defending AL Champions.  I still think the Los Angeles Angels, thanks to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, are a better team in the AL West, with or without Fielder on the Rangers, but I certainly do not want the potential roadblocks to a Yankees World Series getting stronger.

First base at Yankee Stadium will forever mean Lou Gehrig to me until the day I die, even if I didn’t personally get to see him play.  For what I have seen, Don Mattingly is the epitome of greatness.  I was a bit skeptical when Tino Martinez took over for Mattingly, but he played the position as well as anyone could have following the footprints of #23.  I loved the signing of Mark Teixeira and he was a prime reason for the Yankees success in 2009, but after a couple of disappointing seasons with the usual stone cold starts, something has to give.  Defense alone at first base is not enough.  Not that I want to go back to the days of Giambi (great bat, not-so-great glove), but Tex needs to dedicate himself to an improved performance in 2012.  I know that we’ll have to deal with the usual sluggish start, but he needs to show that he can be more like the 2009 Teixeira than the 2011 version.

Well, I am at this end of this post, but I see that GM Brian Cashman still has much work ahead of him before we start talking about games at Legends Field…

–Scott

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The best of a bad situation for the Red Sox Nation…

 

Bobby Valentine’s hire…

I am still surprised that the Boston Red Sox ownership and management team did not have a clear plan of succession when they failed to back former manager Terry Francona at the end of the season.  Sure, Francona left on his terms but the lack of support had as much to do with the decision as anything.  So, if ownership felt that they wanted a change, they should have had a short list of potential replacements in mind.  Theo Epstein moved more quickly in Chicago when they named Sox candidate Dale Sveum as their manager.  The Sox search just felt “messy” to an outsider like me.

Still, they probably did as well as they could with the hiring of Bobby Valentine.  There is no question that he is a superior tactician.  He is very passionate, which is an attribute that I have always admired.  I cannot say that I’ve been a Bobby V fan in my life.  I lived in Dallas during his years as the manager of the Texas Rangers.  But I respect his knowledge, skills and high desire to win.  At different points during the last few years, there have been times he has been mentioned as a possible Yankees manager.  You don’t have to like the guy personally if he can get the job done.  I think one of my friends referred to Bobby as “swarmy” and it’s a good description.  Nevertheless, I am sure that Bobby will prove himself worthy of the Red Sox Nation and they’ll love him.  Meanwhile, we’ll just continue our loathing of him which fits since he is now with a bitter rival.

I would like to see if Bobby can have a positive impact on pitcher Jon Lester.  Lester has been one of my favorite players, despite his uniform.  He is an ace, and capable of carrying the high expectations that go with it.  2011 was a regression year for Lester so hopefully he’ll get back on track in 2012 and clearly establish himself as the leader of the Red Sox rotation.

…and Terry Francona’s ire…

In recent years, I admittedly lessened my dislike for the Boston Red Sox and it was primarily because of my respect for manager Terry Francona.  In my mind, Joe Torre had been the model of a superior manager, and the Francona mold was in the same class.  I do not know the inner workings of the Red Sox organization, but I am still surprised that they didn’t support Francona based on comments Tito has made during interviews.  I was even more surprised to hear that he had to defend himself against questions about painkillers during his interview with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Here is a manager that won two World Series for an organization that had not won since 1918, or when Babe Ruth was still on the roster.  It’s incredible to think of how many Red Sox managers failed where Tito succeeded.  I think teams missed the boat in not aggressively pursuing Tito this off-season.  Hopefully, teams won’t make the same mistake next year.

All quiet on the Western front…

The days leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas seem so incredibly quiet compared to life under the Boss.  While I recognize that part of it is posturing by the Yankees to avoid overpaying for players, there is the realization that this is a different ownership group even if it is still “in the family”.  The Yankees did not really make any notable moves last season outside of signing catcher Russell Martin and bringing in pitchers Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.  To fail to upgrade the team this year is a mistake in my opinion.  Last year’s roster was easily defeated by the Detroit Tigers in the play-offs.  While I realize that anything can happen in a short series, I didn’t have the sense or “feel” that the Yankees were going to prevail.  It almost seemed as though it was inevitable the Yankees would lose.  That’s a bad feeling.  The team needs bench or role players that can come through like Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui used to, and they need help at the top of the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia.

I hopeful that the team can re-sign Eric Chavez, Andrew Jones and Luis Ayala.  Chavez is a perfect fit behind Alex Rodriguez, assuming that he can stay healthy, and Jones was a great fourth outfielder if he is content with resuming that type of role for the upcoming season. Ayala seems to be garnering much attention with at least six teams interested.

I like the one rumor that I heard about the Yankees possibly being interested in Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Kyle Drabek.  He would definitely be a pitcher that I’d target if I were the GM.  As a fan, the trade of Doug Drabek hurt at the time and it hurt even more when Drabek went on to achieve great success with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  While acquiring Kyle Drabek has nothing to do with his father as he has great potential on his own right, it would be nice to have the son of Doug Drabek in the organization.  Interestingly, the Yankees had obtained Doug Drabek in a trade with the Chicago White Sox for shortstop Roy Smalley.  If they had held onto him that trade would have been remembered as one of the Yankees better trades.  As it was, the Yankees traded him to the Pirates for Rick Rhoden, who was serviceable but not great.

Of the free agent pitchers, I am still most interested in Mark Buehrle.  I think he’d fit perfectly into the middle of the Yankees rotation.  I like C.J. Wilson but I can understand the team’s apprehension given the dollars that have been mentioned to sign him.  If Yu Darvish is posted later this off-season, I really would like to see the Yankees be aggressive in pursuing him.  I am convinced that he’ll have greater major league success than Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.  The negative is obviously the cost of the posting fee that it will take to get the job done.  The Red Sox paid over $51 million for the rights to negotiate with Dice-K, and apparently, it will take a similar if not higher number to land Darvish.

If the Yankees were to include outfielder Nick Swisher in a trade for a starting pitcher, they’d need to find a replacement.  As a fan, I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill type of trade to fill the void…acquiring a talented young outfielder with much promise who has yet fulfilled those expectations.  It’s a high risk move, but as in the case of O’Neill, high reward.  Curtis Granderson has thrived in a Yankees uniform despite the sluggish start, and it’s better to catch a player before he hits the upward arc of his career in terms of cost.  If the Yankees tried to acquire Granderson from the Tigers today, there’s no way that they could get it done with Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke (and that’s with Kennedy being mentioned in the NL Cy Young race this year).

Brace yourself, here comes Roller-Coaster Week!…

The upcoming week is always my favorite week of the off-season.  The Hot Stove League is at its pinnacle.  Even if the Yankees do not do anything, it is still a thrilling ride.  It’s fun to talk and think about all the potential possibilities, even as far-reaching as some may sound.  My primary wish is for the Cardinals to get their long-anticipated deal with Albert Pujols done so that we can move on to other storylines.  There’s no way that he is going to Chicago or Miami, and at the end of the day, he is and always will be a Cardinal.

My preferred landing spot for Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, if he decides to continue playing, is the Miami Marlins.  I do not want to see him go to the Mets, Red Sox, or any other AL East rival including the Tampa Bay Rays.

Good move, Bad move…

The Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite National League team, although I do not have the passion for the team or the sense of loyalty that I hold for the Yankees.  My affection for them began when Joe Torre was named manager (previously I had considered the San Francisco Giants as my NL team) and it has continued with one of my all-time favorite players as the current Dodgers manager, Don Mattingly.  I am dismayed with the ownership situation and do not have any respect for Frank McCourt, but I am optimistic that the sale of the team will restore the luster of the storied franchise.

While it was good for the Dodgers to lock up outfielder Matt Kemp long-term, I do question the move to sign free agent pitcher Chris Capuano.  The cost was too great ($10 million for two years) for a journeyman pitcher who is average to average-minus with no upside.  If this move prevents free agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda from returning, then it’s an even greater mistake.  I don’t know how much it will cost to sign Kuroda and I realize that he is 37, but he’s still a better pitcher than Capuano.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

I was not excited when the Minnesota Vikings trade a 6th round draft pick to the Washington Redskins for QB Donovan McNabb before the season started, but I did realize the team needed a veteran presence.  McNabb was a failure for the Vikings, and I was glad to see the team finally cut bait with his release this past week.  I am not convinced he can thrive in any environment, contrary to what head coach Leslie Frazier may say.  I think the Vikings simply found out what the Philadelphia Eagles knew and what the Redskins found out last season.  He’s done.  I was pleasantly surprised to see QB Sage Rosenfels return as the third string QB after his release from the Miami Dolphins.  It’s not that I expect Rosenfels to take any regular season snaps this time around, but he’s a good insurance policy and allows the Vikings to continue to use second string QB Joe Webb in a variety of roles.

It’s tough when your favorite football team is playing so bad that you actually hope for losses to ensure a high draft pick.  The Vikings are only two games behind the Indianapolis Colts in the sweepstakes for Stanford QB Andrew Luck.  I am a fan of Vikings QB Christian Ponder, but even I would gladly take Luck over Ponder.  So, with the Denver Broncos playing the Vikings today, all I can say is ‘Go Tim Tebow!’ as a way to bring good “Luck”!…

–Scott