Sleeping with the Enemy…
News that the Yankees have signed veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis have not been well received in the Yankees Universe…obviously. Sure, there have been a few ex-Boston Red Sox players make their way to the Bronx but certainly none who have been as despised as Youk. His crime? Playing with passion and all-out perseverance to find ways to beat the Yankees. He is one of those tough, gritty players that are relentless and when they smell blood, it’s over. Youk has struggled with injuries in recent years and he had a falling out with former Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who has historically taken to gritty players. I know, there is the stat line that he only got one hit in his final 59 at-bats with the Chicago White Sox last season. Nevertheless, I am willing to give Youk a chance.
Admittedly, I am not an Alex Rodriguez fan and I am still bent the Yankees didn’t let him walk away when he opted out of his first mega contract. But with third base possibilities such as Eric Chavez and Jeff Keppinger signing elsewhere, the Yankees had to do something given that A-Rod will be lost for most of the season due to his upcoming hip surgery. Going to camp with Eduardo Nunez as the starting third baseman, given the team doesn’t have a starting catcher or right fielder, was not appealing in any way. No one really knows how A-Rod will play next season when or if he returns, so odds are they need a solid third baseman for the entire season. With Youk on board, the Yanks still need to get insurance at third in case Youk goes down. But I think as long as he gets sufficient rest, he’ll stay healthy and be an effective part of the Yankees lineup.
When Youk homers for the first time against the Red Sox, I am sure that the Yankee cheers will come around. Yankee fans love players who play with passion so long as the player is on their team. It will always be hard to look at Youk and not think of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, but he is not the same player he was then and this is a new chapter in his life. When he walks away from the game, he will be remembered as part of the Red Sox organization but for a year or two, he can certainly make an effective contribution for the home team.
There are guys on the current Red Sox roster that I have great respect for, like Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia. Youk was one of those guys. Sure, I hated the guy in difficult games between the Yankees and Red Sox, but I always had a quiet respect for him. Of course, this could all be premature as Youk still has to pass a physical but I look forward to seeing what he can do in the Bronx sans the famed goatee. It will also be interesting to see if the Yankees continue to hold #20 in reserve out of respect for Jorge Posada or if they assign it to Youk given it was his number in Boston and Chicago. I suspect he’ll end up with something other than #20, but until it happens, you never know.
I saw a quote in George King’s column in The New York Post from Mariano Rivera that I agree with completely: “Yankee (fans) didn’t like him but he was wearing a Red Sox uniform. I can’t decide for them but he will be my teammate and I have to respect him for that.” Youk is a Yankee, and like Mo, I respect him for that.
Ichiro, Part II…
All indications are the Yankees will be coming to terms with Ichiro Suzuki on a new deal to keep him in the Bronx. The question is whether it will be one or two years. At 39, I’d probably prefer a one year deal so that the team can reassess its options at the end of the year. Every move has been made with the intent to get the payroll under $189 million by 2014 for luxury tax purposes and a second year for Ichiro would erode into the dollars available for any talent upgrades next off-season.
As it stands, I do not like an outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro, but I will be interested to see who they bring in as the fourth outfielder. Perhaps that individual will solidify this outfield corps into a strong and powerful unit. I am not opposed to trading Granderson and moving Gardner to center, but the Yankees would need to replace his offensive production elsewhere in the lineup. All signs so far this winter indicate the Yankees will not do anything to the extreme. Yes, they could still swoop in with a blockbuster trade, but I highly doubt it. The sad part is the current Yankees roster is not as strong as last year’s squad, while the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox have clearly improved. Tampa Bay may have traded a top starting pitcher in James Shields, but they picked up one of the best prospects in baseball in Wil Myers. Tampa also seems to be able to pull aces out of their farm system every year so there’s no doubt they’ll find a capable replacement for Shields. Baltimore hasn’t made any major moves but they still have the team to over-achieve. I do not know what next year will bring. The Yankees still have December and January to improve, but the likelihood diminishes with each passing day. If the Yankees falter in 2013, what does 2014 look like? I can’t see the team suddenly reversing course and going into “Dodger” mode to sign free agents. I think the Yankees will remain competitive, but I am not convinced they have the horses to win the World Series.
Maybe the All-Star Game should be the Dodgers against everyone else…
My favorite National League team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I am struggling with the thought of cheering for the two highest payrolls in baseball. My affection for the Dodgers is primarily because of my long-time hero, Don Mattingly, but the huge salary outlay by the Dodgers will create unrealistic expectations in Dodgerland and it will be tough for Donnie Baseball if the Dodgers struggle. I remain hopeful that he’ll one day find his way back to the Bronx to manage, but I am not pulling for him to get fired next year. I am not sure who I would pull for in the NL if not the Dodgers. I live in the Bay Area so there’s always the San Francisco Giants, but they’ve won the World Series in two of the last three years and I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon. My fallback has always been the St Louis Cardinals because that’s where I experienced attending my first major league baseball game as a teenager so many years ago. I suppose that I’ll stick with the Dodgers as long as Mattingly is there, but Magic Johnson and company have certainly made it more challenging by their willingness to spend excessively.
Why does February 12th (when pitchers and catchers report) seem so close yet so far away?…
Yes, Brian, I want to believe…
“I am excited about the opportunities we have.”
I wish that I could say that was my quote, but unfortunately, I am not feeling as optimistic as GM Brian Cashman who spoke those words.
With the imminent departure of Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano, and Hiroki Kuroda, combined with another year of age on Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the future is not looking so rosy at the moment. For a team that needs to upgrade its rotation, losing Kuroda would clearly be a setback. I remain hopeful that the team will re-sign him to a one year deal since he appears willing to accept a short-term contract and all signs indicated he enjoyed his time in New York. I really do not expect the Yankees to re-sign either Swisher or Soriano. It’s unfortunate as I’ve appreciated the positive impact that Swisher’s personality had on the Yankees’ “corporate” clubhouse culture. As Soriano, the excessively fat contract for a set up guy paid dividends when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season and he superbly stepped in to give the Yankees a top closer as a brief trial with David Robertson.
If the Yankees could sign Joaquim Soria to a set up role, I do think it would help neutralize the loss of Soriano. There is also the possibility that reliever David Aardsma could move into the role, along with Robertson, if he successfully makes it back from his injury.
Replacing Swisher’s bat will be the tougher challenge. No offense against Torii Hunter, but signing him to be the new right fielder does not make me excited. I do like the talk of moving Brett Gardner to center and Curtis Granderson to left. Hopefully, the Yankees can bring Ichiro Suzuki back for another year. I am not sure what the best answer is for right. The best options are only available through trade.
I read this morning that the Boston Red Sox had signed Atlanta Braves’ backup catcher David Ross, whom the Yankees liked. I am surprised Atlanta let him get away given the health of starter Brian McCann, but it’s disappointing to see the Red Sox snatch away a player that could have helped the Yankees.
With a team that is trying so hard to reduce payroll by 2014 and one that devotes so much salary space to decreasingly productive guys like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, I just don’t see Brian Cashman being successful playing “Moneyball”. When you consider how many dollars the Yanks have committed to A-Rod and his drain on the roster, it would appear to me that the team has less dollars to play with than any of their big city rivals if the end game is to avoid luxury tax and penalties in 2014.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been so appreciative of players like Jeter, Rivera and Andy Pettitte. But the fact remains that they will be another year older in 2013 and at some point, they will begin to break down. There doesn’t seem to be any high level prospects ready to step into their shoes. I wish there was a way the team could move A-Rod and his albatross contract but that’s unlikely to happen.
I remain hopeful that Brian Cashman is able to make a move this winter to improve the team. If the team stays status quo or struggles to replace those they will lose, I do not see the Yankees finishing any higher than third in the AL East next season. But, of course, if Hal Steinbrenner lets Cash make the moves necessary to position the team for 2013, then they’ll be in the thick of the pack at the top of the division.
Tino, Tino, Tino!…
I am happy to see Tino Martinez become hitting coach for the Miami Marlins. It is bittersweet to see him leave the Yankees organization, but much easier to see him go to his home state as opposed to being the hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox. The latter was a real possibility as the Sox had gotten permission to talk to Martinez, but fortunately, he opted to go help Mike Redmond turn around the Marlins. The Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite NL team in recent years due to manager Don Mattingly. I enjoy seeing my favorites do well, even if they can’t do it in the Yankees organization. Another example would be San Francisco Giants’ pitching coach Dave Righetti, fresh off his second World Series championship in three years. Tino is certainly in the same class with those guys, and will always be someone that I will root for. That’s why watching him go to Boston would have been so difficult.
Speaking of hitting coaches, I am hopeful that manager “wannabe” Jason Giambi decides to take the hitting coach position with the Colorado Rockies. Maybe he is not ready to hang up his bat just yet, but I think he would be a very positive addition to Walt Weiss’s staff and it would put him on the path of eventually reaching his goal to be a manager. While I was surprised to see the Rockies go with Weiss as manager over Matt Williams, I recognize that Weiss knows the Rockies organization and they know him. If he surrounds himself with the right coaching staff, I think Weiss can be highly successful in Colorado.
The Dodgers quest to overtake the Giants…
Regressing back to the Dodgers but staying on the theme of hitting coaches, I was mildly surprised by Mark McGwire’s decision to move from the Cardinals to the Dodgers. I know that McGwire is a Southern CA guy, but still, the Cardinals were his organization. Maybe that’s why it is best to move to another organization so that your legacy as a player is the primary association. Granted, McGwire does not have the untarnished reputation like Mattingly had in New York, but hopefully it works out for Big Mac. Performance-enhancing drugs or not, the guy knows how to hit.
It’s funny, particularly given my long history of being a Yankees fan, but I am a little put off by the free spending ways of the new Dodgers ownership group. While I believe that you have to spend to put a quality team on the field, spending frivolously seems excessive. For the Yankees, I only need to use A-Rod as the example. Over $30 million in one season devoted to a player whose skills are rapidly eroding. $30 million would go a long way toward bringing in multiple quality…and productive…players. The Dodgers should no qualms about picking up the contracts of Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford when it remains to be seen if they can rise to the current level of their contracts. It looks like high stakes poker to me with much potential for disaster.
In a couple of weeks, the Hot Stove League should start heating up and it will be interesting to see what form this off-season takes. I am cautiously optimistic, but understand that it’s very possible the Yanks go into next season hoping some young guys from the farm system are ready to take it to the next level. I guess I now know what it’s like to be a fan of the Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals…
Quick, put together the 2013 World Champions…
So, thanks to the San Francisco Giants’ quick disposition of the Detroit Tigers, the infamous Hot Stove League has begun. For the blueprint, the Yankees should take notice of the Giants’ pitching-first philosophy. You can deal with a lot of spare parts on defense when you can put a stud on the mound. Score enough runs to win in the regular season, and then shut down the opposition in the post-season.
It doesn’t matter the Giants had to dig out of some incredible holes to win. They did want the Yankees couldn’t do…win with your backs to the wall.
Today, the reality of the off-season began when closer Rafael Soriano opted out of his contract and backup third base Casey McGehee chose free agency. Granted, Soriano is the only vital piece of the equation but it is no sure thing the Yankees can re-sign Soriano. With Mariano Rivera teetering on the brink of retirement, it would leave David Robertson as the closer. Nothing against Roberson but he didn’t hold up too well in the role when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season this past year. Robertson is probably better suited for his set up role. Going long term (i.e., four years) for Soriano is insanity, so if the Yankees cannot re-sign Soriano on a two-year deal, they do need to look elsewhere for a replacement. Maybe Joakim Soria is the right answer on a short term deal.
As for third base, the Yankees need to upgrade the back up position. I like Eric Chavez, but I’d really prefer someone who could take the position for extended periods if necessary. At this point, Chavez is no more than a spot starter. Exposed to more play, he is an excessive health risk.
While the Yankees accepted their options for Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, the reality is that Nick Swisher has played his last game in pinstripes. On one hand, that’s disappointing given how great Swish’s personality has been for the clubhouse, but on the other hand, the Yankees need more dependable production from right field. Most of the early predictions place Los Angeles Angels free agent outfielder Torii Hunter with the Yankees, but an aged, formerly great player is not the answer. The Yankees need to acquire another promising, but to-date underachieving player, who can thrive in New York. Okay, easier said than done, but it’s possible.
The Yankees have to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda, but I do not expect both Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes back next year. One of the two will be dispatched to a destination unknown. I am not ready to give up on Hughes, so I suppose that it would be best for the Yanks to move Nova. But as for a replacement, who do the Yanks bring in? I don’t really see them spending the dollars it would take to lock up Zack Greinke, but perhaps there is a deal for a promising pitcher that makes sense. After the Michael Pineda trade, the Yankees might be gun-shy but they need to maintain aggressiveness in acquiring a top line pitcher.
Destined to lose in Detroit?…
The Yankees never felt like a team of destiny this year. They need to acquire the right players to create team unity and a team that is destined to return the Yankees to the main stage.
The next few weeks and months should be interesting…
The only non-dramatic series of the 2012 post-season…
Sadly, the 2012 season is over for the New York Yankees. But admittedly, I did not feel the team had the horses to win the World Series this year. I know, any team can get hot and take the championship (i.e., 2011 St Louis Cardinals), but the team’s hot and cold hitting pattern bothered me. As the saying goes, “good pitching beats good hitting” so the Yankees’ hitting problems are magnified in the play-offs as they continually face #1 or #2 type starters. If Robinson Cano had gotten hot, maybe it would have been different but no one rose to the challenge in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.
The ALCS loss by sweep was painful. For me, it probably ranks with the 1976 World Series when they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds. If memory serves, they won the World Series the following two years so I guess there is hope for next year! Well, maybe not. But all things considered, I’d rather be embarrassed on the ALCS stage than the World Series. That’s probably awful to say because who wouldn’t want their team in the World Series and I am no different. But I wouldn’t want to see the Yankees looking as pathetic in the World Series as they did in the ALCS if that makes any sense.
The 2013 season – optimism or pessimism?…
On the heels of Derek Jeter’s successful ankle surgery that will have him out for 4-5 months, there are reports that CC Sabathia will be consulting with Dr. James Andrews for his ailing left elbow. Apparently, the ligament is intact so there’s hope that either rest or minor surgery to shave the bone spur in his left elbow will be the cure. This definitely bears close watching over the course of the next few months. If CC is unavailable to pitch in 2013, the Yankees would be lacking a legitimate #1 starter. I have not heard how Michael Pineda has been doing, but he’ll be expected to help fill the void in the rotation regardless of what happens to CC, assuming that he is healthy. This was a difficult year for young Yankees pitching prospects, with injuries to Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, the latter of whom will be lost for 2013 due to Tommy John surgery.
The Yankees really need to do what it takes to ensure that Hiroki Kuroda returns for one more year, and hopefully, Andy Pettitte will decide to go for one more tour around the American League. With the Houston Astros moving to the American League in 2013, Andy would be assured of playing a few league games at home. It would be a great farewell tour with Andy pitching in Houston while standing on the mound with the interlocking N-Y on his hat.
Another year in, and I still don’t know what the Yankees have with Phil Hughes. At times, he is so promising, but others, such a disappointment. I am not sure that he can be trusted to be anything more than a #5 starter with his inconsistency. The Yankees have tough decisions to make on both Hughes and reliever Joba Chamberlain, two pitchers who have seemingly been intertwined since they arrived in New York.
I am concerned about Alex Rodriguez and the huge adverse impact of his contract on the team. The production no longer matches the pay, and of course, the pay prevents those dollars from being spent more wisely. The Yankees will have to settle for “less” in other areas, which will further handicap the team’s productivity. If the Yankees can find a way to move A-Rod, regardless of the cost, I would be in favor of it. I’ve never been a big A-Rod fan, and I would prefer to see his association with the Yankees eliminated.
I want the Yankees to re-sign Robinson Cano, but if the cost is a 10-year, behemoth mega-million contract, I am not so sure the team should go down that road. I am tired of these long-term deals where the player only performs to the level of the contract for the first few years. Cano’s silent bat in the play-offs also was a red flag for me. It’s disappointing because Cano has been one of my favorite players, but the future of an organization should not be tied to one or two players. The St Louis Cardinals are an organization that always seems to make the right decisions for the good of the team, and it has worked out well for them. They are a win away from the World Series despite letting one of the best hitters in baseball walk away last winter.
I do not want to be disrespectful of Derek Jeter and I recognize that he had a great 2012 season, but the fact remains that he’ll be a 39-year-old shortstop coming off ankle surgery heading into next season.
When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, it looked like a great signing…much better than the previous first base commitment to Jason Giambi. But after a great 2009 season, Teixeira has not been the feared hitter that I thought he would be. He has been great defensively, but never delivers the key, clutch hit. Those ice cold starts to begin seasons are getting longer and longer.
I do believe the Yankees need to re-sign catcher Russell Martin. I’d also like to see them either invest in a stronger back-up catcher or commit to Francisco Cervelli over Chris Stewart.
I had great respect for Eric Chavez when he was the starting third baseman for the Oakland A’s early in his career, and I’ve thought he was a great role player for the Yankees over the last couple of seasons. But now is the time for the Yankees to move on and find a strong, reliable third base option to spot A-Rod (or replace him if they can somehow find a way to move A-Rod to Miami or Phoenix).
In the outfield, I am hopeful the healthy return of Brett Gardner will be a positive. I have mixed feelings about re-signing Ichiro Suzuki. I thought he rebounded to have a very productive end of the season, but the Yankees are too full of guys nearing or at 40 years of age. A healthy Gardner can replace what the Yankees have in Ichiro…well maybe not the hitting ability, but all other components of his game. I like Curtis Granderson and even though he underperformed in the play-offs, I would still like to see his return. I’ve been a big fan of Nick Swisher, and have appreciated how his personality lightens the Yankees clubhouse. But right field is an area in need of improvement. If the Yankees can get Swisher to re-sign for a reasonable amount of dollars and years, maybe it makes sense to bring him back. But if his expectation is 5-7 years at dollars approaching $100 million, then the team should let him walk.
I am not in favor of bringing either Andruw Jones or Raul Ibanez back. Ibanez had some tremendous hits in the play-off series against the Baltimore Orioles, but the Yankees need to strengthen their bench with younger players who have greater upside.
I am glad to see the Yankees commit to both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi for the 2013 season. I think both, if given the resources and support, can bring the team back to championship level. At this point, the Yankees seem to be in an inferior position to the last place Boston Red Sox in terms of roster flexibility. The Sox ability to unload dead contracts on the Los Angeles Dodgers late in the season was huge. Now that the Sox have their guy as manager (John Farrell), there’s no doubt that we’ll see an improved Red Sox team next season. If the AL East was highly competitive in 2012, it will be even more so in 2013. The difference between first and last place could be which team makes the best decisions this off-season. The margin for error will be less than it has ever been.
I hate to be so doom and gloom, but the Yankees have much work ahead of them. Despite baseball’s highest payroll, they have a team comprised of older ballplayers that are experiencing the inevitable declines in production. The dollars committed to unproductive players like A-Rod and Teixeira are an albatross for a team that wants to reduce its payroll by 2014 to avoid excessive financial penalties. The Yankees do have the talent in the front office and certainly the resources to persevere so how they navigate the next few months will determine if the Yankees are a team of promise and destiny at the start of the 2013 or just another aging ball club that has seen its better years.
A fan of whatever team plays the Tigers…
Despite being an American League fan, it will be hard for me to cheer for the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. With the Cardinals holding a 3-2 advantage against the San Francisco Giants heading into tonight’s NLCS Game 6, my preference is for the Giants to somehow find a way to overcome. But if they are unsuccessful and the Cards advance to face the Tigers, I will pull for St Louis. Residing in the Bay Area, the Giants are a “hometown” favorite for me; while the Cardinals are a “sentimental” favorite (my first major league baseball game as a kid was in St Louis). Plus, as a fan of the Minnesota Vikings and San Jose Sharks, it would be tough for me to pull for any city that boasts the Lions or the Red Wings.
At this point, I am ready for the Hot Stove League to begin…
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…
Are you mocking me?…
The final series of the season has begun and the Yankees find themselves a game up on the Baltimore Orioles with two games to go in the battle for AL East supremacy. It’s been a dogfight since the O’s caught the Yankees earlier in the month, and the two teams have pretty much matched each other stride for stride since that time. Sunday, when the Yankees were trailing the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1 after the O’s had won was the first time that I legitimately felt the Yankees could end the day in second place for the first time since early in the season. Fortunately for me…and the Yankees, they fought back to emerge with a 9-6 victory.
A season of surprises…
After years of Yankees-Red Sox and most recently, Yankees-Red Sox-Rays, I never expected this to be the year that the Baltimore Orioles would emerge as the Yankees’ primary nemesis. Still, the Tampa Bay Rays are the team that scares me the most. With their pitching, they have the potential to go all the way if they make it. Granted, it’s clearly an uphill battle for them, but they are perhaps the hottest team in baseball right now with 11 wins in 12 games. Hopefully, the Oakland A’s will end the Rays’ quest but I’d like to see the Rays with an opportunity for at least one more night so they’ll play at the top of their game against the O’s again tomorrow night. If the A’s win against the Texas Rangers tonight, then it’s over for the Rays. I am thankful that the Rays’ run got started so late in the season. If it had occurred earlier, there’s little doubt they’d be bumping shoulders with the Yankees and O’s.
While I am surprised about the successful O’s season, I am flabbergasted by the dismal failure of the Boston Red Sox. This is a team that could have and should have won the AL East in 2011, but after tonight’s game, the team stands at 91 losses. It is the highest loss total since 1965 when they lost 100 games. There’s no threat of 100 losses, but this is clearly an inferior Red Sox team. I think they’ll be much improved in 2013 but the team has much to do in order to re-tool the once championship squad. In my opinion, Bobby Valentine has to go. He has contributed to the dysfunction of the 2012 season and while the losses may not be his fault, he is not the right man for the job. I do not necessarily think that John Farrell is, or that last year’s runner-up, Gene Lamont, should get the job. If I were the Red Sox GM, I’d probably go with a guy who has a great deal of minor league managerial experience but has never gotten the opportunity at the major league level, Ryne Sandberg. He’d be respected by the players and he has the ability to effectively communicate with the younger prospects.
I thought this would be the year the Toronto Blue Jays would take a step forward. If I would have had to choose between the O’s and the Jays at the start of the season, I probably would have taken the Jays. But I felt they regressed this year. Well, actually they did. Who knows how this plays out for John Farrell. It could be ownership is more willing to let him go to Boston, but of course, does Boston want him and is he truly the right fit? This remains to be seen. Nothing like some good old fashioned drama as we head toward the off-season.
As for the other races, I was disappointed to see the Chicago White Sox fade. I felt they had their division, but the talent of the Detroit Tigers persevered and thrust the team into the lead with a few games left. Out west, there’s no doubt the Texas Rangers were going to be the champion, but to put the A’s into the play-offs over the Los Angeles Angels was a surprise. Oakland’s pursuit of Yoenis Cespedes doesn’t look so far fetched now.
In the National League, I never would have predicted a division championship for the Washington Nationals. They earned and deserved it, but I didn’t foresee it. The awful season the Philadelphia Phillies experienced was a surprise. Hey, Cliff Lee, how does that decision to rebuke the Yankees feel now? I know, one season does not a mega-million contract make, but hey, this is baseball and it’s all about ‘what have you done for me lately?’. Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves for at least nailing the Wild Card slot.
The Cincinnati Reds were not a surprise, even playing in the same division as the St Louis Cardinals. This was destined to be a challenging year for the Cards with a new manager and first baseman. The Cardinals should still make the play-offs, but this division played out as expected.
The NL West is where I am perplexed. Although I currently reside in the Bay Area, my NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers. This is primarily because of the manager (Don Mattingly). But after the expensive acquisitions late in the season (Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Brandon League and others), I really thought the Dodgers would be well poised to surge to the division championship. Of course, I fully underestimated the San Francisco Giants and their pitching staff. Tim Lincecum may have had his struggles this year, but I’d still hate to face him in October with all the chips on the table.
Welcome to the 2012 World Series…
As for my prediction of World Series participants, I am going to go with the Cincinnati Reds versus the Texas Rangers. The Reds, in my opinion, have a slight advantage over the Washington Nationals. Of course, I’ve underestimated the San Francisco Giants all season long so why should I change now? I know this is a Yankees blog and I should be ‘all in’ on another Yankees participation in the World Series. But I am just not convinced the team has the clutch hitting to succeed. Hey, I hope they prove me wrong, but I don’t really see anyone else emerging from the AL than the Rangers. I do not like the Rangers but I recognize that their hunger for a World Series championship remains and they have the talent to succeed. Best case scenario? The Yankees go to the World Series to face the San Francisco Giants and see how their hitters perform against former closer Dave Righetti’s aces.
It seems like the season just started but now just two games separate us from the 2012 post-season. The race to the World Series begins…
Knock me down, dust me off, and get back up…
I never expected the Baltimore Orioles to catch the Yankees in the AL East in the month of September. All season, I’ve been expecting the O’s to run out of gas and drop off the pace. It was the Tampa Bay Rays that I was most fearful of. At one time, the Yanks had what seemed to be an insurmountable lead, but sluggish play in August and now September allowed the O’s to catch the division leaders.
Fortunately, a night later, the Yankees are back up by one game after defeating the Rays, 6-4, while the O’s lost to the Toronto Blue Jays by the same score.
I keep hearing the excuses of injuries but every team deals with its share of setbacks. It is how the teams respond to adversity that defines the winners from the losers. After the Yankees had defeated the Orioles in the second game of a recent three-game set (a game the O’s should have won), I thought the Yankees had turned back Baltimore’s threat. But in the third game, the Yanks fell flat and the O’s walked away winning two of three. That set the stage for this week’s tie as the Yankees continued to under-perform.
I knew that tonight’s game with the Rays was a “statement” game. The Yankees needed to show who they are and what we can expect in the coming days and weeks. It was a close game and less than stellar start for pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, but the Yankees got the all important “W” so that’s all that matters. Now, they need to continue upon the momentum and kick this into a short (or long) winning streak.
I have been worried that the Yankees didn’t really add any reinforcements at the trading deadline. Being forced to use Freddy Garcia in the starting rotation or over-exposing aging vets like Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez is not a good thing. I had been hopeful that either Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos would step up at some point this year after the season-ending loss of Michael Pineda in spring training, but injuries wiped out the talented duo.
I’d like to think the Yankees have the horses to win the World Series, but I do not. I think they’ll persevere and win the AL East, but admittedly, I do not feel they’ll advance very deep in the play-offs. Inferior pitching and the lack of timely hitting will again prove to be their Achilles Heel. I am still convinced the Texas Rangers will once again represent the American League in the World Series. Perhaps this is their year to finally win it. I’d love it if the Yankees got hot and went on a roll that took them deep into October, but I just don’t see it happening.
Aaron Rodgers-Lite, is that too much to ask?…
As we move into the NFL season, it’s tough when your team (Minnesota Vikings) is picked to be on the fast track to a top pick in next year’s draft. There is talent on the team so I don’t see anything close to 0-16, but Christian Ponder certainly needs to step up his game. He has the intelligence and the ability to do it so time will tell. It’s not going to hurt having T Matt Kalil watching his back. Hopefully, the Vikings can regroup to the point that they are a championship caliber team by the time the new stadium opens.
Win a championship, lose to the Cowgirls…
Well, the NFL Season has opened and the Dallas Cowboys lead the rest of the league by one game. Let the games begin!