Prize Fight between Betances and Levine called off…
The Yankees avoided an off-the-field fight yesterday when they signed all of their arbitration-eligible players to one-year, non-guaranteed contracts, including Dellin Betances who lost his fight at the arbitration table last year. It sparked angry (and, in my opinion, unnecessary and ridiculous) words from Yankees Team President Randy Levine. This year, Betances gets the $5 million he sought a year ago when Levine said that “five million dollars goes to elite closers, people who pitch the ninth inning and have a lot, a lot and a lot of saves.” Personally, I think Betances will rediscover the magic and will resume his role as one of the elite setup artists in baseball. He is worth the money, regardless of what Levine may think.
|Photo Credit: Anthony J Causi, New York Post|
I was glad to see the Yankees stayed a couple of dollars shy of the $29.4 million total projected by MLB Trade Rumors. Not that MLB Trade Rumors is the foremost authority, but they were fairly accurate in their projections.
Here are the actual one-year settlements for the arbitration-eligible players:
Didi Gregorius, $8.25 million
Sonny Gray, $6.5 million
Dellin Betances, $5.1 million
Adam Warren, $3.315 million
Aaron Hicks, $2.825 million
Tommy Kahnle, $1.3125 million
Austin Romine, $1.1 million
Chasen Shreve, $825,000
Total: $29.2275 million
Gregorius accepting $750,000 less than his projected amount of $9 million was the difference-maker in bringing the total for all players under $29.4 million. Gregorius has one more year of arbitration before he hits free agency. I really hope the Yankees look to lock him up on a new long-term deal next off-season rather than wait for him to hit the free market. Same with Sonny Gray.
Yu had me at…
Following the Yankees’ ‘did they or didn’t they’ make an offer to free agent pitcher Yu Darvish is funny. Earlier in the week, Michael Kay reported on his show the Yankees had offered Darvish a 7-year contract for $160 million. On Twitter, Darvish responded “They don’t give me offer yet”. Darvish subsequently clarified his position with “Sorry guys. My mistake. Actually they did make offer the numbers are not correct.”
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
Nothing against Darvish, I like the pitcher, but I wouldn’t want to devote in excess of $20 million per year to the pitcher even if the Yankees could somehow find a way to move Jacoby Ellsbury and his heavy contract or trade someone like Brett Gardner or David Robertson. Yesterday, Dodgers Nation posed a question to their fan base if they wanted the Dodgers to re-sign Darvish. The immediate reaction was negative, with many lingering feelings of disappointment and resentment over the awful World Series performance given by Darvish. Not that I feel a couple of poor (very poor) starts should define Darvish, but the October Stage is not made for everyone. It was a red flag that Darvish might not be a guy who can elevate his game when the stakes are at their highest. If money was no object, then I’d gladly be willing to accept Darvish on the team. But in the grand scheme of things for a team trying to stay under $197 million, the money is better served in other areas.
Please Keep Numbers 29 and 77 Ready…
We are now only a month away before pitchers and catchers report to training camp in Tampa, Florida. With so many free agents still available, it would seem that we’ll be playing exhibition games before some big names know what jerseys they’ll be pulling on. I continue to preach for the Yankees to re-sign Todd Frazier to a two-year deal to take third base and provide backup support at first for Greg Bird. Of course, I’d also trade Brett Gardner despite his leadership qualities and status as the most tenured Yankee to open up a significant role for Clint Frazier. So, my views are obviously ‘Up goes Frazier(s)’.
|Photo Credit: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters|
I thought we’d see more baseball activity last week than we did. Admittedly, it seems like I feel that way every week yet we continue to hear crickets. Yes, the Mets re-signed Jay Bruce but the off-season continues to move along very slowly. I don’t believe owners are guilty of collusion. I think this year has been a wakeup for owners who do not want to give extended contracts to guys and end up with ‘Jacoby Ellsbury-like’ situations on your hands. Plus, you have the added factor that MLB’s two biggest spenders are furiously trying to keep payroll under $197 million. I am hopeful the current sluggish market conditions bring quality third base help to the Yankees.
R.I.P. to a Legendary Sportcaster…
I am very sad to hear the news of the passing of retired sportscaster Keith Jackson. Growing up in the 70’s, he was the premier voice of College Football and so many other top sporting events to me. His style and grace were legendary qualities. So many times in my life I’ve said “Whoa, Nellie!”, thanks to Jackson. He passed away Friday night in the Los Angeles area, where he made his home. Farewell, Keith. May you rest in peace. Heaven has gained a tremendous Angel and we will miss you.
|Photo Credit: LA Times|
Have a great long weekend, Yankees family! Go Yankees!
|Credit: Kathy Willens-AP|
Brewers 9, Yankees 4…
In a game that should have been about young Aaron Judge shattering a mark long held by the great Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, Tyler Clippard torched a chance at yet another win as the Yankees fell to the Milwaukee Brewers.
We have gone from hoping the starters can successfully get the game to the bullpen to “OMG Joe, don’t take ‘the starter’ (insert name) out!”.
But first, Aaron Judge. With his 30th home run of the season, Judge broke the Yankees season record for most home runs by a rookie which has been held by Joe DiMaggio since 1936. The homer, a shot to center off Brewers reliever Josh Hader, traveled 432 feet. Judge has reached base in 37 consecutive games that he started, the only blemish being a recent unsuccessful pinch hit appearance. He is also only one of three Yankees to ever have 30 home runs by the All-Star Break (joining Roger Maris who had 33 in his historic 1961 season and Alex Rodriguez who had 30 in 2007).
|Credit: Mike Stobe-Getty Images|
As for the game, it was a bend and mostly not break performance for Jordan Montgomery. He worked out of a potential run scoring opportunity for the Brewers when they had two on with no outs in the second inning and got out of the inning by striking out Keon Broxton with a runner at third.
With one out in the bottom of the second inning, Didi Gregorius lined a sharp fly ball to right but right fielder Domingo Santana made a slight turn in the wrong direction that caused him to miss Didi’s ball as it glanced off his glove for an error. Didi ended up at third on the play. Clint Frazier followed with a sacrifice fly and it was 1-0 Yankees.
The Brewers finally got to Montgomery in the 4th inning when Ryan Braun opened with a double and Jesus Aguilar homered to right as the Brewers took the 2-1 lead. The Yankees came right back in the bottom of the inning when Didi Gregorius reached first base on another fielding error and Ji-Man Choi, providing something that we have rarely seen from the team’s first basemen…production, homered in the rain to right. “Track, Wall, See Ya!” courtesy of Michael Kay. The Yankees had re-taken the lead with the second deck towering blast, 3-2.
The rain started coming down in buckets and the game moved into a delay. When play resumed in the top of the 5th, Montgomery got into trouble again when Orlando Arcia and Jonathan Villar hit consecutive one-out singles. I am sure the rain delay factored into his performance. Tyler Webb was brought in to replace Monty and he induced Domingo Santana to hit into an inning-ending double play. For the game, Monty went 4 1/3 innings, giving up 7 hits and the two-run homer. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out 4 in the eventual no-decision. In the bottom of the inning, Judge led off with his historic home run. 4-2, Yankees.
Webb was back out on the mound in the top of the 6th. He walked Ryan Braun on a 3-2 count and former Red Sock Travis Shaw followed with a double to push Braun to third. Then, in a move that brought a groan from me, Manager Joe Girardi pulled Webb and brought in the flammable Tyler Clippard. A wild pitch allowed Braun to score and Shaw to move to third. Jesus Aguilar lofted a fly to center that scored Shaw and the game was tied.
The Yankees were unable to do anything in the bottom of the 6th as Josh Hader and the Brewers struck out the side.
With another groan when I saw Clippard back out on the mound for the 7th, any optimism I had was quickly evaporating. With one out, Clippard walked Jonathan Villar and Domingo Santana. A fly out by Ryan Braun moved the runners to second and third. Clippard issued an intentional pass to Travis Shaw and the bases were loaded for the only reliever who is worse than Dellin Betances right now. Jesus Aguilar, loving every minute of Yankee Stadium, took advantage of the opportunity and destroyed the Clippard offering for a grand slam with a blast to center (his second homer of the night). I know that Girardi was trying to avoid using Chad Green or Adam Warren, but Clippard should have never been the guy on the mound at that point in the game. When I fire up the grill, I don’t use lighter fluid, I just throw pics of Clippard on the charcoal and flames erupt.
Girardi pulled Clippard at that point, but his replacement, Chasen Shreve, had the Clippard-Betances Syndrome and gave up another run with the first two men he faced. A double by Hernan Perez and a single by Manny Pina (who?) which scored Perez. The Brewers had the 9-4 lead and coasted to the four-hit victory. Clippard (1-5) took the loss with his fifth blown game.
The Yankees (44-40) are on the fast track for third place in the AL East. The Boston Red Sox beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 8-3, to pad their lead by 4.5 games. But even with the loss, the Rays are just a game behind the Yankees.
Brett Gardner had four walks in the game but wasn’t able to do anything with the free passes. He was caught stealing third in the 3rd inning. Clint Frazier, in addition to the sac fly RBI, had a triple in the 8th with one out, but was left stranded.
I remember back in the good old days when the Yankees bullpen meant a complete shutdown of the opposition’s offense. I miss those days…
Odds & Ends…
When an “unnamed Yankees insider” speaks, it always sounds exactly like the words are coming out of the mouth of Yankees Idiot…sorry I mean…President, Randy Levine. The “insider” told The New York Daily News, speaking about Greg Bird, that “You have to wonder what’s with this guy. You’d think with Judge and Sanchez, the guys he came up through the system with, doing so well up here, he’d want to be part of this. Apparently not.” I may be frustrated that Bird has been unable to get back on the field with his ankle injury but I do not blame the player. If he feels that he is not 100% and would be a liability on the field, I will not fault him for trying to find pain relief and good health before he returns. Bird responded “I want to play. I’ve always wanted to play since I can remember. I love baseball. For me, I’m doing everything I can to come back. I love it and I want to be playing with these guys. I would hope people see it”. I see it and wish that Levine would shut the h*ll up…
Bird will consult with Dr Martin O’Malley, a foot and ankle surgeon, on Monday. So, we should have clarity on whether or not he’s lost for the season soon. This is shaping up to be two consecutive lost years for the young slugger.
|Credit: Seth Wenig-AP|
Matt Holliday and Starlin Castro are now expected to rejoin the Yankees when they open the second half next week in Boston. Holliday is going to start a rehab assignment today. Castro bowed out of the All-Star Game and in a move that was a little bittersweet (for me) to take, Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners was named as his replacement. Nothing against Cano as I still think he’s a good player, but it’s a reminder of the sting I felt when he left in free agency.
In a surprise move today, the Yankees have optioned Jordan Montgomery and Luis Cessa to Triple-A and have recalled relievers Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder. I can only assume that the moves were made to strengthen the Yankees bullpen in light of Clippard’s meltdown. Montgomery will be back after the All-Star break.
Have a great Saturday! A new day and a new opportunity to win a game. Let’s Go Yankees!
|Credit: Ben Margot-Associated Press|
A’s 7, Yankees 6…
I am not gonna lie. This has been a tough week with games that don’t start until after 10 pm EDT and a series of losses that could have been wins if not for bullpen breakdowns. Aroldis Chapman is within our sights yet he seems so far away as the bullpen provides loss after loss. Sunday cannot get here quick enough.
This was another game that saw the Yankees fight back after falling behind early. The A’s jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning but the Yankees answered with a three-run homer by Aaron Judge in the top of the 3rd, his 23rd HR of the year.
|Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports|
They picked up single runs in the 5th through 7th innings, including a solo shot by Chris Carter in the 6th, to take a 6-4 lead.
In the bottom of the 7th, with Chasen Shreve on the mound, the A’s picked up a run on a sac fly by Chad Pinder. Jonathan Holder replaced Shreve for the 8th, but a walk, double and intentional walk, which loaded the bases, set the stage for A’s rookie third baseman Matt Chapman to deliver the game-winning hit with a two-run single.
A’s closer Santiago Casilla struck out three of the four batters he faced to seal the 7-6 victory for Oakland.
Aside from the disastrous second inning, Luis Severino pitched well. He went six innings, allowing four hits, runs, and walks. He struck out six. He banged his knee against a locker prior to the game but didn’t attribute it as a cause for his early struggles. Jonathan Holder (1-1) took the loss with a pitch that was supposed to be in the dirt but was left where Chapman could emerge as the victor with the winning hit.
With a starting lineup that included Rob Refsnyder, Mason Williams, Austin Romine, and Ronald Torreyes, I was concerned about this game from the start. Nothing against those guys, but the players who sat (Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius) are heavy artillery. Hopefully everyone is feeling a little healthier and/or rested today.
The 8th inning has been a major problem area with Dellin Betances as the designated ninth inning guy. It will be nice to have Betances back to provide the late setup coverage when Chapman returns. For all the bullpen failures, Betances has stood alone as the bright spot. Note to Yankees Prez Randy Levine, Betances is worth more than $3 million. Pay him, you blithering idiot.
While the Yankees (38-27) were losing to the American League’s worst team, the Boston Red Sox were beating its best (2-1 victory over the Houston Astros). So, the Red Sox have pulled to within one game of the Yankees in the AL East standings. All the other AL East teams lost. The Yankees have now lost four in a row, a new season high, after snapping their six-game winning streak in Anaheim.
Odds & Ends…
Prior to Friday’s game, the Yankees made a few roster moves. The injuries to Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks forced their hand. With both players day to day, a trip to the DL doesn’t make sense for either guy. So, roster help had to come from other areas. Adam Warren, dealing with a sore trapezius muscle, was moved to the DL and Giovanny Gallegos was returned to AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Kyle Higashioka was recalled to back up Austin Romine while Sanchez is dealing with his tight groin muscle, and Mason Williams was elevated to provide the Yankees an additional outfielder to help offset the temporary loss of Hicks. Necessary moves, but ones that weakened an already strained bullpen.
Speaking of Aroldis Chapman, the results of his final rehab tune-out at AA-Trenton were less than ideal. Chapman started the Thunder’s game on Friday against the Erie SeaWolves. He threw 20 pitches (his pitch limit). While he struck out two in pitching 2/3rd’s of an inning, he walked two and threw two wild pitches which allowed the SeaWolves to score a run. The Thunder eventually won the game, 4-2. After the game, Chapman, through an interpreter, said, “I felt good out there. I know my command wasn’t 100%, but I felt really good. The good thing is I know I am going to come back strong.” I hope so as the Yankees need a strong and healthy Chapman now more than ever.
|Credit: Greg Slaboda-The Trentonian|
It does not sound good for first baseman Greg Bird. He met with the Yankees team physician and had a CT scan and MRI for his knee and ankle on Friday. He’ll meet with Dr Bob Anderson in North Carolina for a second opinion. It’s starting to look as though this will be another lost year for Bird.
Yesterday saw a nice Triple A debut for starting pitcher Domingo Acevedo. He pitched 7 innings of three-hit ball in the RailRiders’ 8-1 win over the Buffalo Bisons. He gave up only one run, and struck out four. Walks were high (five) but it was a great start for Acevedo. Gleyber Torres was 3-for-4 in the game with a run scored.
Have a great Saturday! Please let today be the start of a new winning streak. Go Yankees!
Yankees Baseball is back!
Okay, it’s only spring training but it’s great to see the Pinstripers take the field again.
Credit: Butch Dill, USA TODAY Sports
Yesterday, the Yankees won their spring training opener over the Philadelphia Phillies, 9-4, at Steinbrenner Field. The game featured a monster home run by right fielder Aaron Judge that bounced off the scorecard. Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa, in competition for rotation spots, both pitched two innings of scoreless, no-hit ball. Granted, spring training games mean absolutely zilch at this point but after a winter that saw Boston gain the premier pitcher in the American League (Chris Sale) and a NFL championship, it is time to turn the page.
The spring opener also featured a triple by Clint Frazier, scoring two runs in the eighth inning. Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t play (the only regular not in the starting lineup), but I couldn’t help but wonder how much better Frazier would look in centerfield than Ellsbury. Patience, young Grasshopper, patience…
It’s early, but Matt Holliday’s veteran influence on the team is showing. When Holliday first arrived in the Major Leagues with the Colorado Rockies, he had guys like Todd Helton and Larry Walker to look up to. He has said that his former teammates Mark Sweeney and Todd Greene were also crucial to his development both on and off the field. Holliday comes from a baseball background. His father, Tom, was a long-time assistant coach with Miami (FL), Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Texas, NC State, and Auburn. Tom Holliday also served as head coach of Oklahoma State from 1997-2003. Matt’s brother Josh is the current head coach of Oklahoma State. Matt understands the value of mentorship and is setting the example that will be replicated and paid forward by the current Baby Bombers for years to come.
When it was the announced the Yankees had signed free agent slugging first baseman Chris Carter, there was some question where he would fit in. The Yankees already have Matt Holliday at DH, with plans to rotate other players through the role as a form of rest. At first, the Yankees have starting favorite Greg Bird and last year’s boy wonder junior in Tyler Austin. One sportswriter (I do not remember who) wrote that these things have a way of working themselves out. Subsequently, Austin broke his foot and will be lost for six weeks. This certainly opens the door for Carter to make an impact at first, even if he isn’t the starter (and is a sub-standard fielder). But, man, those long home runs are going to look beautiful in Yankee Stadium.
Early Season Loss…
I guess there’s a reason the Yankees try to avoid going to arbitration with their players. It is never a joyous process. When the Yankees offered $3 million for Dellin Betances but he wanted $5 million, the gap was too wide for compromise. It set the stage for a contentious arbitration battle between player and team. After Betances had to sit through 90 minutes of hearing about his faults, the arbitrators ruled in favor of the team. Betances is certainly worth $5 million but that’s not how the process works. He’ll eventually get his money. It would have been best if the two sides had said nothing following the arbitrators’ decision, but Yankees team President, bad hair and all, had to hold a press conference to berate the agents for Betances. It was a very poor decision by Levine, an experienced labor attorney.
It’s possible that Levine’s actions will make future contract negotiations with Betances and his agents very difficult and may eventually lead to Dellin’s departure. I am not a fan of Levine, and feel the team would be better served promoting GM Brian Cashman to President, Baseball Operations, and hiring a new general manager.
Off-Topic: Mayans MC…
As a fan of the TV series Sons of Anarchy, I am excited that a pilot spinoff series about SOA’s rival motorcycle club, the Mayans, is currently in development. The pilot episode will be filmed in March. FX has not announced that Mayans MC will be part of its fall lineup but that’s the hope.
After months of only hearing that SOA creator Kurt Sutter was writing the new Mayans MC series with Elgin James, and that Sutter would direct the pilot episode, the casting decisions are starting to be announced.
The first name was Edward James Olmos who will play the father of the protagonist, a young prospect in the Santo Padre Chapter (Mexi-Cali border) of the Mayans MC. Olmos’ character, Felipe Reyes will have at least two sons. The lead character is Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (the prospect) and will be played by JD Pardo. The other son, Angel, will be played by Clayton Cardenas, and is a full-patch member of the MC.
The President of the Santo Padre Chapter is Esai “Taino” Osorio, who will be played by John Ortiz. The Osorio character has history with original SOA character Marcus Alvarez who was the president of the Northern California chapter of the Mayans (played by Emilio Rivera).
I am excited for this series and hopeful that it reaches its goal of making the fall TV lineup. The casting decisions, so far, have been excellent, and I am looking forward to seeing who they cast in the female roles (primarily the woman that EZ Reyes loves).
After the misstep with The Bastard Executioner, I am glad to see Sutter return to the genre and world that has served him so well. There will never be another show like Sons of Anarchy, but hopefully the Mayans MC can make its own mark.
Some words are better left unsaid…
I was disappointed that the Yankees could not reach agreement with Dellin Betances before proceeding with the arbitration hearings. It’s never good when a player has to sit in a room to hear about his faults. It’s hard to walk away without some residual adverse impact. Once it was determined there was no common ground, the Yankees cannot be faulted for allowing the arbitration to proceed. It is just a very unfortunate situation.
Credit: Andrew Savulich, The New York Daily News
The Yankees, based on prior arbitration cases, were probably fairly confident they would prevail. The gap of $2 million may not have seemed to be great, but in terms of the dollars it could eventually cost the Yankees on new deals with Betances or the precedent it would have set could have been very costly in the grand scheme of things.
Yet, it was absolutely out of line for Yankees President Randy Levine to gloat after the arbitrators announced Betances would be paid the Yankees offer of $3 million rather than his request for $5 million. Levine’s comments that Dellin’s $5 million request was “over the top” and “not based on reality” were unnecessary and ultimately inflammatory. If Betances had any lingering hard feelings before, they’ve multiplied. Given Levine’s extensive background in Labor Law, I am very surprised that he’d make those type of comments. The words do seem out of character for a Labor attorney. I’ve never been a big fan of Levine’s but it’s hard to dismiss his accomplishments which included work at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Reagan administration, former Labor Commissioner for New York City, and MLB’s chief labor negotiator during the negotiations for the 1996 MLB Labor Agreement.
So, maybe that’s why the unnecessary words that Levine spoke yesterday hurt even more. He, more than anyone, should have known better. There was no value in attacking Dellin’s attorneys, and the long-term impact is only harmful. If Dellin eventually walks away when free agency arrives, we’ll be able to look back at this day as the first nail in the coffin.
There are some guys in the Yankees executive management team that you want to keep away from talking to the media. Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner is one, but you can certainly add Levine to the list. Levine has been the Yankees president since 2000 but maybe it’s time to bring in a younger, more open-minded replacement. If I owned the Yankees, I would probably promote Brian Cashman to President, Baseball Operations, hire a new general manager, and show Levine the door.
Goose being Goose…
Every spring, Rich “Goose” Gossage shows up and makes statements that sound like he’s been smoking too much weed in Colorado. His remarks in training camp that he cannot be compared to “one inning” closers like Aroldis Chapman and Mariano Rivera was absurd to say the least.
Nevertheless, I felt Brian Cashman’s comments were perfect when he said that he had more important things to think about like drinking his cup of coffee and working on his tan. That’s exactly how I take anything Goose has to say.
I loved the guy when he was the Yankees closer, and he was arguably my favorite Yankee (after the unfortunate loss of the beloved Thurman Munson).
Goose is only trying to draw reactions with his words. He played during a different time, and it’s very hard to compare the challenges he faced in the 70’s and 80’s to modern times. The game has evolved. Despite nearly 500 more career innings than Rivera, Goose had barely more than half of the total career saves. Goose was a great Yankee for 6 years. Rivera was a great Yankee for 19 years. Rivera’s number (42) would have been retired even if MLB hadn’t retired the number league-wide for the great Jackie Robinson. Last time I checked, Goose’s number (54) is neatly placed on the back of current closer Aroldis Chapman.
Goose just needs to enjoy his time in Florida before he hops on a plane to travel back to his favorite Cannabis shop in Colorado Springs…
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!