October Baseball On Our Minds…
Everyone is talking like the New York Yankees are already in the World Series but I do not view (potentially) two games in Houston against the Astros to be a cakewalk. Tonight, the Yankees send their best (Luis Severino) against crafty veteran Justin Verlander who is very clearly a big game pitcher. If the Astros win tonight, they have to be viewed as the favorite for Game 7 in Minute Maid Park. We’re not in the Bronx anymore. But the Yankees have already defeated the best team in the American League in a best-of-five series and they are a single game away from reaching the Fall Classic. This Yankees team has incredible heart and a ‘no-quit’ drive like none other.
Regardless of what happens, I am very proud of the 2017 Yankees. Going into the season, it seemed like the experts were forecasting a .500 season at best. It was unclear if Aaron Judge or Aaron Hicks would win the right field job. Questions were abound about whether Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia had seen their better days. Or if Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius could continue their development in the middle infield. I was one of many uncertain if Luis Severino’s stronger future was in the starting rotation or the bullpen. The Yankees answered those questions (and more) and now stand one game away from the World Series. There is nothing that the Houston Astros can do to take away from the huge accomplishments achieved by the Yankees. This is a young team that is only going to get better. As the saying goes, ‘the future is so bright, I’ve got to wear shades!’
If the Yankees do make it to the World Series, they’ll be heading to Los Angeles next week. The Los Angeles Dodgers dethroned the Chicago Cubs last night to win the NLCS, 4 games to 1. The Dodgers throttled the Cubs, 11-1, behind the power of their utility outfielder. Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez put his name into the history books with three home runs and seven RBI’s as the Dodgers coasted to the victory behind the three-hit, one-run pitching of the great Clayton Kershaw over seven innings and three innings of scoreless relief from the bullpen. Kenley Jansen, the closer, is a stud, but where did Brandon Morrow come from? The one-time former closer of the Seattle Mariners and ex-Blue Jay has been ‘lights out’ for the Dodgers. He was 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 45 games this year, and in 4 games against the Cubs in the NLCS, he allowed only one hit, a walk, and no runs over 4 2/3 innings while striking out seven. There won’t be too many late inning rallies against the Dodgers.
For the Dodgers, their ten consecutive appearances in the post-season without a championship is the longest streak in MLB history. During that time, the Dodgers have been defeated in the NLCS four times, including last year on the very field they spilled champagne last night. This makes their eleventh appearance in post-season play since they defeated the Oakland A’s in the 1988 World Series.
The Managerial Musical Chairs…
Growing up watching the Yankees-Dodgers World Series (three times over five years from 1977 to 1981), it is very exciting and intriguing to think the Yankees might finally have the chance to avenge their loss in the 1981 World Series. Ironically, the 1981 Dodgers also had to get past the Houston Astros (in the NLDS) to reach the World Series. They defeated the Montreal Expos in the NLCS that year. The 1981 World Series was also the time when Owner George Steinbrenner allegedly got into an altercation with two Dodgers fans in the elevator of a Los Angeles hotel. Steinbrenner told reporters, “I clocked them. There are two guys in this town looking for their teeth and two guys who will probably sue me”. Steinbrenner was not sued and the two guys were never identified. Who knows if Steinbrenner really faced anyone in that elevator but the Yankees finally have the chance for redemption in the City of Angels if they can win one more game against the Astros (just one, let’s do it!). I am sure that the Boss would be very pleased.
The MLB Post-Season has certainly not stopped other teams from taking action, or at the very least, talking action.
The Detroit Tigers are expected to announce former Twins manager and current Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire as their manager later today (replacing the fired Brad Ausmus).
Ausmus remains a candidate for the job to replace John Farrell in Boston as the Red Sox manager, however, all reports indicate that current Astros bench coach Alex Cora is the likely choice. Cora is certainly getting a firsthand view of what he may be facing next year.
I personally think that it is a shame for current Chicago Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez hasn’t gotten stronger consideration for managerial openings.No word on the open jobs with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets, but former Yankees and current Mets hitting coach Kevin Long has emerged as a favorite for the post in Queens.
It remains to be seen if Yankees manager Joe Girardi returns next year. While one would think that it is a foregone conclusion that Girardi will be back with a new agreement in hand, it is also possible that family considerations could cause Girardi to walk away. I think the latter is a greater possibility if the Yankees lose the ALCS to the Astros. I continue to hope that Girardi and the Steinbrenner family come together on a new deal. I honestly do not see a better alternative currently available.
Have a great Friday! Like last night, let’s hope the road team is pouring champagne in the visitor’s clubhouse after the game. Go Yankees!
The first swing is a strike…
OK, I am bummed. Today’s news, aside from the fact that my beloved Minnesota Vikings and San Jose Sharks lost games, was the Boston Red Sox naming former Yankee Chili Davis as their new hitting coach. I had really hoped we’d see the return of Davis to New York to replace the departed Kevin Long. However, it is not meant to be. Not sure if Davis decided not to wait on the Yankees, or if they made a lower offer, or if Davis simply looked into the crystal ball and saw greater potential with the 2015 Red Sox hitters.
I wish Chili the best in his new job, and I am sure that he’ll be a huge benefit for Yoenis Cespedes given their prior success together in Oakland.
Where does that leave the Yankees? At this point, Dave Magadan is probably the strongest name on the board. Dante Bichette has been mentioned as a possibility. I have not kept up with Dante’s post-playing career, but he is an intriguing name given his close friendship with Manager Joe Girardi and his son is a prospect in the Yankees system. Another name that intrigues me is Jason Giambi. Not sure if he is ready to pull the plug on his playing days, but he’s obviously already moved into a mentoring role and would be a great guy for the position. With so many teams moving to the two hitting coach approach, I think the Yankees should follow suit regardless of who gets the job. A perfect combo might be Magadan with Hideki Matsui as his assistant hitting coach.
While I am disappointed that Chili Davis is no longer an option, I wonder if the team has already made its decision. Reports are that a new coach could be named by Tuesday which leads me to believe the Yankees have either made their decision or they’ve significantly narrowed the choices.
Hopefully next week brings some good news regarding Joe Girardi’s coaching staff. It’s funny. When your team is not in the World Series, you are anxious for the WS to end so that the Hot Stove League can begin.
Speaking of the World Series, I am pulling for the San Francisco Giants by default. My NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers but sadly they couldn’t make it to the NLCS. As a Bay Area resident, it’s not too hard to default to the Giants even if they are the Dodgers bitterest rival. It doesn’t matter that the Giants have that ‘been there, done that’ feel to them whereas the Kansas City Royals are returning to a stage they haven’t seen since 1985. I am ready for another Orange October…
The only non-dramatic series of the 2012 post-season…
Sadly, the 2012 season is over for the New York Yankees. But admittedly, I did not feel the team had the horses to win the World Series this year. I know, any team can get hot and take the championship (i.e., 2011 St Louis Cardinals), but the team’s hot and cold hitting pattern bothered me. As the saying goes, “good pitching beats good hitting” so the Yankees’ hitting problems are magnified in the play-offs as they continually face #1 or #2 type starters. If Robinson Cano had gotten hot, maybe it would have been different but no one rose to the challenge in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.
The ALCS loss by sweep was painful. For me, it probably ranks with the 1976 World Series when they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds. If memory serves, they won the World Series the following two years so I guess there is hope for next year! Well, maybe not. But all things considered, I’d rather be embarrassed on the ALCS stage than the World Series. That’s probably awful to say because who wouldn’t want their team in the World Series and I am no different. But I wouldn’t want to see the Yankees looking as pathetic in the World Series as they did in the ALCS if that makes any sense.
The 2013 season – optimism or pessimism?…
On the heels of Derek Jeter’s successful ankle surgery that will have him out for 4-5 months, there are reports that CC Sabathia will be consulting with Dr. James Andrews for his ailing left elbow. Apparently, the ligament is intact so there’s hope that either rest or minor surgery to shave the bone spur in his left elbow will be the cure. This definitely bears close watching over the course of the next few months. If CC is unavailable to pitch in 2013, the Yankees would be lacking a legitimate #1 starter. I have not heard how Michael Pineda has been doing, but he’ll be expected to help fill the void in the rotation regardless of what happens to CC, assuming that he is healthy. This was a difficult year for young Yankees pitching prospects, with injuries to Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, the latter of whom will be lost for 2013 due to Tommy John surgery.
The Yankees really need to do what it takes to ensure that Hiroki Kuroda returns for one more year, and hopefully, Andy Pettitte will decide to go for one more tour around the American League. With the Houston Astros moving to the American League in 2013, Andy would be assured of playing a few league games at home. It would be a great farewell tour with Andy pitching in Houston while standing on the mound with the interlocking N-Y on his hat.
Another year in, and I still don’t know what the Yankees have with Phil Hughes. At times, he is so promising, but others, such a disappointment. I am not sure that he can be trusted to be anything more than a #5 starter with his inconsistency. The Yankees have tough decisions to make on both Hughes and reliever Joba Chamberlain, two pitchers who have seemingly been intertwined since they arrived in New York.
I am concerned about Alex Rodriguez and the huge adverse impact of his contract on the team. The production no longer matches the pay, and of course, the pay prevents those dollars from being spent more wisely. The Yankees will have to settle for “less” in other areas, which will further handicap the team’s productivity. If the Yankees can find a way to move A-Rod, regardless of the cost, I would be in favor of it. I’ve never been a big A-Rod fan, and I would prefer to see his association with the Yankees eliminated.
I want the Yankees to re-sign Robinson Cano, but if the cost is a 10-year, behemoth mega-million contract, I am not so sure the team should go down that road. I am tired of these long-term deals where the player only performs to the level of the contract for the first few years. Cano’s silent bat in the play-offs also was a red flag for me. It’s disappointing because Cano has been one of my favorite players, but the future of an organization should not be tied to one or two players. The St Louis Cardinals are an organization that always seems to make the right decisions for the good of the team, and it has worked out well for them. They are a win away from the World Series despite letting one of the best hitters in baseball walk away last winter.
I do not want to be disrespectful of Derek Jeter and I recognize that he had a great 2012 season, but the fact remains that he’ll be a 39-year-old shortstop coming off ankle surgery heading into next season.
When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, it looked like a great signing…much better than the previous first base commitment to Jason Giambi. But after a great 2009 season, Teixeira has not been the feared hitter that I thought he would be. He has been great defensively, but never delivers the key, clutch hit. Those ice cold starts to begin seasons are getting longer and longer.
I do believe the Yankees need to re-sign catcher Russell Martin. I’d also like to see them either invest in a stronger back-up catcher or commit to Francisco Cervelli over Chris Stewart.
I had great respect for Eric Chavez when he was the starting third baseman for the Oakland A’s early in his career, and I’ve thought he was a great role player for the Yankees over the last couple of seasons. But now is the time for the Yankees to move on and find a strong, reliable third base option to spot A-Rod (or replace him if they can somehow find a way to move A-Rod to Miami or Phoenix).
In the outfield, I am hopeful the healthy return of Brett Gardner will be a positive. I have mixed feelings about re-signing Ichiro Suzuki. I thought he rebounded to have a very productive end of the season, but the Yankees are too full of guys nearing or at 40 years of age. A healthy Gardner can replace what the Yankees have in Ichiro…well maybe not the hitting ability, but all other components of his game. I like Curtis Granderson and even though he underperformed in the play-offs, I would still like to see his return. I’ve been a big fan of Nick Swisher, and have appreciated how his personality lightens the Yankees clubhouse. But right field is an area in need of improvement. If the Yankees can get Swisher to re-sign for a reasonable amount of dollars and years, maybe it makes sense to bring him back. But if his expectation is 5-7 years at dollars approaching $100 million, then the team should let him walk.
I am not in favor of bringing either Andruw Jones or Raul Ibanez back. Ibanez had some tremendous hits in the play-off series against the Baltimore Orioles, but the Yankees need to strengthen their bench with younger players who have greater upside.
I am glad to see the Yankees commit to both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi for the 2013 season. I think both, if given the resources and support, can bring the team back to championship level. At this point, the Yankees seem to be in an inferior position to the last place Boston Red Sox in terms of roster flexibility. The Sox ability to unload dead contracts on the Los Angeles Dodgers late in the season was huge. Now that the Sox have their guy as manager (John Farrell), there’s no doubt that we’ll see an improved Red Sox team next season. If the AL East was highly competitive in 2012, it will be even more so in 2013. The difference between first and last place could be which team makes the best decisions this off-season. The margin for error will be less than it has ever been.
I hate to be so doom and gloom, but the Yankees have much work ahead of them. Despite baseball’s highest payroll, they have a team comprised of older ballplayers that are experiencing the inevitable declines in production. The dollars committed to unproductive players like A-Rod and Teixeira are an albatross for a team that wants to reduce its payroll by 2014 to avoid excessive financial penalties. The Yankees do have the talent in the front office and certainly the resources to persevere so how they navigate the next few months will determine if the Yankees are a team of promise and destiny at the start of the 2013 or just another aging ball club that has seen its better years.
A fan of whatever team plays the Tigers…
Despite being an American League fan, it will be hard for me to cheer for the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. With the Cardinals holding a 3-2 advantage against the San Francisco Giants heading into tonight’s NLCS Game 6, my preference is for the Giants to somehow find a way to overcome. But if they are unsuccessful and the Cards advance to face the Tigers, I will pull for St Louis. Residing in the Bay Area, the Giants are a “hometown” favorite for me; while the Cardinals are a “sentimental” favorite (my first major league baseball game as a kid was in St Louis). Plus, as a fan of the Minnesota Vikings and San Jose Sharks, it would be tough for me to pull for any city that boasts the Lions or the Red Wings.
At this point, I am ready for the Hot Stove League to begin…
A funny thing happened on the way to the World Series…
While the Yankees have gotten good starting pitching, the one thing I knew they lacked will most likely be the reason that they will find themselves, once again, on the sidelines. Timely, clutch hitting. For whatever reason, when the Yankees bats go silent, bad things happen. After they were ousted last year by the Detroit Tigers, I felt the team needed to find some dependable, productive bats to help kickstart the offense during those lulls. The weakness does not get overly exposed in the course of a 162-game season, but in a short 7-game series, it most certainly does (particularly when your opponent is able to put baseball’s best on the mound for one or two appearances).
The Yankees made a few minor moves in the off-season, but nothing to help enhance the offense. Yes, they signed Raul Ibanez and he has had some great at-bat’s this post-season. But face it, he is not the player he was a few years ago with the Philadelphia Phillies. Ichiro Suzuki has been a positive but he was merely a replacement for what the Yankees had in Brett Gardner until he was injured.
When Robinson Cano is not hitting, there’s no one on the team that is capable of carrying the team on his back. A-Rod’s best days are clearly in the rear view mirror. Nick Swisher is a classic example of hot/cold, and Mark Teixeira is certainly not the feared slugger he used to be.
As I write this post, the Yankees trail the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, 2 games to none. They are down 2-0 in the 5th, and Phil Hughes has left the game with a back injury. Justin Verlander is the opposing pitcher (and the aforementioned “baseball’s best”). The mountain the Yankees have to climb seems impossible from my vantage point. Prove me wrong, I’d love it. But the Yankees hitters just do not match up well against Detroit’s pitchers. I was enjoying it earlier in the season when it looked like the Chicago White Sox might win their division, but they faded and allowed the team I feared most to make the play-offs. Well, I feared the Tampa Bay Rays too, but started their late season rally too late.
Maybe Cherington was right to the blow up his roster…
The Yankees cannot go into the upcoming off-season with status quo in mind. With Alex Rodriguez’s contract now becoming a huge albatross, what can the team do to overcome? Derek Jeter had a great season until his ankle injury derailed him. Can he put up another successful campaign next year. I wouldn’t bet against him, but the realist in me knows that he’ll be a 39-year old shortstop. At some point, the skills do start to erode. If the Yankees decide that Robinson Cano is not worth a behemoth contract, how do they fill second? At what point does Mark Teixeira become a liability? Those long, slow starts are becoming longer and slower as the years go by. All those questions and we havn’t even gotten out of the infield.
The Yankees and GM Brian Cashman have many difficult decisions ahead. Putting the 2003 All-Star Team on the field is not the answer. We need the 2013 or 2014 All-Star Team! Okay, that’s not realistic, but the Yankees need players with talent, ability and lots of upside. And, oh yeah, lots and lots of pitching.
George, are you there?…
Given that Hank Steinbrenner’s fingerprints were on the re-signing of Alex Rodriguez, maybe the first action of the off-season should be to neuter Hank and leave the critical decisions to Hal Steinbrenner. Or better yet, seek a medium (is John Edward available?) to consult with the spirit of George Steinbrenner.
It’s disappointing to watch the Yankees underperform on their way to a quick exit from the ALCS. Every divisional series went 5 games, and the NLCS has some fire to it. Meanwhile, the Yankees choke. C’mon, prove me wrong, I dare you…