Tagged: Terry Francona

The Ace, The Judge & The Split…

Credit:  Associated Press

Yankees 8, Indians 1…

For three games, it was the Cleveland Indians rolling out an ace.  Although Sunday’s game looked to be another pitching duel, the Yankees’ ace persevered and prospered as the Yankee bats woke up to power the Bombers to a series split.  The outburst of late runs were capped by Aaron Judge’s 35th home run of the season.  

Luis Severino started strong with two strikeouts to open the game, but then Michael Brantley got a hold of one and put it over the center field wall just beyond Jacoby Ellsbury’s reach.  Ells probably could have made a spectacular catch with a better timed leap but it was not meant to be and the Indians had the early 1-0 lead.  Sevy struck out Jose Ramirez to finish striking out the side, and recorded the first five outs of the game by strikeout.  

Credit:  Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer

With Sevy and Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco locked into a pitcher’s duel, the Yankees had a potential scoring opportunity in the top of the 5th when Todd Frazier and Jacoby Ellsbury both singled.  Ronald Torreyes grounded into a fielder’s choice for the second out which erased Ellsbury at second but Frazier moved to third on the play.  The speed of Torreyes prevented a double play.  Frazier was left stranded, like so many Yankee base runners before him, when Austin Romine struck out.  But it may not have been for naught as it showed signs that Carrasco was weakening.

With the pump primed in the 5th, the Yankees finally broke through against Carraso in the 6th inning.  Brett Gardner led off with a single to center.  Clint Frazier doubled to left, moving Gardy to third.  After Didi Gregorius popped out to third, Carrasco intentionally walked Aaron Judge after two balls below the strike zone to load the bases.  Chase Headley tied the game at one with a deep sacrifice fly to center which scored Gardner.  Todd Frazier walked on a full count to re-load the bases.  The $153 million man stepped to the plate and tripled to the base of the center field wall when Abraham Almonte lost sight of the ball, clearing the bases. It spelled the end of Carrasco’s day and Bryan Shaw was brought into the game.  Shaw was met with a single to left by Ronald Torreyes, which scored Ellsbury, and the Yankees had a 5-1 lead.

Credit:  Getty Images

With Mike Clevinger pitching the top of the 7th and one out, Clint Frazier walked on four pitches.  Didi Gregorius singled to center (a fly ball that fell in) as Frazier raced around to third.  Aaron Judge, who lost the MLB Home Run Lead over the weekend to Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, hit a line drive homer to center to score three more runs.

Credit:  Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer

In the bottom of the 7th, Luis Severino got the first two outs before giving up only his second hit of the game, a single up the middle to center by Edwin Encarnacion.  Manager Joe Girardi used it as an opportunity to pull Sevy and replaced him with Tommy Kahnle who recorded the out to end the inning. It was a brilliant performance by Severino (9-4). For 6 2/3 innings of work, he only allowed two hits and the one run off the first inning home run.  He walked a batter and struck out nine while lowering his season ERA to 2.91.

Credit:  Chuck Crow-The Plain Dealer

From there, the Yankee bullpen kept the two-hitter intact.  Both Adam Warren and Chasen Shreve pitched an inning of hitless relief to give the Yankees the win and a split of the four game series.  

The Yankees (59-51) stayed 3 games behind the Boston Red Sox with the win.  The Sox, winners of six consecutive games, beat the Chicago White Sox, 6-3, on Sunday.  The Tampa Bay Rays stayed 2.5 games behind the Yankees with a 2-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.  The Baltimore Orioles were also winners, 12-3 over the Detroit Tigers, so they remain 4.5 games in back of the Pinstripers.

Both Jacoby Ellsbury and Ronald Torreyes had two hits in the 12-hit Yankees attack.  Didi Gregorius was 3-for-5, raising his season batting average to .308.  With his home run, Aaron Judge became the 11th rookie to hit 35 homers in MLB history, although he did strike out three times in the game.  

After the game, Indians manager Terry Francona, one of my favorite managers, said “We got the one run early on Brant’s home run.  And the way Severino was pitching, we might have to make that hold up.  That’s as impressive of stuff as you’re going to see.  The fastball, everybody sees that, but he’s gaining confidence in an offspeed.  That’s a tough day at the plate.  That’s a tough guy to face.”  Nice job, Sevy!  Very nice job!

Odds & Ends…

After Sunday’s game, Manager Joe Girardi made his rotation decision when the Yankees optioned lefty Jordan Montgomery to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre which gave the fifth starter’s role to Jaime Garcia.  If the pitchers were auditioning over the weekend, Monty would have won in the head-to-head matchup with Garcia.  But the decision was based on experience, track record, and inevitably a potential innings limit on Montgomery.  It will probably be tough for Monty to go down to Triple A but he’ll be back in a few weeks when the rosters expand.  And of course he’ll be a prime candidate for the rotation entering 2018.  I think he’ll be a great influence on other young arms in Scranton, most notably Chance Adams.  

Credit:  Andrew Schwartz-NY Daily News

Speaking of Chance Adams, he picked up a win yesterday in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s 7-5 victory over the Pawtucket Red Sox.  Adams went six innings for the win, giving up 5 hits and 2 runs.  He struck out 5 and allowed one home run (a solo shot by Matt Dominguez in the 6th inning).  I was glad to see that he walked only one batter.  Both Aaron Hicks and Tyler Austin were 2-for-3 with 2 runs scored, while Miguel Andujar and Billy McKinney both had two-run homers.  Ji-Man Choi added a solo shot.  With the victory, the RailRiders swept the weekend series with the Red Sox.  

The Seattle Mariners acquired a Yankees rumored July trade target on Sunday when they traded minor league outfielder Boog Powell to the Oakland A’s for first baseman Yonder Alonso.  It’s probably the play of third baseman-turned-first baseman Chase Headley since the All-Star Break that prevented Alonso from donning the pinstripes.  Now Alonso gets to rub shoulders with Robinson Cano and Ben Gamel in the Mariners drive for a Wild Card spot. 

It was sad to wake up today to news that former Philadelphia Phillies catcher Darren Daulton has passed away after a four-year struggle with brain cancer.  Daulton, 55, was one of baseball’s toughest catchers during his time, and although he was a long-time Phillie, he won the World Series in his final season with the then-Florida Marlins in 1997 (as a trading deadline rental).  

Have a great Monday!  It may be a day off the Yankees as they make their way to Canada, but for us, it probably means back to work day.  Make the most of it.  Go Yankees!

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Wanted: Healthy (and productive) players who can stay healthy (and productive)…

 

The Year of the Disabled List…

Just as we start to get some of the regulars back to reinforce the over-achieving bargain bin replacements, Curtis Granderson is headed back to the bench for a month due to a broken pinkie suffered in Friday night’s Tampa Bay Rays game.  This season seems to prove the old adage that if it can go wrong, it will.  In Granderson’s case, each return to the DL almost solidifies that he is playing his final year in pinstripes.

Yesterday morning, I was reading an article about how the Yankees were trying to figure out how to rotate four outfielders into three spots.  The article seemed to imply that among Vernon Wells, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Granderson, Ichiro would be the odd man out given how strong Wells has played so far this year.  I guess Granderson’s pinkie came to the defense of Ichiro as it will keep him on the field for the foreseeable future.

I hope that Granderson’s return to the DL results in the return of Brennan Boesch who has been spending a few weeks at Scranton/Wilkes Barre.

I saw the Yankees have activated Ivan Nova.  I suppose that Nova now knows what it must have felt like to be Wally Pipp.  Granted, David Phelps is no Lou Gehrig but Phelps is clearly the better starting pitcher than Nova.  The battle for a spot in the starting rotation is no doubt between Nova and Phil Hughes.  I have watched enough of The Phil Hughes Show.  I am ready to change the channel even if that means putting Nova in his spot.  Of course, Hughes will probably go to another city and win a Cy Young but some guys just aren’t cut out for New York and I think Hughes is one of those guys.  Or it could be that he’s just not a good or consistent pitcher…

David Adams has been a pleasant surprise at third since his call-up from the minors.  When the Yankees placed him on waivers earlier in the season in order to remove him from the 40 man roster and return him to the minor leagues, I was surprised that he wasn’t claimed by another team.  He has always had potential and it is good to see him finally enjoy a cup of coffee in the big leagues.  I wonder how this bodes for Kevin Youkilis when he returns.  As well as Adams is playing, he does not deserve to be sent back down.  I like the idea of Adams and Youk at third so I am sure that Joe Girardi will find time for both.  My only disappointment will be when Alex Rodriguez returns.  I have truly enjoyed the time away and frankly I’d love it if A-Rod never returned.

Can Sox Blood Succeed in the Bronx?…

I would really like to see Austin Romine start to hit.  All of the reports indicate that his defense will ensure a career as a backup catcher and the difference in the ability to start is his offensive game which has been feeble thus far.  Everyone knows that Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli and Romine are just keeping the plate warm for the next couple of years until highly touted prospect Gary Sanchez arrives.  Still, I’d like to see ex-Red Sock Kevin Romine’s son succeed in the Bronx.

#23 deserves so much better than this…

I feel really bad for Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.  Going into the season with ridiculously high expectations, it was clear that this would be a very challenging season for Donnie Baseball.  His recent comments about the ill-construction of the team were on mark and were said in a very professional Donnie-like manner.  I see that the Dodgers executive team is giving Mattingly a vote of confidence, however, that’s never a good sign.  I still hope to see the day where Mattingly takes the field as Yankees manager, but I do not want to see him unceremoniously dumped in LA.  He is playing with the hand he was dealt.  I do not blame Mattingly for the Dodgers’ early season struggles as I feel that he is doing the best he can.  The blame should be placed on the GM and the ownership group.

Put a great manager in a good organization and see what happens…

It’s fun to see Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona having fun again.  He is another one of my favorite managers, even during his time in Boston.  He is 1-1 in the first two games of a four game set in Boston, but winning the first game had to be a thrill.  Here’s to hoping for more success for Tito on Saturday and Sunday.

I guess Larry Platt (aka “Pants on the Ground”) is unavailable…

I didn’t watch American Idol this past season (apparently I wasn’t alone), but I find the show’s choice of Jennifer Hudson to be a curious one.  I heard that they are also looking at Kelly Clark and Adam Lambert or Clay Aiken for the other two judge seats.  Interesting that they are only looking at their own homegrown talent.  I am not sure if it will be enough to bring the viewers back.  I am watching The Voice (and have from the start).  I like the chemistry among the show’s judges and their format is much more positive with a better focus on quality talent.  The show didn’t lose anything in judge chemistry with the substitutions of Shakira and Usher for Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green.  I think it is time to sunset American Idol and let the younger shows take the main stage.  Well, on the latter point, they already have…

–Scott

 

 

 

 

Bat, Ball and Feet…that’s all it takes!…

 

The House that Hal…allowed deferred maintenance…

The season is fully underway and the DL is standing room only.  2013 did not get off to a great start with the season series opening loss to the Boston Red Sox, in Yankee Stadium no less.  It was par for the course after an off-season that was satisfying, apparently, for Yankee ownership but not for its fans.

The series loss cost me my latest wager with former MLB Blogger Julia’s Rants.  As a penalty for the loss, I have to read Terry Francona’s autobiography and provide Julia with my report.  Had the Yankees won, she would have had to read Driving Mr Yogi, but it was not meant to be.  I have the Francona book and I need to open it but I guess I can procrastinate for another day.

Fortunately, after the series loss to the Red Sox and one to the Detroit Tigers, the Yankees have started to right the ship.  After tonight’s win over the Baltimore Orioles (which, by the way, included a triple play), the Yanks finally have a winning record for the season at 5-4.

Nevertheless, the injury concerns persist.  While the news lately has been positive about Mark Teixeira and his ability to return on or around May 1st, Andy Pettitte has postponed his next start due to back spasms.  This is unfortunate as Andy has been stellar out of the gate.  Hopefully, it is just a temporary setback and not indicative of a season long affliction.

I am not ready to climb on the ‘old guys are good’ bandwagon, but Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner have played better than I had anticipated.  The key is continuance and consistency so we’ll see.  Check back with me in June or July.  In a scenario where Wells and Hafner continue to hit, it will be interesting to see what the Yankees do when Curtis Granderson returns.  It’s fairly evident that the odd man out would be Ichiro Suzuki.

It was tough to see two games in Cleveland get rained out considering the Yankees did not have any further trips to Cleveland scheduled this year.  So, later on what would have been an off-day, they’ll have to play a double-header.  Hopefully it doesn’t come at a time when the team desperately needs a break.  I guess it could be worse.  I saw that tonight’s game in Minneapolis was in the 30’s.  Minnesota-cold is beyond cold in other parts of the country.  But throwing that aside, I do miss Minneapolis.  It was a wonderful city to live in…at least from my perspective.

As tough as the Yankees’ schedule is for April, I wouldn’t be surprised if they got swept at the end of the month by the Houston Astros…

How to destroy $147 million with a single shoulder blow…

I feel bad for Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.  Thanks to the stupidity of San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin, the Dodgers loose their $147 million investment (Zack Greinke) for eight weeks with a broken collarbone as a result of last night’s melee.  As if the pressure wasn’t already intense on Donnie Baseball, the loss of an ace will certainly hurt.  It’s rather disgusting that Quentin can get off with an 8-game suspension when he costs the Dodgers several months of one of their key pitchers.  I can completely understand why the Chicago White Sox ditched Quentin.

Random Pinstripe Thoughts…

Nothing against Lyle Overbay but I suspect his Yankees career will be fairly short.  Francisco Cervelli has done better than I had expected…so far.  I am still a proponent for getting Austin Romine into the position when he’s ready but I don’t think Cervelli has been a drop-off from his predecessor, Russell Martin.  I was glad to see Clay Rapada clear waivers and re-sign with the Yankees.  I am in favor of a long-term Yankees tour for Brennan Boesch.  Eduardo Nunez is not the solution for a post-Derek Jeter tenure.  Give Robinson Cano his money.  If Travis Hafner can hit like he did against his former team in other games, I will consider him an upgrade over former DH Raul Ibanez.  If not, why is Ibanez in Seattle?  Kevin Youkilis is as tough as advertised.  I can see why the Red Sox fans loved the guy.

Baseball, I am glad it’s back…

–Scott

 

$200 Million doesn’t buy what it used to…

 

Maybe the Yanks should be spending some extra cash on PowerBall…

I get that $200 million is a lot of money, and the Yankees have been the only team to play in that neighborhood “salary-wise” until the Los Angeles Dodgers joined the party.  But I am surprised to hear Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner making comments about the disbelief in fan reaction to the team’s non-activity outside of re-signing its key free agents.  Yes, that point is huge.  Re-signing Huroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and Andy Pettitte were essential to the team’s hopes for 2013 so I do not dispute the importance of the team taking care of those players.  While I like the signings of 3B Kevin Youkilis and DH Travis Hafner, there are huge injury risks prevalent with both players.  I could be wrong but I doubt either player gives the Yankees at least 140 games this year.

My point and frustration with the Yankees ownership is the loss of free agents catcher Russell Martin to the Pittsburgh Pirates and right fielder Nick Swisher to the Cleveland Indians.  Catching is left to a couple of career back-ups, including one recently associated with PED rumors, unless touted prospect Austin Romine can step it up and make his presence felt in the Bronx sooner rather than later.  In right field, the Yankees do have Ichiro but he’s not getting any younger.  He certainly won’t provide the pop that Swisher could.  He’ll make more happen on the base paths, but isn’t that what Brett Gardner is for?  Sometimes, a team needs to make a move to excite the fan base.  I do not equate that to throwing money away to satisfy the fans, but making calculated, smart moves that give the team something to build upon.

As it stands, the possibility the Yankees lose Robinson Cano to free agency is high.  Yes, ownership makes the comments about how they want him to be a Yankee for life.  However, I seriously doubt the organization is going to give an 8 to 10 year deal to a 30-year old veteran player even if he is the team’s best player.  We have A-Rod to thank for making ownership a bit gun shy, and rightfully so.  I think the single biggest detriment to keeping the Yankees from winning the World Series in the next few years is A-Rod.  If you could take those dollars and invest them in better, cheaper resources, the team would be much stronger and the goal of coming in under $189 million next year would be possible.

If catching is a debacle and the older Yankees show their age, this is going to be a very long season.  Personally, I think this will be Manager Joe Girardi’s most challenging year.  He’ll be riding the hot seat all year long, especially if the Yankees get off to a sluggish start in April.  It is a given that Mark Teixeira’s bat won’t show up until around Memorial Day so I am fearful the team will become too dependent on guys like Youk and Hafner which could overexpose them and increase the likelihood of injury.  Now would be the time for infielder Eduardo Nunez to step up in a huge way…

The argument can be made that every team in the AL East has the ability to play better than .500 ball, and all have the wherewithal to win the division outright.  My guess, at this point, is the division goes to the Toronto Blue Jays, leaving the Yanks, Red Sox, Orioles and Rays to fight it out for a Wild Card spot.

But it’s a long season, and there is always the potential the Yankees do make the necessary moves to ensure a strong chance for October success.

The Giambino back in the AL…

I saw a report this morning that former Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi has signed a $750,000 minor league deal and invitation to training camp with the Cleveland Indians.  It seems a bit strange to see Giambi on a team managed by Terry Francona, but if used in the right way, Giambi could help the Indians.  As the Toby Keith song goes, “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was”.  While I think Giambi should have retired, I am sure that he’ll begin his coaching career soon enough and it’s not a bad idea to learn a trick or two from one of the better managers in baseball.

It’s just a number…

Although the Yankees active roster on MLB.com has not been updated, it looks like Kevin Youkilis is going to wear #36.  I would have preferred to see the team dust off Jorge Posada’s #20 given that was Youk’s number in Boston.  I am not trying to be disrespectful to Jorge, but I’ve never been a big fan of retired numbers unless the guy was an absolute legend like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig.  Posada had a great career, but I simply do not put him in the same category with catching greats Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra or Thurman Munson.  With all the retired and reserved Yankee numbers, it is inevitable that many players will be joining Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain in the 60’s or higher.

Time to head to Florida and Arizona…

With all the snow Boston has received this weekend, it’s hard to believe that baseball training camps start to open this week.  It feels much more like baseball weather where I sit in California as temps are expected to reach the 70’s this week, but for my friends in Boston, I am hoping all are safe and warm.  It was a good thing that Truck Day happened before the weather emergency.  Even as a Yankees fan, I would never wish ill will on the Red Sox or their fans.  As they say, you have to beat the best to be the best and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.

Play ball!…

–Scott

 

Belated Congratulations for the AL East Championship…

 

All hail the Champions…

A quick post to congratulate the New York Yankees for winning the American League East Division Championship on the last day of the season.  Thanks to the Baltimore Orioles’ loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the division was a foregone conclusion when the Yankees completed their thrashing of the Boston Red Sox.  Still, I am glad that the team won on the day they clinched the division.  A loss on “clinching day” always seems so cheap.

Although it was disappointing the Yankees let a large lead slip, they definitely went into ‘bend but not break’ mode as they held at least a share of first throughout the O’s challenge in the final month of the season.  It was a constant back-and-forth…tied, then Yanks ahead, and then tied again.  But in the end, the team persevered.

A funny thing happened on the way to the World Series…

The big surprise to me on the last day of the season was the Texas Rangers’ failure to withstand a large charge by the Oakland A’s.  I remember looking at the standings in July and writing it off as a foregone conclusion that the Rangers would be the AL West champions.  In my mind, they were still the team to beat in the American League.  While I recognized the A’s had the spirited ‘don’t quit’ mentality, I still viewed them as inferior either the Rangers or the Los Angeles Angels.  This was a team that was throwing Triple A pitchers into the starting rotation in September.  All the way to Game 162, I fully expected the Rangers to take care of business.  But they failed, and were forced to play the one game Wild Card game against the Baltimore Orioles, which they subsequently lost.  Here was the team that was in my mind, the team most likely to go to the World Series and win it, yet they collapsed in the final two most critical weeks of the season.

The Rangers’ loss opens the door for all of the other AL play-off participants to advance to the World Series.  I can’t say there is a clear-cut favorite because even the Yankees, with the best record in the conference, have their share of questions.  The ALDS series format is odd given the first two games of the series will be held in the inferior team’s ballpark.  The Yankees are tied with the O’s late in Game 1 tonight but that always favors the home team with last at-bat.

It was real, it was fun, but it was not real fun…

I am not a Bobby Valentine fan, but I really do believe that firing Valentine was the best case scenario for the Boston Red Sox organization.  As a fan of an opposing team, I’d love for the dysfunction to continue, but the Red Sox fans deserve better.  I subscribe to the adage that ‘to be the best, you have to beat the best’ so I really hope the Red Sox can secure a manager who fits the organization and maximizes the potential and ability of its players.  I still think that recently named Phillies third base coach Ryne Sandberg would be an excellent fit, but maybe it is John Farrell despite the disappointing year in Toronto or other manager.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Respectful of the man who brought two World Championships to Boston…

Speaking of Boston, it was good to see former Red Sox manager Terry Francona return to the game as manager of the Cleveland Indians.  Even when he was the manager of the Red Sox, I had a great deal of respect for Tito.  I have long felt he was one of the game’s truly good guys.  Yes, that final year in Boston did get away from him, but there were so many factors and personalities at play, I feel it is unfair to pin all the blame on Tito.  I am looking forward to seeing what he can do in the Cleveland with his batteries recharged…

A few thoughts on the season…

  • Hey Albert, how did that first year in Los Angeles work out for ya?  Well, at least you have all those mega millions to enjoy your off-season while the team you bailed on continues the defense of its world championship…
  •  Miguel Cabrera has overcome those personal demons, I think…
  • Bryce Harper got the press, but Mike Trout is the stud…
  •  A.J. Burnett proved that he is the latest incarnation of Ed Whitson.  Wilt under the New York spotlight, but thrive in a smaller market with less glare…
  •  Melky Cabrera, disappointment is an understatement.  I respect the San Francisco Giants for their intention to cut ties with the Melk Man.  I really wouldn’t want to be the organization that extends him an olive branch.  In other words, I do not want to see Melky back in the Bronx.
  • How many more years are left on A-Rod’s contract?  Geesh, Jeter continues to pay dividends on his contract at age 38, while A-Rod just keeps making me think of that old Dire Straits’ tune “Money For Nothing”…
  • The Atlanta Braves may have made a quiet departure with their Wild Card loss to St. Louis, but there’s no question that the Braves will continue to be a force with those young pitchers…
  • Oh, Philadelphia Phillies, where for art thou?…
  • The American League Houston Astros?  That sounds so wrong!  But then again, I have finally accepted the Milwaukee Brewers as a National League team so I guess we’ll have to re-visit this in a few years…
  • Trade Ivan Nova and re-sign Hiroki Kuroda…that sounds like a good plan to me!…

I know there’s many more thoughts regarding the 2012 season, but these were a few that immediately came to mind.  It was a fun season and continues to be as we move forward in the AL and NL divisional series.  The idea of two Wild Card teams per league was a success, and win or lose, it was the right thing to do.  There was drama and intrigue up until the last day of the season, and no team “mailed it in”.  I still have too many questions about my own team to anoint them as the AL representative for the World Series.  As of the present moment, my best guess is a “Sparky Anderson” World Series…The Cincinnati Reds versus the Detroit Tigers.  Obviously, I’d prefer to see the Yankees and I hope they prove me wrong about their pitching and clutch hitting…

Ah, October baseball, I love this time of year!

 

–Scott

 

 

$189 Million by 2014 or bust…

 

His accounting degree was the first tip-off…

So, it’s true that the fiscal conservative in Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is coming to the forefront.  It’s clear that the Yankees have shown considerable restraint in their financial decisions in recent years and none more evident than this off-season when the Yankees watched and let others pay exorbitant dollars for free agent talent.  It was widely rumored that the Yankees have their eye on 2014 and the desire to get their payroll under the $189 million threshold for luxury tax purposes.  But now that Hal Steinbrenner is on record for the stated goal, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few years.

While there are other guaranteed contracts, the most notable in 2014 will be Alex Rodriguez.  If he continues his deterioration as a star player, that $25 million in 2014 is going to look like a huge albatross.  I haven’t tallied the guaranteed dollars, but it’s clear that the next few years will see similar off-seasons like the one we just experienced.  No significant free agent signings, bargain basement ‘right before training camp’ deals like the one given to Raul Ibanez, and trades for young (and cheap) talent.  It will also mean the Yankees won’t overpay to retain talent, which probably shows the door to Nick Swisher.

Meanwhile, teams like the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers are profiting from regional TV deals (not to mention previous dollars they received through revenue sharing at the Yankees’ expense).  So, it will be other teams splurging on big talent, and the Yankees as a passive by-stander.  There is some logic in the team’s decision but I am concerned that it will bring an end to the winning run the Yankees have been on since the early 1990’s.  As a Yankees fan, the 1980’s were very difficult.  Yes, we were spoiled by George Steinbrenner’s win at all costs mentality, but 90 to 100 loss teams wearing the grand tradition of the pinstripes seems sacrilegious to me.  I am sure that the YES Network is not excited at that prospect either.  But if the stars, like A-Rod and Derek Jeter, continue to wither while eating up valuable salary dollars, the team is going to develop a Pittsburgh Pirates feel to it.  Very limited dollars to fill the holes.

In many respects, it is unfair that the salary threshold is equal among teams given the higher cost of living in New York, combined with the increased pressure that goes with playing on the biggest stage.  Once the ownership situation with the Los Angeles Dodgers is settled, there will be a slugfest in LA as the Dodgers spend to rebuild their legacy and prominence in the City of Angels.  Meanwhile, in New York, the Mets and Yankees will be scooping up the leftovers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals.

Okay, I might be a bit pessimistic but there will be a number of very difficult decisions to be made between now and 2014 as the Yankees attempt to reach their goal.  If the Yankees win the 2014 World Series, then credit Hal Steinbrenner for being one of the greatest owners in Yankees history.  If not, how long will it take to recover?…

Open mouth, insert foot…

You know, I don’t really care what Bobby Valentine is saying in Red Sox camp.  I know that if he were the Yankees manager, he’d be making disparaging remarks about the Sox.  It just goes with the territory when it comes to Bobby V.  Whatever helps him get motivated.  Speaking of Red Sox managers, it was really weird seeing the ESPN clips of Terry Francona in Yankees camp, hugging Yankees and talking with Joe Girardi and his coaches.  Unlike Valentine, I have a great deal of respect for Terry Francona.  Regardless, the Bobby V ingredient should make the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry very spicy this year.  It kind of sets the stage for Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays to steal the show…

I’m sure that A-Rod wasn’t saddened by the news…

Since I am on the topic of the Red Sox, I should say congratulations to Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who announced his retirement today.  He was a hated players at times, but like Jorge Posada, his intensity was off the charts.  He is the kind of guy you hate on another team but you’d love to have him on your team.  I think his baseball career is only getting started as I see future success as a manager for him.  I could even see him being an eventual replacement for Bobby Valentine.  Regardless of what he decides to do, we haven’t heard the last of Tek.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em…again…

Back to the Yankees, I am glad to see the return of third baseman Eric Chavez.  It took a long time…right up to the start of training camp…but it got done.  I liked Chavez in his years as an Oakland A, and while he isn’t the player he once was, he is a great role player and teammate.  He is also a very sorely needed third baseman given the fragility of the guy in front of him.  Yes, Chavez is an injury risk but if he can stay healthy, he’ll be an invaluable part of the 2012 Yankees.

The Seattle Mariners pipeline worked last time (Tino Martinez)…

I liked the Yankees signing of former Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma.  I don’t think he’ll be in the running for Mariano Rivera’s replacement when THAT day comes, but it was a low risk, high reward signing.  Having 7th and 8th inning options in late summer of David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, and Aardsma is a manager’s dream.

Best wishes for a fast return…

Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for former Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett.  In a batting incident the other day, a failed bunt attempt led to a broken right orbital bone in his face.  I was frustrated with Burnett as a Yankees pitcher, but I’ll never dispute that he is a great guy and a terrific teammate.  I am hoping that the move to Pittsburgh allows Burnett to flourish and hope the latest injury is not a precursor of things to come.

Don’t trip on the snow rounding first…

It is hard to think of baseball when it is snowing.  Snow has been a rare commodity in Minnesota this year, but we received slightly more than a dusting this week.  Living by Target Field, it’s strange to see the stadium and the surrounding snow while thinking that Joe Mauer and company are practicing to get ready to make the trip home to Minneapolis.  I have already bought my tickets for when the Red Sox and Yankees come to town, however, the Yankees don’t arrive in Minneapolis until late September.  I hope that AL East will be decided in the Yankees favor by that time…

Names I’ve known all of my adult life, and in some cases, when I was just a Daydream Believer…

Whitney Houston, Gary Carter and now Davy Jones?  This has not been a fun couple of weeks…

 

–Scott

The best of a bad situation for the Red Sox Nation…

 

Bobby Valentine’s hire…

I am still surprised that the Boston Red Sox ownership and management team did not have a clear plan of succession when they failed to back former manager Terry Francona at the end of the season.  Sure, Francona left on his terms but the lack of support had as much to do with the decision as anything.  So, if ownership felt that they wanted a change, they should have had a short list of potential replacements in mind.  Theo Epstein moved more quickly in Chicago when they named Sox candidate Dale Sveum as their manager.  The Sox search just felt “messy” to an outsider like me.

Still, they probably did as well as they could with the hiring of Bobby Valentine.  There is no question that he is a superior tactician.  He is very passionate, which is an attribute that I have always admired.  I cannot say that I’ve been a Bobby V fan in my life.  I lived in Dallas during his years as the manager of the Texas Rangers.  But I respect his knowledge, skills and high desire to win.  At different points during the last few years, there have been times he has been mentioned as a possible Yankees manager.  You don’t have to like the guy personally if he can get the job done.  I think one of my friends referred to Bobby as “swarmy” and it’s a good description.  Nevertheless, I am sure that Bobby will prove himself worthy of the Red Sox Nation and they’ll love him.  Meanwhile, we’ll just continue our loathing of him which fits since he is now with a bitter rival.

I would like to see if Bobby can have a positive impact on pitcher Jon Lester.  Lester has been one of my favorite players, despite his uniform.  He is an ace, and capable of carrying the high expectations that go with it.  2011 was a regression year for Lester so hopefully he’ll get back on track in 2012 and clearly establish himself as the leader of the Red Sox rotation.

…and Terry Francona’s ire…

In recent years, I admittedly lessened my dislike for the Boston Red Sox and it was primarily because of my respect for manager Terry Francona.  In my mind, Joe Torre had been the model of a superior manager, and the Francona mold was in the same class.  I do not know the inner workings of the Red Sox organization, but I am still surprised that they didn’t support Francona based on comments Tito has made during interviews.  I was even more surprised to hear that he had to defend himself against questions about painkillers during his interview with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Here is a manager that won two World Series for an organization that had not won since 1918, or when Babe Ruth was still on the roster.  It’s incredible to think of how many Red Sox managers failed where Tito succeeded.  I think teams missed the boat in not aggressively pursuing Tito this off-season.  Hopefully, teams won’t make the same mistake next year.

All quiet on the Western front…

The days leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings in Dallas seem so incredibly quiet compared to life under the Boss.  While I recognize that part of it is posturing by the Yankees to avoid overpaying for players, there is the realization that this is a different ownership group even if it is still “in the family”.  The Yankees did not really make any notable moves last season outside of signing catcher Russell Martin and bringing in pitchers Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.  To fail to upgrade the team this year is a mistake in my opinion.  Last year’s roster was easily defeated by the Detroit Tigers in the play-offs.  While I realize that anything can happen in a short series, I didn’t have the sense or “feel” that the Yankees were going to prevail.  It almost seemed as though it was inevitable the Yankees would lose.  That’s a bad feeling.  The team needs bench or role players that can come through like Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui used to, and they need help at the top of the starting rotation behind CC Sabathia.

I hopeful that the team can re-sign Eric Chavez, Andrew Jones and Luis Ayala.  Chavez is a perfect fit behind Alex Rodriguez, assuming that he can stay healthy, and Jones was a great fourth outfielder if he is content with resuming that type of role for the upcoming season. Ayala seems to be garnering much attention with at least six teams interested.

I like the one rumor that I heard about the Yankees possibly being interested in Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Kyle Drabek.  He would definitely be a pitcher that I’d target if I were the GM.  As a fan, the trade of Doug Drabek hurt at the time and it hurt even more when Drabek went on to achieve great success with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  While acquiring Kyle Drabek has nothing to do with his father as he has great potential on his own right, it would be nice to have the son of Doug Drabek in the organization.  Interestingly, the Yankees had obtained Doug Drabek in a trade with the Chicago White Sox for shortstop Roy Smalley.  If they had held onto him that trade would have been remembered as one of the Yankees better trades.  As it was, the Yankees traded him to the Pirates for Rick Rhoden, who was serviceable but not great.

Of the free agent pitchers, I am still most interested in Mark Buehrle.  I think he’d fit perfectly into the middle of the Yankees rotation.  I like C.J. Wilson but I can understand the team’s apprehension given the dollars that have been mentioned to sign him.  If Yu Darvish is posted later this off-season, I really would like to see the Yankees be aggressive in pursuing him.  I am convinced that he’ll have greater major league success than Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.  The negative is obviously the cost of the posting fee that it will take to get the job done.  The Red Sox paid over $51 million for the rights to negotiate with Dice-K, and apparently, it will take a similar if not higher number to land Darvish.

If the Yankees were to include outfielder Nick Swisher in a trade for a starting pitcher, they’d need to find a replacement.  As a fan, I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill type of trade to fill the void…acquiring a talented young outfielder with much promise who has yet fulfilled those expectations.  It’s a high risk move, but as in the case of O’Neill, high reward.  Curtis Granderson has thrived in a Yankees uniform despite the sluggish start, and it’s better to catch a player before he hits the upward arc of his career in terms of cost.  If the Yankees tried to acquire Granderson from the Tigers today, there’s no way that they could get it done with Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke (and that’s with Kennedy being mentioned in the NL Cy Young race this year).

Brace yourself, here comes Roller-Coaster Week!…

The upcoming week is always my favorite week of the off-season.  The Hot Stove League is at its pinnacle.  Even if the Yankees do not do anything, it is still a thrilling ride.  It’s fun to talk and think about all the potential possibilities, even as far-reaching as some may sound.  My primary wish is for the Cardinals to get their long-anticipated deal with Albert Pujols done so that we can move on to other storylines.  There’s no way that he is going to Chicago or Miami, and at the end of the day, he is and always will be a Cardinal.

My preferred landing spot for Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, if he decides to continue playing, is the Miami Marlins.  I do not want to see him go to the Mets, Red Sox, or any other AL East rival including the Tampa Bay Rays.

Good move, Bad move…

The Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite National League team, although I do not have the passion for the team or the sense of loyalty that I hold for the Yankees.  My affection for them began when Joe Torre was named manager (previously I had considered the San Francisco Giants as my NL team) and it has continued with one of my all-time favorite players as the current Dodgers manager, Don Mattingly.  I am dismayed with the ownership situation and do not have any respect for Frank McCourt, but I am optimistic that the sale of the team will restore the luster of the storied franchise.

While it was good for the Dodgers to lock up outfielder Matt Kemp long-term, I do question the move to sign free agent pitcher Chris Capuano.  The cost was too great ($10 million for two years) for a journeyman pitcher who is average to average-minus with no upside.  If this move prevents free agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda from returning, then it’s an even greater mistake.  I don’t know how much it will cost to sign Kuroda and I realize that he is 37, but he’s still a better pitcher than Capuano.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

I was not excited when the Minnesota Vikings trade a 6th round draft pick to the Washington Redskins for QB Donovan McNabb before the season started, but I did realize the team needed a veteran presence.  McNabb was a failure for the Vikings, and I was glad to see the team finally cut bait with his release this past week.  I am not convinced he can thrive in any environment, contrary to what head coach Leslie Frazier may say.  I think the Vikings simply found out what the Philadelphia Eagles knew and what the Redskins found out last season.  He’s done.  I was pleasantly surprised to see QB Sage Rosenfels return as the third string QB after his release from the Miami Dolphins.  It’s not that I expect Rosenfels to take any regular season snaps this time around, but he’s a good insurance policy and allows the Vikings to continue to use second string QB Joe Webb in a variety of roles.

It’s tough when your favorite football team is playing so bad that you actually hope for losses to ensure a high draft pick.  The Vikings are only two games behind the Indianapolis Colts in the sweepstakes for Stanford QB Andrew Luck.  I am a fan of Vikings QB Christian Ponder, but even I would gladly take Luck over Ponder.  So, with the Denver Broncos playing the Vikings today, all I can say is ‘Go Tim Tebow!’ as a way to bring good “Luck”!…

–Scott