Tagged: Los Angeles

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda…

Credit:  Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

Angels 3, Yankees 2…

After a weekend when runs came so easily, they were hard to find on Tuesday night as the Angels took down the Yankees in extra innings.  The loss snapped the Yankees’ six-game winning streak.  However, the bigger loss may have been CC Sabathia who strained his left hamstring and is probably headed for a DL stint.  CC will undergo a MRI later today.

Credit:  Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

The feast or famine (with the emphasis on the latter) that surrounds Chris Carter was a primary ingredient for the loss.  Carter was 1-for-5 (with a meaningless single), and he popped out with the bases loaded and only one out in the top of the 11th inning.  He struck out 3 times, and committed an error at first in the fourth inning when he missed an accurate routine throw with two outs from Didi Gregorius, setting the stage for the first Angels’ run.  The runner, Andrelton Simmons, advanced to second on the play, and scored on a single by C.J. Cron.  

The Yankees tied the score in the 5th when Chase Headley doubled and Brett Gardner delivered a two-out run-scoring single. In the 7th, Headley hit a solo shot to center to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.  Headley, arguably the worst Yankees hitter not named Chris Carter, was the night’s best hitter.  He finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and 2 runs scored.

From there, the Yankees were undone by a former Yankee, Eric Young, Jr.  In the bottom of the 8th, with the Yankees nursing the one-run lead, the Yankees brought in Tyler Clippard to pitch and he was greeted by a Young home run which tied the game.  As great a job as Clippard did last year after his acquisition last year at the trading deadline from the Arizona Diamondbacks, he’s been a weak link this year in the critical setup role.  A healthy Aroldis Chapman would have meant Dellin Betances in that situation and the outcome may have been different.  The homer denied the first Major League victory for Giovanny Gallegos who had relieved Sabathia in the fifth and pitched admirably for two innings, allowing only one hit and no runs.

The Yankees loaded the bases with one-out in the top of the 11th.  Gary Sanchez walked and then advanced to third on a double by Didi Gregorius.  Headley received an intentional walk, which brought Carter to the plate with a chance to bring runners home.  He jumped on the first pitch from new reliever Keynan Middleton, who had just entered the game, but unfortunately, he popped out with an infield fly to third.  Brett Gardner followed with another pop out which ended the Yankees’ threat and set the stage for the Angels’ walk-off in the bottom of the frame.

With Chasen Shreve pitching, Andrelton Simmons walked to open the bottom of the inning.  Shreve got the next batter, C.J. Cron, on a fly out to left, but then Manager Joe Girardi pulled Shreve (he had thrown 38 pitches to that point in his 1 2/3 innings of work) to replace him with Ben Heller.  Heller got the first batter he faced (Martin Maldonado) on a ground out, but Simmons stole second during the at-bat and advanced to third with the out.  Eric Young, Jr, came to bat after Heller had walked Cliff Pennington and he hit an infield single that was deflected off the pitcher’s backside, scoring Simmons with the winning run.

Credit:  Sean M Haffey/Getty Images

‘Woulda, coulda, shoulda’ was the story to this game.  Losing is never fun, but losing games that should have been won are harder. 

No word who will replace Sabathia in the rotation.  Chad Green, Sunday’s starter, was limited to a pitch count of 50 (he was pulled after throwing 53 pitches).  I wouldn’t be surprised to see either Luis Cessa or Bryan Mitchell recalled to be the interim starter.  The less likely options would be Caleb Smith (who was the winning pitcher yesterday for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and is currently 4-0 with 2.71 ERA) or Chance Adams (3-2, 2.52 ERA) since neither one is on the 40-man roster.

The Boston Red Sox picked up a game on the Yankees, thanks to their second consecutive extra inning win over the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Red Sox now trail the Yankees (38-24) by three games.  The Tampa Bay Rays also won so they are 5.5 games behind.  Both the Orioles and the Blue Jays lost.  

Odds & Ends…

The MLB Draft completed Rounds 3 through 10 on Tuesday.  Like the day before, the emphasis was high on right-handed pitchers.  Only one position player was taken.  High School catcher (who will be converted to the outfield) Canaan Smith (not to be confused with the country singer by the same name).  Smith, a graduate of Rockwall-Heath (Texas) High School, was routinely pitched around with a Barry Bonds-like walk rate.  He was selected in the 4th round.  

The lone lefty taken was Dalton Lehnen of Augustana College in the 6th round.  Otherwise, Day 2 was stacked with righties.

Here is the list of players taken on Day 2:

Round 3 (92):  Trevor Stephan, Arkansas, RHP

Round 4 (122):  Canaan Smith, Rockwall-Heath HS, RF

Round 5 (152):  Glenn Otto, Rice, RHP

Round 6 (182):  Dalton Lehnen, Augustana College, LHP

Round 7 (212):  Dalton Higgins, Dallas Baptist, RHP

Round 8 (242):  Kyle Zurak, Redford U, RHP

Round 9 (272):  Austin Gardner, U Texas-Arlington, RHP

Round 10 (302):  Chad Whitmer, Southern Illinois U Carbondale, RHP

The Baltimore Orioles are gushing about the fall of D.L. Hall to them.  They didn’t expect him to be the board with the 21st pick on Monday.  Nothing against Clarke Schmidt, but I hope this choice doesn’t come back to haunt the Yankees in future years.

Day 3 concludes today with Rounds 11 through 40.  Start time is 12:00 pm Eastern.  

LHP Tommy Layne, who was previously designated for assignment, has been outrighted to AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  

RHP Ronald Herrera has been named the Eastern League (AA) Pitcher of the Week.  In his last start, Herrera pitched 6 2/3 innings while only allowing two hits in the Trenton Thunder’s 9-0 victory over the Hartford Yard Goats.  After giving up a two-out single in the first inning, Herrera retired 16 consecutive Yard Goats before surrendering the second hit.  He struck out 9 in picking up the win.  Herrera is the fourth Thunder pitcher to win the weekly award this year, following Chance Adams, Yefry Ramirez, and Justus Sheffield. 

Credit:  TrentonThunder.com

Aroldis Chapman was scheduled to pitch yesterday for High-A Tampa, however, the game was rained out.  Chapman will pitch one inning Friday for AA-Trenton and is tentatively scheduled to rejoin the Yankees on Sunday in Oakland.  

Have a great Wednesday!  Time to start a new winning streak!

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Telling It To The Judge…

Credit:  Sean M Haffey-Getty Images

Yankees 5, Angels 3…

One of the greatest highlights of this game were the chants of “MVP!” for Aaron Judge from the Anaheim crowd.  It was incredible to get that type of response from the park that Mike Trout calls home.  Judge is certainly deserving of the accolades but it is not something that you’d expect on enemy turf.    

When Kole Calhoun, the second batter in the bottom of the first inning, homered with no one on, I had fears that Masahiro Tanaka was going to get rocked once again.  But fortunately, the old Tanaka re-emerged and kept the Angels off the board until the 7th inning.  

Credit:  Randy Miller-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

The Yankees built up a 3-1 lead through the top of the 7th.  Following a couple of two-out walks of Matt Holliday and Starlin Castro in the third inning, Didi Gregorius singled to left, scoring Holliday and tying the game at 1.  The Yankees took the lead in the 5th, thanks again to another two-out hit from Gregorius.  After Aaron Judge walked and Starlin Castro singled, Gregorius singled to center which scored Judge.  In the 7th, Judge singled and moved to second on a groundout by Matt Holliday.  Castro followed with a ground out to the pitcher, bringing Gregorius up again with two outs.  The Los Angeles Angels took no chances and intentionally walked Didi to put the bat in the hands of Chase Headley (ugh!).  Despite my lack of excitement about Headley, he delivered with a single, scoring Judge.  The Yankees subsequently loaded the bases, but Austin Romine hit a grounder for the final out of the inning.  

Tanaka pitched well enough to win but it was not to be.  In the bottom of the 7th, after Andrelton Simmons had flied out, Eric Young, Jr reached base as a result of a fielding error by Chase Headley (his 11th of the season, one more than he had last year in 140 games at third).  The next batter, Martin Maldonado, struck out but Young advanced to second on a steal.  Former Washington National Danny Espinosa lined a single to right, scoring Young.  Aaron Judge mistakenly threw the ball home on an overthrow which allowed Espinosa to take second.  Manager Joe Girardi pulled Tanaka (hand clap for #19) and brought in Tyler Clippard.  Clippard promptly gave up a double to Cameron Maybin, scoring Espinosa for a run charged to Tanaka and the game was tied at 3.  He struck out Kole Calhoun for the final out, and the game moved to the 8th inning.

After Brett Gardner flied out, Aaron Hicks doubled to left.  The Angels made a pitching change to bring in their interim closer, Bud Norris.  On a 2-0 count, Judge showed the Anaheim crowd the magic that we’ve been experiencing in the Bronx with a home run to right center, giving the Yankees a 5-3 lead and the eventual margin of victory. 

Credit:  Randy Miller-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

With two outs and a runner at first thanks to a walk in the bottom of the 8th, Girardi took no chances and brought in Dellin Betances to get the final out of the inning.  It was a much cleaner than the last time Betances entered an inning with two outs (when he loaded the bases and threw 17 pitches to record the necessary out).  This time, it was three pitches and a fly out.

In the 9th, Betances was on his game as he struck out the side.  Yankees win, 5-3.

This was a great game for the California Central Valley native Judge.  He finished 2-for-4 with a walk, 3 runs scored and 2 RBI’s, while increasing his batting average to .347, in front of family, friends and James Kaprielian.  Yankees fans are everywhere and they certainly made themselves known on this night with the “MVP!” chants.

Gregorius was 4-for-4 with the 2 RBI’s.  

It may be a down year for the Angels, but they’ve always played well against the Yankees so this was a satisfying victory.  It would have been nice for Tanaka to pick up the win, but still, it had to be a confidence-booster for him.  His final line was 6 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER,  2 BB, 8 SO.  I hope to see more of this and less of the Tanaka starts we saw over the past month.  Clippard, responsible for costing Tanaka the victory, took the win, thanks to Judge’s timely homer.  

The Yankees (38-23) maintained their four-game lead over the Boston Red Sox.  The Sox beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 6-5, in extra innings.  The Tampa Bay Rays (who had the night off) remained in third, but dropped to 6 1/2 games back.  The Baltimore Orioles lost again (10-7 to the Chicago White Sox), sliding to 7 1/2 games behind the leaders.  The O’s are now just a half game from falling into the AL East Cellar.  

Odds & Ends…

I hate to say that I am disappointed with the MLB Draft because Yankees scouts know a heck of lot more than I do, but I was not enthused with the first round selection (16th pick) of right-handed pitcher Clarke Schmidt.  Schmidt had Tommy John surgery earlier this Spring and will be unavailable to pitch until sometime in late 2018.  I couldn’t help but get flashbacks to the pick of Andrew Brackman a number of years ago.  Taking a chance on an injured but high ceiling pitcher who never rose to the level of his potential and is subsequently out of baseball.  I hope this is not the same situation with Schmidt.  I thought first baseman Evan White or lefty pitcher D.L. Hall would have been great picks at that spot, or even lefty David Peterson (who was later picked by the Mets).   

Damon Oppenheimer,  Yankees VP of Domestic Amateur Scouting, had these words for Schmidt (who is from the University of South Carolina like Jordan Montgomery):  “Schmidt’s got four pitches that at times are all plus.  He has command, he has makeup.  We really like his delivery.  He’s got a chance to be a top end of the rotation type of guy who combines pitchability with power stuff.  And you always like it when they’re the Friday night guy, pitching and having success in that conference.”  A few of the pitchers taken in the first round sound better suited for relief work so I suppose if you have a chance for a top of the rotation guy, you take it.  I hope this one works out.

In the second round (with the 54th pick), the Yankees chose a high school pitcher (Matt Sauer).  I like this pick, perhaps more so than Schmidt.  Sauer is right-handed and just 18 years old, he is already 6’4”.  He a product of an appropriately named Righetti High School (CA) even if the school is named for a guy named Ernest Righetti and not former Yankees closer Dave “Rags” Righetti.  Oppenheimer offered these words about Sauer:  “Sauer is a projectable high school right-hander who is athletic, with a ‘now’ fastball and a plus slider.  He really has a good way about his aggressiveness and makeup on the mound.  We see a chance there for a starter with power stuff.”

Credit:  The Tribune (San Luis Obispo)

Welcome to the Yankees Family, Clarke and Matt!

Have a great Tuesday!  It should be a fun day as the Yankees try to keep this winning streak alive and MLB Draft continues with rounds 3 through 10.  

The Man said he was sorry…

You had me at…, um, no, you didn’t…

We are supposed to simply accept a handwritten apology?  Right.  Sorry, I don’t buy it and I don’t think it would matter if A-Rod spoke before a packed house at Yankee Stadium.  Alex Rodriguez is sorry for only one thing.  He got caught.  He could care less about you or me.  Honestly, at this point, the only thing that I’d accept out of A-Rod’s words would be a retirement announcement.

I saw a few New York sportswriters commenting that home runs will bring the fans back.  Are we so shallow that we could forgive Alex for his behavior by simply forgetting all with the first ball that clears the fence?  I know that I will not be a fan of Alex Rodriguez today nor would I be one if by September he has hit 40 home runs.  My days cheering him are over.   I am still a Yankees fan, and of course, I want the team to win.  I would not wish for A-Rod to do anything detrimental to the team (well beyond the damage that he’s already done) but I will only accept his contributions as team contributions, not individual accomplishments.

I admit that I hope Alex plays so poorly in the spring, the Yankees bite the $60 million bullet and release him.  But that’s too far fetched to be possible.  He won’t need to do much to hold his own on the roster.  Rob Refsnyder could play twice as well in spring training and end up in Scranton/Wilkes Barre while A-Rod is the team’s full time DH.  But still, the thought of an outright release would be the best possible outcome in my mind.

As good as the Boston Red Sox’ front office has become, it’s too bad they weren’t better back in 2003 when they failed to acquire A-Rod from the Texas Rangers.  How differently things might have been had A-Rod gone to Beantown.

Ifs and buts, I know…

It’s a numbers game…

There was a time when it seemed odd that Phil Hughes wore #65 or that Joba Chamberlain wore #62.  Now, with the announcement plans to retire numbers 20, 46 and 51, the lower numbers are slowly going away.  Of course #2 will soon be retired for Derek Jeter and I’ve always wondered if some day #21 will be taken down for Paul O’Neill.  Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams were all great Yankees and they deserve becoming legends of Monument Park.  It was also very classy of the Yankees to announce plans for a plaque for former second baseman Willie Randolph.

It thought it was cool when Manny Ramirez wore #99 for the Los Angeles Dodgers a few years ago.  Now, we’re probably just a few seasons away from someone donning the same number with the Yankees.  Hopefully, I won’t live to see the days when players are wearing triple digits.

Make or break a farm system…

Based on all reports, I would love nothing more than to see the Yankees sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada.  However, based on what I’ve read, I do expect the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the bidding.  I hope the Yankees emerge victorious.  Given they’ll be limited in the international market for the next few years, Moncada would be icing on the cake for the fantastic international draft they had this year.  I know that there are no certainties but Moncada does sound like the real deal.  I guess if the Dodgers win the bidding, I shouldn’t fret too much since I live just a few miles away from Dodger Stadium.  But after an off-season of largely inactivity, signing Moncada would make this winter well worth the wait.  I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks.

NESN.com

Open the door…

Count me among those who hope that new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred re-opens the Pete Rose case.  It’s time to let Pete the Ballplayer take his rightful place in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  I will never defend Pete the Man, but I saw the ballplayer play, and he remains one of the greatest that I’ve ever seen.  He has served his sentence and deserves to stand among the game’s greats.

*      *     *

It’s hard to believe that it is time for pitchers and catchers to report.  With this off-season’s inactivity and losses, it is hard to envision October baseball in the Bronx.  Yeah, yeah, if all things go right and everyone stays healthy, I know they have a chance.  But realistically, this is a third place team at best with the potential for the cellar if things go horribly wrong.  As always, I will throw in the caveat that I hope I am wrong.  But if anything, I do think the Yankees are laying the groundwork for future success.

Let’s play ball…

–Scott

Like it or not, here comes the 2015 season…

What’s the plan?…

Well, it’s January 2015.  The Yankees roster is slowly evolving.  The latest addition/return was the surprise re-signing of Stephen Drew which certainly makes sense.  While I still prefer to see Rob Refsnyder win the second base job outright, Drew certainly provides great insurance at both second base and shortstop.  It’s no sure thing that Didi Gregorius will be successful and I’d prefer not to see Brendan Ryan as the only other choice, even if he is a slick fielder.

I am still concerned about the starting rotation.  Reading CC Sabathia say the knee is fine is hardly a ringing endorsement that he’ll be the CC of old.  I think best case he is a strong #3 in the rotation if he is able to come back healthy.  His days as the team’s ace are over…in my opinion.  The hope of the rotation lies with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Obviously, there are health concerns with both pitchers.  Even though Ivan Nova will return later in the year, I do not expect him to be back up to par until 2016.  Nathan Eovaldi is the project.  The Yankees apparently think they can turn him around and perhaps they can.  It would be good to get him to the point that he is as reliable and consistent as Hiroki Kuroda was.

While I get why the Yankees will not pay $200 million for Max Scherzer, I wish they would make a play for James Shields.  With a rotation containing so much uncertainty, the Yankees really need a dependable starter without question marks.

I have heard some rumblings that the Yankees now have the prospects to make a trade for Cole Hamels, but I am not sure that’s one I would pursue.  I like prospects such as Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and want to see them succeed in pinstripes.  It was tough when I was a kid and the Yankees were always trading youth for veterans.  Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, Fred McGriff, Al Leiter, J.T. Snow, Brad Ausmus.  I know the list is much longer than this, but it was tough watching guys like that succeed elsewhere.

I don’t think that Cole Hamels would be the missing ingredient to suddenly make the Yankees the World Series favorites.  So, if he is not the difference maker, then the Yankees shouldn’t raid the cupboards to bring him aboard.  I’d rather see Hamels go to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The fear of course is that he’ll be calling Fenway Park home next season.

At this point, I still do not see the 2015 Yankees making the play-offs.  I think the Baltimore Orioles will still be the team to beat.  They suffered off-season losses, yes, but they’ll also be getting back Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.  The Toronto Blue Jays look to be the most improved team and they’ve been a team of potential for a few years.  Boston will be stronger, and it’s best to never underestimate the Tampa Bay Rays even if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman are no longer calling the shots.

There’s still time for GM Brian Cashman to make the moves to propel the Yankees into contention but so much is riding on better seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira.  Of the group, McCann is the only one I feel is capable for turning it around.  Beltran and Teixeira are in their decline years, and that slippery slope is steeper for some guys.

Hear the voice of the Bard!…

There’s a nice piece in Nick Cafardo’s column today (Sunday Baseball Notes in The Boston Globe) about the comeback of Daniel Bard.  It would be good to see Bard successfully return to his position of bullpen relevance after years of struggle.  Perhaps that’s a buy low signing the Yankees should pursue.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  There was a time when Bard was a Yankees draft pick although he never signed.  Even if he goes back to Boston or another team, I truly hope that Bard is successful.

Short walk to the Hall…

Congratulations to the Hall of Fame inductees:  John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, and Pedro Martinez.  I think all of the selections were justified.  It was sad that it was the final ballot appearance for Don Mattingly, but it was a given that he was not going to make it.  Maybe he can take the Joe Torre route…great managerial success to go with a strong playing career…to gain access to the Hall.

25 years is long enough…

Put me in the group of people who want to see Pete Rose allowed to enter the Hall of Fame.  He remains one of the best players I’ve been privileged to see play in my lifetime.  This is not an endorsement of Pete the man and I feel what he did was wrong, however, Pete the player was one of the best players of all-time.

I am glad that this is the last full month without any baseball activity.  Looking forward to the opening of spring training camps next month.

–Scott

Mr Kuroda, it was our pleasure…

Quite simply, a great Yankee…

One thing is assured.  Yankees fans will not be enjoying any of the hoopla that fans of the San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs et al have been experiencing this off-season.  The Winter of Our Discontent (hat tip to John Steinbeck) continues with the loss of starter Hiroki Kuroda, who has signed a one year deal with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Leagues.

Getty Images

Derek Jeter, David Robertson, Francisco Cervelli, Martin Prado, David Phelps, and now Hiroki Kuroda.  The Yankees have lost some great personalities from the 2014 team and it ensures that 2015 will be “different”.  It remains to be seen if it will be different-good or different-bad, but will definitely be different.

I remember when Hiroki Kuroda arrived in the U.S. in his early 30’s with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I think in my mind I viewed him as nothing more than a #3 starter but I remember watching a Dodgers game a few years (with the legendary Vin Scully announcing…what a treat!).  He was masterful that game.  I don’t remember the outcome but I do believe it was a Kuroda win and he only gave up a few hits.  I was impressed by his performance, but I don’t think I truly appreciated how great he was until he came to New York.  I was so wrong.  He was more than a #3 starter.  He may not have been an ace, but he was the type of #2 starter every team needs.  He was a stopper, and he kept his team in games consistently from game to game.  After watching A.J. Burnett flame out with essentially the same spot in the rotation with his roller coaster performances, Kuroda gave us stability and an arm that could be counted on.  It’s too bad the team was unable to reward him with a World Series championship.  Everyone knows the high class and character of Derek Jeter, but Kuroda is every bit the man of honor.

Doug Benc/Getty Images

I am glad that Kuroda was able to be a part of Masahiro Tanaka’s first year and to help with his transition.  In a way, there is a bit of an unknown in what it will be like for Tanaka without fellow countrymen Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki on the team.  This is why it would make tremendous sense to add Hideki Matsui to the coaching staff.  I haven’t heard Matsui’s name mentioned as a hitting coach but what about first base?  He had one of the greatest clutch bats in recent Yankees history and is well liked by his former teammates and coaches.

But back to Kuroda.  I read The New York Post headline that blared “Kuroda spurns Yankees, to return to Japan”.  I don’t really view this as Kuroda spurning the Yankees.  It has been known his desire was to finish his playing career in Japan.  The man Kuroda has proven to be is one who would want to put the best possible product on the field in front of his home country.  He wouldn’t want his last year to be a pitcher who stayed a year too long.  I do not view this as a spurning so much as it was a man trying to do the right thing for his fans and country.  As a fan, I know the tremendous respect that he holds for both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations.  Not many people can play for both and only the Yankees and Dodgers.

Masahiro Tanaka wore #18 prior to his arrival in New York.  I wonder if he’ll now change his number from 19 to 18 out of respect for his mentor.  Tanaka is one of the few guys worthy of wearing Kuroda’s jersey.

Here’s hoping that we see Kuroda at future Yankees Old Timer’s Day games.  He will be missed and we look forward to his eventual return to stand among the Legends.

–Scott

Waiting patiently for the Cavalry…

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.

David Robertson mug

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.

–Scott

End of WS, Start of Hot Stove…

Quiet domination…

I am not sure too many people would have predicted the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic, but congratulations to the Giants for their third World Series win in five years.  For being the most dominant team since the Yankees of the late 90’s, they’ve gone about it very quietly.  I guess that’s a product of East Coast bias, but Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy deserve much credit for crafting one of baseball’s better organizations.

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When the Royals hit the sloppy triple in the top of the 9th of Game 7 against the great Madison Bumgarner, there was never really a sense that the Giants were going to let the game slip away.  Of course, that’s very easy to say when Bumgarner is on the mound.  It was a legendary World Series performance and he was the MVP by far.  Pablo Sandoval played superbly but Bumgarner was simply spectacular.  I did feel bad for the Kansas City fans who came so close to a championship after so many years of bad teams.  They’ll certainly be a force going forward and should have other opportunities.  With their stash of young talent, they remind me of the Tampa Bay Rays of a few years ago.

Maybe we will see it during our lifetime…

Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs.  It does seem like a potential great marriage.  Hopefully, former Cubs manager Rick Renteria will get another opportunity sooner rather than later.  He certainly deserves it, but this was a move that the Cubs needed to make.  It is a terrific chance for Maddon to prove that he is the best manager in baseball, and to win the World Series at Wrigley Field would be the crown jewel.

When Maddon first opted out of his contract with the Rays, I thought, or feared, that the Dodgers would foolishly dump Don Mattingly to reunite Maddon with former Rays GM Andrew Friedman.  But fortunately, Mattingly is held in high regard by ownership, so I am sure that solidified his position regardless of what Friedman may have felt privately.  Publicly, the Dodgers didn’t say or do anything to undermine their current manager which was good.  With the Dodgers off the table, the Cubs were the best spot for Maddon.  Unfortunate that it came at the expense of an employed manager, but it was still the right fit.

Maddon and his personality should be an instant success in the Windy City.

Protect your own, well, except #13…

I was glad to see the Yankees extend a qualifying offer to closer David Robertson, but there was no chance they wouldn’t.  It would be awesome if Robertson accepted the qualifying offer but I seriously doubt it.  Hopefully, the Yankees and Robertson can find common ground in bringing the closer back to the Bronx.  Dellin Betances may be a great closer one day, but Kansas City showed that you can go a long way with a stellar bullpen.  The Yankees are better with Betances setting up Robertson.

I am also hopeful that the Yankees bring back third baseman Chase Headley and starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy.  However, McCarthy may get caught in numbers.  CC Sabathia will be back to join Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Shane Greene deserves another shot at the rotation, and it is very likely the Yankees will go after one of the top three free agent pitchers (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields).  At some point early in the season, Ivan Nova will return.  It’s anybody’s guess what Sabathia will bring and there is some uncertainly with Tanaka and his elbow.  So loading up with starting pitching is never a bad thing, but if McCarthy wants a guaranteed spot, he’ll most likely need to go elsewhere.  It’s too bad because he is a good fit in the Bronx.

Tough decisions lie ahead for GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner family.

Too many players with uncertainty.  Alex Rodriguez is certainly at the head of the list.  His days as a premier third baseman are over.  That’s even more reason to bring Headley back.  With someone like A-Rod, I would set my expectations low and then anything he delivers beyond that would be a bonus.  I truly hated to see the World Series end for no other reason than it meant the restoration of A-Rod to the active roster.  I wish there was a way the Yankees could sever ties, but the contract is too problematic unless the Yankees want to simply give A-Rod money for nothing and release him.

With Jose Pirela performing well in winter ball, there should be very spirited competition for second base with Rob Refsnyder in Spring Training.  My preference is to go young with the position and not reach out for an older veteran on the free agent or trade market.  They’ll need to do the latter at shortstop to provide a fill in until young prospect Jorge Mateo is hopefully ready in a few years.

It’s been fun watching the star shine more brightly on Yankees prospect Aaron Judge.  One of the bigger guys in baseball, he is playing better than just a big man and is on track to arrive at Yankee Stadium in a couple of years.

This off-season will see the departure of some prospects as a few are getting older and running out of options like Austin Romine.  The Yankees have a glut at catcher behind Brian McCann, so it would seem that either Francisco Cervelli or John Ryan Murphy will have to go.  I only hope that it doesn’t mean trading away high level talent like Judge or pitcher Luis Severino unless the return is significant (highly unlikely).

Best of luck to Gary Denbo as he takes over for VP of Baseball Operations for the retiring Mark Newman.  The Yankees have made progress in improving their minor league system the last couple of years so hopefully Denbo can enhance the continued growth of quality prospects at the upper levels of the system.  Also, I was pleased to see the return of former third baseman Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout.  I was disappointed last year when he chose a bench role with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Yankees to be closer to his home in Arizona.

Still no word on a new hitting coach or first base coach, although it looks like Raul Ibanez is getting strong consideration for the former position.  Teaming him with someone like James Rowson would be a great idea.

Decisions made by the Yankees over the next 45 days will go a very long way toward shaping the 2015 Yankees.

I am ready for Spring Training to begin…

–Scott