Sleeping with the Enemy…
News that the Yankees have signed veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis have not been well received in the Yankees Universe…obviously. Sure, there have been a few ex-Boston Red Sox players make their way to the Bronx but certainly none who have been as despised as Youk. His crime? Playing with passion and all-out perseverance to find ways to beat the Yankees. He is one of those tough, gritty players that are relentless and when they smell blood, it’s over. Youk has struggled with injuries in recent years and he had a falling out with former Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who has historically taken to gritty players. I know, there is the stat line that he only got one hit in his final 59 at-bats with the Chicago White Sox last season. Nevertheless, I am willing to give Youk a chance.
Admittedly, I am not an Alex Rodriguez fan and I am still bent the Yankees didn’t let him walk away when he opted out of his first mega contract. But with third base possibilities such as Eric Chavez and Jeff Keppinger signing elsewhere, the Yankees had to do something given that A-Rod will be lost for most of the season due to his upcoming hip surgery. Going to camp with Eduardo Nunez as the starting third baseman, given the team doesn’t have a starting catcher or right fielder, was not appealing in any way. No one really knows how A-Rod will play next season when or if he returns, so odds are they need a solid third baseman for the entire season. With Youk on board, the Yanks still need to get insurance at third in case Youk goes down. But I think as long as he gets sufficient rest, he’ll stay healthy and be an effective part of the Yankees lineup.
When Youk homers for the first time against the Red Sox, I am sure that the Yankee cheers will come around. Yankee fans love players who play with passion so long as the player is on their team. It will always be hard to look at Youk and not think of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, but he is not the same player he was then and this is a new chapter in his life. When he walks away from the game, he will be remembered as part of the Red Sox organization but for a year or two, he can certainly make an effective contribution for the home team.
There are guys on the current Red Sox roster that I have great respect for, like Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia. Youk was one of those guys. Sure, I hated the guy in difficult games between the Yankees and Red Sox, but I always had a quiet respect for him. Of course, this could all be premature as Youk still has to pass a physical but I look forward to seeing what he can do in the Bronx sans the famed goatee. It will also be interesting to see if the Yankees continue to hold #20 in reserve out of respect for Jorge Posada or if they assign it to Youk given it was his number in Boston and Chicago. I suspect he’ll end up with something other than #20, but until it happens, you never know.
I saw a quote in George King’s column in The New York Post from Mariano Rivera that I agree with completely: “Yankee (fans) didn’t like him but he was wearing a Red Sox uniform. I can’t decide for them but he will be my teammate and I have to respect him for that.” Youk is a Yankee, and like Mo, I respect him for that.
Ichiro, Part II…
All indications are the Yankees will be coming to terms with Ichiro Suzuki on a new deal to keep him in the Bronx. The question is whether it will be one or two years. At 39, I’d probably prefer a one year deal so that the team can reassess its options at the end of the year. Every move has been made with the intent to get the payroll under $189 million by 2014 for luxury tax purposes and a second year for Ichiro would erode into the dollars available for any talent upgrades next off-season.
As it stands, I do not like an outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro, but I will be interested to see who they bring in as the fourth outfielder. Perhaps that individual will solidify this outfield corps into a strong and powerful unit. I am not opposed to trading Granderson and moving Gardner to center, but the Yankees would need to replace his offensive production elsewhere in the lineup. All signs so far this winter indicate the Yankees will not do anything to the extreme. Yes, they could still swoop in with a blockbuster trade, but I highly doubt it. The sad part is the current Yankees roster is not as strong as last year’s squad, while the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox have clearly improved. Tampa Bay may have traded a top starting pitcher in James Shields, but they picked up one of the best prospects in baseball in Wil Myers. Tampa also seems to be able to pull aces out of their farm system every year so there’s no doubt they’ll find a capable replacement for Shields. Baltimore hasn’t made any major moves but they still have the team to over-achieve. I do not know what next year will bring. The Yankees still have December and January to improve, but the likelihood diminishes with each passing day. If the Yankees falter in 2013, what does 2014 look like? I can’t see the team suddenly reversing course and going into “Dodger” mode to sign free agents. I think the Yankees will remain competitive, but I am not convinced they have the horses to win the World Series.
Maybe the All-Star Game should be the Dodgers against everyone else…
My favorite National League team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I am struggling with the thought of cheering for the two highest payrolls in baseball. My affection for the Dodgers is primarily because of my long-time hero, Don Mattingly, but the huge salary outlay by the Dodgers will create unrealistic expectations in Dodgerland and it will be tough for Donnie Baseball if the Dodgers struggle. I remain hopeful that he’ll one day find his way back to the Bronx to manage, but I am not pulling for him to get fired next year. I am not sure who I would pull for in the NL if not the Dodgers. I live in the Bay Area so there’s always the San Francisco Giants, but they’ve won the World Series in two of the last three years and I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon. My fallback has always been the St Louis Cardinals because that’s where I experienced attending my first major league baseball game as a teenager so many years ago. I suppose that I’ll stick with the Dodgers as long as Mattingly is there, but Magic Johnson and company have certainly made it more challenging by their willingness to spend excessively.
Why does February 12th (when pitchers and catchers report) seem so close yet so far away?…
Dollars to donuts…
Joel Sherman has a good post today with his Hardball Blog in The New York Post entitled “’What would George do?’ among questions in Yanks’ $189M quest”.
I do not dispute the reasons for why the Yankees are financially motivated to get under the $189M threshold given the reduced tax penalties it will create for future years in addition to the savings in 2014. But can the Yankees maintain a championship caliber club in their quest to reconcile the bottom line? Something’s got to give, and I am fearful that it will be the quality of the Yankee clubs put on the field in the next few years.
That sounds kind of ridiculous to say when other clubs have proven you can succeed with lesser dollars, but in Tampa, for example, it was years of high draft picks that filled the cupboards with premier players like Evan Longoria and David Price. I see the same thing happening in Kansas City as they’ve been building solid, young talent. The Yankees, on the other hand, have been picking at the bottom end of rounds for years and there have been more than a few misses along the way. There has been a renewed emphasis on the farm system in recent years, however, it is still not within the upper echelon among the other clubs.
This paragraph in Joel Sherman’s post cuts to the heart of the problem:
“The aging/diminishing Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira plus the roughly $11 million each team is charged for a benefits plan costs about $84 million toward the luxury tax each season. That would give the Yankees roughly $105 million to complete a contender in 2014. But say Robinson Cano gets $22 million a year. Now it is $83 million for everything else. That is doable, but less so after a year in which the Yankees’ farm system regressed horribly, potentially derailing the expected pipeline of lower-cost talent.”
I checked the cities of Baltimore, Boston, and Tampa against Manhattan on a cost of living calculator and found that the equivalent salaries in New York would need to substantially greater to maintain the same cost of living. A Boston salary would need to be 63.10% greater, Baltimore 89.70%, and Tampa 145.28%. Okay, not every player will live in Manhattan and that’s probably an extreme, but it still shows on the affordability scale, it simply takes more dollars to live in New York than anywhere else. Other places like Florida and Texas have no state income tax. I am sure that when A.J. Burnett got to Pittsburgh, it wasn’t just the reduced spotlight that helped his successful turnaround, the realization of how much further his millions would go in the Steel City probably factored into the equation.
As it stands at the moment, it is very likely the Yankees enter the 2013 season as a weaker team than the one who was swept by the Detroit Tigers last month. I know, a lot can happen between now and then, but for the sake of this post, I have only the insight for where we stand today. I felt that it was essential for the Yankees to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda. As soon as there were indications that Kuroda would consider a one-year deal, the Yankees should have been aggressive in locking him up. But by delaying, the two LA teams are stepping up their pursuit and the area has an advantage given Kuroda’s familiarity and close ties to Southern CA. I believe that his wife and two daughters still reside in California. Losing Kuroda from the rotation will hurt. I am not convinced that David Phelps can match the level of performance that Kuroda achieved this past season.
The sooner the Yanks can move Alex Rodriguez to full-time DH will be better. They need a quality, front-line third baseman who can hit in the clutch. Sadly, there are not any high level prospects so free agency or a trade might be the only options. Given the former is probably not where the team intends to put its “limited” dollars, a trade is most likely the only solution. Of course, that will only deplete the Yankees of other young talent.
I guess Moneyball is alive and well and living in the Bronx. It is time for Brian Cashman to prove to the critics that he is a good general manager despite the Yankee resources. I do believe that he is so it will be interesting to see how the next few months unfold. I have read those who believe the Yankees will ultimately spend without regard to 2014, but given Hal Steinbrenner’s financial background, I see the team sticking to its plan. Time will tell if his stance is justified. Perhaps this is a radical, game-saving approach that will bring fiscal responsibility back into the game. Then again, maybe not…
Brian Costello of The New York Post has it exactly
right: “Welcome to the 2011 A.J. Burnett Show — where every
mistake he makes will feel like a precursor of doom, like discovering a zit and
worrying about it becoming a tumor.“
I heard that the Yankees had lost, 6-5, to the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday, my
thoughts went immediately to A.J. Burnett who gave up 4 runs (2 earned) in 4
innings of work. There was a sinking
feeling with the thought ‘here we go again’…
Burnett and the
Yankees took positives from the performance and I can only hope that they are
right. As unfair as it is, Yankee fans
will be less tolerant of any mistakes by Burnett than they will for any other
starting pitcher in the rotation which will most likely include either Bartolo
Colon or Freddy Garcia at the back end.
He’ll need to give the fans a reason to get back in his corner.
The story of the
Yankees’ signing of Dominican Republic prospect Juan Paniagua is
interesting. At first, I didn’t know
anything about Paniagua, but I’ve since found out that he had originally signed
with the Arizona Diamondbacks under a false name (Juan Collado). The contract was subsequently voided by MLB
and Paniagua was suspended for a year.
The move allowed Paniagua to parlay a $17K signing bonus with the
D-Backs into a $1.1 million signing bonus with the Yankees. It does seem odd that a player with
questionable ethics would be allowed to profit from situation regardless of
what type of talent he may have. It
remains to be seen if MLB will approve the Yankees deal or if Paniagua will
even be able to get into the country, but I am skeptical about the character of
the pitcher. I do not know the reason he
lied about his name and there is probably much more to the story, but it will
be interesting to see how this plays out.
I am glad to see
that the Yankees have invited Joe Torre back for Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium
this year. It will be good to see Joe
don his #6 pinstriped jersey once again.
I admired his comment that he didn’t want to play in the Old Timer’s
game since he never played for the Yankees. It shows the respect that he has
for the Yankees and their great players. But he certainly deserves to stand on the same
field with other Yankee legends and hear his name announced to the Yankee
I was sorry to
see that former Oakland A’s outfielder Mitchell Page has passed away at age 59. I hadn’t followed his career when his playing
days ended, but apparently he was plagued by alcoholism in his failed attempt
at coaching in recent years. I haven’t
heard the cause of death, but it is so sad to see the players we cheer for
struggle so mightily later in life.