With the help of a Walker…
Neil Walker makes his much anticipated debut in a Yankees lineup today in the only Spring rematch of the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros…and the game is not televised…ugh! With no offense to the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox, this is one Spring game that could be a preview of coming attractions for October. Obviously, the outcome of this game decides nothing but I look forward to the Yankees-Astros battles over the course of the coming season. Hey, H-Town, we’re coming for you…
|Photo Credit: AP (Kathy Willens)|
As it stands, based on the comments floating out of camp, it appears that Tyler Wade has the advantage to start at second base for the Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 29th. His at-bat yesterday against Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Rivero was epic. After Rivero sent Wade backwards into the dirt with a high and inside pitch, Wade battled back and worked a hard-fought walk. Last year, I have no doubt he would have struck out in that situation, allowing Rivero to get inside his head. Time and again, Wade is making the plays to show that he belongs. Given how much corporate executives raved about him over the winter and his subsequent performance this Spring, it’s easy to see why his name will be on the Opening Day roster. Walker’s flexibility to play multiple positions will most certainly keep his bat in the lineup even if Wade becomes the starter. Both Danny Espinosa and Adam Lind paid the price for the Walker signing as evidenced by their releases, but I think the remaining player most adversely impacted will be Ronald Torreyes. It is interesting and perhaps telling that Walker’s debut against the Astros will feature him at first base rather than second base. Have bat; will travel. Walker is ready to help wherever he is need in the infield except for shortstop and catcher. But something tells me he’d play those positions if they let him.
I remain very high on Brandon Drury. At the beginning of training camp, so many jumped on the Miguel Andujar bus after his series of home runs, but based on the signals I was reading, the organization feels that he needs more time to work on his defensive game. Also, given the many signs that there is mutual interest between the Yankees and Manny Machado, it makes you wonder about Andujar’s future in the organization. It seems like he is destined to be trade bait at some point. Nevertheless, for now, I am excited about Brandon Drury’s presence at third base even if Andujar or maybe Machado takes his job at some point in the future.
Joel Sherman of The New York Post recently ran an article which detailed how highly Drury is thought of by the Arizona Diamondbacks. They didn’t want to trade him but it was the only way they could land Steven Souza Jr from the Tampa Bay Rays to replace slugger J.D. Martinez who, as we know, left via free agency to sign with a certain team in Massachusetts. In his column, Sherman quotes D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo saying Drury might hit 30 home runs this year. Admittedly, that might be a bit too optimistic, but I like the potential of the player. The quote by Lovullo that stuck out with me is: “A great competitor, a great teammate. Cares on a pretty impressive level about being the absolute best he can be every single day. The Yankees got a special player. Very quiet. Very intense. But very attentive.” I feel strongly that Drury is going to be a significant contributor for the 2018 Yankees. Frankly, I’d love for him to play so well the Yankees decide they don’t need Machado.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)|
It was disappointing to see Chance Adams’ reassignment to Minor League Camp on a down note. It wasn’t a great spring for him. He pitched in three games for a total of 4 2/3 innings, departing with 0-1 record and 11.57 ERA. 9 hits…ouch…6 runs…ouch…3 walks…ouch. In my eyes, both Justus Sheffield and Albert Abreu represent stronger future rotation possibilities. I am starting to side with those who believe that Adams’ future lies in the bullpen. It wasn’t only this Spring, there were signs last year in Triple A that started making me question his future as a starter. With all sincerity, I hope he proves me wrong. But that’s up to him, not me.
I like Jordan Montgomery but realistically, if the price is right, I’d still sign Alex Cobb. Pitching, pitching, pitching…you can never have enough.
Manager Aaron Boone is going to have so many options when he writes up his lineups depending upon matchups, but I really liked yesterday’s Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton-Gary Sanchez sequence against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sanchez, of course, killed it with 5 RBI’s. I am convinced that El Gary can be “the beast” in the batting order all season long. Best hitter on the team in my opinion. Then again, there are no weaknesses, top to bottom. Boone could use a Power Ball machine to determine his batting order and not be wrong. Okay, that approach might be a little too much, but how many first-time managers are handed the keys to a Lamborghini? Poor Ron Gardenhire was the most experienced manager hired in the off-season and he was given a Ford Pinto. For Boonie, life is good.
I’d take $84 million guaranteed too…
With my apologies to those of you who are Jets fans, I am glad that QB Kirk Cousins signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Of course, I say that as a lifelong (long suffering?) Vikings fan. Perhaps Minnesota overpaid for a QB with a losing record, but I like Cousins as the team’s new field general. I have greater faith in him than I did the three Vikings quarterbacks who departed via free agency. Case Keenum. Great guy, but was it him or the system? Could be a one-season wonder. Maybe not, but I’d rather have the guy who is coming off three consecutive 4,000 yard seasons. Sam Bradford. Love the arm, but the dude can’t stay healthy. Teddy Bridgewater. He looked like the future star of the organization until the devastating knee injury. Do we really know if he can successfully make it back? For a team that is Super Bowl-caliber, the Vikings couldn’t take the chance. Bridgewater could blossom for the Jets and provide them with the QB they’ve been lacking. From a character standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find many better than Bridgewater. I think the Jets made the right move to sign him. I really hope that he realizes the greatness that seemed destined for him in Minnesota. There’s no doubt he has championship-quality drive and determination.
During the press conference yesterday in Minneapolis to announce the signing, Cousins sounded a bit like Brian Cashman talking about Aaron Boone in his description of how the city and team “checked all the boxes”. I kept anticipating some type of “expect to be great” line in Kirk’s speech but he did “check the boxes” for me by mentioning Super Bowls (plural). Works for me. Congratulations to Kirk and his family. I wish him much success and happiness in the Twin Cities. Now, just bring me the Super Bowl, I means Super Bowls, that I’ve waited all my life for!
|Photo Credit: Star Tribune (Elizabeth Flores)|
But, back to baseball. Go Yankees!
|Credit: Tony Avelar-Associated Press|
A’s 5, Yankees 2…
A funny thing happened on our way to a fun and exciting season. We got our butts kicked by the American League’s worst team. The season-high losing streak has now reached five games (three in a row to the lowly A’s) as the agony on the West Coast continues.
After the return of the “batting practice” pitcher (Masahiro Tanaka), the Yankees thrust a Triple A pitcher into the role of stopper later today. It’s going to be a very long flight back to New York for the Yankees if they can’t at least salvage the final game of the four game series.
Masahiro Tanaka’s performance yesterday showed me that I really hope that he opts out of his contract at the end of the year. But unfortunately, the worse he pitches, the more foolish he’d walk away from guaranteed money that he’d be unable to top on the open market. Tanaka is no ace and I am becoming very pessimistic about his chances to reclaim any resemblance of a top of the rotation guy.
Tanaka did strike out 10 batters, when the A’s weren’t sending the pitches out of the park (three home runs in the first four innings). In fact, Tanaka is the only pitcher in the last 100 years to strike out at least ten while allowing three homers in four innings or less. It’s not exactly a record that I’d be proud of.
After the Yankees failed to score any runs in the top of the first inning despite a runner in scoring position, the A’s Matt Joyce hopped on the first pitch thrown by Tanaka and homered to right-center. Tanaka struck out the next 3 batters to end the first (giving the false illusion that the homer was an aberration).
The next inning, the Yankees took a 2-1 lead when they scored two runs on three successive singles and a sac fly against A’s starter Jesse Hahn. But it was temporary. In the bottom of the 2nd, Ryon Healy blasted a shot to left center to tie the game. Like the inning before, Tanaka subsequently recorded all three outs by strikeout, leaving runners at first and second through a double and a walk which followed the homer. Tanaka faced the minimum of three batters in the third (one by strikeout), but Ryon Healy opened the fourth with his second home run of the game. The A’s had the lead for good, 3-2. It was another inning of all three outs recorded by strikeout, but sadly they were mixed in with four singles that produced two more runs. 5-2, A’s.
|Credit: Getty Images|
Tanaka (5-7, 6.34 ERA) didn’t come back for the fifth inning, and he was replaced by Domingo German who finished up the game (protecting the other tired arms in the bullpen). German did an admirable job with four scoreless innings (6 strikeouts of his own) but the Yankees offense was silent for the remainder of the game. Swinging strikeouts in the 9th by Chris Carter, Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine ended the game (leaving Ronald Torreyes, who had singled and taken second on defensive indifference, stranded).
The Boston Red Sox missed out on an opportunity to tie the Yankees (38-28) for the AL East lead and they remain one game back thanks to their 7-1 loss to the Houston Astros. The Red Sox seem to be having their own Tanaka-like problems with last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, Rick Porcello (3-9, 5.05 ERA). The Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles both won so they are 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 games behind, respectively.
Luis Cessa will be on the mound for the Yankees later today, making his season debut. The Yankees bullpen will be at its strongest for the first time in a long time with the expected activation of closer Aroldis Chapman. I am hopeful that the return of Tyler Clippard to the 7th inning allows him to be more effective with the pressurized latter innings under the control of Dellin Betances and Chapman.
Odds & Ends…
Since his elevation to the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 28th, first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger, son of former Yankees pitcher Clay Bellinger, has been on a home-run tear. He already has four multi-homer games, and his 19th home run yesterday matched Gary Sanchez’s MLB record for most home runs in a player’s first 49 games. The Dodger Days for first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, currently on the DL with a degenerative disc in his lower back, appear to be numbered.
|Credit: Jeff Roberson-Associated Press|
The Yankees received a scare yesterday when top prospect Gleyber Torres was pulled from the game with an injury suffered on a headfirst slide at home plate. He has been diagnosed with a hyperextended elbow. X-rays performed after the game were negative. He’ll undergo further medical evaluation before returning to Scranton. Hopefully all is well except for a few days of rest.
I hadn’t really seen a list yet, but Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported this weekend that the Yankees must place the following players on the 40-man roster between now and November 20th or risk losing them in the Rule 5 draft: Gleyber Torres, Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo, Tyler Wade, Zack Littell, Thairo Estrada, Clint Frazier, Dustin Fowler, Ian Clarkin, Billy McKinney and J.P. Feyereisen. It would seem that the abundance of talented prospects requiring protection will be a factor in the days leading up the trading deadline next month.
Happy Father’s Day to all dads in the Yankees Universe! I hope it’s a tremendous day for you, complete with a Yankees victory! Enjoy!
The right to be pessimistic…
Anybody who has read my blog knows that I have been very pessimistic about the 2013 Yankees. I didn’t feel right about the team coming out of training camp as the Yankees did nothing to upgrade the talent on the team and then when the season started, it became a comedy watching all of the regulars, well, for the most part, end with significant time on the disabled list.
A slight bit of optimism started to slip into my thinking last week when the Yankees started inching closer to the second wild card slot. But that was quickly dashed by the weekend sweep at the hands of the AL East leading Boston Red Sox. The Yankees weren’t just defeated in the series, they felt like a minor league team against giants. It “felt” as though it was impossible for the Yankees to take charge of a game and even when they did hold a lead, it seemed very fragile and in retrospect, it was.
I was reading Joel Sherman’s recent column about the bleak prospect for 2014 and I have to agree. CC Sabathia has shown nothing to lead one to believe that he’ll restore his status as the team’s ace. It is very possible that we are watching the final pinstripe days for Hiroki Kuroda who has been the team’s best pitcher. Ivan Nova, after a brief successful run, has shown he is nothing more than a roller-coaster. Phil Hughes is auditioning for his job elsewhere next season and not doing a very good job. I do not see any scenario that brings Andy Pettitte back for another season. I am sure that this one has been a grind and at his age, that’s enough to pack his bags and head back home to the Lone Star State for the final time. He’ll be a spring training regular as an instructor, I am sure, but as for Yankee Stadium starts, the end is near. I honestly have no clue what season’s rotation will look like other than CC anchoring the bottom end.
As much as I want to see the return of Robinson Cano, I don’t want the Yankees to break the bank. It’s that type of mentality that led them to their current predicament. But I recognize when Hal and Hank Steinbrenner make comments that there’s a limit to what they’ll spend (even if it is the right thing to do), it will psychologically send a message to Cano that maybe they don’t want him as bad as the crosstown Mets or the ‘spend-foolishly’ Los Angeles Angels. The outfield is a disaster with the cast of characters that can call themselves the “Forty-Something” Club. Granted, Brett Gardner isn’t 40, but he’s also proven that he is DL-prone. That’s not an affliction that gets better with age. We’ll most likely see the return of Vernon Wells for no other reason than he won’t cost the Yankees anything toward the salary cap. Derek Jeter is a Hall of Famer, but as a 40-year-old shortstop playing on a bad ankle, he’s not a guy that you want to see on the field for 140 or 150 games. Mark Teixeira is on the express train to insignificance. Chris Stewart has done a decent job as the replacement for Russell Martin, but he’s a backup on almost any other club.
A look at the Yankees’ farm system does not show anyone that is ready to be handed a first class ticket to the Bronx. This is definitely an organization in a state of flux, and I am not convinced that it is one that GM Brian Cashman can survive. I think the Yankees will bring back Joe Girardi (there’s not really anyone else that stands out as a surefire upgrade) and someone has to pay the price for Hal Steinbrenner’s frugalness. Cashman’s mantra was building the farm system, but as it stands today, it is a system filled with overhyped prospects with the best talent years from maturing.
How do the Yankees overhaul their aging, overpaid and underperforming roster? Boston’s GM Ben Cherington gets great credit for his salary purge last year that led to his team being on the fast track to the World Series. Unfortunately, I do not see any other team willing to accept the Yankees’ excess baggage. Are we facing a 1980’s drought? I hope not, but then again, I am not seeing anything that would instill confidence. I hope the team’s off-season meetings are about how to improve the team and not to avoid exceeding the 2014 salary cap. Another 2013-like year, and this is going to be a very difficult hole to dig out of. I would not expect the Yankees to compete again until after the contracts of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, and the other older vets are distant memories.
Meanwhile, my favorite NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, is 0-2. 2013 is not playing out to be a very good sports year for me. I need help. Hey, San Jose Sharks, can you do something to lift my spirits?…
The end is near for the Yankees but sadly that also means….
The end of the legendary career of my personal favorite Yankee, Mariano Rivera. He’s been my favorite since he was zooming fastballs in the 8th inning prior to the entrance of closer John Wetteland. Mo has been the epitome of the ideal baseball player. When I think of all the Yankee greats, there is some sadness that I never got to see them play, like the Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig. But in Mariano Rivera, I saw a pitcher that my grandchildren will be talking about. I’ve been very proud of his career and accomplishments and even in those moments of failure, there was never sadness because you knew that Mo gave it his all. It’s been a pleasure to be a fan during his reign and his career will always be one that I’ll be so thankful and happy for. I thought his words in the Fenway Park dugout were sincere, simple and so-Mo. He is and has been the best…
Do I really think that 2013 is the year the Yankees win their 28th World Championship? No, not really. I think the off-season of inactivity proved to me that the magic wouldn’t be in the air. The team started strong with the scrap-heap substitutions of Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkilis and others, but as it stands today, the season is starting to play out as expected. Following today’s loss (and series loss) to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees are only 2 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox, but my intuition tells me that the top 3 of the AL East will inevitably be the bottom 3. The Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays are both starting to get their sea legs, and they, the Jays in particular, are starting to make their move.
I was listening to MLB Radio today and Joel Sherman made the comment that Phil Hughes has reached his ceiling…a .500 pitcher who’ll have some outstanding games but will threw in a few clunkers, with a 4.50 ERA. I didn’t need to hear Joel’s words to know that Hughes needs a change of scenery. I am not crazy about Ivan Nova but I’d prefer Nova over Hughes on an interim basis until Michael Pineda is finally able to take his spot in the rotation. I am not exactly sure what Hughes can bring you in trade, but there are other ballparks that perhaps he’d excel and have an “Ian Kennedy”-like renaissance. I’ve given up on it happening in the Bronx and hopefully Brian Cashman has too.
I don’t think the Yankees will win a championship with David Adams at third, but I still prefer him over Alex Rodriguez…
I am not sure what it will take for the Yankees to return to the World Series with the current construction of the roster. It’s unfortunate that Mariano Rivera will not be able to ride out in a blaze of glory, but he’s been nothing short of spectacular in his final season. Not too many guys can put up such a great season as their final journey after a long and lengthy ride. He is, without a doubt, the greatest closer in Major League Baseball history.
It would be fun to see Zoilo Almonte to continue to hit. The more the young guys produce, the more unlikely Curtis Granderson returns in 2014. Even with Almonte’s success, I don’t see anyway the current Steinbrenner regime brings Grandy back next year. That’s too bad, but I hope they don’t make the same mistake with Robinson Cano. Cano is the one Yankee the Steinbrenners should open up the vault for. But aside from Cano, the Yankees need to be looking into an exit strategy for Mark Teixera, Alex Rodriguez and even Derek Jeter. While they need a superior outfielder to go with Brett Gardner and youth, the entire infield needs a makeover.
If it were my team, I’d look at CC Sabathia as no more than a #3 starter at this stage of his career, which means that I’d need a solid #1 and #2 fairly quickly. I am not sure how the Yankees can produce those types of arms and I am not a proponent for depleting the farm system of talent in an attempt to bring an aged arm like Cliff Lee to New York.
So, all this leads me to believe that the Yankees should be sellers in July. Yeah, the team is only 2 ½ games out of first place at the moment, but I realistically do not believe that the team has the horses to win in October. At this point, I would not want to overpay just to bring further October disappointment. I’d rather be well-stocked and in good position to contend in 2014 when potentially the team has a stronger chance to succeed.
Do you believe in miracles? Not this year…
Dollars to donuts…
Joel Sherman has a good post today with his Hardball Blog in The New York Post entitled “’What would George do?’ among questions in Yanks’ $189M quest”.
I do not dispute the reasons for why the Yankees are financially motivated to get under the $189M threshold given the reduced tax penalties it will create for future years in addition to the savings in 2014. But can the Yankees maintain a championship caliber club in their quest to reconcile the bottom line? Something’s got to give, and I am fearful that it will be the quality of the Yankee clubs put on the field in the next few years.
That sounds kind of ridiculous to say when other clubs have proven you can succeed with lesser dollars, but in Tampa, for example, it was years of high draft picks that filled the cupboards with premier players like Evan Longoria and David Price. I see the same thing happening in Kansas City as they’ve been building solid, young talent. The Yankees, on the other hand, have been picking at the bottom end of rounds for years and there have been more than a few misses along the way. There has been a renewed emphasis on the farm system in recent years, however, it is still not within the upper echelon among the other clubs.
This paragraph in Joel Sherman’s post cuts to the heart of the problem:
“The aging/diminishing Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira plus the roughly $11 million each team is charged for a benefits plan costs about $84 million toward the luxury tax each season. That would give the Yankees roughly $105 million to complete a contender in 2014. But say Robinson Cano gets $22 million a year. Now it is $83 million for everything else. That is doable, but less so after a year in which the Yankees’ farm system regressed horribly, potentially derailing the expected pipeline of lower-cost talent.”
I checked the cities of Baltimore, Boston, and Tampa against Manhattan on a cost of living calculator and found that the equivalent salaries in New York would need to substantially greater to maintain the same cost of living. A Boston salary would need to be 63.10% greater, Baltimore 89.70%, and Tampa 145.28%. Okay, not every player will live in Manhattan and that’s probably an extreme, but it still shows on the affordability scale, it simply takes more dollars to live in New York than anywhere else. Other places like Florida and Texas have no state income tax. I am sure that when A.J. Burnett got to Pittsburgh, it wasn’t just the reduced spotlight that helped his successful turnaround, the realization of how much further his millions would go in the Steel City probably factored into the equation.
As it stands at the moment, it is very likely the Yankees enter the 2013 season as a weaker team than the one who was swept by the Detroit Tigers last month. I know, a lot can happen between now and then, but for the sake of this post, I have only the insight for where we stand today. I felt that it was essential for the Yankees to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda. As soon as there were indications that Kuroda would consider a one-year deal, the Yankees should have been aggressive in locking him up. But by delaying, the two LA teams are stepping up their pursuit and the area has an advantage given Kuroda’s familiarity and close ties to Southern CA. I believe that his wife and two daughters still reside in California. Losing Kuroda from the rotation will hurt. I am not convinced that David Phelps can match the level of performance that Kuroda achieved this past season.
The sooner the Yanks can move Alex Rodriguez to full-time DH will be better. They need a quality, front-line third baseman who can hit in the clutch. Sadly, there are not any high level prospects so free agency or a trade might be the only options. Given the former is probably not where the team intends to put its “limited” dollars, a trade is most likely the only solution. Of course, that will only deplete the Yankees of other young talent.
I guess Moneyball is alive and well and living in the Bronx. It is time for Brian Cashman to prove to the critics that he is a good general manager despite the Yankee resources. I do believe that he is so it will be interesting to see how the next few months unfold. I have read those who believe the Yankees will ultimately spend without regard to 2014, but given Hal Steinbrenner’s financial background, I see the team sticking to its plan. Time will tell if his stance is justified. Perhaps this is a radical, game-saving approach that will bring fiscal responsibility back into the game. Then again, maybe not…