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.
Team Question Mark…
It’s March 22nd and I am still waiting for that deal that instills confidence for the 2013 New York Yankees, but so far, it’s been like an unsuccessful Vegas weekend. I want to throw out the surgery recovery for Alex Rodriguez because I remain happy that he is not in the lineup regardless of the cost. Addition by subtraction. Sorry, I am just not a fan of the narcissistic one. Even with the injury risk, I prefer to see Kevin Youkilis man third base for the Yanks. But throwing that aside, the Yankees have lost Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira to injury. While both are expected to be back in May, there have been numerous professional reports that Teixeira could be lost for the year. The Yankees lost their backup first baseman when right fielder Nick Swisher signed with the Cleveland Indians.
The catching battle is between two perennial backup catchers. I fully expect Francisco Cervelli to win the job, but I do not have full faith and confidence in his ability as a starter. I am sure that Chris Stewart will see plenty of time behind the plate this year. I had quietly hoped that Austin Romine would surprise in training camp and claim the job, but now that he’s back in the minors, his arrival won’t come until later in the year and perhaps even next year. Meanwhile, I am hoping that top catching prospect Gary Sanchez can start to accelerate his development to hasten his arrival in the Bronx.
Despite Derek Jeter’s optimistic outlook, it’s unlikely that he’ll be ready on Opening Day so the Yanks will most likely open against the Boston Red Sox with Eduardo Nunez at short.
I am assuming that Ichiro Suzuki will be shifted to left to temporarily replace Granderson, so right field will most likely be a committee led by recent signee Brennan Boesch. I am hopeful the team also finds room for Ben Francisco, but neither bat will rival the production the Yanks received from Swisher.
Brett Gardner is coming off an injury-lost season so it’s not 100% that he’ll be the Gardy of old. So, the only “sure thing” in the Yankees lineup right now is second baseman Robinson Cano. Given his recent health history, I would certainly not label DH Travis Hafner as a sure thing. If the Yankees lost Cano, this season would be lost. As it stands, I still expect a late March trade to bring in a capable first baseman. Gaby Sanchez of the Pittsburgh Pirates is the name that comes to mind. There’s no way that it will be a frontline first bagger, not under the regime of Hal the accountant.
The Yankees are the oldest team in baseball and rarely has the oldest team succeeded. This will be a tough year. Yes, the Yankees will compete for a play-off spot but I do not see them repeating as AL East Champions. I know that Red Sox fans have been salivating all off-season (along with Rays and Jays fans).
At least I learned what a lisfranc injury is…
While I was pleased to hear the Yankees have re-signed former ace starter Chien-Ming Wang, he’s a bigger question mark than any of the current players on the team. The foot injury suffered against the Houston Astros years ago led to Wang’s subsequent departure for the Washington Nationals, and he really only enjoyed one reasonably healthy season while away. I seriously doubt that he’ll ever be the 19 game winner that he was a few years ago. He does give the Yankees some insurance to trade someone like David Phelps or Ivan Nova for a quality bat.
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen…
I have been a Yankees fan for a number of years but this is clearly one of the most fragile times that I’ve experienced in recent memory. The Yankees are only an injury or two away from disaster. Sure, some players could step up and have career years but the range of potential success to non-success have never been wider. The pressure on Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman will be as high as it has ever been. It’s unfortunate that they are the front mean for Team Hal. I am not quite sure why the Yankees suddenly feel that they can be the AL version of the St Louis Cardinals. My favorite teams, in order, are the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The pressure on Girardi and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly are higher than any other manager in baseball. Not that I am against a scenario that could ultimately bring Donnie Baseball to the Bronx as manager, but still, both men deserve better than the hands they have been dealt.
So, where do we go from here?…
The Yankees have definitely been stopping and
starting lately. They go into a funk,
rebound, and then go into a funk again.
After a succession of losing or tying series, they’ve started to win a
few but it has been easy. In the most
recent series with Seattle Mariners, they were dominated in the opening game by
Felix Hernandez, as the M’s won, 6-0.
They rebounded to take the next two including a 10-0 annihilation on
Sunday that feature a grand slam and 6 RBI’s by Robinson Cano.
As Sunday’s game got underway, Yankees radio
announcer John Sterling made a comment about whether Cano could reach 100 RBI’s
(he had 80 at the start of the game).
With simple math, he deducted that Cano had been averaging about 20 RBI’s
a month so with that reasoning, it would appear that Cano would have a shot
after nearly making the milestone in 2008 with 97 RBI’s. Cano must have heard Sterling because he
promptly went out and reduced the “magic number” to 14 RBI’s with a little more
than a month to go in the season.
Then Monday, the Yanks were back in the doldrums
when Jose Bautista hit home runs 39 and 40 as the Toronto Blue Jays downed the
Yanks 3-2. The Red Sox own the Jays, but
the Yanks and Rays struggle against them for whatever reason. With Dustin Moseley on the mound for Tuesday’s
game, there’s not much optimism unless the Yankee bats can come around.
Of course, it doesn’t help with names like Eduardo
Nunez, Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli among the starters and Ivan Nova on
the mound. To Nova’s credit, despite
allowing one of the Bautista homers, he pitched very well, going 5 1/3 innings
and allowing only 2 runs (courtesy of the Bautista home run) despite 6 hits and
1 walk. He struck out 3. Nova showed that although he is not a talent
like the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson, he can pitch at this level.
It was sad to see former Yankees and current
Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella step aside after Sunday’s game, a rout by the
Atlanta Braves. Lou opted to depart now
rather than at the end of the season to tend to his ailing mother. At 66, Sweet Lou is most likely done as a
manager, but given his intensity and desire for the game, I’d have to put this
one in the “we’ll see” category. It
would not surprise me to see him return to the dugout at some future date. As for now, it would be good for the
Steinbrenner family to reach out to Lou for a consulting role. It would be nice to have him back in the
As the speculation grows for the next Cubs manager,
which inevitably includes current Yankees manager Joe Girardi, I can’t help but
wonder if the Yanks would reach out to icon Don Mattingly or if they’d go for a
seasoned vet like Bobby Valentine if Girardi left. I’d prefer to see Donnie Baseball don the #23
pinstriped jersey if I had my preference.
With the Yankees most likely in a first-place tie
after tonight’s game (assuming the Rays hold their lead against the Los Angeles
Angels), it’s time to kick it into gear.
Now is the time that separates the men from the boys so hopefully the
Yanks are up to the challenge. If not,
they’ll be looking at the backside of Tampa and Boston jerseys.