Tagged: Braves

4th of July Fireworks in the Bronx…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

Yankees take Braves Series with a win…

It may not have been a no-hitter like Dave “Rags” Righetti’s no-no in 1983 but I’ll take it. It didn’t look like it would be CC Sabathia’s day when the Braves loaded the bases in the first inning, but, as they say, ‘all’s well that ends well’. Sabathia escaped the first inning jam without giving up a run and he pitched six strong innings, limiting the Braves to  a couple of runs in the fifth and sixth innings, for the 6-2 win.

Credit to Sabathia for the adjustments he has made to become an effective older pitcher. I’ll admit that I had my doubts and I thought he was done just a couple of years ago. Thanks CC for proving me wrong. For all the other issues in the starting rotation, there’s no telling where the Yankees would be without Sabathia. CC improved to 6-3 and maintained his season ERA at 3.02.  

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

I always like games where the Yankees score first and this was one of those games. Didi Gregorious ripped a one-out liner to left inside the foul line for a double in the second inning. After Gleyber Torres struck out for the second out, Greg Bird singled to right, bringing Didi home for the first run.  

The Yankees got more runs in the third inning. Neil Walker led off the bottom of the inning with a single to right. Following outs by Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks drew a walk from Braves starter Julio Teheran. Walker and Hicks came around to score when Giancarlo Stanton blasted a shot to the right field porch to put the Yankees ahead, 4-0. Maybe it’s just me but it sure seems like Giancarlo is starting to crank it up for one of his annual monster tears.  

Kyle Higashioka continued his dislike for anything but round-trippers with a solo shot in the fourth inning, his third consecutive home run to start his Major League career (matching the Yankees record set by Alfonso Soriano).  

Photo Credit: NY Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Gleyber Torres exited the game in the top of the 5th inning when the Yankees moved Neil Walker from third to second and inserted Brandon Drury at third. Later we learned Torres was pulled due to the hip flexor issue that had limited him to replacement duties on Tuesday. After the game, Gleyber was placed on the 10-day DL when the MRI results revealed a mild strain. Hopefully Gleyber will only serve the minimum time on the DL and will be back after the All-Star break.

The fifth inning started right for CC Sabathia when he struck out Dansby Swanson, but then he issued a free pass to Ender Inciarte in a 10-pitch at-bat. Ozzie Albies single to center to put runners at the corners. Danny Santana grounded out to second but Inciarte scored on the play for the Braves’ first run. CC was able to escape any further damage by getting Nick Markakis to line out to center.

The Braves got another run in the sixth inning when Johan Camargo deposited a Sabathia pitch into the left field seats. Charlie Culberson, the former LA Dodger who always seems to come up with the big hit, followed Camargo’s homer with a double to left. Manager Aaron Boone stayed with Sabathia who was able to exit the inning by inducing Dansby Swanson to ground out to second.

The seventh inning brought the rested Chad Green into the game, and although the Braves made noise, they had no runs to show for it when all was said and done. Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies both singled to lead off the inning, with Inciarte moving to second. Representing the tying run, both Danny Santana and Nick Markakis hit deep flies off Green to cause momentary alarm but neither was deep enough to do any damage. Subsequently, a double steal advanced the runners to second and third. Kurt Suzuki had a chance to be the hero for the visiting Braves, but he lined out to right on a 2-0 pitch from Green to end the threat.  

Aaron Judge gave the Yankees an insurance run in the eighth when he hit his 24th home run of the season with a blast to right off Braves reliever Luiz Gohara. Hey, Gohara, that ball go far-ah! Well, not too far but it was still deep enough to set off the siren. Don’t worry about it, Mr Gohara, Judge has a tendency to do that to a lot of pitchers. The Judge homer made it 6-2, Yankees.  

Jonathan Holder, another rested arm, entered the game in the ninth in relief of Dellin Betances who had pitched a scoreless, one-hit inning (double by Charlie Culberson) in the eighth with a couple of strike outs. Holder, like Betances, allowed a hit (a single by Ozzie Albies who subsequently advanced to second on defensive indifference), but the runner could not advance beyond second as Holder closed out the game for the Yankees’ win. 

In retrospect, the Yankees could have easily swept this series but taking two of three from the NL East leaders is still a noteworthy accomplishment. I was glad they prevented the Braves from becoming the second NL team to reach 50 wins. The Yankees (56-28) stayed a game behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East standings. The Red Sox completed a three-game sweep of the disappointing Washington Nationals with a 3-0 victory on Wednesday behind a much-improved Eduardo Rodriguez. The Sox are only a win away from becoming MLB’s first 60-game winner.   

The Yankees have a much-needed day off today as they prepare for a weekend series in Toronto, Ontario against the Blue Jays. All eyes will be on Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ when he takes the mound against the Yankees on Saturday. With trade speculation connecting Happ to the Yankees, he has an opportunity to show his potential future teammates what he can do. I guess it’s one of those situations where I want him to pitch really well but still take the loss. There’s a part of me that is quietly hoping GM Brian Cashman is able to pry Jacob deGrom from the New York Mets, but the realist in me knows that is very unlikely. Happ may not be in deGrom’s class, but he’d still represent an experienced improvement for the rotation. He would not shy away from the challenge of taking down the Houston Astros or Boston Red Sox.  

Neil Walker becomes the starter at second base while Gleyber Torres is sidelined. Brandon Drury, who served as the regular starting second baseman for the 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks, is also an option. I am hopeful that some regular playing time will help bring around Walker’s bat to minimize the pain of Gleyber’s loss. Ronald Torreyes is currently on the temporary inactive list with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so he is not expected to be an option to replace Torres on the active roster. Tyler Wade seems most likely, but we’ll see. The Yankees have options given the terrific depth at Triple A.  

A happy belated birthday to Yankees broadcaster John Sterling who celebrated his 80th birthday on the 4th of July (a birthday he shared with the Boss). George Steinbrenner would have been 88 yesterday. Michael Kay paid tribute to Sterling with his home run call for Giancarlo Stanton’s third inning homer using Sterling’s “Giancarlo, non si puo stoparlo” tag line.

Masahiro Tanaka made a rehab start for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders against the Buffalo Bisons on Wednesday. It didn’t start off very good. The first batter singled and the second, Richard Urena, took Tanaka yard for a two-run homer. But Tanaka recovered nicely, retiring fourteen in a row at one point. He finished with five innings of three-hit ball, giving up only the two first inning runs, and struck out four. He didn’t walk anybody, and did not factor into the decision. The RailRiders won the game, 4-2, thanks to a four-run seventh inning that included a double, scoring two runs, by likely call-up candidate Tyler Wade.  

Enjoy the day off. I am sure that with the 4th of July celebrations, we could all use some rest. Tomorrow is a new day, and the Yankees will be back in action north of the border and on a TV near you.  

Go Yankees!

Advertisements

It was a Cole, Hard Night for the Braves…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Yanks prevail, thanks to Bullpen, a couple of homers, and a few walks…

Happy 4th of July!

The Yankees used the long ball and some very lucky breaks on Tuesday night to win the second game of their series with the Atlanta Braves, 8-5.  After losing Monday night’s contest in extra innings on a Ronald Acuna, Jr fly ball that glanced off the top of Aaron Judge’s outstretched glove into the right field stands, it was nice to get one back in the win column.

This game looked like it would be a Yankees rout, but then the Braves charged back before Giancarlo Stanton, with unlikely assists from A.J. Cole and Chasen Shreve, said “oh no, you don’t” with his two-run homer (20th of the year) in the eighth.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac (via Newsday)

Aaron Hicks followed up his three-homer performance on Sunday with a first inning two-run dinger to give the Yankees an early 2-0 off Braves starter (and childhood Red Sox fan) Sean Newcomb.  Hicks quietly has 15 home runs, matching his career high set last season.

In the bottom of the second, Kyle Higashioka added a run with his second Major League hit and second MLB homer with a shot to left. “All he does is hit damn home runs” to borrow and slightly tweak the famous line uttered by the late Buddy Ryan about Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter and his propensity for catching touchdowns. Higgy has certainly allayed any concerns about Austin Romine’s sore hammy.

The third inning was a very unusual one for the Yankees. Newcomb loaded the bases for the Yankees with three walks around two outs before issuing a free pass to Brandon Drury to force in a run. The Braves made a pitching change to bring in reliever Luke Jackson but he couldn’t find the strike zone with Kyle Higashioka (I think every Yankees fan was hoping for another home run by Higgy to match the three-homer start to his career by former Yankee Alfonso Soriano) and walked in another run. Neil Walker lined out to first on a very sharply hit ball to end the inning but the Yankees had scored two more runs despite no hits to lead 5-0.

Brett Gardner led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a double to left center past a diving Ronald Acuna,Jr. He advanced to third on a single to left by Aaron Judge. Luke Jackson, after striking out the next two batters, threw a wild pitch that allowed Gardy to race home, sliding headfirst across the plate, for the Yankees’ sixth run. It looked like the game was going to be a blowout like Sunday’s game against the Boston Red Sox.

Domingo German had looked good for the first four innings but it all unraveled for him in the fifth inning. After Johan Comargo walked to lead off, German was able to strike out Dansby Swanson but then the Braves homer parade started. Ender Inciarte took German deep to right for a two-run shot, and Ozzie Albies followed with a blast to right to make it a three-run game. German gave up singles to the next two batters to end his night, removing his ability to earn the win since he was unable to complete five full innings. A.J. Cole, who had been activated off the disabled list on Monday, came in relief for German.  Cole struck out the first batter, Kurt Suzuki, but then Ronald Acuna, Jr reached on an infield single to load the bases.  In perhaps his biggest moment as a Yankee, Cole struck out Tyler Flowers on a 3-2 count to end the inning, leaving the three Braves runners stranded. I continue to be amazed how effective Cole has been in his limited appearances for the Yankees after his miserable start to the year with the Washington Nationals.

The Braves made it a one-run game in the top of the seventh inning when Nick Markakis, no stranger to Yankee Stadium with his years in Baltimore, took advantage of the right field porch, like his teammates, with a two-run dinger off Adam Warren. There was a bit of a scare when Giancarlo Stanton crashed into the wall while attempting to make the catch on the ball hit by Markakis.

It was looking very precarious for the Yankees in the top of the eighth when the Braves had the go-ahead run on base with only one out following a couple of singles off Warren.  Aaron Boone made the call to the pen for Chasen Shreve (Yikes!) but despite my fears and absolute pessimism, Shreve recorded outs with both men he faced. I can’t say Shreve would have been my choice in that spot but credit to Boonie for keeping the faith.

Giancarlo Stanton gave the Yankees some breathing room in the bottom of the inning. Brett Gardner took a one-out walk, but was erased at second when Aaron Judge hit into a fielder’s choice at short. So, with Judge at first, Stanton came to the plate and hit what Sweeny Murti called “the Yankee Stadium-iest home run” with a short fly ball (331 feet) just over the right field wall. No matter, it gave the Yankees a 8-5 advantage.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Stobe)

Three up and three down in the top of the ninth for the great Aroldis Chapman and he had his 24th save of the season and another win for the Yankees.

Photo Credit: AP (Frank Franklin II)

Gleyber Torres didn’t start the game with what was described as a stiff hip flexor but he came into the game as a defensive replacement for Neil Walker in the eighth inning. Gleyber is expected to man second base in the series finale with the Braves today.

Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun

Brandon Drury got the start at first base over Greg Bird. He was 0-for-3 but had the RBI on the bases-loaded walk.

A.J. Cole picked up the vulture win with a very solid 1 2/3 innings of relief after German received the early hook in the fifth. Cole yielded only one hit in the scoreless appearance while striking out four Braves. He was certainly one of the keys to the game for a guy who has seemed to straddle the DFA line for weeks.

I have to admit that it was very strange to see Aaron Boone wearing his Yankees jersey. I almost expected him to pick up a bat to hit for Miguel Andujar. It was probably the first regular season game that I’ve seen Boonie wear the famed Pinstriped jersey since his time with the Yankees in 2003 (this year’s Old Timer’s Day excluded).

Unfortunately, the Yankees (55-28) were unable to make up any ground on the Boston Red Sox in the AL East and continue to trail the Sox by a game. Boston thrashed the Washington Nationals, 11-4, for their second win in as many days against the Nats. I am really hoping that Bryce Harper has a banner day today for the 4th of July. Sadly, the pitching matchup seems to favor the Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez, 9-3, 4.11 ERA against Erick Fedde, 1-3, 6.00 ERA). Hopefully E-Rod will look more like the version that faced the Yankees last weekend.

For the Yankees, they’ll send crafty vet CC Sabathia (5-3, 3.02 ERA) to the hill against Julio Teheran (6-5, 4.21 ERA) for the series finale. This day always make me think of Dave Righetti when he no hit the Boston Red Sox on July 4, 1983.

Have a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!

Go Yankees!

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Winslow Townson)

Ty, Ty, Tyler Again…

On a wing and a prayer. Unfortunately, that’s life with Greg Bird as your first baseman.

The Yankees Universe collectively groaned a sigh of disappointment when Bird was pulled before the start of an exhibition game with the Atlanta Braves in Lake Buena Vista, FL at the Walt Disney Resort yesterday with an apparent foot injury. He underwent an MRI and a CT scan yesterday afternoon and it was determined that he had right foot inflammation. It is in the same general area where he had ankle surgery last summer to remove excessive bone growth. The reason for the inflammation is not currently known.

Bird will see noted New York Orthopaedic Surgeon Martin J. O’Malley in the Upper East Side on Monday to determine the cause of the inflammation.

Every year, it seems like it is something with the talented but fragile first baseman. He missed the entire 2016 season following shoulder surgery. Then last year, the foot injury at the end of training camp led to the eventual ankle surgery in July which limited him to 48 games although he did have a memorable post-season.

If Bird is forced to the disabled list, Tyler Austin appears to be the beneficiary. GM Brian Cashman has indicated that the Yankees will use in-house options. Neil Walker has been mentioned as a possibility, but it’s hard to envision the second baseman as the regular first baseman. Backup or platoon maybe. Brandon Drury played first base in the minors but he is firmly planted as the third baseman. The Yankees always seem to be looking for alternatives to Austin (for whatever reason), so it is not a given that Austin will make the roster if Bird cannot.

When Austin was forced to move from DH to first base to replace Bird for the game against the Braves, the Yankees pulled first baseman Ryan McBroom out of the minor league camp for DH duties. McBroom, the return when the Yankees traded Rob Refsnyder last year, responded with a home run and a run-scoring single (the latter hit produced two runs but the second one was courtesy of a throwing error). McBroom will be 26 in a couple of weeks but he has never played above Double A. Another option surfaced on Saturday when the Seattle Mariners returned Rule 5 draftee Mike Ford to the Yankees. He was assigned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Ford batted .259 with two homers and 10 RBIs in 54 at-bats for the Mariners this Spring, but regular first baseman Ryon Healy returned from hand surgery sooner than expected and Daniel Vogelbach won the backup job as the team’s hottest hitter in camp. So Ford didn’t do a bad job for the M’s…it was just a numbers game. Between Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, Ford batted .270/.404/.471 with .875 OPS to go with 20 home runs and 86 RBIs. The guess is that Austin gets the job if Bird is not ready, but Ford looms as a potential option.

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Chris Carlson)

I really like Greg Bird as a player and his swing is a thing of beauty. But the succession of injuries is taxing to say the least. I will continue to hope for the best and I am trying to be optimistic that the latest inflammation is not a sign of much deeper problems. Let’s hope that Bird receives positive news from Dr O’Malley tomorrow and the foot inflammation is solved with treatment and rest.

With Ford’s return, the Yankees have recaptured two of the four players taken in last December’s Rule 5 Draft. Anyelo Gomez was previously returned to the Yankees by the Braves.  The Baltimore Orioles designated Jose Mesa, Jr for assignment on March 21st when they signed free agent Alex Cobb. If Joe Table, Jr clears waivers, he’ll be offered back to the Yankees. Nestor Cortes, Jr remains in Orioles camp and is the scheduled starter in today’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun

I’ve seen a lot of negative reaction from the Yankees fan base over the decision to give RHP Jonathan Holder the final spot on the Opening Day roster over Domingo German. I don’t get it. With the RailRiders, German can continue to start and will be stretched out if/when the Yankees need an emergency or extra starter. I’d prefer that to German sitting in the bullpen waiting for opportunities. Some fans seem to think the Opening Day roster is etched in stone.  If we’ve learned anything, the final spots on the roster are very fluid with movement aboard the Scranton Shuttle.

Baseball is tough.  It’s hard to believe that closer Greg Holland has been unable to find a job.  He had 41 saves in 2017 for the Colorado Rockies. He turned down an off-season offer from the Rockies and their money went to new closer Wade Davis. I keep hearing that teams continue to stay away from Holland due to his asking price. At what point does Holland say ‘uncle’ and accept an offer simply to play? Same with Mark Reynolds who hit 30 home runs last season for the Rockies. I feel bad for the guys who can still play the game at its highest level but can’t find a job. The next few days will be even tougher as teams make the necessary cuts to reach their 25-man rosters. You wonder if it is the end of the line for older players like Jayson Werth, Jose Bautista and Matt Holliday. Scott Kazmir, part of the salary dump that sent outfielder Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers, was released by the Braves yesterday. He had exited the game against the Yankees with left arm fatigue (after reportedly having thrown 90-100 pitches in a bullpen session last Wednesday). Despite on the hook for $16 million, the Braves opted to part ways with the left-hander who missed the 2017 season with injuries. Now, Kazmir is one of many on the unemployment line (although I am fairly confident the $16 million will help him pay bills while he looks for a new job).

Today is the final day in Florida for the Yankees. After today’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, the Yankees will head for Atlanta, GA to play the Braves at SunTrust Park on Monday. Then, MLB camp is done. The Gang of 25 will head to Toronto and the Aaron Boone Era will officially begin with Opening Day on Thursday against the AL East rival Blue Jays. It’s almost time.

To borrow words from the great John Sterling, let’s give the team a “Stanton ovation”! It’s going to be a very exciting season. Go Yankees!

Thanksgiving…THANKS for GIVING us Otani? I hope!…

Much to be thankful for…

As Thanksgiving approaches, we have much to be thankful for this year. The Yankees clearly exceeded our expectations and they appear to be on the cusp of another great dynasty run.  It wasn’t that long ago that the Yankees were called an old team  with bare cupboards.  Thanks to GM Brian Cashman and his team, the MLB roster is loaded, the farm system is fully restocked and the future is excessively bright. I am grateful for the leadership of the Yankees and I am very excited about the upcoming seasons.

So, New York Yankees, THANK YOU!

Hot Stove League simmering…

Aside from Monday’s flurry of activity as the Yankees worked rapidly to finalize the 40-man Roster of Record for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, it has been a very quiet week.

Tuesday evening saw the MLBPA and Nippon Professional Baseball reach a tentative agreement on a new posting system to cover this off-season and the next three years. The MLB owners must still ratify the new agreement which should occur next Friday, December 1st. It is expected that Shohei Otani will be posted on Saturday, December 2nd, and MLB teams will have three weeks to sign the Japanese superstar. So, by this time next month, we should know whether or not Otani will be wearing Pinstripes in 2018. All I want for Christmas is Shohei Otani in the Yankees starting rotation…with bat in hand for his off days!

Credit:  Masterpress/Getty Images

This off-season it feels like teams are raiding the Yankees. We’ve seen the Miami Marlins snag the Yankees VP of Player Personnel (Gary Denbo) and the Houston Astros grabbed Yankees third base coach Joe Espada to be their new bench coach replacing Alex Cora (who was named the new manager of the Boston Red Sox).  The Red Sox have also indirectly caused the latest departure from the organization.  When Boston named Ron Roenicke as their new bench coach for Cora’s staff, it created an opening on the Los Angeles Angels coaching staff.  Roenicke had been the third base coach for the Angels last year.  Angels bench coach Dino Abel was moved to third base to replace Roenicke and the Angels hired Yankees minor league coordinator Josh Paul, credited with the development of Gary Sanchez, to be their new bench coach under manager Mike Scioscia. When the Yankees parted ways with manager Joe Girardi, Paul’s name was quickly mentioned as a possible replacement but he was never formally interviewed. I assume that he was a possibility for the new Yankee manager’s coaching staff but he took the ‘sure thing’ with the opportunity to be the bench coach for the Angels where he’ll be reunited with his former boss, GM Billy Eppler. I am sorry to see Paul go given how highly he was thought of within the Yankees organization but you can’t fault the guy for seeking advancement. He’s positioning himself to ensure that he does get the next managerial interview.

Credit:  Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports

Dellin Betances was caught on record this week while participating with a turkey giveaway in the Bronx.  He gave an endorsement for Rob Thomson as the next Yankees manager.  “A lot of guys like to work with him.”  I hate to read into anything but “a lot” is not “everyone”.  I still prefer Thomson as a member of the coaching staff as opposed to its leader.  But I am not so strongly opposed to Thomson that I’d be disappointed if he is named manager.  Support by the majority of the team is a huge positive.

All Rise except Judge (he can keep his arm down)…

The Yankees announced that Aaron Judge underwent shoulder surgery earlier this week (“loose-body removal and cartilage clean-up”). It doesn’t sound too severe and Judge is expected to be ready when camp opens in Tampa next February.  The scariest part of the announcement was the surgeon…Dr Neal ElAttrache, the noted “Tommy John” surgeon and the team physician for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Dr ElAttrache is the surgeon who performed the TJ surgery on former Yankees prospect James Kaprielian.

Credit:  Barbara Davidson, Los Angeles Times

Happy Recovery to Aaron!  We’re looking forward to seeing him at 100% next Spring (okay, 99% works in his case).

Pitching his way to Sunny and 75…

Yankees prospect RHP Colten Brewer has signed a minor league free agent deal with the San Diego Padres. Brewer was only in the Yankees system for a year. He had been claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system last December. Brewer, 25, did well at A/AA this year but couldn’t continue the success when he reached Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In six appearances for the RailRiders covering ten innings, he gave up 17 hits and 13 earned runs (11.70 ERA).

The Yankees Dream didn’t work out for Brewer but we wish him the best in San Diego.

Credit:  Martin Griff

Did they used to work for us?  Yikes!…

I do not blame the Yankees organization but it is a black mark that former Atlanta Braves GM John Coppolella received a lifetime ban from MLB for his involvement in the fraudulent international signings scandal perpetrated by the Braves. Atlanta’s former head of scouting Gordon Blakeley received a one year suspension. Both Coppolella and Blakeley have their roots with the Yankees organization. Coppolella was an intern during the George Steinbrenner regime. Blakeley was a former Yankees scout credited for signing Robinson Cano, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, and Jose Contreras.

I am not blaming the Yankees for the actions of their former employees but admittedly, after their crimes, I wish they had been former Red Sox employees  (or some other team) as opposed to the Yankees.  However, I am sure the example set with the Braves and the penalties they’ve suffered will cause all teams to button up their processes for international signings.

I have great respect for new Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos but he has his hands full…no doubt an understatement.

Latest Yankees Managerial Candidate…

If outgoing WFAN host Mike Francesa is going to toss his name into the ring as a potential manager for the Yankees, I’ll throw one out…Bryan Van Dusen, co-owner of The Greedy Pinstripes!  The guy knows how to communicate with players and he loves statistical analysis.  Plus, he is a devout Yankees fan and has shown the ability to address the media in a highly effective manner.  Sounds like he checks all the boxes to me.

Van Dusen for Yankees Manager!

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Go Yankees!

The Return of the Empire…

Why?  Because the Yankees McCann!…

I have to admit that the Yankees’ free agent signing of former Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann caught me by surprise.  Like so many people did last Saturday, I went to see The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire.  No sooner than I walked out the theater after the movie, I immediately saw the alerts the Yankees had signed McCann. 

I had heard the Yankees were interested in McCann, but so were other teams like the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, and Colorado Rockies.  I thought the Rangers were the most likely landing spot.  It’s a winning organization in a city that puts more pressure on the local football team.  The cost of living is reasonable, and the area is spacious.  There’s not too much to dislike about Texas…well, outside of those hot humid summers, the long drives to get anywhere, and the infrequency of trees (at least in North Texas).  I also thought the Boston Red Sox might have an advantage with former McCann backup David Ross on the roster.  Either Texas or Boston offers the chance for World Series participation. 

But in the end, it was the Yankees’ offer (number of years) in combination with the short porch in right field which is very attractive for the left-handed slugger. 

I had Brian McCann as my catcher on my fantasy baseball team this year and his health caused me to seek other options.  While he was on the DL, I leaned on his Braves replacement (Evan Gattis) among others.  So, McCann’s health is an obvious concern.  But if healthy, he is a tremendous addition to the team.  He gives the Yankees their best offensive threat from the position since Jorge Posada retired.  Russell Martin would occasionally get hot, but he is not close to the hitter that McCann is.  Plus, McCann’s leadership abilities are well documented.  When Chipper Jones retired, he gave a strong recommendation for McCann as a team leader. 

Nothing against Francisco Cervelli, but I think he is better suited to backup someone like McCann than to start.  He had his moments last year before getting hurt and then the subsequent suspension, but he’ll get his opportunities when McCann rests or moves to DH.  I am fine with the number of years on the contract because I think McCann is an excellent bridge to super prospect Gary Sanchez.  When Sanchez is ready for the majors, it will be time to slide McCann to first or DH anyway.  It also frees GM Brian Cashman to potentially include other catching prospects like Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy is potential trades.

Signing McCann was a great start to the off-season but there is obviously still much work ahead for Cashman and the Yanks.

Where are we?…

As we turn the page to Thanksgiving, the Yankees have their manager, backup shortstop and catcher in the fold.  They are rumored to be the leaders for the services of free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran of the St Louis Cardinals, although I have heard he has a preference for staying in the NL (I don’t know if that’s true or not, and I personally believe he’d have even greater success in the American League).  I like the idea of Beltran in right. 

As it sounds, Robinson Cano’s camp is still asking for something in the neighborhood of $300 million.  They’ve dropped “slightly” from the initial figure of $310 million, but anything in the Alex Rodriguez area of contracts is too much…even for arguably the team’s best player.  I would rather see the Yankees use the money on multiple key players, shift the offense to other positions and then backfill second base with someone like Omar Infante.  I still hope there are compromises made on both sides to bring Cano back to the Bronx, but if it is not meant to be, I don’t want to see the Yankees overspend. 

So far, no help for the starting rotation.  Several notable free agent pitchers in a market void of any aces have already signed.  Dan Haren with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tim Hudson with the San Francisco Giants, and Ricky Nolasco with the Minnesota Twins.  I don’t think the Yankees were linked to any of those guys, but the smaller the free agent pool, the more intense the competition becomes at least for the guys who can win 12-14 games for you.  I know the Yankees are rumored to be heavily counting on the posting of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka if MLB and the Japanese are able to come to an agreement for a new posting system.  But you have to wonder what Plan B will be.  So far, I have not heard much about Hiroki Kuroda but I would like to see the team try to bring him back for one more year. 

The next few weeks will go a long way toward determining how strong and competitive the 2014 Yankees will be. 

Coaching staff intact…well, almost…

Several weeks ago, I heard that Joe Girardi’s entire coaching staff would be returning.  However, today, I saw that the Arizona Diamondbacks have named Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey as their new pitching coach.  Congratulations to Mike!  Larry Rothschild is not going anywhere so it is good to see Harkey get his opportunity elsewhere.  Now, the Yankees will be in the market for a new bullpen coach.  Say, I wonder what Mariano Rivera is doing…  😉

Well, that’s all for now.  Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season!

–Scott

 

The Hot Stove League Pre-Season is underway…

 

Yes, Brian, I want to believe…

“I am excited about the opportunities we have.”

I wish that I could say that was my quote, but unfortunately, I am not feeling as optimistic as GM Brian Cashman who spoke those words.

With the imminent departure of Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano, and Hiroki Kuroda, combined with another year of age on Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the future is not looking so rosy at the moment.  For a team that needs to upgrade its rotation, losing Kuroda would clearly be a setback.  I remain hopeful that the team will re-sign him to a one year deal since he appears willing to accept a short-term contract and all signs indicated he enjoyed his time in New York.  I really do not expect the Yankees to re-sign either Swisher or Soriano.  It’s unfortunate as I’ve appreciated the positive impact that Swisher’s personality had on the Yankees’ “corporate” clubhouse culture.  As Soriano, the excessively fat contract for a set up guy paid dividends when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season and he superbly stepped in to give the Yankees a top closer as a brief trial with David Robertson.

If the Yankees could sign Joaquim Soria to a set up role, I do think it would help neutralize the loss of Soriano.  There is also the possibility that reliever David Aardsma could move into the role, along with Robertson, if he successfully makes it back from his injury.

Replacing Swisher’s bat will be the tougher challenge.  No offense against Torii Hunter, but signing him to be the new right fielder does not make me excited.  I do like the talk of moving Brett Gardner to center and Curtis Granderson to left.  Hopefully, the Yankees can bring Ichiro Suzuki back for another year.  I am not sure what the best answer is for right.  The best options are only available through trade.

I read this morning that the Boston Red Sox had signed Atlanta Braves’ backup catcher David Ross, whom the Yankees liked.  I am surprised Atlanta let him get away given the health of starter Brian McCann, but it’s disappointing to see the Red Sox snatch away a player that could have helped the Yankees.

With a team that is trying so hard to reduce payroll by 2014 and one that devotes so much salary space to decreasingly productive guys like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, I just don’t see Brian Cashman being successful playing “Moneyball”.  When you consider how many dollars the Yanks have committed to A-Rod and his drain on the roster, it would appear to me that the team has less dollars to play with than any of their big city rivals if the end game is to avoid luxury tax and penalties in 2014.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been so appreciative of players like Jeter, Rivera and Andy Pettitte.  But the fact remains that they will be another year older in 2013 and at some point, they will begin to break down.  There doesn’t seem to be any high level prospects ready to step into their shoes.  I wish there was a way the team could move A-Rod and his albatross contract but that’s unlikely to happen.

I remain hopeful that Brian Cashman is able to make a move this winter to improve the team.  If the team stays status quo or struggles to replace those they will lose, I do not see the Yankees finishing any higher than third in the AL East next season.  But, of course, if Hal Steinbrenner lets Cash make the moves necessary to position the team for 2013, then they’ll be in the thick of the pack at the top of the division.

Tino, Tino, Tino!…

I am happy to see Tino Martinez become hitting coach for the Miami Marlins.  It is bittersweet to see him leave the Yankees organization, but much easier to see him go to his home state as opposed to being the hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox.  The latter was a real possibility as the Sox had gotten permission to talk to Martinez, but fortunately, he opted to go help Mike Redmond turn around the Marlins.  The Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite NL team in recent years due to manager Don Mattingly.  I enjoy seeing my favorites do well, even if they can’t do it in the Yankees organization.  Another example would be San Francisco Giants’ pitching coach Dave Righetti, fresh off his second World Series championship in three years.  Tino is certainly in the same class with those guys, and will always be someone that I will root for.  That’s why watching him go to Boston would have been so difficult.

Coach Giambino…

Speaking of hitting coaches, I am hopeful that manager “wannabe” Jason Giambi decides to take the hitting coach position with the Colorado Rockies.  Maybe he is not ready to hang up his bat just yet, but I think he would be a very positive addition to Walt Weiss’s staff and it would put him on the path of eventually reaching his goal to be a manager.  While I was surprised to see the Rockies go with Weiss as manager over Matt Williams, I recognize that Weiss knows the Rockies organization and they know him.  If he surrounds himself with the right coaching staff, I think Weiss can be highly successful in Colorado.

The Dodgers quest to overtake the Giants…

Regressing back to the Dodgers but staying on the theme of hitting coaches, I was mildly surprised by Mark McGwire’s decision to move from the Cardinals to the Dodgers.  I know that McGwire is a Southern CA guy, but still, the Cardinals were his organization.  Maybe that’s why it is best to move to another organization so that your legacy as a player is the primary association.  Granted, McGwire does not have the untarnished reputation like Mattingly had in New York, but hopefully it works out for Big Mac.  Performance-enhancing drugs or not, the guy knows how to hit.

It’s funny, particularly given my long history of being a Yankees fan, but I am a little put off by the free spending ways of the new Dodgers ownership group.  While I believe that you have to spend to put a quality team on the field, spending frivolously seems excessive.  For the Yankees, I only need to use A-Rod as the example.  Over $30 million in one season devoted to a player whose skills are rapidly eroding.  $30 million would go a long way toward bringing in multiple quality…and productive…players.  The Dodgers should no qualms about picking up the contracts of Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford when it remains to be seen if they can rise to the current level of their contracts.  It looks like high stakes poker to me with much potential for disaster.

In a couple of weeks, the Hot Stove League should start heating up and it will be interesting to see what form this off-season takes.  I am cautiously optimistic, but understand that it’s very possible the Yanks go into next season hoping some young guys from the farm system are ready to take it to the next level.  I guess I now know what it’s like to be a fan of the Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals…

–Scott

 

Belated Congratulations for the AL East Championship…

 

All hail the Champions…

A quick post to congratulate the New York Yankees for winning the American League East Division Championship on the last day of the season.  Thanks to the Baltimore Orioles’ loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the division was a foregone conclusion when the Yankees completed their thrashing of the Boston Red Sox.  Still, I am glad that the team won on the day they clinched the division.  A loss on “clinching day” always seems so cheap.

Although it was disappointing the Yankees let a large lead slip, they definitely went into ‘bend but not break’ mode as they held at least a share of first throughout the O’s challenge in the final month of the season.  It was a constant back-and-forth…tied, then Yanks ahead, and then tied again.  But in the end, the team persevered.

A funny thing happened on the way to the World Series…

The big surprise to me on the last day of the season was the Texas Rangers’ failure to withstand a large charge by the Oakland A’s.  I remember looking at the standings in July and writing it off as a foregone conclusion that the Rangers would be the AL West champions.  In my mind, they were still the team to beat in the American League.  While I recognized the A’s had the spirited ‘don’t quit’ mentality, I still viewed them as inferior either the Rangers or the Los Angeles Angels.  This was a team that was throwing Triple A pitchers into the starting rotation in September.  All the way to Game 162, I fully expected the Rangers to take care of business.  But they failed, and were forced to play the one game Wild Card game against the Baltimore Orioles, which they subsequently lost.  Here was the team that was in my mind, the team most likely to go to the World Series and win it, yet they collapsed in the final two most critical weeks of the season.

The Rangers’ loss opens the door for all of the other AL play-off participants to advance to the World Series.  I can’t say there is a clear-cut favorite because even the Yankees, with the best record in the conference, have their share of questions.  The ALDS series format is odd given the first two games of the series will be held in the inferior team’s ballpark.  The Yankees are tied with the O’s late in Game 1 tonight but that always favors the home team with last at-bat.

It was real, it was fun, but it was not real fun…

I am not a Bobby Valentine fan, but I really do believe that firing Valentine was the best case scenario for the Boston Red Sox organization.  As a fan of an opposing team, I’d love for the dysfunction to continue, but the Red Sox fans deserve better.  I subscribe to the adage that ‘to be the best, you have to beat the best’ so I really hope the Red Sox can secure a manager who fits the organization and maximizes the potential and ability of its players.  I still think that recently named Phillies third base coach Ryne Sandberg would be an excellent fit, but maybe it is John Farrell despite the disappointing year in Toronto or other manager.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Respectful of the man who brought two World Championships to Boston…

Speaking of Boston, it was good to see former Red Sox manager Terry Francona return to the game as manager of the Cleveland Indians.  Even when he was the manager of the Red Sox, I had a great deal of respect for Tito.  I have long felt he was one of the game’s truly good guys.  Yes, that final year in Boston did get away from him, but there were so many factors and personalities at play, I feel it is unfair to pin all the blame on Tito.  I am looking forward to seeing what he can do in the Cleveland with his batteries recharged…

A few thoughts on the season…

  • Hey Albert, how did that first year in Los Angeles work out for ya?  Well, at least you have all those mega millions to enjoy your off-season while the team you bailed on continues the defense of its world championship…
  •  Miguel Cabrera has overcome those personal demons, I think…
  • Bryce Harper got the press, but Mike Trout is the stud…
  •  A.J. Burnett proved that he is the latest incarnation of Ed Whitson.  Wilt under the New York spotlight, but thrive in a smaller market with less glare…
  •  Melky Cabrera, disappointment is an understatement.  I respect the San Francisco Giants for their intention to cut ties with the Melk Man.  I really wouldn’t want to be the organization that extends him an olive branch.  In other words, I do not want to see Melky back in the Bronx.
  • How many more years are left on A-Rod’s contract?  Geesh, Jeter continues to pay dividends on his contract at age 38, while A-Rod just keeps making me think of that old Dire Straits’ tune “Money For Nothing”…
  • The Atlanta Braves may have made a quiet departure with their Wild Card loss to St. Louis, but there’s no question that the Braves will continue to be a force with those young pitchers…
  • Oh, Philadelphia Phillies, where for art thou?…
  • The American League Houston Astros?  That sounds so wrong!  But then again, I have finally accepted the Milwaukee Brewers as a National League team so I guess we’ll have to re-visit this in a few years…
  • Trade Ivan Nova and re-sign Hiroki Kuroda…that sounds like a good plan to me!…

I know there’s many more thoughts regarding the 2012 season, but these were a few that immediately came to mind.  It was a fun season and continues to be as we move forward in the AL and NL divisional series.  The idea of two Wild Card teams per league was a success, and win or lose, it was the right thing to do.  There was drama and intrigue up until the last day of the season, and no team “mailed it in”.  I still have too many questions about my own team to anoint them as the AL representative for the World Series.  As of the present moment, my best guess is a “Sparky Anderson” World Series…The Cincinnati Reds versus the Detroit Tigers.  Obviously, I’d prefer to see the Yankees and I hope they prove me wrong about their pitching and clutch hitting…

Ah, October baseball, I love this time of year!

 

–Scott