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.
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.
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!
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.
P.S. Looking for some great photos? Check out Erik van den Ham’s website, http://www.panoramio.com/user/62613. Excellent!
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!
The 10-Game Roll…
Back when the Yankees were struggling, I knew in the back of my mind that it wasn’t anything that a 10-game winning streak couldn’t fix. Well, the Yankees have done just that with tonight’s victory over the Atlanta Braves. Just like last year, interleague play has proven to be the Yankees’ friend. Although the team hadn’t enjoyed a 10-game winning streak for a few seasons, they did rise up to the challenge of interleague play last year and this year, well, they’ve been nearly invincible. Not bad for a team with questions throughout the starting rotation and perhaps its most valuable pitcher (Mariano Rivera) lost for the season.
Improved starting pitching from #2 through #5 has been the key. Of course, the resurgence of former retiree Andy Pettitte has been crucial, but Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova have all been raised the level of their play. This sure beats last year when you could count on an implosion every fifth start by A.J. Burnett. To Burnett’s defense, he has been very good for the Pittsburgh Pirates, proving that some guys are better served away from baseball’s main stage. There was never any doubt about Burnett’s arm so he just needed a place to get his head straight. But I digress. I prefer Hiroki Kuroda over Burnett, even though Kuroda has had a few clunkers of his own. Kuroda has always mixed in a few stellar starts and seems to finally be getting a grasp of life in the American League East.
Hats off to Cashman…
Why can’t every trade work out as nicely as the one that brought Curtis Granderson to New York? After a slow start in the Bronx during his first year, Grandy has been nothing short of a superstar since. Time and again, he is getting a key hit and propelling his team to victory. The price of the trade was high, and the players going the other direction have fared nicely in their new surroundings, but the trade was worth it.
The personality alone is worth a few million…
With this being Nick Swisher’s walk year, it is assumed that he’ll move on after the season but I really hope that the Yankees find a way to bring his excitement and energy back to the Bronx next season. With the Los Angeles Dodgers’ re-signing of potential free agent Andre Ethier, the free agent market won’t yield anyone of Swisher’s caliber. Sure, you can have Vernon Wells or Alfonso Soriano for a bag of peanuts and a boatload of cash, but I’d rather take Swish.
No recollection of who he played for between the Blue Jays and Astros…
So, Roger Clemens has been found not guilty. Good for him. Do I want to remember his Yankees legacy now that he is a free man? Sorry, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Let Clemens be remembered as a Red Sock, Blue Jay, or Astro. I really don’t want to see Clemens at any future Old Timer’s games at Yankee Stadium unless he is buying a ticket.
Git ‘er done!…
Note to Hal Steinbrenner: Break team tradition and get Robinson Cano signed to an extension. The key is the Yankees’ MVP, and he deserves a contract that rewards a player of his caliber. It is unfortunate that the Yankees have so many dollars going to third base when their success or failure hinges on second base. If they were on opposing teams, there’s no way that I’d trade Robinson Cano for the combination of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter…
Spending the end of July in the Hamptons…
If the Yankees are players at the trading deadline, I am not sure that they’ll focus on. An outfielder given the slow return of Brett Gardner? Another starting pitcher? But if so, who do you move out of the rotation? Last year, I was surprised when the team stood pat but this year, they probably don’t have any choice. I think any moves will only be secondary in nature, such as another bullpen arm or some other auxiliary type of player.
Farewell to a beloved city…
My time in Minneapolis is coming to an end, unfortunately. I have really enjoyed my short stay in the city and I was graced with an incredibly mild winter so I leave with great memories and much sadness. Living in downtown Minneapolis, with a view of Target Field, was an incredible experience. I am returning to Northern California. No views of any baseball stadiums (Oakland, no thanks; San Francisco, too expensive), so I’ll just have to deal with BART to find my way to games. As much as people in Minnesota complain about the winters, I am sure that I will be glad to be spending my Decembers and Januarys in NoCal but I definitely leave with mixed feelings. A new job opportunity pulled me back to CA, but I can’t say that I am overly excited about the move (location; not job). I loved Minneapolis so I leave with a heavy heart…
Playing better while waiting for an old friend…
With news that Andy Pettitte will be starting on Sunday against the Seattle Mariners, it’s good to see the Yankees starting to play with more consistency. It’s no coincidence that the Yankees better play of late comes during a month when Robinson Cano’s bat has started to heat up. He is essential to the team’s success given an inability to consistently depend upon Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.
CC Sabathia was in prime form against David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays as the Yanks took the final game of the series this week, and 2 of 3 from the Rays after getting swept in the season opening series in St. Petersburg. I realize that David Robertson was not available to pitch on Friday night after his previous workload, but Rafael Soriano’s performance in saving the game does help illustrate the Yankees might be better served by having Soriano close and returning Robertson to his highly successful setup role.
I am not ready to condemn Robertson for the failed save that gave the Rays their only win of the series, but Soriano simply has much more experience closing games. Robertson is great in the 7th and 8th innings, and perhaps he’ll be a future All-Star closer. But for now, I’d rather go with experience at the end of the game and ensure that the 7th and 8th innings are covered. It’s tough because I think very highly of Robertson, but his ability to weave in and out of trouble plays better in the earlier innings than it does the 9th. Soriano is being paid like a closer, and it would be easier to fill his setup role than it is Robertson’s.
When I first heard Friday’s pitching match-up was Seattle’s King Felix against Hiroki Kuroda, I wasn’t sure what to think. Felix Hernandez is among the best pitchers in baseball and Kuroda has been inconsistent since his arrival in the AL. But it turned out to be one of Kuroda’s better performances as the Yankees defeated the Mariners, 6-2. The game did see a home run from former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero. I hope this is not a sign of things to come. It was never fun watching Jay Buhner taunt the Yankees after they traded him to Seattle, and I was glad when Buhner finally retired. But now, with Montero in Seattle, it is Buhner revisited as I am sure he’ll become the latest Yankee killer.
I was relieved to see the Yankees option Eduardo Nunez to minor leagues after his continued errors. I am not sure what he can do to improve his fielding but I’d rather see him work on it in the minors rather than at Yankee Stadium. Nunez’s exit meant the return of Eric Chavez from the DL, which is good for Alex Rodriguez.
I am anxious to see what Andy Pettitte is able to do on Sunday. Based on his late start in the minors, he didn’t appear ready. But then again, with a professional like Pettitte, you can’t really judge his performance in a minor league game. Andy knows when he is ready and he would not have accepted the advancement back to the Bronx if he didn’t feel that he was ready for major league hitters. I was listening to John Smoltz on ESPN Radio today and he said that it would probably take 3-5 starts for Pettitte to get back up to speed. I am sure that Joe Girardi will have David Phelps on call during Pettitte’s starts in case he needs long relief, but I am hopeful that Andy can keep his team in games while he works his way back. At any rate, best of luck to Andy on Sunday!
Billy Beane’s working the bargain bin once again…
What’s Brandon Inge good for? All he does is hit grand slams! Seriously, it is good to see Inge start off his Oakland A’s career in grand fashion. I haven’t followed the Detroit Tigers closely this season but admittedly I was very surprised when Inge received his release from the Tigers. He had been such a mainstay in Detroit over the years, and was always there to fill a need. From afar, he seemed to be the consummate professional. After he was cut by the Tigers, I didn’t expect him to be unemployed for long and of course the A’s signed him shortly thereafter.
When I first heard this morning that Inge had hit a grand slam, I thought they were referring to the one a few days ago. But he had hit his second slam in three days on Friday. If getting hits had been a problem in Detroit this year, Inge doesn’t seem to have the same affliction in the Bay Area.
Hopefully, this is a start of good things for Inge in Oakland….
Role model for not how to act…
I have never been a fan of Josh Beckett. I may be a Yankees fan, but there are players on the Red Sox roster that I respect. Beckett just isn’t one of them. Beckett played a key role in the September swoon that cost the Red Sox a play-off spot last season and he showed no remorse for his actions. So, it should come as no surprise that Beckett was dismissive of the public’s negative perception of his decision to play golf after missing a start due to a lat muscle. Regardless of whether he was physically able to play golf is not the issue, it is the negative perception that it created in the minds of the Red Sox Nation as well as the rest of the country.
I agree with the backlash against Beckett. His comments after getting pummeled by the Cleveland Indians last night came across as very smug. His comment that he only gets 18 days off a year was ridiculous. If baseball isn’t important to him, then he should return his $17 million annual salary to the Red Sox. I just don’t understand why he couldn’t say something like he was physically feeling well enough to play golf and the golf swing had no impact on the muscle soreness that he had been experiencing, and he was sorry for putting himself ahead of the team. I know that’s just not Beckett’s personality, but these types of incidents are creating a wedge between Beckett and the RSN. I’ve heard some say that the next time Beckett racks up 13 strikeouts or throws a shutout, all will be forgiven. Perhaps there’s some truth to it, but I don’t see Beckett ever fully repairing the damage he’s done.
I am surprised that Bobby Valentine is not saying much, but then again, he probably learned his lesson after he made negative remarks about Kevin Youkilis. Or maybe Bobby doesn’t want to completely alienate his pitcher, given how critical he had been of Beckett when he was part of the media.
Beckett deserves much credit for the success the Boston Red Sox have enjoyed in recent years, but he is doing his best to put a sour note on his legacy.
After being sacked on third down, Vikes toss a Hail Mary…
Congratulations to the Minnesota Vikings and the city of Minneapolis, as well as Vikings fans everywhere, for the passage of the $975 stadium deal through the Minnesota House and Senate. This has been an incredible roller coaster ride for years. Just a couple of weeks ago, it looked as though all might be lost. Then , NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell came to Minnesota, and helped to reignite talks. The bill still has to be signed off by the governor, but that’s a foregone conclusion as he’s been in support of a new stadium. I am glad to see that the Vikings will be staying in Minnesota and won’t be a flight risk to Los Angeles.