Tagged: Joe Torre

The March to Opening Day…

How will the Yankees “manage” potential change?…

Will Joe Girardi be the Yankees manager this time next year?  As the manager enters the final year of his contract, the expectation is that he’ll re-sign with the Yankees in October or November.  But anything is possible.  The Steinbrenner family might have a change of heart and decide that a change is needed.  Girardi has held the job for a long time (this will be his 10th season as Yankees skipper).

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Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

I get frustrated with Girardi at times.  He’s never been one of my favorite managers.  I had greater confidence in Joe Torre’s ability to lead.  Among current managers, I hold Don Mattingly and Terry “Tito” Francona in highest regard.

Mattingly was my favorite player so sentimentally that’s probably why he is my favorite manager.  In 2008, when the Yankees hired Girardi over Mattingly, I did think it was the right decision given Mattingly’s lack of managerial experience at the time.  Mattingly was not able to succeed in Los Angeles for the Dodgers, but I’ve felt he has continually improved each year.  Today, I’d easily take Mattingly over Girardi.  My only reservation with hiring Mattingly as Yankees manager (assuming the Yankees could pry him from Miami) is preservation of his Yankees legacy.  Managers are hired to be fired or so the saying goes.  I wouldn’t want my final memory of Mattingly in pinstripes to be him walking away after being fired.

I have admired Francona since he was manager of the Boston Red Sox.  I had great respect for the champions he built and of course he was responsible for ending The Curse of the Bambino, along with then general manager Theo Epstein.  I doubt that Francona would ever leave the Cleveland Indians (by his own choice).  The Yankees could have hired him after he was fired in Boston but they did not express any interest.  Francona has history with the Cleveland Indians franchise (pre-dating his time in Boston), and after taking the team to the World Series last year, he is very beloved in the city.

If the Yankees do decide to make a managerial change at the end of the season, I just don’t see any overwhelming candidates who could do a better job.  Mattingly would be great, but he is under contract, so it would take a trade to make it happen.  I am not enthused by simply elevating one of the coaches (Rob Thomson or Tony Pena).

This situation bears watching over the course of the season.  I think the odds are much better that GM Brian Cashman, also in the final year of a contract, re-signs with the Yankees than Girardi.  Time will tell.

Let the competition be Judged…

The Yankees have various degrees of competition at certain positions this spring.  The most obvious is the two open spots in the pitching rotation behind Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.  The early leaders, in my opinion, are Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  But there is still time for Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and perhaps Adam Warren to state their case.  I am anxious and excited for Jordan Montgomery and James Kaprielian but it does not appear to be their times yet.  Kaprielian has the higher ceiling but he won’t make an appearance at Yankee Stadium, barring injuries, until September at the earliest.  Montgomery could show up sooner and might be the first or second option if someone gets hurt.

MONTGOMERY

The competition at first base evaporated somewhat when Tyler Austin broke his foot.  Greg Bird clearly holds the advantage over Chris Carter despite the latter’s 41 home runs last season.  Unlike Carter, Bird is good defensively (even if he’s not on par with former first baseman Mark Teixeira’s glove) and hits for average.  As Bird has shown this spring, he still has his power following last year’s injury.

Right field was also a speculated position of competition.  Most assume that Aaron Judge will get the job, but technically, he is in competition with Aaron Hicks.  Judge has a much greater upside, but he did strike out 42 out of 84 times late last season.  If he is not able to make the necessary adjustments at the big league level, it could open the door for Hicks to take the job.  I personally hope it does not happen.  I am hopeful that Judge figures it out at this level like he has at every level thus far.

The flaming red hair is left on the barbershop floor…

Kudos to OF Clint Frazier for cutting his bushy red hair this week.  While I personally feel that the Yankees current hair policy is outdated, I thought it was a good move by Frazier to cut his hair after a talk with Manager Joe Girardi.  Girardi felt that the hair had become a distraction.  It was a mature statement by Frazier in saying that he loved playing for the organization more than his hair.

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Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Frazier won’t break camp with the Yankees, but he’ll be there soon enough.  This is all part of his maturation into a dynamic young future star outfielder for the Pinstripers.

There’s other baseball on TV…

I should probably watch the WBC more but I’ve never been into it.  Still, I fully understand the importance of placing Baseball on the World Stage and should reconsider my complacency.  I guess I am just get tired of seeing the Dominican Republic or Japan always win the competition.

Regardless, it was fun to see the USA defeat Columbia, 3-2, on a run-scoring single by Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles.  Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard picked up the win.  The game featured a very strong start by Jose Quintana for Columbia.  The rumors continue to swirl about Quintana’s future and the Yankees remain one of the potential destinations.  His WBC performance yesterday did nothing to dispel those rumors.

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Credit:  Logan Bowles, USA TODAY Sports

Have a great weekend, everyone!

—Scott

It is high, it is far, it is caught…

A penny for your hits…

What does it take to buy a hit?  Apparently not the $45 million the Yankees paid to Carlos Beltran or the $85 mil to Brian McCann or $175 million for former Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.  This season has been a struggle for wins despite the team’s winning record.  It was finally starting to feel a little better at 29-25 but then the Yankees promptly lost 4 in a row.

 

 

Playing a good team like the Oakland A’s, the Yankees bullpen failed miserably until the final game of the series when David Robertson locked away a win for ace Masahiro Tanaka.  That bleeding started in the series with the Minnesota Twins and was inevitable with the short innings being provided by the replacement starters (i.e., David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Chase Whitley).  When the Yankees are only scoring 1 or 2 runs a game, the starters need to throw a gem almost every outing which obviously is not realistic given the current state of arms.

I thought the Yankees should have aggressively tried to sign Stephen Drew before the Boston Red Sox re-signed him, and now I feel the same way about slugger Kendrys Morales.  Now that there is no longer draft pick compensation tied to him since the MLB started yesterday, I felt the Yankees should go after him.  Maybe they are, but there’s competition.  Based on yesterday’s first draft pick for the Yankees in the second, had they signed Morales earlier, the cost would have been lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren who is already projected to make an appearance in the Yankees bullpen this year.  But now it’s an open field for Morales and the Yankees have reluctance, wanting to see how Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran perform.  In my opinion, the odds of one or both going back to the DL at some point is very high, and the designated hitter, Alfonso Soriano, is not hitting, so I would aggressively pursue Morales to cover 1B/DH.  Ironically, Morales is the guy the Los Angeles Angels turned to when Mark Teixeira left as a free agent.  It worked out well for the Angels and I think it can work out well for the Yankees.  No ifs, ands, or buts, the Yankees need a proven consistent run producer in the middle of the order.  I agree with those who say the Yankees sorely miss Robinson Cano’s bat.  Ironically, the Yankees were also unable to re-sign another slugger having a good year in Milwaukee this year (Mark Reynolds) despite the usual anemic batting average.  Those home runs would look pretty good about now in Yankee Stadium.

 Courtesy:  hailstate.com

On nights the Yankees are scoring only a run or getting shut out, I even see guys like Milwaukee’s Lyle Overbay, another 2013 Yankee, driving in a couple of runs for his new team.  And of course, who delivered the key hit in the Yankees last game with the Twins when the Yankees bullpen collapsed in the late innings?  None other than former backup shortstop Eduardo Nunez.

At this point, the Toronto Blue Jays are starting to run away with the division.  They are clearly playing like the class of the division and they just came off a very successful series against perennial AL contender Detroit.  If I had to pick two teams playing in the ALCS right now, I’d pick the Blue Jays and the Oakland A’s.  If the Yankees do not figure out how to fix the current offensive drought, they really will be offensive and done for the season in September.

Not everybody was meant to be Mariano Rivera…

Nothing against David Robertson but I am still not sold on him as the team’s closer.  Sure, replacing Mariano Rivera is big shoes to fill.  However, I still think that Robertson’s stuff plays best in a Set Up role.  I have been intrigued with the possibility of trying Dellin Betances in the role, but he needs more major league experience so maybe next year.  The reliever the Yankees picked yesterday (Jacob Lindgren) is also a future possibility.  If Robertson blows a few more games like he did against Minnesota, I’d really consider using Andrew Bailey in the role when he gets healthy…for now.

I love you, I love you not…

Speaking of former Yankees thriving outside of New York, both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain seem to be doing fine.  Hughes even captured a victory in the Bronx with the aforementioned bullpen collapse, a place that he couldn’t buy a win last year.  Chamberlain has a couple of saves and a decent ERA.  I can’t say that I’ve watched him too closely but his stats seem to say that all is good.  Why couldn’t have these guys performed like this last year?  Rhetorical question and of course, there is something to be said about the pressure of playing in New York.  It’s not for everyone.

Farewell to a champion…

It was sound to hear about the passing of former Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer this week.  The image of Zim sitting next to Joe Torre on the Yankees bench is forever burned into my memory.  He was such a part of those late 90’s championships and he helped mold Torre into a Hall of Fame manager and one who will soon have his number retired in Memorial Park.  I realize that sooner or later, all of us must depart.  But still, it is sad to see Zim go now.  I understand he had been in poor health since April and hopefully he is now at peace.  He will be missed as he was truly one of Major League Baseball’s landmarks.

 Courtesy:  Keith Torrie/New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images

–Scott

Dreading this day…just one Mo time…

Grace and dignity…

Unfortunately, this day was inevitable.  Father Time catches up with everyone, including the greatest closer in the history of Major League Baseball.

Saturday, the great Mariano Rivera confirmed the speculation of the last few days.  The 2013 season will be his final one as the champion of the 9th inning at Yankee Stadium.

Mo has been my favorite Yankee since the time he was the “lights-out” set up guy for closer John Wetteland in the 1996 season.  Wetteland was effective, but there were always a few anxious moments.  Rivera, on the other hand, completely dominated the hitters prior to turning the ball over to Wetteland.  There were so many times that I had wished manager Joe Torre would have stayed with Rivera rather than pulling him for Wetteland.  While it was Rivera’s talent and ability that caught my attention, it was his character…full of grace, dignity, and professionalism…that has made me an enduring fan all these years.

Rivera has taught so many over the years how to forget life’s failures and how to enjoy its successes without gloating or antagonizing opponents.  He has always respected the game and never once in his career has he placed himself above the game or above others.

Relievers have had their struggles gaining acceptance into the Hall of Fame, but in my mind, Rivera should be a first ballot entry.

It was appropriate that Mo wore the number #42.  As the final active player to wear the number after it was retired league-wide, he has upheld the legacy of Jackie Robinson…perhaps better than anyone else could have.  Jackie endured far more challenges and difficulties than I’ll ever be able to fully comprehend, but he paved the path for others including Mariano Rivera to succeed.  Mo embodies the depth of character that Jackie Robinson had and it is tremendous that #42 hanging in Memorial Park will stand for two of the greatest men in baseball’s long history.

It has been a privilege to call Mo my favorite player for so many years.  As I think back upon my life as a Yankees fan, it was Jim “Catfish” Hunter who first attracted me to the Yankees when he signed as a free agent in 1974, along with my high regard for the legendary Lou Gehrig.  Once a Yankees fan, my favorite player quickly changed to the heart and soul of the team…catcher Thurman Munson.  I have always loved to see passion in doing what you enjoy, and Thurman was certainly as fiery and passionate as they come.  The 1976 World Series still stands out to me.  Although the Yankees were swept by the Cincinnati Reds, it wasn’t because of Munson, who hit over .500 in the series.  If the rest of the team could have matched Munson’s intensity that year, they would have defeated the Big Red Machine.

After Thurman’s untimely death in 1979 (a day that I will always vividly remember, like so many Yankee fans), Rich “Goose” Gossage became my favorite player.  After a few years, he had moved on to the San Diego Padres as a free agent.  But by that time, Don Mattingly had become my favorite player.  Donnie Baseball was one of the great ones and it’s unfortunate that back problems caused the premature end of his production and subsequently career.  There’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be in the Hall of Fame if he had been able to sustain his production for a few more years.  Donnie Baseball will always be a favorite and he’s the reason that I consider the Los Angeles Dodgers to be my favorite NL team.  When Mattingly retired after the 1995 play-off loss to the Seattle Mariners, I became a Mariano Rivera fan.

As I look to life beyond 2013, I cannot say that any one player stands out as a potential favorite player.  But as history has proven to me, the door will open for the next great Yankees superstar to take the stage.

None of this is meant to knock Derek Jeter.  He has been a terrific player for so many years and can match Rivera in depth and quality of character stride for stride.  He’ll be taking his place in Cooperstown one day, but for me, this day is about Mariano Rivera.  Enter the Sandman…Exit the Legend.

I look forward to watching Mo for one more season.  Regardless of the outcome, he is a champion…

–Scott

 

A Magical and Memorable Day…

 

A Legend among Legends…

Most baseball fans remember attending their first major league baseball game.  For many of us, it happened during our childhoods so it was a special event to spend time with a parent, grand-parent or older sibling.  In my case, I attended my first game with my step-father.  My own father had died a few years earlier and he did not have the health in his final years to take me to any games.

I was excited when my step-father informed me that we could be traveling to St Louis by bus to see the Cardinals play.  My step-father had been a life-long Cardinals fan so he was probably as thrilled about the trip as I was.  My step-father had been very active with the local Elks club chapter, as a member and officer of the organization.  The bus trip to St Louis, a five hour drive, had been sponsored by the Elks club.  I am not sure why that’s relevant to this post, but it’s probably just a tribute to my step-father for the passion and support he gave the Elks over the years.

The date of the game was May 29, 1974, and it featured the Los Angeles Dodgers against the St Louis Cardinals.  It was a nice spring Missouri day at the old Busch Stadium, with the Arch looming in the background.  When I look back, I am in complete awe of the players who took the field that day.  At that point of my childhood, I considered myself a bigger football than baseball fan.  Like many of my friends, my favorite baseball team were the Oakland A’s.  I would not become a Yankees fan until the end of the year when A’s starting pitcher and Hall of Famer Jim “Catfish” Hunter would leave Oakland as a free agent to sign with the Yankees.

Thinking about the game, several players stood out to me that day as a kid attending my first professional game.  I was mesmerized by the Dodgers starting pitcher (and future Yankee) Tommy John and his pitching motion.  Surprisingly, I remember John more that day than the starter for the Cardinals, the legendary Bob Gibson.

For the Cardinals, centerfielder Bake McBride made the biggest impression…well, at least until the latter innings.  I thought the name “Bake” was rather cool, and he seemed to move effortlessly with great speed in the field.  He did not do anything with his bat that day, but I enjoyed the grace he displayed in the field.  Late in the game, the Cardinals brought in closer Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky even though they were trailing.  The intensity that Hrabosky brought to the game when he entered to pitch still gives me chills.  He brought the crowd alive, and although the Cardinals would lose the game, 5-2, Hrabosky made me a believer and he became my first favorite closer. I would have subsequent trips to St Louis and I always loved watching Hrabosky pitch while he was in his prime.  I think I’ve always had a favorite closer through the years as a result.  Rich “Goose” Gossage and Mariano Rivera are two other all-time favorites.

The memory of these players vastly overlooks the legends on the field that day (as I now recognize).  The Dodgers were managed by the great Walter Alston, while the Cardinals were led by long-time manager Red Schoendienst.  Some of the Dodger names that would have prominent roles in the ’77 and ’78 World Series agains the Yankees were there…Steve Garvey, Bill Russell, Ron Cey and Steve Yeager.  The Cardinals had Joe Torre at first and Ted Simmons behind the plate.  It is amazing how differently the game looks to me today as I recall it as opposed to my perception in May 1974.  I was blessed with the opportunity to see so many legends that day.

As memorable as the game was for me, it was, believe it or not, a trip to the restroom that has endured the test of time as one of my all-time favorite baseball moments.  It was the fourth inning and I made my way to the restroom.  Over the speakers, I heard that I missed the opportunity to see my first home run as Ron Cey connected off Gibson.  After using the restroom, I was walking down the corridor back toward my seat.  I saw a line of people waiting to see a guy who was signing baseballs and books.  There were actually two guys signing autographs.  I went to the shorter line, and it was famed St Louis Post-Dispatch sports writer Bob Broeg.  Nothing against Broeg, but I was more intrigued by the other gentleman as he was garnering the most attention.  After getting Broeg’s autograph, I got in the other line and worked up my way up to shake hands with none other than the legendary Stan “The Man” Musial.  I had been familiar with who Musial was through my step-father as he always spoke very fondly of the Cardinals great.  I was in awe but admittedly I did not appreciate the moment at the time in the way I do today.  Mr. Musial was very kind to me and it is an encounter that I will never forget.  I can still remember going back to my seat and telling my step-father, “I just met Stan ‘The Man’ Musial!”.

I was very saddened to hear the news of Musial’s passing this weekend.  I have always been grateful for the few minutes I had with him and he’ll always hold a special place for me as one of my all-time favorite players.  He will be missed and as many have written, he was “The Man”…

–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

 

Down, set, 247, 247, hike, hike…

To act or not to act…

When is the beast (i.e., the YES Network) going to start screaming, “Feed Me!”…

Okay, okay, I know…the Yankees are a strong team with or without reinforcements.  Maybe it is just the residual effect of having to depend upon Alex Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett.

Not unexpectedly, the Yankees failed to reach agreement with Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima.  Early speculation had Nakajima returning to Japan for one more year since the Yankees wouldn’t afford him the opportunity to start.  The Boston Red Sox seem like the natural fit given their need for someone with Nakajima’s talent and it doesn’t hurt that the manager can speak a little Japanese.

Just as they were not players for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, I don’t really expect the Yankees to pursue Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.  If the Yankees didn’t have any promising prospects it would be one thing, but the organization really likes outfield prospect Mason Williams.  It goes without saying that you can’t sustain a championship squad with $100 million players at every position.  Primarily, it is cost prohibitive, but secondly, the players quickly become less productive than their compensation (i.e., A-Rod) and you’re unable to do anything about it.  Good, cheap young talent is the way to sustain a championship squad.  That’s why Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos should both get opportunities to pitch in Yankee Stadium at some point this season.  If either could prove that he is major league ready, it would significantly strengthen the perceived weak starting rotation.

There are plenty of ‘what ifs’ with the Yankees this year, but IF Phil Hughes can show he is indeed the 18-win game winner we saw several years ago and not the notorious injury risk and IF A.J. Burnett could convert last season’s first half success into full season success, the rotation would be in great shape for supplementation by Betances and/or Banuelos.

Like many, I am anxious to see what Jesus Montero can do on a daily basis with his bat.  I am grateful the Yankees didn’t move him.  I know we’re not out of the woods yet, but if Montero starts hitting like we know he can, he’ll quickly become a fixed commodity in the Bronx.

My primary wish at this point is the return of backup third baseman Eric Chavez.  Yes, I would be in favor of a trade for Matt Garza or Matt Cain, or the free agent signing of Edwin Jackson on a short term deal, but I really think that a solid, proven replacement option for A-Rod is essential.  When A-Rod goes on the inevitable DL stint during the season, I don’t want to see his replacement with a guy that is fighting to stay above the Mendoza line.  I want a guy that is capable of changing the game, and that’s Chavez.  He might not be able to do it every day anymore, but he’s still a superior performer if used properly.  So, Brian Cashman, please talk to your owner and get this deal done.

Money for nothing and the chicks for free…

I have to admit that I am impressed with what Cubs president Theo Epstein has done so far.  To unload the pariah known as Carlos Zambrano and get a young, quality starting pitcher in Chris Volstad was genius.  I know that Andrew Cashner was a heralded pitching prospect, but I really like the move to pick up former Red Sox prospect Anthony Rizzo from the San Diego Padres for first base.  I used to think that Alfonso Soriano was untradeable, but now, if you told me that Theo had traded him for a quality return, I would believe you wholeheartedly.  I kind of feel bad for Cubs GM Jed Hoyer.  Regardless of what he does, Theo will always get credit.  San Diego GM Josh Byrnes is probably saying ‘Thanks, Dude’ every night.

What do you want to be when you grow up?…

I was a bit surprised to see Joe Torre step down from his job with Major League Baseball.  I am sure that the attraction of being a major league owner was very appealing, but it’s hardly a sure bet.  But I guess that Joe’s made his money, and he decided to gamble for the job he wanted, knowing that worst case, he is set for the rest of his life.  One thing’s for sure, if Joe’s ownership group is successful in buying the Dodgers, my longtime idol, Don Mattingly, is secure as Dodgers manager.  So, all I can say is ‘Good luck, Joe!’.

When did Arte Moreno become smarter than a fifth grader?…

I’ve been surprised to hear that the contract Albert Pujols signed with the Los Angeles Angels is so backloaded.  To pay the best player in baseball $12 million to play in 2012 is clearly the best return on investment that I’ve seen in a very long time.  Sure, in 8 years, the Angels will be paying $30 million for a past-his-prime first baseman, but by that time, he’ll have legendary records within his grasp, and will help fill seats, which of course, will pay his excess salary.  GM Jerry DiPoto is too new to give him credit, but this was a genius move by the Angels and it shows that the Cardinals were never going to pay that kind of money.

What a surprise…

It’s funny that I used the word ‘surprised’ in the last two paragraphs.  That’s not the case with the Yankees where the crickets still reign supreme…

I know, the Yankees signed former Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima but I don’t really see him making the team if Cesar Cabral impresses in camp.  Crickets, just crickets…

–Scott

The best of a bad situation for the Red Sox Nation…

 

Bobby Valentine’s hire…

I am still surprised that the Boston Red Sox ownership and management team did not have a clear plan of succession when they failed to back former manager Terry Francona at the end of the season.  Sure, Francona left on his terms but the lack of support had as much to do with the decision as anything.  So, if ownership felt that they wanted a change, they should have had a short list of potential replacements in mind.  Theo Epstein moved more quickly in Chicago when they named Sox candidate Dale Sveum as their manager.  The Sox search just felt “messy” to an outsider like me.

Still, they probably did as well as they could with the hiring of Bobby Valentine.  There is no question that he is a superior tactician.  He is very passionate, which is an attribute that I have always admired.  I cannot say that I’ve been a Bobby V fan in my life.  I lived in Dallas during his years as the manager of the Texas Rangers.  But I respect his knowledge, skills and high desire to win.  At different points during the last few years, there have been times he has been mentioned as a possible Yankees manager.  You don’t have to like the guy personally if he can get the job done.  I think one of my friends referred to Bobby as “swarmy” and it’s a good description.  Nevertheless, I am sure that Bobby will prove himself worthy of the Red Sox Nation and they’ll love him.  Meanwhile, we’ll just continue our loathing of him which fits since he is now with a bitter rival.

I would like to see if Bobby can have a positive impact on pitcher Jon Lester.  Lester has been one of my favorite players, despite his uniform.  He is an ace, and capable of carrying the high expectations that go with it.  2011 was a regression year for Lester so hopefully he’ll get back on track in 2012 and clearly establish himself as the leader of the Red Sox rotation.

…and Terry Francona’s ire…

In recent years, I admittedly lessened my dislike for the Boston Red Sox and it was primarily because of my respect for manager Terry Francona.  In my mind, Joe Torre had been the model of a superior manager, and the Francona mold was in the same class.  I do not know the inner workings of the Red Sox organization, but I am still surprised that they didn’t support Francona based on comments Tito has made during interviews.  I was even more surprised to hear that he had to defend himself against questions about painkillers during his interview with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Here is a manager that won two World Series for an organization that had not won since 1918, or when Babe Ruth was still on the roster.  It’s incredible to think of how many Red Sox managers failed where Tito succeeded.  I think teams missed the boat in not aggressively pursuing Tito this off-season.  Hopefully, teams won’t make the same mistake next year.

All quiet on the Western front…

The days leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas seem so incredibly quiet compared to life under the Boss.  While I recognize that part of it is posturing by the Yankees to avoid overpaying for players, there is the realization that this is a different ownership group even if it is still “in the family”.  The Yankees did not really make any notable moves last season outside of signing catcher Russell Martin and bringing in pitchers Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.  To fail to upgrade the team this year is a mistake in my opinion.  Last year’s roster was easily defeated by the Detroit Tigers in the play-offs.  While I realize that anything can happen in a short series, I didn’t have the sense or “feel” that the Yankees were going to prevail.  It almost seemed as though it was inevitable the Yankees would lose.  That’s a bad feeling.  The team needs bench or role players that can come through like Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui used to, and they need help at the top of the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia.

I hopeful that the team can re-sign Eric Chavez, Andrew Jones and Luis Ayala.  Chavez is a perfect fit behind Alex Rodriguez, assuming that he can stay healthy, and Jones was a great fourth outfielder if he is content with resuming that type of role for the upcoming season. Ayala seems to be garnering much attention with at least six teams interested.

I like the one rumor that I heard about the Yankees possibly being interested in Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Kyle Drabek.  He would definitely be a pitcher that I’d target if I were the GM.  As a fan, the trade of Doug Drabek hurt at the time and it hurt even more when Drabek went on to achieve great success with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  While acquiring Kyle Drabek has nothing to do with his father as he has great potential on his own right, it would be nice to have the son of Doug Drabek in the organization.  Interestingly, the Yankees had obtained Doug Drabek in a trade with the Chicago White Sox for shortstop Roy Smalley.  If they had held onto him that trade would have been remembered as one of the Yankees better trades.  As it was, the Yankees traded him to the Pirates for Rick Rhoden, who was serviceable but not great.

Of the free agent pitchers, I am still most interested in Mark Buehrle.  I think he’d fit perfectly into the middle of the Yankees rotation.  I like C.J. Wilson but I can understand the team’s apprehension given the dollars that have been mentioned to sign him.  If Yu Darvish is posted later this off-season, I really would like to see the Yankees be aggressive in pursuing him.  I am convinced that he’ll have greater major league success than Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.  The negative is obviously the cost of the posting fee that it will take to get the job done.  The Red Sox paid over $51 million for the rights to negotiate with Dice-K, and apparently, it will take a similar if not higher number to land Darvish.

If the Yankees were to include outfielder Nick Swisher in a trade for a starting pitcher, they’d need to find a replacement.  As a fan, I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill type of trade to fill the void…acquiring a talented young outfielder with much promise who has yet fulfilled those expectations.  It’s a high risk move, but as in the case of O’Neill, high reward.  Curtis Granderson has thrived in a Yankees uniform despite the sluggish start, and it’s better to catch a player before he hits the upward arc of his career in terms of cost.  If the Yankees tried to acquire Granderson from the Tigers today, there’s no way that they could get it done with Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke (and that’s with Kennedy being mentioned in the NL Cy Young race this year).

Brace yourself, here comes Roller-Coaster Week!…

The upcoming week is always my favorite week of the off-season.  The Hot Stove League is at its pinnacle.  Even if the Yankees do not do anything, it is still a thrilling ride.  It’s fun to talk and think about all the potential possibilities, even as far-reaching as some may sound.  My primary wish is for the Cardinals to get their long-anticipated deal with Albert Pujols done so that we can move on to other storylines.  There’s no way that he is going to Chicago or Miami, and at the end of the day, he is and always will be a Cardinal.

My preferred landing spot for Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, if he decides to continue playing, is the Miami Marlins.  I do not want to see him go to the Mets, Red Sox, or any other AL East rival including the Tampa Bay Rays.

Good move, Bad move…

The Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite National League team, although I do not have the passion for the team or the sense of loyalty that I hold for the Yankees.  My affection for them began when Joe Torre was named manager (previously I had considered the San Francisco Giants as my NL team) and it has continued with one of my all-time favorite players as the current Dodgers manager, Don Mattingly.  I am dismayed with the ownership situation and do not have any respect for Frank McCourt, but I am optimistic that the sale of the team will restore the luster of the storied franchise.

While it was good for the Dodgers to lock up outfielder Matt Kemp long-term, I do question the move to sign free agent pitcher Chris Capuano.  The cost was too great ($10 million for two years) for a journeyman pitcher who is average to average-minus with no upside.  If this move prevents free agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda from returning, then it’s an even greater mistake.  I don’t know how much it will cost to sign Kuroda and I realize that he is 37, but he’s still a better pitcher than Capuano.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

I was not excited when the Minnesota Vikings trade a 6th round draft pick to the Washington Redskins for QB Donovan McNabb before the season started, but I did realize the team needed a veteran presence.  McNabb was a failure for the Vikings, and I was glad to see the team finally cut bait with his release this past week.  I am not convinced he can thrive in any environment, contrary to what head coach Leslie Frazier may say.  I think the Vikings simply found out what the Philadelphia Eagles knew and what the Redskins found out last season.  He’s done.  I was pleasantly surprised to see QB Sage Rosenfels return as the third string QB after his release from the Miami Dolphins.  It’s not that I expect Rosenfels to take any regular season snaps this time around, but he’s a good insurance policy and allows the Vikings to continue to use second string QB Joe Webb in a variety of roles.

It’s tough when your favorite football team is playing so bad that you actually hope for losses to ensure a high draft pick.  The Vikings are only two games behind the Indianapolis Colts in the sweepstakes for Stanford QB Andrew Luck.  I am a fan of Vikings QB Christian Ponder, but even I would gladly take Luck over Ponder.  So, with the Denver Broncos playing the Vikings today, all I can say is ‘Go Tim Tebow!’ as a way to bring good “Luck”!…

–Scott