A swing and a miss, another miss, yet another miss…
This morning, I saw a post on the MLB Trade Rumors website (http://www.MLBTradeRumors.com) that asked the poll question of which MLB team had the best draft in 2002? Of all the examples shown, no Yankees were anywhere to be found. For a draft that started with Bryan Bullington and B.J. Upton, there was some great talent uncovered in the 2002 draft. Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Joey Votto and a guy who would eventually find his way to the Bronx, Brian McCann, were among the great choices by their respective teams. But sadly, not a single Yankee selection stuck that year.
Number 26 selection Phil Coke is a major leaguer but with the Detroit Tigers. He had his moments in the Bronx but was never anything special and was sent to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson-Austin Jackson trade.
But removing Coke, there are 50 rounds of names that Yankee Stadium never heard from. I really do not recognize any of the names outside of the first round selection and that’s only because he was later the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns (Brandon Weeden).
I know that there are many sad tales among the 2002 draft picks, like 2nd round pick Alan Bomer, a pitcher, who reinjured his shoulder after a previous injury several years earlier, bringing an end to his major league hopes.
But it’s also a testament to the drafting ability of major league teams and 2002 was clearly not a good vintage for the Yankees. I know the team’s re-focus on the minor league system didn’t occur until a few years later but hopefully barren draft years like 2002 are a thing of the past. But looking ahead a few years, it’s not too pretty.
2003 really wasn’t much better with top pick third baseman Eric Duncan long gone from baseball. The only name that stands out to me from that draft is Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard.
2004 was the year the Yankees selected pitcher Phil Hughes and can only wonder what could have been. Time will tell if he can fulfill his promise in the Twin Cities or if he was simply one of the most overhyped young players of our time.
For the Yankees, solid draft picks do not appear until 2005 which Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson were chosen. Interestingly enough, the Yankees also chose pitcher Doug Fister that year but he opted to return to college for his final year, and was taken by the Seattle Mariners the next year. Granted, Fister is currently on the Nationals’ DL, but he’d certainly look good in the Yankees rotation about now.
In 2006, the Yankees made some good choices, but it’s rather humorous that the first round pick went to Joba Chamberlain, a journeyman reliever for the Detroit Tigers, while current Yankees closer, David Robertson was selected in the 17th round. Ian Kennedy and Zach McAllister were both chosen after Chamberlain, and they are solid starting pitchers for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians, respectively. Dellin Betances was also taken that year and after years of hype, he’s finally contributing as a force in the Yankees bullpen. Mark Melancon, currently the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates due to Jason Grilli’s injury, was also a draft selection.
Of the decisions the Yankees made regarding trades, the one I didn’t like was dumping McAllister. He went to Cleveland in 2010 for Austin Kearns who only stayed in the Bronx for the remainder of the season. That trade felt like the foolish ones that we had grown accustomed to in the 1970’s and 80’s. McAllister is having a very solid year for the Indians and is another guy who would have looked great in the Yankees rotation.
I will never find fault with the decision to trade Ian Kennedy even though he almost won the Cy Young after leaving the Yankees. I just never found him to be a good fit in New York.
2007 was another disappointing draft year as the Yankees really only have catcher Austin Romine, currently at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre, to show for it. Top pick Andrew Brackman was coming off a major injury at the time of the selection and was never able to find his way back.
As I advance to 2008, it’s disappointing to see how poor, outside of 2006, the draft has been for the Yankees. Atop the list in ’08 is a pitcher the Yankees were unable to sign and who is now entrenched in the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole. Talk about another guy who would have been a brilliant option for the Yankees rotation. What could have been…
This really shows how incredibly difficult it is to determine those who will be able to achieve results and success at the Major League level. It also shows how many people fail to find their way for whatever reasons.
It’s a small wonder that the Yankees have had to spend so much in the free agent market to ensure the team remains competitive. In a statement of the obvious, the Yankees would be smart to improve the quality of their scouting and development to ensure that the older players are replaced by younger, cheaper talent with high ceilings.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals are solid teams because of their drafting ability. For the Yankees, they are successful despite it. I get why owner Hal Steinbrenner believes in the power of the farm system. This is not rocket science. Sustainability will only be maintained through youth and controlling costs.
Stupid is as stupid does…
The fans of the Boston Red Sox took great delight when Michael Pineda was tossed from a Yankees-Red Sox game last week due to the blatant smear of pine tar on his neck. After the fiasco caused during his previous start against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium (“brown dirt”), he had to have known he would be under the magnifying glass. Yet, he risked detection by continuing the use of pine tar and ended up applying a more generous amount than he had intended to. So, Boston manager John Farrell had absolutely no choice but to call out Pineda. This is one instance where I felt the Red Sox were 100% correct in a controversial decision involving the Yankees. Pineda’s 10-game suspension hurts the Yankees, at a time when they’ve already lost starter Ivan Nova for the season due to an elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery.
For a rotation that looked so strong and full of promise for a few starts, the Yankees now have to replace both Nova and Pineda, plus the top of the rotation has been questionable at times with CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. The only source of consistency has been Masahiro Tanaka, who faces an incredibly difficult challenge today against the Los Angeles Angels and the likes of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.
Baseball is a team-first sport and Pineda made a “me-first” decision. I hope that he learns a valuable lesson during his suspension and comes back with choices that are for the good of the team.
For the record, I do believe that Major League Baseball should allow pine tar to some degree for gripping purposes only in colder temps. But until the rules are changed, it’s a violation and should be handled accordingly. Baseball has been tolerant of discreet behavior regarding its use, but to blatantly violate the policy warrants the appropriate punishment until such a time the rules are changed.
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?…
Sayonara, old friends…
This was a sad week for former Yankees stars as Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon were designated for assignment by their respective teams (Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians). Matsui has subsequently been released and Damon’s release is imminent. I doubt that either player will be picked up at this point in the season so it is most likely the sunset of both careers.
For Matsui, I think his original plan was to only play in the United States for three years but I am grateful that he extended his stay. He may not have been the “monster” player that he was in Japan (a/k/a Godzilla), but he knew and understood the power of the timely hit. Time and again, Matsui had a key hit to propel the Yanks to victory. He always seemed to rise to the occasion in the intense Boston-New York wars. In terms of character, he could easily stand in the same room with guys like Derek Jeter.
It hasn’t been fun watching Matsui wear Angels, A’s, and Rays jerseys, but he will always be Yankee.
As for Damon, it is ironic that a player who played such a key role in the Red Sox breaking ‘The Curse of the Bambino’, plus the entire Caveman image, could become a valued Yankee. Unlike Matsui, I won’t view Damon as a “Yankee” given his long tenure and success with other teams, but for his time in New York, he showed nothing but class and dignity. Like Matsui, he was a clutch player who seemed to excel in the bright lights.
Introducing Billy Beane’s latest star pitcher…
With the apparent end of two great careers this week, I saw the opposite on a plane trip from Portland, OR to Oakland on Thursday. The guy I was sitting next to was excited to be flying to Oakland to see his son, Dan Straily, make his major league pitching debut for the A’s on Friday night. He was proud to say that his son led all of baseball in strikeouts, and talked about the hard work his son had accomplished to get to this point. For the game, Straily didn’t figure in the decision, but his performance was a success:
The A’s won the game, 5-4, in 15 innings. I am sure that we’ve not seen the last of Mr. Straily. Here’s hoping this is the start of a long and memorable career for Straily, his father and the rest of their family.
When in doubt, pick up a Pirate…
While the trading deadline was very active compared to recent years, it was another quiet period for the Yankees. As the now fiscally conservative Yankees had been preaching, they did not make any moves for expensive, short-term rentals. They picked up a need (third baseman Casey McGehee) to ensure that backup third baseman Eric Chavez is not over exposed to playing time while starter Alex Rodriguez is on the DL. It’s a shame that Chavez is such an injury risk at this stage of his career, but I agree that it is best to limit his playing time for the good of his long-term health.
I thought the Yanks might try to make a move for a pitcher (someone like Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza) but it was clear that they would not overpay. Time will tell if they made the right decisions, but I still have concerns about the team’s offense in the play-offs when every pitcher they face will be a #1 or #2 starter. But September should see the return of top pitcher Andy Pettitte and a fresh Alex Rodriguez so perhaps those will be the team’s noteworthy “acquisitions” that boost team momentum.
Magic seems to be enjoying his new hobby…
The Los Angeles Dodgers have clearly re-emerged as a force in baseball with the new ownership group as they were the most active team in acquiring upgrades over the past couple of weeks (Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton). I guess they’ve gotten over the reign of Frank McCourt and have shown that they are back in the game. The San Francisco Giants are a strong team, but I think the Dodgers’ moves will help propel them past the Giants to the NL West pennant. Good for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly who remains one of my favorite guys in Major League Baseball.
Nothing but crickets…
I was surprised the Boston Red Sox didn’t make any moves. If there was a team that I had expected to make noise at the trading deadline, it was the Sox. I don’t think they should give up quality guys like Jacoby Ellsbury or Jon Lester, but there were moves they could have made to give the team a jolt. I may not be a fan of the Red Sox so I might be biased in making this comment, but I hope that this is a ‘one and done’ season for Boston manager Bobby Valentine.
We’ve moved into August and the Yankees hold a 6 ½ game advantage at the moment, but admittedly, it’s hard to get comfortable when that team in the rear view mirror is the Tampa Bay Rays. The next couple of months should be interesting. Let’s win this thing!…
Isn’t this kind of like pulling my finger- and toe-nails?…
One thing I’ve learned with these extended A.J. Burnett trade talks, patience is not my middle name and it’s not one of my virtues! While the Michael Pineda-for-Jesus Montero came very fast and furiously, the potential Burnett trade has been dragging for an eternity. There’s no question the Yankees have identified the Pittsburgh Pirates as the prime target. It’s been reported that the Yankees and Los Angeles Angels were willing to make a trade that would have brought the return of Bobby Abreu to the Bronx, but it was nixed by A.J. as the Angels were one of the ten teams on his no-trade list. This actually blows my mind to think that he’d turn down the Angels, arguably one of the best teams in the major leagues with Jered Weaver and Albert Pujols, but he’d be willing to go to Pittsburgh. To me, and maybe I am off-base, baseball is about winning and championships. Nothing against the Pirates, but the Angels, as currently built, will see deep October sooner than the men from the Steel City.
Granted, Burnett would be the #2 starter on the Pirates staff and no better than #5 on the Angels. But, c’mon, how much pressure can there be pitching behind Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, and Ervin Santana? With Burnett in a low-risk situation, the Angels would have an absolutely ridiculous starting rotation and one that would clearly put the Philadelphia Phillies in an inferior position as baseball’s best rotation. But Mrs. Burnett apparently has issues with flying, so the perfect situation for Burnett won’t happen.
What will it take to consummate the deal with the Pirates? I’ve read the Yankees have proposed a sliding scale…the more money the Pirates take in salary, the less the Yankees will seek in terms of prospects. I do think that Burnett could excel in Pittsburgh. There’s pressure but it is certainly nothing like playing in New York. A.J.’s problems tend to be mental as there is no questioning the value of his great arm. I think A.J. can relax and trust his stuff better in a lower-pressured situation.
For the Yankees, I think the #5 slot is Phil Hughes’ to lose regardless of the contract the Yanks gave to Freddy Garcia. Garcia will be the long man and spot starter. That leaves no room for Burnett, and of course, that would only bring a bad attitude if he reports to camp with the Yankees. So, hopefully, GM Brian Cashman can put the distractions of his poor sleeping partner decisions to rest long enough to hammer out the deal with the Pirates within the next 24-48 hours. With the recent promotions of Assistant GM Jean Afterman to SVP and Angels GM Candidate #2 Billy Eppler to Assistant GM, maybe the second string is working this one. I don’t care if George Steinbrenner’s widow, Joan, is working this one, let’s just get it done…
Sorry, A.J., I love your arm, but I haven’t wanted to see a player leave New York this bad since Ed Whitson was a Yankee.
Welcome to New York…err, Tampa!..
I really enjoyed reading some of the early reports about new pitcher Michael Pineda. He reported to camp early and talked about how excited he was to be a Yankee. He gave glowing reports of his interactions with Robinson Cano, and it is easy to see that he’ll mesh very nicely with “King of the Hill” CC Sabathia. Passion and intensity are two qualities that I’ve always respected, and Pineda seems to have “it”.
If Ken Griffey, Jr and Gary Matthews, Jr can do it, so can Donnie Baseball, Jr…
I realize that minor league OF prospect Preston Mattingly is getting a bit long in tooth after two failed tries with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians, but he is still only 24 years old. I know that he’s getting “old” for a prospect, but it would be a wonderful story for Mattingly to seize the opportunity with the Yankees and prove that he can be the talent that he was once projected to be with the Dodgers. So far, I’ve liked what he has had to say. He certainly has his father’s positive attitude and realistic perspective, even if he isn’t the player his father was. I’d like nothing more than to see Preston eventually earn a spot on the Yankees roster. I am biased because his father was my favorite player and is the reason that the Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite NL team. Let’s hope that good things happen for a deserving son of a great legend…
Scratching nails on a chalkboard…
It rubs me wrong every time the Yankees sign a former Boston Red Sox player. Well, I might be okay if the Yankees picked up Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury or Dustin Pedroia. But otherwise, I really have no desire to see former Red Sox players pull on the pinstripes. Conversely, it is even harder to watch former Yankees sign with the Red Sox. When the Yankees cut ties with Alfredo Aceves due to his injury history, my immediate thought was a potentially huge mistake. At that point, I was hoping someone like the San Diego Padres would sign Aceves, but unfortunately, the Red Sox swooped in and captured Aceves. He went on to have a brilliant season with the Sox in the bullpen, and is a valued member of their pitching staff heading into 2012. So, it pained me today when I saw that the Red Sox had signed former Yankee pitcher Ross Ohlendorf. I realize that Ohlendorf had a miserable 2011 season with the Pirates, but I’ve always liked the guy who the Yanks acquired when they dealt Randy Johnson back to the Arizona Diamondbacks a few years ago. I am really hoping that Ohlendorf doesn’t become the next Tim Wakefield for the Sox.
Clearly our loss…
Baseball-speaking, today was a very sad day. I had heard that Gary Carter was battling cancer, but it was still hard to hear the news that he had passed. I think back to when I first became aware of baseball and a Yankees fan. It was in the mid-1970’s. In those early years, I was focused primarily on the Yankees. I was aware of other teams and players, but I can’t say that I know too much about them. Thurman Munson was the catcher and he quickly became my favorite player. I could never fully appreciate the greatness of Johnny Bench because of my admiration for Thurman. Same holds true for Carlton Fisk, who I always saw as a Red Sock even after his trade to the Chicago White Sox. My world changed on August 2, 1979, and it caused me to step back and look at the bigger picture. Only then did I begin to truly appreciate the value of great players on other teams. At that point, the catcher of the Montreal Expos quickly rose to the surface, for me, as one of the premier players at his position. There was something very clutch and special about Gary Carter. He went on to drive the New York Mets to a World Series championship in 1986, and proved that he was the catcher of my era. I am glad that he saw his entry into the Hall of Fame and there’s no question that he packed more into 57 years than I’ll ever experience regardless of how old I live to be. A good man, a proud father, a legendary baseball player. Gary, we will never forget you.
Maybe Phil Jackson would like to have one more shot…
I had fun on Saturday night when the New York Knicks came to Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Timberwolves. As a Knicks fan (my first year!), I was excited to see what Lin-mania was all about. He was a little off that night, but at the end, it was Jeremy Lin’s basket that proved to be the game-winner. The T-Wolves, or the Muskies as they were referred to that night in tribute to a former Minneapolis basketball team from the 60’s or 70’s, had led the game from the start. The Knicks had caught the T-Wolves a couple of times, but then Minnesota seemed to drop a few consecutive buckets to pull ahead again. But at the end, Lin was not to be denied, and “Lin-sanity” continues. It’s funny because I bought the tickets to the game hoping to see Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, and neither player dressed for the game. But all things considered, Lin was the perfect substitute.
Yes, it was exciting to see the opening of Fantasy Baseball…
It’s fun to see the return of fantasy baseball. I’ve already set a few teams with ESPN and I think my first draft is this weekend. I am looking forward to when they open the live drafting functionality. I like fantasy baseball if for no other reason than it helps you know and understand players on other teams than just your favorite team. If Jon Lester heads my starting rotation or if Jacoby Ellsbury is roving my outfield, I am okay with that. Granted, when Lester and Ellsbury come to Yankee Stadium, I’ll be pulling for L’s and O-fer’s but when Lester shuts down the Rays or Ellsbury slams a homer to beat the O’s, there might be a smile on my face.
Baseball, let’s get started…
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”!…
Waiting for the Hot Stove League to start…
I think the longest point in the off-season for a Yankees fan is from the day the team exits the play-offs until the conclusion of the World Series. The shorter that gap, the better. Unfortunately, it was not to be this year with the team’s departure after the opening series loss to the Detroit Tigers.
The saddest part of 2011 is that the Yankees could have beaten the Tigers, and I think they would have been very competitive with the new AL League champion Texas Rangers. Texas pulled the perfect play-off card in getting the unexpected wild card Tampa Bay Rays who had been left for dead by everybody except themselves. In the ALCS, they avoided the Yankees, or the top clubs that didn’t make the play-offs, the Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels. I have long been in favor of expanding the divisional series from 5 to 7 games, and this year is just another reason why. The Yankees, with the best league record, were unable to start against the weakest team in the play-offs, the Rays, because they are from the same division. So, that pitted the Yankees against the stronger Tigers in a shortened series. I am not saying that the Yankees would have won it had the series been in the 7-game format, but at least it would yield a more truthful result.
I am a former Dallas resident but not a Rangers fan…
I am not a fan of the Texas Rangers so it’s hard to feel any satisfaction in their team reaching the World Series for the second year in a row. However, my son is a Rangers fan and he’s certainly excited about the team’s success. We lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area when my son was small, and after a Rangers game, we had gone to a nearby restaurant for dinner. There weren’t too many people in the restaurant at the time, and my son must have been about 2 or 3. On the other side of the restaurant, then Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan was having dinner with his family. We told our son who was at the table, and a friend walked him over to the table to introduce my son to Nolan. My son was wearing a Rangers cap, so Nolan took it off and signed the bill of the cap. My son is now almost 22 years old, and he still has that signed cap with him. He remains a Rangers fan to this day, despite his dad’s loyalty to the Yankees.
The team with the second greatest World Series success…
While I think the World Series will be competitive this year, I still think the National League will emerge victorious again. I don’t really see the Milwaukee Brewers getting past the St. Louis Cardinals, so it should be the Cardinals in the World Series against the Rangers. It’s too bad the Cardinals don’t have Adam Wainwright in their rotation, but the team is certainly on a mission. I think the Cardinals will end the NLCS with a Game 6 win tonight in Milwaukee.
Strike quickly with full force and focus…
I am anxious for the World Series to conclude so that we can move on to the Hot Stove League. I really hope the Yankees can re-sign GM Brian Cashman to a new deal before the end of the month and before the start of the free agency period. This off-season is about timing and the Yankees need to move very quickly to secure Cashman and hopefully re-negotiate with CC Sabathia so that they can turn to free agency and the trade market with full and heavy focus. My wish list for the off-season is an improved starting rotation, strength on the bench, and perhaps a heavy hitter to offset the declining production from Alex Rodriguez in the batting order.
But I thought beer and hot dogs were part of baseball…
I am not quite sure what to make of the situation in Boston. I think former manager Terry Francona has taken too much blame, and I was a little surprised to see GM Theo Epstein leave his hometown and his favorite team to take over as GM of the Chicago Cubs. Granted, he’ll have greater authority in Chicago, and it would be tremendous to be the GM responsible for the first World Series victory for the Cubs after their historic drought. But it leaves Boston without a manager or a general manager. Obviously, when the Red Sox move Ben Cherington to GM, they’ll maintain the continuity and Ben will do a fine job. However, the Sox will definitely have a new look in 2012. It will be interesting to see what moves they make with the roster in the off-season if they intend to place greater priority in character. Jon Lester has been one of my favorite pitchers, so I am hopeful that he is surrounded by better influences going forward.
Missing the view…
Living in downtown Minneapolis, I have to admit that I miss seeing the lights of Target Field at night. It created a great view from my place, and there’s definitely a void now that the ballpark lights have been shut off until next spring. So, as a newcomer to Minnesota, the obvious question to me as how many inches of snow will I have to deal with before those lights come on again? 😉
Have Gun (partially loaded), Will Travel…
Headed to Boston with minus a few bullets…
With the injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the Yankees are certainly in a precarious situation as they head for Boston after wrapping up the O’s series in Baltimore tonight. A-Rod was sent to New York have a MRI on his thumb, and he’ll re-join his teammates at Fenway Park. The results were negative, however, it doesn’t sound like he’ll play in the Sox series so the focus will definitely be on Eric Chavez and Eduardo Nunez.
Jeter fouled a pitch off his right kneecap in the first game of Sunday’s double header, so he should be back on the field when the team arrives in Beantown.
The Red Sox have their own challenges, with Kevin Youkilis on the DL. But even without Youk, the Red Sox boast three legitimate AL MVP Candidates in Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Adrian Gonzalez. If the Yankees are to stop Boston’s run of success against them, the guys from the bench will need to be the difference makers. Plus, some good pitching always helps. I haven’t seen the starting rotation for the series yet, although I know that CC Sabathia is starting on Tuesday. I suppose that means the other starters will be A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes, neither of whom instill great confidence, particularly when the opposing match-up’s will be Josh Beckett and Jon Lester (John Lackey faces the Yanks on Tuesday night so that’s probably the only matchup that favors the Yanks in the series).
Where are those darned reinforcements? Signed, General Custer…
The August trading deadline has been very quiet, and of course, I am not expecting any moves by the Yankees. I still wish the team would move to get a clutch bat for the bench (someone like Hideki Matsui or Johnny Damon) but all indications are the Yankees will stand pat like they did at the July trading deadline.
Love means never having to say you’re Sori…
So, David Robertson is arbitration eligible at the end of the season? The Yanks would be wise to lock him up to a deal before arbitration hearings. He always seems to be in the most precarious situations yet, time and again, he comes through in big spots. The way he struck out three batters in the 8th inning on Sunday night with the bases loaded was vintage D-Rob. His 8th inning success definitely has me wondering what the Yanks will do with Rafael Soriano for the next couple of years…
He makes the world taste good…
I remember a few years ago when there were predictions that Curtis Granderson could hit 40 home runs playing at Yankee Stadium. I thought those were aggressive remarks, but here he is on the verge of hitting that plateau. Every one points to the adjustment he made with input from batting coach Kevin Long last August, but it’s clear he has become a complete hitter since that time. It is ironic that one of the trading pieces, pitcher Ian Kennedy of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is leading the NL in wins. Kind of makes one wish that the Yankees had traded Phil Hughes instead of Kennedy. Still, the trade has worked out for all three teams involved (Arizona, Detroit, and the Yankees). What? Curtis Granderson just struck out in the game against the Orioles with Brett Gardner in scoring position? The bum! 😉 Just kidding…
They’re just games…
This is a big week for the Yankees with the Boston series so they’ll definitely be challenged. It doesn’t get any easier after Boston because the Toronto Blue Jays will be coming to the Bronx for a weekend series, and the Jays have definitely played the Yanks tough this year. Do we really have to pin our hopes on A.J. Burnett? Really?… L
Have a safe and enjoyable week!