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.
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?…
Bobby Valentine’s hire…
I am still surprised that the Boston Red Sox ownership and management team did not have a clear plan of succession when they failed to back former manager Terry Francona at the end of the season. Sure, Francona left on his terms but the lack of support had as much to do with the decision as anything. So, if ownership felt that they wanted a change, they should have had a short list of potential replacements in mind. Theo Epstein moved more quickly in Chicago when they named Sox candidate Dale Sveum as their manager. The Sox search just felt “messy” to an outsider like me.
Still, they probably did as well as they could with the hiring of Bobby Valentine. There is no question that he is a superior tactician. He is very passionate, which is an attribute that I have always admired. I cannot say that I’ve been a Bobby V fan in my life. I lived in Dallas during his years as the manager of the Texas Rangers. But I respect his knowledge, skills and high desire to win. At different points during the last few years, there have been times he has been mentioned as a possible Yankees manager. You don’t have to like the guy personally if he can get the job done. I think one of my friends referred to Bobby as “swarmy” and it’s a good description. Nevertheless, I am sure that Bobby will prove himself worthy of the Red Sox Nation and they’ll love him. Meanwhile, we’ll just continue our loathing of him which fits since he is now with a bitter rival.
I would like to see if Bobby can have a positive impact on pitcher Jon Lester. Lester has been one of my favorite players, despite his uniform. He is an ace, and capable of carrying the high expectations that go with it. 2011 was a regression year for Lester so hopefully he’ll get back on track in 2012 and clearly establish himself as the leader of the Red Sox rotation.
…and Terry Francona’s ire…
In recent years, I admittedly lessened my dislike for the Boston Red Sox and it was primarily because of my respect for manager Terry Francona. In my mind, Joe Torre had been the model of a superior manager, and the Francona mold was in the same class. I do not know the inner workings of the Red Sox organization, but I am still surprised that they didn’t support Francona based on comments Tito has made during interviews. I was even more surprised to hear that he had to defend himself against questions about painkillers during his interview with the St. Louis Cardinals. Here is a manager that won two World Series for an organization that had not won since 1918, or when Babe Ruth was still on the roster. It’s incredible to think of how many Red Sox managers failed where Tito succeeded. I think teams missed the boat in not aggressively pursuing Tito this off-season. Hopefully, teams won’t make the same mistake next year.
All quiet on the Western front…
The days leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas seem so incredibly quiet compared to life under the Boss. While I recognize that part of it is posturing by the Yankees to avoid overpaying for players, there is the realization that this is a different ownership group even if it is still “in the family”. The Yankees did not really make any notable moves last season outside of signing catcher Russell Martin and bringing in pitchers Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. To fail to upgrade the team this year is a mistake in my opinion. Last year’s roster was easily defeated by the Detroit Tigers in the play-offs. While I realize that anything can happen in a short series, I didn’t have the sense or “feel” that the Yankees were going to prevail. It almost seemed as though it was inevitable the Yankees would lose. That’s a bad feeling. The team needs bench or role players that can come through like Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui used to, and they need help at the top of the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia.
I hopeful that the team can re-sign Eric Chavez, Andrew Jones and Luis Ayala. Chavez is a perfect fit behind Alex Rodriguez, assuming that he can stay healthy, and Jones was a great fourth outfielder if he is content with resuming that type of role for the upcoming season. Ayala seems to be garnering much attention with at least six teams interested.
I like the one rumor that I heard about the Yankees possibly being interested in Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Kyle Drabek. He would definitely be a pitcher that I’d target if I were the GM. As a fan, the trade of Doug Drabek hurt at the time and it hurt even more when Drabek went on to achieve great success with the Pittsburgh Pirates. While acquiring Kyle Drabek has nothing to do with his father as he has great potential on his own right, it would be nice to have the son of Doug Drabek in the organization. Interestingly, the Yankees had obtained Doug Drabek in a trade with the Chicago White Sox for shortstop Roy Smalley. If they had held onto him that trade would have been remembered as one of the Yankees better trades. As it was, the Yankees traded him to the Pirates for Rick Rhoden, who was serviceable but not great.
Of the free agent pitchers, I am still most interested in Mark Buehrle. I think he’d fit perfectly into the middle of the Yankees rotation. I like C.J. Wilson but I can understand the team’s apprehension given the dollars that have been mentioned to sign him. If Yu Darvish is posted later this off-season, I really would like to see the Yankees be aggressive in pursuing him. I am convinced that he’ll have greater major league success than Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. The negative is obviously the cost of the posting fee that it will take to get the job done. The Red Sox paid over $51 million for the rights to negotiate with Dice-K, and apparently, it will take a similar if not higher number to land Darvish.
If the Yankees were to include outfielder Nick Swisher in a trade for a starting pitcher, they’d need to find a replacement. As a fan, I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill type of trade to fill the void…acquiring a talented young outfielder with much promise who has yet fulfilled those expectations. It’s a high risk move, but as in the case of O’Neill, high reward. Curtis Granderson has thrived in a Yankees uniform despite the sluggish start, and it’s better to catch a player before he hits the upward arc of his career in terms of cost. If the Yankees tried to acquire Granderson from the Tigers today, there’s no way that they could get it done with Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke (and that’s with Kennedy being mentioned in the NL Cy Young race this year).
Brace yourself, here comes Roller-Coaster Week!…
The upcoming week is always my favorite week of the off-season. The Hot Stove League is at its pinnacle. Even if the Yankees do not do anything, it is still a thrilling ride. It’s fun to talk and think about all the potential possibilities, even as far-reaching as some may sound. My primary wish is for the Cardinals to get their long-anticipated deal with Albert Pujols done so that we can move on to other storylines. There’s no way that he is going to Chicago or Miami, and at the end of the day, he is and always will be a Cardinal.
My preferred landing spot for Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, if he decides to continue playing, is the Miami Marlins. I do not want to see him go to the Mets, Red Sox, or any other AL East rival including the Tampa Bay Rays.
Good move, Bad move…
The Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite National League team, although I do not have the passion for the team or the sense of loyalty that I hold for the Yankees. My affection for them began when Joe Torre was named manager (previously I had considered the San Francisco Giants as my NL team) and it has continued with one of my all-time favorite players as the current Dodgers manager, Don Mattingly. I am dismayed with the ownership situation and do not have any respect for Frank McCourt, but I am optimistic that the sale of the team will restore the luster of the storied franchise.
While it was good for the Dodgers to lock up outfielder Matt Kemp long-term, I do question the move to sign free agent pitcher Chris Capuano. The cost was too great ($10 million for two years) for a journeyman pitcher who is average to average-minus with no upside. If this move prevents free agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda from returning, then it’s an even greater mistake. I don’t know how much it will cost to sign Kuroda and I realize that he is 37, but he’s still a better pitcher than Capuano.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…
I was not excited when the Minnesota Vikings trade a 6th round draft pick to the Washington Redskins for QB Donovan McNabb before the season started, but I did realize the team needed a veteran presence. McNabb was a failure for the Vikings, and I was glad to see the team finally cut bait with his release this past week. I am not convinced he can thrive in any environment, contrary to what head coach Leslie Frazier may say. I think the Vikings simply found out what the Philadelphia Eagles knew and what the Redskins found out last season. He’s done. I was pleasantly surprised to see QB Sage Rosenfels return as the third string QB after his release from the Miami Dolphins. It’s not that I expect Rosenfels to take any regular season snaps this time around, but he’s a good insurance policy and allows the Vikings to continue to use second string QB Joe Webb in a variety of roles.
It’s tough when your favorite football team is playing so bad that you actually hope for losses to ensure a high draft pick. The Vikings are only two games behind the Indianapolis Colts in the sweepstakes for Stanford QB Andrew Luck. I am a fan of Vikings QB Christian Ponder, but even I would gladly take Luck over Ponder. So, with the Denver Broncos playing the Vikings today, all I can say is ‘Go Tim Tebow!’ as a way to bring good “Luck”!…
The Yankees win the Grapefruit League Championship!
Break open the champagne!
Bring on the lights and cameras!
Let the party begin!
What? You mean the games don’t count? Are you telling me that the Yankees are champions of games that mean absolutely nothing?
Oh well, it’s good momentum to take to Baltimore after the brief trip home to face the Chicago Cubs for two exhibition games at the new stadium.
Speaking of the Cubs, it’s appropriate that Lou Piniella will be the opposing manager and the Cubs starting pitcher for Friday night will be Ted Lilly. And, of course, Alfonso Soriano will be there. It’s a great way to introduce America to the new Stadium!
BAD TRADE REVISITED
The Yankees beat the Phillies yesterday 8-5 to secure the best record in the Grapefruit League.
The Phillies losing pitcher was 21-year-old Kyle Drabek.
That brought back memories of one of the Yankees bad trades. After the 1986 season, the Yankees traded Kyle’s father, Doug, to the Pittsburgh Pirates, along with Brian Fisher and Logan Easley, for Rick Rhoden, Cecilio Guante, and Tyrone Slothrop.
It’s no wonder the late 80’s were not happy times for Yankees fans.
IS HE RETIRED OR NOT?
Reports circulated yesterday that Yankees PA announcer Bob Sheppard had retired. However, according to the Yankees, those reports were inaccurate. It remains to be seen if Sheppard’s health will improve enough to allow his return, but at least there’s still hope. It would be great if he could make at least one final return to the new Stadium.
Bob Sheppard in 1951/Daily News
Regardless of who wins the Yankees utility infield role (Angel Berroa or Ramiro Pena), the Yankees will have to clear room on the 40-man roster. Therefore, someone will be moved soon. I am not expecting any major transactions, or any attempts to find a better third base option.
Congratulations to Brett Gardner for winning this year’s James P. Dawson Award as the best rookie in Yankees camp. But, of course, given how much he played at the end of last season, it doesn’t seem like he should still be classified as a “rookie” (even though technically he is).
Finally, I was sad to see Megan Joy go on American Idol last night. I realize she wasn’t as talented as Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey or Lil Rounds, but I liked her quirkiness and unique style of singing (sorry for the non-baseball comment)…