Happy New Year to all Baseball Fans!…
January 1, 2014. Time to replace the calendars. With the arrival of the New Year, it brings optimism for baseball fans everywhere as they anticipate whether or not their team has done enough to ensure October success. Boston fans dream of a back-to-back championship, while others hope they can be the ones to de-throne the defending champs. In January, anything is possible, although arguably some teams have a much better chance than others.
As a Yankees fan, it has been a bittersweet off-season. The team finally made some bold moves after a couple of years of inactivity in signing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, but the loss of Robinson Cano will hurt. The team still has not done enough to improve the starting rotation nor has it repaired the losses in the pen.
I thought the Washington Nationals did a good job in bringing in Doug Fister for its starting rotation. He was a solid performer for the Detroit Tigers and he should help provide back-end stability for the frontline starters.
The Boston Red Sox did well in re-signing Mike Napoli. He is a great role performer and he seems to thrive in the Fenway environment, however, I am not sure that A.J. Pierzynski makes up for the loss of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I think they’ll be okay losing Jacoby Ellsbury if Jackie Bradley, Jr is able to take the next step up in his promising career. While it remains questionable whether Stephen Drew will be back or will be playing in Citi Field, any team would love to have Xander Bogaerts standing ready to take over the shortstop position. Regardless of what happens, I think the Red Sox will be a force in 2014 and won’t relinquish their crown easily.
The Minnesota Twins showed an unusual side in signing free agent pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, and bringing back Mike Pelfrey. They missed out on A.J. Pierzynski, but the signing of Kurt Suzuki will allow them to bring their young catcher, Josmil Pinto, along slowly in the major leagues as they replace Joe Mauer who has moved to first.
Among others, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland A’s, and the San Francisco Giants (in bringing Tim Hudson back to the Bay Area) have had productive off-seasons.
There are countless other major moves that have been made and other teams that have significantly enhanced their chances for winning, but the point is that January is a time of optimism. Spring Training looms on the horizon as this is the last full month before pitchers and catchers begin to report. Players, if they took time off for the holidays, are aggressively starting or continuing their off-season workout regimens. This is the time that will set in motion the attitudes and the chemistry that makes up each team. Baseball is not about having the most physically gifted team, it’s about the team that can do the most to maximize the synergy of the team and create a culture that is unwilling to accept losing.
It should be a fun season. It’s too early to form an opinion of the teams that stand the best chance as there are still some roster-changing moves that will be made before spring training breaks, but in the AL, you know that the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, A’s, and Angels will have a say in who wins and who loses.
I hope it’s a very happy and enjoyable New Year for everyone! Time to make new friends, create fantastic new opportunities, experiences, and memories. Time to get excited about the arrival of the upcoming Major League Baseball season. May the 2014 season bring you great satisfaction and enjoyment!
The Masahiro Tanaka Sweepstakes…
It’s been written that the New York Yankees are the favorites to sign prized Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but it’s really anybody’s guess where he will sign. Personally, I could see the Los Angeles Dodgers blowing away the competition, and they would certainly provide a main stage for Tanaka to perform. No offense to the Minnesota Twins, but I couldn’t really see a player with Tanaka’s potential playing in a small market. I would love to see Tanaka sign with the Yankees and I think Hiroki Kuroda would be the perfect mentor to help Tanaka’s transition to the United States. But the Dodgers have a strong history with Japanese players. The Texas Rangers may be players and you certainly cannot underestimate the Seattle Mariners or the Los Angeles Angels. The Tanaka decision will be made within the next three weeks as it has to be completed by January 24th, so it should be interesting to watch Tanaka’s tour and to see how much teams are willing to pay for his potential. Guys like Clayton Kershaw, with free agency looming in the not-so-distant future, have to love this, and it will help enhance the monetary packages it will take to sign or retain them with proven superior performance in the MLB.
If the Yankees lose out on Tanaka, I am not sure what a good Plan B will be. I’ve heard Ubaldo Jimenez’ name mentioned, but it’s not a guarantee that 2013 was a return to the promise he once held or if it was just an aberration and he’ll continue his prior downward slide. Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana. None of these names excite me. I am more hopeful that guys like Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos can come into training camp and make statements for why they should be the guys.
Roster moves await…
With the 40-man roster filled, and the signings of second baseman Brian Roberts or reliever Matt Thornton to be made official, it’s clear the Yankees will need to open roster space. Given the excess at catcher with the signing of Brian McCann, it’s fairly clear that either Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy could be moved. I think we’ll see the departure of Vernon Wells despite his salary friendly status thanks to the Angels. Even something free is not worth keeping if it has no value. As speculated, I could still see a trade of Ichiro Suzuki to a team like the San Francisco Giants. I have no problem with Zoilo Almonte taking the fifth outfielder role, particularly in light of his strong winter play.
I don’t think the Yankees have done enough yet, but I also do not think they are finished. I am confident that by the time training camp opens, the Yankees will have the collection of players capable of restoring the team’s 90+ win ability. Time will tell if they’ve caught up with their prime AL East competitors but at least with the Yankees, you know it won’t be for the lack of trying.
The words of Randy Levine…
Admittedly, I do not know much about Yankees president Randy Levine, but I am not impressed with the man. I wasn’t before the text messages between Levine and Alex Rodriguez were released and I am even less so now. Some of his comments come off as very unprofessional. I remember how vilified Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was by Yankees fans when he made his ‘Evil Empire’ remark and how hated he is, but I really do not see Levine as any better and very likely, much worse. At least Lucchino has overseen three world championships since 2004. The Yankees’ 2009 World Championship was more Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, among others.
Perhaps Levine is a great leader and effective in his role within the Yankees organization, but it is not apparent from the outside looking in. I can only shake my head when I see his text message comments. Aside from any of his words or how I may feel about the man, I strikes me as very odd that the president of the team would go direct to a player, bypassing the manager and the GM. Maybe it would help if more stories about Levine’s positives were written, but then again, they wouldn’t be interesting and wouldn’t sell papers. So, maybe we’ll never know the good the man potentially does. But as it stands, he just seems like a buffoon to me.
I hope the holiday season has been a very happy time for you and your families. Enjoy the New Year, and may good health, success, happiness, and prosperity be yours!
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 have to admit that I have never really taken the time to know or understand Yankees president Randy Levine. I took a dislike to him without really giving him a chance to prove himself. I don’t know if it was something he said or a certain look that he gave during a press conference or if I really had any reason at all. But within the last couple of weeks, I have gained a newfound appreciation and respect for Levine. A week or so ago, I was reading a column by one of the Yankees beat writers (I don’t recall which one) and it referenced that the writer had bumped into Levine and he made a comment about how easy and comfortable it is to talk with Levine. Somehow, I had expected him to be “standoffish” and arrogant. But today, when he stood up to Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg, he showed that he is the right man for the job.
The Bully has spoken…
As much as I love the Yankees and support their right to spend whatever is necessary to win, I admittedly have trouble warming up to Yankees president Randy Levine. I agree with Levine’s words: “We play by all the rules and there doesn’t seem to be any complaints when teams such as the Brewers receive hundreds of millions of dollars that they get from us in revenue sharing the last few years. Take some of that money that you get from us and use that to sign your players”, Levine said in an interview with ESPNNewYork.com in response to Milwaukee owner Mark Attanasio’s ongoing complaints about how much the Yankees spend. Per ESPN, the Yankees have paid out nearly $175 million in the last 7 years (92% of the total revenue sharing that has been paid out to teams).
I agree, in principle, with everything Levine has said, but he still comes across as a big bully. I don’t follow the business side of the Yankees as much as I do the playing side so maybe I just don’t know Levine. Or maybe this truly is the real Levine. Either way, I am not a fan of his…
After failing to see the much-needed clutch hit during Sunday night’s loss to the Red Sox, I could not help but notice Monday’s box scores:
Johnny Damon, Detroit Tigers (8-4 win over the Kansas City Royals)
2 hits (including a double); 2 runs; and 2 RBI’s
Hideki Matsui, Los Angeles Angels (6-3 win over the Minnesota Twins)
2 hits (including a solo home run); 1 run; and 2 RBI’s
Rose Palmisano/The Orange County Register
The four RBI’s could have come in very handy on Sunday night!
At least Melky Cabrera went 0-for-5 for the Atlanta Braves. Well, he did score a run. Ugh!
The Yankees captured their first win of the season with a 6-4 victory in Boston. The win evens the series, and sets up the getaway game as the deciding game in my latest wager with Julia of Julia’s Rants. It should be a great game with Andy Pettitte facing new Red Sox pitcher John Lackey. Hopefully, I will be arranging for the shipment of a book to the Boston area so that a friend of mine can begin her book assignment!
In tonight’s game, Nick Johnson did EXACTLY what he was signed to do…get on base. With the bases loaded in the 8th and the score tied 4-4, Nick worked a walk to bring in the go-ahead run. Robinson Cano added an insurance run with a solo homer in the 9th, but Nick Johnson was definitely the key to the rally.
Joba Chamberlain showed me that he is the 8th inning set up guy, and Mariano Rivera proved, yet again, he is a legend in our midst. I am sure it will be a very sad day when Mo walks off the mound for the final time. I have been very proud of him all these years, and he probably is my favorite Yankee.
It was not a great night for Boston’s Jon Lester but I am convinced this will be a big year for him. I may not be a Red Sox fan but I am a Jon Lester fan. Beckett and Lackey? Not so much…