Tagged: Minneapolis

Slightly Off-Target in Downtown Minneapolis…

Credit:  Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Twins 4, Yankees 2…

The Baby Bombers tried but without too much help from the veteran leadership, the Yankees fell to the Twins in Minneapolis.

New first baseman Garrett Cooper finally had his coming out party with three hits (two doubles) and his first Major League RBI.  Clint Frazier, penciled in at #2 in the lineup, contributed two speed-earned doubles.  

The Twins struck first, picking up a run in the bottom of the 2nd inning.  Kennys Vargas walked and scored when Eddie Rosario lined a double to the center field wall.  They added another run the next inning.  Brian Dozier and Zack Granite both singled, and Joe Mauer walked to load the bases.  In one of the game’s great plays, Miguel Sano hit a fly ball to Aaron Judge in right.  Dozier attempted to score on the fly ball, but was nailed at the plate by an exceptional throw from Judge to catcher Austin Romine.  

Credit:  Bruce Kluckhohn/AP

The Yankees nearly escaped the inning without any damage, but starter Bryan Mitchell, covering first base, botched a catch from second baseman Starlin Castro which allowed Max Kepler to reach base with Granite scoring the Twins’ second run.

The Yankees finally got on the board in the 5th.  The inning opened with a challenge play that was ruled in Minnesota’s favor.  Didi Gregorius was initially ruled safe at first on an infield hit and headfirst slide, but replay subsequently showed that he was late to the bag as Adalberto Mejia’s foot touched base just before Didi’s hands. With two outs, Garrett Cooper doubled to right center, a smash to the wall.  He scored on Austin Romine’s double over the head of right fielder Max Kepler.  2-1, Twins.

The game was tied in the top of the 7th when Chase Headley doubled to left center between the outfielders.  He scored on Garrett Cooper’s second double of the game, a solid line drive to left.

Then the game fell apart for the Yankees.  In the top of 8th, it looked to have the potential of a big inning that could have given the Yankees the lead.  Clint Frazier hit a double to left, motoring around to second without hesitation.  Twins reliever Taylor Rogers intentionally walked Aaron Judge to face Matt Holliday.  It proved to be the right decision by Twins manager Paul Molitor when Holliday hit into a 6-4-3 double play which erased Judge at second.  Frazier moved to third.  After taking a big swing for a strike, Didi Gregorius attempted an awful bunt which just bounced up and down at home plate.  Twins catcher Jason Castro was able to easily throw out Gregorius for the final out.    

In the bottom of the 8th, Yankees manager Joe Girardi opted to stick with Caleb Smith.  Smith had entered the game in the 6th inning in relief of Bryan Mitchell.  For two innings, he was tremendous in retiring 6 batters with 3 strikeouts.  I know it is easy to second guess Girardi after-the-fact, but I felt that Girardi should have brought in one of his veteran relievers for the pressure-packed 8th.  Smith’s brilliant two-inning work would have been a great confidence booster in making his MLB debut so it would have been a good place to pull him, especially with the Twins’ 3-4-5 hitters coming up.  But Girardi elected to stay with the hot hand.  Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano opened the bottom of the 8th with singles off Smith.  Mauer’s hit fell just short of Aaron Judge’s sliding glove and Sano’s seeing-eye single made it to left past a sliding Didi Gregorius.  After striking out Max Kepler, Smith gave up a single to left by pinch-hitter Eduardo Escobar which scored Mauer.  Sano moved to third on the play, beating a throw from Austin Romine to Gregorius, and scored when Eddie Rosario doubled, a rolling liner, to right.  The Twins had taken a 4-2 lead which would prove to be the game’s final runs.  To Smith’s credit, with the bases loaded after an intentional walk, retired the next two batters get out of the inning.

Credit:  Bruce Kluckhohn/AP

The Yankees were unable to muster any offense in the top of the 9th in the rain against Twins closer Brandon Kintzler and went down 1-2-3.  

Credit:  Star Tribune

Doing the little things right could have won this game but it was not meant to be.

The Yankees (47-44) remained 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox with the loss.  The Sox fell to the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-3.  The second place Tampa Bay Rays moved 1 1/2 games in front of the Yankees and 2 games behind Boston with their 3-2 victory over the Oakland A’s.

Caleb Smith (0-1) took his first loss of the season after his 8-0 start at Triple A.  Bryan Mitchell’s final line wasn’t bad.  5.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R (1 run unearned thanks to his own error), 2 BB, and 2 SO.  Aaron Judge’s post All-Star Game slump continued with his 0-for-3 performance which dropped him to 1-for-21 for the second half.  He struck out once.

Odds & Ends…

Michael Pineda’s consultation with Dr Timothy Kremchek for a second opinion has confirmed the need for Tommy John surgery.  Dr Kremchek will perform the surgery today in Cincinnati.  Although I doubt Michael ever pitches for the Yankees again, I wish him much success with the surgery and a speedy recovery.


Greg Bird will also have surgery on his ankle today.  He is expected to be out for six weeks.  While it is projected that he could be back in September, I’d find it highly unlikely given he has missed so much time the past two years.  Even more unlikely if the Yankees swing a trade for someone like Yonder Alonso or Justin Bour.  I hope this surgery puts Bird back on the path to be a contributing member for the Yankees.

Have a great Tuesday!  Time to get back in the win column.  Let’s Go Yankees!

The Beantown Split…

Credit:  Michael Dwyer-AP

Game 1:  Yankees 3, Red Sox 0…

Michael Pineda goes on the DL with a season-ending injury so “who ya gonna call”?  Apparently the answer is CC Sabathia.  In the first game on Sunday, CC gave the Yankees exactly what they needed…six innings of scoreless two-hit ball.  He blamed the five walks on rust, but he was otherwise very effective against the potent Red Sox lineup as the Yankees topped the Red Sox.

Credit:  Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Sabathia (8-3) walked the first two batters he faced in the game.  A force out at second put runners at the corners with one out.  But Sabathia was able to induce former Yankee Chris Young to hit into an inning-ending double play to keep the Red Sox off the board.

The Yankees were finally able to break through with the game’s first runs in the fourth inning against Sox starter Rick Porcello.  Didi Gregorius lined a one-out single to right.  Clint Frazier hit an infield grounder to shortstop Xander Bogaerts, but Bogaerts bobbled the ball for an error, allowing Frazier to reach first as Gregorius took second.  Austin Romine singled to left, just past a diving Bogaerts, to load the bases.  Ji-Man Choi hit a sharp fly ball to left fielder Andrew Benintendi, which scored Gregorius.  Ronald Torreyes got all of a Porcello pitch with the barrel of his bat for a solid single to left, which brought Clint Frazier around to score in a close play at the plate.  Brett Gardner took a pitch off the forearm to re-load the bases, but Chase Headley grounded out to first to end the inning.  2-0, Yankees.

Credit:  Michael Dwyer-AP

In the top of the 5th, Didi Gregorius lined a fly ball into the right field stands just fair of the Pesky Pole for a two-out solo home run as the Yankees increased their lead to 3-0.

Aaron Judge finally got his first hit of the series in the 7th when he reached first base on an infield grounder against Red Sox reliever Austin Maddox.  

In the bottom of the 7th, Tyler Clippard (Yikes!) replaced CC Sabathia.  Like Saturday, the first batter he faced (Brock Holt) singled to start the inning.  Despite my Clippard-induced uneasiness, he retired the next three batters to get out of the inning.  

After the Yankees failed to score any runs in the top of the 8th with two men on base, the Red Sox brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the inning after Chad Green two-out walks to Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis.  Fortunately, Jackie Bradley, Jr went down swinging as Green preserved the shutout.

Manager Joe Girardi brought in Aroldis Chapman for the 9th, his third consecutive appearance in three days.  Unlike Friday night, Chapman did his job, despite a two-out single by Dustin Pedroia, to earn his 9th save of the season.  

The Yankees (47-42) moved 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East with the win.  Pending the outcome of the second game of the double-header, the Yankees also slid back into a second place tie with the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Rays finally lost to the Los Angeles Angels, 4-3.  

Game 2:  Red Sox 3, Yankees 0…

In the nightcap, the Red Sox reversed Game 1’s score as they shut out the Yankees.  It was the first time this season the Yankees have failed to score.  

The Yankees have generally fared well against Red Sox starter David Price but not on this night.  Price scattered 7 hits over 8 scoreless innings and struck out 8.  He did not walk a batter.  Masahiro Tanaka (7-9) gave the Yanks length (he went 7 2/3 innings) but he was unable to match Price’s performance.

Credit:  Adam Glanzman-Getty Images

In the bottom of the 3rd inning, the Red Sox broke their 24-inning scoreless streak when Christian Vazquez singled and Mookie Betts clobbered a Tanaka pitch over the Green Monster and out of Fenway Park for a 2-0 lead.

Garrett Cooper picked his first Major League hit in the 5th inning when he lined a double to the wall in left.  He was left stranded but it was good to see him finally have a productive at-bat.

The Red Sox picked up another run in the bottom of the 6th.  Mookie Betts led off with a liner that deflected off Masahiro Tanaka’s glove.  On the run, Starlin Castro scooped it up and hurriedly threw a low throw to first baseman Garrett Cooper which Cooper was unable to handle.  Betts, without hesitation, advanced to second.  An error was charged to Castro.  After Betts moved to third on a groundout by Andrew Benintendi, Dustin Pedroia hit a hard single into left field, just past Ronald Torreyes at third.  Torreyes misread the velocity of the ball, otherwise, he could have moved into proper position to potentially get the runner at home.  The run increased the Sox lead to 3-0.

With Gary Sanchez on base in the eighth, Aaron Judge had a chance to make it a one-run game when he launched a high fly to the Bermuda Triangle in center.  But Jackie Bradley, Jr made a leaping catch to snag  the ball which would have landed in the Sox bullpen.  “I thought it had a chance.  But I just hit it to the wrong part of the park and the wrong centerfielder.  Jackie’s been making plays like that for a long time,” Judge said after the game.

Credit:  Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Yankees had a chance in the 9th against closer Craig Kimbrel.  Didi Gregorius, 0-for-5  with 5 K’s lifetime against Kimbrel, ripped stand-up double off the left field wall.  With two outs, Brett Gardner, pinch-hitting for Garrett Cooper, walked.  It brought Chase Headley to the plate representing the tying run, but sadly, Headley struck out to end the game.

The Yankees (47-43) fell back into third place with the loss, 3 1/2 games behind the Red Sox.  The Tampa Bay Rays are 1/2 game ahead of the Yanks.  

HR Derby Hangover:  It was not a great series for Aaron Judge.  He was 1-for-18 with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks.  Hopefully the Land of 10,000 Lakes helps him get back on track.  

Next Up:  Minnesota Twins at Target Field, Minneapolis, MN…

The Yankees will see one of their former starters this series when Bartolo Colon takes the mound on Wednesday for his first appearance as a Minnesota Twin.  Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez will be able to meet up with fellow Home Run Derby participant Miguel Sano.  Like the Yankees, the Twins (46-45) started the season strong but have tailed off lately.

Here are the scheduled pitching match-ups.  

TODAY

Yankees:  Bryan Mitchell (1-1, 5.06 ERA)

Twins:  Adalberto Mejia (4-4, 4.43 ERA)

TUESDAY

Yankees:  Luis Cessa (0-3, 4.18 ERA)*

Twins:  Bartolo Colon (0-0, 0.00 ERA)  — He was 2-8 with 8.14 ERA for the NL Braves.

*Cessa is listed as the scheduled starter, but with Caleb Smith on the active roster, I wonder if Smith makes his MLB debut this game. 

WEDNESDAY

Yankees:  Jordan Montgomery (6-4, 3.78 ERA)

Twins:  Jose Berrios (8-3, 3.70 ERA)

Odds & Ends…

Red Sox manager John Farrell said Boston will formally file a protest over the lack of an interference call in Saturday night’s 4-1 victory by the Yankees.  In the 11th inning, Matt Holliday, forced out at second on an infield grounder to first base by Jacoby Ellsbury, raced back to first thinking that Ellsbury had been forced before the throw to second.  His action prevented Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland from catching the relay from Xander Bogaerts and Ellsbury was ruled safe at first.  Farrell felt that it should have been a double play on interference.  The Yankees didn’t score in the inning so the net effect was inconsequential.  I am not really sure what purpose the protest serves.  It was clearly not an intentional act by Holliday as he thought that he was still in play.   

Upon completion of yesterday’s double-header, RHP Domingo German was optioned to Triple A.  Bryan Mitchell, who served as the “26th man” for the double-header, was moved onto the 25-man roster and will start tonight’s game. 

Have a great Monday!  Hopefully the Yankees will be right on target at Target Field.  Let’s Go Yankees!

Sometimes Money Does Matter…

The Hunger Games…

When the Yankees said they were going to be big spenders during the opening signing period for international prospects, I still didn’t imagine how aggressive they would be. Based on MLB.com’s list of top international prospects, the Yankees have apparently signed five of the top ten players:

• Dermis Garcia, SS, Dominican Republic, #1
• Nelson Gomes, 3B, Dominican Republic, #2
• Juan De Leon, OF, Dominican Republic, #5
• Jonathan Amundaray, OF, Venezuela, #7
• Antonio Arias, OF, Venezuela, #9

In the second ten (11-20), they grabbed three shortstops:

• Hyo-Jun Park, SS, Korea, #13
• Wilkerman Garcia, SS, Venezuela, #14
• Diego Castilla, SS, Venezuela, #16

They also signed the #25 player in catcher Miguel Flames, Venezuela.

At first pass, it seems like a number of shortstops but I’ve read that Dermis Garcia will eventually be a corner infielder and Wilkerman Garcia may be switched to second base.

Dermis Garcia, the prized signing, represents the most the Yankees have spent on the international market since they signed top catching prospect Gary Sanchez in 2009. Garcia received $3.2 million, while Sanchez received $3.0 million.

It’s interesting that Garcia was born in 1998, perhaps the greatest year of the modern Yankees era.

I can still remember when the Yankees selected an 18-year-old Derek Jeter out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Hopefully, the 16 year-old Garcia will be a presence in pinstripes for more than 20 years too.

Of course, while the Yankees were focused on position players, the Boston Red Sox quietly signed the top two pitchers in Christopher Acosta, Dominican Republic, and Anderson Espinoza, Venezuela.

I thought it was a telling choice in the selection of the catcher (Flames). The Yankees seems overloaded with catching prospects and the Flames arrival is probably the prelude to the inclusion of another catching prospect such as Sanchez or John Ryan Murphy in a potential trade this month. I would not want to lose Sanchez for a middle-of-the-road starting pitcher but if the return were say someone like David Price, then I am all in.

With the international signings at approximately $14 million, the cost could be as much as $30 million with penalties plus the Yankees will be non-players in the next two signing periods as they’ll be restricted to no more than $300,000 per player. But with their aggressive approach this year, the Yankees have infused significant future talent into the lower levels of the farm system.

The future is now…

I saw a reference that Park would be the first Korean-born Yankee but that’s unfair to AAA second baseman Rob Refsnyder. Although raised in CA since he was 3 months, he was born in Seoul, South Korea to Korean parents. So I’d say Refsnyder will be the first Korean Yankee. Speaking of Refsnyder, I seriously hope that his Bronx arrival is sooner rather than later. The Yankees need to upgrade second base. Brian Roberts was once a great player but he’ll never be that guy again. Why not go with a younger player who has upside potential? The sooner we can put Robinson Cano in the rear view mirror, the better.

What have you done for me lately?…

So much for the rags to riches story for career minor leaguer Yangervis Solarte. After a terrific start to the season, he has been non-existent for the past month and it earned him a free ride to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His replacement is actually an older career minor leaguer, Zelous Wheeler, so we’ll see how this goes. If it were me, I would have brought up Refsnyder. But there’s a reason that Brian Cashman is GM and I am not, so I’ll just have to have faith in the decision.

Too little, too late?…

Honestly, I am not sure there is anything the Yankees can do to save this season. They are a game under .500 entering play tonight and have played with virtually no offense. They only win if they can hold the opponent to a couple of runs or less. Robinson Cano is one player that could ignite the offense but obviously there’s no way the Seattle Mariners are going to give him up. In retrospect, the Yankees should have overpaid to keep Cano. Alfonso Soriano was that kind of player at times last year but he’s been in a season long slump that almost certainly means this is his final year in pinstripes. I thought that Brian McCann would be hitting by now but he is showing that he’s one of those guys who needs a long acclimation process to the Bronx. Carlos Beltran is merely showing that he is a 36-year-old outfielder. The other off-season right field option, Shin Choo-Soo, has fared no better in Texas.

At this moment, the Detroit Tigers stand as the team to beat in the American League. For the past couple of weeks, they’ve been invincible and easily handled the second best Oakland A’s this week. Joba Chamberlain is probably loving life at the top.

While I recognize the Yankees will make a move this month, I hope that they do not trade any top prospects unless the return is top shelf (i.e., David Price). I’d hate to lose Gary Sanchez and still finish 3rd or 4th in the AL East.

Oh well, tonight the Yankees play Phil Hughes in Minneapolis. Let’s hope the results are better than the last time they saw Hughes in the Bronx when he and the Minnesota Twins dominated the Yanks.

–Scott

For the 2014 Yankees, there is still much work to do…

 

The highs and lows of the Hot Stove League, thus far…

For Yankees fans, the off-season started nicely.  After early speculation that manager Joe Girardi might jump to the Chicago Cubs, he re-signed a long-term deal with the Yankees and expressed it was his desire to remain in New York.  All good.

Then, Derek Jeter quickly signed a one year deal with negotiations that where smooth, quick and efficient (unlike the prior Jeter negotiations).  It remains to be seen if we’ll get the Jeter of 2012 or the injured, aging 2013 model, but there’s no question that Jeter must finish his career in pinstripes.  I don’t think Derek would want to go anywhere else at this point anyway, but still, he is the face of the franchise and he’ll forever be remembered as one of its legends.  In the distant future, when the old greats from the 50’s Dynasty era are gone (Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, among others), it will be guys like Jeter that maintain the honor and tradition in baseball’s most storied franchise. 

The Yankees struck fast in signing free agent catcher Brian McCann after last year’s parade of backups in the starting role.  It gives the team its first legitimate starter at the position since Russell Martin left, and the best offensive bat at the position since Jorge Posada retired.  This is a move that places backup catchers Francisco Cervelli, J.R. Murphy, and Austin Romine in a better position to succeed.  At first pass, I expect Cervelli to take the backup job in spring training but the other two are capable.  On the days that McCann slides to DH, the catching position will be capable hands.

Next came a big surprise.  I honestly did not see the Yankees signing centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.  While I have been a fan of Ellsbury’s work, it didn’t seem to be a great need for the team.  Brett Gardner has been an effective centerfielder, and has the speed to burn.  Still, Ellsbury’s signing upgrades the position and allows the Yankees to slide Gardner to left where he a defensive upgrade over Alfonso Soriano.  The concern here is that by making Soriano the full-time DH, it does limit the DH opportunities for Derek Jeter and Brian McCann.  Soriano’s bat is still very valuable, and it’s much needed in the lineup. 

Then came the bittersweet day of Friday, December 6th.  The night before, there had been reports that second baseman Robinson Cano had flown to Seattle, but in the morning, the early reports indicated that talks had stalled or perhaps even ended.  It gave a brief ray of hope that he’d come back to the Yankees, but those hopes were soon dissolved when it was reported Cano had agreed to a 10-year $240 million deal with the Mariners.  While it’s tough to lose a great player, perhaps the team’s best, it is simply too hard to justify those numbers.  I have enjoyed the early 30’s version of Cano at second, but in his late 30’s and early 40’s, the prospect doesn’t look too promising at $24 million per year.  That’s a huge chunk of any team’s overall payroll.  I think of when Chase Utley was the premier second baseman, but now, with injuries, he has become a shell of what he once was.  What happens if Cano does not age well?  I guess I am not a gambling man and would prefer that the M’s take that bet.  $240 million can be better spent by spreading it over multiple positions rather than locking it into only one.

This is where I find Robinson Cano to be extremely selfish.  You can’t begrudge anyone from wanting as much money as they can get, but this is a team game and every team has a budget…even the Yankees.  If it were me, I would have taken the Yankees offer of 7 years at $175 million because the average annual salary was stronger and I’d know that the team would be more flexible in other areas by not being locked into so many years.  For those additional three years, it would be up to me to perform and if so, there would be a reward.  It also would have kept the Yankee legacy intact and ensured a potential place among the team’s legends.  But now, Cano is just another player who took the money and ran.  He proved that money is more valuable than wins, and money is more important than helping build a strong supporting cast of quality players.  That doesn’t mean Seattle doesn’t have quality players, they do, but they are a long way from contending.  It is very possible that when they are ready to contend, Cano has started his career regression due to age that’s inevitable for everyone. 

Cano has carried the “lazy” rap for years.  While he is an exciting player at times, it was frustrating when he didn’t hustle.  I think of someone like Dustin Pedroia, whose motor is always running.  He creates opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be there because he is alert and proactive.  He seizes the opportunities and takes advantage of them.  That’s what winning ball players do.  Cano is not that guy.  I have never thought of him as a team player, and I didn’t view him as a player who helped raise the performance level of those around him.  Rest assured the Yankees will miss his offensive production at the position.  At this point, I have no idea who will be the second baseman in 2014.  Kelly Johnson seems better suited to help replace Alex Rodriguez at third base, in a platoon situation.  Omar Infante signed a four year deal with the Kansas City Royals, and Brandon Phillips is starting the downward slide that comes with age.  David Adams, a young player who had the talent but couldn’t show it at the major league level during brief auditions, was non-tendered and is now a Cleveland Indian.  It looks as though the Yankees will fill second base with a bargain basement fill-in, much like they did last year with first and third bases.  I wish the organization was better stocked with up and coming second base talent, but that does not appear to be the case.  I personally thought Infante would have been the best short-term option, but the Yankees allowed them to get beat by the Royals in signing the player.  You know it’s an odd year when the Yankees get beat in free agency by both the Royals and the Mariners.

But enough about Cano, he is gone and so is his Yankees legacy.  

Around the same time as the news had broken about the former second baseman signing with Seattle, it was reported that starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda had signed a new one year deal with the team.  This was very good news to hear.  Kuroda is much needed, and I am grateful that he chose to delay his return to Japan by a year or head back to his home in Southern California.  So, Cashman has filled 200 of the 400 innings he previously stated were needed this off-season. 

After the tumultuous events of the day, news broke on the evening of December 6th that the Yankees had signed outfielder Carlos Beltran.  At 36, he is no longer the player he once was, but he is a “gamer” or as George Steinbrenner would say, a warrior.  Even an aging Beltran is an upgrade over an even older Ichiro Suzuki or the outfielder still primarily funded by the Los Angeles Angels, Vernon Wells. 

But after the three free agent signings, the news has mostly been about departures.  Phil Hughes was the first to depart, signing a three year deal with the Minnesota Twins.  It was probably a good move for Hughes.  Minnesota will be less pressurized and he should have the opportunity to flourish, much like Carl Pavano was able to resurrect his career in Minneapolis after leaving New York.  I certainly did not expect the Yankees to re-sign Hughes after the season he had last year, but I thought he’d go to Southern California and saw the San Diego Padres as a good fit.  Nevertheless, Minneapolis is a fun city and it’s a good ballpark. 

A couple of other notable defections occurred in the bullpen, where Joba Chamberlain signed a one year deal with the Detroit Tigers and Boone Logan went for three years with the Colorado Rockies.  Of the two, it is Logan that I really hated to see leave.  He was a trusted left-handed reliever, but it really didn’t seem like the team made much of an effort to retain his services.  They obviously had other priorities, but I suppose the Yankees are hopeful that a less expensive options like Cesar Cabral will step up to fill Boone’s role.  It was a foregone conclusion that Joba had thrown his last pitch for the Yankees.  But admittedly, I was surprised he went to Detroit.  There are worse things to do than to go to a team that is probably the best one in the American League right now, but I thought that Joba would go to the Kansas City Royals since it is closer to his hometown roots.  The one year deal does give him an opportunity to try and restore the promise he once had with the Yankees.  Plus, if he wins a World Series, it will help give his career a further boost. 

The Yankees also lost last year’s starting catcher when they traded Chris Stewart to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  This move was a given after the McCann signing combined with the surplus of backup catchers. 

For as crazy as December started for the Yankees, the week of the baseball winter meetings was extremely quiet.  The Yankees still have much work to do.  On paper, after consideration of all plusses and minuses, they are not noticeably better than last year’s 85 win team.  They still need a quality starting pitcher, a second baseman, and bullpen help.  Brian Cashman has his work cut out for him between now and spring training.

I honestly do not know where the Yankees will go from here.  I’d like to see the free agent signing of a pitcher like Matt Garza, but so far, the Yankees have not been one of the team’s linked to the pitcher.  Same with Bronson Arroyo, who is certainly capable of eating a large number of innings as a #4 starter.  For second base, the latest reports have the Yankees interested in Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs but I have no idea what he would cost in terms of talent in a trade.  I will feel much better about the 2014 Yankees once the additional starting pitcher and second baseman are in the fold, but at least it is reassuring to know that Hal Steinbrenner wants to win as much as the rest of us do.

Happy Holidays!

–Scott

 

Fixing what ails them…

 

Turning the page…

After getting swept by the Baltimore Orioles, it was a relief to see the team head to Minneapolis for a four-game set against the Minnesota Twins.  I didn’t expect the Yankees to sweep the Twins, but I had hoped for at least 2 or 3 wins in the Twin City.  Fortunately, the Yankees did better, taking all four games from the Twins.

Most believe the Yankees have held it together with smoke and mirrors this season, but I am hardly one to disagree.  The Yanks have gotten good production from guys who other teams were glad to vacate.  Today’s hero was Vernon Wells, and clearly the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels were glad to move him on when they did.

Lyle Overbay is a good guy but he’s not exactly going to suddenly emerge with his best season ever.  I think those days are far behind him.  With no return of Mark Teixeira this year, the Yankees need to find a stronger first base solution.  Unfortunately, I think there are too many holes to fill and I’d certainly hate to see the Yankees give up quality prospects in trades that will probably still result in no October success for the Yankees.  As always, I am hopeful the team proves me wrong, but clearly, the odds are against them.

Boo-yeah!  Great accomplishments…

Congratulations to Joe Girardi, CC Sabathia and Max Scherzer.  For Girardi, he won his 600th game earlier this week.  Not bad for a guy who lasted only one season as the manager for the then Florida Marlins.  CC achieved success through his 200th win, and Max Scherzer, an opponent’s “ace” gets kudos for starting the season 13-0.  When a staff is led by the great Justin Verlander, you certainly do not expect anyone to challenge his tag as the staff ace.  But with Verlander’s struggles this year and Scherzer’s legendary start, Verlander is no better than #2 on the Detroit Tigers’ staff this year.  As for CC, it just doesn’t seem that long ago he was a promising rookie pitching for the Cleveland Indians.  Hard to believe that he’s already at 200 wins.  Still, it’s a great accomplishment and I hope that we’ll soon be seeing CC win his 250th game in pinstripes.

Chasing the rumors…

When you hear of possible deadline trades, I have to admit that it’s sad to hear Chase Utley’s name mentioned.  He’s been a great Phillie although a bit injury-plagued in recent years.  Still, I identify the guy with the Phillies and it would be good to see him play in the City of Brotherly Love for the remainder of his career.  Michael Young is another name mentioned and given that he made his name in Arlington, Texas, I’d rather see him moved if the Phillies do anything.

I am fairly certain the Yankees will move Joba Chamberlain by the deadline.  It would also not surprise me to see Phil Hughes go considering that Michael Pineda should finally be able to make his Yankees pitching debut soon.

The Yankees need to do what it takes to re-sign Robinson Cano…

Ugh, I really dislike the possible return of Alex Rodriguez.  Maybe there’s still something in the bat, but I am not a fan and I’d prefer to see Alex as the starting third baseman for some team in Siberia.  With Yankee GM Brian Cashman’s recent outburst against A-Rod and Yankee President Randy Levine’s back-pedaling, I am clearly on Team Cashman regarding A-Rod.

I am also convinced that this is the final season in pinstripes for free agent-to be Curtis Granderson.  His final season has been a disappointment given his extended stays on the DL.  Same goes for Andy Pettitte.  I think if the team finishes third or lower in the AL East, Andy will no longer have the fire to compete.  It’s the thrill of playing October baseball that drives Andy at this point so an unsuccessful season will probably prove to him that it’s time.

Say, Mo, isn’t that your spot in Monument Park?…

Speaking of impending departures, I loved the gift the Minnesota Twins gave to Mariano Rivera.  The Chair of Broken Dreams.  A rocking chair constructed of broken bats.  How great was that?  Mariano is a living legend, and I am so thankful that I got to watch him pitch for the duration of his Yankees career.  This is a guy who could still be a very effective closer in 2014 despite his age, so clearly, he’s going out on top regardless of what the team does.

Ask me how much I wish that I still lived in Minneapolis so that I could have experienced the past four games?…

Better them than us…

I thought it was a bad decision for the Texas Rangers to sign Manny Ramirez.  Yes, I’ve always admired Man-Ram’s ability to hit, but it’s the baggage that goes with the guy that is too much.  I guess he is usually on his best behavior during his first year so maybe the Rangers are on to something.  But this should be a very short-term relationship.  If I were Nolan Ryan, I would not want Manny as part of my strategy for 2014.

Jamie Foxx for President…

I saw White House Down today and thought it was very good.  Quite predictable, but still, as an action flick, it had all of the right ingredients.  Felt a little like Die Hard in the White House but hey, there have been a lot worse movies!

I hope everyone has a wonderful 4th of July!  Enjoy the fireworks!

–Scott

 

If you wear #51 for the Mariners, you are a future Yankee!…

 

I thought I was supposed to wear the white uniform!…

In recent years, it has seemed as though no Yankee trade sneaks up on you.  Even with Curtis Granderson, there were rumors swirling around before the deal was finally consummated.  It has seemed like the press has been tapped into GM Brian Cashman’s inner thoughts.  But admittedly, the Ichiro Suzuki trade surprised me.

Years ago, this would have been a headline deal but it’s now obviously the acquisition of a former great player in the twilight of his career.

In recent weeks, I had seen other owners in fantasy leagues start to drop Ichiro from their rosters.  I had not been keeping up with his stats but I knew he was no longer the player he once was.  But if anything, Derek Jeter has shown what goes down does not necessarily have to stay down.  Some are suggested that Ichiro will be revitalized in the midst of a pennant race and the spotlight of New York.  Maybe so, maybe not.  But if you asked me if I prefer Ichiro in the outfield over DeWayne Wise or exposing Andruw Jones or Raul Ibanez to too much play, the answer would be, without hesitation, yes.  I was a bit disappointed when I first heard the news of the trade as visions of Shane Victorino or Denard Span were dancing in my head.  Yet, the realist in me knows that the cost to acquire either of those players would have exceeded the reward.  On the other hand, Ichiro is simply a rental for the remainder of the season.  He’ll be a free agent in the off-season so he’ll hand left field back to Brett Gardner when he departs the Stadium in October.

I remember the thrill of seeing my first game at Safeco Field.  The player I was most interested in seeing was Ichiro and he did not disappoint.  He came through with a few clutch hits and showed why he has been one of the better players over the past decade.  The Yankees have missed a clutch bat so hopefully a revitalized Ichiro means that they’ll have the “pest” they need at the plate and on the base paths.

I know that the pitchers the Yankees gave up were not top shelf talent (D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquahar) but they have the chance to be good major league pitchers.  I always hate to see good talent leave, especially if Ichiro’s days in pinstripes do not go beyond the next couple of months.  I always remember how much I hated watching Jay Buhner punish the Yankees while wearing a Mariners uniform and wondering what could have been if the Yanks had held on to him.  Now, with former top prospect Jesus Montero in Seattle, there are multiple players in the Great Northwest who could haunt their former team.  The Mariners go for 20-something former Yankees while the Yankees go for almost 40-something ex-Mariners.  I think the M’s have the better business formula even if it isn’t showing up in wins quite yet.

Now that I’ve gotten over the shock of the trade, I will admit that it is nice to see Ichiro in a Yankees uniform.  It will be even better if he can get on base with consistency and make crossing home plate a common occurrence.

If there’s one thing about the trade that struck me as unusual, it is the consummation of the deal prior to the start of the Yankees-Mariners series in Seattle.  The trade guaranteed the Mariners fans would be subjected to watching the first three games of Ichiro’s post-Seattle career in an opposing uniform.  Not any uniform but the most hated and despised uniform in most parts of the country outside of NYC.  The Yankees apparently had conditions Ichiro had to agree to (batting in the bottom of the order, moving to left, and accepting an outfield rotation to get the bats of Jones and Ibanez into the lineup).  So, perhaps the Yankees had the upper hand in this deal and argued that it had to happen sooner rather the later.  For the Mariners, the motivation is clearly to move on and to further develop their further stars.

After the Cliff Lee debacle when he went to the Texas Rangers for Justin Smoak after the Yankees thought they had acquired him, I really didn’t think the Yankees would forgive the Mariners and their general manager.  But after the Michael Pineda and Ichiro deals, there is no evidence of hard feelings.  Cliff Lee just wasn’t meant to be a Yankee.  He proved that with his own decision to rebuke the team to re-sign with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Lee is a good pitcher but some guys weren’t meant for Broadway.

The question now is if the Yankees are done dealing before the trading deadline.  With the returns of Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte looming on the horizon, perhaps they are the moves that can catapult the Yankees to the World Series.  I can’t really think of another move the Yankees need to make other than further enhancing an already good bullpen.  Sure, if the Philadelphia Phillies called to say that they’d trade Roy Halladay for Ivan Nova, you’d pull the trigger, but seriously, that’s not going to happen.

For the lack of better words, Ouch!…

After moving back to the Bay Area and living in what is described as A’s territory, it was really tough to see the Yankees swept in four games against the upstart A’s.  While the Yankees hold a 7 game lead, the race is far from over.  I still expect the Tampa Bay Rays to make a run, and of course, I am always fearful the Boston Red Sox make some major moves that propel them back into contention.  I’d be foolish to underestimate Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles.  So, every day, Brian Cashman needs to be trying to find ways to improve the team.  The nice thing is that I know he is.

Open the Cooperstown doors now…

I think I read recently that Mariano Rivera would like to make his return in September rather than next spring.  While I doubt he’ll be able to do it, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.  He is clearly one of the most gifted athletes of our time.  He is my favorite current Yankee and he’ll be on the fast track to Cooperstown when he retires.  I am sure that his spot in Memorial Park has already been reserved, along with Derek Jeter’s.  It would have been great to watch guys like Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle play, but I am glad that I lived in the Rivera/Jeter era.  I look forward to telling my grandchildren that I saw the game’s greatest closer play.  As a kid, I thought Rich “Goose” Gossage was the greatest closer. I never realizvbbbbb

But are they Yankees fans?…

I am the proud owner of two rescue kittens named Nathalia and Sophie.  They are sisters and at times, they are the synchronized twins.  Two American Shorthairs, both black and one with with a white undercoat, they have proven their love of baseball.  During the recent Yankees-Red Sox series in Boston, the sisters were engrossed in watching the game, just like their roommate (me).  I love this pic…

 

 

And the winner is…

The next week should be fun as teams race against the trading deadline.  Maybe it will be quiet, maybe not.  I fully expect the Red Sox and in particular, GM Ben Cherington, to make a bold move.  I respect Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster for preferring to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Atlanta Braves (I should qualify that by saying my favorite NL team is the Dodgers).  The Tigers have been active as evidenced by their recent acquisitions of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.  I saw tonight that the Pittsburgh Pirates were close to acquiring Wandy Rodriguez, who has long been on the radar for both the Yanks and Red Sox.  I almost missed the trade of Astros closer Brett Myers to the Chicago White Sox.  I think the Sox have the market cornered on goatees.

I am still missing Minneapolis but I am enjoying this baseball season.  Life is good.

–Scott

P.S.  Looking for some great photos?  Check out Erik van den Ham’s website, http://www.panoramio.com/user/62613.  Excellent!

 

 

 

 

All things considered, the first half was a success…

 

A 7-game lead is nice, but…

As the All-Star Break comes to a close, I should be very happy the Yankees hold a 7-game lead in the AL East (7 ½ and 9 ½ games over their chief rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox, respectively).  There were times during the early weeks of the season that I really questioned the makeup of the 2012 team.  At one point, after the horrific start of the Red Sox, only one game separated the two teams.  Fortunately, the Yankees began to put together consistent pitching performances and powered their way to first before July arrived.

But, as I sit here waiting for the second half to start, it’s evident the Texas Rangers have the most balanced squad in the league even if the Yankees have the slightly better record.  Last year, the Detroit Tigers simply shut down the Yankee bats to eliminate the Pinstripers in the play-offs.  The old adage, good pitching beats good hitting.  The problem is the Yankees didn’t have and still do not have a true, legitimate clutch bat.  I am not trying to take anything away from Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and others, they’re good hitters.  But there’s always doubt in key situations.  There are certain hitters that always come through in the clutch or at least it seems like it.  I’d put former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis in that category.  You know that he’s not going to get cheated in an at-bat…win or lose, he’s going to grind.

While the Yankees have gotten good pitching lately, it’s still a fact that their top two starters are on the DL.  Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes have pitched very well in their absence, but even with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, the Tampa Bay Rays have a better pitching staff.  I still find it hard to believe that the Red Sox are as bad as their record indicates.  The realist in me keeps expecting them to go on a tear sometime in the second half.  Neither the Rays or the Red Sox are finished, and I am confident both will be making noise in September.

While it is likely the Yankees do not make any moves this month as the trading deadline nears, the team needs to be aware that the competition is not going to sit back and go with the status quo.  I fully expect the powerful Rangers to make a move to further improve their team.  It’s scary to think of them potentially acquiring a frontline starter like Cole Hamels.  I recognize and understand that the Yankees are more budget conscious under Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner than they were under the Boss.  I get the reasons for reducing payroll by 2014 to avoid additional penalties.  Plus, there’s always the fear that the Yankees trade a strong prospect or good player for a risk, only to see the player hit a home run and win the MVP award in an All-Star Game wearing an opponent’s jersey.

It will be good to see the return of Sabathia, Pettitte, and Brett Gardner in the coming weeks.  Plus, Joba Chamberlain will finally begin his rehab starts this weekend.  So, there is help on the horizon.  But will it be enough?  Time will tell.

Farewell to the better Twin City…

I moved from Minneapolis to the San Francisco Bay Area so I no longer have my great downtown view of Target Field.  I so loved downtown Minneapolis, living in the Warehouse District.  It was a great experience in a great city.  Northern CA is a wonderful place to live, but it will take time for me to re-adjust to California after enjoying Minneapolis so much.  So, now instead of being within walking distance of Target Field, I am a BART ride away from the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants.  It’s not quite the same thing.  Of course, ask me in December or January and my response will probably be substantially different.

The Kidd from Cal…

After completing my first year as a fan of the New York Knicks, I was pleased to see the team sign veteran point guard Jason Kidd to back up starting guard Jeremy Lin.  I have always felt a connection with Kidd.  I lived in Dallas when he was drafted by the Mavericks, and I moved to Phoenix shortly after he was traded to the Suns.  Yes, I have moved a fair amount during the course of my life.  I am not sure that the Knicks will win in 2012-13, but they should be very fun to watch.

So wrong on many levels…

Speaking of basketball, it was hard to see Steve Nash don a Lakers jersey.  Despite his years in Dallas, I will always associate Nash with the Phoenix Suns.  The Lakers, of course, are a chief nemesis of the Suns, so Nash’s move would be like Derek Jeter signing with the Red Sox at this stage of his career.  I was a Lakers fan prior to moving my allegiance to the Knicks, but still, I hate to see players join a chief rival in any sport or league.  I know that whenever a Yankee or a Minnesota Viking leaves as a free agent, I am always hoping they sign in the other league or conference.

I want but cannot have…

I feel bad for Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.  After openly expressing his desire to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, the teams were unable to consummate a deal.  Given that Howard has no desire to stay in Orlando, it will be interesting to see where he ends up.  But Brooklyn would have been a lot of fun with the upcoming inaugural season for the former New Jersey team.  I guess the Magic didn’t want Kris Humphries.  Well, maybe Kim Kardashian was right after all…

Okay, let’s throw the first pitch for the second half!  Time to race to October!

–Scott