Tagged: George Steinbrenner

I am an optimistic guy but…

 

The team of low expectations…

As the Yankees stumbled to the All-Star Break, I was surprised to read the number of stories that said the Yankees may have a hard time making the play-offs if they keep playing like this.  I hate to be the doomsayer but this team isn’t going anywhere.  I love the Yankees and I’ve been a long-time fan, but there’s no doubt that this team is not built for October success.   As it stands, a third or fourth place finish, if nothing changes, is the best case scenario for the injury-plagued, patch-work 2013 Yankees.  When your ace pitches like Jose Contreras used to against the Boston Red Sox while wearing pinstripes, it’s fairly obvious that there are no 10-game winning streaks looming on the horizon.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a season where every player who has been injured, gets re-injured after his return.  Hopefully, Derek Jeter just had a minor setback but at this point, it’s anybody’s guess what the second half of the season holds.

I still do not support trading top prospects for a glimmer of hope.  I think any mid-season deals at this point would only strengthen the possibility of third over fourth.  I do not see any potential deal that would make me line up to buy play-off tickets.  I would so love to be wrong, and you could argue that the Los Angeles Dodgers have arisen from the dead to become potential play-off contenders, but they aren’t pieced together like a quilt comprised of Goodwill cloth.

Erase the standings…well, except for the Yanks…

Even though they aren’t in the top 3 in the AL in wins, I still expect the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers to be the last men standing when the ALCS rolls around.  I don’t buy into the Red Sox “Juggernaut” and I expect the Rangers to eclipse the Oakland A’s this time around.  Tampa Bay will be a threat but in the end, the Tigers and Rangers should persevere.  Detroit will be so scaring if Justin Verlander starts pitching like he can and Max Scherzer continues his Verlander-like impression.

Holiday for A-Rod…

The latest A-Rod news has him proclaiming that he should be ready for the Bronx in about a week.  So, I say, Commissioner Selig, where are those suspensions?  It is time to send A-Rod to the bench.  50 games?  Life?  I would probably prefer the latter, but at the very least, the suspension should, in my mind, prevent his 2013 return.  I do not want to see #13 on the field regardless of the cost.  Sorry A-Rod, I am not a fan of yours.

What’s happenin’ in Scranton/Wilkes Barre and Trenton?…

At this point, 6 games down in the AL East standings, I’d probably prefer to see the Yankees give some younger guys a shot.  This is not 1978 where the Yankees have the team to overtake Boston to win the World Series.  With Rafael DePaula now becoming the most hyped Yankees pitching prospect, let’s see what he has at the major league level.  I’ve watch the Phil Hughes Show and it deserves to be cancelled.  It’s too bad that Hiroki Kuroda is nearing the end of a great career, the Yankees will be hard-pressed to replace both him and potentially CC Sabathia at the top two positions in the rotation if CC continues to struggle.

Do you want Hal’s office or Hank’s?…

So, should the Yankees re-sign Robinson Cano?  Absolutely.  He is the team’s legitimate star, and they need to build around him in coming seasons.  If they are looking for a second baseman next year in addition to a power bat in the middle of the order and the other missing pieces, it’s going to be shades of the 1980’s as the team will have to have some down years before they can re-emerge.

Hope on the horizon…

I was glad to see the Yankees finally sign first-round pick Aaron Judge.  Judge, an outfielder, seems to embody the right ingredients to be a future star in the Bronx.  I think I read the Yankees had signed their top 16 picks which is good.  It’s tough watching a guy like Gerrit Cole pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates knowing he was once a Yankees draft pick that didn’t sign.  I kind of feel the same way about Josh Pettitte.  I would love to see the Yankees sign Pettitte, but it’s been made very clear his path is college.  Andy’s professional success has given Josh the financial security to make that decision.  I can only hope the Yankees have another opportunity to one day draft Josh with the serious intent to sign him.

You need a clutch hit, I give you Donnie Baseball!…

Going back to the Los Angeles Dodgers, I want to say how proud I am of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.  His team came into the season with very heavy expectations and injuries derailed any chance of a strong start.  He became everybody’s favorite to be the next manager fired, but with a recent rally, he has the Dodgers within 2.5 games of the first place Arizona Diamondbacks.  I fully expect Donnie Baseball to surpass the D-Backs after the All-Star Break and he’s proven to me that he is a quality baseball manager.  There’s a reason he has always been my favorite when he puts on a uniform and he is not disappointing me this year.  He’s truly one of the game’s greats.

You’re a Knicks fan, I’m a Knicks fan, we’re ALL Knicks fans!…

I left the Los Angeles Lakes to become a New York Knicks fan before last season, and now Metta World Peace has apparently followed the same logic in signing with the Knickerbockers.  I am not crazy about J-Kidd coaching in Brooklyn, but hopefully the Knicks can pull together some magic for next season.

Sorry, I still can’t get used to the short hair…

Congratulations to Tim Lincecum for his no-hitter.  But it came too late to help my fantasy baseball teams as I cut bait long ago.  I guess if I were a baseball owner, I’d probably be George Steinbrenner.  Billy!!!!  😉

–Scott

 

Getting bug bites while lying in the weeds…

What to believe?…

Admittedly, I am concerned with the Yankees’ desire to get under $189 million in payroll by 2014, and what it will mean to the team in the long run.  Granted, many teams would love to struggle with the wherewithal to afford a payroll of $189 million, but the Yankees have $30 million tied up in annual salary to Alex Rodriguez and he’s hardly the player he once was.  As it stands, the Yankees need to find a quality, effective third baseman to play behind a guy who absorbs so much of the team’s payroll budget.  So, how much do the Yankees actually have to pay just to cover third base?  Obviously, the answer is a lot more than $30 million.

Granted, the Yankees are not about to become the new Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals, but to those teams’ defenses, they have better minor league systems at the moment (particularly the Royals).  In a statement of the obvious, the quickest way to reduce payroll is to replace highly paid, unproductive veterans with cheap, inexpensive young talent.  While there is quality youth in the Yankees’ farm system, most are at the lower levels.  The highly rated AAA prospects have stalled for various reasons, like Manny Banuelos and his Tommy John surgery.  A trade for young, inexpensive talent is not out of the question, but so far this off-season, the Yankees have been very quiet.  I do understand it when GM Brian Cashman says that you have to a tortoise and a hare.  Striking too quickly can be more expensive in some situations.  It is a never-ending balancing act.  Strike quick when you must, lay in the weeds when you can.

Is it time for Romine?…

While I am disappointed to see catcher Russell Martin depart (signing a two year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates), I realize that I won’t miss his .211 batting average.  At times, he was a force in the lineup with his bat, but other times, he completely disappeared.  The only downside is the lack of replacement talent at the major league level.  I do not feel that perennial backups Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli are starter material.  After a lost year due to injury, all indications are that Austin Romine needs another year of AAA seasoning.  At this point, I am probably with those who feel Romine should be given a legitimate shot at the job in spring training.  He has the pedigree (his father is former Red Sox player Kevin Romine) and he is 24 years old.  If he is healthy, he deserves a shot and certainly has more upside than the other catchers on the roster.

Regarding the loss of Martin, Cashman’s quote was “This isn’t something that caught us off-guard”¹.  Clearly, the Yankees have already identified a plan of action in the event Martin left.  But it will probably fall into the tortoise category.

Maybe Jenny Craig should be hired as a second bench coach…

This past week also brought forward a photo of a seemingly overweight Derek Jeter.  Staying with quotes from Brian Cashman, “It’s probably a wrinkle in the shirt”².  Hmmm, right…

 

 	November 29, 2012: Derek Jeter is seen limping around a South Beach hotel pool wearing a cast after surgery on his fractured left ankle today in Miami Beach, Florida.

INF PHOTO, New York Daily News

I have no reason to believe that Derek Jeter will not arrive at spring training in shape, but it’s tougher as you get older and having a foot in a cast is not ideal for physical workouts.  So, I guess that quality, effective third baseman we need for third had better be able to play short too.

Now playing in right field…

The Yankees have chosen not to be players for any major free agents.  It doesn’t mean that I think they should throw millions at Josh Hamilton, but they do need to find a quality replacement for departing right fielder Nick Swisher.  Plugging in an aging veteran is not the answer.  Hamilton is not old, but there are lower risk and lesser paid options available.

The sleeping giant or the ‘Feeble 40’?…

Brian Cashman says, “We’re still capable of a lot.  People should be leery of us and afraid of us, as if we’re the stalking horse”³.  I really hope so, but it appears to me that the 2013 roster will feature highly paid but underproductive veterans, supplemented by waiver signings and minor leaguers.  That might be a bit extreme, but it does feel that way at the moment.  I do not want to take away anything from the recent re-signings of Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Mariano Rivera, but the fact remains that all three are at the tail end of their respective careers. They’ll be serviceable major league players in 2013, and perhaps will shine at times, but they need help.  “40” is not necessarily the new “30”.

With the baseball winter meetings next week, we should start to see some moves unfold.  The Yankees need to strengthen their roster and put a team on the field next year that is capable of overcoming the Detroit Tigers (among other teams).  They also need to somehow excite the fan base.  George Steinbrenner felt like the master showman at a Barnum and Bailey Circus, whereas Hal Steinbrenner comes across as a nebbish bookworm (even if he really is not).  Yes, Yankee fans are spoiled but it’s also one of the largest fan bases if not the largest.  Rupert Murdoch would not have invested so much money into the YES Network if he believed the team was headed for a downward spiral.  But the truth remains that if left unchanged, the current roster is no better than third in the AL East and perhaps headed for worse in 2014 when guys like Pettitte, Kuroda and Rivera are settling into their retirement homes and the team makes the moves necessary to come in under the $189 million wire.

Despite my pessimistic comments, I do believe that the Yankees will do the right thing in the end.  I am confident the team that takes the field next April will be one capable of competing with the league’s best.  I guess maybe I always preferred the hare over the tortoise…

–Scott

 

¹ Source:  The New York Post

² Source:  The New York Daily News

³ Source:  The LoHud Yankees Blog

When a move that had to be made, is made…

Thank you, Merci, Gracias, Grazie, Danke, ありがとう

Yes, I admit it, I was worried that starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was either going to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers or head back to Japan to pursue his stated intent to finish his career in his home country.  Pulling Kuroda out of the Yankees rotation was not a promising thought.  Given CC Sabathia’s recent minor surgery, it is no sure thing that he’ll be Mister King of the Hill when the season rolls around.  After CC, there is nothing but question marks.  As it stands, the rotation would be Sabathia, Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and David Phelps.  Nothing against the latter three, but all of them carry their own questions and concerns.  The Yankees are not going after a prize free agent pitcher, so they would have been left to try and find a diamond in the rough.  Fortunately, that’s no longer a concern, particularly if the Yankees get a return engagement from Andy Pettitte.

In the back of mind, I did feel that Kuroda would stay in New York due to a sense of unfinished business.  In his final season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, I remember he had veto power on trades and he made a comment that he wanted to finish the season with the guys he started the year with.  He struck me as a loyal and honorable player with those remarks, and despite rumors he left money on the table from other prospective clubs, he made the decision to return to New York on a one-year, $15 million deal.  This may be his second and final season with the Yankees, but he’s certainly proven to me that he has a great deal of integrity with a genuine respect for the game which places him among the upper echelon of guys who have put on the pinstripes.

Thanks, but don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

As for the other two notable Yankee free agents (Rafael Soriano and Nick Swisher), I am indifferent about who they sign with.  I would prefer to see neither player sign with an AL East club, but then again, they have to find the best deal for them wherever that may be.  I saw some speculation that the Boston Red Sox might go after Swisher, but after their signing of former Oakland A’s outfielder Jonny Gomes today, I wonder if it lessens their interest in Swish.  I am concerned about right field, but I have to trust that GM Brian Cashman has a plan.  His trade for Swisher a few years ago was inspired, and I am sure they’ve scoped the league for players who are long on talent but have underperformed to this point.  Logan Morrison of the Miami Marlins is one player who immediately comes to mind.

Player most likely to replace A-Rod during the inevitable DL stint…

Once we get past Thanksgiving and to the Baseball Winter Meetings, we should start to get a better idea of what the Yankees game plan for 2013 looks like.  I am sure that there will be late moves in January or early February, but at some point, the Yankees have to do something to improve their roster.  Complacency in the AL East will only buy you last place.

There hasn’t been much talk about catching, but I wonder who’ll be the backstop in 2013.  Russell Martin has not been a priority so the potential increases every day that someone steps forward with a reasonable offer that entices Martin to bite.  I get the sense that if he is healthy, Austin Romine may see some time behind the plate.  It’s too bad Gary Sanchez is still so far away in the minor leagues.

Hello, again…

I was surprised to see the Toronto Blue Jays bring back former manager John Gibbons, but then again, they brought back Cito Gaston for a second tour of duty (when he replaced Gibbons a few years ago).  Gibbons must be jazzed about getting control of his old team combined with the influx of great talent through the trade with the Marlins that brought Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Emilio Bonificio to Ontario.  Of course that adds pressure to the job due the increased expectations.  I was still surprised that the Jays didn’t try to keep Torey Lovullo (who followed John Farrell to Boston) given the recent trend to go with younger, unproven managers (ala Robin Ventura, Don Mattingly, Walt Weiss, Mike Redmond, etc.).  Not that Gibbons is old (he is only 50), but he does kind of have that ‘been there, done that’ stigma attached to him.

Why did I tell Boston to shove it?…

Speaking of the Marlins, I wonder how their new hitting coach Tino Martinez feels about the team now.  He signed with the Marlins just prior to the blockbuster trade, so the roster looks completely different now than it did when he joined Miami.  He’ll have his work cut out for him as the Marlins unveil a largely unknown roster when play resumes in April.

Hal, Rupert Murdoch on Line 1…

Now that the News Corporation has acquired a 49% stake in the YES Network, I wonder how much influence Rupert Murdoch will have on the Steinbrenner family.  The YES Network is dependent upon the success of the Yankees, and if Hal’s imposed budgetary constraints on the Yankees result in diminished performance, how loud does Murdoch become?  People will not pay premium dollars to watch a 70-win team on the field.  The Steinbrenner family insists this is not a prelude to the possible sale of the Yankees, but then again, Hal and Hank were always reluctant to join the team’s management when their dad was alive and healthy.  For years, it seemed like a Steinbrenner son-in-law had more interest than a blood-born Steinbrenner (outside of George, of course).  If someone told me that I could make billions, I am sorry but I’d have to let go of my affection for the Yankees.  If Hal is so focused on the bottom line, I believe that inevitably he’ll seek to cash out when the team is at an optimum potential sales price.

The next couple of years will be very pivotal years for the Yankees franchise.

Who died and made you George Steinbrenner?…

The Los Angeles Dodgers remain my second favorite team (otherwise known as my favorite National League team), but I maintain my reservations that they want to become the new “Yankees”.  It is not outside of the realm of possibility that they’ll surpass the Yankees in total annual salaries.  Yes, I am tired of simply buying players.  I do like the good old fashioned trade to help subsidize home-grown talent.  For years, that was the Dodgers’ business model and it is one that has helped propel the San Francisco Giants to two World Championships in three years.  I remain a devout Don Mattingly fan, but I hope that the organization is not creating expectations so great that Donnie Baseball can’t survive.  Then again, there is the scenario that the Yankees and Dodgers regress, and both Joe Girardi and Mattingly are fired, setting up the potential return to New York for the now experienced manager Mattingly.

I want to wish everyone a very happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving!  May it be a time of peace, joy, and robust memories for all of you and your respective families.  Of course, in Dallas, it will only be memorable if the Cowboys win, but everywhere else, I hope everyone is grateful and thankful for life and what life has to offer.  Be well and enjoy!…

–Scott

The Law of Diminishing Return…

 

Dollars to donuts…

Joel Sherman has a good post today with his Hardball Blog in The New York Post entitled ’What would George do?’ among questions in Yanks’ $189M quest.

I do not dispute the reasons for why the Yankees are financially motivated to get under the $189M threshold given the reduced tax penalties it will create for future years in addition to the savings in 2014.  But can the Yankees maintain a championship caliber club in their quest to reconcile the bottom line?  Something’s got to give, and I am fearful that it will be the quality of the Yankee clubs put on the field in the next few years.

That sounds kind of ridiculous to say when other clubs have proven you can succeed with lesser dollars, but in Tampa, for example, it was years of high draft picks that filled the cupboards with premier players like Evan Longoria and David Price.  I see the same thing happening in Kansas City as they’ve been building solid, young talent.  The Yankees, on the other hand, have been picking at the bottom end of rounds for years and there have been more than a few misses along the way.  There has been a renewed emphasis on the farm system in recent years, however, it is still not within the upper echelon among the other clubs.

This paragraph in Joel Sherman’s post cuts to the heart of the problem:

“The aging/diminishing Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira plus the roughly $11 million each team is charged for a benefits plan costs about $84 million toward the luxury tax each season. That would give the Yankees roughly $105 million to complete a contender in 2014. But say Robinson Cano gets $22 million a year. Now it is $83 million for everything else. That is doable, but less so after a year in which the Yankees’ farm system regressed horribly, potentially derailing the expected pipeline of lower-cost talent.”

I checked the cities of Baltimore, Boston, and Tampa against Manhattan on a cost of living calculator and found that the equivalent salaries in New York would need to substantially greater to maintain the same cost of living.  A Boston salary would need to be 63.10% greater, Baltimore 89.70%, and Tampa 145.28%.  Okay, not every player will live in Manhattan and that’s probably an extreme, but it still shows on the affordability scale, it simply takes more dollars to live in New York than anywhere else.  Other places like Florida and Texas have no state income tax.  I am sure that when A.J. Burnett got to Pittsburgh, it wasn’t just the reduced spotlight that helped his successful turnaround, the realization of how much further his millions would go in the Steel City probably factored into the equation.

As it stands at the moment, it is very likely the Yankees enter the 2013 season as a weaker team than the one who was swept by the Detroit Tigers last month.  I know, a lot can happen between now and then, but for the sake of this post, I have only the insight for where we stand today.  I felt that it was essential for the Yankees to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda.  As soon as there were indications that Kuroda would consider a one-year deal, the Yankees should have been aggressive in locking him up.  But by delaying, the two LA teams are stepping up their pursuit and the area has an advantage given Kuroda’s familiarity and close ties to Southern CA.  I believe that his wife and two daughters still reside in California.  Losing Kuroda from the rotation will hurt.  I am not convinced that David Phelps can match the level of performance that Kuroda achieved this past season.

The sooner the Yanks can move Alex Rodriguez to full-time DH will be better.  They need a quality, front-line third baseman who can hit in the clutch.  Sadly, there are not any high level prospects so free agency or a trade might be the only options.  Given the former is probably not where the team intends to put its “limited” dollars, a trade is most likely the only solution.  Of course, that will only deplete the Yankees of other young talent.

I guess Moneyball is alive and well and living in the Bronx.  It is time for Brian Cashman to prove to the critics that he is a good general manager despite the Yankee resources.  I do believe that he is so it will be interesting to see how the next few months unfold.  I have read those who believe the Yankees will ultimately spend without regard to 2014, but given Hal Steinbrenner’s financial background, I see the team sticking to its plan.  Time will tell if his stance is justified.  Perhaps this is a radical, game-saving approach that will bring fiscal responsibility back into the game.  Then again, maybe not…

–Scott

 

Home Field Advantage doesn’t help when you can’t get home…

 

A funny thing happened on the way to the World Series…

While the Yankees have gotten good starting pitching, the one thing I knew they lacked will most likely be the reason that they will find themselves, once again, on the sidelines.  Timely, clutch hitting.  For whatever reason, when the Yankees bats go silent, bad things happen.  After they were ousted last year by the Detroit Tigers, I felt the team needed to find some dependable, productive bats to help kickstart the offense during those lulls.  The weakness does not get overly exposed in the course of a 162-game season, but in a short 7-game series, it most certainly does (particularly when your opponent is able to put baseball’s best on the mound for one or two appearances).

The Yankees made a few minor moves in the off-season, but nothing to help enhance the offense.  Yes, they signed Raul Ibanez and he has had some great at-bat’s this post-season.  But face it, he is not the player he was a few years ago with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Ichiro Suzuki has been a positive but he was merely a replacement for what the Yankees had in Brett Gardner until he was injured.

When Robinson Cano is not hitting, there’s no one on the team that is capable of carrying the team on his back.  A-Rod’s best days are clearly in the rear view mirror.  Nick Swisher is a classic example of hot/cold, and Mark Teixeira is certainly not the feared slugger he used to be.

As I write this post, the Yankees trail the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, 2 games to none.  They are down 2-0 in the 5th, and Phil Hughes has left the game with a back injury.  Justin Verlander is the opposing pitcher (and the aforementioned “baseball’s best”).  The mountain the Yankees have to climb seems impossible from my vantage point.  Prove me wrong, I’d love it.  But the Yankees hitters just do not match up well against Detroit’s pitchers.  I was enjoying it earlier in the season when it looked like the Chicago White Sox might win their division, but they faded and allowed the team I feared most to make the play-offs.  Well, I feared the Tampa Bay Rays too, but started their late season rally too late.

Maybe Cherington was right to the blow up his roster…

The Yankees cannot go into the upcoming off-season with status quo in mind.  With Alex Rodriguez’s contract now becoming a huge albatross, what can the team do to overcome?  Derek Jeter had a great season until his ankle injury derailed him.  Can he put up another successful campaign next year.  I wouldn’t bet against him, but the realist in me knows that he’ll be a 39-year old shortstop.  At some point, the skills do start to erode.  If the Yankees decide that Robinson Cano is not worth a behemoth contract, how do they fill second?  At what point does Mark Teixeira become a liability?  Those long, slow starts are becoming longer and slower as the years go by.  All those questions and we havn’t even gotten out of the infield.

The Yankees and GM Brian Cashman have many difficult decisions ahead.  Putting the 2003 All-Star Team on the field is not the answer.  We need the 2013 or 2014 All-Star Team!  Okay, that’s not realistic, but the Yankees need players with talent, ability and lots of upside.  And, oh yeah, lots and lots of pitching.

George, are you there?…

Given that Hank Steinbrenner’s fingerprints were on the re-signing of Alex Rodriguez, maybe the first action of the off-season should be to neuter Hank and leave the critical decisions to Hal Steinbrenner.  Or better yet, seek a medium (is John Edward available?) to consult with the spirit of George Steinbrenner.

It’s disappointing to watch the Yankees underperform on their way to a quick exit from the ALCS.  Every divisional series went 5 games, and the NLCS has some fire to it.  Meanwhile, the Yankees choke.  C’mon, prove me wrong, I dare you…

 

–Scott

 

Down but far from out…

 

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”…

There is a reason that Mariano Rivera has been my favorite Yankee for a very long time.  I know that Derek Jeter is a quality guy and a favorite of many, but for me, Mariano Rivera has always been the premier player in my opinion.  It doesn’t mean that I feel Jeter’s not a great player…he is.  He is most likely a first ballot Hall of Famer and will go down as the greatest shortstop in Yankees history (with no disrespect to Phil Rizzuto).  But Rivera has always handled himself with dignity and class, and he’s always been accountable when things have gone wrong.  He has never disrespected another player or team, nor has he placed blame anywhere but with himself.  He hasn’t always been perfect, but he’s clearly the best closer in major league history (with no disrespect to Goose Gossage).

I have been dreading the day when Rivera walks off the field as a player for the final time.  But I never dreamed that, potentially, his final moment would be inability to walk off the field under his own power. It was very disheartening to see the pre-game injury when Rivera tore the ACL in his knee this week against the Kansas City Royals.  I kept hoping for the best when I first heard the news, but it is now known that he’ll miss the remainder of the season.  Given that he is 42, the road to recovery is going to harder than if he was still in his 30’s.  Nevertheless, withn 24 hours, Rivera was saying that he wasn’t going to go out like this and that he’d be back next season after much speculation this might be his final season prior to the injury.

If Mo says that he’ll back, I am fully confident that he will be.  I am sad that we won’t see #42 come out of the bullpen for the rest of the year, but I look forward to next season when Mo perhaps takes the final lap in what has been a legendary career.  I will always be appreciative that Rivera wore pinstripes, from beginning to end, and he’ll remain one of my favorites in the history of the storied franchise.

That first step is a doozy…

David Robertson has big shoes to fill as he steps into the closer’s role but I have faith and confidence in his abilities.  I hope that Rafael Soriano is up to the challenge of making a positive impact as he slides back into the role of primary setup man.  Just as Andy Pettitte has become a much more needed pitcher than he was when it was announced he was going to pitch this year, the need for the return to good health for Joba Chamberlain is equally important.  I am glad that one of Manager Joe Girardi’s strengths is his ability to work the bullpen so I continue to view the Yankees relief corps as a strong unit despite Rivera’s absence.

A few favorites…

With Rivera as my favorite current Yankee player, it made me think of my other favorites:

  • Favorite living former Yankee:  Don Mattingly
  • Favorite former Yankee who played during my lifetime:  Thurman Munson
  • Favorite all-time player:  Lou Gehrig
  • Favorite manager:  Billy Martin (followed closely by Joe Torre)
  • Favorite owner:  George Steinbrenner
  • Favorite current Yankee (excluding Rivera):  Robinson Cano
  • Favorite Yankees team:  1998 Yankees (closely followed by 1927 Yankees)

There are many other players that I will always have special feelings for…most notably, pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, for whom I attribute to why I am a Yankees fan today.  I was a fan of the Oakland A’s and Hunter in particular when I was young, but everything changed when he signed with the Yankees as a free agent in December 1974.  I had always admired the history and the tradition of the Yankees (the first book I recall reading was a biography about Lou Gehrig), so bring the combination of the Yankees and Hunter together brought me to the team as a fan.  I’ve been a faithful one ever since that time.

I’d be remiss by not mentioning Mickey Mantle.  A great player who really could have been even greater than he was.  I was able to attend his funeral in Dallas, and I remember seeing a few of the former Yankee greats who were in attendance.  It was an experience that I’ll never forget.  Bob Costas delivered a tremendous eulogy.  It’s amazing to think of what Mantle could have accomplished if he had held himself to the same standards as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera do.

Yogi Berra, of course, is an invaluable link to the Yankees’ history of success.  There are way too many guys to acknowledge, but these are a few that stand out to me.

Hard to close…

It’s amazing to me how 2012 has been the Year of the Fallen Closers.  So many closers on the DL (Rivera, Andrew Bailey, Drew Storen, etc.); so many demotions (Jordan Walden, Carlos Marmol, whoever is pitching for the White Sox, etc.); and guys who are on the brink of losing their jobs (most notable being Heath Bell).  This is one of the only years in fantasy baseball where all my bench slots are filled with guys on the DL.  But as they say, one guy’s misfortunate is another guy’s opportunity.  Sports is about the ability to step up and take it to the next level.

Game of Stars…

I realize that Bryce Harper is only 19 but I am hopeful that he can find success at this level now rather than a return trip to the minor before he is ready.  I can’t recall a player who has received as much hype (well, perhaps Stephen Strasburg) but I genuinely would like to see the player match (or even exceed) the hype.  It is good for baseball.  Robin Yount was in the majors by age 19 and I think he had a fairly successful career (<understatement).  While I still question the signing of Jayson Werth, it is fun watching the accumulation of talent in DC.  I am just glad they play in the NL and not the AL.

Where’s the caveat?…

When a pitcher throws a no-hitter like Jered Weaver did this week against the Minnesota Twins, they should come up with a degree of difficulty score.  C’mon, it was the freakin’ Twins!  It wasn’t like Weaver was facing the monster bats of Texas, New York, Tampa, Detroit, or Boston.  So, while a no hitter is a great achievement, it’s hard not to discount Weaver’s performance.

What am I doing writing this post?  I should be in line to buy my ticket to see The Avengers!  Have a great weekend, everyone!  J

–Scott

 

$189 Million by 2014 or bust…

 

His accounting degree was the first tip-off…

So, it’s true that the fiscal conservative in Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is coming to the forefront.  It’s clear that the Yankees have shown considerable restraint in their financial decisions in recent years and none more evident than this off-season when the Yankees watched and let others pay exorbitant dollars for free agent talent.  It was widely rumored that the Yankees have their eye on 2014 and the desire to get their payroll under the $189 million threshold for luxury tax purposes.  But now that Hal Steinbrenner is on record for the stated goal, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few years.

While there are other guaranteed contracts, the most notable in 2014 will be Alex Rodriguez.  If he continues his deterioration as a star player, that $25 million in 2014 is going to look like a huge albatross.  I haven’t tallied the guaranteed dollars, but it’s clear that the next few years will see similar off-seasons like the one we just experienced.  No significant free agent signings, bargain basement ‘right before training camp’ deals like the one given to Raul Ibanez, and trades for young (and cheap) talent.  It will also mean the Yankees won’t overpay to retain talent, which probably shows the door to Nick Swisher.

Meanwhile, teams like the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers are profiting from regional TV deals (not to mention previous dollars they received through revenue sharing at the Yankees’ expense).  So, it will be other teams splurging on big talent, and the Yankees as a passive by-stander.  There is some logic in the team’s decision but I am concerned that it will bring an end to the winning run the Yankees have been on since the early 1990’s.  As a Yankees fan, the 1980’s were very difficult.  Yes, we were spoiled by George Steinbrenner’s win at all costs mentality, but 90 to 100 loss teams wearing the grand tradition of the pinstripes seems sacrilegious to me.  I am sure that the YES Network is not excited at that prospect either.  But if the stars, like A-Rod and Derek Jeter, continue to wither while eating up valuable salary dollars, the team is going to develop a Pittsburgh Pirates feel to it.  Very limited dollars to fill the holes.

In many respects, it is unfair that the salary threshold is equal among teams given the higher cost of living in New York, combined with the increased pressure that goes with playing on the biggest stage.  Once the ownership situation with the Los Angeles Dodgers is settled, there will be a slugfest in LA as the Dodgers spend to rebuild their legacy and prominence in the City of Angels.  Meanwhile, in New York, the Mets and Yankees will be scooping up the leftovers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals.

Okay, I might be a bit pessimistic but there will be a number of very difficult decisions to be made between now and 2014 as the Yankees attempt to reach their goal.  If the Yankees win the 2014 World Series, then credit Hal Steinbrenner for being one of the greatest owners in Yankees history.  If not, how long will it take to recover?…

Open mouth, insert foot…

You know, I don’t really care what Bobby Valentine is saying in Red Sox camp.  I know that if he were the Yankees manager, he’d be making disparaging remarks about the Sox.  It just goes with the territory when it comes to Bobby V.  Whatever helps him get motivated.  Speaking of Red Sox managers, it was really weird seeing the ESPN clips of Terry Francona in Yankees camp, hugging Yankees and talking with Joe Girardi and his coaches.  Unlike Valentine, I have a great deal of respect for Terry Francona.  Regardless, the Bobby V ingredient should make the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry very spicy this year.  It kind of sets the stage for Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays to steal the show…

I’m sure that A-Rod wasn’t saddened by the news…

Since I am on the topic of the Red Sox, I should say congratulations to Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who announced his retirement today.  He was a hated players at times, but like Jorge Posada, his intensity was off the charts.  He is the kind of guy you hate on another team but you’d love to have him on your team.  I think his baseball career is only getting started as I see future success as a manager for him.  I could even see him being an eventual replacement for Bobby Valentine.  Regardless of what he decides to do, we haven’t heard the last of Tek.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em…again…

Back to the Yankees, I am glad to see the return of third baseman Eric Chavez.  It took a long time…right up to the start of training camp…but it got done.  I liked Chavez in his years as an Oakland A, and while he isn’t the player he once was, he is a great role player and teammate.  He is also a very sorely needed third baseman given the fragility of the guy in front of him.  Yes, Chavez is an injury risk but if he can stay healthy, he’ll be an invaluable part of the 2012 Yankees.

The Seattle Mariners pipeline worked last time (Tino Martinez)…

I liked the Yankees signing of former Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma.  I don’t think he’ll be in the running for Mariano Rivera’s replacement when THAT day comes, but it was a low risk, high reward signing.  Having 7th and 8th inning options in late summer of David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, and Aardsma is a manager’s dream.

Best wishes for a fast return…

Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for former Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett.  In a batting incident the other day, a failed bunt attempt led to a broken right orbital bone in his face.  I was frustrated with Burnett as a Yankees pitcher, but I’ll never dispute that he is a great guy and a terrific teammate.  I am hoping that the move to Pittsburgh allows Burnett to flourish and hope the latest injury is not a precursor of things to come.

Don’t trip on the snow rounding first…

It is hard to think of baseball when it is snowing.  Snow has been a rare commodity in Minnesota this year, but we received slightly more than a dusting this week.  Living by Target Field, it’s strange to see the stadium and the surrounding snow while thinking that Joe Mauer and company are practicing to get ready to make the trip home to Minneapolis.  I have already bought my tickets for when the Red Sox and Yankees come to town, however, the Yankees don’t arrive in Minneapolis until late September.  I hope that AL East will be decided in the Yankees favor by that time…

Names I’ve known all of my adult life, and in some cases, when I was just a Daydream Believer…

Whitney Houston, Gary Carter and now Davy Jones?  This has not been a fun couple of weeks…

 

–Scott