I’ll say it right now. I am NOT on board with the special Derek Jeter’s Day hats to be worn by the Yankees on Sunday. With no disrespect to the former Yankees captain or the countless mothers that will be in attendance for the joint Jeter-Mother’s Day game, the color pink does not have a place with the famed pinstripes. Behind the pink hat is just someone trying to make a buck. If all proceeds are given to a meaningful charity, then maybe I could buy into the dreadful hat. Otherwise, it looks like a poorly thought out marketing scheme.
The DL epidemic seems to be impacting elite closers. Depending upon who you ask, Baseball’s third and fourth best closers are now on the Disabled List. Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles is out for 45-60 days following a visit with Dr Neal ElAttrache (the surgeon who recently performed Tommy John surgery on James Kaprielian). For Britton’s sake, he received better news than Kaprielian did as surgery is not necessary for his left arm (throwing arm) strain. However, he’ll be out until after the All-Star Break. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants have placed their new high-priced closer, and former Yankee, Mark Melancon, on the DL with a “mild right pronator strain”. Here’s wishing and hoping for good health for the premier closers, the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
I realize that some Yankees fans will be moving into “World Series or Bust” mode any day now (if they haven’t already) but I still need more time before I am going to proclaim the Yankees as the team of the year. I want to see how the young Baby Bombers perform this weekend against Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and the high flying Houston Astros. If the Yankees are still making noise at the top of the AL East when the calendar flips to June, then maybe I’ll start to get on-board. It’s a long season and it’s still early. There’s no doubt we’ll experience a few bumps in the road. It will be how the team responds to those downturns that will determine the eventual course for this season.
CC Sabathia was awful for one inning last night but that’s all it took to shut down the Yankees’ six game winning streak in the 5-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Ten men came to the plate against Sabathia in the second inning. Six singles and a walk later and the Reds had erased a 2-0 Yanks advantage by pushing five runs across the plate. Sabathia (2-2) went 6 innings, allowing 7 hits and the 5 runs. He walked 2 and struck out 2, while pushing his ERA to 5.77. Right now, at least, Sabathia is the weak link in an otherwise strong Yankees rotation. But as the saying goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link so this is certainly a concern.
Credit: John Minchillo/AP
The Yankees had a chance to win at the end. With any game, that’s all I can ask. After Aaron Hicks and Matt Holliday walked with one out in the 9th inning, Gary Sanchez came to the plate with the chance to erase the Reds’ two-run lead. Sanchez had already homered in his first at-bat of the game, a ball that travelled 448 feet to center. But he lined a shot to Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez, who threw to second, catching Hicks off base, for the game-ending double play.
Didi Gregorius is starting to heat up which is a good sign. He went 3-for-4 with a first inning home run.
The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Washington Nationals 5-4 in extra innings last night, so the Yankees (21-10) fell out of first place in the AL East by a half-game. The Boston Red Sox lost which is always a fun thing to see. I’d take joy in that even if they were the worst team in baseball.
All things considered it was a good (albeit short) road trip as the Yanks took four of five. With an off day today (Sleep, I love you!), the Yankees prepare for a long four game set against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium beginning Thursday. The series concludes on Sunday with Derek Jeter Night and the aforementioned pink caps.
The former Yankees coming to the Bronx are Astros catcher Brian McCann and DH Carlos Beltran. Lance McCullers, Jr, one of the Astros starting pitchers, is the son of a former Yankee. His father pitched for the Yankees from 1989 to 1990 (three years before Lance Jr was born).
The probable pitching matchups for the Astros series are as follows:
HOU: Dallas Keuchel (5-0, 1.88 ERA)
NYY: Michael Pineda (3-1, 3.12 ERA)
HOU: Lance McCullers, Jr (2-1, 3.40 ERA)
NYY: Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 3.81 ERA)
HOU: Mike Fiers (1-1, 5.64 ERA)
NYY: Luis Severino (2-2, 3.40 ERA)
HOU: Charlie Morton (4-2, 3.63 ERA)
NYY: Masahiro Tanaka (5-1, 4.36 ERA)
Speaking of former Yankees, the Detroit Tigers have named Justin Wilson as their closer, replacing Francisco Rodriguez. The lefty, who brought pitchers Luis Cessa and Chad Green to New York, is currently carrying a 1.32 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings. Regardless of how Cessa and Green ever perform, it sure would have been nice to have Wilson in this year’s bullpen. But then again, Andrew Miller would have looked good too. Oh well, onward and upward!
Have a great Wednesday!
Winter is coming…
The dawn of the Winter Meetings. It’s is always one of my favorite times of the year. Last year was very quiet for the Yankees but still, so much happens in the first few days of the meetings with free agent signings and trades.
I am very relieved that the owners and the players association agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. I didn’t really expect a lockout but of course it was always a possibility until the two sides came to an agreement. I understand why the CBA issue held up the Yankees due to the luxury tax implications and uncertainty associated therewith. Now that both sides have a better understanding of the new deal, it should allow the Yankees to begin shaping the 2017 team.
I fully recognize that there will not be wholesale changes. This isn’t 2009 when the Yankees dumped a half billion dollars on top free agents. Sure, I’d love to have Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista on the team but realistically it is not going to happen. Between the two, I’d take Encarnacion but I still don’t think it will happen. The Yankees have a clear need for a solid, clutch-hitting DH but I think they’ll go with either Carlos Beltran or Matt Holliday. Staying in house is an option but that mean DH will be used as a rotation to rest the regulars.
I would love for the Yankees to find a way to move LF Brett Gardner and 3B Chase Headley but in both cases, age + contract make the players hard to move. Gardner would probably be the easier of the two to move. While the Yankees have in-house options to replace Gardner, they’d probably have to go outside to get a replacement for Headley. Miguel Andujar showed in the Arizona Fall League that he is the future at third, but his arrival is still a few years away. I’ve also seen the projections of Gleyber Torres taking over second base, pushing current second baseman Starlin Castro to third. But Torres won’t see the Bronx until late in the 2017 season or sometime in 2018. Despite the absence of immediate help at third, I am still ready to end the Chase Headley story even if he did recover from a horrendous April to have a very good season last year.
Credit: Getty Images
My wish list for this off-season still begins with closer Aroldis Chapman. I am still very hopeful that he’ll find his way back to the Bronx. Kenley Jansen would certainly be acceptable if Plan A does not materialize. I am probably warming up to the idea of a Bronx return for Mark Melancon but I think he’ll either stay in Washington or go to San Francisco. Greg Holland is also an option. I think the Yankees have to move Dellin Betances back to a key setup role where he is better suited. Mariano Rivera, he is not.
As for starting pitchers, I am not opposed to the potential signing of starter Rich Hill. He is older than I would like for a team in transition to youth, but he obviously has a quality arm and would provide rotation stability. He reminds me somewhat of Hiroki Kuroda. A consistent pitcher who can occasionally throw a gem. Not a frontline starter, but a very dependable one. As for trades, I have no idea. I’d love Tampa’s Chris Archer but I don’t think the Rays would trade inter-division and his cost would probably be too high. I liked the Arizona Diamondbacks’ acquisition of Taijuan Walker. A young pitcher who was not fulfilled his potential but the upside is still there. Those are the types of pitchers I’d try to target. I know, it does fall into the high risk, maybe high reward, possible low reward category but look where Jake Arrieta has taken the Chicago Cubs.
It was tough to see pitcher Nathan Eovaldi cut within the last couple of weeks and today’s non-tender of lefty Jacob Lindgren, both players who will miss the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery. It wasn’t that long ago when Lindgren was tabbed as a can’t miss, fast-track prospect with the potential to make the major league roster the year he was drafted. Injuries have held Lindgren back, but he’s still young enough to recover for a fine professional career. I am hopeful the Yankees find a way to bring both pitchers back into the organization now that they’ve been removed from the 40-man roster.
Next week should be fun. Unlike last year, I am hopeful and optimistic that the Yankees will be active in an attempt to improve the roster and build strength around the emerging young core. We shall see…
A swing and a miss, another miss, yet another miss…
This morning, I saw a post on the MLB Trade Rumors website (http://www.MLBTradeRumors.com) that asked the poll question of which MLB team had the best draft in 2002? Of all the examples shown, no Yankees were anywhere to be found. For a draft that started with Bryan Bullington and B.J. Upton, there was some great talent uncovered in the 2002 draft. Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Joey Votto and a guy who would eventually find his way to the Bronx, Brian McCann, were among the great choices by their respective teams. But sadly, not a single Yankee selection stuck that year.
Number 26 selection Phil Coke is a major leaguer but with the Detroit Tigers. He had his moments in the Bronx but was never anything special and was sent to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson-Austin Jackson trade.
But removing Coke, there are 50 rounds of names that Yankee Stadium never heard from. I really do not recognize any of the names outside of the first round selection and that’s only because he was later the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns (Brandon Weeden).
I know that there are many sad tales among the 2002 draft picks, like 2nd round pick Alan Bomer, a pitcher, who reinjured his shoulder after a previous injury several years earlier, bringing an end to his major league hopes.
But it’s also a testament to the drafting ability of major league teams and 2002 was clearly not a good vintage for the Yankees. I know the team’s re-focus on the minor league system didn’t occur until a few years later but hopefully barren draft years like 2002 are a thing of the past. But looking ahead a few years, it’s not too pretty.
2003 really wasn’t much better with top pick third baseman Eric Duncan long gone from baseball. The only name that stands out to me from that draft is Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard.
2004 was the year the Yankees selected pitcher Phil Hughes and can only wonder what could have been. Time will tell if he can fulfill his promise in the Twin Cities or if he was simply one of the most overhyped young players of our time.
For the Yankees, solid draft picks do not appear until 2005 which Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson were chosen. Interestingly enough, the Yankees also chose pitcher Doug Fister that year but he opted to return to college for his final year, and was taken by the Seattle Mariners the next year. Granted, Fister is currently on the Nationals’ DL, but he’d certainly look good in the Yankees rotation about now.
In 2006, the Yankees made some good choices, but it’s rather humorous that the first round pick went to Joba Chamberlain, a journeyman reliever for the Detroit Tigers, while current Yankees closer, David Robertson was selected in the 17th round. Ian Kennedy and Zach McAllister were both chosen after Chamberlain, and they are solid starting pitchers for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians, respectively. Dellin Betances was also taken that year and after years of hype, he’s finally contributing as a force in the Yankees bullpen. Mark Melancon, currently the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates due to Jason Grilli’s injury, was also a draft selection.
Of the decisions the Yankees made regarding trades, the one I didn’t like was dumping McAllister. He went to Cleveland in 2010 for Austin Kearns who only stayed in the Bronx for the remainder of the season. That trade felt like the foolish ones that we had grown accustomed to in the 1970’s and 80’s. McAllister is having a very solid year for the Indians and is another guy who would have looked great in the Yankees rotation.
I will never find fault with the decision to trade Ian Kennedy even though he almost won the Cy Young after leaving the Yankees. I just never found him to be a good fit in New York.
2007 was another disappointing draft year as the Yankees really only have catcher Austin Romine, currently at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre, to show for it. Top pick Andrew Brackman was coming off a major injury at the time of the selection and was never able to find his way back.
As I advance to 2008, it’s disappointing to see how poor, outside of 2006, the draft has been for the Yankees. Atop the list in ’08 is a pitcher the Yankees were unable to sign and who is now entrenched in the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole. Talk about another guy who would have been a brilliant option for the Yankees rotation. What could have been…
This really shows how incredibly difficult it is to determine those who will be able to achieve results and success at the Major League level. It also shows how many people fail to find their way for whatever reasons.
It’s a small wonder that the Yankees have had to spend so much in the free agent market to ensure the team remains competitive. In a statement of the obvious, the Yankees would be smart to improve the quality of their scouting and development to ensure that the older players are replaced by younger, cheaper talent with high ceilings.
The Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals are solid teams because of their drafting ability. For the Yankees, they are successful despite it. I get why owner Hal Steinbrenner believes in the power of the farm system. This is not rocket science. Sustainability will only be maintained through youth and controlling costs.
Stupid is as stupid does…
The fans of the Boston Red Sox took great delight when Michael Pineda was tossed from a Yankees-Red Sox game last week due to the blatant smear of pine tar on his neck. After the fiasco caused during his previous start against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium (“brown dirt”), he had to have known he would be under the magnifying glass. Yet, he risked detection by continuing the use of pine tar and ended up applying a more generous amount than he had intended to. So, Boston manager John Farrell had absolutely no choice but to call out Pineda. This is one instance where I felt the Red Sox were 100% correct in a controversial decision involving the Yankees. Pineda’s 10-game suspension hurts the Yankees, at a time when they’ve already lost starter Ivan Nova for the season due to an elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery.
For a rotation that looked so strong and full of promise for a few starts, the Yankees now have to replace both Nova and Pineda, plus the top of the rotation has been questionable at times with CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. The only source of consistency has been Masahiro Tanaka, who faces an incredibly difficult challenge today against the Los Angeles Angels and the likes of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.
Baseball is a team-first sport and Pineda made a “me-first” decision. I hope that he learns a valuable lesson during his suspension and comes back with choices that are for the good of the team.
For the record, I do believe that Major League Baseball should allow pine tar to some degree for gripping purposes only in colder temps. But until the rules are changed, it’s a violation and should be handled accordingly. Baseball has been tolerant of discreet behavior regarding its use, but to blatantly violate the policy warrants the appropriate punishment until such a time the rules are changed.
Yankees sign top free agent…
Well, it wasn’t exactly Prince Fielder but I’ve felt all off-season that re-signing Andruw Jones was important for the 2012 Yankees. In this off-season of inactivity, I was concerned that the Yankees would let Jones slip away to a team like the Boston Red Sox or the Texas Rangers. There’s no question that Jones is NOT the player that he used to be (that’s a given), but he fills a valuable fourth outfielder role and I prefer him over Justin Maxwell, Chris Dickerson, or Melky Mesa.
When I read that the Red Sox were potentially interested in Jones, I was worried that it would drive up his price tag (which was probably the prime reason for the Red Sox “interest”). But the base salary of $2 million (with additional incentives that could push the package to $3.4 million) was very reasonable for Team Suddenly Frugal. The Yanks have a good outfield with Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher, but Jones allows the Yankees to play match-ups and move guys around. Plus, if any of the aforementioned starters spend any time on the DL, Jones is certainly a capable fill-in.
Wanted: Non-starting starting third baseman…
Now that the outfield depth has been filled, I am anxious to see what the Yankees do about the mandatory need to acquire a strong backup for third base. I remain in favor of the return of Eric Chavez, but regardless of what happens, the Yankees need a proven performer that does not weaken the team during the inevitable A-Rod absences.
Yeah, that’s the ticket…
It’s too bad that MLB teams don’t get a mulligan for bad contracts. They should give every team a one player exemption that could be called the “Stupidity Clause”. Given A-Rod’s $30 million annual salary with $5 million production, the Yankees could get a waiver for luxury tax on the bulk of A-Rod’s salary. Same goes for the Angels and Vernon Wells, the Cubs and Alfonso Soriano, or the Red Sox and Carl Crawford (although CC does have the ability to re-earn his money). It does stink knowing how much the Yankees will be paying A-Rod and Derek Jeter in several years in terms of the return. I remain hopeful that Derek Jeter will depart gracefully when he realizes that his performance is not equal to his compensation. But I know that A-Rod is into his contract for every undeserved cent.
Hats off to a rival…
In a statement of the obvious, I knew that Mark Melancon was not destined to be the closer for the Red Sox when they acquired the former Yank from the Houston Astros. This week’s acquisition of Andrew Bailey by the Sox from the Oakland A’s was a solid move. Bailey, a native Easterner, will thrive in Boston. He matches Jonathan Papelbon in ability, and exceeds him in character and integrity. The risk with Bailey is his health, but the Sox do have relievers with closing experience in Melancon and Bobby Jenks. While I don’t think that the Bailey acquisition is the big bold move I’ve been expecting from new Boston GM Ben Cherington, it is certainly one that improves the team.
Not looking forward to the day…
With the surplus of closer talent available this off-season, I hope that it is a similar environment when the ‘Greatest Closer Who Ever Lived’ decides to take his ageless arm and signature cutter home to Panama. I like Derek Jeter but I will be ready for the day when a younger, talented option becomes available. I will cry the day Mariano Rivera walks off the mound for the final time. I loved Goose Gossage as the Yankees closer, but it took so many years for an equal (or in this case, greater) replacement to emerge. There’s always been something so magical about a great closer. I grew up watching the wild antics of the Mad Hungarian, Al Hrabosky, in St. Louis, so the role of the closer became the “it” position for me at a very early age. There’s nothing better than a game-ending punch-out with high intensity.
Game plan: Success!…
Well, as 2011 comes to a close, I want to wish everyone a very Happy and Joyous New Year! May your dreams come true and your happiness reach heights never before imagined! It will be a fun and rewarding new year, and I’m glad you are here…
The Bear is sleeping…
With the Yankees in hibernation for the winter, there’s not much for us Yankee fans to talk about. The latest speculation centers on catcher Jorge Posada and where he might end up. Of the three teams mentioned (Rays, Phillies, and Orioles), I don’t see Jorge as a good fit.
In Tampa, he’d back up his former back up, Jose Molina. I suppose that he could earn additional starting time by the virtue of his superior bat, but why tarnish a great Yankees legacy by playing for a key divisional rival. Same goes for the Orioles. I think there’s a strong chance for Jorge to get pushed aside in either organization for younger, cheaper talent. Neither the O’s or the Rays would be beholden to Posada as he didn’t carve out a borderline Hall of Fame career in their uniforms. As for the Phillies, it would probably be a good way for one last shot at the World Series, but the Phillies have emerged as a chief rival for the Yankees. He wouldn’t start for the Phillies, and his pinch-hitting opportunities and DH duty in interleague play would be limited with Jim Thome on the roster.
I would still like to see Jorge go to the Miami Marlins as a best-case scenario if he decides to continue playing. He lives in Miami, and the team is in the opposing league. They are not a natural rival by geography, and he wouldn’t tarnish his Yankees legacy. But as Nick Cafardo said in his Boston Globe column yesterday, “Hope Jorge Posada retires as a Yankee”.
Short-term rental looks better every day…
With the list of prospective pitchers dwindling, I am in favor of a short term signing (such as Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson). The recent trades of Mat Latos to the Reds and Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals has shown that the price is sky high for young, talented pitchers. Giving up Jesus Montero and Manuel Banuelos in any trade would be a mistake. I am not sure if this is akin to 1995 when Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera may have been considered potential prospect trade bait, but still, I’d rather see what the future holds with Montero and Banuelos than without. I think that either Oswalt or Jackson would be a better option than either Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia, and would allow the Yankees more time to work on a more equitable trade or seek potential help in the 2012 free agent market.
Strengthening your team with ex-Yankees…
I really do not want to see the Boston Red Sox weaken the Yankees’ bench by signing Andruw Jones. The Yankees had a great fourth outfielder in 2011, and they need to make his return a priority. This is an area that I’ve been greatly disappointed by the continued silence. I really do not feel that Justin Maxwell, Chris Dickerson or Melky Mesa can fill Andruw’s shoes.
Just like the Los Angeles Angels crept up and became the star of the Winter Meetings (overtaking the Miami Marlins), I keep expecting the Red Sox, who have been very dormant this winter despite their acquisition of former Yankees reliever Mark Melancon, to make a big splash to improve their 2012 team for new manager Bobby Valentine. It could be the signing of Hiroki Kuroda (whom the Yankees are also interested in) or a trade for the Cubs’ Matt Garza, but if they do improve, it will be difficult for the Yankees to adjust.
The Winter of (Y)our Discontent…
I never thought I’d feel bad for the New York Mets, but it has to be tough for their fans to watch their team move into rebuilding mode when every other team in the division has gotten better. The Mets would appear to have a stranglehold on fifth place in their division, with no competition. There is no great joy in watching the Mets as a defeated organization.
Don’t wake the Beast…
It’s hard to believe that pitchers and catchers report in less than two months. Of course, I am in Minnesota and it’s sunny with an expected high today of nearly 50 degrees. Nothing is what you expect, or I suppose you could say what it seems. There’s a winter beast that will soon be awakened in Minnesota. Does the same hold true for The Bronx?…
All my rowdy friends are coming over tonight, but I’ll just listen to Beethoven…
The Miami Marlins make a big splash to create perhaps the best Marlins squad since 2003 in signing Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle, and Jose Reyes. The Los Angeles Angels rock the largest Hispanic community in the United States by nabbing #1 Baseball Superstar Albert Pujols. Oh yeah, they also picked up former Ranger ace C.J. Wilson along the way. Even the Boston Red Sox, in a season of chaos with the prolonged managerial search, managed to do SOMETHING with the acquisition of former Yankees reliever Mark Melancon from the Houston Astros for shortstop Jed Lowrie and minor league pitcher Kyle Weiland. Meanwhile, at Yankee Stadium, nothing…
I know, how do you improve upon a 97-win team? Baseball is a game of constantly trying to improve. A little here, a little there…a big splash here, a big splash there. This off-season the Yankees haven’t fallen into any of those categories. They haven’t even moved to re-sign outfielder Andruw Jones or third baseman Eric Chavez which, in my mind, are important cogs for the 2012 team.
The team with the most money is…
Tonight’s wait is to hear whether the Toronto Blue Jays or the Texas Rangers have won the bidding for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. In the days of George Steinbrenner, the Yankees would have been the highest bidder and there would have been no speculation about who placed the highest bid (through a few “unnamed sources” within the Yankees organization). I am not saying that it is prudent to spend $50 million plus just to have the right to talk to Darvish, nor do I feel the Yankees made a bad decision by not going after him harder. But this is definitely a different Yankees ownership and one that is not particularly fond of footing the bill for the other owners through luxury tax payments. It’s too bad the Yankees have so much wrapped up in Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. A-Rod, in particular, is not the player he once was and no longer worthy of his behemoth contract. I’ll give Jeter the benefit of the doubt since he did finish 2011 strongly.
If the Yankees are gauging what they need to do by the Boston Red Sox or the Tampa Bay Rays, they’re severely underestimating the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees had trouble with that team last year, and the 2012 Jays will only be stronger (with or without Darvish).
If you’re not winning, you’re losing…
This has been a tough sports year for me. The Yankees felt like a team with shortcomings entering October and it revealed itself in the play-offs against the Detroit Tigers. They are still essentially the same team, minus a few players. There’s nothing to lead me to believe that the World Series is in their immediate future. Meanwhile, my pro football team, the Minnesota Vikings, continues their march to become the worst team in professional football (only one game separates them from the Indianapolis Colts and the right to draft future NFL superstar QB Andrew Luck). I am sure that even Peyton Manning is a Vikings fan these days. It really stinks when you hope your team loses so that they can place higher in the draft.
I am not a Minnesota Twins fan, but I do live within view of Target Field so it’s been tough watching local favorites Michael Cuddyer (Rockies) and Jason Kubel (D-Backs) sign elsewhere.
Clearly, I am someone that needs a ‘pick me up’ in sports. I want to see a player acquisition that I am excited about. Someone that brings energy, drive and commitment to the team, and helps them reach just a little bit further…
I will say that the Yankees should not trade Jesus Montero regardless of whether it could bring Gio Gonzalez to the Bronx. I’d love to see Gio in pinstripes, but I think that Montero has a chance to be a special talent. You just don’t let guys like him get away, even if it means no acquisitions this off-season.
Is that too much to ask? Sometimes I wish Hank Steinbrenner’s impulsiveness would prevail over Hal Steinbrenner’s calculated intellect. Fiscal responsibility, with a dash of insanity. C’mon, we were “raised” by George Steinbrenner. Weren’t you too, Hal?…
At least somebody is doing something…
Recently, I changed my NBA allegiance from the Los Angeles Lakers to the New York Knicks. I’ve been thinking about this move for several years, but adding Carmelo Anthony to Amare Stoudemire was the clincher. The latest news has the Knicks signing Baron Davis. As a former Bay Area resident, I was saddened when Davis left the Golden State Warriors to join the Los Angeles Clippers. He was perhaps the most popular basketball player in the area. I have a great deal of respect for him, and it’s tremendous that he and I have come together on the same team. I know Baron is hurt so his Knicks debut will be delayed, but I really like the off-season moves the Knicks have made. I’d be foolish to think that they are suddenly a NBA finals team, but they are definitely getting better.
Meanwhile, at Yankee Stadium, just crickets…
Right player, wrong uniform…
The acquisition of reliever Mark Melancon by the Boston Red Sox reminded me of how much I dislike seeing former Yankees in Boston gear. At one time, Melancon was mentioned as the possible successor to future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. He did not fulfill his promise with the Yankees and was subsequently traded to the Houston Astros in the deal that brought present St Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman to New York. Melancon was forced into a closing role in Houston due to injuries, but he doesn’t project to be a closer for the Red Sox. Time will tell if he can become Boston’s version of David Robertson.
With Alfredo Aceves already on the Boston pitching staff, that makes two Yankees on the roster with no Sox players on the Yankees roster. Granted, it doesn’t hurt quite like it did when David Wells and David Cone pulled on the Sox cap after success in the Bronx, but still, I’d rather see ex-Yankees experience success away from the AL East. There are 28 other teams that these players could have gone to.
From the Sox perspective, I am not sure that Melancon justified the cost. I know that Jed Lowrie wasn’t the answer at short, but there was always something that I respected in the player, even as a member of an opponent. I don’t know about the other player the Sox sent to Houston (pitcher Kyle Weiland), but it would appear to be a fairly high cost for a setup guy. I just don’t see Melancon as Jonathan Papelbon’s replacement.
Maybe this trade turns out wonderfully for the Sox, maybe it doesn’t. I guess baseball is a game of chances and as the saying goes ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. But I wish the Sox would quit loading up on Yankees (and Rays). At least they replaced Lowrie with a former Twin and Cardinal (Nick Punto).
Never underestimate the power of the woman behind the man…
I am still in disbelief that Albert Pujols is no longer in St Louis, but after previously reading comments by Dodgers manager Don Mattingly that he felt Albert was frustrated with the Cardinals about the negotiations and the subsequent comments by his wife about how the Cardinals didn’t give Albert the proper respect, I can better understand why he would leave the organization that had meant so much to him for 11 years. At this point, his present and future are associated with the Los Angeles Angels and he will be the face of the organization. I doubt Angels fans are missing Mark Teixeira too much these days.
Turning nothing into something…
I am still amazed that former Yankees reliever Jose Veras brought the Pittsburgh Pirates the Milwaukee Brewers former third baseman Casey McGahee. McGahee has his issues, but Veras was a disaster for the Yanks. I know that he pitched effectively before his gradual descent in pinstripes but I cringed every time he entered a game during his final season in the Bronx.
C’mon, the weather really isn’t that bad…
I was listening to MLB Radio the other night when they mentioned that the Minnesota Twins had signed former Oakland A’s (and Marlins) outfielder Josh Willingham. One of the guys, I don’t remember which one, then proceeded to bash Minnesota for its weather. Granted, I am a new arrival to Minnesota and I did not experience the 87 inches of snow last winter, but I have yet to complain about Minnesota weather. Actually, I have enjoyed the change of seasons after life in California where there are only two seasons (warm and not so warm). I wore my winter coat one week last year and that’s when I went back East to New York. I’ve been wearing that coat since early November this year and I love it. I am disappointed that they are now saying that we won’t have a White Christmas in Minneapolis.
Back to Willingham, I am sad that it means the end of the Twins career for Michael Cuddyer. It’s too bad that the Yankees don’t have a role for a guy like that. Mr. Versatility. It doesn’t sound like the Phillies or the Red Sox are options for him at this point, but I was fearful to see him on either of those rosters. He may not be THE guy, but he is the type of guy that helps win championships.
Nevertheless, welcome to Minneapolis, Mr. Willingham!
50 years brings total futility; this must be what it feels like to be a Cubs fan…
My first year living in Minnesota has been a disaster as far as being a fan of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. 1983 was a miserable year with horrific coach Les Steckel and the franchise’s worst record in its history. This year, the record of futility may be eclipsed by the current squad. I feel bad for coach Leslie Frazier. I like him, but there is no patience when it comes to the NFL. I read an article about how the Vikings would have been better off if they had just stayed with Mike Tice after the Wilf’s bought the team. As it stands, I’d prefer to see Frazier get at least another year, but if he is cut loose, I would not be opposed to someone like Brian Billick. I was frustrated with him when he was the Vikings offensive coordinator, but he was a good coach in Baltimore. I doubt the Vikings would be competitors for someone like Bill Cowher. I could definitely see Cowher going to the Miami Dolphins if he decides to return to coaching, especially if Carl Peterson takes over the leadership of the team. Cowher was an assistant for Kansas City, Peterson’s former team, prior to coaching the Steelers.
I am adamant, and maybe not so much…
As for my other teams, I remain a devout San Jose Sharks fan and will be there when the Sharks come to St Paul, Minnesota to face the Minnesota Wild. But I had to make a decision in the NBA. I’ve been a Los Angeles Lakers fan the last few years, but I am tired of a team that is expected to win and often does (well, except for when it pertains to baseball!). Amare Stoudemire has been my favorite player since his days in Phoenix and despite his injury history. Carmelo Anthony was another favorite. So, with those two headlining the New York Knicks, I really don’t have any choice but to become a Knickerbockers fan. With the NBA, I have not maintained a constant loyalty to one team. It’s moved as I’ve moved. I started life as a Philadelphia 76ers fan in the days of Dr. J. (Julius Erving). In my early 20’s, I moved to Dallas and become a Mavericks fan. Later, I moved to Phoenix and became a Suns fan. About 6 years ago, I moved to California and became a Lakers fan (sorry, I just couldn’t embrace the Golden State Warriors or the Sacramento Kings as a Northern CA resident). Now, I am in Minnesota, but for whatever reason, I just can’t embrace the Minnesota Timberwolves. So, it’s time to move my basketball allegiance to the Big Apple. I am not really a fan of the New Jersey and soon to be Brooklyn Nets, so the stars were perfectly aligned for me to become a Knicks fan. So, let it be…
By the way, where did 2011 go?…
It was a masterpiece by A.J. Burnett…
Frank Franklin II/AP
Unfortunately, it was an equal masterpiece by Boston’s Josh Beckett, as the Yankees and Red Sox ended regulation play deadlocked at 0-0.
A.J. went 7 2/3 innings and gave up only one hit. He had 6 strikeouts, but also had 6 walks. I guess he was watching Joba Chamberlain too closely last night. Nevertheless, he did what he was paid to do. He put his team in position to win, so there’s not more that you can ask.
Beckett went 7 innings, and gave up 4 hits and 2 walks, with 7 strikeouts.
But it became a game where neither team seemed to want to win. Both teams left double-digit runners on base (Red Sox 10, Yankees 12). As the game advanced into extra innings, neither team seriously threatened. The Yankees would get a few runners, but then they’d be left stranded.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, had some difficulty getting base runners but when they did, they failed to advance them like the Yankees.
The game seemed to drag on for hours (5 hours, 33 minutes to be exact). My favorite comment of the night was by Peter Abraham of the LoHud Yankees Blog:
UPDATE, 12:06 p.m.: This just in: Bill Clinton flying to the Bronx to negotiate the release of 48,262 people held hostage by this game.
Finally, in the bottom of the 15th inning, Derek Jeter singled to start the inning. After Johnny Damon popped out on the foul side of first base and Mark Teixeira struck out, Alex Rodriguez came to the plate. Much as been talked about A-Rod’s homerless streak, but with one swing of the bat, the streak, like the Yankees losing streak to the Sox a day earlier, became a distant memory. A two-run homer to left gave the Yankees a walk-off win. Yes, Julia, I was right about the walk-off…I just had the wrong inning!
So, the Yankees have guaranteed that they will not lose this series. So, it is now a question whether the Red Sox can win the final two games of the series to invoke the tie-breakers. The Sox are certainly a capable team, but right now, this minute, I’d say ‘Advantage Scott!’.
John Munson/The Star Ledger
Here are the revised totals of the series so far:
RUNNING TOTALS (8/06 – 8/09) FOR TIE-BREAKER:
Red Sox 6
Red Sox 2
Red Sox 0
The Yankees, at 66-42, now lead the American League East by 4 ½ games over the Red Sox and 6 games over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Life is good for a Yankees fan…
Boston.com (Yankees fan Steve Macary)
A Very Busy Day…
It was a blood bath today in Major League Baseball. A friend indicated that it felt like the Trading Deadline, but I’d have to say that I was quite surprised by the moves that were made. Granted, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that John Smoltz’s time in the Red Sox starting rotation was nearing its end. However, I did not expect that he’d be DFA’d. I really thought that he would move into a long relief role, or perhaps help set up Jonathan Papelbon. If this is truly it for Smoltz, I am saddened that his final appearance was a loss to the Yankees. Well, the Yankees victory was nice, don’t get me wrong, but for Smoltz the man, he deserved better. I always thought that he’d be the one to know when to exit the game. Maybe he gets another chance, but then again, maybe not. Either way, he is a class guy and I am honored that I had the privilege to watch him play.
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
Boston also DFA’d pitcher Billy Traber, a former Yankee or Oriole, who relieved Smoltz in yesterday’s game and, in Julia‘s words, took a bullet for the team to save the bullpen. Of course, his thanks was a one-way ticket out of a Red Sox uniform.
Another cut that caught me by surprise was the release of Jason Giambi by the Oakland A’s. I had bought tickets for the Yankees visit to Oakland to play the A’s later this month, and I had been hopeful that Giambi would be off the DL and in the game. But unfortunately, it was not meant to be. Oakland released Giambi from the DL, due primarily to his .193 batting average. I didn’t expect the A’s to pick up Giambi’s option this fall, but I never expected he’d be cut before the season was over. He’s not a fit for the current Yankees roster, so coming back to New York will not be in the cards. But hopefully, he’ll catch on somewhere so that he can go out his way.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The American Idle, a/k/a Carl Pavano, was traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Minnesota Twins. I guess it was an admission by the Twins that they aren’t really interested in making the play-offs since they just acquired a guy who thrives in losing environments. From Cleveland’s perspective, the deal makes sense since it opens a slot in the rotation for Justin Masterson who was recently acquired from Boston in the Victor Martinez trade.
The Toronto Blue Jays attempted to push RF Alex Rios through waivers, but he was claimed by another team. They now have to decide whether they’ll trade Rios to the other team if they can work out a trade or perhaps they just hang on to him. It’s unlikely that they’d simply let Rios go to the other team for nothing.
Pitcher Vicente Padilla was also DFA’d by the Texas Rangers. Ah, I feel so bad for the headhunter. Um, not really…
On the bright side, the Yankees didn’t acquire another pitcher with a losing record and a plus 5.00 ERA to go with Chad Gaudin and Russ Ortiz so the day wasn’t a total loss…
He Didn’t Mean To Do It…
Mark Melancon insists that he did not intentionally hit Boston’s Dustin Pedroia in Thursday’s game. Personally, I liked Manager Joe Girardi’s explanation. “Some pitchers are much more capable of throwing the ball exactly where they want to on a consistent basis. Those guys are called Hall of Famers.”
I do believe that it was unintentional. Melancon is trying hard to earn a roster spot, and it would be foolish for him to risk his opportunity by purposely allowing a Boston base runner in a critical game regardless of the circumstances.
Hey Julia, don’t look now but here comes Carsten Charles Sabathia… J
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Exit the Sandman…
Who will be the Yankees’ next great closer? When the great Mariano Rivera finally decides to hang up his glove, everyone will be looking for the next great closer. Granted, we may never see the likes of Mo again (at least not in our lifetime), but there are certainly a number of viable candidates to fill the void that will be created in the ninth inning of tight games.
The easy answer is to say Joba Chamberlain. The debate continues to rage about whether Chamberlain is most valuable in the starting rotation where he will play in about 30-35 games, or in late inning relief where he would appear in 60-plus games. While Joba’s injury late season did cause me to wonder if he was better suited for shorter stints, I do feel that he has the potential to be a frontline starter. In the grand scheme of things, it is not economically feasible to spend $181 million to secure an ace. It is much better to “grow your own”. The Yankees have a two-time 19-game winner, who most likely would have won 19-20 games last season if not for the foot injury, and they’re paying him only $5 million this year. Granted, that price will continue to go up, but the Yankees have been getting a great bargain for the past few years. Meanwhile, CC Sabathia’s first year with the Yanks comes at a price of $23 million ($15 million base with $9 million signing bonus). That’s big difference, particularly considering at the end of the year, there might be only a couple of wins that separate the two. As Wang’s price goes up, it will be difficult to place high dollars in other key spots of the rotation. So, Joba as a starter makes sense both economically and competitively. The only thing that could cause me to rethink this position is if Phil Hughes pitches so well this spring that he makes it impossible to leave him out of the rotation.
I was reading that Brian Bruney is an option. I have to admit that I really didn’t know much about Bruney when he came to New York. He had a few productive years with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and even saved 12 games (out of 16 games) in 2005. In May 2006, he was designated for assignment and signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent. Bruney missed about three months last season after suffering a Lisfranc injury (similar to what happened to Chien-Ming Wang) in April. But he returned in August and finished with a 3-0 record, 1.83 ERA in 32 appearances, and held hitters to a .153 average. Since 2007, Bruney has lost about 40 pounds. He appears to be in great shape to be a dominant 8th inning bridge to Mo Rivera, and he certainly has a closer’s mentality.
Antonelli/New York Daily News
A young player that is starting to draw attention is 23-year old Mark Melancon. Mark missed the entire 2007 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on October 31, 2006. But he returned last season, and gradually worked his way up from Single-A Tampa to the Triple A-Scranton/Wilkes Barre. Increasing his walk-to-strikeout ratio at each stop, Melancon finished 2008 with a total of 95 innings in 44 games, with a 2.27 ERA. “His ball cuts, it sinks, it’s got late life to it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That usually translates into swings and misses, and not solid contact.” More than likely, Melancon will begin the year with Scranton/Wilkes Barre, but it won’t be long until he receives the phone call from New York.
One guy who has fallen off the map is J. Brent Cox. When the Yankees drafted Cox (who followed Huston Street as the closer for the University of Texas Longhorns), I thought he had a chance to be Mo’s eventual successor. But he has had a roller coaster ride with the Yanks, and doesn’t appear to possess the stuff necessary to close at the major league level.
I know that it is difficult to think about a future without Mo Rivera in the bullpen, and he is coming off a great season. But the fact remains that he is 39, and it would be difficult to assume that he’ll be an upper-tier closer by the time he reaches the number on his back. I feel very blessed to have witnessed the Mariano Rivera era, and he is arguably the greatest closer in franchise history. “The end is coming,” Rivera recently said. “Sooner or late, it’s going to come.”
The Mets have shown that you can rebuild a bullpen with dollars, but the best closers are those who have been developed from within. Well, aside from Goose Gossage…
When Mo does retire, his number will obviously be retired for Jackie Robinson. But it should be a simultaneous ceremony to place Mo’s name in Monument Park along with Jackie’s. Mariano deserves to stand shoulder to shoulder to Jackie Robinson…he would have made Jackie proud, and he has certainly made all of us very proud and appreciative.
Time will tell if the next Yankee closer will be the next coming of Goose Gossage or just another Steve Farr, but unfortunately, it won’t be the next Mariano Rivera as the original is impossible to replicate.
Status Quo in Right Field
With the Atlanta Braves signing of free agent OF Garret Anderson, they’ve most likely been removed as the leading suitor for a potential trade involving either Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher.
Based on the comments I’ve seen, Nady fully expects to be the starting right fielder and apparently no one has said there is an open competition for his spot. However, Swisher should be able to make room for himself regardless of the outcome. I had read that Swisher has a ‘Jack Black’ persona about him, and watching MLB Network’s ’30 Teams in 30 Days’ certainly gives an illustration of that playfulness. I think his personality is good for the team, and it doesn’t come across as defiant or obstinate (like other past Yankees who shall remain nameless…err David Wells and Randy Johnson).
My preference is still for Swisher to win the job outright, and then trade Nady. But if the return is not sufficient, then the Yankees are better served by keeping both Nady and Swisher on the roster.
I feel strongly that Swisher will rebound from last year’s .219 batting average. He definitely has some power, as evidenced by 24 home runs despite the BA that came perilously close to the Mendoza Line. Swisher is certainly capable to matching his 2006 performance when he hit 35 home runs with 95 runs batted in. His average was only .254, but his OBP was .372, thanks to nearly one hundred walks. So, while Nady may have the slightly higher batting average, Swisher gets on base more often and is more capable of “making things happen”.
The One Day Flu
Saturday, I heard that CC Sabathia had cancelled his batting practice session and went home with the flu. Although I had heard the session had been re-scheduled for Sunday, I didn’t really expect Sabathia to make a go of it. Of course, that’s exactly what he did. The guy’s clearly a “gamer” and has the heart of a David Cone. Like Nick Swisher, I think that CC’s personality will be a huge asset for the Yankee Clubhouse. Here’s hoping that CC gets the opportunity to throw the first pitch in October…
Go Jed Lowrie
In a couple of fantasy leagues I belong to, the primary shortstops were quickly taken while I focused on filling needs at other positions. When I realized my weakness at short on one team, I selected Boston’s Jed Lowrie as my shortstop. On another team, I selected Jed to fill a bench role. So, I am not concerned about the Yankees center field battle between Brett Gardner (my favorite) and Melky Cabrera, I am most interested in the Red Sox shortstop competition between Lowrie and Julio Lugo. Lugo has the unfair advantage of having $36 million reasons why he should start, but youth and excitement go with Lowrie. So, hopefully Lowrie wins because my fantasy teams really need him (hey, why else would I be concerned about what happens in Boston?).
If Lowrie succeeds in taking Lugo’s job, third baseman Mike Lowell (drafted by the Yankees in 1995) would be the only infielder who didn’t come up through the Boston farm system. Of course, when Youk slides to third to make room for first baseman Lars Anderson, it will be a completely homegrown infield. Holy Garciaparra!
My new favorite player…
Jim Davis/Boston Globe
For my last fantasy draft, I went with Hanley Ramirez as my shortstop…