Happy New Year to all Baseball Fans!…
January 1, 2014. Time to replace the calendars. With the arrival of the New Year, it brings optimism for baseball fans everywhere as they anticipate whether or not their team has done enough to ensure October success. Boston fans dream of a back-to-back championship, while others hope they can be the ones to de-throne the defending champs. In January, anything is possible, although arguably some teams have a much better chance than others.
As a Yankees fan, it has been a bittersweet off-season. The team finally made some bold moves after a couple of years of inactivity in signing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, but the loss of Robinson Cano will hurt. The team still has not done enough to improve the starting rotation nor has it repaired the losses in the pen.
I thought the Washington Nationals did a good job in bringing in Doug Fister for its starting rotation. He was a solid performer for the Detroit Tigers and he should help provide back-end stability for the frontline starters.
The Boston Red Sox did well in re-signing Mike Napoli. He is a great role performer and he seems to thrive in the Fenway environment, however, I am not sure that A.J. Pierzynski makes up for the loss of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I think they’ll be okay losing Jacoby Ellsbury if Jackie Bradley, Jr is able to take the next step up in his promising career. While it remains questionable whether Stephen Drew will be back or will be playing in Citi Field, any team would love to have Xander Bogaerts standing ready to take over the shortstop position. Regardless of what happens, I think the Red Sox will be a force in 2014 and won’t relinquish their crown easily.
The Minnesota Twins showed an unusual side in signing free agent pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, and bringing back Mike Pelfrey. They missed out on A.J. Pierzynski, but the signing of Kurt Suzuki will allow them to bring their young catcher, Josmil Pinto, along slowly in the major leagues as they replace Joe Mauer who has moved to first.
Among others, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland A’s, and the San Francisco Giants (in bringing Tim Hudson back to the Bay Area) have had productive off-seasons.
There are countless other major moves that have been made and other teams that have significantly enhanced their chances for winning, but the point is that January is a time of optimism. Spring Training looms on the horizon as this is the last full month before pitchers and catchers begin to report. Players, if they took time off for the holidays, are aggressively starting or continuing their off-season workout regimens. This is the time that will set in motion the attitudes and the chemistry that makes up each team. Baseball is not about having the most physically gifted team, it’s about the team that can do the most to maximize the synergy of the team and create a culture that is unwilling to accept losing.
It should be a fun season. It’s too early to form an opinion of the teams that stand the best chance as there are still some roster-changing moves that will be made before spring training breaks, but in the AL, you know that the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, A’s, and Angels will have a say in who wins and who loses.
I hope it’s a very happy and enjoyable New Year for everyone! Time to make new friends, create fantastic new opportunities, experiences, and memories. Time to get excited about the arrival of the upcoming Major League Baseball season. May the 2014 season bring you great satisfaction and enjoyment!
The Masahiro Tanaka Sweepstakes…
It’s been written that the New York Yankees are the favorites to sign prized Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but it’s really anybody’s guess where he will sign. Personally, I could see the Los Angeles Dodgers blowing away the competition, and they would certainly provide a main stage for Tanaka to perform. No offense to the Minnesota Twins, but I couldn’t really see a player with Tanaka’s potential playing in a small market. I would love to see Tanaka sign with the Yankees and I think Hiroki Kuroda would be the perfect mentor to help Tanaka’s transition to the United States. But the Dodgers have a strong history with Japanese players. The Texas Rangers may be players and you certainly cannot underestimate the Seattle Mariners or the Los Angeles Angels. The Tanaka decision will be made within the next three weeks as it has to be completed by January 24th, so it should be interesting to watch Tanaka’s tour and to see how much teams are willing to pay for his potential. Guys like Clayton Kershaw, with free agency looming in the not-so-distant future, have to love this, and it will help enhance the monetary packages it will take to sign or retain them with proven superior performance in the MLB.
If the Yankees lose out on Tanaka, I am not sure what a good Plan B will be. I’ve heard Ubaldo Jimenez’ name mentioned, but it’s not a guarantee that 2013 was a return to the promise he once held or if it was just an aberration and he’ll continue his prior downward slide. Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana. None of these names excite me. I am more hopeful that guys like Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos can come into training camp and make statements for why they should be the guys.
Roster moves await…
With the 40-man roster filled, and the signings of second baseman Brian Roberts or reliever Matt Thornton to be made official, it’s clear the Yankees will need to open roster space. Given the excess at catcher with the signing of Brian McCann, it’s fairly clear that either Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy could be moved. I think we’ll see the departure of Vernon Wells despite his salary friendly status thanks to the Angels. Even something free is not worth keeping if it has no value. As speculated, I could still see a trade of Ichiro Suzuki to a team like the San Francisco Giants. I have no problem with Zoilo Almonte taking the fifth outfielder role, particularly in light of his strong winter play.
I don’t think the Yankees have done enough yet, but I also do not think they are finished. I am confident that by the time training camp opens, the Yankees will have the collection of players capable of restoring the team’s 90+ win ability. Time will tell if they’ve caught up with their prime AL East competitors but at least with the Yankees, you know it won’t be for the lack of trying.
The words of Randy Levine…
Admittedly, I do not know much about Yankees president Randy Levine, but I am not impressed with the man. I wasn’t before the text messages between Levine and Alex Rodriguez were released and I am even less so now. Some of his comments come off as very unprofessional. I remember how vilified Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was by Yankees fans when he made his ‘Evil Empire’ remark and how hated he is, but I really do not see Levine as any better and very likely, much worse. At least Lucchino has overseen three world championships since 2004. The Yankees’ 2009 World Championship was more Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, among others.
Perhaps Levine is a great leader and effective in his role within the Yankees organization, but it is not apparent from the outside looking in. I can only shake my head when I see his text message comments. Aside from any of his words or how I may feel about the man, I strikes me as very odd that the president of the team would go direct to a player, bypassing the manager and the GM. Maybe it would help if more stories about Levine’s positives were written, but then again, they wouldn’t be interesting and wouldn’t sell papers. So, maybe we’ll never know the good the man potentially does. But as it stands, he just seems like a buffoon to me.
I hope the holiday season has been a very happy time for you and your families. Enjoy the New Year, and may good health, success, happiness, and prosperity be yours!
Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox…
I know, I never expected to see the words appear on my blog. But you have to give credit where credit is due and the 2013 Boston Red Sox proved that they were the best team in baseball. This is a team that hit the bottom with the 2011 collapse in September that cost beloved manager Terry Francona his job, followed up by a year of Bobby Valentine that ranks as one of the worst teams in recent memory.
Proving that he is nobody’s fool, GM Ben Cherington deserves much of the credit. I am not sure how much the decisions can be attributed to Cherington or to Larry Lucchino, but the deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year to unload salary-draining dead wood was genius. The malcontents were shipped to the West Coast, while the recaptured dollars were re-invested to good clubhouse types like Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara among others. The pieces made for good chemistry and the team, beards and all, became a very cohesive unit.
This may have been the first time that I ever pulled for the Red Sox in the post-season but they gained my respect and I thought they were the team to beat.
Naturally, I hope this is the end of the Sox championship run that started in 2004, but for this off-season, they are the champions of Baseball. Again, congratulations to the Red Sox, the city of Boston, and the Red Sox Nation.
Turns up like a bad penny…
I am so tired of Alex Rodriguez and anything A-Rod. His battle against the MLB is extending the inevitable suspension and is likely throwing a monkey wrench into the Yankees off-season plans. For a team that appears bent on getting under the $189 million salary cap, A-Rod’s salary is substantial. Will they be freed of it, for a season, or will they be responsible for some portion thereof, or does A-Rod win to bring his salary back in full? I think the latter is very remote if impossible. I, for one, would accept a year of no A-Rod even if it means the entire salary counts against the cap. The guy is poison and I don’t think the team will win again with him on the roster. Yes, they won in 2009, but teams generally do not win with such narcissistic players.
Rest assured that no decision Alex Rodriguez makes will be in the best interests of the Yankees and Major League Baseball. MLB needs the authority to end this foolish A-Rod farce and banish him for his sustained PEDS use and lies. I’d love a lifetime ban but I doubt that happens so I want nothing less than the original 214 game suspension.
Introducing the 2014 Yankees…
Check back with me in a few months.
There will be changes, but I am not sure that they will be the moves necessary to return the Yankees to AL East and American League prominence. I saw one New York paper running an article this morning that indicated the Yankees may go after the Detroit Tigers’ Omar Infante should free agent Robinson Cano. No offense to Infante, but what a drop off. I don’t think it is smart to pay Cano $300 million, but hopefully the Yankees and Cano can find common ground that is mutually rewarding for both.
I have seen the Yankees linked to free agents Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Ervin Santana, and A.J. Pierzynski. Yes, Beltran is a good post-season performer but you need to get there first. As a McCann fantasy owner this past season, I was frustrated with how much time he spent on the DL. I’ve always thought Santana was a decent pitcher, but he’s not a frontliner. Then again, when you’ve lost Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and possibly Hiroki Kuroda, you just need arms. The Yankees will most likely lose Curtis Granderson so the Yankees will spend most of the winter just trying to fill holes rather than being able to focus on adding significant upgrades.
It would be nice if some members of the farm system were ready to take the major league stage but that does not appear to be the case. We may see Dellin Betances in the bullpen as the Yankees look to find a quality setup specialist for new closer David Robertson.
I do not want to lose Robinson Cano but then again, I do not want the Yankees to give him an A-Rod like contract that will become a financial albatross in future years. I may be the only one who feels this way, but I am not excited about a 40 year old Derek Jeter at shortstop with bad ankles. The Yankees really need to find a younger shortstop who can spell Jeter and perhaps push #2 to DH more times than not.
Mark Teixeira, cold starts and a bad wrist. Second base…currently there are nothing but crickets. Shortstop…see aforementioned comment about DJ. Third base is really anybody’s guess. Catcher needs more than a backup catcher who can’t hit and a proven PEDS user. Right field is even older than shortstop. Left field, at the moment, only shows the largely unreliable Vernon Wells. Centerfield is truly the only position that I feel comfortable with, and even that carries some injury risk. On the pitching staff, CC Sabathia is starting to show that he’s on the downward slide, and Hiroki Kuroda could very well be pitching in Japan next season. The enigma, more commonly referred to as Ivan Nova, will be in the rotation but who really knows what we’ll get. Adam Warren, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos (if he can make it back), Michael Pineda and others form the pool that Joe Girardi will be picking from.
In the bullpen, it is no sure thing that David Robertson will succeed as a closer. In 2011, when the great Mariano Rivera went down for the season, Robertson had first crack at the job and failed. He gave way to Rafael Soriano who proved very capable in the role. Going into 2014, at the moment, there is no safety net for Robertson. This is truly an off-season of uncertainty and it doesn’t help that A-Rod is doing his part to ensure greater uncertainty.
The Red Sox, the Rays, the Jays, and the O’s must be loving this. I can only hope that GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner Boys prove that they can check Ben Cherington’s move and bring championship baseball back to the Bronx where it belongs.
Isn’t this kind of like pulling my finger- and toe-nails?…
One thing I’ve learned with these extended A.J. Burnett trade talks, patience is not my middle name and it’s not one of my virtues! While the Michael Pineda-for-Jesus Montero came very fast and furiously, the potential Burnett trade has been dragging for an eternity. There’s no question the Yankees have identified the Pittsburgh Pirates as the prime target. It’s been reported that the Yankees and Los Angeles Angels were willing to make a trade that would have brought the return of Bobby Abreu to the Bronx, but it was nixed by A.J. as the Angels were one of the ten teams on his no-trade list. This actually blows my mind to think that he’d turn down the Angels, arguably one of the best teams in the major leagues with Jered Weaver and Albert Pujols, but he’d be willing to go to Pittsburgh. To me, and maybe I am off-base, baseball is about winning and championships. Nothing against the Pirates, but the Angels, as currently built, will see deep October sooner than the men from the Steel City.
Granted, Burnett would be the #2 starter on the Pirates staff and no better than #5 on the Angels. But, c’mon, how much pressure can there be pitching behind Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, and Ervin Santana? With Burnett in a low-risk situation, the Angels would have an absolutely ridiculous starting rotation and one that would clearly put the Philadelphia Phillies in an inferior position as baseball’s best rotation. But Mrs. Burnett apparently has issues with flying, so the perfect situation for Burnett won’t happen.
What will it take to consummate the deal with the Pirates? I’ve read the Yankees have proposed a sliding scale…the more money the Pirates take in salary, the less the Yankees will seek in terms of prospects. I do think that Burnett could excel in Pittsburgh. There’s pressure but it is certainly nothing like playing in New York. A.J.’s problems tend to be mental as there is no questioning the value of his great arm. I think A.J. can relax and trust his stuff better in a lower-pressured situation.
For the Yankees, I think the #5 slot is Phil Hughes’ to lose regardless of the contract the Yanks gave to Freddy Garcia. Garcia will be the long man and spot starter. That leaves no room for Burnett, and of course, that would only bring a bad attitude if he reports to camp with the Yankees. So, hopefully, GM Brian Cashman can put the distractions of his poor sleeping partner decisions to rest long enough to hammer out the deal with the Pirates within the next 24-48 hours. With the recent promotions of Assistant GM Jean Afterman to SVP and Angels GM Candidate #2 Billy Eppler to Assistant GM, maybe the second string is working this one. I don’t care if George Steinbrenner’s widow, Joan, is working this one, let’s just get it done…
Sorry, A.J., I love your arm, but I haven’t wanted to see a player leave New York this bad since Ed Whitson was a Yankee.
Welcome to New York…err, Tampa!..
I really enjoyed reading some of the early reports about new pitcher Michael Pineda. He reported to camp early and talked about how excited he was to be a Yankee. He gave glowing reports of his interactions with Robinson Cano, and it is easy to see that he’ll mesh very nicely with “King of the Hill” CC Sabathia. Passion and intensity are two qualities that I’ve always respected, and Pineda seems to have “it”.
If Ken Griffey, Jr and Gary Matthews, Jr can do it, so can Donnie Baseball, Jr…
I realize that minor league OF prospect Preston Mattingly is getting a bit long in tooth after two failed tries with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians, but he is still only 24 years old. I know that he’s getting “old” for a prospect, but it would be a wonderful story for Mattingly to seize the opportunity with the Yankees and prove that he can be the talent that he was once projected to be with the Dodgers. So far, I’ve liked what he has had to say. He certainly has his father’s positive attitude and realistic perspective, even if he isn’t the player his father was. I’d like nothing more than to see Preston eventually earn a spot on the Yankees roster. I am biased because his father was my favorite player and is the reason that the Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite NL team. Let’s hope that good things happen for a deserving son of a great legend…
Scratching nails on a chalkboard…
It rubs me wrong every time the Yankees sign a former Boston Red Sox player. Well, I might be okay if the Yankees picked up Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury or Dustin Pedroia. But otherwise, I really have no desire to see former Red Sox players pull on the pinstripes. Conversely, it is even harder to watch former Yankees sign with the Red Sox. When the Yankees cut ties with Alfredo Aceves due to his injury history, my immediate thought was a potentially huge mistake. At that point, I was hoping someone like the San Diego Padres would sign Aceves, but unfortunately, the Red Sox swooped in and captured Aceves. He went on to have a brilliant season with the Sox in the bullpen, and is a valued member of their pitching staff heading into 2012. So, it pained me today when I saw that the Red Sox had signed former Yankee pitcher Ross Ohlendorf. I realize that Ohlendorf had a miserable 2011 season with the Pirates, but I’ve always liked the guy who the Yanks acquired when they dealt Randy Johnson back to the Arizona Diamondbacks a few years ago. I am really hoping that Ohlendorf doesn’t become the next Tim Wakefield for the Sox.
Clearly our loss…
Baseball-speaking, today was a very sad day. I had heard that Gary Carter was battling cancer, but it was still hard to hear the news that he had passed. I think back to when I first became aware of baseball and a Yankees fan. It was in the mid-1970’s. In those early years, I was focused primarily on the Yankees. I was aware of other teams and players, but I can’t say that I know too much about them. Thurman Munson was the catcher and he quickly became my favorite player. I could never fully appreciate the greatness of Johnny Bench because of my admiration for Thurman. Same holds true for Carlton Fisk, who I always saw as a Red Sock even after his trade to the Chicago White Sox. My world changed on August 2, 1979, and it caused me to step back and look at the bigger picture. Only then did I begin to truly appreciate the value of great players on other teams. At that point, the catcher of the Montreal Expos quickly rose to the surface, for me, as one of the premier players at his position. There was something very clutch and special about Gary Carter. He went on to drive the New York Mets to a World Series championship in 1986, and proved that he was the catcher of my era. I am glad that he saw his entry into the Hall of Fame and there’s no question that he packed more into 57 years than I’ll ever experience regardless of how old I live to be. A good man, a proud father, a legendary baseball player. Gary, we will never forget you.
Maybe Phil Jackson would like to have one more shot…
I had fun on Saturday night when the New York Knicks came to Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Timberwolves. As a Knicks fan (my first year!), I was excited to see what Lin-mania was all about. He was a little off that night, but at the end, it was Jeremy Lin’s basket that proved to be the game-winner. The T-Wolves, or the Muskies as they were referred to that night in tribute to a former Minneapolis basketball team from the 60’s or 70’s, had led the game from the start. The Knicks had caught the T-Wolves a couple of times, but then Minnesota seemed to drop a few consecutive buckets to pull ahead again. But at the end, Lin was not to be denied, and “Lin-sanity” continues. It’s funny because I bought the tickets to the game hoping to see Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, and neither player dressed for the game. But all things considered, Lin was the perfect substitute.
Yes, it was exciting to see the opening of Fantasy Baseball…
It’s fun to see the return of fantasy baseball. I’ve already set a few teams with ESPN and I think my first draft is this weekend. I am looking forward to when they open the live drafting functionality. I like fantasy baseball if for no other reason than it helps you know and understand players on other teams than just your favorite team. If Jon Lester heads my starting rotation or if Jacoby Ellsbury is roving my outfield, I am okay with that. Granted, when Lester and Ellsbury come to Yankee Stadium, I’ll be pulling for L’s and O-fer’s but when Lester shuts down the Rays or Ellsbury slams a homer to beat the O’s, there might be a smile on my face.
Baseball, let’s get started…