After more than a year of speculation and news about the Albert Pujols contract negotiations, he shocks the world and accepts Arte Moreno’s $250 million to go to Anaheim. I guess you can blame the Yankees for this one. Don’t they always get the blame? If the Yanks hadn’t gone on a spending binge several years to secure the services of then-Angels first baseman Mark Texeira, the Los Angeles Angels would not have been in the market for a top shelf first baseman. Albert, of course, is more than top shelf, he is THE top shelf. Still, I was surprised by the move. The Angels have Mark Trumbo returning, a player they control, and a healthy Kendrys Morales. I am sure that there are other areas of the team that could have used upgrades.
The Angels did follow up immediately with the signing of top free agent pitcher C.J. Wilson. I had a feeling that Wilson would be headed to the West Coast despite the Miami Marlins pursuit of the former Texas Ranger. He leaves the top of the rotation for perhaps the #3 or #4 slot with the Angels. The Philadelphia Phillies have been recognized for the best rotation, but the Angels cannot be too far behind with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and now Wilson leading the rotation. I don’t know who the #5 starter is for the Angels off the top of my head, but does it really matter? You could probably go grab Mark Langston out of retirement and throw him in the rotation…it wouldn’t matter.
This has to be a reactionary move by owner Arte Moreno. The Los Angeles Dodgers are primed to re-capture the LA market once a reputable, financially-sound owner or ownership group takes control of the team. After being considered the class of the AL West for years, the Angels have become an understudy for the Texas Rangers. Today’s moves clearly re-establish the Angels as the class of the AL West, and perhaps of the American League.
I do feel bad for the St Louis Cardinals and their fans. As an iconic player, the fans deserved to see Albert play his entire career in St Louis. Stan “The Man” Musial is beloved to this day, and Albert is the first Cardinals player that could have rivaled Musial after his playing days are over. Now, Albert will never be automatically thought of as a Cardinal. He’ll carve out a legacy as an Angel, and will give us reasons to remember him in Anaheim. A very disappointing day for the Cardinals. No offense to Lance Berkman, but that’s a big drop-off from Albert.
The Miami Marlins had looked like the crown prince of the Winter Meetings with their acquisitions of Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle, but they were torched on the last day by the Angels. It’s been a good off-season for the Angels, who earlier picked up a new backstop in Chris Iannetta.
Meanwhile, I can hear crickets at Yankee Stadium…
A little bit of nothing…
The Yankees did win the posting for Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima, but based on the reports I’ve read, the Yankees will have difficulty signing him. The leading speculation is that he’ll return to Japan for another season and then sign with the Boston Red Sox next winter. That would really stink if the Yankees lost a prospect to their bitter rival. But from Nakajima’s perspective, Boston could offer him a starting role at shortstop (something the Yankees could not do) and their manager has tremendous experience with Japanese players. The posting I want the Yankees to win is for pitcher Yu Darvish, but reports indicate the Yankees interest is lukewarm. Of course, that could always be a ploy to help keep posting bids down, but the lukewarm comments certainly proved to be accurate for the Yankees interest in C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle.
I remain hopeful that the Yankees have started the groundwork for a successful acquisition of a pitcher like Gio Gonzalez, John Danks, or Kyle Drabek. Brian Cashman may feel that he doesn’t need to do anything with a 97-win team, but I heard a GM on MLB Radio say that if you’re standing pat, you are getting worse. I agree that you need to consistently seek upgrades and for the most part, the Yankees stood pat last season. Catcher Russell Martin was huge, but at the time of the signing, it was very low key. Same with the signings of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon. It’s been a very long time since Yankees fans have had a reason to feel great excitement and joy for a player acquisition like the Angels experienced today. Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are getting older and certainly not better…
I know, we’re Yankees fans, we want it all…
Go New York!…
Now that the NBA is back, I am at the crossroads. I’ve been a Los Angeles Lakers fan in recent years, primarily because of my appreciation for Kobe Bryant as a player. But as funny as this sounds as a Yankees fan, I am tired of backing a team that is always expected to win and often does. I want a team that has suffered so that when the team does win, there is greater satisfaction. As a result, I am switching my allegiance to a team that has my favorite player, Amare Stoudemire as well as my second favorite player, Carmelo Anthony…the New York Knicks.
First year in Minnesota, worst year in the history of the franchise…
Despite my relocation to Minnesota, I remain committed in my support of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. And despite their 2-10 record, I am still a Vikings fan. On the bright side as a Vikings fan, I won’t have to wait long to find out who the Vikings select in the NFL Draft in April 2012. At this point in the season, you’re pulling for losses, hoping the team can overtake the Indianapolis Colts for the worst record. But of course, that’s a moot issue if the Colts can’t win a game. This is probably one of the first years ever that I’ve accepted and embraced that the Green Bay Packers will win the Super Bowl. It’s easier to say that when your team was left for dead long ago.
I need one of my teams to step forward and win a championship. It’s been a drought since 2009, and I need something to cheer about!
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”!…
The Yankees win the Grapefruit League Championship!
Break open the champagne!
Bring on the lights and cameras!
Let the party begin!
What? You mean the games don’t count? Are you telling me that the Yankees are champions of games that mean absolutely nothing?
Oh well, it’s good momentum to take to Baltimore after the brief trip home to face the Chicago Cubs for two exhibition games at the new stadium.
Speaking of the Cubs, it’s appropriate that Lou Piniella will be the opposing manager and the Cubs starting pitcher for Friday night will be Ted Lilly. And, of course, Alfonso Soriano will be there. It’s a great way to introduce America to the new Stadium!
BAD TRADE REVISITED
The Yankees beat the Phillies yesterday 8-5 to secure the best record in the Grapefruit League.
The Phillies losing pitcher was 21-year-old Kyle Drabek.
That brought back memories of one of the Yankees bad trades. After the 1986 season, the Yankees traded Kyle’s father, Doug, to the Pittsburgh Pirates, along with Brian Fisher and Logan Easley, for Rick Rhoden, Cecilio Guante, and Tyrone Slothrop.
It’s no wonder the late 80’s were not happy times for Yankees fans.
IS HE RETIRED OR NOT?
Reports circulated yesterday that Yankees PA announcer Bob Sheppard had retired. However, according to the Yankees, those reports were inaccurate. It remains to be seen if Sheppard’s health will improve enough to allow his return, but at least there’s still hope. It would be great if he could make at least one final return to the new Stadium.
Bob Sheppard in 1951/Daily News
Regardless of who wins the Yankees utility infield role (Angel Berroa or Ramiro Pena), the Yankees will have to clear room on the 40-man roster. Therefore, someone will be moved soon. I am not expecting any major transactions, or any attempts to find a better third base option.
Congratulations to Brett Gardner for winning this year’s James P. Dawson Award as the best rookie in Yankees camp. But, of course, given how much he played at the end of last season, it doesn’t seem like he should still be classified as a “rookie” (even though technically he is).
Finally, I was sad to see Megan Joy go on American Idol last night. I realize she wasn’t as talented as Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey or Lil Rounds, but I liked her quirkiness and unique style of singing (sorry for the non-baseball comment)…