|Photo Credit: Mark Cunningham, Getty Images|
Players Association Expected to Vote Today…
I had hoped that we could be talking about the Yankees and actual baseball by now but, sadly, we’re not. As the pain back and forth continues, we’re caught in the middle. The players will vote today regarding the MLB Owners’ latest proposal (instead of “a few days” according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale). The billionaire boys club is proposing a 60-game schedule with full pro rata pay which includes expanded playoffs and a universal DH in both leagues.
I don’t know. I am starting to lose interest in salvaging this season. I thought a schedule of 82 games was the last hope for meaningful baseball. 60 games does not really prove anything except which teams get hot at the right time which will not necessarily the best teams in the game. I know the expanded playoffs are a financial boon for the owners but it further dilutes our ability to see the best teams play.
I am disappointed. If the Yankees still manage to win the World Series this year (assuming they actually play), I’ll be happy and I won’t place a caveat on the season. By the same token, if the Chicago White Sox blaze through with a rapid ascension of their young talent, it wouldn’t surprise and I wouldn’t place a caveat on them either. Nevertheless, this will be a strange, perplexing year no matter how it ends. From a sports fan’s perspective, it might be the worst year of our lifetimes.
Seeing the Instagram pics Gerrit Cole posted, throwing from the Yankee Stadium mound in shorts was not exactly the image I wanted to see this summer in the Bronx. I would have preferred pinstripes and real competition. It’s a sad reminder of what we are missing.
|Photo Credit: Gerrit Cole via Instagram, @gerritcole45|
I am bummed we are missing out on a year of the careers of our favorite players. The life of a baseball player is short even if you can make it to the Major Leagues. In some cases, a player may only get a year or two (or less). The time lost could mean guys who might have made it never will. Players on the downslope are still on a downward trajectory despite no games. Time and age will not wait for anybody except for maybe Tom Brady. Players in their prime move closer to the edge of downward spiral. Who knows what magical moments might have happened so far in the 2020 season if it had started on schedule. Or missing the beautiful sights and sounds of great baseball fans everywhere hurtling deserved insults and boos at the Houston Astros.
I feel MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been largely ineffective since he took over the role from Bud Selig. I have felt the players have reasonably tried to make the season happen while the owners are most concerned about how to protect their investments (the dollars, not the players). These tense negotiations are setting up a very contentious, difficult battle after the 2021 season when the current collective bargaining agreement expires.
Frankly, if the next few days only bring more rejections, I will be officially on board with shit-canning the season.
I am truly at the ‘why bother?’ stage. The MLB owners obviously do not care about us so why should we care about them? I’d love to see some decisions made “for the good of the game”.
If Baseball somehow finds a way to play this year, it does seem weird the Yankees will have to use Yankee Stadium to hold “Spring” Training. Since the seasons changed yesterday, I guess this makes the first Summer Training for MLB. With spring training homes closed in Florida due to the coronavirus, Governor Andrew Cuomo has said the Yankees (and the Mets) have permission to use their New York stadiums for training purposes. Too bad they didn’t leave the old Yankee Stadium up. Then they would have had two legitimate baseball fields to work with. As it stands, they have the single main field of the current Yankee Stadium, four bullpen mounds and an indoor batting facility. I guess they should model Adam Ottavino’s idea from several off-seasons ago when he rented vacant commercial space and converted it to a pitching facility.
It seems strange, with the possible restart of baseball, Aaron Hicks is a stronger bet to start the season than Aaron Judge. I have absolutely no idea what is going on with Judge. Meanwhile, Hicks has proclaimed he is ready. I guess the doubt about Judge will keep Clint Frazier’s name relevant in training camp. Clint has been the guy I’d love to see the Yankees trade to create opportunity for him, but as long as he is a Yankee, I guess I will continue to hold out hope he has that magical, transformational Yankee moment. If I was a betting man, that’s not exactly a bet I’d make but I’d love to be proven wrong and if he is going to find Major League success, better with the Yankees than not.
Until the Yankees sign their draft picks, I am not going to get excited about Austin Wells, Trevor Hauver or Beck May. I liked the picks but they are just guys who happen to play baseball and are not true Yankee prospects until they sign on the dotted line. With other teams locking up their draftees, the eery silence among the Yankees’ picks worries me that they might not sign at all. I think Wells is a great story. Drafted in high school by the Yankees in 2018 (35th round, the same year they took catcher Anthony Siegler with their first pick), he chose to go to college over signing with the Yankees. Betting on himself paid dividends as he parlayed his worth into the Yankees’ first pick in the 2020 draft. The negative is that he picked the wrong year to do it. The other negative is his agent (Scott Boras). The odds of getting Wells signed this time around appear to be nearly as challenging as two years ago. We’ll see. I hope the one-time Red Sox fan realizes how much the Yankees want him and have the resources and coaching talent to help him become the best he can be, whether it is behind the plate or at another position.
I was a little saddened to see former Yankees pitching prospect Manny Banuelos, 29, sign to play in the Chinese Professional Baseball League this week. Not that I thought he had any chance of making it back to the Major Leagues at this point, but the failure to fulfill the promise he once showed when he was part of the Killer B’s in the Yankees’ farm system with Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman. Every time Banuelos landed with a new MLB team, I had hoped he would find success but it has not happened for him. I know non-Yankee fans like to say Banuelos is just another overhyped former Yankees prospect but I did and still do believe that he had the talent at the time necessary to succeed. Whether it was injuries, focus, control, consistency or whatever stopped him from reaching his ceiling, it doesn’t erase the fact he was once a talented, young prospect with value. Even though it didn’t work out, I think it is unfair to dismiss him as over-hyped. Jesus Montero, yeah, he was over-hyped…
I hope everyone is staying healthy and safe. To all fathers, I hope this has been a wonderful Father’s Day for you and your families.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images|
Moving on to the Next Round?…
The Baseball off-season continues to move at a snail’s pace. Of course, things will change as we get past the Thanksgiving holiday and move into December and closer to the Baseball Winter Meetings.
In the meantime, we continue to pick apart every little thing that happens ad nauseum. We learned this week that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner not only supported GM Brian Cashman’s decision to sever ways with former manager Joe Girardi, he agreed with it and it has been something that they’ve had talks about for the past several years. Of course, that leads me to believe that it was Steinbrenner’s call and there are details that we may never really know. We do know there were perceived communication issues and that Girardi had failed to connect with the clubhouse, particularly over the last couple of seasons. Given how vocal both Cashman and Steinbrenner have been about the Girardi situation, it seems like there are more issues at play than just communication and connectivity to players. Steinbrenner implied that the Yankees would have made this decision even if the Yankees had won the World Series.
Although Girardi lasted a decade in the Bronx, he’s now been fired twice by ownership groups that gave scathing departing remarks. Girardi was NL Manager of the Year for the Florida Marlins in 2006, yet he was fired after the season. Then-owner Jeffrey Loria almost fired Girardi on the spot during an August game when Girardi told Loria to stop heckling the home plate umpire. Girardi may have done a decent managing job for the Yankees but you have to think that future teams will take a more cautious approach when/if considering him for managerial openings. I don’t know Girardi so I cannot attest to his personality beyond what I’ve seen during his pre- and post-game interviews but there’s something there, if I was an owner, that would give me pause about Girardi. I have no hard feelings against the man and I hope that he gets another opportunity in MLB but it was clearly time for a change.
|Credit: John Raoux, Associated Press|
Upon the conclusion of the GM Meetings in Orlando, Florida, this week, GM Brian Cashman resumed his managerial interviews.
Former Yankee Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens was in the Bronx on Thursday. I really like Meulens. I know that a lot of people have scoffed at the guy and he has no managerial experience, but I like his communication style (handles himself very well in interviews) and he is clearly a guy that knows baseball and relationships. He is fluent with multiple languages including a little bit of Japanese which gives him the ability to talk directly to the majority of players without the assistance of interpreters. He enjoys a great relationship with shortstop Didi Gregorius, whom he managed in the WBC Classic. Meulens has been part of three World Series championships in San Francisco.
|Credit: ESPN Internet Ventures|
Cashman also spoke with former Yankee Aaron Boone on Friday. Boone is best remembered for his home run to the beat the Boston Red Sox in the 2003 American League Championship Series, a year before the Sox finally ended the Curse of the Bambino. It was Boone’s 2004 knee injury, suffered in a pre-season basketball game, that led the Yankees to their acquisition of Alex Rodriguez and the drama that ensued. Boone, as everyone knows, comes from a family rich in MLB tradition, with a grandfather, father and brother that were all Major Leaguers. There’s no doubt he is an intelligent guy but like Meulens, no managerial experience, and unlike Meulens, no coaching experience.
I think either Meulens or Boone could do a good job if they are surrounded by the right coaches. I kind of like the idea of using either Al Pedrique or Eric Wedge as the new manager’s bench coach. I would not be disappointed to see Rob Thomson return to that role. It appears that Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward is next up for a managerial interview. I don’t really know much about Woodward so I don’t have any opinions about him. At this point, I clearly prefer Meulens and Boone over him. Not sure if Woodward will be the last of the candidates before we start Round 2 or if there will be more guys paraded through the Bronx. The next round will feature a trip to Florida to meet with the Steinbrenner family. I’d probably take the candidates by Trinity Memorial Gardens in Trinity, FL. If the ground rumbles (the Boss turning over in his grave), you know the candidate is probably not the one.
I am anxious for the Yankees to make a decision, but I understand they are under no pressure to hurry and can afford to take their time. Outside of Shohei Otani, they do not figure to be big players in Free Agency despite the greedy nature of us, the fans. CC Sabathia has already said that he’d return despite not knowing who the next manager will be. So, for now, we wait…
All Rise for the Judge!…
Congratulations to Aaron Judge for being named AL Rookie of the Year, as expected, and his second place finish in the AL MVP voting. I expected the AL MVP vote to be much closer than it really was. Jose Altuve took 27 of 30 first place votes with only two going to Judge. There was some outrage from the media but the class exhibited by Judge was so professional and heartfelt (as we have come to expect with the big slugger). After Altuve won, Judge tweeted: “M-V-P!!! Nobody more deserving than you!! Congrats on an unforgettable 2017!! @JoseAltuve27”. Judge makes me proud that he is a Yankee every day.
Yankee Dreams extinguished…
The Yankees lost a long-time farmhand and one-time top prospect when outfielder Mason Williams signed a minor league free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds. I am sorry that it never worked out for Williams in Pinstripes. I had very high hopes at one point that never came to fruition. Hopefully, for his sake, the change of scenery helps him achieve some the success that had once seemed inevitable for the talented 26-year-old.
|Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images|
Another former Yankees prospect, a few years removed from the organization, pitcher Manny Banuelos, has signed a minors deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when Williams and Banuelos were the top prospects with the Yankees. Of course Banuelos was part of the Killer B’s (the trio of Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman).
The only Killer B that made it was Betances. Like Williams, I hope that Banuelos can find success in Chavez Ravine. He has failed to impress the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Angels so maybe fourth time’s a charm. I really liked Banuelos as a young prospect and had hoped to see him achieve MLB success.
And we continue to wait. Go Yankees!
Let someone else try…
While I greatly respect Boston Globe columnist Nick Cafardo, his column today that implies the Yankees have come the closest in making a bid for Philadelphia Phillies starter Cole Hamels just doesn’t make sense to me. While I agree that Hamels is a top shelf starter, I find it very hard to believe that the team would be willing to part with top prospects and major league talent to acquire Hamels. This past winter, they could have acquired Max Scherzer for nothing more than money and a draft pick.
If the team is serious about its bid to get younger, acquiring the 31 year old Hamels is not the answer. You’d only acquire Hamels if you legitimately felt you had a shot for the World Series. The Yankees are not at the doorstep for the Fall Classic and they wouldn’t be even if they acquired Hamels.
I know there is great risk with any prospect and of course the path to the major leagues is littered by sure fire prospects who never made it. In the past, Yankee fans have been teased with the hype associated with players like Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos. Montero is in Seattle and while he may still be the player people thought he would be, he hasn’t done it yet and despite his injury history, Michael Pineda is a better player at this point in their respective careers. Manny Banuelos is in Atlanta and he brought a couple of arms for the bullpen. Perhaps guys like Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and Aaron Judge are over-hyped because they are Yankees, but still, I would hate to see them leave and prosper in Philly. I am sure that I felt the same way about Montero and Banuelos at some point, but I do believe the Yankees have made a concerted effort to improve their drafts in recent years.
At a time when there is competitive balance in the MLB thanks to profit sharing and luxury taxes paid by the richer teams and primarily the Yankees, the Yankees have the financial strength to employ the best scouts to uncover the diamonds in the rough. If over a century of Yankees baseball has proven anything, the Yankees know how to adapt and they’ll continue to do so. But the key is getting younger and getting more cost controlled players. That’s why a move for Cole Hamels just does not make sense.
I would love to see Hamels in the Yankees starting rotation. But I simply do not want to part with the farm system to do it. Whoever acquires Hamels is going to overpay. Let some other team overpay, even if it is the Boston Red Sox.
Happy New Year!
This has been an odd off-season for Yankees fans. Quietly, the Yankees have made small deals to get younger. The only significant addition of a proven high level performer is lefty Andrew Miller. Didi Gregorius makes sense given the team’s need at short, but he’s hardly proven himself as a top flight shortstop to this point in his career.
It was difficult to see David Robertson leave to sign with the Chicago White Sox, particularly since there were no outward signs the team tried to keep him. Not sure what the team saw that we didn’t, but Robertson has proved he can pitch in the Bronx and that’s not an easy task…especially when you follow the footsteps of a Legend…
Despite the brevity of his Yankees career, I was disappointed when I heard the news that Martin Prado had been traded to the Miami Marlins. While I am hopeful that Rob Refsnyder grabs second base in spring training, there’s always the chance that neither he nor Jose Pirela will be successful. Prado provides great diversity to a roster. While I am not disappointed that Mark Teixeira will have a sorely needed legitimate backup in Garrett Jones, I am not quite sure what to think about starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. I understand the potential is there, but it’s yet to be proven.
Robert Mayer – USA Today Sports
But probably the biggest sadness of the off-season occurred with the New Year’s first trade which saw the Yankees send once top prospect Manny Banuelos to the Atlanta Braves for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve. I can so remember when the “Killer B’s” (Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman) were so highly touted and viewed as the future of the Yankees. Betances failed as a starting pitcher, but obviously, he resurrected his promise with brilliance in the bullpen and now looms as the likely new closer. Brackman was released a couple of years ago and is now out of baseball. Nevertheless, I still had hope that Banuelos would finally arrive. After Tommy John surgery in 2012/13, I expected him to struggle in 2014. Few pitchers are able to come back at an immediate high level. It takes time. There is still time for Banuelos to blossom. To the Yankees’ defense, there is always the chance he’ll never be what he could have been. I will still root for Banuelos, the Brave, and I do hope that he becomes the pitcher we thought he would be.
Mike James – AP Photo
As a Yankees fan, there are certain guys in the farm system that you follow closely. Granted, there has been a shortage of high level talent in the system, but still, you hold out hope that certain guys will become the next core of the team. Yet, in recent years, it has usually just ended in disappointment, with Banuelos being the latest. I can think of Eric Duncan, Cito Culver, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott as a few who have failed. The successes of players like Dellin Betances have been few and far between. So, perhaps that’s why GM Brian Cashman is shuffling the deck. But it’s hard not to say that this feels like a rebuilding program, rather than re-tooling. So, the two year play-off drought threatens to be more. I know, I know, if CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and, eek!, Alex Rodriguez can return to form, the Yankees will be in the hunt. But that’s not a bet I would take. Of the players, I think, realistically, McCann is the only way who will bounce back. That means, with the roster as-is, the Yankee Stadium lights will be out in October.
I do have to add the usual caveat….I hope that I am WRONG!
So now, I look forward to the next wave of prospects making a difference. I am hopeful that guys like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Gary Sanchez, Ian Clarkin, and the aforementioned Rob Refsnyder are able to accomplish what so many in front of them have failed to do…wear the pride and pinstripes of baseball’s most storied franchise, the New York Yankees.
Here’s hoping for much happiness and success in 2015 for all!
The end of days…
The realist in me understands that these are the end of days for the New York Yankees. It is merely a time formality for them to be mathematically eliminated. A recent 5-game skid has almost assured the Baseball Gods and those twin sisters at Yankee Stadium, Mystique and Aura, that there will be no October baseball in the Bronx. Realistically, I do not believe the Yankees have a chance to catch the Detroit Tigers or Kansas City Royals as either one of those teams should capture the second Wild Card behind the Los Angeles Angels.
What does this mean? Honestly, I think that Brian Cashman’s tenure as GM has reached its conclusion. While I’ve enjoyed Cashman as GM, I recognize that it is time for change. Assistant GM Billy Eppler, a finalist for the San Diego Padres GM job that he lost to A.J. Preller, is a top candidate and my personal choice as a successor. I would prefer Eppler, who knows and understands the inner workings of the Yankees kingdom, as opposed to an outsider that would have a learning curve. Eppler is respected and he’ll have the support of the Steinbrenners from Day 1 given his history with them.
New York Post/Charles Wenzelberg
This Yankees team is old and I don’t know what they can do in the short run to turn things around. In many ways, they should have been sellers at the trading deadline to bring an infusion of youth into the organization. The Yankees have talent at the lower levels of the minor leagues (man, am I looking forward to the day that OF Aaron Judge takes the field) but the higher level prospects have largely been a disappointment. While I am hopeful that 2B Rob Refsnyder gets a sniff of Yankee Stadium in September, it is P Manny Banuelos that I am most interested in. Once touted as the top pitching prospect in the organization, I still think Banuelos can deliver the goods now that he is healthy. Hopefully, he is able to make a statement in September to convince the team that he is ready for 2015.
What does it mean? The return of CC Sabathia leaves little to be excited about as he showed nothing to disprove he is aging fast prior to his injury. Hiroki Kuroda will finally head for the shores of Japan, whether it is to retire or to play one last season in the Japanese leagues. So, the Yankees will enter 2015 with plenty of questions in the rotation. Masahiro Tanaka should be the opening day starter, but he’s still just an elbow blowout from Tommy John surgery. Shane Greene has proven he belongs so I am confident that he’ll be part of the rotation. Michael Pineda is in the ‘show me’ stage of his career. It’s time for him to stay healthy and produce. If he is capable of doing that, he’ll be at the upper echelon of the starting rotation. If not, he’ll go by the wayside, ala Carl Pavano. Ivan Nova, I have no clue.
What really makes this down season so bad is that next spring will be met by Alex Rodriguez. I really hope that the Yankees find a way to sever ties and ensure that A-Rod never wears pinstripes again.
“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish, and think of me. Make your life spectacular.” – Jack
I know that this is a sports blog but I’d be remiss for not acknowledging the tremendous impact that Robin Williams had on me during the course of my life. From Mork and Mindy to the many movies that Robin starred in, he made a difference. His comic genius was unlike any other, and he took to any role and embraced it. For someone who brought so much joy and happiness into so many lives, it is unfortunate that he was unable to do so for himself. This has been a tough year with celebrity losses, with actress Lauren Bacall being the latest example, but Robin Williams is a star that will continue to shine brightly. I hope that he found what he was seeking in his fatal decision, but it’s a given that he’ll never be forgotten. Thanks Robin, we appreciate you, we love you, and hope that you’re the life of the party at the divine afterlife.
24: Live Another Day…
To some, that title refers to the upcoming 12-episode FOX TV Series with Kiefer Sutherland returning as Jack Bauer, but it is also has some parallels with the current state of the Yankees. 24 is the continuation of the roster size until Sunday when Michael Pineda’s suspension ends and he is subsequently placed on the DL. 24 was the return of Robinson Cano to New York even though he now wears #22. 24 seems like the length of yesterday’s 14-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. 24 is the description of the day by day adventure that is a major league baseball season.
Clearly, the Yankees are in a funk right now with a shortened two game sweep by Cano and the Seattle Mariners, followed by last night’s series opening loss to the Rays.
There was a brief stretch earlier in the season where I was feeling very confident with the starting rotation but that lasted about one cycle through the rotation as the Yankees lost Ivan Nova for the season due to Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda to suspension and subsequently an injured back. So, Vidal Nuno becomes the #4 starter with David Phelps filling the role of the last man in the rotation. If CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were pitching to their proven levels, it would be a different story but they are not. So, it places so much more focus on the back end. Right now, there is only one starter that conveys a sense of confidence. It doesn’t mean that he’ll win every time out, but you feel as though you’ll have the best possible chance for success. That pitcher, of course, is Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka who has been everything as advertised. I hate to think where the Yankees rotation would be if he was a Chicago Cub or a Los Angeles Dodger. We’d probably be bracing for the return of Freddy Garcia at this point.
The Yankees need to do something. With Nuno and Phelps in the rotation, the bullpen, which had actually started to gel after some early concerns, is a mess. Nuno strikes me as no more than a good long man, not a starter. I think Phelps has promise but relying on the combo of Nuno-Phelps is too much. The Yankees need to find a proven starter, somewhere…somehow, so that they can push, ideally, Nuno back to the pen. Of course, where that starter is going to come from is anybody’s guess. It’s not exactly like the Detroit Tigers are going to hand Max Scherzer to the Yanks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the return of Alfredo Aceves to the Bronx. It’s too bad that Manny Banuelos didn’t develop as planned as this would have been a good time for him to make his introduction into the major leagues if he hadn’t encountered injury along his path. He may still make it one day but unfortunately, he’s not an answer right now. He’s probably not an answer but you gotta love Graham Stoneburner’s name if nothing else about his game. Hopefully, the Yankees can make some necessary improvements now rather than having to wait until closer to the July trading deadline.
Death, Taxes, and MLB Injuries…
This has been a tough year for injuries given how many pitchers have had to have Tommy John surgery, and frontline players like Bryce Harper and Jason Kipnis currently on the disabled list. While the Yankees have been plagued with injuries, they are fortunate it hasn’t been more severe. Losing Nova for 12-18 months hurts, but still, it could be worse. These are the times that GM Brian Cashman is asked to prove his mettle. How he responds to the Yankees current situation will shape the remainder of the season. As presently constructed, I am not sure that this is a team that will be knocking in October. It was an older, vulnerable team that has had to deal with injuries and one without able, capable young bodies in the farm system ready and capable to make their mark in The Show. But, as the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…
The (new) Yankee Stadium hits leader in road gray…
Speaking of Robinson Cano, I had mixed feelings about his return to the Bronx. There was criticism directed at him in the form of the very loud boos and chants against him, but the louder the Bronx cheers, the more you realize how much the player meant to the fans. I hated to see Cano leave but I felt and continue to feel the Yankees made the right decision not to match the Mariners’ $240 million offer. It wasn’t about disrespect, but rather a decision that was in the best interests of the long-term health of the team roster through the next 10 years. I had no issue with the fans booing and it was clear that Cano was prepared to handle it. His appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon illustrated how ready he was to confront the fans. The clip where fans thought they were booing a picture of Cano only to have the real thing step out was classic. It also showed that how much we may boo Cano and how unhappy we were he didn’t take less money to stay in pinstripes, the bottom line is that he is a quality human being and he sets a good example for the game.
Naturally, I hope he fails in Seattle. Okay, not really. I recognize that he is the best at his position. That won’t be the case in 7-8 years and perhaps the Yankees will have found their long term answer at the position by then. It was good to see Cano back in the Bronx and despite the sweep, I do wish him well. But, when he returns to the Bronx the next time, I will boo him. Sorry, it’s just what we do…
Have a wonderful weekend!
Happy New Year to all Baseball Fans!…
January 1, 2014. Time to replace the calendars. With the arrival of the New Year, it brings optimism for baseball fans everywhere as they anticipate whether or not their team has done enough to ensure October success. Boston fans dream of a back-to-back championship, while others hope they can be the ones to de-throne the defending champs. In January, anything is possible, although arguably some teams have a much better chance than others.
As a Yankees fan, it has been a bittersweet off-season. The team finally made some bold moves after a couple of years of inactivity in signing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, but the loss of Robinson Cano will hurt. The team still has not done enough to improve the starting rotation nor has it repaired the losses in the pen.
I thought the Washington Nationals did a good job in bringing in Doug Fister for its starting rotation. He was a solid performer for the Detroit Tigers and he should help provide back-end stability for the frontline starters.
The Boston Red Sox did well in re-signing Mike Napoli. He is a great role performer and he seems to thrive in the Fenway environment, however, I am not sure that A.J. Pierzynski makes up for the loss of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I think they’ll be okay losing Jacoby Ellsbury if Jackie Bradley, Jr is able to take the next step up in his promising career. While it remains questionable whether Stephen Drew will be back or will be playing in Citi Field, any team would love to have Xander Bogaerts standing ready to take over the shortstop position. Regardless of what happens, I think the Red Sox will be a force in 2014 and won’t relinquish their crown easily.
The Minnesota Twins showed an unusual side in signing free agent pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, and bringing back Mike Pelfrey. They missed out on A.J. Pierzynski, but the signing of Kurt Suzuki will allow them to bring their young catcher, Josmil Pinto, along slowly in the major leagues as they replace Joe Mauer who has moved to first.
Among others, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland A’s, and the San Francisco Giants (in bringing Tim Hudson back to the Bay Area) have had productive off-seasons.
There are countless other major moves that have been made and other teams that have significantly enhanced their chances for winning, but the point is that January is a time of optimism. Spring Training looms on the horizon as this is the last full month before pitchers and catchers begin to report. Players, if they took time off for the holidays, are aggressively starting or continuing their off-season workout regimens. This is the time that will set in motion the attitudes and the chemistry that makes up each team. Baseball is not about having the most physically gifted team, it’s about the team that can do the most to maximize the synergy of the team and create a culture that is unwilling to accept losing.
It should be a fun season. It’s too early to form an opinion of the teams that stand the best chance as there are still some roster-changing moves that will be made before spring training breaks, but in the AL, you know that the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, A’s, and Angels will have a say in who wins and who loses.
I hope it’s a very happy and enjoyable New Year for everyone! Time to make new friends, create fantastic new opportunities, experiences, and memories. Time to get excited about the arrival of the upcoming Major League Baseball season. May the 2014 season bring you great satisfaction and enjoyment!
The Masahiro Tanaka Sweepstakes…
It’s been written that the New York Yankees are the favorites to sign prized Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but it’s really anybody’s guess where he will sign. Personally, I could see the Los Angeles Dodgers blowing away the competition, and they would certainly provide a main stage for Tanaka to perform. No offense to the Minnesota Twins, but I couldn’t really see a player with Tanaka’s potential playing in a small market. I would love to see Tanaka sign with the Yankees and I think Hiroki Kuroda would be the perfect mentor to help Tanaka’s transition to the United States. But the Dodgers have a strong history with Japanese players. The Texas Rangers may be players and you certainly cannot underestimate the Seattle Mariners or the Los Angeles Angels. The Tanaka decision will be made within the next three weeks as it has to be completed by January 24th, so it should be interesting to watch Tanaka’s tour and to see how much teams are willing to pay for his potential. Guys like Clayton Kershaw, with free agency looming in the not-so-distant future, have to love this, and it will help enhance the monetary packages it will take to sign or retain them with proven superior performance in the MLB.
If the Yankees lose out on Tanaka, I am not sure what a good Plan B will be. I’ve heard Ubaldo Jimenez’ name mentioned, but it’s not a guarantee that 2013 was a return to the promise he once held or if it was just an aberration and he’ll continue his prior downward slide. Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana. None of these names excite me. I am more hopeful that guys like Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos can come into training camp and make statements for why they should be the guys.
Roster moves await…
With the 40-man roster filled, and the signings of second baseman Brian Roberts or reliever Matt Thornton to be made official, it’s clear the Yankees will need to open roster space. Given the excess at catcher with the signing of Brian McCann, it’s fairly clear that either Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy could be moved. I think we’ll see the departure of Vernon Wells despite his salary friendly status thanks to the Angels. Even something free is not worth keeping if it has no value. As speculated, I could still see a trade of Ichiro Suzuki to a team like the San Francisco Giants. I have no problem with Zoilo Almonte taking the fifth outfielder role, particularly in light of his strong winter play.
I don’t think the Yankees have done enough yet, but I also do not think they are finished. I am confident that by the time training camp opens, the Yankees will have the collection of players capable of restoring the team’s 90+ win ability. Time will tell if they’ve caught up with their prime AL East competitors but at least with the Yankees, you know it won’t be for the lack of trying.
The words of Randy Levine…
Admittedly, I do not know much about Yankees president Randy Levine, but I am not impressed with the man. I wasn’t before the text messages between Levine and Alex Rodriguez were released and I am even less so now. Some of his comments come off as very unprofessional. I remember how vilified Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was by Yankees fans when he made his ‘Evil Empire’ remark and how hated he is, but I really do not see Levine as any better and very likely, much worse. At least Lucchino has overseen three world championships since 2004. The Yankees’ 2009 World Championship was more Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, among others.
Perhaps Levine is a great leader and effective in his role within the Yankees organization, but it is not apparent from the outside looking in. I can only shake my head when I see his text message comments. Aside from any of his words or how I may feel about the man, I strikes me as very odd that the president of the team would go direct to a player, bypassing the manager and the GM. Maybe it would help if more stories about Levine’s positives were written, but then again, they wouldn’t be interesting and wouldn’t sell papers. So, maybe we’ll never know the good the man potentially does. But as it stands, he just seems like a buffoon to me.
I hope the holiday season has been a very happy time for you and your families. Enjoy the New Year, and may good health, success, happiness, and prosperity be yours!
Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox…
I know, I never expected to see the words appear on my blog. But you have to give credit where credit is due and the 2013 Boston Red Sox proved that they were the best team in baseball. This is a team that hit the bottom with the 2011 collapse in September that cost beloved manager Terry Francona his job, followed up by a year of Bobby Valentine that ranks as one of the worst teams in recent memory.
Proving that he is nobody’s fool, GM Ben Cherington deserves much of the credit. I am not sure how much the decisions can be attributed to Cherington or to Larry Lucchino, but the deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year to unload salary-draining dead wood was genius. The malcontents were shipped to the West Coast, while the recaptured dollars were re-invested to good clubhouse types like Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara among others. The pieces made for good chemistry and the team, beards and all, became a very cohesive unit.
This may have been the first time that I ever pulled for the Red Sox in the post-season but they gained my respect and I thought they were the team to beat.
Naturally, I hope this is the end of the Sox championship run that started in 2004, but for this off-season, they are the champions of Baseball. Again, congratulations to the Red Sox, the city of Boston, and the Red Sox Nation.
Turns up like a bad penny…
I am so tired of Alex Rodriguez and anything A-Rod. His battle against the MLB is extending the inevitable suspension and is likely throwing a monkey wrench into the Yankees off-season plans. For a team that appears bent on getting under the $189 million salary cap, A-Rod’s salary is substantial. Will they be freed of it, for a season, or will they be responsible for some portion thereof, or does A-Rod win to bring his salary back in full? I think the latter is very remote if impossible. I, for one, would accept a year of no A-Rod even if it means the entire salary counts against the cap. The guy is poison and I don’t think the team will win again with him on the roster. Yes, they won in 2009, but teams generally do not win with such narcissistic players.
Rest assured that no decision Alex Rodriguez makes will be in the best interests of the Yankees and Major League Baseball. MLB needs the authority to end this foolish A-Rod farce and banish him for his sustained PEDS use and lies. I’d love a lifetime ban but I doubt that happens so I want nothing less than the original 214 game suspension.
Introducing the 2014 Yankees…
Check back with me in a few months.
There will be changes, but I am not sure that they will be the moves necessary to return the Yankees to AL East and American League prominence. I saw one New York paper running an article this morning that indicated the Yankees may go after the Detroit Tigers’ Omar Infante should free agent Robinson Cano. No offense to Infante, but what a drop off. I don’t think it is smart to pay Cano $300 million, but hopefully the Yankees and Cano can find common ground that is mutually rewarding for both.
I have seen the Yankees linked to free agents Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Ervin Santana, and A.J. Pierzynski. Yes, Beltran is a good post-season performer but you need to get there first. As a McCann fantasy owner this past season, I was frustrated with how much time he spent on the DL. I’ve always thought Santana was a decent pitcher, but he’s not a frontliner. Then again, when you’ve lost Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and possibly Hiroki Kuroda, you just need arms. The Yankees will most likely lose Curtis Granderson so the Yankees will spend most of the winter just trying to fill holes rather than being able to focus on adding significant upgrades.
It would be nice if some members of the farm system were ready to take the major league stage but that does not appear to be the case. We may see Dellin Betances in the bullpen as the Yankees look to find a quality setup specialist for new closer David Robertson.
I do not want to lose Robinson Cano but then again, I do not want the Yankees to give him an A-Rod like contract that will become a financial albatross in future years. I may be the only one who feels this way, but I am not excited about a 40 year old Derek Jeter at shortstop with bad ankles. The Yankees really need to find a younger shortstop who can spell Jeter and perhaps push #2 to DH more times than not.
Mark Teixeira, cold starts and a bad wrist. Second base…currently there are nothing but crickets. Shortstop…see aforementioned comment about DJ. Third base is really anybody’s guess. Catcher needs more than a backup catcher who can’t hit and a proven PEDS user. Right field is even older than shortstop. Left field, at the moment, only shows the largely unreliable Vernon Wells. Centerfield is truly the only position that I feel comfortable with, and even that carries some injury risk. On the pitching staff, CC Sabathia is starting to show that he’s on the downward slide, and Hiroki Kuroda could very well be pitching in Japan next season. The enigma, more commonly referred to as Ivan Nova, will be in the rotation but who really knows what we’ll get. Adam Warren, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos (if he can make it back), Michael Pineda and others form the pool that Joe Girardi will be picking from.
In the bullpen, it is no sure thing that David Robertson will succeed as a closer. In 2011, when the great Mariano Rivera went down for the season, Robertson had first crack at the job and failed. He gave way to Rafael Soriano who proved very capable in the role. Going into 2014, at the moment, there is no safety net for Robertson. This is truly an off-season of uncertainty and it doesn’t help that A-Rod is doing his part to ensure greater uncertainty.
The Red Sox, the Rays, the Jays, and the O’s must be loving this. I can only hope that GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner Boys prove that they can check Ben Cherington’s move and bring championship baseball back to the Bronx where it belongs.
Missing the point…
Life has been incredibly difficult since the Yankees, expectedly, lost to the Detroit Tigers in the play-offs last October. While the Angels were adding Josh Hamilton to go with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout and the Dodgers were adding Zack Greinke to go with Clayton Kershaw, the Yankees did nothing. Okay, they did fork over the cash to bring back senior citizens Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, but there was nothing to excite the fan base.
Excite the fan base…
Why is that so difficult? So, we watch Russell Martin leave for the 2013 version of the 1950’s Kansas City A’s…the Pittsburgh Pirates. No worries, rather than chase a proven catcher like A.J. Pierzynski, the Yankees announced that they’ll go with an in-house candidate. So, that leaves a career back-up, a AAA catcher last year, and a minor leaguer who missed most of last season due to injury. Nick Swisher leaves, but no worry, we have an aging 39-year-old former great player in Ichiro Suzuki who is now sporting more gray hair than Bill Clinton and was clearly a player on decline until a brief renaissance after his trade to the Yankees.
Last year’s closer, Rafael Soriano, departs so what is the response? We have ace set up man David Robertson returning and a rehabilitating former closer in David Aardsma on the roster. If memory serves, Robertson was not effective during his brief stint as closer following Mariano Rivera’s season-ending injury. Plus, Rivera is a not-so-young 43 years old. He is a first ballot Hall of Famer and my favorite Yankee for a number of years, but time is destined to catch up with even the greatest.
The bench strength (Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez) depart, and the Yankees answer by signing former rival Kevin Youkilis and role player Matt Diaz. I sent a picture of a clean shaven Youkilis to a Red Sox friend asking if this was really THE Kevin Youkilis (as he looks so less intimidating than those goatee’d Red Sox years). The response was, “I hear he’s hurt (oblique)…yes, that’s him”. The only thing I know about Diaz is that he pronounces his name DYE-az rather than DEE-az. All I ever saw him as was a part-timer for the Atlanta Braves.
We go to camp and the calendar doesn’t even turn to March before we hear that Curtis Granderson is lost for 10 weeks due to a broken forearm. Immediately, the response from the Yankees is that they’ll cover the loss in-house. Believe me, I get the reasons for why you wouldn’t chase down Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells for 10 measly weeks but Granderson represented a major part of the team’s offense. You KNOW that Mark Teixera’s bat won’t show up until at least June. Derek Jeter is another year older and coming off injury. The outfield is full of those Dave Collins type players…speed first, light hitting outfielders. It’s too bad that Billy Martin isn’t around to consult with Joe Girardi on the fine art of small ball.
My trust in the Yankees farm system to produce a quality major league starter is weak at best. We hear how great Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are, yet now we sit with Banuelos recovering from Tommy John surgery and Betances proving himself to be Prince Overrated. I look at guys like Al Leiter and Doug Drabek. They struggled when called up to the Yankees but prospered as quality major leaguers elsewhere. It has been awhile since a Jeter or Robinson Cano burst onto the scene. So, my faith in the minor league system producing a surprise that immediately helps the Yankees this year is weak.
Today, the news comes out through GM Brian Cashman that the Yankees did make a significant offer to free agent to be Robinson Cano. Given that the news didn’t say the Yankees actually signed Cano, I see this as a negative move. If there is resistance on the player’s front, this is most likely going to lead to Cano’s free agency in the fall. With Hal Steinbrenner’s “financially responsible” approach, that most likely means that some other team makes an incredibly ridiculous offer to snatch Cano from the Bronx.
As I write this, the Yankes are 1-6 in spring training.
Excite the fan base. Why is that so difficult Mr. Steinbrenner?…
What to believe?…
Admittedly, I am concerned with the Yankees’ desire to get under $189 million in payroll by 2014, and what it will mean to the team in the long run. Granted, many teams would love to struggle with the wherewithal to afford a payroll of $189 million, but the Yankees have $30 million tied up in annual salary to Alex Rodriguez and he’s hardly the player he once was. As it stands, the Yankees need to find a quality, effective third baseman to play behind a guy who absorbs so much of the team’s payroll budget. So, how much do the Yankees actually have to pay just to cover third base? Obviously, the answer is a lot more than $30 million.
Granted, the Yankees are not about to become the new Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals, but to those teams’ defenses, they have better minor league systems at the moment (particularly the Royals). In a statement of the obvious, the quickest way to reduce payroll is to replace highly paid, unproductive veterans with cheap, inexpensive young talent. While there is quality youth in the Yankees’ farm system, most are at the lower levels. The highly rated AAA prospects have stalled for various reasons, like Manny Banuelos and his Tommy John surgery. A trade for young, inexpensive talent is not out of the question, but so far this off-season, the Yankees have been very quiet. I do understand it when GM Brian Cashman says that you have to a tortoise and a hare. Striking too quickly can be more expensive in some situations. It is a never-ending balancing act. Strike quick when you must, lay in the weeds when you can.
Is it time for Romine?…
While I am disappointed to see catcher Russell Martin depart (signing a two year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates), I realize that I won’t miss his .211 batting average. At times, he was a force in the lineup with his bat, but other times, he completely disappeared. The only downside is the lack of replacement talent at the major league level. I do not feel that perennial backups Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli are starter material. After a lost year due to injury, all indications are that Austin Romine needs another year of AAA seasoning. At this point, I am probably with those who feel Romine should be given a legitimate shot at the job in spring training. He has the pedigree (his father is former Red Sox player Kevin Romine) and he is 24 years old. If he is healthy, he deserves a shot and certainly has more upside than the other catchers on the roster.
Regarding the loss of Martin, Cashman’s quote was “This isn’t something that caught us off-guard”¹. Clearly, the Yankees have already identified a plan of action in the event Martin left. But it will probably fall into the tortoise category.
Maybe Jenny Craig should be hired as a second bench coach…
This past week also brought forward a photo of a seemingly overweight Derek Jeter. Staying with quotes from Brian Cashman, “It’s probably a wrinkle in the shirt”². Hmmm, right…
INF PHOTO, New York Daily News
I have no reason to believe that Derek Jeter will not arrive at spring training in shape, but it’s tougher as you get older and having a foot in a cast is not ideal for physical workouts. So, I guess that quality, effective third baseman we need for third had better be able to play short too.
Now playing in right field…
The Yankees have chosen not to be players for any major free agents. It doesn’t mean that I think they should throw millions at Josh Hamilton, but they do need to find a quality replacement for departing right fielder Nick Swisher. Plugging in an aging veteran is not the answer. Hamilton is not old, but there are lower risk and lesser paid options available.
The sleeping giant or the ‘Feeble 40’?…
Brian Cashman says, “We’re still capable of a lot. People should be leery of us and afraid of us, as if we’re the stalking horse”³. I really hope so, but it appears to me that the 2013 roster will feature highly paid but underproductive veterans, supplemented by waiver signings and minor leaguers. That might be a bit extreme, but it does feel that way at the moment. I do not want to take away anything from the recent re-signings of Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Mariano Rivera, but the fact remains that all three are at the tail end of their respective careers. They’ll be serviceable major league players in 2013, and perhaps will shine at times, but they need help. “40” is not necessarily the new “30”.
With the baseball winter meetings next week, we should start to see some moves unfold. The Yankees need to strengthen their roster and put a team on the field next year that is capable of overcoming the Detroit Tigers (among other teams). They also need to somehow excite the fan base. George Steinbrenner felt like the master showman at a Barnum and Bailey Circus, whereas Hal Steinbrenner comes across as a nebbish bookworm (even if he really is not). Yes, Yankee fans are spoiled but it’s also one of the largest fan bases if not the largest. Rupert Murdoch would not have invested so much money into the YES Network if he believed the team was headed for a downward spiral. But the truth remains that if left unchanged, the current roster is no better than third in the AL East and perhaps headed for worse in 2014 when guys like Pettitte, Kuroda and Rivera are settling into their retirement homes and the team makes the moves necessary to come in under the $189 million wire.
Despite my pessimistic comments, I do believe that the Yankees will do the right thing in the end. I am confident the team that takes the field next April will be one capable of competing with the league’s best. I guess maybe I always preferred the hare over the tortoise…
¹ Source: The New York Post
² Source: The New York Daily News
³ Source: The LoHud Yankees Blog