The highs and lows of the Hot Stove League, thus far…
For Yankees fans, the off-season started nicely. After early speculation that manager Joe Girardi might jump to the Chicago Cubs, he re-signed a long-term deal with the Yankees and expressed it was his desire to remain in New York. All good.
Then, Derek Jeter quickly signed a one year deal with negotiations that where smooth, quick and efficient (unlike the prior Jeter negotiations). It remains to be seen if we’ll get the Jeter of 2012 or the injured, aging 2013 model, but there’s no question that Jeter must finish his career in pinstripes. I don’t think Derek would want to go anywhere else at this point anyway, but still, he is the face of the franchise and he’ll forever be remembered as one of its legends. In the distant future, when the old greats from the 50’s Dynasty era are gone (Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, among others), it will be guys like Jeter that maintain the honor and tradition in baseball’s most storied franchise.
The Yankees struck fast in signing free agent catcher Brian McCann after last year’s parade of backups in the starting role. It gives the team its first legitimate starter at the position since Russell Martin left, and the best offensive bat at the position since Jorge Posada retired. This is a move that places backup catchers Francisco Cervelli, J.R. Murphy, and Austin Romine in a better position to succeed. At first pass, I expect Cervelli to take the backup job in spring training but the other two are capable. On the days that McCann slides to DH, the catching position will be capable hands.
Next came a big surprise. I honestly did not see the Yankees signing centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. While I have been a fan of Ellsbury’s work, it didn’t seem to be a great need for the team. Brett Gardner has been an effective centerfielder, and has the speed to burn. Still, Ellsbury’s signing upgrades the position and allows the Yankees to slide Gardner to left where he a defensive upgrade over Alfonso Soriano. The concern here is that by making Soriano the full-time DH, it does limit the DH opportunities for Derek Jeter and Brian McCann. Soriano’s bat is still very valuable, and it’s much needed in the lineup.
Then came the bittersweet day of Friday, December 6th. The night before, there had been reports that second baseman Robinson Cano had flown to Seattle, but in the morning, the early reports indicated that talks had stalled or perhaps even ended. It gave a brief ray of hope that he’d come back to the Yankees, but those hopes were soon dissolved when it was reported Cano had agreed to a 10-year $240 million deal with the Mariners. While it’s tough to lose a great player, perhaps the team’s best, it is simply too hard to justify those numbers. I have enjoyed the early 30’s version of Cano at second, but in his late 30’s and early 40’s, the prospect doesn’t look too promising at $24 million per year. That’s a huge chunk of any team’s overall payroll. I think of when Chase Utley was the premier second baseman, but now, with injuries, he has become a shell of what he once was. What happens if Cano does not age well? I guess I am not a gambling man and would prefer that the M’s take that bet. $240 million can be better spent by spreading it over multiple positions rather than locking it into only one.
This is where I find Robinson Cano to be extremely selfish. You can’t begrudge anyone from wanting as much money as they can get, but this is a team game and every team has a budget…even the Yankees. If it were me, I would have taken the Yankees offer of 7 years at $175 million because the average annual salary was stronger and I’d know that the team would be more flexible in other areas by not being locked into so many years. For those additional three years, it would be up to me to perform and if so, there would be a reward. It also would have kept the Yankee legacy intact and ensured a potential place among the team’s legends. But now, Cano is just another player who took the money and ran. He proved that money is more valuable than wins, and money is more important than helping build a strong supporting cast of quality players. That doesn’t mean Seattle doesn’t have quality players, they do, but they are a long way from contending. It is very possible that when they are ready to contend, Cano has started his career regression due to age that’s inevitable for everyone.
Cano has carried the “lazy” rap for years. While he is an exciting player at times, it was frustrating when he didn’t hustle. I think of someone like Dustin Pedroia, whose motor is always running. He creates opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be there because he is alert and proactive. He seizes the opportunities and takes advantage of them. That’s what winning ball players do. Cano is not that guy. I have never thought of him as a team player, and I didn’t view him as a player who helped raise the performance level of those around him. Rest assured the Yankees will miss his offensive production at the position. At this point, I have no idea who will be the second baseman in 2014. Kelly Johnson seems better suited to help replace Alex Rodriguez at third base, in a platoon situation. Omar Infante signed a four year deal with the Kansas City Royals, and Brandon Phillips is starting the downward slide that comes with age. David Adams, a young player who had the talent but couldn’t show it at the major league level during brief auditions, was non-tendered and is now a Cleveland Indian. It looks as though the Yankees will fill second base with a bargain basement fill-in, much like they did last year with first and third bases. I wish the organization was better stocked with up and coming second base talent, but that does not appear to be the case. I personally thought Infante would have been the best short-term option, but the Yankees allowed them to get beat by the Royals in signing the player. You know it’s an odd year when the Yankees get beat in free agency by both the Royals and the Mariners.
But enough about Cano, he is gone and so is his Yankees legacy.
Around the same time as the news had broken about the former second baseman signing with Seattle, it was reported that starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda had signed a new one year deal with the team. This was very good news to hear. Kuroda is much needed, and I am grateful that he chose to delay his return to Japan by a year or head back to his home in Southern California. So, Cashman has filled 200 of the 400 innings he previously stated were needed this off-season.
After the tumultuous events of the day, news broke on the evening of December 6th that the Yankees had signed outfielder Carlos Beltran. At 36, he is no longer the player he once was, but he is a “gamer” or as George Steinbrenner would say, a warrior. Even an aging Beltran is an upgrade over an even older Ichiro Suzuki or the outfielder still primarily funded by the Los Angeles Angels, Vernon Wells.
But after the three free agent signings, the news has mostly been about departures. Phil Hughes was the first to depart, signing a three year deal with the Minnesota Twins. It was probably a good move for Hughes. Minnesota will be less pressurized and he should have the opportunity to flourish, much like Carl Pavano was able to resurrect his career in Minneapolis after leaving New York. I certainly did not expect the Yankees to re-sign Hughes after the season he had last year, but I thought he’d go to Southern California and saw the San Diego Padres as a good fit. Nevertheless, Minneapolis is a fun city and it’s a good ballpark.
A couple of other notable defections occurred in the bullpen, where Joba Chamberlain signed a one year deal with the Detroit Tigers and Boone Logan went for three years with the Colorado Rockies. Of the two, it is Logan that I really hated to see leave. He was a trusted left-handed reliever, but it really didn’t seem like the team made much of an effort to retain his services. They obviously had other priorities, but I suppose the Yankees are hopeful that a less expensive options like Cesar Cabral will step up to fill Boone’s role. It was a foregone conclusion that Joba had thrown his last pitch for the Yankees. But admittedly, I was surprised he went to Detroit. There are worse things to do than to go to a team that is probably the best one in the American League right now, but I thought that Joba would go to the Kansas City Royals since it is closer to his hometown roots. The one year deal does give him an opportunity to try and restore the promise he once had with the Yankees. Plus, if he wins a World Series, it will help give his career a further boost.
The Yankees also lost last year’s starting catcher when they traded Chris Stewart to the Pittsburgh Pirates. This move was a given after the McCann signing combined with the surplus of backup catchers.
For as crazy as December started for the Yankees, the week of the baseball winter meetings was extremely quiet. The Yankees still have much work to do. On paper, after consideration of all plusses and minuses, they are not noticeably better than last year’s 85 win team. They still need a quality starting pitcher, a second baseman, and bullpen help. Brian Cashman has his work cut out for him between now and spring training.
I honestly do not know where the Yankees will go from here. I’d like to see the free agent signing of a pitcher like Matt Garza, but so far, the Yankees have not been one of the team’s linked to the pitcher. Same with Bronson Arroyo, who is certainly capable of eating a large number of innings as a #4 starter. For second base, the latest reports have the Yankees interested in Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs but I have no idea what he would cost in terms of talent in a trade. I will feel much better about the 2014 Yankees once the additional starting pitcher and second baseman are in the fold, but at least it is reassuring to know that Hal Steinbrenner wants to win as much as the rest of us do.
Where do we go from here?…
December 6th. For years, this has been the anniversary of my graduation from Air Force Basic Training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. But on December 6, 2013, it may have been the most tumultuous day in Yankees history in terms of arrivals and departures…or at least in recent memory.
The day started with news that talks had broken down between Robinson Cano and the Seattle Mariners. It stirred renewed hope that Cano would find his way back to the Bronx, but as quickly as the reports had come about the Mariners’ CEO blowing a gasket at salary demands from the Cano Camp and ending talks, the reports came that Cano had accepted a ten year deal from the Mariners for $240 million. Cano never called the Yankees before taking the offer, but it was a given they would not match.
It’s hard to watch your team’s best player walk away for nothing. But in this situation, I think the Yankees made the right call. After the fiasco of the Alex Rodriguez contract and what an albatross it has become, it is clear that extended contracts are not good for baseball. I saw one writer yesterday who wrote that the only player worth a ten year deal, right now, would be 22-year-old Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout. I think that’s a fairly accurate statement.
When the Yankees signed CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira to long-term deals in 2009, both of those players were significantly better players than they are today. They can continue to perform at a high level but at this point, it is equally possible for them to continue performance regression.
I can remember how painful Jason Giambi’s had become by the end. Even David Winfield’s ten year contract, regardless of how great the player was, had been a mistake as the player and the owner were bitter enemies by the time the contract expired.
I thought the Yankees’ offer of 7 years for $175 million was fair. If the Cano Camp (Team Jay Z or rather, CAA) had been more sensible in their meetings with the Yankees, I am sure that Cano probably could have squeezed out an additional year. However, Cano was dead set on getting a ten year contract, so that clearly nailed the coffin on his Yankees career. Of the two organizations, the Yankees and the Mariners, I feel strongly that the former would be more willing to take care of Cano at the end of the contract. In other words, at the end of 7 years, if the player was continuing to play at a high level, the Yankees would pay a new contract commensurate to performance with a premium paid for past accomplishments such as they’ve done with Derek Jeter. I know the Jeter negotiations were very tense a couple of years ago but this off-season’s re-signing was at a higher dollar amount than any other team would have paid. As for the Mariners, I highly doubt that Cano will be in Seattle at the end of the ten years. When he begins the eventual downward trend as he ages, Seattle will be looking to move the contract, even if they have to pay cash, to cut their losses. The odds that Cano would have been in New York at the end of 7 years would have been substantially greater.
I am not sure that Cano has fully comprehended how he has trashed his Yankee legacy. I personally have no desire to ever see the player honored in Memorial Park and have absolutely no qualms with the team re-issuing #24 to another player. Maybe time will heal the feelings, but Cano showed no loyalty or respect for the fans of New York and simply took the money and ran. He was a good Yankee, but he was not a great one. For a player who enjoyed being a star in New York City, it will be interesting to see how he adapts to being out of the spotlight. The crowds attending Seattle away games will be smaller and will have far fewer “home team” fans in attendance. With the Yankees, it’s like being a rock star as Jason Giambi once said. Nothing against Seattle, it is a beautiful city and a great ballpark, but it is a team that is, and will continue to be, inferior to the much stronger Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers, and Oakland A’s. They do not have a history and tradition of winning and I do not expect that to change. Cano has his money. Good for him. But his days of playing for an organization that wants to win every year and considers missing the play-offs to be a disaster are over.
With Friday’s flurry of activity, it was almost an afterthought that the Yankees also lost outfielder Curtis Granderson. Grandy has a good player for most of his Yankees career, but of course, he missed the majority of the 2013 season due to injuries. He leaves the Yankees for a tougher park to hit with the New York Mets. Maybe his game will play well for the Mets, or maybe he becomes the next Jason Bay. The Yankees did not show a strong desire for Grandy’s return after he rejected the team’s qualifying offer and had more preference for guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, or even the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp. At the moment, with the signings of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, there wouldn’t have been any room in the crowded outfield for Granderson. While the Yankees have stated they intend to keep Brett Gardner and move him to left field (pushing Alfonso Soriano to DH), I still suspect that Gardner will be expendable in the team’s pursuit of quality starting pitching. I see the DH role being better utilized for guys like Derek Jeter and Brian McCann as ways to rest them than moving the admittedly defensively challenged Soriano there on a full-time basis. My feelings about Granderson’s departure are significantly different than those of Cano. I felt that Granderson made the best decision for him both personally and professionally. I am thankful he was a Yankee and I wish him well with his new team. I am sure that he has a few more productive years ahead of him.
Friday also saw the return of starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda and the addition of outfielder Carlos Beltran. It’s apparent that Beltran’s arrival is tied to Cano’s departure since the team finally acquiesced to Beltran’s desire for a third year, but both signings are essential for the 2014 Yankees. With only CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova holding down spots in the starting rotation, Kuroda is a key anchor for the rotation. He may be no more than a #3 starter next year, but he is a strong stabilizing force. The Yankees still need more starting pitching besides the hope that Michael Pineda and/or some of the Triple A arms will be able to take spots.
I really was unsure if Kuroda would return. It has been said that he wants to play a final year in Japan before he retires, and there was talk that he might be interested in returning to Southern California since his family still lives there. But Kuroda is an honorable man, and it was so telling in his final year with the Los Angeles Dodgers when he didn’t want to be traded because the Dodgers were the team he started the season with and he didn’t want to go elsewhere. I did wonder if the pull off the Dodgers, assuming they were interested, would have been too much. But I think Kuroda has enjoyed playing for the Yankees and his sense of loyalty led him back to the team for one more year. It’s a pleasure to have him back in the fold.
Welcome to the Bronx, Carlos Beltran! Granted, the Yankees have more to do if they want to return to October baseball, but Beltran is one of the post-season greats. Some guys thrive when the pressure is on (unlike Alex Rodriguez) and Beltran is a leader in that category. It has always been said that he wanted to play in the Bronx and had been willing to sign for a discount when he ultimately signed with the Mets. He finally gets the chance at the latter stages of his career. He is an offensive upgrade over Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells, and helps to offset the loss of Cano’s production.
It is interesting that the 2014 Yankee outfield will be comprised of two guys who played for the opposing teams in the 2013 World Series. One with a ring and one without. At the moment, they’ll be joined in the outfield by Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano although, as previously stated above, I think Gardner will be moved for pitching help.
December 6th will long be remembered as the day the Yankees lost Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, but brought in Hiroki Kuroda and Carlos Beltran. There is much work yet to do with Cano’s loss, but the arrivals of Beltran, Brian McCann, and Jacoby Ellsbury bring guys with something to prove. Kelly Johnson is also a Yankee and the starting second baseman at the moment, although I do think he’ll be the super-sub by the time the team breaks camp next spring. I do not know who will be the second baseman in 2014 but the Yankees will figure it out. As David Robertson said, they always do.
From Beantown to the Bronx…
I have heard many Yankee fans voice frustration about Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract (primarily the length, not the dollars). I know that he has had his health challenges, but I like the move. I respected Ellsbury during his days in Boston and I like the elements of his game. It can be argued that he is Brett Gardner, but he is a better version. As a player who once said that he’d never play for the Yankees, it is nice to see that the history and tradition of the organization were overriding factors, in addition to the monetary reasons. The Red Sox weren’t going to extend the years to Ellsbury so it was inevitable that he’d leave. There is a sting with the Red Sox Nation that he went with the Yankees, and there are probably parallels to the Cano situation (dollars over loyalty), but at the end of the day, I am glad that Ells is a Yank.
And then there’s next week…
As the baseball winter meetings loom on the immediate horizon, there should be more activity for Yankees fans. This winter is so dramatically different than last year’s status quo approach. After missing the play-offs and the retirement of a few players, there were more holes to fill. Brian McCann solidifies the catching position, and Francisco Cervelli will return, after now that he’s completed his 50-game suspension and is healthy, to be McCann’s caddy. McCann gives the Yankees a better catcher than they had in 2012 starter, Russell Martin, and the strongest offensive threat at the position since the retired Jorge Posada.
Jacoby Ellsbury gives the Yankees options. He strengthens the team up the middle, and like McCann, has a swing that tailored for Yankee Stadium. He may not hit a lot of home runs, but he’ll be a terror on the bases. His presence, despite what the team says publicly, makes Brett Gardner expendable. For a team with weak prospects at the upper levels, it will take a Brett Gardner to bring a quality return. The Yankees need better starting pitching, a second baseman, and some help in the bullpen. They also need to cover for the expected absence of the Loser, Alex Rodriguez. So, if there are any certainties, it is that the Yankees will be active next week. I am sure that the website, MLB Trade Rumors, will be busier than Grand Central Station over the holidays.
Ala The Walking Dead, let’s say goodbye to those that we’ve lost…
- Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
- Curtis Granderson, New York Mets
- Phil Hughes, Minnesota Twins
- Chris Stewart, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Mike Harkey, bullpen coach, now pitching coach, Arizona Diamondbacks
Thanks for the memories, but rest assured, we’ll be okay.
The right to be pessimistic…
Anybody who has read my blog knows that I have been very pessimistic about the 2013 Yankees. I didn’t feel right about the team coming out of training camp as the Yankees did nothing to upgrade the talent on the team and then when the season started, it became a comedy watching all of the regulars, well, for the most part, end with significant time on the disabled list.
A slight bit of optimism started to slip into my thinking last week when the Yankees started inching closer to the second wild card slot. But that was quickly dashed by the weekend sweep at the hands of the AL East leading Boston Red Sox. The Yankees weren’t just defeated in the series, they felt like a minor league team against giants. It “felt” as though it was impossible for the Yankees to take charge of a game and even when they did hold a lead, it seemed very fragile and in retrospect, it was.
I was reading Joel Sherman’s recent column about the bleak prospect for 2014 and I have to agree. CC Sabathia has shown nothing to lead one to believe that he’ll restore his status as the team’s ace. It is very possible that we are watching the final pinstripe days for Hiroki Kuroda who has been the team’s best pitcher. Ivan Nova, after a brief successful run, has shown he is nothing more than a roller-coaster. Phil Hughes is auditioning for his job elsewhere next season and not doing a very good job. I do not see any scenario that brings Andy Pettitte back for another season. I am sure that this one has been a grind and at his age, that’s enough to pack his bags and head back home to the Lone Star State for the final time. He’ll be a spring training regular as an instructor, I am sure, but as for Yankee Stadium starts, the end is near. I honestly have no clue what season’s rotation will look like other than CC anchoring the bottom end.
As much as I want to see the return of Robinson Cano, I don’t want the Yankees to break the bank. It’s that type of mentality that led them to their current predicament. But I recognize when Hal and Hank Steinbrenner make comments that there’s a limit to what they’ll spend (even if it is the right thing to do), it will psychologically send a message to Cano that maybe they don’t want him as bad as the crosstown Mets or the ‘spend-foolishly’ Los Angeles Angels. The outfield is a disaster with the cast of characters that can call themselves the “Forty-Something” Club. Granted, Brett Gardner isn’t 40, but he’s also proven that he is DL-prone. That’s not an affliction that gets better with age. We’ll most likely see the return of Vernon Wells for no other reason than he won’t cost the Yankees anything toward the salary cap. Derek Jeter is a Hall of Famer, but as a 40-year-old shortstop playing on a bad ankle, he’s not a guy that you want to see on the field for 140 or 150 games. Mark Teixeira is on the express train to insignificance. Chris Stewart has done a decent job as the replacement for Russell Martin, but he’s a backup on almost any other club.
A look at the Yankees’ farm system does not show anyone that is ready to be handed a first class ticket to the Bronx. This is definitely an organization in a state of flux, and I am not convinced that it is one that GM Brian Cashman can survive. I think the Yankees will bring back Joe Girardi (there’s not really anyone else that stands out as a surefire upgrade) and someone has to pay the price for Hal Steinbrenner’s frugalness. Cashman’s mantra was building the farm system, but as it stands today, it is a system filled with overhyped prospects with the best talent years from maturing.
How do the Yankees overhaul their aging, overpaid and underperforming roster? Boston’s GM Ben Cherington gets great credit for his salary purge last year that led to his team being on the fast track to the World Series. Unfortunately, I do not see any other team willing to accept the Yankees’ excess baggage. Are we facing a 1980’s drought? I hope not, but then again, I am not seeing anything that would instill confidence. I hope the team’s off-season meetings are about how to improve the team and not to avoid exceeding the 2014 salary cap. Another 2013-like year, and this is going to be a very difficult hole to dig out of. I would not expect the Yankees to compete again until after the contracts of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, and the other older vets are distant memories.
Meanwhile, my favorite NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, is 0-2. 2013 is not playing out to be a very good sports year for me. I need help. Hey, San Jose Sharks, can you do something to lift my spirits?…
The end is near for the Yankees but sadly that also means….
The end of the legendary career of my personal favorite Yankee, Mariano Rivera. He’s been my favorite since he was zooming fastballs in the 8th inning prior to the entrance of closer John Wetteland. Mo has been the epitome of the ideal baseball player. When I think of all the Yankee greats, there is some sadness that I never got to see them play, like the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig. But in Mariano Rivera, I saw a pitcher that my grandchildren will be talking about. I’ve been very proud of his career and accomplishments and even in those moments of failure, there was never sadness because you knew that Mo gave it his all. It’s been a pleasure to be a fan during his reign and his career will always be one that I’ll be so thankful and happy for. I thought his words in the Fenway Park dugout were sincere, simple and so-Mo. He is and has been the best…
The Year of the Disabled List…
Just as we start to get some of the regulars back to reinforce the over-achieving bargain bin replacements, Curtis Granderson is headed back to the bench for a month due to a broken pinkie suffered in Friday night’s Tampa Bay Rays game. This season seems to prove the old adage that if it can go wrong, it will. In Granderson’s case, each return to the DL almost solidifies that he is playing his final year in pinstripes.
Yesterday morning, I was reading an article about how the Yankees were trying to figure out how to rotate four outfielders into three spots. The article seemed to imply that among Vernon Wells, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Granderson, Ichiro would be the odd man out given how strong Wells has played so far this year. I guess Granderson’s pinkie came to the defense of Ichiro as it will keep him on the field for the foreseeable future.
I hope that Granderson’s return to the DL results in the return of Brennan Boesch who has been spending a few weeks at Scranton/Wilkes Barre.
I saw the Yankees have activated Ivan Nova. I suppose that Nova now knows what it must have felt like to be Wally Pipp. Granted, David Phelps is no Lou Gehrig but Phelps is clearly the better starting pitcher than Nova. The battle for a spot in the starting rotation is no doubt between Nova and Phil Hughes. I have watched enough of The Phil Hughes Show. I am ready to change the channel even if that means putting Nova in his spot. Of course, Hughes will probably go to another city and win a Cy Young but some guys just aren’t cut out for New York and I think Hughes is one of those guys. Or it could be that he’s just not a good or consistent pitcher…
David Adams has been a pleasant surprise at third since his call-up from the minors. When the Yankees placed him on waivers earlier in the season in order to remove him from the 40 man roster and return him to the minor leagues, I was surprised that he wasn’t claimed by another team. He has always had potential and it is good to see him finally enjoy a cup of coffee in the big leagues. I wonder how this bodes for Kevin Youkilis when he returns. As well as Adams is playing, he does not deserve to be sent back down. I like the idea of Adams and Youk at third so I am sure that Joe Girardi will find time for both. My only disappointment will be when Alex Rodriguez returns. I have truly enjoyed the time away and frankly I’d love it if A-Rod never returned.
Can Sox Blood Succeed in the Bronx?…
I would really like to see Austin Romine start to hit. All of the reports indicate that his defense will ensure a career as a backup catcher and the difference in the ability to start is his offensive game which has been feeble thus far. Everyone knows that Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Romine are just keeping the plate warm for the next couple of years until highly touted prospect Gary Sanchez arrives. Still, I’d like to see ex-Red Sock Kevin Romine’s son succeed in the Bronx.
#23 deserves so much better than this…
I feel really bad for Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Going into the season with ridiculously high expectations, it was clear that this would be a very challenging season for Donnie Baseball. His recent comments about the ill-construction of the team were on mark and were said in a very professional Donnie-like manner. I see that the Dodgers executive team is giving Mattingly a vote of confidence, however, that’s never a good sign. I still hope to see the day where Mattingly takes the field as Yankees manager, but I do not want to see him unceremoniously dumped in LA. He is playing with the hand he was dealt. I do not blame Mattingly for the Dodgers’ early season struggles as I feel that he is doing the best he can. The blame should be placed on the GM and the ownership group.
Put a great manager in a good organization and see what happens…
It’s fun to see Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona having fun again. He is another one of my favorite managers, even during his time in Boston. He is 1-1 in the first two games of a four game set in Boston, but winning the first game had to be a thrill. Here’s to hoping for more success for Tito on Saturday and Sunday.
I guess Larry Platt (aka “Pants on the Ground”) is unavailable…
I didn’t watch American Idol this past season (apparently I wasn’t alone), but I find the show’s choice of Jennifer Hudson to be a curious one. I heard that they are also looking at Kelly Clark and Adam Lambert or Clay Aiken for the other two judge seats. Interesting that they are only looking at their own homegrown talent. I am not sure if it will be enough to bring the viewers back. I am watching The Voice (and have from the start). I like the chemistry among the show’s judges and their format is much more positive with a better focus on quality talent. The show didn’t lose anything in judge chemistry with the substitutions of Shakira and Usher for Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green. I think it is time to sunset American Idol and let the younger shows take the main stage. Well, on the latter point, they already have…
Is that Hal saying “I told you so”?…
That’s the one word which comes to mind when I think of the Yankees’ team play so far in the still very young 2013 season.
Sure, the Yanks have lost a few games they should have won but a week into May and the Yanks stand at 18-12. They are just a game and a half behind AL East Leader Boston entering tonight’s play. Maybe the bigger surprise is that the pitching-rich Tampa Bay Rays at 14-16 and “everbody’s pre-season favorite”, the Toronto Blue Jays, are 11-21. I fully expect changes in the AL East standings as the season progresses but given the hand the Yankees were dealt, they’ve fared much better than expected.
I should be happy that Alex Rodriguez has started his rehab in Tampa, which has included some light hitting. But of all the injured players, A-Rod is the one that I am not looking forward to returning. I was hopeful that Kevin Youkilis would have a ‘comeback player of the year’ type of season but it was not meant to be as Youk found his usual spot on the DL. His injury prompted the Yankees to acquire Colorado Rockies third baseman Chris Nelson to back up former Rockie Jayson Nix. I honestly cannot say which player I’d prefer at third as neither excites me but I’d still rather see them play than A-Rod.
I assume Curtis Granderson will be the first of the injured to return. I don’t think anyone expects him to slide back into centerfield but his presence will create challenges for Manager Joe Girardi to find at-bats for Vernon Wells, Brett Gardner, and Ichiro Suzuki. There’s no way that Travis Hafner is giving up DH with his play. I feel bad for Brennan Boesch as I like having him on the team.
Mark Teixeira should be back in the not-so-distant futre. Lyle Overbay is certainly not the player Tex is but Overbay has given the Yanks some early clutch hits that Tex, a notorious slow starter, never could have.
With Derek Jeter out until after the All-Star Break, and Eduardo Nunez proving to be no more capable than a spare, the Yanks do need to bring in a veteran shortstop to plug the hole until DJ is ready to return.
Since it is apparent that Austin Romine is only in New York to “watch”, I’ll be glad when Francisco Cervelli is able to come back and take starts aways from the offensively-challenged Chris Stewart.
I am worried about CC Sabathia’s drop in velocity, like everyone else, and Andy Pettitte’s recent struggles. There are no great starters waiting the wings. But in the pen, I was pleased with the 3-up, 3-down debut inning by Preston Claiborne. In his first major league appearance, he pitched two shutout innings in Sunday’s loss to the Oakland A’s. He certainly did his part to ensure the Yanks were in the position to win the game in the bottom of the 9th. It was not to be, but through no fault of Preston’s.
How do you teach Greatness?…
I remember when I first heard that Mariano Rivera would be 43 at the end of his current deal. I was worried that he’d be unable to sustain his level of superiority. But, man, was I ever so wrong! Rivera has long been my favorite active Yankee but time catches up with all…or does it? Mo continues to astound at his age and has proven that if he wanted to continue to play beyond this season, millions (dollars and fans) would be waiting for him. A true legend in our lifetime…
A very good day in April…
I was very skeptical when former Miami Dolphins GM Rick Spielman took over as the GM for the Minnesota Vikings, but draft after draft, he has proven to be very astute. Going into the 2013 NFL Draft, I had hoped for a play-making wide receiver in the first round. When the Vikings first selection came up at #23, they had no choice but to take DT Sharrif Floyd. Floyd had been a top 5 pick in many mock drafts and it was a position of need. At #25, I was hoping for either the play-making wide receiver or a hard-hitting middle linebacker. The Vikings went with Xavier Rhodes, a cornerback, and it was hard to argue the selection given his height and talent to play with the division’s big receivers. I felt that the Vikes had missed the opportunity to get a legitimate #2 receiver to go with free agent signee Greg Jennings, but then it was announced that the Vikings had thrown a plethora of picks at the New England Patriots to get the #28 spot which they finally used to grab the play-making wide receiver (Cordarrelle Patterson). In my years in Dallas, I always remember former head coach of the Cowboys, Jimmy Johnson, talk about “playmakers”. In the 2013 Draft, Rick Spielman nailed three in the first round.
I’ve always liked Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, but I knew his days were numbered when the Vikings burned a pick on a punter. The NFL can be a cold, hard business and it is always evitable that someone will lose their job to a younger, cheaper talent. I cannot find fault in the Vikings decision to part ways with Kluwe but I thank him for his time in Minnesota. He is a good punter and he won’t be unemployed for long. Now, if new punter Jeff Locke can have a rookie season like kicker Blair Walsh did last year…
With Matt Cassel now on the roster as the backup QB, the pressure will be squarely on Christian Ponder’s shoulders. Even if Cassel’s time in KC was less than stellar, I am sure the coaching staff won’t hesitate to pull Ponder if he continues to regress. I liked the Vikings free agent signing of former Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg. His senior season was a disappointment, but he was a big-time talent during his junior year. I am hopeful that he can excel in his opportunities in front of Head Coach Leslie Frazier and his staff.
My heart goes out to Boston…
I have posted on this blog since prior to the Boston Marathon so I am late to the party to add my comments. However, my heart goes out to all those who were impacted directly or indirectly by the tragic deeds of heartless terrorists. I will never understand what drove Tamerlan Tsarnaev to his horrific actions or why he chose to ruin his brother’s life in convincing him to participate. Running in the Boston Marathon has long been a personal goal and it will not dissuade me achieving that goal one day. I have many friends in Boston and the heart of the city is incredibly tough and resilient. You don’t have to love the Red Sox to love Boston. Boston, in my opinion, is the premier city in America. They will persevere and they’ll never let anyone take their city. Boston Strong, to the end…
Team Question Mark…
It’s March 22nd and I am still waiting for that deal that instills confidence for the 2013 New York Yankees, but so far, it’s been like an unsuccessful Vegas weekend. I want to throw out the surgery recovery for Alex Rodriguez because I remain happy that he is not in the lineup regardless of the cost. Addition by subtraction. Sorry, I am just not a fan of the narcissistic one. Even with the injury risk, I prefer to see Kevin Youkilis man third base for the Yanks. But throwing that aside, the Yankees have lost Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira to injury. While both are expected to be back in May, there have been numerous professional reports that Teixeira could be lost for the year. The Yankees lost their backup first baseman when right fielder Nick Swisher signed with the Cleveland Indians.
The catching battle is between two perennial backup catchers. I fully expect Francisco Cervelli to win the job, but I do not have full faith and confidence in his ability as a starter. I am sure that Chris Stewart will see plenty of time behind the plate this year. I had quietly hoped that Austin Romine would surprise in training camp and claim the job, but now that he’s back in the minors, his arrival won’t come until later in the year and perhaps even next year. Meanwhile, I am hoping that top catching prospect Gary Sanchez can start to accelerate his development to hasten his arrival in the Bronx.
Despite Derek Jeter’s optimistic outlook, it’s unlikely that he’ll be ready on Opening Day so the Yanks will most likely open against the Boston Red Sox with Eduardo Nunez at short.
I am assuming that Ichiro Suzuki will be shifted to left to temporarily replace Granderson, so right field will most likely be a committee led by recent signee Brennan Boesch. I am hopeful the team also finds room for Ben Francisco, but neither bat will rival the production the Yanks received from Swisher.
Brett Gardner is coming off an injury-lost season so it’s not 100% that he’ll be the Gardy of old. So, the only “sure thing” in the Yankees lineup right now is second baseman Robinson Cano. Given his recent health history, I would certainly not label DH Travis Hafner as a sure thing. If the Yankees lost Cano, this season would be lost. As it stands, I still expect a late March trade to bring in a capable first baseman. Gaby Sanchez of the Pittsburgh Pirates is the name that comes to mind. There’s no way that it will be a frontline first bagger, not under the regime of Hal the accountant.
The Yankees are the oldest team in baseball and rarely has the oldest team succeeded. This will be a tough year. Yes, the Yankees will compete for a play-off spot but I do not see them repeating as AL East Champions. I know that Red Sox fans have been salivating all off-season (along with Rays and Jays fans).
At least I learned what a lisfranc injury is…
While I was pleased to hear the Yankees have re-signed former ace starter Chien-Ming Wang, he’s a bigger question mark than any of the current players on the team. The foot injury suffered against the Houston Astros years ago led to Wang’s subsequent departure for the Washington Nationals, and he really only enjoyed one reasonably healthy season while away. I seriously doubt that he’ll ever be the 19 game winner that he was a few years ago. He does give the Yankees some insurance to trade someone like David Phelps or Ivan Nova for a quality bat.
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen…
I have been a Yankees fan for a number of years but this is clearly one of the most fragile times that I’ve experienced in recent memory. The Yankees are only an injury or two away from disaster. Sure, some players could step up and have career years but the range of potential success to non-success have never been wider. The pressure on Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman will be as high as it has ever been. It’s unfortunate that they are the front mean for Team Hal. I am not quite sure why the Yankees suddenly feel that they can be the AL version of the St Louis Cardinals. My favorite teams, in order, are the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The pressure on Girardi and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly are higher than any other manager in baseball. Not that I am against a scenario that could ultimately bring Donnie Baseball to the Bronx as manager, but still, both men deserve better than the hands they have been dealt.
Missing the point…
Life has been incredibly difficult since the Yankees, expectedly, lost to the Detroit Tigers in the play-offs last October. While the Angels were adding Josh Hamilton to go with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout and the Dodgers were adding Zack Greinke to go with Clayton Kershaw, the Yankees did nothing. Okay, they did fork over the cash to bring back senior citizens Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, but there was nothing to excite the fan base.
Excite the fan base…
Why is that so difficult? So, we watch Russell Martin leave for the 2013 version of the 1950’s Kansas City A’s…the Pittsburgh Pirates. No worries, rather than chase a proven catcher like A.J. Pierzynski, the Yankees announced that they’ll go with an in-house candidate. So, that leaves a career back-up, a AAA catcher last year, and a minor leaguer who missed most of last season due to injury. Nick Swisher leaves, but no worry, we have an aging 39-year-old former great player in Ichiro Suzuki who is now sporting more gray hair than Bill Clinton and was clearly a player on decline until a brief renaissance after his trade to the Yankees.
Last year’s closer, Rafael Soriano, departs so what is the response? We have ace set up man David Robertson returning and a rehabilitating former closer in David Aardsma on the roster. If memory serves, Robertson was not effective during his brief stint as closer following Mariano Rivera’s season-ending injury. Plus, Rivera is a not-so-young 43 years old. He is a first ballot Hall of Famer and my favorite Yankee for a number of years, but time is destined to catch up with even the greatest.
The bench strength (Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez) depart, and the Yankees answer by signing former rival Kevin Youkilis and role player Matt Diaz. I sent a picture of a clean shaven Youkilis to a Red Sox friend asking if this was really THE Kevin Youkilis (as he looks so less intimidating than those goatee’d Red Sox years). The response was, “I hear he’s hurt (oblique)…yes, that’s him”. The only thing I know about Diaz is that he pronounces his name DYE-az rather than DEE-az. All I ever saw him as was a part-timer for the Atlanta Braves.
We go to camp and the calendar doesn’t even turn to March before we hear that Curtis Granderson is lost for 10 weeks due to a broken forearm. Immediately, the response from the Yankees is that they’ll cover the loss in-house. Believe me, I get the reasons for why you wouldn’t chase down Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells for 10 measly weeks but Granderson represented a major part of the team’s offense. You KNOW that Mark Teixera’s bat won’t show up until at least June. Derek Jeter is another year older and coming off injury. The outfield is full of those Dave Collins type players…speed first, light hitting outfielders. It’s too bad that Billy Martin isn’t around to consult with Joe Girardi on the fine art of small ball.
My trust in the Yankees farm system to produce a quality major league starter is weak at best. We hear how great Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are, yet now we sit with Banuelos recovering from Tommy John surgery and Betances proving himself to be Prince Overrated. I look at guys like Al Leiter and Doug Drabek. They struggled when called up to the Yankees but prospered as quality major leaguers elsewhere. It has been awhile since a Jeter or Robinson Cano burst onto the scene. So, my faith in the minor league system producing a surprise that immediately helps the Yankees this year is weak.
Today, the news comes out through GM Brian Cashman that the Yankees did make a significant offer to free agent to be Robinson Cano. Given that the news didn’t say the Yankees actually signed Cano, I see this as a negative move. If there is resistance on the player’s front, this is most likely going to lead to Cano’s free agency in the fall. With Hal Steinbrenner’s “financially responsible” approach, that most likely means that some other team makes an incredibly ridiculous offer to snatch Cano from the Bronx.
As I write this, the Yankes are 1-6 in spring training.
Excite the fan base. Why is that so difficult Mr. Steinbrenner?…