A week’s worth of crickets…
For excited as I was for the Baseball Winter Meetings, it was a very unfulfilling time for Yankees fans. The AL East got stronger as both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays made significant improvements, and the Baltimore Orioles, while they didn’t make a move, are still a better team on paper.
Losing David Robertson hurt. I fully recognize that not even the Yankees should be paying multiple guys in the pen $12+ million per year so I understand the decision to let Robertson walk after signing last year’s prized lefty Andrew Miller. Still, when I saw those words, “White Sox to sign David Robertson”, it was a painful sight to see.
USA Today Sports
Part of me, for a few days, imagined a bullpen with Robertson, Betances, and Miller for manager Joe Girardi and the limitless possibilities. After watching the Kansas City Royals and their stellar pen, it was hard not to dream of a similar equation for the Yankees. With so many question marks in the rotation, a ‘lights out’ bullpen is a must. With Robertson gone, there’s no reason why the Yankees still can’t have a superior bullpen. But losing Robertson does show that we care about our tenured players. Well, except when their name is Alex Rodriguez.
I am in favor of naming Dellin Betances as the team’s closer in spring training. I think Miller will be great as the primary setup guy and the earlier innings are in great hands with Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and others. A year ago, there were questions about Robertson’s ability to close. His attempt to close in 2012 when Mariano Rivera got hurt was unsuccessful. The team ultimately went to Rafael Soriano who held the role for the duration of the season.
Mariano Rivera was an exception. Most guys are unable to pitch at the level required to close for an extended period of time. The days of Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are over. From a financial standpoint, it makes the most sense to have a shorter term view when it comes to a closer so that you don’t get locked into a bad contract (a la Jonathan Papelbon) as the closer ages and naturally deteriorates. Robertson may still be playing at a very high level in four years, but equally, there’s a chance that he is not. He always seems to pitch in and out of trouble, but as he ages, his ability to get out of those jams may not quite be there. He’ll evolve as a pitcher and I am sure that he’ll make the necessary adjustments, but at the end of the day, the Yankees are better off not being locked into Robertson for four years at $48 million. Betances showed that he is the team’s future closer. Next year may be a bit premature, but it was inevitable.
The most important thing for the Yankees is to now re-invest the $12 million per year savings into other areas. Bring back Chase Headley. Possibly sign a short term closing alternative like Jason Grilli. Make a run for Max Scherzer. But the key is to do something. The Yankees, as they presently stand, will not win in October.
How much? See ya…
Speaking of bad contracts, I was blown away by the commitment the Los Angeles Dodgers made to Brandon McCarthy. I thought McCarthy was a great pickup last season and hoped the Yankees could re-sign him to a team friendly deal. But like Robertson, I am glad the Yankees did not commit those years and dollars to McCarthy. He is a huge injury risk and in the Dodgers case, McCarthy failed last year in the NL West when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks. While I hope McCarthy has a great Dodgers career, my fear is that he and the team’s DL list will become good buddies. I hope I’m wrong but baseball generally proves ‘past performance equals future results’…
Slowly but surely…
The week preceding the Baseball Winter Meetings was good. The Yankees acquired their 2015 shortstop with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius and the aforementioned lefty artist Andrew Miller, dominant against both righties and lefties. It was a good start but the team obviously still has much work to do before spring.
I hear so many Yankees fans say that Gregorius is not Derek Jeter. Nothing against Jeter, but I’d rather see a 24 year old Gregorius starting at short over a 41 year old Jeter. Gregorius may not be the player Jeter was in his prime, but Jeter wasn’t in his prime anymore and the Yankees had to do something to improve following Jeter’s retirement. So, to me, Gregorius is his own man in the position. It is up to him to succeed or fail, without regard to Jeter. I was a huge Don Mattingly fan, but I gave Tino Martinez a chance from his first at-bat and his early struggles did not waver my support. Tino turned out to be one of my most beloved players over the years and I never compared him to Mattingly.
It is possible that Gregorius fails. If so, the Yankees move on to another option. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’. But at this point in time, it is his time. Let’s give him a chance…
Paul Ruhter/Gazette Staff
All I want for Christmas is…
Now if we could just send A-Rod anyway. I know, it’s not that easy. The most expensive DH/bench player in baseball history. It’s too bad those dollars can’t be re-directed to a guy like Max Scherzer. Maybe some challenges are too much for even the Yankees to overcome. But I’d love to have the money the Yankees have probably spent trying to find a way.
I said ‘NO’, oh, by the way, here’s a $30 million contract for you…
There is still not much to write about in the Yankees Universe. There’s a report that Managing GM Hal Steinbrenner has talked with super agent Scott Boras about pitcher Edwin Jackson, but other than that, not much to talk about. Given that Steinbrenner orchestrated the signing of reliever Rafael Soriano last season (much to the disagreement of GM Brian Cashman), it would be interesting to hear what Cash has to say about Jackson. Universally, any team would be happy to sign Jackson on a short term, but a longer term deal is perceived as problematic. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The Yankees need a solid #2 or #3 pitcher in addition to the current roster, but it is not worth the price of paying Jesus Montero and/or Manuel Baneulos.
Personally, I would not be opposed to Jackson in the rotation as I feel that pitching coach Larry Rothschild would be a very strong influence on the pitcher. He certainly has the potential of being better than anything in the rotation outside of CC Sabathia.
It’s a given that the Yankees need to do something. I think standing pat is the wrong approach. It would most likely ensure a second or third place finish behind the Boston Red Sox and/or Tampa Bay Rays. They need to improve the rotation. There are too many question marks attached to Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter will be another year older. The Yankees need a pitcher other than Sabathia that is completely capable of shutting down the opposition. Jackson can be that guy. I don’t like the idea of “saving your bullets” for another off-season in terms of projected free agents. In 2013, A-Rod and Jeter will be another year older and further from their prime. Why couldn’t have George Steinbrenner instilled this win at all costs mentality in his sons? Okay, fiscal responsibility is a good idea, but the Yankees need to ensure that they can withstand improved Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays squads.
I like the Yankees’ signing of former Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Preston Mattingly. Granted, Donnie Baseball is one of my all-time heroes. But I’d like to see what the Yankee coaches and instructors can do with the former first round pick. He certainly has the pedigree to succeed. But time will tell if he can be Ken Griffey, Jr… or Pete Rose, Jr. His current path leans toward the latter, but he is only 24 years old. This goes into the category of ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. For Preston’s sake, I hope that he succeeds in the organization that his father starred.
It was only $35.5 million…
I really feel bad for former Philadelphia Phillies closer Ryan Madson. Once rumored to be close to a 4-year, $44 million contract with the Phillies, he signs with the Cincinnati Reds for a one year contract at $8.5 million. He’ll close for a fraction of the money that the Yankees pay 7th inning guy Rafael Soriano. The hope, obviously, is that liquidity will return to the closer market during the next off-season so that Madson can capture a lucrative long-term deal. I don’t know what went wrong with his negotiations with the Phillies and what led to their acquisition of former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, but he’ll long wonder what could have been.
We’ll give you over $50 million, but we’d really prefer to keep his salary at a couple mil…
For as much as the Texas Rangers bid for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, I will be very surprised if they fail to come to contract terms with Darvish returning to Japan. But at this point in the negotiations, you have to wonder if that’s not the likely outcome. It would be interesting to see Darvish on the open market after next season. I wonder if that would change the Yankees interest level…
It’s hard to believe that pitchers and catchers will be reporting to camp next month. I’ve been in Minnesota all winter long hoping for snow…and being sadly disappointed. At least the opening of baseball camps gives me something to be excited. I am looking forward to the debut of the 2012 Yankees! Bring it on!…
Yankees sign top free agent…
Well, it wasn’t exactly Prince Fielder but I’ve felt all off-season that re-signing Andruw Jones was important for the 2012 Yankees. In this off-season of inactivity, I was concerned that the Yankees would let Jones slip away to a team like the Boston Red Sox or the Texas Rangers. There’s no question that Jones is NOT the player that he used to be (that’s a given), but he fills a valuable fourth outfielder role and I prefer him over Justin Maxwell, Chris Dickerson, or Melky Mesa.
When I read that the Red Sox were potentially interested in Jones, I was worried that it would drive up his price tag (which was probably the prime reason for the Red Sox “interest”). But the base salary of $2 million (with additional incentives that could push the package to $3.4 million) was very reasonable for Team Suddenly Frugal. The Yanks have a good outfield with Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher, but Jones allows the Yankees to play match-ups and move guys around. Plus, if any of the aforementioned starters spend any time on the DL, Jones is certainly a capable fill-in.
Wanted: Non-starting starting third baseman…
Now that the outfield depth has been filled, I am anxious to see what the Yankees do about the mandatory need to acquire a strong backup for third base. I remain in favor of the return of Eric Chavez, but regardless of what happens, the Yankees need a proven performer that does not weaken the team during the inevitable A-Rod absences.
Yeah, that’s the ticket…
It’s too bad that MLB teams don’t get a mulligan for bad contracts. They should give every team a one player exemption that could be called the “Stupidity Clause”. Given A-Rod’s $30 million annual salary with $5 million production, the Yankees could get a waiver for luxury tax on the bulk of A-Rod’s salary. Same goes for the Angels and Vernon Wells, the Cubs and Alfonso Soriano, or the Red Sox and Carl Crawford (although CC does have the ability to re-earn his money). It does stink knowing how much the Yankees will be paying A-Rod and Derek Jeter in several years in terms of the return. I remain hopeful that Derek Jeter will depart gracefully when he realizes that his performance is not equal to his compensation. But I know that A-Rod is into his contract for every undeserved cent.
Hats off to a rival…
In a statement of the obvious, I knew that Mark Melancon was not destined to be the closer for the Red Sox when they acquired the former Yank from the Houston Astros. This week’s acquisition of Andrew Bailey by the Sox from the Oakland A’s was a solid move. Bailey, a native Easterner, will thrive in Boston. He matches Jonathan Papelbon in ability, and exceeds him in character and integrity. The risk with Bailey is his health, but the Sox do have relievers with closing experience in Melancon and Bobby Jenks. While I don’t think that the Bailey acquisition is the big bold move I’ve been expecting from new Boston GM Ben Cherington, it is certainly one that improves the team.
Not looking forward to the day…
With the surplus of closer talent available this off-season, I hope that it is a similar environment when the ‘Greatest Closer Who Ever Lived’ decides to take his ageless arm and signature cutter home to Panama. I like Derek Jeter but I will be ready for the day when a younger, talented option becomes available. I will cry the day Mariano Rivera walks off the mound for the final time. I loved Goose Gossage as the Yankees closer, but it took so many years for an equal (or in this case, greater) replacement to emerge. There’s always been something so magical about a great closer. I grew up watching the wild antics of the Mad Hungarian, Al Hrabosky, in St. Louis, so the role of the closer became the “it” position for me at a very early age. There’s nothing better than a game-ending punch-out with high intensity.
Game plan: Success!…
Well, as 2011 comes to a close, I want to wish everyone a very Happy and Joyous New Year! May your dreams come true and your happiness reach heights never before imagined! It will be a fun and rewarding new year, and I’m glad you are here…
Baseball’s not a slow game but the off-season is…
It’s Thanksgiving, and the Yankees’ big moves this week were to sign journeyman utility infielder Jayson Nix and last year’s Andy Pettitte stand-in, Freddy Garcia. While I recognize that the Yankees needed to bring Garcia back, I hope that it does not deter them in their search for a legitimate #2 or #3 starter to go behind CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova. I have not seen any updates on how potential talks are going with backup third baseman Eric Chavez, but hopefully, he’ll return to New York for one more season. At this point, I view Nix as spring training fodder that will be discarded by the time the team heads for the Bronx.
In recent weeks, I’ve heard the Yankees linked to potential trades for Jair Jurrjens of the Atlanta Braves and Gio Gonzalez of the Oakland A’s. My preference of the two is Gonzalez because of Jurrjens’ history of knee trouble. Gonzalez, ironically, has been involved in separate trades involving current Yankees players during his career (Nick Swisher, when he was traded from the A’s to the White Sox, and Freddy Garcia, when he was traded from the White Sox to the Phillies).
I am anxious for the Baseball Winter Meetings so that free agent and trade activity will begin to heat up. So far, the early winner of the Hot Stove League has to be the Philadelphia Phillies for no other reason than they’ve been aggressive while other teams have been idle. Jonathan Papelbon was a good choice for closer, especially when you have as much invested in the rotation as the Phillies do. Ryan Madson did a good job last year, but it’s really anybody’s guess if he would have enjoyed the same level of success this year since he simply does not have the history to support it…yet. I am not quite sure how Jim Thome fits in, but as a pinch-hitter off the bench, there’s certainly worse bats you could have.
The Texas Rangers also did a good job in picking up former Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan, even if it does come with significant risk. As long as they have a solid Plan B in place, Nathan could be a very pleasant surprise if he shows that he can still pitch at a very high level.
Who will be the Astros’ DH?…
It will probably be strange for the Houston Astros next season as they make their farewell from the National League. Andy Pettitte is probably wishing that this had happened during his playing days so that he could have been ensured of playing at home every season. I think Brad Mills is a good manager but it will be interesting to see if he is retained by new owner Jim Crane when the Astros enter the AL West in 2013. He certainly deserves the opportunity, but you have to wonder if he’ll be given sufficient time to succeed.
Happy north of the border or wishing that Yawkey Way was a daily routine…
It’s no secret that the Boston Red Sox would love John Farrell as their manager, but the Toronto Blue Jays were obviously unwilling to allow that to happen. Nevertheless, I wonder how Farrell feels. Is he happy and delighted to be in Toronto, or does he have an unfulfilled desire for the Sox? Speaking of the Sox, I just don’t see how Bobby Valentine and the city of Boston are a good fit. I don’t dispute that he’s a good manager, but eventually he wears out his welcome and the pressure of Boston is greater than Arlington, Texas or even Flushing Meadows, New York. I don’t really know anything about Torey Lovullo’s managing background and Gene Lamont seems like an uninspired choice so I can’t say who I think would be a great fit for the job. Admittedly, I am a fan of former manager Terry Francona, so it does seem that whoever takes his place is going to an inferior choice. If it were my decision, I’d probably go with someone who has strong ties to the organization already, like bench coach DeMarlo Hale. But Boston’s late season collapse effectively removed any September participants from consideration and perhaps wrongfully so. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the course of the next few weeks.
My first year in Minnesota coincides with the Vikings’ worst year in their 50 year history…
With the Minnesota Vikings standing at 2-8 heading into this weekend’s play, the baseball off-season has already seemed so incredibly long and it hasn’t even really started yet…
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
If I won the wager with Julia of Julia’s Rants, why do I feel as though I lost?…
The Yankees and Red Sox tied their four game series at two games apiece, but the Yankees took the tie-breaker in total runs scored, 16-12. Therefore, it will be Julia who has to appear in at least 6 photos showing her in different locations wearing a pink Yankees cap.
But although I won, I certainly do not feel like a winner. The most important game, to me, is always the getaway game. The Red Sox leave town as winners, while the Yankees head for Texas wondering what could have been. They had the chance to put the Red Sox 8 games back, but as it is, the Red Sox leave exactly the way the arrived, 6 games behind.
People are constantly trying to bury the Red Sox but I’ve long known that the team simply does not have any quit in them. Now, they are starting to get their guys healthy, so they’ll be a force to be reckoned with during the stretch run.
The Yankees lost today, 2-1, against Jon Lester, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon. Lester had entered the game on a four-game skid, but he is too talented to stay down for long. He proved he was up to the challenge today, and bested Phil Hughes in the pitching duel.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
The Yankees had their chances in the late innings but couldn’t convert. Marcus Thames just missed a home run in the 7th inning when the ball hit the top of the fence and bounced back for a double. Just another inch or two and it would have tied the game. Bard also gets kudos for getting out of a bases loaded jam.
Mark Teixeira continued his hot hitting with an 8th inning home run, but that’s all the offense the team could manage.
The Yankees now head to Texas to play the guy who was nearly a Yankee, Cliff Lee, and the Texas Rangers. A.J. Burnett, scratched from Sunday’s start because of his back, will pitching the opening game against the surging C.J. Wilson who has enjoyed success as a starter this season. It will be a big test for the Yankees, and they’ll need to play better than they have in recent days. Maybe being in Texas will be good for Lance Berkman and he’ll hit his first homers for the Yankees.
A day after breaking Babe Ruth’s team hits record, Derek Jeter tied Mel Ott for the all-time record by a New York player at 2,876. When DJ was a skinny 16-year-old shortstop coming out of Kalamazoo, MI, I certainly didn’t envision the day that he’d be standing with baseball’s immortals. Congratulatons to DJ for another great milestone, but I suspect we’ll be doing this quite often between now and the end of his career.
No drama; just quiet efficiency from Javier Vazquez and the Yankees…
During the last road trip, the Yankees struggled in the games following their cross-country jaunts…both to and from. Sunday at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees defeated the Toronto Blue Jays on a 10th inning walk-off run-scoring single by Marcus Thames before heading to California. With no off-day, they played the Oakland A’s on Monday night and picked up another win, 3-1. This time, they led from beginning to end, and everyone did exactly what they were supposed to.
Javier Vazquez has definitely rebounded from his disastrous start and has quietly been the Yankees most effective starter for the past month. He pitched 7 innings, and only gave up 3 hits and 1 run (he walked 2 and struck out 2). Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera retired all three batters they faced in the 8th and 9th innings, respectively. No runners in scoring position. No wild pitches. No balks. No hit batters. No bloop singles. It was exactly what you would want from a pitching staff. It was nice seeing a pitcher other than a Yankee with a hand to the face for a change (I like to call this the CC Sabathia pose…okay, “like” might not be the right word)…
The Yankees had scored early with two runs in the 2nd innings thanks to a run-scoring triple by Curtis Granderson and a run-scoring single by Francisco Cervelli. The A’s answered with a run in the 3rd when Coco Crisp hit a sacrifice fly to score Cliff Pennington, who had tripled. It would be the final time in the game for the A’s to get a runner past second base. Mark Teixeira added an insurance run with a homer in the 6th inning. Only two batters in the Yankees lineup were hitless (Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez).
Monica M. Davey/EPA
Game time was only 2 hours, 35 minutes. Very un-Yankee like!
For all the wins this year, I’d say that this one had the least amount of stress that I’ve experienced and that includes any blowouts. On one hand, I have very excited that Javier Vazquez has turned it around. I was starting to buy into the talk that he wasn’t anything more than a National League pitcher. Of course, I do have the fear that he could revert to the awful early season form. The downside, if that happens, is that the timing of his improvement probably nixes any chance that the Yankees would pursue Seattle’s Cliff Lee. The team has greater needs, but Lee would be a nice addition given the strong potential for Andy Pettitte’s off-season retirement and Vazquez’s impending free agency.
Speaking of Pettitte, congratulations to him for making the American League All-Star Team as a replacement for Boston’s injured starter Clay Buchholz. The AL All-Stars are definitely taking a very Yankee-like appearance, however, I do feel that the starter in the All-Star Game should be Boston’s Jon Lester.
Since I’ve made the segue to the Red Sox, it’s time for another installment of my “forced” spotlight on a member of the Boston Red Sox (thanks to a wager loss to my friend Julia of Julia’s Rants). For today’s profile, I’ll go with the closer…
#58 Jonathan Papelbon
One of the few Red Sox stars not actually on the Disabled List, Pap has been with the Sox since 2005 (becoming the closer in 2006). Originally, he was projected to be a starter, but a shoulder injury caused the Red Sox to re-think their strategy and as a result, Papelbon has become one of the AL’s premier closers.
He was born in Baton Rouge, LA on November 23, 1980. After a highly successful high school career in Jacksonville, FL, he went to Mississippi State where he was the team’s closer for three years. He was drafted by the Oakland A’s in 2003 but did not sign in order to stay in college for one more year in a subsequently failed attempt to reach the College World Series. The next year, he was drafted by the Boston Red Sox.
Despite the relief appearances when he was called up in 2005, the team’s plan, as previously mentioned, was to put Papelbon into the rotation in 2006. The closer at the time, Keith Foulke, was unable to capture his pre-injury form, and Pap took over as the guy at the back end of the pitching staff.
Pap’s accomplishments include throwing the game-ending strikeout to win the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies. Since 2006, he has had at least 35 saves each season with a high of 41 in 2008. He has 170 saves for his career. In 301 games, he sports an ERA of 2.03 in 332 innings pitched with 376 strikeouts. He is the franchise leader in saves, and as hard as it is to believe, the first Red Sox closer to record two 30-save seasons.
He holds several records:
· Most consecutive scoreless innings to start a post-season career (26 innings).
· Most saves by a rookie closer (35 saves).
Papelbon has two younger twin brothers in baseball. Josh is in the Red Sox organization (AA Portland), while Jeremy is with the Cubs (AA Tennessee).
Hey Julia, how many more of these do I have to go? Geesh! 😉
The agony of defeat…
It’s amazing how you can go from a very high “high” to a very low “low” in 24 hours. A night after a walk-off home run by Marcus Thames, he was a goat in last night’s 7-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox. His drop of Marco Scutaro’s fly ball in the 9th inning was a crucial blow that set the stage for Jeremy Hermida’s two-run double that gave Boston the runs it would need to win.
Tim Farrell/The Star Ledger
There were several goats in this loss. Thames didn’t shoulder the blame alone. You really have to start with the awful performance by Joba Chamberlain. On Sunday, he allowed the floodgates to open for the Twins and the momentum crushed Mariano Rivera. In many ways, it happened again last night. Chamberlain didn’t allow the runs in the 9th (Rivera did), however, the Red Sox had clearly taken the momentum of the game with the 4 run 8th inning to tie the score. I could tell after a couple of batters that Joba didn’t have it last night, but manager Joe Girardi stuck with Chamberlain to erase the 5-1 advantage.
Keivom/NY Daily News
The Yankees had their chance for late inning heroics but this time Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon closed the door. The Yanks were able to pick up a run on a Robinson Cano double in the bottom of the 9th. However, with the game-tying and game-winning runs on 2nd and 3rd, Juan Miranda grounded out and Randy Winn struck out to end the game.
The Yankees (25-14) fell another game behind the Tampa Bay Rays with the loss. The Rays, who are in town for a two-game series before the start of the weekend’s matchup against the Mets, beat the Cleveland Indians, 6-2 and are now 28-11. Unless Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera can return the bullpen to a strength, the series against the Rays will be very difficult to win. It’s too bad that a very strong performance by CC Sabathia was wasted last night, The Yanks could have used it against the Rays. Let’s hope that A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte are up to the task.
Antonelli/NY Daily News
On the bright side, I did somehow manage to win the latest wager with Julia of Julia’s Rants. After the Sox had taken the 7-5 lead, we were tied with total runs (16 runs for both teams). But Cano’s 9th inning RBI gave the Yankees a total of 17 runs, so I won on that basis despite the split of the two-game series. So, stay tuned for a post by Julia which will detail the Yankees’ first World Series championship. She has assured me that she will use as few words as possible! Of course, I say when is Julia ever at a loss for words!
It was not a particularly good night for me as the San Jose Sharks lost to the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-2, to fall behind 2 games to none in the NHL Western Conference Finals.
At least Lee Dewyze gave a masterful performance on the American Idol stage so the night wasn’t a total loss. His rendition of Hallelujah clearly set him apart from his competition (Crystal Bowersox and Casey James), and as Randy Jackson says, he’s in it to win it. Unless American Idol is nothing more than a popularity contest, Casey James should be heading back to Texas tonight for an AI final pitting Bowersox against Dewyze. It should be a great one!