Tagged: Chicago

True Statement — The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field!…

Credit:  Chris Sweda/The Chicago Tribune

While the Cubs did have their chances, Saturday’s game felt like it was over after the Yankees took their first swings in the top of the first inning en route to the 11-6 victory.  Admittedly, I felt badly for Cubs starter Brett Anderson.  He gave up three doubles, two singles and a bunt with a throwing error that led to multiple runs.  When Anderson departed after 23 pitches, he had gotten only one out…a swinging strikeout by Aaron Judge.  The Yankees held a 5-0 advantage, and we were off the races.

Anderson was once a promising young starter for the Oakland A’s.  He’s pitched very well when healthy, but unfortunately health has not been his friend.  He made 31 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 and then missed most of last year after surgery for a bulging disk in his back.  After yesterday’s start, Anderson was showing signs of back trouble so yet another DL-stint is likely.  After the game, Anderson said that it was “embarrassing”.  He went on to say “Whenever the backup catcher gets more outs than you, it’s not a positive”. Cubs catcher Miguel Montero pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the Cubs although he did walk two. Hopefully Anderson is able to recover from his latest setback.

Credit:  Chris Sweda/The Chicago Tribune

Jordan Montgomery (2-1) was solid again for the Yankees as he continues to cement his role in the starting rotation.  He made it into the seventh inning until running into some trouble after throwing 100 pitches.  He allowed 3 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), and struck out 3.  He did walk 4 batters.  After two groundouts in the top of the 7th, it looked like it was going to be another quiet inning for Monty.  But he walked Jon Jay and it was followed by a run-scoring triple by former Tampa Bay Rays nemesis Ben Zobrist which ended Montgomery’s day.  

Aaron Hicks, subbing for Jacoby Ellsbury who is still nursing a sore elbow, delivered the clinching shot, a three-run homer in the eighth inning, that put the Yanks up 11-3.  The Cubbies tried to mount a rally in the bottom of the 8th against reliever Tommy Layne, scoring three runs.  Adam Warren came in with a runner at first (Miguel Montero) and two outs.  He allowed a double to Jon Jay which advanced Montero to third.  Ben Zobrist came to bat with a chance to chip away at the 11-6 Yanks lead but Warren struck him out swinging.  Another nice job by the  2016 World Series ring holder.  

Credit:  Tannen Maury/EPA

Hicks finished the day 4-for-5 with 3 RBI’s and 3 runs scored.  He continues to impress and is making it hard for Manager Joe Girardi to keep him on the bench.  I read one columnist who suggested that Hicks should permanently replace center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.  I wouldn’t necessarily argue but are we really only four years into Ellsbury’s seven-year $153 contract?  The end of the contract seems so friggin’ far away.  Despite his recent heroics, Brett Gardner remains the more marketable outfielder and it seems that it would make more sense to move him to make room for Hicks…unless GM Brian Cashman would hoodwink some other GM into taking Ellsbury off his hands.  Maybe ply former buddy Billy Eppler with some tequila when the Yankees visit Anaheim in mid-June.  

The other hitting star of the game was the former Chicago Cub Starlin Castro.  You know that he enjoyed his fourth inning home run.  He even paused for a moment to enjoy the view as the ball traveled to the left outfield bleachers.  Increasing his batting average to .381, Castro went 3-for-4.  He had 3 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.  Starlin has been enjoying his time at Wrigley Field so I am sure these games will be memorable to him for a very long time.  

Credit:  Chris Sweda/The Chicago Tribune

The Yankees maintained their half-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East.  The O’s held off a late challenge by the Chicago White Sox to win 6-5.  Sadly the Boston Red Sox also won.  

I’ve said it before but Tommy Layne is just not doing it for me this year.  His appearance always seems to be accompanied by multiple runs for the opponent.  His ERA is now an unsightly 9.45 after giving up the 3 runs to the Cubs while only recording 2 outs.  I will gladly take Chasen Shreve as my lefty specialist over Layne.  I think we’re seeing why the Boston Red Sox gave up on Layne last year.

I wonder if we’ll see Matt Holliday at first base today as the Yankees face an old foe in former Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester.  It should be a great game as the Yankees go for a sweep with Luis Severino on the mound.

The Yankees completed their off-season trade that sent reliever Nick Goody to the Cleveland Indians.  On Friday, they acquired 21 year-old pitcher Yoiber Marquina, a converted catcher, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this month.  The Yankees see promise in Marquina’s lively arm, but meanwhile Goody is delivering the goods for the Indians.  He has an 0.00 ERA in 7 appearances with 10 strikeouts.  He has allowed only three hits in 9 1/3 innings of work.  Sounds like the Indians are making up for lost ground with the talent they gave up in the Andrew Miller trade.

I saw the debate that TGP’s Daniel Burch sparked yesterday when he suggested that the Yankees should trade backup catcher Austin Romine.  My first question is why?  Unless you can include Romine in a trade for a frontline pitcher, I do not see the motivation to make a deal.  He has shown that he can be a very valuable backup catcher.  It’s not that I dislike Kyle Higashioka, but Romine has earned his shot to be a member of the New York Yankees.  If you tell me that the Yankees could acquire Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates (don’t we always send our catchers to the Steel City?) by including Romine with other prospects, I’m on board.  Otherwise, I think Romine should stay.  

I am not trying to look ahead but the Yankees will, for the first time, face the ramifications of their  December 2015 trade for closer Aroldis Chapman.  The team will be traveling to Cincinnati after they complete the three game series against the Cubs later today.  On Monday, they’ll face former top pitching prospect Rookie Davis who is scheduled to start opposite Masahiro Tanaka.  Davis is the only player on the Reds MLB roster in the deal that sent Davis, third baseman Eric Jagielo, pitcher Caleb Cotham, and second baseman Tony Renda to Cincy.  

Credit:  Justin Berl/Getty Images

Have a great Sunday!  Let’s hope the wind carries us to a sweep out of Chicago!

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It’s a Bird, it’s a Plane, no, it’s Gardyman!…

Credit:  David Banks/USA TODAY Sports

It is frustrating when the Yankees lose games they should have won so there was satisfaction with Friday afternoon’s stunning victory over the Chicago Cubs, 3-2, thanks to a ninth inning two-out, two-strike three-run home run by Brett Gardner.  The Yankees had their chances early in the game, but seemed to self-sabotage every attempt to push runs across the plate.  

The Yankees were fortunate that Cubs closer Wade Davis was unavailable after pitching in the three preceding games for the Northsiders.  Davis is currently 2-0 with an 0.00 ERA in 13 1/3 innings.  He has 15 strikeouts and has only given up four hits and walks.  His WHIP is a paltry 0.60.  I’ve read a few Chicago articles that think the Cubs upgraded the closing position with the addition of Wade Davis (a bit of a slam against Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman).  But with Davis unavailable, the Cubs were forced to turn to former closer, Hector Rondon, who had been displaced last July when Chapman arrived.  

Honestly, it didn’t feel like Gardner was going to emerge from the day victorious.  After he reached two strikes, he fouled off a couple of Rondon pitches to stay alive.  It felt like Rondon just needed to put one in the outside corner to earn his first save of the season.  Instead, he left the pitch in the exact spot that he shouldn’t have…low and inside.  That’s all Gardner needed to deposit the pitch in the outfield bleachers.  

The Gardner home run put the game in the hands of former Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman.  It wasn’t pretty when the first batter, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, reached second base as a result of a Chase Headley error.  With the game-tying run on second and no outs, Chapman retired the next three batters which included a swinging third strike by Cubs powerful second baseman Javier Baez to end the game.

Hats off to Michael Pineda.  I know that he gave up two home runs, but he could’ve folded like a cheap suit as he has in years past.  He held the Cubs to only two runs on the solo homers and only three hits overall in six innings of work.  He struck out six and walked only one.  It was a quality start and there’s no way the Yankees could have staged the improbable comeback if not for Pineda’s efforts.  

The win moved the Yankees to 18-9.  They precariously remain in sole possession of first place in the AL East by a half-game over the Baltimore Orioles.  The Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox 4-2 despite starting pitcher Wade Miley being hit by successive line drives 12 pitches into the game that forced his departure.  

Aroldis Chapman received his World Series ring prior to the start of the game.  It was good to see him receive recognition for his contributions for helping to bring the first World Series championship to Chicago for the Cubs in 108 years.  People tend to remember the game-tying home run that a weary Chapman gave up in Game 7 but the Cubs would not have been in the World Series if not for #54.  

Credit:  Tannen Maury/EPA

Adam Warren also received his World Series ring as a member of the 2016 Cubs, but he chose a private ceremony (he wanted the spotlight on the Yankees closer since Chapman was part of the post-season team that won the World Series plus he didn’t feel right wearing Yankees gear with a Cubs ring…’Attaboy, Adam!).  

It was also a fun day for former Cubs shortstop/second baseman Starlin Castro.  He received a standing ovation as the Cubs played his walk-up music when he came up to bat for the first time.  There’s no doubt it was an emotional day for Castro who remains appreciative of the Cubs for giving him his first opportunity in Major League Baseball.  

Credit:  Getty Images

Gary Sanchez was activated before the game and went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.  Kyle Higashioka was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/WilkesBarre after failing to record in a hit in 18 at-bats.  I had really been hoping that he could have gotten that first one out of the way before heading back to Eastern Pennsylvania.  

Have a great Saturday!  Sounds like it may be a cold, windy night in Chicago.  Hopefully it will be a memorable evening for the Baby Bombers in the Windy City.  

I Left My Heart in San Fran…I mean, Chicago!…

Credit:  Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune

ChiTown is spreading the love for our second baseman, Starlin Castro.  From comments by Cubs manager Joe Maddon “He was a great teammate here” to current Cubs players like Anthony Rizzo “He played hard and played every day”, the warm accolades about Castro are overflowing in the Chicago papers.  As Rizzo went on to say, “He was here for a while and part of this two-year run.  But I’m sure he was pulling for us.  I’m sure it would have been great for him to be a part of it, too, but I think a little part of him was.”

The Cubs will honor Castro before today’s game at Wrigley Field as a thank you for his contributions while a long-time member of the Cubs organization.  From the 2010 to 2015 seasons, Castro played in 891 games and batted .281/.321/.404.  He hit 62 home runs with 363 RBI’s and 75 stolen bases. 

I am sure that it will be tough for Castro to watch Adam Warren and Aroldis Chapman accept their World Series rings from Cubs President Theo Epstein and Maddon, considering he was part of the rebuilding effort that led to the championship run.  He played six seasons in Chicago’s North Side, while you could piece together only one season collectively for Warren and Chapman (if you include Warren’s time in the minors). 

Credit:  Jonathan Danie/Getty Images

I fully expect a loud and rousing ovation for Castro when he comes to bat for the first time today.  He has always said the right things about his time in Chicago and I don’t think I really understood before how willing Castro was to accept the position change from shortstop to second base during his final months as a Cub.  It had to have been a huge letdown but he didn’t complain or argue.  He embraced the change and has continued to improve as a second baseman.  

I am very happy that he’ll be recognized by the city of Chicago and Cubs fans.  But of course, once the first pitch is thrown, he is a Yankee and his job will be to beat the Cubs.

While three Yankees will be having fun reminiscing, one Yankee returns to the field of his arch-rival.  With so many years in St Louis as a member of the Cardinals, Wrigley Field is like a Yankee setting foot on Fenway Park turf for Matt Holliday.  He’ll have no trouble going to war when the games begin.  

Credit:  Getty Images

It will also be interesting to see how Chapman does.  I don’t expect any spillover from his negative comments about his handling by Joe Maddon in the World Series (the two have apparently talked and mended fences since then, plus Chapman was right).  I think Aroldis will be a pro when he takes the mound.  He played a huge role in getting the Cubs to the World Series and certainly deserves the ring he’ll receive.

Credit:  Jon Durr/Getty Images

I forgot to mention Yankees manager Joe Girardi as this is a homecoming for him too.  A Chicagoland native, he is also a former Cub (1989-1992, 2000-2002).  I am sure that he’ll have fun visiting with friends and family.  When I think of Girardi and the Cubs, it always reminds me of a very tragic day.  On June 22, 2002, Girardi, then the Cubs catcher, took the microphone to speak to the Wrigley Field crowd moments after a game with the Cardinals was scheduled to begin.  A very emotional Girardi spoke the words “I thank you for your patience.  We regret to inform you because of a tragedy in the Cardinals family, the Commissioner has cancelled the game today.  I ask you to say a prayer for the St Louis Cardinals family.”  The crowd was silenced.  The name had not yet been released but we subsequently found out that Cardinals pitcher Darryl Kile had been found dead (heart disease) in his hotel room. I have always admired Girardi for how he handled the situation that day even though he didn’t know Kile.  

Among the Coaching Staff, Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was the long-time pitching coach for the Cubs prior to his arrival in New York (from 2002 to 2010).  Bullpen coach Mike Harkey played for the Cubs in 1988 and 1990-1993.  

Here are the pitching match-ups for the Yankees-Cubs series:

FRIDAY

NYY:  Michael Pineda (3-1, 3.14 ERA)

CHC:  Kyle Hendricks (2-1, 4.18 ERA)

SATURDAY

NYY:  Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 4.15 ERA)

CHC:  Brett Anderson (2-1, 6.23 ERA)

SUNDAY

NYY:  Luis Severino (2-2, 3.86 ERA)

CHC:  Jon Lester (1-1, 3.67 ERA)

Gary Sanchez is expected to be activated before today’s game.  He is the one guy capable of stealing ratings away from The Aaron Judge Show.  It’s going to be so much fun watching those two in the lineup together again.  It’s an awesome time to be a Yankees fan!

Credit:  Seth Wenig/AP

Have a great Friday!  Let’s show the World Champions that we can play this game!

Trying To Temper The Enthusiasm…

Credit:  Andy Martin/USA TODAY Sports

With the better-than-expected start to the season, it’s easy to get caught up with the thinking that the Yankees could actually win the American League East.  Sadly, I still do not believe that will be the case.  I think the Boston Red Sox remain the heavy favorite to win the division.  While the Yankees may be playing great without Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, the Red Sox are starting to gather some steam even though Jackie Bradley, Jr. and arguably their best player, Mookie Betts, are currently on the DL.  Add Betts to the stellar starting rotation, and the Red Sox will be a very formidable force throughout the summer.  We’ll have some bumps and bruises with the younger starters as time goes by, and there’s no certainty that Michael Pineda has finally turned the corner.  My only reservation with the Red Sox is that they do not seem to have the same heart they did with David Ortiz in the lineup.  Hanley Ramirez is a great baseball player but he’s no Big Papi.  

Nevertheless, I do feel the strong start has positioned the Yankees to make a run at a Wild Card spot, especially with the horrific start of the perennial playoff contending Toronto Blue Jays. 

While the Yankees are currently chasing Baltimore, the Orioles lost their lock-down closer Zach Britton for at least ten days with a left sore forearm (his throwing arm).  Britton is obviously an elite closer so this severely weakens the O’s pen.  Although it’s possible that Britton will be back before the O’s get to New York late next week, they do go into a head-to-head showdown with the Red Sox starting Friday night for a three-game set in their weakened state.

It is amazing to think that the Yankees have played this well without Gregorius and Sanchez.  If they can continue to get solid pitching from the starting rotation, the return of Gregorius and Sanchez in a few weeks should be a great lift.  It’ll almost be like getting All-Star caliber players at the trading deadline with the only difference being the Yankees do not have to give up any premier prospects (or any prospects, for that matter, other than the probable DFA of Pete Kozma). 

The Yankees announced they’ve traded reliever Johnny Barbato to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later or cash.  Those types of deals usually turn out to be cash.  Barbato was optioned to AAA by the Pirates.  It’s unfortunate that the Yankees didn’t get more out of Barbato considering they gave up dependable reliever Shawn Kelley to get him.  The Pirates always seem to get high mileage out of Yankee rejects.  Barbato will probably be their ace closer within a couple of years.  

I apologize in advance for going off topic (non-Yankees talk) but I have been very interested in watching Cody Bellinger, a first baseman in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.  Bellinger, son of former Yankee Clay Bellinger, is the Dodgers top prospect and the heir apparent to Adrian Gonzalez.  On Sunday, Bellinger was responsible for all three runs in Oklahoma City’s 3-2 win over the Memphis Redbirds.  Bellinger scored a run after walking in the fourth; tied the game with a solo homer in the fifth; and singled in the go-ahead run in the seventh.  For the season, the 21-year-old Bellinger is batting .372 (16-for-43) with 4 doubles, 3 homers, and 12 RBI’s.  Meanwhile, for the Big League Dodgers, the 34-year-old Gonzalez is hitting .250 with no homers and 4 RBI’s.  If Bellinger keeps it up, there could soon be a changing of the guard at first base in Dodger Stadium.  Looks like the Dodgers could be back to the days of bringing up an All-Star to the Majors every year.  If Bellinger does not get the call, top pitching prospect Julio Urias most certainly will.  

Credit:  Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Speaking of the Oklahoma City Dodgers (in an attempt to keep this Yankees-oriented), it’s kind of cool that their stadium, Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, is located at 2 S. Mickey Mantle Drive.  Too bad there was no room to build the stadium across the street and down a little for 7 S. Mickey Mantle Drive.

In other non-Yankees news (or is it?), Bryan Harper stepped to the plate on Sunday in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, with the Washington Nationals trailing the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 and Philly closer Joaquin Benoit on the mound.  With two runners on base, Harper homered to center to win the game, 6-4.  It was his second home run of the game and it gave him 5 RBI’s for the day.  Preview of coming attractions at Yankee Stadium?  Time will tell, as it often does.  Hal, what’s a half-billion in the grand scheme of things?  It’s just money…

Welcome back, Matt Holliday!  After sitting out two games against his former team, the St Louis Cardinals, this past weekend, Matt Holliday returned on Monday to absolutely crush a baseball which allowed the Yankees to jump ahead of the Chicago White Sox with an early 3-0 lead.  The ball traveled 459 feet, with exit velocity of 113.9 MPH, and according to Statcast was the second longest homer of the year (two feet behind a Carlos Gomez blast). 

Aaron Judge also homered in the fourth inning with one on and two outs.

Jordan Montgomery impressed once again.  You gotta love his calm demeanor on the mound (unflappable).  His deceptive arm angle is a thing of beauty with the over the top motion.  Montgomery gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings of work, with two walks and two strikeouts.  The runs didn’t come until the seventh inning when Montgomery was tiring (a three run bomb by Yolmer Sanchez that ended Montgomery’s night).  Regardless of the end, Montgomery was better the second time around (as I thought he would be).  He’s an exciting part of the rotation and is quickly earning his pinstripes for the long haul.  

Credit:  Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Adam Warren did what he does best.  After Montgomery’s exit, he bridged the gap to the ninth inning.  Although he finally allowed a run, he did his job and turned the game over to Aroldis Chapman with one out and a runner on base.  Although Chapman did allow a single to the first hitter, pushing the lead runner to third, he needed just two pitches to earn his fourth save.  The next batter, Tyler Saladino, hit into a game-ending double play.

The Yankees won 7-4, and have now won eight consecutive games.  

Have a great Tuesday!  Nine would be just fine!  

Words create such a reaction…

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.

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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.

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Credit:  MLB.com

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.

yankees-spring-training

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!

—Scott

Mr Kuroda, it was our pleasure…

Quite simply, a great Yankee…

One thing is assured.  Yankees fans will not be enjoying any of the hoopla that fans of the San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs et al have been experiencing this off-season.  The Winter of Our Discontent (hat tip to John Steinbeck) continues with the loss of starter Hiroki Kuroda, who has signed a one year deal with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Leagues.

Getty Images

Derek Jeter, David Robertson, Francisco Cervelli, Martin Prado, David Phelps, and now Hiroki Kuroda.  The Yankees have lost some great personalities from the 2014 team and it ensures that 2015 will be “different”.  It remains to be seen if it will be different-good or different-bad, but will definitely be different.

I remember when Hiroki Kuroda arrived in the U.S. in his early 30’s with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I think in my mind I viewed him as nothing more than a #3 starter but I remember watching a Dodgers game a few years (with the legendary Vin Scully announcing…what a treat!).  He was masterful that game.  I don’t remember the outcome but I do believe it was a Kuroda win and he only gave up a few hits.  I was impressed by his performance, but I don’t think I truly appreciated how great he was until he came to New York.  I was so wrong.  He was more than a #3 starter.  He may not have been an ace, but he was the type of #2 starter every team needs.  He was a stopper, and he kept his team in games consistently from game to game.  After watching A.J. Burnett flame out with essentially the same spot in the rotation with his roller coaster performances, Kuroda gave us stability and an arm that could be counted on.  It’s too bad the team was unable to reward him with a World Series championship.  Everyone knows the high class and character of Derek Jeter, but Kuroda is every bit the man of honor.

Doug Benc/Getty Images

I am glad that Kuroda was able to be a part of Masahiro Tanaka’s first year and to help with his transition.  In a way, there is a bit of an unknown in what it will be like for Tanaka without fellow countrymen Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki on the team.  This is why it would make tremendous sense to add Hideki Matsui to the coaching staff.  I haven’t heard Matsui’s name mentioned as a hitting coach but what about first base?  He had one of the greatest clutch bats in recent Yankees history and is well liked by his former teammates and coaches.

But back to Kuroda.  I read The New York Post headline that blared “Kuroda spurns Yankees, to return to Japan”.  I don’t really view this as Kuroda spurning the Yankees.  It has been known his desire was to finish his playing career in Japan.  The man Kuroda has proven to be is one who would want to put the best possible product on the field in front of his home country.  He wouldn’t want his last year to be a pitcher who stayed a year too long.  I do not view this as a spurning so much as it was a man trying to do the right thing for his fans and country.  As a fan, I know the tremendous respect that he holds for both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations.  Not many people can play for both and only the Yankees and Dodgers.

Masahiro Tanaka wore #18 prior to his arrival in New York.  I wonder if he’ll now change his number from 19 to 18 out of respect for his mentor.  Tanaka is one of the few guys worthy of wearing Kuroda’s jersey.

Here’s hoping that we see Kuroda at future Yankees Old Timer’s Day games.  He will be missed and we look forward to his eventual return to stand among the Legends.

–Scott

Waiting patiently for the Cavalry…

A week’s worth of crickets…

For excited as I was for the Baseball Winter Meetings, it was a very unfulfilling time for Yankees fans.  The AL East got stronger as both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays made significant improvements, and the Baltimore Orioles, while they didn’t make a move, are still a better team on paper.

Losing David Robertson hurt.  I fully recognize that not even the Yankees should be paying multiple guys in the pen $12+ million per year so I understand the decision to let Robertson walk after signing last year’s prized lefty Andrew Miller.  Still, when I saw those words, “White Sox to sign David Robertson”, it was a painful sight to see.

David Robertson mug

USA Today Sports

Part of me, for a few days, imagined a bullpen with Robertson, Betances, and Miller for manager Joe Girardi and the limitless possibilities.  After watching the Kansas City Royals and their stellar pen, it was hard not to dream of a similar equation for the Yankees.  With so many question marks in the rotation, a ‘lights out’ bullpen is a must.  With Robertson gone, there’s no reason why the Yankees still can’t have a superior bullpen.  But losing Robertson does show that we care about our tenured players.  Well, except when their name is Alex Rodriguez.

I am in favor of naming Dellin Betances as the team’s closer in spring training.  I think Miller will be great as the primary setup guy and the earlier innings are in great hands with Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and others.  A year ago, there were questions about Robertson’s ability to close.  His attempt to close in 2012 when Mariano Rivera got hurt was unsuccessful.  The team ultimately went to Rafael Soriano who held the role for the duration of the season.

Mariano Rivera was an exception.  Most guys are unable to pitch at the level required to close for an extended period of time.  The days of Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are over.  From a financial standpoint, it makes the most sense to have a shorter term view when it comes to a closer so that you don’t get locked into a bad contract (a la Jonathan Papelbon) as the closer ages and naturally deteriorates.  Robertson may still be playing at a very high level in four years, but equally, there’s a chance that he is not.  He always seems to pitch in and out of trouble, but as he ages, his ability to get out of those jams may not quite be there.  He’ll evolve as a pitcher and I am sure that he’ll make the necessary adjustments, but at the end of the day, the Yankees are better off not being locked into Robertson for four years at $48 million.  Betances showed that he is the team’s future closer.  Next year may be a bit premature, but it was inevitable.

The most important thing for the Yankees is to now re-invest the $12 million per year savings into other areas.  Bring back Chase Headley.  Possibly sign a short term closing alternative like Jason Grilli.  Make a run for Max Scherzer.  But the key is to do something.  The Yankees, as they presently stand, will not win in October.

 

How much?  See ya…

Speaking of bad contracts, I was blown away by the commitment the Los Angeles Dodgers made to Brandon McCarthy.  I thought McCarthy was a great pickup last season and hoped the Yankees could re-sign him to a team friendly deal.  But like Robertson, I am glad the Yankees did not commit those years and dollars to McCarthy.  He is a huge injury risk and in the Dodgers case, McCarthy failed last year in the NL West when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  While I hope McCarthy has a great Dodgers career, my fear is that he and the team’s DL list will become good buddies.  I hope I’m wrong but baseball generally proves ‘past performance equals future results’…

Slowly but surely…

The week preceding the Baseball Winter Meetings was good.  The Yankees acquired their 2015 shortstop with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius and the aforementioned lefty artist Andrew Miller, dominant against both righties and lefties.  It was a good start but the team obviously still has much work to do before spring.

I hear so many Yankees fans say that Gregorius is not Derek Jeter.  Nothing against Jeter, but I’d rather see a 24 year old Gregorius starting at short over a 41 year old Jeter.  Gregorius may not be the player Jeter was in his prime, but Jeter wasn’t in his prime anymore and the Yankees had to do something to improve following Jeter’s retirement.  So, to me, Gregorius is his own man in the position.  It is up to him to succeed or fail, without regard to Jeter.  I was a huge Don Mattingly fan, but I gave Tino Martinez a chance from his first at-bat and his early struggles did not waver my support.  Tino turned out to be one of my most beloved players over the years and I never compared him to Mattingly.

It is possible that Gregorius fails.  If so, the Yankees move on to another option.  ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’.  But at this point in time, it is his time.  Let’s give him a chance…

Paul Ruhter/Gazette Staff

All I want for Christmas is…

Now if we could just send A-Rod anyway.  I know, it’s not that easy.  The most expensive DH/bench player in baseball history.  It’s too bad those dollars can’t be re-directed to a guy like Max Scherzer.  Maybe some challenges are too much for even the Yankees to overcome.  But I’d love to have the money the Yankees have probably spent trying to find a way.

–Scott