Soon, very soon…
We are less than a month away before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa. Sitting in Denver, I still have a few more snowstorms to go before America’s favorite pastime returns, but I am excited and looking forward to the upcoming season. The Yankees are still a couple of seasons away from being a serious World Series threat, but the season should be fun nonetheless.
There are a lot of big if’s with this year’s squad. Can Aaron Judge make the necessary adjustments at this level? Can Jacoby Ellsbury ever be the player he once was in Boston? Can he stay healthy? Will Brett Gardner be traded? Will Chase Headley be traded? Will Starlin Castro be moved to third base? Will Gleyber Torres show that he’s ready for major league action sooner rather than later? Will Didi Gregorius sustain last year’s success and show continued improvement? Will Greg Bird restore the great promise that he showed in late 2015? Will Gary Sanchez continue to show that he is arguably the best Yankee or at least show the Yankees were right in sending Brian McCann to Houston? The list goes on and on, and that’s without even getting to the pitching staff.
During the recent Winter Warm-up in the Bronx, James Kaprielian sounded like a future ace. I have long been a fan of Kaprielian’s and have looked forward to his arrival at Yankee Stadium. Last year’s injury that caused him to miss most of the season was a significant setback, but as a college player, Kaprielian is not that far away. If he can show success at Scranton/Wilkes Barre this year, there’s no doubt he’ll be making his major league debut later this summer. I would not be disappointed if Kaprielian surprisingly grabbed a rotation spot out of spring training.
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports
I remain hopeful that Ian Clarkin can be a future rotation piece, even at the back end. With the influx of other prospects via last summer’s trades, Clarkin’s name is rarely mentioned. But he is another one that I have hoped would achieve the big leagues. Drafted as the 33rd player in the 2013 MLB Draft, Clarkin missed part of last season with a knee injury. He is still only 21 years old so I am hopeful that he’ll bounce back for future success.
The Yankees will have a number of young arms competing for the open rotation spots, but I’d still like to see them bring in a veteran for competition. Same with the bullpen. I am supportive of the return of Boone Logan and would like to see him back in pinstripes.
Other teams are making minor moves. I liked the Miami Marlins’ acquisition of pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. I remember a few years ago, I was on a flight from Portland to San Francisco. There was a guy behind me on the plane that was raving about his son, a pitcher who happened to be the minor league strikeout leader at the time for an Oakland A’s farm team. It was Straily’s dad. Straily has been through a few major league organizations since that time, but at least Miami is making moves.
I also thought the Boston Red Sox signing of former Philadelphia Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick was a sound move. Who knows if Kendrick will ever be the pitcher he once was with the Phillies, but you don’t know if you don’t try.
By not signing any veteran pitchers, the Yankees are clearly saying that they want youth to take the final rotation spots. If this team is truly dedicated to the youth movement and realistically won’t be in World Series contention for at least two seasons, I do not understand holding onto Brett Gardner. He is 33 (will be 34 this season). Speed does not age well. If the Yankees had a shot for the World Series this year, I’d say hold him. But that’s not the case. Granted, we do not know the packages that GM Brian Cashman has turned down and perhaps he has only been offered less talent. But I firmly believe in identifying undervalued assets to take advantage of potential over proven performance. There are surprises every year, but again, you don’t know if you don’t try.
Most likely, at this point, Cashman is right that no further moves will be made. I think it’s a mistake but hopefully the top young prospects will prove that the best move was no move.
I can hear those pitches popping in the catching mitts. Soon, very soon…
Don’t say it!…
As soon as I saw the words that Aroldis Chapman had claimed overuse by Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, I knew it would go viral. Within minutes, the internet was flooded with stories saying Chapman had slammed Maddon.
Given that Chapman has spent time in New York (and Chicago), one would think that he would know the importance of choosing his words wisely. In Cincinnati, he probably could have said those words, generating a few chuckles from the reporters, and never another word. But in New York, everything is magnified. I personally do not think Chapman meant any harm with the words nor does he hold any ill will towards Maddon and the Cubs. He qualified his comments by saying that he was to be ready to do his job. Maddon unnecessarily responded to the comments by saying that he had to win and Chapman always said yes.
Credit: Jamie Squire, Getty Images
I do not blame either man. In the play-offs and particularly the World Series, you leave it on the field. Whatever it takes. Was it foolish to bring Chapman into a game with the Cubs up by 5 runs in the 7th inning of Game 6. Sure, but we weren’t in Maddon’s shoes. How much did he trust his other relievers? Did he sense a potential shift in momentum? Was Chapman simply his best option? That is Joe Maddon’s decision…not ours. I felt Chapman was overused and didn’t blame him for the breakdown in Game 7 based on his workload over the preceding couple of nights. Joe did what he had to do and so did Chapman. The end result was the first World Series championship in 108 years for the Cubs. So if Maddon overused Chapman, so be it. They can cry about it as they collect their World Championship rings.
To me, this is not a red flag. I know that Joe Girardi will be selective in his use of Chapman and I think the pitcher’s presence on the Yankees is a mutual fit. I am glad he’s back. I am sorry for his prior domestic violence issues and while I don’t like what he did, I believe the man is capable of correcting his behavior and deserves the second chance. I always believed in giving Steve Howe second chances and I got burned on that one, but still, I think Chapman has carried himself well during his time in New York and Chicago. I look forward to seeing those 105 mph fastballs flying from #54 on the Yankee Stadium mound.
While I like the job Tyler Clippard did in pinstripes, he is clearly not Andrew Miller. So even with Chapman, the Yankees bullpen is noticeably inferior to last year’s No Runs DMC. I’d like to see the Yankees pick up another reliever to pair with Clippard as the bridge to Dellin Betances. I’d like to see the return of former Yankee Boone Logan but would certainly accept other options.
There’s is definitely still work to be done for the bullpen but I can’t begin to say how much better I feel having Chapman back in the fold.
Say it isn’t so…
I was so saddened to hear that Yankees beat writer Mark Feinsand was leaving the New York Daily News this week. It’s funny how we take the beat writers for granted and we grow to really appreciate the work they do day in and day out. With Feinsand, I loved his columns, tweets, and podcasts. He was always so insightful. But it was a surprising sense of loss when I heard he was leaving the Daily News.
Credit: Corey Sipkin, New York Daily News
I don’t know what’s next for Feinsand but I hope it involves the Yankees.
I don’t follow the Brooklyn Nets so admittedly I don’t know much about Feinsand’s replacement, Mike Mazzeo, but I am looking forward to his work.
Congratulations to Feinsand for his terrific work at the Daily News and best of luck in his next endeavor!
Sanchez had better get extra padding for that mitt…
Before the Yankees re-signed closer Aroldis Chapman, there was very little talk of what they SHOULD do. Now that Chapman is back in the fold after his brief hiatus to win a World Series championship with the Chicago Cubs, the naysayers are out in full force.
Credit: ESPN.com Illustration
For me, I am glad Chapman once again anchors the back end of the bullpen. If the Yankees had not paid him the record-setting 5 year, $86 million contract for a closer, the Miami Marlins were fully prepared to step in and pay him a million more. Like him or not, Chapman was going to get his money.
I know the current Baby Bombers Implementation Plan is in full effect and there are cheaper alternatives available. As great as Kenley Jansen is, he would have cost the Yankees their first round draft pick in the 2017 MLB Draft (then Number 17, but now Number 16 thanks to the Colorado Rockies’ signing of OF, SS, or 1B? Ian Desmond, thereby forfeiting their higher draft selection). In terms of dollars, in addition to the draft pick, Jansen would have cost nearly as much as Chapman.
Free agent and former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland is still available but he carries more questions as he attempts to come back from injury.
A reunion with former Yankees closer David Robertson was a possibility but the Chicago White Sox have shown they demand premium plus in trades.
Signing Chapman did not cost a draft pick or talent…only money which the Yankees have.
Chapman does carry the negative stigma of domestic violence but I do believe in second chances. He has not been convicted and by all accounts no one was seriously injured (or worse). I hope and pray it was a wake up call for Chapman. After 20 years of a Saint in the closer’s role for the Yankees, it’s unfortunate we have to deal with these issues. But give the man a chance for redemption.
I did not believe that Dellin Betances was suited for the closer’s role. My suspicions proved correct when we saw Betances stumble in September after the trades of Chapman and Andrew Miller. It may have been fatigue but I felt it was more mental. Betances is a great setup guy, perhaps one of the best in the game. Being a great bridge does not necessarily equate to being a great closer.
There is no doubt I would have preferred a reunion with Andrew Miller over Chapman but that was not going to happen. The Cleveland Indians recognize they have one of the most versatile and dependable relievers in baseball and possibly one of the most selfless guys you can ever hope to meet. But he is Cleveland property for the next few years under a very reasonable contract. If Cleveland was amenable to trading Miller, they would want no less than the premier talent they paid to acquire him. OF Clint Frazier is either first or second on any given Yankees top prospect list and P Justus Sheffield is a future mainstay in the rotation.
So regardless of the other options, I am glad that #54 found his way back to the Bronx. The trio of Tyler Clipart, Betances and Chapman may not be ‘No Runs DMC’ but they’ll be close. The Yankees still need other bullpen upgrades (I personally would like to see another reunion with the potential signing of lefty Boone Logan) but regardless of what happens, the pen will be a strength in 2017.
Next year’s going to seem like a Holliday…
After talk the Yankees would use the DH role to cycle through its position players as a form of rest, I was glad to see the Yankees make a short-term investment in former St Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday. Any way you slice it, Holliday will be a major upgrade over the now departed Alex Rodriguez. Last year, the Yankees offense was largely dependent upon two major underachievers, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. This year, the center of the lineup features Holliday and rookie sensation Gary Sanchez. If the Yankees can get meaningful production out of new first baseman Greg Bird and right fielder Aaron Judge, this could be a very good offense.
Credit: Google Images / STL Sports View
I am still a proponent of trading Brett Gardner. I feel strongly the team needs to open up left field for other young talent and allow Holliday an occasional start. The Yankees clearly need another starter in the rotation so if Gardner can bring in a solid #5, I’m all for it.
I think P Jason Hammel would be a good signing for the rotation but if that doesn’t happen, I am hopeful GM Brian Cashman gets creative in adding another piece. I would much rather see the team’s young talent fighting for only one rotation spot; not two. I am not convinced Luis Severino can be an effective starter but we know that he can be a very effective reliever. I would rather see Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell in swing roles, serving as the long men out of the pen. It would be much better for Luis Cessa and Chad Green to fight each other for a rotation spot than handing it to both of them.
The heavy lifting is done for the 2017 roster but the coming weeks should bring continued improvement. No major signings or trades are expected but just little tweaks to keep this team in contention while it looks ahead to brighter days in 2019. This is what Brian Cashman gets paid to do it, and so far, he’s been doing it well…
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.
The highs and lows of the Hot Stove League, thus far…
For Yankees fans, the off-season started nicely. After early speculation that manager Joe Girardi might jump to the Chicago Cubs, he re-signed a long-term deal with the Yankees and expressed it was his desire to remain in New York. All good.
Then, Derek Jeter quickly signed a one year deal with negotiations that where smooth, quick and efficient (unlike the prior Jeter negotiations). It remains to be seen if we’ll get the Jeter of 2012 or the injured, aging 2013 model, but there’s no question that Jeter must finish his career in pinstripes. I don’t think Derek would want to go anywhere else at this point anyway, but still, he is the face of the franchise and he’ll forever be remembered as one of its legends. In the distant future, when the old greats from the 50’s Dynasty era are gone (Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, among others), it will be guys like Jeter that maintain the honor and tradition in baseball’s most storied franchise.
The Yankees struck fast in signing free agent catcher Brian McCann after last year’s parade of backups in the starting role. It gives the team its first legitimate starter at the position since Russell Martin left, and the best offensive bat at the position since Jorge Posada retired. This is a move that places backup catchers Francisco Cervelli, J.R. Murphy, and Austin Romine in a better position to succeed. At first pass, I expect Cervelli to take the backup job in spring training but the other two are capable. On the days that McCann slides to DH, the catching position will be capable hands.
Next came a big surprise. I honestly did not see the Yankees signing centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. While I have been a fan of Ellsbury’s work, it didn’t seem to be a great need for the team. Brett Gardner has been an effective centerfielder, and has the speed to burn. Still, Ellsbury’s signing upgrades the position and allows the Yankees to slide Gardner to left where he a defensive upgrade over Alfonso Soriano. The concern here is that by making Soriano the full-time DH, it does limit the DH opportunities for Derek Jeter and Brian McCann. Soriano’s bat is still very valuable, and it’s much needed in the lineup.
Then came the bittersweet day of Friday, December 6th. The night before, there had been reports that second baseman Robinson Cano had flown to Seattle, but in the morning, the early reports indicated that talks had stalled or perhaps even ended. It gave a brief ray of hope that he’d come back to the Yankees, but those hopes were soon dissolved when it was reported Cano had agreed to a 10-year $240 million deal with the Mariners. While it’s tough to lose a great player, perhaps the team’s best, it is simply too hard to justify those numbers. I have enjoyed the early 30’s version of Cano at second, but in his late 30’s and early 40’s, the prospect doesn’t look too promising at $24 million per year. That’s a huge chunk of any team’s overall payroll. I think of when Chase Utley was the premier second baseman, but now, with injuries, he has become a shell of what he once was. What happens if Cano does not age well? I guess I am not a gambling man and would prefer that the M’s take that bet. $240 million can be better spent by spreading it over multiple positions rather than locking it into only one.
This is where I find Robinson Cano to be extremely selfish. You can’t begrudge anyone from wanting as much money as they can get, but this is a team game and every team has a budget…even the Yankees. If it were me, I would have taken the Yankees offer of 7 years at $175 million because the average annual salary was stronger and I’d know that the team would be more flexible in other areas by not being locked into so many years. For those additional three years, it would be up to me to perform and if so, there would be a reward. It also would have kept the Yankee legacy intact and ensured a potential place among the team’s legends. But now, Cano is just another player who took the money and ran. He proved that money is more valuable than wins, and money is more important than helping build a strong supporting cast of quality players. That doesn’t mean Seattle doesn’t have quality players, they do, but they are a long way from contending. It is very possible that when they are ready to contend, Cano has started his career regression due to age that’s inevitable for everyone.
Cano has carried the “lazy” rap for years. While he is an exciting player at times, it was frustrating when he didn’t hustle. I think of someone like Dustin Pedroia, whose motor is always running. He creates opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be there because he is alert and proactive. He seizes the opportunities and takes advantage of them. That’s what winning ball players do. Cano is not that guy. I have never thought of him as a team player, and I didn’t view him as a player who helped raise the performance level of those around him. Rest assured the Yankees will miss his offensive production at the position. At this point, I have no idea who will be the second baseman in 2014. Kelly Johnson seems better suited to help replace Alex Rodriguez at third base, in a platoon situation. Omar Infante signed a four year deal with the Kansas City Royals, and Brandon Phillips is starting the downward slide that comes with age. David Adams, a young player who had the talent but couldn’t show it at the major league level during brief auditions, was non-tendered and is now a Cleveland Indian. It looks as though the Yankees will fill second base with a bargain basement fill-in, much like they did last year with first and third bases. I wish the organization was better stocked with up and coming second base talent, but that does not appear to be the case. I personally thought Infante would have been the best short-term option, but the Yankees allowed them to get beat by the Royals in signing the player. You know it’s an odd year when the Yankees get beat in free agency by both the Royals and the Mariners.
But enough about Cano, he is gone and so is his Yankees legacy.
Around the same time as the news had broken about the former second baseman signing with Seattle, it was reported that starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda had signed a new one year deal with the team. This was very good news to hear. Kuroda is much needed, and I am grateful that he chose to delay his return to Japan by a year or head back to his home in Southern California. So, Cashman has filled 200 of the 400 innings he previously stated were needed this off-season.
After the tumultuous events of the day, news broke on the evening of December 6th that the Yankees had signed outfielder Carlos Beltran. At 36, he is no longer the player he once was, but he is a “gamer” or as George Steinbrenner would say, a warrior. Even an aging Beltran is an upgrade over an even older Ichiro Suzuki or the outfielder still primarily funded by the Los Angeles Angels, Vernon Wells.
But after the three free agent signings, the news has mostly been about departures. Phil Hughes was the first to depart, signing a three year deal with the Minnesota Twins. It was probably a good move for Hughes. Minnesota will be less pressurized and he should have the opportunity to flourish, much like Carl Pavano was able to resurrect his career in Minneapolis after leaving New York. I certainly did not expect the Yankees to re-sign Hughes after the season he had last year, but I thought he’d go to Southern California and saw the San Diego Padres as a good fit. Nevertheless, Minneapolis is a fun city and it’s a good ballpark.
A couple of other notable defections occurred in the bullpen, where Joba Chamberlain signed a one year deal with the Detroit Tigers and Boone Logan went for three years with the Colorado Rockies. Of the two, it is Logan that I really hated to see leave. He was a trusted left-handed reliever, but it really didn’t seem like the team made much of an effort to retain his services. They obviously had other priorities, but I suppose the Yankees are hopeful that a less expensive options like Cesar Cabral will step up to fill Boone’s role. It was a foregone conclusion that Joba had thrown his last pitch for the Yankees. But admittedly, I was surprised he went to Detroit. There are worse things to do than to go to a team that is probably the best one in the American League right now, but I thought that Joba would go to the Kansas City Royals since it is closer to his hometown roots. The one year deal does give him an opportunity to try and restore the promise he once had with the Yankees. Plus, if he wins a World Series, it will help give his career a further boost.
The Yankees also lost last year’s starting catcher when they traded Chris Stewart to the Pittsburgh Pirates. This move was a given after the McCann signing combined with the surplus of backup catchers.
For as crazy as December started for the Yankees, the week of the baseball winter meetings was extremely quiet. The Yankees still have much work to do. On paper, after consideration of all plusses and minuses, they are not noticeably better than last year’s 85 win team. They still need a quality starting pitcher, a second baseman, and bullpen help. Brian Cashman has his work cut out for him between now and spring training.
I honestly do not know where the Yankees will go from here. I’d like to see the free agent signing of a pitcher like Matt Garza, but so far, the Yankees have not been one of the team’s linked to the pitcher. Same with Bronson Arroyo, who is certainly capable of eating a large number of innings as a #4 starter. For second base, the latest reports have the Yankees interested in Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs but I have no idea what he would cost in terms of talent in a trade. I will feel much better about the 2014 Yankees once the additional starting pitcher and second baseman are in the fold, but at least it is reassuring to know that Hal Steinbrenner wants to win as much as the rest of us do.
The Boston Massacre or the Bronx Massacre?…
Since the games are being held in the Bronx, I suppose the Boston Red Sox kill of any Yankee play-off aspirations should be called the Bronx Massacre. Unfortunately, the high hopes coming off the sweep of the Chicago White Sox were dashed as the Sox are definitely now on the other foot.
Thursday’s game was disappointing as the Yankees launched a valiant rally only to lose a game they were within one strike of winning. The defeat came with none other than the legendary Mariano Rivera on the mound. Friday night, it was the Yankees who built the large early lead, but the Red Sox stormed back and thrashed the Yankees. Although Boone Logan gave up the key grand slam, I blame Phil Hughes for changing the momentum of the game. Today’s game (Saturday) is still underway but the team is getting royally throttled at the moment (12-3 in the 5th inning). The Yankee pitching staff has not shown the ability to get Red Sox hitters out during this series so I have no reason to expect the team to rally from the latest hole (either today’s game or the season). If they lose today’s game as expected, they’ll be 11 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East standings. The races for the Wild Card spots are still within reach but the Yankees aren’t playing like a team that wants to win. They still have one more series against the Red Sox (in Boston) and if they can’t beat the Sox in the Bronx, they certainly are not going to win in Beantown.
This has been a very weird season as a Yankees fan. The team did nothing to improve upon last year’s squad and simply filled key roles with bargain basement replacements. Alfonso Soriano is the only quality acquisition, but he is an aging player with a large salary. It’s not exactly like it was a brilliant acquisition for GM Brian Cashman. The Chicago Cubs were glad to part with Soriano even if they are still picking up a large part of his compensation. I’ve been reading many articles that talk about the great managing job Joe Girardi has done this season, but no one is saying the same about Cashman. The unknown variable is that we do not know the restraints he is under from Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. If you are under standing orders that you cannot increase salary, it’s not exactly like you are going to go out and land a Giancarlo Stanton or Cliff Lee. But it’s odd watching the Pittsburgh Pirates being more aggressive in the addition of reinforcements (i.e., Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd and John Buck) than the Yankees. A few key “stronger” players here or there could have meant the difference in the current Wild Card standings and the Yankees wouldn’t be on the outside looking in.
The only guarantee is that there will be changes in the off-season. At this point, I have to believe that the departure of Cashman is a possibility. I do not expect Joe Girardi to be going anywhere but this team will look radically different, particularly if the Yankees do not re-sign impending free agent Robinson Cano. I am not sure what to expect with the 2014 Yankees. I don’t know if optimism will be part of the equation and if we will be looking at another “patched-together” squad of expensive, deteriorating older players and cheap free agent acquisitions of players released from their current clubs. The Yankees need to get younger but is this going to take a season or two, or years. The decisions being made by Hal Steinbrenner will impact the Yankees for years to come. Time will tell if he is making very astute and winning decisions to set up future success, or if he is ensuring that this time period will be the 1980’s re-visited.
If somehow the Yankees manage to salvage the 2013 season and grabbed a Wild Card spot, I seriously doubt they’d be able to do anything with it. Hopefully, the Steinbrenner family is able to do something to return optimism to the Bronx in the not-so-distant future.
Pondering the Quarterback situation…
As a long-suffering Minnesota Vikings fan, the hope is that this is the year QB Christian Ponder “figures it out”. He is a talented and intelligent guy, and there’s no reason for him not to become the answer for the Vikings if he chooses to be. How many guys would like to have Adrian Peterson in the backfield, Greg Jennings out wide, and Kyle Rudolph at tight end? Ponder has the weapons and he has the physical tools to succeed. It is all up to him. If the Vikings have to make the move to replace Ponder with backup Matt Cassel, then the team is sunk.
Last year was a pleasant surprise but it will be more challenging this year with the more difficult schedule. I do wish that Adrian Peterson would let go of the dream to reach 2,500 rushing yards in a season. I would not want to see him at such risk for injury nor would I want an individual goal to become superior to the team’s goals.
The Vikings start the season against the Detroit Lions, a team that knows a thing or two about having huge offensive weapons. The young Vikings secondary will have to show that they are ready for the big time as it doesn’t get any easier in the coming weeks. It’s too bad that, so far, the team hasn’t been able to get former starter Antoine Winfield to come out of retirement. Josh Robinson is fast, but we’ll see if he can keep up with Megatron…
Hockey’s around the corner…
Soon, the San Jose Sharks will join the Minnesota Vikings as “distractions” for me during this disappointing MLB campaign. I am looking forward to a full season of NHL Hockey rather than last year’s strike-shortened version. I am still having a tough time thinking of the HP Pavilion or “Shark Tank” as the SAP Center. While it is called S-A-P and not the word “sap”, how long before the latter becomes the norm if the team fails to succeed?
Where are you, Optimism? I miss you… 😉
Locked and not loaded?…
Worst case scenario seems to be playing out with news that Michael Pineda’s shoulder is cause for concern. Everybody has wondered who would be the odd man out of the rotation, given the strong spring performances by Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes. There’s been talk of moving either of those two or Ivan Nova to the bullpen, but all things considered, that’s not an ideal spot for any of the three. I was hopeful that Yankees could find some trade value in Garcia to move him and make room for the others, given that Andy Pettitte looms on the not-so-distant future. Yesterday, there were indications that Michael Pineda needed to have a strong performance to nail down his much anticipated spot in the rotation. I didn’t watch the game, but I checked the box score in later innings with the score tied 7-7 only to see that Pineda had given up 6 runs in the first two innings. Not exactly a strong performance. Then, this morning, there were reports about Pineda’s shoulder. He’ll be going for a MRI, but this could get worse, much worse.
Hopefully, the problems with the shoulder are minor and Pineda can recuperate with some rest.
Even though the Yankees ultimately won the exhibition match-up with the Phillies, it was a very costly game with the possible injury to Pineda, as well as reliever Cesar Cabral (elbow). Both injuries make Joe Girardi’s decisions for the starting rotation and second lefty in the pen much easier. At this point, it would appear that the rotation will be CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, and Freddy Garcia. There could be some shuffling of the last three, dependent upon who’s ready when based on how they’re currently lined up with their respective pitching schedules. If Cabral is out, it opens the door for Clay Rapada to take the second lefty role behind top lefty Boone Logan.
I prefer striking out the opposing team…
I didn’t fully understand the move with Russell Branyan. He was released from his minor league deal, and then re-signed to a new minor league deal at a savings of $100,000 to the Yankees. The money would seem inconsequential, so I wonder if there had been an opt-out clause or something else in the contract that would have been triggered causing the need for the re-negotiation. It’s not exactly like I’m expecting much from Branyan at this point of his career. It’s hard to get expected about high strikeout guys like Branyan, but of course, the Yankees added to the fodder with the signing of Jack Cust. I do not see either as a viable alternative to what the Yankees already have.
Is bashing the Yankees the only way to be beloved in New England…
Enough about the recent tie between the Yankees and Red Sox recently. I don’t blame Joe Girardi for his decision not to play extra innings in their game with the Red Sox, resulting in a tie. After the game, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine ripped the Yankees, saying that it cost a minor league pitcher, Clayton Mortensen, his opportunity to impress in an effort to make the team. Subsequently, Mortensen has been making disparaging remarks about Girardi and the Yankees. Seriously? The guy’s career is going to be determined by one inning of pitching in a meaningless exhibition game? Yeah, it was the Yankees, but guys don’t make major league rosters just because they play the Yankees well. I think the other teams in the league have something to say about it. If Valentine felt that Mortensen had a legitimate shot to make the roster, then he would create the opportunity in the spring schedule to showcase Mortensen. His only opportunity to impress the Red Sox wasn’t that meaningless game with the Yankees. For so much ink to be devoted to the unhappiness of Valentine and Mortensen is absolutely ridiculous.
There’s room in the Bronx for Maxwell…
I am hopeful the Yankees find room on the roster for outfielder Justin Maxwell. Hopefully, with fourth outfielder Andruw Jones slated to share some DU time with Raul Ibanez, there will be the need to carry a fifth outfielder. I like Maxwell’s athleticism in the outfield, and he is a good role player.
Have Bat, Will Travel…
Speaking of Ibanez, he is finally starting to hit, but I still can’t get his slow start with the Phillies last year out of mind. I know that he had decent numbers by the end of the year, but I don’t like streaky players and at 40, Ibanez is not going to improve with age. It’s too bad that Jorge Posada was not able to more fully embrace the DH role. If he had, he probably would not have been put in the position of having to retire in the off-season. But that’s water under the bridge, so I hope the Yankees find a suitable and consistent bat at DH as early in the season as possible. If Ibanez surprises me, and is the guy, so be it. Just be prepared to bring the bat every day, that’s all I ask.
Good luck to Joba Chamberlain on his recovery. I do hope that he is able to achieve his goal of pitching this season. Who knows if he’ll ever be the pitcher we thought he would be, but we surely won’t know if he’s not pitching…
Well, the new baseball season is upon us. Best of luck to everyone and their respective teams. At this moment, we all have the chance for October glory. Well, not really, but the standing don’t know any differently. May the best team win!