There always seems to be a lull in baseball activity
following the conclusion of the World Series until the start of the baseball
winter meetings in early December. There
are generally a few free agent signings but generally not the top shelf talent
that is available. So, yesterday was a
fairly active day for the Yankees, all things considered.
The biggest news was the surprise announcement of the new
pitching coach. After continually
hearing the names of Mike Harkey, Scott Aldred, Gil Patterson and even Rick Petterson,
the Yankees named Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild to the
post. Rothschild’s name had not surfaced
in media reports and I was very pleased to see the hiring of a coach with his
experience and credentials. Rothschild
was the first manager for the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and has been with
the Cubs since 2002.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that A.J.
Burnett will be number one on Rothschild’s priority list. He has to figure out a way to restore Burnett’s
confidence and get him back to pitching like he did for the 2008 Toronto Blue
Jays and the 2009 Yankees. Joba
Chamberlain will also be on the priority list.
I have seen so many reports that Joba would be better served by a change
in scenery but I still think he can achieve success in New York. The continued progression of Phil Hughes is
another key for the 2011 season.
I think the Yankees would have been fine with someone
like Gil Patterson or Rick Petterson, but they are definitely better with
Rothschild. Good move by GM Brian
Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi. I
thought it was funny when I read Rothschild’s comments about the unique
interview experience but I am glad that Cashman made the applicants prove they
were up for the challenge.
There were a few roster moves as the Yankees released
bullpen pitcher Jonathan Albaladejo so that he could sign with a Japanese
club. He had a great AAA season this
year, but he didn’t really get much of an opportunity at the big league
level. I wish him the best with the
Yomiuri Giants and hope that it propels him to another big league opportunity
down the road.
The Yankees also acquired Atlanta Braves minor league
outfielder Cody Johnson for cash considerations. A former top draft pick (24th
selection in the first round in 2006), Johnson has power but also has a
tendency to strike out…a lot. It looks
like the Braves have given up on him, but he is still young enough (22) for the
Yankees to try and correct the deficiencies in his game. This looks like one of those low cost, high
reward moves that Boston GM Theo Epstein is so good about.
Mark Almond/The Birmingham News
In the other roster moves made yesterday, the Yankees
placed three Rule 5 draft eligible prospects on the 40-man roster to protect
them. Included were top prospects (Dellin
Betances, perhaps the best pitching prospect in the organization, and third
baseman Brandon Laird). In a breakout
season, Laird, brother of Detroit Tigers catcher Gerald Laird, had 25 home runs
and 102 RBI’s between AA and AAA this year.
The third prospect placed on the 40-man roster was reliever Ryan Pope.
There were also reports that the Yankees were making an
offer of three years at $45 million for Derek Jeter. I doubt DJ accepts the offer but I think it
is a very fair one. Signing elsewhere,
there is no way he would get more than $10 million per season, so overpaying by
$5 mil per year on a contract that will take DJ to nearly 40 years of age is
generous and cognizant of DJ’s contributions and value to the
organization. I keep hearing that he’ll
have to consider a position switch at some point, but where would you put him? I’d hate to lose an outfield position to a
player with declining skills. Would he
be better than Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson or Nick Swisher? That’s a tough question. Perhaps if you had a Justin Upton or Carl
Crawford in the outfield to go with Granderson, you could fill the other corner
outfield spot with Jeter.
In another transaction this week, the Yankees made their
first trade with former Yankees consultant and new Arizona Diamondbacks GM
Kevin Towers. They shipped first baseman
Juan Miranda, who was out of options, to the D-Backs for pitcher Scott
Allen. I saw one report that called him “Scottie”. I really hope that he doesn’t go by that
name. It sounds like a little black dog
to me, or at the very least, the chief engineer on the Starship
No movement on the Cliff Lee front, but I don’t think
anyone expects him to sign until the baseball winter meetings or later. Next week will probably be very quiet from a
baseball perspective, but hopefully, the Hot Stove League will start cranking
up by the first of December. I am very anxious
to see who makes the trip to Tampa for spring training in February. It would be nice to see a Yankees limo
waiting at the Tampa airport for an incoming flight from Little Rock, Arkansas…
I’ll take a split…
Fortunately for the Yankees, they emerged victorious today against the Los Angeles Angels to split the two game series. The mediocre pitching line continued, albeit with no injuries, but the Yankee bats were active enough to ensure sufficient runs by the time the Angels recorded their last out in the top of the 9th inning.
William Perlman/The Star Ledger
Javier Vazquez gave up 9 hits and 5 runs in 5 innings, but it was enough to earn his 8th victory (against 7 losses). The key hit was a pinch hit three-run homer in the 7th by Colin Curtis. Robinson Cano and Juan Miranda also homered in the game, but Alex Rodriguez did not so he remains at 598 home runs. Curtis was an interesting story as he entered the game after Brett Gardner was thrown out of the game while batting. So, the strike count stood at two before Curtis even got warmed up.
Vazquez, with the victory, has defeated all 30 major league teams.
Playing against the Yankees definitely helped Hideki Matsui break out of his slump. He had only hit only one home run since June 7th before playing the Yankees. In the two game series, he homered in each game. I am okay with Godzilla getting his hits so long as they aren’t the game winners. Fortunately, they weren’t either day.
Paul Rodriguez/The Orange County Register
The Yankees split the season series with the Angels, 4-4, and won’t see them again unless they meet in the play-offs. The Yankees now await the arrival of the Kansas City Royals.
Happy Birthday to CC Sabathia, who celebrated his 30th birthday today!
Joel Sherman ran a piece in his New York Post column this morning where he speculated that Yankees manager Joe Girardi could be a potential target for managerial vacancy created with the Chicago Cubs when Lou Piniella announced that he would be retiring at the end of the season. I completely agree with his analysis. I’ve always considered Girardi to be a “Chicago” guy. He was born and raised in the area, as was his wife, and he started professional baseball with the Cubs and played there again after he left the Yankees.
It started me to think who the Yankees would turn to if the worst case scenario played out (Girardi leaving at the end of the season, which is, by the way, the expiration of his current contract). The first guy I thought about for the position was Don Mattingly. Mattingly is the assumed replacement for current Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre. However, Torre still hasn’t decided if he’ll manage next year, and of course, the whole situation with the Dodgers ownership (the McCourt divorce situation) could create the right circumstances to woo Mattingly back to New York.
But when I turned on ESPN this morning, they were showing the highlights of last night’s Dodgers-Giants game where Mattingly had assumed management of the team after both Joe Torre and bench coach Bob Schaefer had been ejected. In the 9th inning, with closer Jonathan Broxton on the mound, Mattingly went out to pay a visit. As he started to walk away, he decided that he wanted to say something else to Broxton and turned back around. He realized that he had made a mistake when the umpires were saying “no” but by then, it was too late. When he made the about face, it counted as a second trip to the mound so he had no choice but to pull Broxton. George Sherrill was brought in and the Dodgers let a 5-4 lead slip away as they ultimately lost the game 7-5. Now, I agree, the faux paux would not be reason to avoid hiring Mattingly but the timing couldn’t have been worse (at least for me).
It’s tough. As much as I like Mattingly, I am not sure that I am a proponent for a rookie manager. I think the year in Florida as the Marlins manager was invaluable for Joe Girardi. He is a better manager today for the experience. Same with Terry Francona in Boston. He is one of the best managers in baseball, and I think it can be directly attributed to his learning opportunity with the Phillies. For the Cubs, I still think Ryne Sandberg is the best fit for the organization. But if you were the owner of the Cubs, would you want a Triple A manager who has never managed in the bigs or a highly prepared and accomplished major league manager with a World Series resume? There are just not that many attractive managerial candidates in my opinion. I am sure that Bobby Valentine will re-surface at some point, as well Buck Showalter, but neither of those guys excite me. If the Steinbrenner Family is smart, they’ll take care of Girardi and never let him have the chance to consider the Cubs.
The deaths in the Yankees family have, unfortunately, continued into this week. The latest is the Yankees manager from the great 1961 season of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris (the year that Roger hit 61 home runs and the Yankees won the World Series), Ralph Houk. His World Series championships (he also won in 1962) were the last before the demise of the team under the ownership of CBS and before George Steinbrenner purchased the team. He had taken over as the Yankees manager replacing Casey Stengel in 1960 after the Yankees had lost the World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Houk would manage until 1963, when he stepped into the front office. He returned to managing the Yankees in 1966 and stayed through 1973, Steinbrenner’s first year. I primarily remember Houk as the manager for the Detroit Tigers, although he did manage the Boston Red Sox at the end of his managerial career. Houk apparently died today at his home in Winter Haven, FL of natural causes. He was 90.
The Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox are winning, and the Yankees, um, not so much…
The proverbial “bump in the road” has occurred which derailed the great start to the season. Of course, the Yankees are just a winning streak away from corrective action. However, the recent days have not been fun.
Jeff Zelevansky/NY Post
After defeating the New York Mets on Friday night behind the brilliant, but injury-shortened, effort of Javier Vazquez, the Yankees and Phil Hughes lost on Saturday night, 5-3. Hughes has mirrored the team play…great start followed by recent lackluster performances.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Tonight, the Yankees trail the Mets 6-0 in the top of the 7th inning. There is still lots of time for the Yankees to rally. But this team is definitely missing the “spark” right now. I am not sure who’ll provide that spark, but perhaps the impending return of centerfielder Curtis Granderson will help. While I enjoy the energy and excitement that Francisco Cervelli provides, a starting lineup that includes Cervelli, Juan Miranda, and Randy Winn/Marcus Thames/Kevin Russo definitely does not stir memories of Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Melky Cabrera.
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Starting pitching, once a strength, is now suspect. There was a time when the only slug in the rotation was Vazquez, and now he’s the only shining star. CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes have all left pitching lines that they just as soon forget. How quickly things have changed. I recognize that this mini-slump is temporary, but so far, the Rays have not showed they are susceptible to these types of slowdowns. Therefore, it is imperative for the Yankees to break out of this slump soon. Otherwise, they’ll soon find themselves looking at the backs of the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox.
Boston Globe Staff
As much as I hate to do it, I have to give a tip of the cap to the Boston Red Sox. Not only did they beat the Philadelphia Phillies today with Tim Wakefield, they beat Roy Halladay. It was an impressive win by Julia‘s guys…
Well, the Fat Lady did sing today. The Chicago Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks in the NHL Western Conference Finals. Another disappointing finish for Joe Thornton and Company. Good luck to the Blackhawks as they move on to the Stanley Cup Finals to face either the Montreal Canadiens or the Philadelphia Flyers. I am left to wonder what could have been. But then again, that’s a frequent feeling when you are a fan of the Sharks and the Minnesota Vikings… L