The World certainly looks better when the Yankees are winning. We have our own problems but somehow they seem more manageable when the Yankees win.
While it was technically a quality start by definition, Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff on Friday night. He got off to an ominous start when he gave up a two-run first inning home run to Matt Carpenter of the St Louis Cardinals. Carpenter, by the way, makes a strong point for the Yankees Facial Hair policy as he proves not everyone looks good with a beard. Fortunately, the Yankees answered Carpenter’s homer very quickly when Starlin Castro, no stranger to the Cards from his days with the Chicago Cubs, launched a two-run bomb of his own to tie the game.
An Austin Romine solo homer and a run courtesy of a throwing error by Cardinals second baseman Kolton Wong were the only additional runs the Yankees needed to hold off St Louis for their fifth consecutive win. Tanaka was strong after the shaky first inning until he got into trouble in the seventh. He finished the game with 6 2/3 innings, five hits, three runs, two walks and five strikeouts to pick up his first win of the year.
The game was in doubt in each of the seventh, eighth and ninth innings as the dynamic trio of Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman succeeded Tanaka. Clippard, replacing Tanaka with runners at second and third and only one out, got both Wong and Dexter Fowler on fly outs with a great play by Aaron Judge on the latter as it looked like it could have been an extra base hit. Betances was solid as he recorded all three outs in the eighth by strikeout, but he did have brief trouble throwing strikes as he nearly walked Matt Carpenter and then did walk the next batter, Stephen Piscotty, on four consecutive balls. In the ninth inning, Aroldis Chapman, pitching for the third consecutive day, walked Randal Grichuk after easily getting the first two outs of the inning. The next batter, pinch hitter Jose Martinez, hit a solid double to left, which Brett Gardner got back to the infield quickly keeping Grichuk from scoring. The Cardinals third base coach initially wanted to send Grichuk but quickly changed his mind when the ball was returned by Gardner so quickly. That brought Chapman’s former Cubs teammate Dexter Fowler to the plate in a match-up of World Series Champions. Chapman won the battle as Fowler grounded out to Starlin Castro, and the baseball safely made it to first base before the speedy Fowler did.
It was an intense game but with Yankees-Cardinals, you wouldn’t expect anything less.
I watched Matt Holliday with great interest as this was the first time he had played against the Cardinals since May 8, 2008 when he was a member of the Colorado Rockies. For the game, Holliday did nothing as he was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. I am sure that it was an emotional night for Holliday, being reunited with his former Cardinals teammates. It would be hard to spend eight years with a team and not have emotional attachments. Holliday’s last game against the Cardinals in 2008 was a much greater success. He was 4-for-5, with three runs scored, in Colorado’s 9-3 victory over St Louis. On that same night (to put into perspective how long it has been), Mike Mussina was beating the Cleveland Indians, 6-3, with a save by Mariano Rivera. Hopefully, Holliday will have greater success against his former team today and tomorrow.
I know that Greg Bird has struggled with the foot injury and the flu, but I am concerned about his 1-for-23 start. He hasn’t indicated any signs of the hitter he was during Spring Training. I had hoped the days of Mark Teixeira and his ice-cold starts were a thing of the past with the new first baseman but so far that’s not been the case. Hopefully, Bird will get untracked soon and start hitting like we know he can. I prefer Bird at first over Chris Carter, but if Bird continues on this path, we’ll be seeing more of Carter.
The Yankees are currently 2nd in the AL East Standings behind the Baltimore Orioles. The biggest surprise to me isn’t that the Boston Red Sox are in the 4th place with a .500 record (they’ll catch fire sooner rather later), but rather the last place Toronto Blue Jays with only one win on the year (1-9). I think I heard a stat that no team that has lost 9 of its first 10 games has ever made the playoffs. The Blue Jays were predicted to battle the Red Sox at the top of the division.
I have to comment on two incidents that occurred with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and two of their former tight ends in the last 24 hours. One was a very heartwarming story (no pun intended) and the other was one of life’s most devastating moments. In December, former Ravens tight end Konrad Reuland died of a brain aneurysm. On Friday, it was revealed that the recipient of his heart and kidney was none other than legendary Hall of Famer Rod Carew. Ironically, Reuland’s age (29) matched Carew’s playing number for the Minnesota Twins. Also, on Friday, former Ravens tight end Todd Heap accidentally struck and killed his three-year-old daughter while moving his truck in his driveway in Mesa, Arizona. This was such devastating news to hear and I cannot possibly imagine how Heap will be able to deal with this tragedy. I am so very saddened by this news, and my thoughts and prayers go out to Heap and his family.
It’s kind of hard to say ‘have a great day’ after that news, so I’ll only say hug your loved ones and be thankful they are in your life.
For Whom the Beltrans…
Well, it’s finally official. The Yankee fan is finally a Yankee. With today’s introductory press conference, the Yankees have continued to rebuild the team’s offense following the departure of Robby Cano and his bat. Carlos Beltran talked about how he has long looked up to the Yankees organization. The backhanded swipes at the Mets certainly didn’t hurt boosting his stock in the Bronx, particularly after those comments made by Curtis Granderson during his Mets press conference earlier in the off-season (even if the Grandy Man was just being lighthearted).
It’s always nice to see guys who genuinely want to be in the Bronx. Brian McCann certainly conveyed that message and Carlos Beltran did the same today. I think Jacoby Ellsbury is just as excited but his situation was a bit different and he is coming off a World Series championship.
Listening to Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi talk, it clearly sounds as if the Yankees outfield will be consisted of Brett Gardner, Ellsbury, and Beltran. Three centerfielders, with two playing out of position. I know, there are a multitude of reasons for why it makes sense to keep Gardner, but he is really the only major league trading chip and the Yankees still need rotation help. They have not shown any desire to pursue the likes of Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, or others that can be had for a simple cash outlay. Johan Santana’s name has been bandied about, and I would see no harm as long as the Yankees clearly invest in a Plan B to go with it. My primary hope is that Michael Pineda can finally show us the potential he had in Seattle. But that’s for the #5 spot. The Yankees should roll the dice with the young organization pitchers, including Pineda, for the last position in the rotation but not both #4 and #5. For #4, the Yankees need a proven performer. Santana is a huge health risk, but if healthy…I know, that’s a big IF…he would significantly solidify the rotation and help mask any further regressions by CC Sabathia or Hiroki Kuroda.
It’s unfortunate the Yankees have to keep an eye on the Alex Rodriguez situation to determine what their next moves will be. I just hope they aren’t caught looking while waiting to find out if A-Rod and his behemoth contract will be an obligation for 2014 or not.
But regardless of what happens for the remainder of the off-season, it goes without question that Carlos Beltran was a good signing. The reports have surfaced that free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo turned down a 7-year, $140 million deal from the Yankees before they turned to Beltran. I would prefer to go with the 3-year Beltran deal as opposed to locking into 7 years with Choo considering the Yankees are already on an extended hook with Ellsbury. At some point, the young talent in the lower levels of the farm system have to make their way to the surface. I have high hopes for Aaron Judge, and I really hope that Slade Heathcott can bring his game to the next level within the next couple of years.
Much has been written about Beltran replacing the lost production in St Louis when Albert Pujols signed his $240 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels and is now being asked to do the same with Cano opting for money over a win-first mentality. However, there is a big difference. The Cardinals have Allen Craig and Matt Adams as two very capable first baseman. The Yankees are not so lucky at Cano’s former position. There are no immediate farm system solutions. With Beltran now scheduled to start in Ichiro Suzuki’s position, it is a foregone conclusion that either Ichiro or Vernon Wells will soon be an ex-Yankee. Pitcher Brett Marshall may have paid the price for Beltran’s spot, but I expect Ichiro or Wells to go when the Yankees create roster space for their latest additions. The Yankees will have to include cash if they move Ichiro so that makes Wells the more likely one to go given that the Angels are still paying the majority of his salary.
I keep getting sidetracked when the main topic is Beltran but he opens up much discussion in other areas. I am glad that he’s a Yankee and I truly hope the Yankees can make the additional moves that will be necessary to return one of baseball’s great play-off performers to October. Pitching, pitching, pitching…
Meanwhile, at Second Base…
Kelly Johnson, Eduardo Nunez, Corban Joseph…
None of the names are exciting and it’s more likely that Johnson, with a platoon-mate in Nunez, will be asked to cover third if A-Rod is suspended for a lengthy period as expected. Joseph is not ready so the Yankees signed long-time Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts. Roberts was once one of the best 2B’s in the game, but injuries have robbed him of playing time the last four years. I do not expect him to be a major force at the position this year assuming that he makes the team. It is a curious move for a beloved Oriole to join a hated AL rival. I know that Mike Mussina did it but he was still in his prime. I know, there’s Jacoby Ellsbury too, but again, that player, despite his past injuries, still has prime years ahead. Roberts has seen his better days. At that point, I’d probably go out of division or out of league even if it sacrificed a few dollars to maintain my legacy with the original team.
Roberts will always be a great Oriole. There’s nothing that he can do to take away his quality years. Hopefully, the Baltimore fans will recognize that it was time for Roberts and the O’s to part ways, particularly given their acquisition of second baseman Jemile Weeks. Mike Mussina had quality years with both the O’s and the Yankees. Roberts will be like Luis Tiant. The best years were with the home team, and the last year or two were with the Yankees.
At this point, it does appear the Yankees will be heading to spring training with Roberts, Nunez and Johnson covering second. However, things will change when the A-Rod drama is finally put to rest. I was surprised the Yankees didn’t try harder for Omar Infante. It’s not often the Kansas City Royals beat the Yankees in free agency.
As for third…
It’s a given that A-Rod will be lost for a certain amount of time. It’s just a question for how long. I would like to see a trade for the San Diego Padres third baseman, Chase Headley, something that has been mentioned on and off for the last few years. We know that it won’t be a return of last year’s third base wannabe, Kevin Youkilis (thwarted by injuries to the surprise of no one). Youk in stating a preference to being closer to his West Coast home, decided to take his family on a one year vacation touring Japan. I am not quite sure how the DL works in the Japanese League but I guess we’ll find out. I loved Wallace Matthews’ quote that Youk will probably be injured on the plane trip to Japan.
Another third base possibility, and former Yank, Casey McGehee, signed with the Miami Marlins. So, like second base, pickings are getting very slim at the infield positions. I fully expect the Yankees to lose one of their promising young catchers in any trade.
I was disappointed to see Boone Logan go. Good for him in signing the three year contract with the Colorado Rockies. Denver is a wonderful city and I do not begrudge anyone who wants to be a part of that community. But still, he was a solid option in the pen for the Yanks and will be missed. To replace him, the Yankees signed former Sox (both White and Red) reliever Matt Thornton. A great lefty, no doubt, but one that is 37. All things considered, I would have preferred a few more years of Logan. I’d like to see a younger guy like Nik Turley take it to the next level but I am fearful that Turley will be a roster casualty with the additional moves the Yankees have yet and still need to make.
I am not sure how I feel about David Robertson as closer. When Mariano Rivera was hurt in Kansas City early in the 2012 season, Robertson failed in his brief appearance as closer. If memory serves correctly, he was injured and it opened the door for Rafael Soriano to grab the job and run with it. If the Yankees opt to go with Robertson, they need another Plan B like Soriano in place. Yes, I know, there are only so many spots on a 25-man roster for Plan B…
On the bright side, catcher and center field are locked up… 😉
I don’t expect much in the way of Yankees news next week so Operation Improvement will have to be resumed in January. Meanwhile, Happy Holidays to All! Enjoy!
A-Rod Surgery – The Day After…
By all accounts, the surgery performed on Alex Rodriguez’s hip for the torn labrum by Dr. Marc J. Philippon was successful. Alex should be able to resume playing in 6-9 weeks.
Many people have questioned whether the Yanks really need to seek a replacement since A-Rod can conceivably be back in action after 23 games. I say yes, because I feel an upgrade is necessary for the long haul…not just the first 23 games of the season. Cody Ransom is labeled as a good defender, but he can’t hit for average although he does have some power.
I think the Yankees need someone who can fill in, provide good defense, and hit well enough to keep pitchers honest. Alex will need more rest than in years past, and more rest for Derek Jeter is probably not a bad idea as he begins the downside of his career physically-speaking.
Someone did ask A’s manager Bob Geren if Bobby Crosby was being showcased at third base for the Yankees and he chuckled and replied “no”. Bobby wants to play, and he probably sees third as his best option given the health of 3B Eric Chavez in recent years.
So, maybe the best deal is no deal, but I sure wish I had more faith and confidence in either Cody Ransom or Angel Berroa…
Starting in Centerfield…
Granted, Brett Gardner hasn’t won the job yet, but he continues to impress in camp. On Monday, he hit this third homer of the season (which leads the team).
He continues to make things happen, and I’d be surprised to see Melky Cabrera to take the job from Gardner. It’s definitely exciting to have his presence in the lineup.
Michael Kay mentioned on a recent telecast that the Yankees haven’t had a weapon like this on the base paths since Homer Bush. I agree…
Italy ousts Canada
Italy defeated Canada 6-2 on Monday to eliminate the Canadians from WBC play. Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli was 0-for-3 with a walk for the Italians.
I caught Mike Piazza’s comments about Cervelli this morning (no pun intended). “He’s so talented back there, you can’t say enough,” Piazza said. “He worked hard back there. His enthusiasm, you could tell.”
“His enthusiasm from the start of the game was just sky-high. He hustled. He’s got an amazing arm.” Piazza went on to say. “I’m jealous – in a good way – because I see player with a great future ahead of him. He’s going to get better with the bat. He’s going to get a little quicker.”
He’s not the prospect that Jesus Montero is, but he’s a few years older (23) and closer to major league action. I am anxious to see competition between Cervelli and Kevin Cash (and even Jose Molina) when he returns to Yankees camp after the conclusion of the WBC.
Just as I am concerned about back up support at third, I have the same concerns at catcher given Jorge Posada’s age and his return from injury last season. At this point of his career, Jorge is not going to improve and will only continue to deteriorate. It remains to be seen if he can continue to perform at the level he’s been accustomed to, but the odds are against it. Jorge needs a solid backup who can spell him on occasion. Perhaps it is Jose Molina, but I do feel that when you look at the players with greatest odds for getting hurt, Jorge is at or near the top. Therefore, if Cervelli can continue to take his play to a higher level, he’ll have a say in the Yanks’ backup catching plans.
Odds and Ends
Mike Mussina was a visitor to Yankees camp today, and true to form, doesn’t regret the decision to retire. He also turned down Manager Joe Girardi’s offer to wear a uniform for the day.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Moose was a class act, and he’ll be missed. He was, at times, misunderstood, but I always thought he was honest and straightforward.
I saw Jake Peavy’s quote earlier in the week, and I am definitely glad that the Red Sox never became his destination. “Boston was a place that I told the Padres I would certainly be interested in playing,” Peavy said Monday at the Team USA workout. “I don’t know if there were any talks. I gave the Padres a list and Boston was on that list. Boston was a place I told the Padres I would be interested in playing at. Set that straight for sure.” Yikes! To borrow the old adage, sometimes the best deal is the deal never made! J
With the plethora of evidence building up against him, when is Roger Clemens going to come clean and admit steroids use? For a guy I used to consider a hero, I am so disappointed…
I liked Randy Johnson’s description of Tim Lincecum as the fourth Jonas brother…
Okay, I find the headline of “U.S. teammate Dustin Pedroia thinks World of Derek Jeter” to be very disturbing! There’s way too much love going around. “They go at it constantly,” Chipper Jones said of Jeter and Pedroia. “It’s fun when Yankees and Red Sox go at each other, because you know they’re going to hate each other in a month.” Whew! I needed that perspective. Thanks Chipper! I was starting to get this visual image of Yankees and Red Sox players hugging each other and trading high 5’s before games…