Tagged: Brian McCann

Not Ready for Prime Time…

The latest Yahoo Sports MLB Power Rankings that pushed the New York Yankees to #1 were a bit premature.  These Yankees are not quite up to par with the high flying Houston Astros (who were ranked #3).  Two games does not a season make, but the Yankees haven’t exactly shown they can hang with the Astros so far in this series.  

The Astros seem to have every answer and it appears that both Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran have found themselves on the right side of the equation.

Credit:  Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Right now, the two best teams in Baseball are the Astros and the Washington Nationals (even with their bullpen problems).  

The Yankees have two games to right the ship.  They can prove that they can play with the Astros, just not with pitchers named Keuchel or McCullers.  Today’s game has been postponed due to inclement weather so the Yankees will play a double-header tomorrow for the joint Derek Jeter’s and Mother’s Day.  It’s single-admission entry so only Sunday’s ticketholders have seats for the Derek Jeter ceremonies.  Saturday’s ticketholders will be able to exchange their tickets for future games. The Bronx weather forecast calls for a 60% chance for rain tomorrow which falls to 20% by evening.  The first game is expected to start at 2:05 pm.  Hopefully we’ll be listening to Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York by the end of the day.  

Yesterday’s game was not pretty.  Brian McCann set the tone early with his three run homer off Jordan Montgomery in the fourth inning.  The ball traveled just inside right-field foul pole into an area that McCann has frequently deposited pitches.  As a guy we once cheered for, McCann is becoming a thorn.  He caught the pitch that nailed Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate to end Thursday’s game, then he launched the deciding blast yesterday. Lance McCullers, Jr showed why he is one of the great young talents in the game.  It was eery when the TV telecast showed a comparison of his dad pitching for the Yankees and then the younger McCullers.  They are very similar with their pitching motions and release.  Young Lance went six innings, holding the Yanks to four hits and no runs.  He showed excellent control with no walks, and struck out seven Bombers (although Gary Sanchez was the most frequent contributor to those K’s).  

The Yankees scored a run in the ninth inning on a two-out RBI single by Didi Gregorius, but it was too little, too late.  Ronald Torreyes struck out to end the game.

I felt bad for Jordan Montgomery.  Remove the McCann homer, and he didn’t pitch that badly.  He did register 7 strikeouts, but the final line in six innings was not pretty.  8 hits and 4 runs saw the elevation of Montgomery’s season ERA from 3.81 to 4.19.  As for the bullpen, Jonathan Holder and Tyler Clippard continue to show that the arms in front of Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman are very strong.  Aroldis Chapman, on the other hand, is cause for concern.  Chapman only lasted two-thirds of an inning in the ninth when he allowed three hits, including a two-out RBI single to Josh Reddick.  With shades of his poor performance in Cincinnati earlier in the week, Chapman couldn’t finish the inning after he gave up a single to Jose Altuve.  Giovanny Gallegos, making his Major League debut, had to be called on to retire the Astros (he induced Yankee killer Carlos Correa into a fly out to center).  Hopefully this is just a temporary funk for Chapman and he is not seriously injured.  

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

Despite the loss (their third in a row), the Yankees (21-12) remain a half-game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East as the O’s fell to the Kansas City, 3-2.  The Boston Red Sox tried unsuccessfully to rally against the Tampa Bay Rays and lost 5-4, so there was no movement at the top of the division standings.

Chance Adams is getting closer to New York.  You can feel the rumble.  On Friday, the Yankees promoted the 22-year old right-hander from AA-Trenton to AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  In six games for the Thunder, Adams was 4-0 with a 1.03 ERA.  In 35 innings, he has only given up 23 hits, 6 runs (4 earned), 2 HR’s, and 15 walks.  He has also sent 32 batters muttering to themselves as they walked back to the dugout after strikeouts.  There’s no doubt we’ll soon be taking a chance on Adams in the Big Apple in the not-so-distant future if he keeps pitching like this.  Given that he’s dominated every level, there’s little doubt that AAA is his next victim.

Credit:  MiLB.com

The word is that Tyler Austin will begin playing rehab games soon.  So, when he is ready, the Yankees have decisions to make.  They can send Austin to AAA or they can bring him to the Bronx.  If he arrives at 161st and River and starts making solid contributions, Chris Carter is going to become obsolete.  I do not see a need for Carter once both Austin and Greg Bird are healthy.  If Carter was at least demonstrating some of the power that led to 41 home runs last year, it would be one thing but he’s not.  He’s a one-dimensional player that isn’t exactly tearing it up in his one dimension.  I think Carter needs regular at-bats to get into a groove but the Yankees are not going to afford him that opportunity (nor should they).  The team would be best served by flipping Carter to another team for some spare parts.

Have a great Saturday!  Stay dry and keep your fun and excitement at an all-time high!

Guilty of Playing Favorites…

There have been better Yankees than Derek Jeter.  Yes, I said it…

I know I should not say any disparaging words about Jeter but for as many fans as he had during his playing days, he was just not one of my favorites.  Sorry guys and more importantly, gals.  I liked the player and enjoyed his time, but probably more so in the earlier part of his career.  When everyone was wearing #2 jerseys, I was just not feeling it.  Throughout the last Yankees dynasty, my favorite player was Mariano Rivera.  So, basically from the time he started until he walked off the field for the final time, Mo was my favorite Yankee.  Well, I guess I should say that he didn’t technically become my favorite until 1996 when he zinging bullets in front of closer John Wetteland.  Up to 1995, my favorite was Donnie Baseball.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed watching Jeter’s final days and the memorable last game at Yankee Stadium.  I’ll watch on Sunday with interest as the Yankees retire #2 to Monument Park.  I’ll be thankful for his time in pinstripes, and he’ll not be forgotten.  He just wasn’t one of my favorites, that’s all.  Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte…loved those guys when they wore pinstripes.  I can’t put a finger on it but I’ve never  felt the same way about Jeter.  For all his faults, I even loved Darryl Strawberry.  His home run swing is still one of my all-time favorites.  Maybe this is why it is easier for me to accept the fact that Jeter might be part of the ownership and management team for the Miami Marlins.  At that point, he’ll just be another dude.  No different than Brian Sabean, Dick Tidrow and Dave Righetti in San Francisco except that he’ll have an ownership stake in his team.  I am sure that Jeter will pull for the Yankees as long as they are not playing the Marlins but you know if they do meet, Jeter will be pulling out every stop to beat Baseball’s most storied franchise.  

I was glad when Jeter was finally out of the way and we were able to upgrade, first defensively and later offensively, with Didi Gregorius.  It was time for change.  I am sure the day will come when I’ll be glad to see Didi’s replacement. Unfortunately, all of us are adversely afflicted with aging.  Well, except for maybe Betty White.

I am not trying to offend anyone.  It’s simply a case that all of us are entitled to our own opinions.

I’ve been aware of Jeter since he was an 18-year-old from Kalamazoo, Michigan, picked 6th overall in the 1992 MLB Draft.  It was a great long successful career.  But there is nothing in the Yankees Fan Rule Book that says he had to be one of my favorites.  I always thought the crowds Jeter would draw at baseball games were somewhat humorous.  Women swooned in his presence and maybe a few guys.  He now lives a life in a mansion in Florida and is married to one of the most beautiful women in the world.  He obviously has excess cash to spend as part of the ownership group seeking to purchase the Marlins.  He lives in a world that I’ll never know or understand.  Pardon me, but I’d rather cheer for Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez on Sunday.  Enjoy your day, Derek.  Lou Gehrig had it wrong.  You’re the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.

Since I seem to be on a negative roll today, I’ll go ahead and include Carlos Beltran.  Despite Beltran’s interest in returning to the Yankees in the off-season, I am thankful that he opted to grab the one-year, $16 million deal from the Houston Astros.  Beltran did a fine job as a Yankee and he was arguably our best hitter the first part of last year, but I strongly prefer Aaron Judge in right field (the obvious no-brainer) and Matt Holliday at DH.  I have absolutely no issue with the Yankees for not engaging Beltran in talks during his free agency period last November-December.  His present team might be one of our biggest roadblocks to October but I had/have no interest in a reunion tour with Beltran.

The Yankees fell to the Houston Astros 3-2 last night in the first game of a four game set.  This series is one of the major tests to determine if the Yankees are for real.  I knew, looking at the pitching matchup, this was going to be the hardest one with Yankee killer Dallas Keuchel on the mound.  In picking up his sixth win of the year, Keuchel dominated the Yankees as he always does.  In 50 2/3 innings, he has only allowed seven Yankees to cross home plate.  CC Sabathia would let teams do that every game if Joe Girardi allowed him to go deeper into games.  For the game, Keuchel went six innings.  He only gave up 5 hits and allowed an unearned run.  He walked one and struck out nine.  As tough as Keuchel was, the Yankees had their chances.

It didn’t help that the Astros jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning before many people had even gotten to their seats.  The first hit of the game was a double by Josh Reddick that fell between Didi Gregorius and Jacoby Ellsbury.  It was a play that Ellsbury should have called but didn’t, leading Didi to attempt a failed catch with his back turned.  With two outs, Carlos Correa homered to center, scoring Reddick.  The Yankees were never able to recover.

I certainly do not place any blame with Michael Pineda.  He did his job.  He gave up three runs over 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and a walk.  He struck out seven.  

With the bases loaded in the fifth and two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury was credited with an RBI on catcher’s interference (his bat hit Brian McCann’s glove).  It was the 28th catcher’s inference that Ellsbury has accumulated over his career, trailing Pete Rose by one.  Gary Sanchez grounded out to end the threat, leaving the bases loaded (one of the game’s missed opportunities).

The Yankees couldn’t get anything going against Chris Devenski, who replaced Keuchel in the seventh inning.  Devenski has been one of Baseball’s best setup men so far this young season.  But opportunity presented itself in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Yankees trailing 3-1.  With two outs, the Yankees had runners at second (Ellsbury) and third (Aaron Hicks) against Astros closer Ken Giles.  Gary Sanchez hit a single to left, scoring Hicks.  Third base coach Joe Espada also sent Ellsbury, but a perfect strike from left fielder Jake Marisnick to Brian McCann nailed Ells at the plate to end the game.

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees fell to 21-11, allowing the Baltimore Orioles to re-take sole possession of first place in the AL East by a half-game (the O’s were off).  On the bright side, we won’t be seeing Keuchel again this series.  Tonight’s matchup will be tough as young Lance McCullers, Jr has performed well so far this year (2-1, 3.40 ERA).  The Yankees counter with Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 3.81 ERA).  

Have a great Friday!  Time to show the Astros that we are for real!

Pink and Pinstripes…NOT a Good Look!…

I’ll say it right now.  I am NOT on board with the special Derek Jeter’s Day hats to be worn by the Yankees on Sunday.  With no disrespect to the former Yankees captain or the countless mothers that will be in attendance for the joint Jeter-Mother’s Day game, the color pink does not have a place with the famed pinstripes.  Behind the pink hat is just someone trying to make a buck.  If all proceeds are given to a meaningful charity, then maybe I could buy into the dreadful hat.  Otherwise, it looks like a poorly thought out marketing scheme.

The DL epidemic seems to be impacting elite closers.  Depending upon who you ask, Baseball’s third and fourth best closers are now on the Disabled List.  Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles is out for 45-60 days following a visit with Dr Neal ElAttrache (the surgeon who recently performed Tommy John surgery on James Kaprielian).  For Britton’s sake, he received better news than Kaprielian did as surgery is not necessary for his left arm (throwing arm) strain.  However, he’ll be out until after the All-Star Break.  Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants have placed their new high-priced closer, and former Yankee, Mark Melancon, on the DL with a “mild right pronator strain”.    Here’s wishing and hoping for good health for the premier closers, the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  

I realize that some Yankees fans will be moving into “World Series or Bust” mode any day now (if they haven’t already) but I still need more time before I am going to proclaim the Yankees as the team of the year.  I  want to see how the young Baby Bombers perform this weekend against Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and the high flying Houston Astros.  If the Yankees are still making noise at the top of the AL East when the calendar flips to June, then maybe I’ll start to get on-board.  It’s a long season and it’s still early.  There’s no doubt we’ll experience a few bumps in the road.  It will be how the team responds to those downturns that will determine the eventual course for this season.

CC Sabathia was awful for one inning last night but that’s all it took to shut down the Yankees’ six game winning streak in the 5-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.  Ten men came to the plate against Sabathia in the second inning.  Six singles and a walk later and the Reds had erased a 2-0 Yanks advantage by pushing five runs across the plate.  Sabathia (2-2) went 6 innings, allowing 7 hits and the 5 runs.  He walked 2 and struck out 2, while pushing his ERA to 5.77.  Right now, at least, Sabathia is the weak link in an otherwise strong Yankees rotation.  But as the saying goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link so this is certainly a concern.  

Credit:  John Minchillo/AP

The Yankees had a chance to win at the end.  With any game, that’s all I can ask.  After Aaron Hicks and Matt Holliday walked with one out in the 9th inning, Gary Sanchez came to the plate with the chance to erase the Reds’ two-run lead.  Sanchez had already homered in his first at-bat of the game, a ball that travelled 448 feet to center.  But he lined a shot to Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who threw to second, catching Hicks off base, for the game-ending double play.

Didi Gregorius is starting to heat up which is a good sign.  He went 3-for-4 with a first inning home run.

The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Washington Nationals 5-4 in extra innings last night, so the Yankees (21-10) fell out of first place in the AL East by a half-game.  The Boston Red Sox lost which is always a fun thing to see.  I’d take joy in that even if they were the worst team in baseball.  

All things considered it was a good (albeit short) road trip as the Yanks took four of five.  With an off day today (Sleep, I love you!), the Yankees prepare for a long four game set against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium beginning Thursday.  The series concludes on Sunday with Derek Jeter Night and the aforementioned pink caps.  

The former Yankees coming to the Bronx are Astros catcher Brian McCann and DH Carlos Beltran.  Lance McCullers, Jr, one of the Astros starting pitchers, is the son of a former Yankee.  His father pitched for the Yankees from 1989 to 1990 (three years before Lance Jr was born).  

The probable pitching matchups for the Astros series are as follows:

THURSDAY

HOU:  Dallas Keuchel (5-0, 1.88 ERA)

NYY:  Michael Pineda (3-1, 3.12 ERA)

FRIDAY

HOU:  Lance McCullers, Jr (2-1, 3.40 ERA)

NYY:  Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 3.81 ERA)

SATURDAY

HOU:  Mike Fiers (1-1, 5.64 ERA)

NYY:  Luis Severino (2-2, 3.40 ERA)

SUNDAY

HOU:  Charlie Morton (4-2, 3.63 ERA)

NYY:  Masahiro Tanaka (5-1, 4.36 ERA)

Speaking of former Yankees, the Detroit Tigers have named Justin Wilson as their closer, replacing Francisco Rodriguez.  The lefty, who brought pitchers Luis Cessa and Chad Green to New York, is currently carrying a 1.32 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings.  Regardless of how Cessa and Green ever perform, it sure would have been nice to have Wilson in this year’s bullpen.  But then again, Andrew Miller would have looked good too.  Oh well, onward and upward!

Have a great Wednesday!  

The Sounds of Spring are approaching…

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.

yankees-spring-training-1957

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.

james-kaprielian-a78c3c50815fc91e

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…

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—Scott

For a few dollars more…

Like many Yankees fans, I found myself very disappointed that the Yankees lost Cuban free agent infielder Yoan Moncada to the Boston Red Sox.  After an off-season of inactivity, it felt like the Yankees would make the winning push to bring Moncada to the Bronx.  Then, to come up short to the Red Sox, feels so wrong.  The money the Yankees were offering Moncada was huge ($25 million with the potential to go to $27.5 million), particularly considering the 100% tax associated with the bid had it won.  Boston was all-in with over $31 million, and we are left to wonder why the Yankees couldn’t push a little bit harder.

I know, a 19 year old who has not proven himself and is at least two years from the major leagues.  Still, under best case scenario, he would have been THE replacement for Robinson Cano.  Perhaps the Yankees feel that they are in good hands with Rob Refsnyder at second and potentially Eric Jagielo in a few years at third.  If Moncada puts up Hall of Fame numbers in Boston, this one will be forever a hard one to take.  I felt that he was a blue chip, can’t miss prospect and he certainly would have zoomed to the top of the Yankees prospect list had he signed.

Conversely, if he flops, this will sting in Beantown and Hal Steinbrenner will look like a genius.  But somehow, I suspect that Moncada will be alright and Hal’s frugal mind will leave the Yankees as the bridesmaids.  It’s hard to think of a guy who is spending nearly $235 million to field a team this year as a frugal mind but he is unquestionably more bottom line oriented than his father was.

If the Yankees fail to advance to the play-offs for the third year in a row, it is going to place great pressure on Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman.  But it’s the owner’s decision to go young and cut costs so time will tell if the manager and GM are the casualties.  I am not looking for Girardi to leave.  If he does get the ax, there’s not really anyone out there that I think could do a better job (who is not already employed).

This is a tough year.  We have to have faith that the young moves for guys like Didi Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi will pay off.  Can they bridge the gap to when the farm system is ready and capable of producing major league talent?

If Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and, egads, Alex Rodriguez can’t turn  back the clock, it’s going to be a long year in the Bronx and the future, without Moncada, is still a bit unclear.

I am not sure what I would do if I was the owner of the Yankees.  It is so important to get a collection of cost controlled players to supplement the larger contracts.  Everyone on the 25 man roster can’t be a mega-millionaire.  Something has to give.  But with the younger players, after years of picking lower in the draft or not having any top draft picks, the Yankees have to figure out a way to be creative.  The loopholes that they’ve exploited for a century have closed and they need to find new ways to exert their financial strength.  Otherwise, it’s going to be a long time before a World Series championship returns to its rightful home.

My guess for a World Series champion in 2015 is the easy pick…the Washington Nationals.  On paper, they have it top to bottom.  But inevitably, it will be some surprise team that no one saw coming.  But sadly, the Yankees will most likely be home for the holidays by October.

As usual, I hope they prove me wrong…

–Scott

Bonjour, Fevrier…

Ready or not, here come the 2015 Yankees…

The Yankees have stayed the course and true to their word, they didn’t purchase any big ticket items this off-season.  While I am glad to see that they want to end the ridiculous cycle of overbuying for soon to be past their prime ballplayers, it’s an almost certainty that the Yankees will again miss the post-season this year.  There’s always the chance that guys like Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew and Brian McCann play to their prior levels, but really, for everything to come together, the odds are against it.

Max Scherzer might have ensured a few more wins but he would not have made the Yankees a World Series contender.  So, perhaps the current path chosen by Yankees management and ownership will ultimately mean a World Series caliber team in a couple of years rather than a few years of a team trying to hang on.  I am excited for the future when guys like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino begin their ascent to the Bronx.

I thought the Philadelphia Phillies made a good signing with former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley.  There’s a good chance that Billingsley never makes it back from his past injuries, but conversely, there is a small chance that he could.  It was a shot worth taking.  Granted, this is not exactly Clayton Kershaw that we are talking about, but Billingsley, if right, can help a pitching staff.  Meanwhile, the Yankees signed former Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Baker for insurance.  I would have preferred to take a flyer on Billingsley.

Another pitcher that I’d probably be interested in for insurance purposes is former Atlanta Braves starter Brandon Beachy.  I really liked Kris Medlen but unfortunately so did the Kansas City Royals.

The Yankees need options for the spot in the rotation currently held by Chris Capuano.  Of course, Capuano is just a placeholder for the eventual return of Ivan Nova but I don’t really expect Nova to be effective this year when he does.  It will probably be 2016 before we start to see the Nova of old.  I have heard talk of converting Adam Warren to a starter, but I like the current configuration of the bullpen even with the loss of David Robertson.  I expect the Yankees to name Dellin Betances as the closer rather than use a closer committee comprised of Betances and Andrew Miller.  Miller should serve as the prime setup guy, with the others, including Warren falling in line.

While I am hopeful that Stephen Drew returns to the player he can be, I still hope that this is the year Rob Refsnyder arrives to take second base.

While former high prospect Austin Romine is out of options, I feel that John Ryan Murphy is better suited to be the Yankees backup catcher.  Sadly, Romine will see his Yankees career end in spring training either through trade or release.  Hopefully, the Yankees can get something for him when the time comes.

The calendar page is almost ready to turn to February which means that pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting.  Even if this will be another disappointing season for the Yankees, the thrill of the spring is always a great time.

–Scott

Like it or not, here comes the 2015 season…

What’s the plan?…

Well, it’s January 2015.  The Yankees roster is slowly evolving.  The latest addition/return was the surprise re-signing of Stephen Drew which certainly makes sense.  While I still prefer to see Rob Refsnyder win the second base job outright, Drew certainly provides great insurance at both second base and shortstop.  It’s no sure thing that Didi Gregorius will be successful and I’d prefer not to see Brendan Ryan as the only other choice, even if he is a slick fielder.

I am still concerned about the starting rotation.  Reading CC Sabathia say the knee is fine is hardly a ringing endorsement that he’ll be the CC of old.  I think best case he is a strong #3 in the rotation if he is able to come back healthy.  His days as the team’s ace are over…in my opinion.  The hope of the rotation lies with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Obviously, there are health concerns with both pitchers.  Even though Ivan Nova will return later in the year, I do not expect him to be back up to par until 2016.  Nathan Eovaldi is the project.  The Yankees apparently think they can turn him around and perhaps they can.  It would be good to get him to the point that he is as reliable and consistent as Hiroki Kuroda was.

While I get why the Yankees will not pay $200 million for Max Scherzer, I wish they would make a play for James Shields.  With a rotation containing so much uncertainty, the Yankees really need a dependable starter without question marks.

I have heard some rumblings that the Yankees now have the prospects to make a trade for Cole Hamels, but I am not sure that’s one I would pursue.  I like prospects such as Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and want to see them succeed in pinstripes.  It was tough when I was a kid and the Yankees were always trading youth for veterans.  Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, Fred McGriff, Al Leiter, J.T. Snow, Brad Ausmus.  I know the list is much longer than this, but it was tough watching guys like that succeed elsewhere.

I don’t think that Cole Hamels would be the missing ingredient to suddenly make the Yankees the World Series favorites.  So, if he is not the difference maker, then the Yankees shouldn’t raid the cupboards to bring him aboard.  I’d rather see Hamels go to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The fear of course is that he’ll be calling Fenway Park home next season.

At this point, I still do not see the 2015 Yankees making the play-offs.  I think the Baltimore Orioles will still be the team to beat.  They suffered off-season losses, yes, but they’ll also be getting back Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.  The Toronto Blue Jays look to be the most improved team and they’ve been a team of potential for a few years.  Boston will be stronger, and it’s best to never underestimate the Tampa Bay Rays even if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman are no longer calling the shots.

There’s still time for GM Brian Cashman to make the moves to propel the Yankees into contention but so much is riding on better seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira.  Of the group, McCann is the only one I feel is capable for turning it around.  Beltran and Teixeira are in their decline years, and that slippery slope is steeper for some guys.

Hear the voice of the Bard!…

There’s a nice piece in Nick Cafardo’s column today (Sunday Baseball Notes in The Boston Globe) about the comeback of Daniel Bard.  It would be good to see Bard successfully return to his position of bullpen relevance after years of struggle.  Perhaps that’s a buy low signing the Yankees should pursue.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  There was a time when Bard was a Yankees draft pick although he never signed.  Even if he goes back to Boston or another team, I truly hope that Bard is successful.

Short walk to the Hall…

Congratulations to the Hall of Fame inductees:  John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, and Pedro Martinez.  I think all of the selections were justified.  It was sad that it was the final ballot appearance for Don Mattingly, but it was a given that he was not going to make it.  Maybe he can take the Joe Torre route…great managerial success to go with a strong playing career…to gain access to the Hall.

25 years is long enough…

Put me in the group of people who want to see Pete Rose allowed to enter the Hall of Fame.  He remains one of the best players I’ve been privileged to see play in my lifetime.  This is not an endorsement of Pete the man and I feel what he did was wrong, however, Pete the player was one of the best players of all-time.

I am glad that this is the last full month without any baseball activity.  Looking forward to the opening of spring training camps next month.

–Scott