|Photo Credit: SI.com (Kristyn Ulanday)|
Opening the Gates of Steinbrenner Field…
As the saying goes, today is the first day of the rest of your life. Or as I prefer to call it, the first day of the 2018 New York Yankees. Welcome, Pitchers and Catchers! Your host, Aaron Boone, and his staff are eager and ready to serve you.
I am excited and anxious to hear Boone’s kickoff press conference today at 12:00 pm ET. We’ve heard Boonie talk over the winter but now he’s officially in uniform and ready to lead Baseball’s most storied franchise to the Promised Land. It’ll be cool to get a glimpse inside his mind as he begins his Pinstriped Journey in earnest. Sure, he’s had the conference calls with his coaches and shared text messages, a few rounds of golf or dinner with his players, but today it gets real. It’s a very exciting time in the Yankees Universe. After meeting with the press today, Boone will lead the first official workout tomorrow on Valentine’s Day. Very appropriate given how much we love these Yankees.
My most recent fear was averted yesterday when it was the Texas Rangers (and not that the Yankees) that gave a minor league contract with training camp invite to free agent third baseman Trevor Plouffe. I was starting to get worried that we’d see him in Tampa, but alas, the Rangers saved the day.
There’s still time for new faces to appear but at the moment, the starting rotation returns intact from top to bottom and the leading contenders for second and third bases are Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, respectively. The next few days will feature many bullpen sessions and we’ll get our first images of the new season.
I am ready for Yankees baseball.
The Freak is back…
Speaking of reclamation projects, the Yankees will send a scout to watch Tim Lincecum’s showcase in Seattle on Thursday according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Admittedly, when I first heard the 34-year-old was attempting another comeback, I scoffed. Two years ago, he signed a deal with the Los Angeles Angels after providing an open tryout in front of scouts. He failed miserably, going 2-6 with 9.16 ERA in nine games pitched. His WHIP was an unsightly 2.374. Maybe there’s nothing left, but then again, maybe there is.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images, via Men’s Fitness (Joe Robbins, Otto Greule, Jr)|
People scoffed at Bartolo Colon when he made a comeback with the Yankees a few years ago, yet he continues to pitch and it is likely he’ll find another Major League contract somewhere this year. I am not saying that Lincecum is Colon, but at one time, Lincecum was a very good pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. I seriously doubt he’ll ever be anything close to that level again but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Why not take a shot? If he shows nothing, you help him pack his bags and send him on his way. He certainly won’t be cost prohibitive at this point in his career. I’d sign him if he shows anything on Thursday. He wouldn’t unseat any current starters in the rotation regardless of how well he throws but he could be a better option as a replacement starter than Luis Cessa if he has anything left. I am sure some team will take a chance on The Freak through a minor league deal to see if he can help.
Stick a fork in him, he’s done…
I am so very disappointed in Rich “Goose” Gossage. At one time, the guy was my favorite player. I loved to watch him come into games throwing heat and shutting down the opposition. It was tough to watch Goose leave the Yankees when he signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres in January 1984. Even tougher watching the Padres in the World Series that year, who also featured former Yankee Graig Nettles at third base, even if they lost to the Detroit Tigers. I was excited when he played for a couple of months with the Yankees at the end of the 1989 season despite being in the twilight of his career. I was proud when he was named to MLB’s Hall of Fame in 2008. Unfortunately, his behavior since that time has been anything but professional.
Last year, he took shots at Hall of Famer-to-be Mariano Rivera, one of my all-time favorite Yankees over the course of my lifetime, which I did not appreciate nor respect. When I heard the Yankees had not extended an invitation to Spring Training for Goose this year, I felt it was the right thing. The Yankees did not need the unwanted attention and distraction for a new manager and coaching staff. Yet, the New York Daily News beat writers had to reach to Goose to get comment about the spurned invitation and he chose to use it as a forum to go off on GM Brian Cashman.
Frankly, I don’t care if Gossage ever sets foot in Yankee Stadium again. He comes across as an angry old man to me. I am tired of his “back in my day” rants. He played in a different era but it doesn’t mean that it was better. The game has changed. Sadly, Gossage has not. There is no place for him with today’s game and no place for him in the Yankees Universe. Let him go play Old Timer’s games with the Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s or Seattle Mariners. What? Those teams do not hold their former players in same high regard as the Yankees? Sucks for him. Good riddance…
Rest in peace, facial hair…
We also say goodbye to CC Sabathia’s beard.
While I personally feel that the Yankees should change the long-standing team policy that prohibits facial hair outside of “porn star” mustaches, it’s too bad that they can’t at least open Spring Training to a relaxed hair policy before the team heads north to put on the famed pinstriped jerseys. Sabathia had a very cool beard this winter, as did a number of other players. It would be nice to see them with a tougher look, if only for the exhibition games at Steinbrenner Field. Some guys, like Jordan Montgomery, could seriously stand an edgier look instead of the choir boy approach. I know, the hair policy will never change. The Steinbrenner Family will always preserve George’s wishes as long as they own the team. I get the professionalism aspect to the policy but I am also a believer in self-expression. I am not crazy about Justin Turner’s flowing red hair and beard with the Los Angeles Dodgers but it is who he is and I would not want to change him. If it works for the player, it works for me.
The baseball offseason is over. It is time to get to work…
|Photo Credit: Newsday (J Conrad Williams, Jr)|
Yankees 13, Orioles 5…
It is fun to have these kind of games. After Masahiro Tanaka set down the Baltimore Orioles with seven pitches in the top of the 1st inning, the Yankees offense jumped all over Orioles starter Wade Miley with six runs in the bottom of the inning enroute to the easy victory.
Jacoby Ellsbury led off for the Yankees with a single up the middle. Aaron Judge’s single to center, a fly that dropped in, advanced Ellsbury to third. Gary Sanchez doubled to the left field corner with a hard line drive that scored Ellsbury. Judge moved to third. Matt Holliday recorded the first out on a grounder to third, but Judge, running on contact, scored easily. The hits kept coming as Chase Headley singled to right over the second baseman’s glove, scoring Sanchez. Didi Gregorius lined a single to right, Headley moved to second. Todd Frazier made it a 6-0 game with his blast into Monument Park. End of the night for Miley after giving up six runs while getting only one out. Mike Wright came in for long relief. Despite a two-out walk to Clint Frazier, Wright was able to get the O’s out of the inning without any further damage.
|Credit: Paul J Bereswill-NY Post|
The Orioles got a run back when Jonathan Schoop led off the 4th inning with a homer to left, a high fly that momentarily looked foul but stayed in. They threatened for more when Adam Jones followed with a single and Trey Mancini reached base on a fielding error by Todd Frazier, but Masahiro Tanaka struck out sluggers Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, and was able to get Wellington Castillo to ground into a force play at second to end the inning.
The Yankees quickly answered the call. In the bottom of the 4th, Clint Frazier reached on a single to center and Jacoby Ellsbury walked. Aaron Judge stepped to the plate and drew the ‘It is high, it is far, it is gone!’ call from John Sterling with his shot to right center. 9-1, Yankees.
|Credit: Frank Franklin II-Associated Press|
Trey Mancini homered in the top of the 6th with one out and no runners on, a fly into the second deck of right field. But like the 4th inning, the Yankees responded. Clint Frazier led off the bottom of the 6th with a double bouncing off the center field wall and Jacoby Ellsbury took another walk. Aaron Judge stepped up again. While he was batting, I was thinking that his last homer was nice but it wasn’t crushed like we know that Judge can do. Boom! He made up it for it with a monster blast to the second deck in left to make it a 12-2 game. While we were still enjoying the thought of Judge’s 43rd homer, Gary Sanchez followed with a home run to center (another ball landing in Monument Park). It was his 31st homer of the year, setting a new mark for Yankees catchers, breaking a tie with Jorge Posada and Yogi Berra.
|Credit: Frank Franklin II-Associated Press|
In the top of the 7th, Orioles top prospect, catcher Chance Sisco, recorded his first major league hit with a double to the right field corner off Tanaka. With runners at second and third, and only one out, Tanaka struck out Anthony Santander and Austin Hays to get out of the inning with no runs allowed. They were the final pitches thrown by Tanaka, who was replaced by Bryan Mitchell to start the 8th.
I’ve always liked Bryan Mitchell, but this hasn’t been a great year for him. Trey Mancini led off the 8th with a single to right on a line drive. Mitchell was able to retire the next two batters on ground outs but Joey Rickard’s double to the left field wall scored Mancini. Caleb Joseph followed with a double to the right field wall between the outfielders, scoring Rickard. Mitchell was finally able to get out of the inning when he got Tim Beckham to ground out.
Giovanny Gallegos took over for Mitchell in the top of the 9th inning. Chance Sisco came to bat again after getting his first MLB hit two innings earlier and accomplished another first when he homered to the right field porch leading off. I suspect that we’ll be seeing more…much more…from Sisco in the future. The next batter, Anthony Santander, hit a high fly to right that looked like it had a chance for a back-to-back HR but it sailed just to the right of the foul pole. Gallegos subsequently got Santander to strike out. He retired the next two batters (great catch of a line drive by Ronald Torreyes at second to end the game), and the Yankees had the win.
|Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports|
The Boston Red Sox defeated the Oakland A’s, 6-2, to maintain their three game lead over the Yankees (80-66). The Yankees remained three games up in the Wild Card Standings. The second-place WC team, the Minnesota Twins, beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-2, in extra innings.
Masahiro Tanaka (12-11) was the winner. His final line was 7 innings, 8 hits (a bit high but he did a good job in leaving the runners stranded), 2 runs, 2 walks, and 8 strikeouts. He was also able to lower his season ERA to 4.73.
|Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports|
Sonny Gray was probably wondering why he can never get this type of run support…
Luis Severino (12-6, 2.96 ERA) takes the hill for the Yankees tonight. He’ll be opposed by Gabriel Ynoa (1-1, 4.19). Hopefully, the Yankees win and continue to put pressure on the Red Sox.
Odds & Ends…
It was not a good night for the Yankees top two farm teams.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders lost Game 3 of the Governor’s Cup Finals to the Durham Bulls, 6-2. Chance Adams took the loss. The Bulls lead the series, 2 games to 1, and can take the championship with a win tonight at PNC Field in Moosic, PA. Brady Lail will draw the start and attempt to even the series.
The Trenton Thunder bowed out of the Eastern League Championship Series when they were swept by the Altoona Curve. The Curve defeated the Thunder, 4-2, to win the best-of-five series in three games. Will Carter was the starter and loser.
Have a great Friday! Let’s have another thumbs-down performance! Go Yankees!
|Credit: YES Network|
When you have one of Baseball’s elite closers on the mound with a three run lead in the bottom of the 9th, it should be game over. Sadly, it was an off night for Aroldis Chapman as he allowed three runs before being pulled from the game. From that point, it felt like it was only a matter of time before the Chicago Cubs pulled off a walk-off. Fortunately, these are not the 2016 New York Yankees.
In an 18-inning affair that lasted six hours and five minutes (sorry, I didn’t stay up), Aaron Hicks , Ronald Torreyes and Starlin Castro emerged as the heroes of heroes. Leading off the 18th, Aaron Hicks bunted toward third and reached second thanks to a throwing error by Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras. After a sacrifice bunt by Torreyes moved Hicks to third, he scored on a grounder to short by Castro.
When Chasen Shreve (1-0) struck out Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks at 2:13 a.m., the Yankees (20-9) had completed an improbable and very exhausting 5-4 victory.
It’s tough to play a night game on “getaway” day, but even tougher to play what essentially equates to a double-header in terms of innings played. It was an incredible job by the bullpen for anyone not named Chapman. Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder and Shreve combined for 9 1/3 innings of scoreless relief following Chapman’s blown save. The Yankees and Cubs set a Major League record for strikeouts with 48. Yankees pitchers accounted for 26 of those K’s, including 9 by starter Luis Severino and 5 by Shreve. The Cubs also set a record by using three pitchers as pinch-hitters.
I am thankful the Yankees didn’t have to employ the last man standing in the bullpen (Tommy Layne) given his recent propensity for watching the opponent score while he is on the mound.
Chapman’s underwhelming performance against his World Series teammates wasted another great start by Severino. With a four-hitter in 7 innings of work while allowing only a single run (a 2nd inning home run by Javier Baez), he bested former Boston Red Sox nemesis Jon Lester and stood in line for the victory until Chapman let it get away. A run scoring triple by Aaron Judge in the 7th inning had put Severino in position to win, with a two-run homer by Jacoby Ellsbury in the 8th for support. But the Cubs, stealing a page from these exciting young Pinstripers, showed that the game is not over ’til it’s over…to borrow a line from legendary Yankees catcher Yogi Berra.
Castro completed his three day Chicago reunion with 2 RBI’s despite an 0-for-8 night. He also had a run-scoring ground-out in the first inning.
The game had its humorous moment when left fielder Aaron Hicks lost sight of Baez’s home run ball. That’s how I would play every inning…
Matt Holliday did a solid job with his first Yankees start at first base. He went 2-for-4 until he was lifted for pinch-hitter Chris Carter. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Holliday play some more first base in Cincinnati. Heck, at this point, the Yankees should probably play Aaron Hicks at first. They have to find ways to keep that dude’s bat in the lineup.
For the Yankees, they became only the second team to sweep the Cubs this season. They maintained a half-game over the Baltimore Orioles for the AL East lead. The O’s had a broom of their own with a weekend sweep of the Chicago White Sox. Sadly, the Red Sox won again after providing 17 runs for their ace, Chris Sale.
The Yankees make a short hop to Cincinnati, Ohio for a game against former Yankees top pitching prospect Rookie Davis and the Cincinnati Reds later today. I would generally say that the Yankees may be a little sluggish after the late night, but that would be underestimating the resiliency of this team. It will be a challenge as the Reds (17-14) are the current leader in the NL Central, thanks to the Yankees’ sweep of the Cubs. But if any team can find a way, I’ll take my chances with the Yankees.
Have a great Monday! Hopefully we’re in line for a restful and victorious day!
Credit: Jim Davis/Globe Staff
The lead for my post today has to be in support of Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones. He was subjected to thrown objects and racial taunts in Boston on Monday night. As a Yankees fan, it would be easy to pick on the Red Sox fans but this is not isolated to Fenway Park. There are small, narrow-minded people in every stadium, including Yankee Stadium. There is no excuse for the racial slurs and unacceptable behavior anywhere.
Boston Red Sox President Sam Kennedy issued the following statement:
“The Red Sox have zero tolerance for such inexcusable behavior, and our entire organization and our fans are sickened by the conduct of an ignorant few. Such conduct should be reported immediately to Red Sox security, and any spectator behaving in this manner forfeits his/her right to remain in the ballpark, and may be subject to further action. Our review of last night’s events is ongoing.”
Granted, the Red Sox response was driven in large part by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred but I thought the Red Sox said the right words. The proof is in the pudding so now let’s see Red Sox security enforce those words. But it doesn’t stop there. Security for every MLB team needs to take similar action. There simply cannot be any tolerance for this type of behavior regardless of geography. I support the Yankees but I will never support racial inequality and injustice. I do not support the uniform he wears, but I will always support Adam Jones…the player and the man.
A close friend of mine, a Boston-area resident and die-hard Red Sox fan, posted this on Social Media yesterday:
“I’m baffled….why are so many Red Sox fans defending the deplorable behavior of the fans last night at Fenway who yelled racial slurs and threw things at Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles? This SHOULD be something we all agree on….there is no room for hate at Fenway.”
I am in 100% agreement with her words. This type of behavior must stop now.
To Boston’s credit, Red Sox fans gave Adam Jones a much-deserved standing ovation during yesterday’s game.
Moving on to baseball, the Yankees made a couple of moves yesterday. Greg Bird was placed on the 10-Day Disabled List. The ankle he injured the last week of training camp has not sufficiently healed and may have contributed to the dreadful 6-for-60 start (.100 batting average) with 22 strikeouts. Rob Refsnyder was recalled to take Bird’s roster spot and he’ll back up interim starting first baseman Chris Carter. Also, Luis Cessa was demoted after one day in the Bronx. He came up long enough to cover the innings that Luis Severino could not on Monday (allowing the rest of the bullpen to take a much needed night off). Mission accomplished, and back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Recalled in his place is lefty reliever Chasen Shreve. Shreve has pitched very well this year whether for the Yankees or the RailRiders. Prior to his demotion to AAA, he pitched three scoreless innings with two strikeouts. At Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed only one run. He struck out twelve and walked none.
The Yankees may get catcher Gary Sanchez back on Friday at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
It’s possible that Jacoby Ellsbury could find his way to the DL (surprise, surprise…yeah, not really). He has a bruised nerve in his left elbow. The Yankees are going to give it a couple of days before making any decisions. Oh well, it’s good opportunity for Aaron Hicks to get some regular playing time. I personally could have come up with many better ways to spend $153 million a few years ago but the Yankees didn’t ask me.
According to the Miami Herald, Jeb Bush has indicated Derek Jeter will run Baseball Operations if their purchase of the Miami Marlins comes to fruition. With a lack of experience, it will be interesting, if the sale does go through, to see who Jeter hires or if he’ll retain Yankees Legend Don Mattingly as the team’s manager. I’ve heard some speculate that Alex Rodriguez could be the eventual manager. If it were me, one of the first telephone calls I would make to join my administration would be Yankees Vice President and Director of Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer. I could easily envision Oppenheimer as the team’s GM. If not Oppenheimer, then former Yankees Assistant GM Kim Ng, currently Senior Vice President for Baseball Operations with Major League Baseball. Rule Number One, surround yourself with people that are smarter than you.
In last night’s baseball action, where do we begin? You can talk about Brett Gardner’s second multi-homer game in four days, Matt Holliday’s 3-for-4 night or another win by Masahiro Tanaka (4-1) as the Yankees stopped Toronto’s three-game winning streak with an 11-5 victory. But really, the game came down to two words:
The Aaron Judge Show continues to dazzle live and TV audiences. Judge started the day with a smashed TV in the outfield terrace during batting practice off a monster home run. It was a sign of things to come as Judge matched Gardner’s two homer day and easily took the spotlight from the speedy Gardner. With a homer by center fielder Aaron Hicks, the Yankees outfield produced five home runs. It was the most home runs produced by a Yankees outfield trio since Mickey Mantle (2), Roger Maris (2) and Yogi Berra (1) did it on May 30, 1961 in a 12-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox. Judge finished with four RBI’s while Gardner had three.
Credit: Kathy Willens/AP
Masahiro Tanaka was unable to match his last start in Boston and he failed to deliver a quality start but fortunately on this night it was not needed. He needed to do enough to deliver the win and, thanks to the Yankees bats, he did his job. He went 6 1/3 innings. He allowed eight eights and four runs, striking out two. Toronto got to Tanaka in the 7th inning when Steve Pearce homered and Devon Travis singled. With one out, Clippard replaced Tanaka after the Travis at-bat, and was ineffective. Although he got Chris Coghlan out, he gave up a single to Kevin Pillar and walked Joey Bats to load the bases. Dellin Betances replaced Clippard, and balked to allow Travis to score (with the run charged to Tanaka). Betances then walked Russell Martin to re-load the bases, which brought the tying run to the plate. But Betances struck out Kendrys Morales to end the threat.
Former Yankee Steve Pearce had two home runs for Toronto, both off Tanaka.
With the win, the Yankees (16-9) moved back into a first place tie in the AL East with the Baltimore Orioles. The O’s lost to the Red Sox, 5-2.
On the downside, catcher Austin Romine left the game with a cramp in his right groin. According to manager Joe Girardi, Romine was pulled from the game despite saying no at least three times. Hopefully, Romine is better today and this doesn’t develop into something more serious that causes lost playing time. Regardless of how Romine feels today, I’d guess that Kyle Higashioka will be the starting catcher for the final game of the three-game set with the Blue Jays. The Yankees will play it conservatively and allow Romine sufficient rest to recover. The impending return of #24 comes at a very good time.
Have a great Wednesday! Hopefully the Yankees can get over the hump and beat Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays!
I was never a fan of good-byes…
Sadly, the 2013 Major League Baseball Season has come to an end. Well, at least for the New York Yankees. It was an eventful final week that saw a farewell to the great Mariano Rivera that was unmatched by any I have seen in recent years or even during my lifetime. Mo’s final game at Yankee Stadium turned out to be the final game of his professional career as he chose not to pitch during the season-ending series in Houston to preserve his Bronx goodbye as the final exit for a storied and soon to be Hall of Fame career.
I have been a Mariano Rivera fan since the days when he set up John Wetteland in the bullpen. His 7th and 8th inning appearances before the cardiac appearances by Wetteland were electric. The ball seemed to come screaming with blazing speed yet Mo seemed so effortless in letting the ball leave his hand. He made it look easy, and for the length of his career, he proved he was just a little better than everyone else. Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way. A couple of key blown saves in critical games, but these were few and far between. His success rate was far superior to any failures, and in those failures, you knew that Mo had left his all.
Looking back, I certainly have no regrets. It was an honor and privilege to be a Yankees fan and to witness the career of the latest Yankees legend. He’ll be someone that my grandchildren will be talking about, and I can say that I saw him pitch from the beginning to the end. Mo showed how special it was to play for one team, and he is forever embedded into Yankees lore. Ichiro Suzuki will be immortalized in Cooperstown one day as a Seattle Mariner, but Seattle will never be able to call Ichiro exclusively their own. They may have had his best years, but he still is playing his final years as a Yankee, not a Mariner. Fortunately, we never had to see Mo in another uniform or his former catcher, Jorge Posada.
I have been a Yankees fan since 1974 when free agent Jim “Catfish” Hunter, then my favorite pitcher, signed with the Yankees. I had grown up very intrigued by the Yankees with their great history and tradition. Those early 70’s were still a tough time for the Yankees organization, but they were about to turn the corner following the acquisition of the team by George Steinbrenner and his partners. To digress, I always loved the quote “There is nothing in life quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner”. This quote is attributed to former Yankees minority owner and later Houston Astros owner John McMullen. The first baseball biography I recall reading when I was little was a book about Lou Gehrig, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since. So, when Catfish made the decision to join the Yankees, it was very easy for me to follow.
During the course of my Yankees fandom, I’ve considered the following players to be my favorite Yankees. Hunter, Thurman Munson, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Don Mattingly, and Mariano Rivera. All those years and I can still count my favorite active Yankees on one hand, well until today with Rivera’s retirement. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect other Yankees over the years, these guys just happened to be my personal favorites at the time they played.
Being someone who appreciates history and tradition, I’ve always felt that Rivera was the perfect man to take Jackie Robinson’s number to retirement for the final time. Mo proved that he had the character to stand with greatness, and he served the legacy of Jackie Robinson very proudly and understood its significance. I am glad that the last guy out of baseball with #42 wasn’t some thug just trying to hang on to a lost career, with rumors of a steroid past. He wears #13. Okay, sorry, I didn’t mean that, or maybe I did, but you get the point. Jackie Robinson was a great man who dealt with more adversity than any of us will ever knew. He did it while turning the other cheek and proving he was the better man. He did this while carving out a Hall of Fame career on the field. If there was a man who deserved to have his number retired across baseball, it was Robinson, and if there was a man who deserved to be the final one to walk off the field with it, it was Mo. The Baseball Gods made sure this one played out like it was supposed to.
Mo, we thank you for simply being you. You did it your way, and you never strived to be anything other than what you were. You proved better than most in shaking off the game’s failures and you never gloated in its successes. You were proud of your teammates and respectful of your opponents. Baseball needs you, and I hope that this is just the beginning as you move into the next phase of your career. I am proud, very proud, when I say that I am a Mariano Rivera fan. He exceeded my wildest expectations and he leaves as the best ever at his position. He deserves to be a first ballot entry to the Hall of Fame. Anything less is unacceptable. He was ours and he proved he belongs to the Hall like no other that I’ve personally witnessed during my lifetime. Farewell, Mo. This is not the end, but simply the closing of one chapter and the opening of the next.
AP Photo (courtesy of LoHud Yankees Blog)
The gaze from under the brim of his cat…
While the focus of this post is Rivera, I would be remiss for not saying thanks to Andy Pettitte. Time and again, he stopped losing streaks and he was clutch when it mattered most (October). He never had the brilliant stuff of Felix Hernandez or Roy Halladay, but he was a winner. His passion showed and he was a champion. It was tough watching him leave via free agency for those three years in Houston, but I am glad he came back. Even during his time in Houston, you’d hear stories about how Andy still followed the Yankees. He is part of the Yankees family and history and always will be. It was so very fitting that his final game was a complete game win in his hometown of Houston. A bit ironic that the opponent was named Clemens (Paul Clemens, no relation to Roger). For the final game of the season, Roger Clemens did make an appearance to wish farewell to Mariano, and he gave Andy a hug. There has been a lot of mudslinging between the former close friends and regardless of what Roger may have or have not done, I was glad to see the small reconciliation. Baseball is greater than any one of us, and at the end of the day, Clemens, Pettitte, and Rivera were teammates and they represented the our team. I fully expect to see all three at future Old Timer’s Day games and I am hopeful that old scars can be healed and that the game itself can move forward.
Back to Andy, he will be a hard act to follow. When you look at the Yankees pitching staff, there is not one that can match Andy’s heart. CC Sabathia appears to be on the downside of his career, Hiroki Kuroda could very well head to Japan for his final season or two, Phil Hughes has worn the pinstripes for the last time, Ivan Nova is a roller-coaster and the jury is still out on David Huff. Next season will be one of transition and it is unfortunate that we’ll no longer have Andy as an anchor to the rotation. Andy’s ceiling was never as a #1 pitcher. He came to the major leagues with question marks, but he left as one of its greatest post-season performers. We were lucky to call Andy one of our own, and I am glad that he was never dealt away in one of those knee-jerk type of trades that we saw during the George Steinbrenner regime. Sorry, George, I miss you but you gotta admit that some of those trades left a little bit to be desired…
Getting back on track, Andy leaves the game being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest lefty in Yankees’ history, the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford. The Core Four (Rivera, Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter) did an excellent job in reaching the pinnacle of their positions in franchise history. Posada may not have matched Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey or Thurman Munson, but he can stand in the same room. DJ is obviously one of the greatest shortstops in the team’s history (along with Phil Rizzuto). For a team so stacked in history and tradition, four contemporary players reaching the upper echelon is amazing. It is the end of a terrific Yankees era, and as much as I hate to see Derek Jeter go out with an injury filled career, I would prefer for him to leave now rather than to come back next year for what most likely will be a year of reduced relevance on the roster.
What does the future hold?…
I really do not know what to expect next year. At the moment, it is uncertain if Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson will be back. Joe Girardi is talking about needing time to decide if he wants to come back which is not a good sign in my opinion. Mark Texeira will be back next year, but he is deteriorating as he ages. I am not sure that CC can get back to being the dominant pitcher he once was, and the line-up is filled with age and injury-susceptible players. The farm system at the upper levels is weak, at best. While many of said that this has been a great year of managing by Joe Girardi, I’d argue that it has not been one of Brian Cashman’s best years. I do not know how much he has been constrained by ownership, but the 10 wins that the team could have used this season could have been acquired through smart and strategic moves. The farm system is very lacking at the upper levels and I know that injuries have played a part, but at some point, Cashman has to be held accountable. Like fine wine, it is harvest season except the Yankees do not have anything to harvest. They’ll have to overpay and to give up too much young talent to field a championship squad next season. Unfortunately, neither makes sense even for the Yankees, so it feels as though we are in the midst of an era of transition. Hopefully, greatness will be waiting on the other side…
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…
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.