December 2009

The End of A Championship Year…

To all the great MLBloggers & Readers…

 

 


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I’d like to wish everyone a very Happy New Year!  I hope that 2010 is our best year yet…one and all!  It’s hard to believe that 2009 has come and gone, and it was quite a year.  However, I am anxious and excited for the possibilities of 2010.  Who knows if the Yankees will repeat or if the Phillies will recapture the crown thanks to Doc Halliday or if the Mariners move into the upper echelon with the brilliant moves to acquire Cliff Lee and Chone Figgins or if the dreaded Red Sox ride John Lackey and company to another championship.  Regardless of what happens, it will be a very fun and exciting year for all of us.  Who knows, maybe next year is this year…

 

 


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Not much sports news to talk about but I’ll try…

 

 

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I think that Jason Bay’s  decision to join the Mets was foolish on his part.  He had a great thing in Boston, and the park was very conducive to his offensive style.  It’s unlikely that he’ll hit 36 home runs playing half of his games at CitiField.  Given his weaknesses defensively and the poor second half that he experienced in Boston, the high expectations in Queens will be very difficult to meet.  Bay could very easily become the player the fans love to hate.  In an era where most of us are simply thankful for a paycheck, Jason will rue the day that he disregarded the very generous offer extended by the Red Sox.  From the Red Sox’ perspective, I don’t blame them for moving on.  The idea of moving Jacoby Ellsbury to left is intriguing given his offensive prowess (so long as he doesn’t move to San Diego in a potential trade for Adrian Gonzalez).  Not that I want the best-case scenario to work out for the Red Sox, but it may have happened when they decided to move on without Bay.  Meanwhile, it probably won’t be long before GM Omar Minaya is fighting for his job because of moves like Bay and other albatross contracts he has hung on the Mets.

 

 

 

Reuters

 

I was not closely following the situation with Texas Tech University and head coach Mike Leach, but at first, I thought that Craig James was just using his position as an ESPN college analyst to blow a situation with his son out of proportion.  However, after getting a better understanding of the facts, there is nothing that would justify locking a kid in a shed.  Regardless of the reasons and aside from the fact that Leach had been very disrespectful to the university prior to the incident, I felt his firing today was justified.  The sad part is that it is the university which will pay the highest price.  Leach will land on his feet with another school because he has proven that he can win.  The Red Raiders, meanwhile, will have to re-establish credibility with potential recruits and find a new coach who can continue the positive advancements made by Leach.  Any way you slice it, it’s a bad situation and a black mark on Big 12 football…

 

 

 

 

AP

 

 

I am a very disenchanted Vikings fan right now.  I have been a fan of the team all my life.  After enjoying several near misses with Fran Tarkenton at the helm, the team has suffered years of championship deprivation.  1998 looked like THE year, however, the season ended in disappointment with the loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the play-offs (a game that the Vikings could have won with better play-calling).  I almost gave up as a Vikings fan after Fran Tarkenton retired and the Vikings named Bob Lee the starting QB.  I know other fans who quit after 1998.  I have to admit that I am nearing the fork in the road once again.  I have never been a fan of head coach Brad Childress and now the team is in a funk that I am not so sure they can recover from.  Sure, 8 Vikings made the Pro Bowl.  However, it means absolutely nothing if the Vikings lose the first play-off game.  Several weeks ago, they were assured of a first round bye and had momentum on their side.  Now, it’s possible that they could lose the first round bye to the Dallas Cowboys.  There are many experts that say the two best teams in the NFC right now are the Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles.  It would be hard for me to argue against it.

 

 

 

 

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images 

 

 

I recognized football before baseball when I was a kid, so for the first couple of seasons, I was a bigger Vikings fan than I was a Yankees fan.  Of course, that turned rather quickly and I was a baseball fan first by 1975 even though the Yankees had endured many losing seasons under the ownership of CBS.  George Steinbrenner was still a young and inexperienced owner, but I liked the guys on the team.  Catfish Hunter was my idol and Thurman Munson quickly became my favorite Yankee.  Nevertheless, I continued to follow the Vikings but it has never been the same since former owner Max Winter departed the organization.  I like and respect owner Zygi Wilf, however, I think he is making a mistake by staying the course with Brad Childress.  The 2009 team has so much potential, however, it won’t be realized because of Childress.  Put a good coach like Bill Cowher in charge of the team and the Vikings would be challenging the Saints for the best record in the NFC.

 

 

 

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The Vikings can turn things around on Sunday with a solid win against Wilf’s former favorite team, the New York Giants.  However, I am not so optimistic about the team’s chances.  Somehow, I see another lackluster performance with several key Adrian Peterson fumbles.  I hope that I am wrong…

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

Well, this does it for me in 2009.  I am glad to be among such great MLBloggers and I look forward to a fantastic new year for each and every one of us! 

 

 

 

Are We Going to Be Left Out?…

The left field conundrum continues…

 

 


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Maybe GM Brian Cashman has the perfect solution already set in motion, but then again, maybe not.  I am not quite sure how you could spend $200 million on salaries and then suddenly become very frugal over $3 or $4 million as an insurance policy to protect your investment.  From the sounds of it, the Yankees are willing to go to camp with Brett Gardner and Jamie Hoffmann as a projected platoon in left.  I know that it’s a bluff, designed to await the lowered salary expectations of free agent options in January. 

 

 


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But if you have a left fielder who has proven that he can handle New York, thrive atop the Yankees’ batting order and carries the intangibles necessary to bring a championship to New York, why can’t you work out a deal for a few pennies more?  It just doesn’t make any sense.  I agree with the logic that the Yankees don’t need a superstar in left, but they need something better than a fourth outfielder looking for his fifteen minutes of fame. 

 

 

Reed Johnson #9 of the Chicago Cubs is hit by a pitch from Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies during the Opening Day game on April 13, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Reed Johnson

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

 

If the Yankees successfully cause Johnny Damon to sign elsewhere, and are left to be scrounging through the bargain bin, they’ll regret it in July when they attempt to make a trade for an upgrade at the high cost of key prospects.  Again, I’d rather pay more now and protect the farm system now and later. 

 

 

Charleston RiverDogs - Zach McAllister by John Setzler.

 

John M. Setzler, Jr.

 

 

I was disappointed to see the San Francisco Giants successfully sign one solid option in Mark DeRosa.  With DeRosa, the Giants get a very versatile player who will fit well into their lineup.  His ability to play third base allows them to slide Pablo Sandoval to first which fills a big need.   Had the Yankees been successful in luring DeRosa to the Bronx, he could have been the primary option for left field with the potential to back up Alex Rodriguez from time to time.  Isn’t that worth a few dollars more?   Congrats to Giants GM Brian Sabean…he scored one over his former team. 

 

 

Mark DeRosa grounds out in his first at-bat as a member of the Cardinals during the second inning.

Jeff Roberson/AP

 

 

If Johnny Damon is my first choice, Xavier Nady would be the remaining option in my eyes.  Another guy who has proven he can handle New York albeit not the injury bug.  If healthy, Nady would be a great fit for the Yankees.  Prior to his injury last season, he was slated to be the starter in right field. 

 

 

 

 

Cataffo/New York Daily News

 

Outside of the organization, there just isn’t much to be excited about on the free agent market.  I really don’t want a ‘past his prime’ player like Brian Giles or Garret Anderson.  I’d rather take a chance on a sleeper like Cleveland’s Shin Soo Choo or Atlanta’s Matt Diaz, although I doubt either team would be willing to let either player go cheaply.   In a blast from the past, the Angels’ Juan Rivera is another attractive option.  But I seriously doubt that Cashman would be able to pry any of these options from their respective teams. 

 

 

 

Los Angeles Times

 

 

Hopefully, the left field question is answered sooner rather than later.  The Yankees still need to replenish their bullpen options for 2010 after several key departures this off-season.  Plus, bench strength is another area that needs attention before the Yankees head for Tampa. 

 

 

Jeff Zelevansky

 

Meanwhile, somewhere in the Greater Boston Area, a Red Sox fan is gleefully enjoying the Yankees’ indecision and financial constraint…and listening to Toby Keith singing “Whiskey Girl”…

 

 

 

 

In a departure from baseball, I’d like to weigh in on the decision by Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell to rest his key starters like Peyton Manning in the second half.  Everyone knows that the result was a New York Jets’ 29-15 victory over the Colts to end their pursuit of perfection.  Of course, the company line is the decision was made to protect the health of their key performers and ensure going deeper into the play-offs with the Super Bowl as the key objective. 

 

 

 

I’ve heard both sides of the argument, but I am inclined to believe that Caldwell blew it.  He had a chance to do something that no team has done before (19-0, capped by a championship).  The 1972 Miami Dolphins were 17-0 since the regular season consisted of only 14 games.  Had they accomplished what the New England Patriots could not, the Colts would have gone down in history as one of the greatest teams ever.  Now, they’ll just be another Super Bowl champion if they happen to win it all.  Sure, a championship is great, but to be among legends is immortal.  The Colts missed a great opportunity…

 

 

AP 

 

 

All things considered, I am glad that University of Florida coach Urban Meyer made the decision to take a leave of absence rather than step down as the Gators coach.  College football needs guys like Meyer, but he needs time to repair his health.  If a year from now, Meyer decides that it’s time to hang it up, so be it.  But I’d rather see Florida go a year with an interim coach to make sure that Meyer makes a decision that he’ll never regret.  I am not a Gators fan, but Meyer has been great for college football and the Florida job is clearly one of the best.  It’ll be strange seeing new coaches patrolling the sidelines at both Florida and Florida State next season.

 

 

 

 

One final thought…if the Chicago Cubs can successfully trade Milton Bradley, why can’t the Yankees unload Kei Igawa?  I still think the guy could thrive in a low-pressure environment like San Diego or Pittsburgh…

 

 

 

 


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I hope everyone has a great new year!  I have enjoyed your friendship and support in 2009 and I look forward to be being a part of the great MLB Bloggers in 2010.  It’s a very talented and impressive group of writers, and the sum total of all makes MLB.com the best blogging environment on the internet!  Keep up the great work everyone!

 

 


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The Pride of C.K. McClatchy High…

The return of Larry Bowa’s nephew…

 

 


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WFAN

 

 

Although they never wore the pinstripes at the same time, former coach Larry Bowa’s nephew, Nick Johnson, is coming home.  Traded to Montreal in 2003 for pitcher Javier Vazquez, Nick has signed a one-year deal for $5.5 million, with a mutual option for 2011, to return to the Bronx.

 

 

 

 

During Nick’s “exile”, winning baseball was not necessarily a common theme among his teams with the Montreal Expos, Washington Nationals, and Florida Marlins.  Nick is eager to return to a team with a “win at all costs” attitude.  Nick could have signed with the San Francisco Giants as their first baseman, however, his first love remained the Yankees.  So, once the Yankees expressed interest, no other team really had a chance with Johnson.

 

 

Hector Gabino/Miami Herald

 

 

Nick slots in nicely at the top of the batting order behind leadoff hitter Derek Jeter.  Nick has a knack (no pun intended) for getting on base.  His career on-base percentage is .402.

 

Welcome home, Nick!  We’re glad you’re back!

 

 

 

 

Given that the Yankees have now reacquired the two primary players in the December 2003 deal that sent Nick to Montreal and brought Javier Vazquez to the Yankees (the first time), they should consider calling the Los Angeles Angels and the Tampa Bay Rays about the availability of outfielder Juan Rivera and reliever Randy Choate, respectively. 

 

 

Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire

 

 

 

Although those are positions of need, I do not really want to see the return of either Rivera or Choate, but the Yankees do need to get creative about filling the hole in left field.  It bothers me that the team hasn’t figured out a way to unload pitcher Kei Igawa, particularly when his salary could go a long way toward bringing in a solid left fielder.  The Yankees say they’ll go with Brett Gardner and Jamie Hoffmann.  While I don’t feel you need an All-Star in left, I don’t think that Gardner and Hoffman, individually or collectively, are the answer.  I have genuine concerns about Nick Swisher’s encore performance and the Yankees do not need simultaneous struggles at both outfield corners.  I’d rather pay for a sound and dependable solution for left and then be prepared for Plan B in right.

 

 


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Best case scenario is the return of Johnny Damon.  It could still happen but Damon’s price tag will have to come down.  The other solid option (Mark DeRosa) appears to be dissipating as DeRosa is apparently favoring an agreement with the San Francisco Giants.  Hey, as a Bay Area guy, I can’t find fault with someone who wants to call the area home.  San Francisco’s a great town with a terrific ballpark.

 

 


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Reed Johnson’s name has been mentioned but I am less than enthused.  Johnson missed 49 games in 2009 for the Chicago Cubs after fouling a pitch off his left foot which caused a fracture.  A career .282 hitter, Reed only batted .255 in 65 games last season with 4 home runs and 22 RBI’s. 

 

 

 

 

His scouting report¹ says that “Hustle is his strongest suit.  Makes consistent contact and hits well with runners in scoring position – especially against lefties.  Is a good outfielder.”  The report goes on to say “he struggles against finesse pitchers and righties.  A quality platoon or 4th outfielder.”   It sounds like he would be more capable as a back-up for Curtis Granderson in center than a starter in left. 

 

¹Source:  Sportsnet.ca Ontario

 

Lobbying for the Cubs to re-sign Johnson in September, pitcher (and former Yankee) Ted Lilly was seen wearing a t-shirt that read “With Reed, we will succeed”.  Maybe for Lilly and the Cubs, but not for the World Champions.  Pass…

 

 


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So now Jason Bay and his agent are calling the Boston Red Sox?  Maybe Jason has started to send Theo fruit baskets like Julia did every day last season!  Ha!  I bet the Red Sox offer of 4 years and $60 million is looking very appealing these days.  But of course, after Boston’s signing of John Lackey and Mike Cameron, the money offered to Bay is probably no longer available.  Bay has a 4 year, $65 million offer from the New York Mets.  However, $5 million extra over 4 years is not worth the mess known as the Mets.  Bay’s best option is to remain in Boston but it is questionable whether the Red Sox have room in the 2010 budget at this point.  Bay, at this point in time, appears to have overestimated his worth in the current free agent market.  Financial constraint being shown by both the Yankees and the Red Sox…what is the world coming to?  ;)

 

 


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Finally, I’d like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  May this be a season of joy for you and your family, and here’s hoping that 2010 fulfills your every dream!  Well, except for a World Series championship…I reserve that one for Yankees fans!  J


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You Traded Me for Randy Freakin’ Johnson?…

The answer to the question is an old friend from the past…

 

Bill Kostroun/AP

 

It was no secret that the Yankees were actively seeking to fill an open spot in the rotation and the word was that it would be accomplished by year end.  As it were, the Yankees wrapped the package up prior to Christmas.  The result is the return of Javier Vazquez….

When I first heard the deal, I was a little upset at what the Yankees gave up (Melky Cabrera, Michael Dunn, and Arodys Vizcaino).  However, after having time to let it sink in, I am okay with it so long as the Yankees can come up with a decent alternative for left field.  Brett Gardner is not an every day player, and at this point, neither is Jamie Hoffmann.  Perhaps Gardner can be part of a platoon, but the other half is not currently on the roster. 

Vazquez was a Yankee for one brief season.  But it was a very painful season.  For years, we had grown up knowing that the Boston Red Sox had been suffering from the Curse of Babe Ruth prior to our own births.  However, in 2004, the Red Sox finally shook the curse and defeated the mighty Yankees despite being down 3 games to none in the American League Championship Series.  The defining moment occurred in Game 7 when Johnny Damon hit a grand slam off Javier Vazquez.  The win propelled the Red Sox to the World Series and an eventual championship that could have belonged to the Yankees.  After the season, the Yankees packaged Vazquez in a deal to Arizona that netted Randy Johnson.  At the time, Vazquez didn’t want to leave the Yankees but “public opinion” was clearly against him and the Yankees fans didn’t cry too much as Vazquez headed for the Sonoran Desert. 

Nevertheless, spin forward 5 years, and Vazquez has proven consistency and durability.  2009 was perhaps his finest year with Atlanta Braves as he went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA.  Injuries, including pink eye, kept 2009 from being even more successful.  When you are throwing around names like Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer, Aaron Harang, and others, I have to admit that Vazquez is the best case scenario.  Admittedly, I would have preferred a Bronx return by Ted Lilly but there probably wasn’t any way that the Chicago Cubs were going to let him go.  The Yankees tried hard for Cliff Lee, but the Phillies felt they needed to send Lee as far from Philly as they could given the backlash they’d receive by dealing him.  Understood.  So all things considered, Javier Vazquez as your number 4 starter is a pretty good situation.  I’d take Vazquez in a head-to-head match up against John Lackey so I think the move was a good counter to Boston’s free agent signing.

 

 

Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal Constitution

It is ironic that Damon’s departure is met by Vazquez’s return.  It is equally ironic that Vazquez and DH Nick Johnson will be teammates given they were once traded for each other.  Hopefully, this ends the Yankees’ attempt at a 2003-04 reunion tour.  We really don’t need to see a return performance by Jason Giambi.  Sorry, G, I loved you in pinstripes but that day has passed. 

 

AP 

 

The Yankees did manage to secure a bullpen part with the Vazquez trade.  They also acquired pitcher Boone Logan.  Gotta love the name.  Logan is a lefty but is probably more of a one batter specialist.  The Yankees are hopeful that Damaso Marte will continue at the level he displayed late in the season.  Logan was acquired by the Atlanta Braves in the same trade that brought Vazquez from the Chicago White Sox.  So, once again, Logan and Vazquez are intertwined…and hopefully the duo will prove to be very successful in the Bronx.  Vazquez is a free agent after 2010, so it’s possible that this is another one-and-done Yankee performance, but it is my hope that he proves he belongs in pinstripes.

 

 

The Yankees also signed free agent catcher Mike Rivera (formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers).  So long as Rivera is slotted for the third catching spot, I am okay with the move.  I feel that Francisco Cervelli deserves the primary shot to be Jorge Posada’s backup, but a veteran influence like Rivera can’t hurt.

 

 

So, now the question is what the Yankees will do about left field?  The Vazquez trade brings the payroll to nearly $200 million which is the alleged budget for 2010.  Perhaps they’ll need to offload Chad Gaudin and/or Sergio Mitre (among others), but room can be made for a capable left fielder.  Alas, it won’t be Matt Holliday or Jason Bay (or even Johnny Damon),  but I have confidence that GM Brian Cashman won’t leave the team shortchanged.

 

 

All these moves do have the potential of disrupting team chemistry so I am hopeful that the team is able to mesh in spring training.  From a character standpoint, I have no reservations with Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson, or Javier Vazquez, so I think they’ll be fine.  But as they say, the proof is in the pudding…

 

Now Pitching For The Yankees…

Okay, who will it be?…

 

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Rumors allegedly have the New York Yankees actively pursuing another pitcher for the starting rotation.  Apparently, it is a position that the team intends to fill by the end of the year.  Will the spot be filled by a free agent signing or via trade?  Given the lack of top shelf talent on the free agent market, it would appear that a trade is forthcoming.

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Of the free agents, I like Ben Sheets but he’s probably the riskiest of all from an injury standpoint.  With Sheets, you’d have to have a very clear Plan B in the event there are any setbacks in spring training.  But I do like his upside and on his best day, he can pitch toe-to-toe with the likes of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey. 

 

UPI 

Jason Marquis was another option but he signed a two-year deal with the Washington Nationals earlier today.  A native New Yorker, he would have made a smooth transition to the Bronx but the jump from the NL to the AL would have been more difficult.

 

Jeff Zelevansky, Icon SMI

 

Pedro Martinez?  Fuggetaboutit!

 

 

There have been some reports of talks between the Yankees and the Braves.  I do not know the topic of the discussions but I don’t really think that Derek Lowe is the answer at this stage of his career.

Nor am I ready to get excited about a return of Javier Vazquez regardless of how will he performed in Atlanta.

I’d be more willing to see the return of the Chicago Cubs’ Ted Lilly…

There’s always the potential that the Yankees could convince the Florida Marlins to part with Josh Johnson.  However, I am not sure the Marlins are ready to do anything with Johnson and there’s always the problem with the NL-to-AL transition.

So where does that leave us?  According to the latest reports, a strong possibility could be Aaron Harang of the Cincinnati Reds.  Earlier, I was convinced that Harang was headed to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  However, that organization seems paralyzed by the McCourt divorce proceedings.

 

MLB 

I am not sure what I think about Harang, but he does have some AL experience from his early days with the Oakland A’s.  He would clearly be an upgrade over Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre.  How I really feel about him will be determined by how much the Yanks have to give up to get him.  Last season, he was an uninspiring 6-14 with the Reds and posted a 4.21 ERA.  His 142 strikeouts, with only 43 walks, looked good, but this is a guy who led the majors with the most home runs allowed in 2008 (19).  That’s not exactly the guy you’d want to be pitching at the Batting Practice known as Yankee Stadium. 

Maybe Brian Cashman can convince the Seattle Mariners that they don’t really need Cliff Lee…

 

 

We’ll see how this turns out.  Hopefully, Cashman will make the smart, prudent choice and ensure the Yankees have the middle of the order protected.

 

It’s not official yet but it sounds like the Yankees have signed Nick Johnson as their full-time DH.  If it is confirmed, I am glad to see Nick return to the Bronx.  I had feared that he’d sign with Boston and had quietly hoped that he’d go with the San Francisco Giants.  I didn’t really expect him to sign with the Yankees, but I am supportive of the move.  All signs indicate Johnson’s arrival spells the end of Johnny Damon’s Yankees career.  I do not necessarily agree.  I think the Yanks could still find a way to allow Johnny to return under a deal that makes sense for both parties.  They are a good fit for each other so hopefully egos can be set aside for the good of all.

 

 

After resolution of pitching and left field, I think the Yanks will move either Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner.  Cabrera would seem to have the greatest trade value.  The Yanks still need a few more arms for bullpen competition in the spring.

I would give the backup catching spot to Francisco Cervelli although I recognize that it is only a matter of time until Jesus Montero arrives as Jorge Posada’s eventual successor.

Ah, the life and times of the Yankees general manager.  No stress for the holidays…

 

 

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P.S.  Major League Baseball would like to thank the Yankees for their generous $26 million “donation”.  Who says the Yanks aren’t good for baseball…

 

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Godzilla, The End…

 

It has been a very powerful week…

 


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Meanwhile, back in the Bronx…

 


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The Yankees bid farewell to World Series MVP Hideki Matsui today when he signed with the Los Angeles Angels (one year, $6 million).  Clearly, if Matsui’s knees had held up, the ending would not have come like this.  The Yankees will miss his clutch bat.  Time and again, I can recall games where every bat was ice cold, but Godzilla still delivered the key hit to win the game.  He was always in the right place at the right time against the dreaded Boston Red Sox.  The Yankees haven’t fared well with Japanese players when it comes to pitchers (see Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa), however, they struck gold with a position player.  Matsui arrived with much fanfare and was billed as Japan’s best player when he came to the United States.  Expectations were high, and I’d say that he delivered.  He was a class act and he will be missed.  I am not excited that he went to a bitter rival, however, he does deserve the opportunity to show that he can be a major contributor.  I wish him the best of luck in Southern California.

New Angels player Hideki Matsui shows off his new jersey for the cameras in front of Angels Stadium Wednesday.

Paul Rodriguez/The Orange County Register

 

Of course, this does prove that old Yankee outfielders don’t die, they just sign with the Angels…

 

 

It was a busy day for my friend Julia.  Her Red Sox announced the free agent signings of pitcher John Lackey and outfielder Mike Cameron today, and showed that GM Theo Epstein is truly a “man with a plan”.  I agree with Boston’s decision to cut ties with Jason Bay and move forward with Mike Cameron.  After all the reports about Bay, I’d have to say that I’d be very hesitant to sign him to a long-term deal.  I am glad that the Yankees are staying out of the negotiations for Bay at this point.  Let him go to the Mets.  As for Lackey, I wanted the Yanks to sign him to fill the #3 spot in the rotation.  Andy Pettitte did a great job last year, but I really think that he is no more than a #4 at this stage of his career.  Boston does have a very impressive rotation (Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Lackey, Tim Wakefield, Dice-K, and/or Clay Buchholz).  I really do not expect Buchholz to be on the Opening Roster since I feel the Sox will be successful in securing Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres for first base (sliding Kevin Youkilis to third) at a cost which will include Buchholz.  So, congratulations to Julia for a very successful week.  However, I will caution her that it is a long way from April 4th!  Much can happen between now and then…

 

 

From my perspective, I’d take a chance on a low-risk, high reward pitcher to fill the #3 in the Yankees rotation.  I like the rumors for either Ben Sheets or Justin Duchsherer.  I’d probably prefer Sheets because he has the stronger pedigree and an established relationship with CC Sabathia.  It’s always tough to transition from the National League to the American League, but a support system like CC would help.  However, I wouldn’t be disappointed if the team pursued Duchsherer.  Julia may brag about her rotation, however, I’d be okay going to battle with Sabathia, Burnett, Sheets/Duchsherer, Pettitte, and Hughes.  For the record, I have switched my position on Joba Chamberlain, and I now think his return to the bullpen would be the best fit for his talent and we knew all along that Phil Hughes is a starting pitcher regardless of his bullpen success.

 

William Perlman/The Star Ledger

 

So, this brings us to left field.  The latest reports have Johnny Damon expecting a $13 million per year payday.  Frankly, I am losing interest in retain Damon for 2010.  Mark DeRosa has been mentioned as a possibility, and I am okay with him as Damon’s replacement.  I do have concerns about Nick Swisher repeating his 2009 success, or Curtis Granderson learning to hit lefties, so the Yanks would probably be seeking a corner outfield upgrade at the July trading deadline.  However, in the interim, I would like the team for the first half of the season with Sheets or Duchsherer in the rotation and DeRosa in left.  I would certainly like the Yankees to become players for Matt Holliday but I just don’t think it will happen.

 

Jeff Roberson/AP

 

I do wish the Yankees would give the perception (right now) of being a proactive organization doing everything possible to ensure a repeat championship in 2010 rather than one mired in financial constraints.  Who knows if the reports of payroll cutting are real or just negotiating ploys, but the team needs to strike before all of the premium players are gone.  I’d also re-engage Florida to see if Josh Johnson could be had at the right price…

 

Alan Diaz/AP

 

I don’t want to dissect the Roy Halladay trade to the Phillies, but I am surprised that the Philles gave up both Cliff Lee and Kyle Drabek to secure Doc’s services.  Granted, Roy Halladay is arguably the best pitcher in baseball but how could he outperform the brilliant performance given by Cliff Lee in a Phillies uniform?  I know that Lee will be demanding outrageous monies at the end of his contract next year, and the Phillies felt that they needed to re-tool after relinquishing great talent like Drabek for Doc.  But wow, what a rotation it would have been featuring Halladay, Lee, and Cole Hamels.  Plus, J.A. Happ is still in the rotation.  I’d rate this trade better for the Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays than the Phillies.  I might even say the Oakland A’s emerged stronger with their acquisition of Michael Taylor for a player caught in a glut of corner infielder/DH types (Brett Wallace).  As a Yankees fan, I am glad to see Halladay exit the AL East.  However, it won’t be long before we hate to face Kyle Drabek…

 

SI

 

Meanwhile, back at Yankee headquarters…

 


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Out with Old, In with the New…

 

It has been a very busy week for the almighty¹ Yankees…

 


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¹Word ‘almighty’ is for the exclusive benefit of my friend Julia!  ;)

 

ARRIVED

Curtis Granderson

The blockbuster trade of the Winter Meetings saw the arrival of Curtis Granderson as the newest centerfielder for the New York Yankees. 

The price tag was very high and the Yankees lost a great opportunity to market “Ajax” but who knows if Austin Jackson will ever be the player that Grandy is today.  Maybe he’ll be better but it probably won’t happen for several years.  The Yankees have a window of opportunity right now and the heart of the team is not getting any younger.  It is critical for the Yanks to infuse young, quality talent into the lineup now, not later.  Grandy will be 29 on Opening Day and he can be expected to hold his position through the retirement of Derek Jeter and beyond.

I am looking forward to watching Grandy in the Bronx.  One of my personal favorites in the ‘Wow’ factor (off the field exploits aside) was Darryl Strawberry.  I am hopeful that Grandy will bring that level of excitement and energy to the team and that he’ll quickly become a fan favorite.

 

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Jamie Hoffmann

The former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder was selected first in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft by the Washington Nationals and was immediately dealt to the Yankees as compensation for the trade that sent reliever Brian Bruney to the Nats.

Hoffmann, a former hockey player, will compete for the 25th spot on the Yankees roster.  Since Hoffmann will have to be offered back to the Dodgers if he fails to stick on the Yankees major league roster, I fully expect the Yankees to move either Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner if Hoffmann shows anything during spring training.  You can make an argument for why the Yanks should keep either Cabrera or Gardner but Cabrera clearly has the highest trade value.

Hoffmann, 25, made his major league debut with the Dodgers on May 22nd.  Two days later, he got his first major league hit, a two-run bomb off Matt Palmer and the Angels in Anaheim.  Hopefully, it is a great sign of things to come…

 

Los Angeles Dodgers' Matt Kemp (27) congratulates teammate Jamie Hoffmann (30) on his two-run home run during the second inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Sunday, May 24, 2009, in Los Angeles.

 

AP

Andy Pettitte

Okay, it’s not really an arrival.  However, it is a big deal that Andy and the team agreed on a one year deal so quickly after Andy announced his decision to play at least another year.  We didn’t need another Brett Favre-like situation this off-season.  Welcome back, Andy!

 

Andy Pettitte Alex Rodriguez

AP

 

DEPARTURES

This could be called the ‘You’ll get your ring when we come to a city near you’ category…

Brian Bruney, to the Washington Nationals for the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft (Jamie Hoffmann).

Austin Jackson and Phil Coke to the Detroit Tigers, and Ian Kennedy to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Detroit’s Curtis Granderson.

 

Jerry Hale/MiLB.com

 

FREE AGENTS

Johnny Damon, unsigned.  Talks with the Yanks have continued but the team is unwilling to go beyond two years.  At this stage of his career, Damon has to get all he can get since this may be his last major league contract.  I want Damon back, however, I am supportive of the team’s position.

 

AP 

 

Hideki Matsui, unsigned.  Almost certain not to return unless the Yankees fail to sign Damon, Godzilla would be a good fit in the Bay Area if the Oakland A’s could unload Jack Cust.

 

 

Jose Molina, unsigned.  I am ready for Francisco Cervelli to back up Jorge Posada, with Jesus Montero possibly in the mix.  The Yankees do need to reduce their payroll and this is an area that they can still get value at a cheaper price.

Xavier Nady, unsigned.  Personally, I would try to bring the X-Man back to the Bronx.  But I recognize that he is not in the team’s plans, and it is virtually certain that he’ll sign elsewhere (perhaps with the Braves).

Jerry Hairston, Jr.  A good complimentary player but his role can be easily replaced by Ramiro Pena.

 

Kathy Willens/AP 

 

OTHER MOVES

The Yankees are not expected to tender a contract to pitcher Chien-Ming Wang so he’ll become a free agent later today (midnight ET).  It’s unfortunate that it has come to this with the former 19-game winner.  He was perhaps the Yankees most valuable starting pitcher until that fateful day running the bases in Houston several years ago.  I suspect that he’ll be a strong candidate for Comeback Player of the Year so some team is going to get lucky by taking a chance on Wang.  Hopefully, the Yankees will find a way to bring him back but for now, he’ll be up for grabs…

 

Al Messerschmidt/Getty

Former Yankee, and the Opening Day starting third baseman, Cody Ransom has been invited to camp with the Philadelphia Phillies as a non-roster player.

*   *   *

As a California resident, this joke by Conan O’Brien bears repeating since it is oh, so true!

‘Los Angeles was hit by a massive storm that caused power outages and freeway closures.  Meteorologists predict that the storm will head east next week where it will be known as rain.’ 

…or something like that!  Nevertheless, it is an accurate description of life in California!

Too funny!

 

 

 

 

Move the Ghosts Aside, A New Yankee Centerfielder…

Anybody that played for the Mankato Moondogs is fine by me…

 

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Introducing the newest Yankee, centerfielder Curtis Granderson!  I have to admit that I was a bit reluctant when I saw the price tag (outfield prospect Austin Jackson and pitchers Phil Coke and Ian Kennedy).  I was looking forward to a career with Ajax in center, and I had grown very fond of bullpen specialist Coke over the course of the past season.  I wasn’t particularly enamored with Ian Kennedy’s attitude, but he did impress me with his return last season following surgery.  Nevertheless, I recognize that the Yankees are a better team today than they were yesterday.  Granderson hit 30 home runs with a home park that is pitching friendly.  Move him to the wind tunnel known as Yankee Stadium and this guy is going to be electric in center field.  He stole 20 bags this past season since he does have some speed.

  Granderson's acrobatic grab in July, robbing Boston of a home run, was the must-see clip of the summer.

John Grieshop/Getty Images

 

Granderson appeared in his first All-Star Game in 2009 and scored the winning run in the 8th inning following a triple.  This play was huge for the Yankees because it gave them home field advantage in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.  So, it appears that he was destined for pinstripes.

 

 

 

After dispatching valuable bullpen parts in Brian Bruney and Phil Coke, GM Brian Cashman needs to focus on rebuilding the bullpen.  However, starting pitching should be the next course of action.  I still think the Yankees need to address left field.  I am not a fan of moving Melky Cabrera to left.  I do not think he hits for the power that you need in left, particularly considering that Nick Swisher is average in right.  I’d either like to see the Yanks re-sign Johnny Damon, or look elsewhere for a new left fielder.  I would not be a proponent of moving Granderson to left either as I feel his speed is best served in center.

 

AP

 

This commentary may be a bit premature since the trade has not been officially confirmed, however, at this point, it appears that it is a foregone conclusion that it will be.  Interestingly enough, Granderson wears #28 for the Detroit Tigers.  The number is available with the Yankees, unless Joe Girardi decides to upgrade his number to the new goal.  So, perhaps Granderson is the missing link for World Championship #28.  Time will tell.  I have no problem with my friend Julia suffering another year of disappointment!  J

 


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First Departure from 2009 Championship Team…

Let the trading and signings begin!…

 

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The Yankees embarked on their 2010 off-season journey by dealing reliever Brian Bruney to the Washington Nationals for a player to be named (most likely the Nats’ first round pick in Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft).  Bruney has been a vital cog in the Yankees bullpen for the past few years, although there have been a few interruptions caused by injury.  I am not sure what I think about this one.  I have to believe that Brian Cashman has a motive for making the move.  It’s been said that Cash feels that Bruney’s role can be replaced by lower cost options, however, I liked the thought of having Bruney as a safety net for the bridge to Mariano Rivera should Phil Hughes make a successful transition to the starting rotation next season.  Or perhaps Cash has more grandiose plans that would keep Hughes as the Yanks’ primary setup man.  Regardless, Bruney will be missed, and I wish him the best of luck in the Nation’s Capitol.

 

Michael Strobel/US Presswire

Okay, you could say that Bruney is not the first player to depart given the number of players who are free agents.  However, none have signed with other clubs yet so Bruney is the first major departure from the 2009 Champions.

 

It was also announced that pitcher Andy Pettitte has decided to return in 2010.  Unlike last season, Andy was very quick to make the decision to return.  Of course, the team and Pettitte now have to agree on compensation so this could still be dragged out over the course of the next few weeks.  I am glad to see Andy’s return as that would be preferable over a gamble that someone like Randy Wolf could have a successful transition to the Bronx.  When he’s done, Andy will stand tall among the franchise’s best left-handed pitchers.  He may not reach the club’s win record for a southpaw, but he’ll be in the neighborhood.  If only he hadn’t left for the Houston Astros for three years…

 

 

So, the Los Angeles Angels are kicking the tires of Boston Red Sox outfielder Jason Bay.  If they allow Vladimir Guerrero to depart, it would make sense that the Angels pursue someone of Bay’s caliber.  If that happens, I’d have to believe that the Red Sox will become the odds-on favorite to land Matt Holliday as Bay’s replacement.

 

 

I just completed a very busy week, and it’s great to be home.  Last Sunday, I attended a Kelly Clarkson concert in San Jose.

 

 

 

I departed the next day for business meetings in New Jersey.  After the meetings, a number of my co-workers and I traveled to New York to see Rock of Ages on Broadway.  It was a terrific show, and the star, former American Idol finalist Constanine Maroulis, was phenomenal.

 

Rock of Ages' Constantine Maroulis on Groupies and Performing for Drinking Audiences

Getty Images 

 

From New York, I headed to Phoenix where I spent the weekend.  I went to Sunday night’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.  The game was a disaster, as the Vikings fell to the Cardinals, 30-17.  However, the stadium was impressive.  Hopefully, Favre and Company will rebound for a strong finish to the season.  Everyone’s allowed a clunker or two, right?

 

Minnesota Vikings (4) Brett Favre and Arizona Cardinals (13) Kurt Warner after the Cardinals defeated the Vikings. The Cardinals won 30-17.

Rob Schumacher/Arizona Republic

 

Arriving back in San Jose, all the nearby mountains were snow-capped, which is a very rare sight in Silicon Valley.  It was a beautiful sight, and it was so good to be home!

 


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Last Link to Lou Gehrig Passes Away…

The oldest Yankee legend has passed away…

 

 

 

 

Tommy Henrich, 96, a Yankees outfielder in the 30′s and 40′s, died yesterday in Dayton, Ohio.  Henrich was part of a tremendous outfield trio in the late 40′s that included Charlie Keller and Joe DiMaggio. 

 

 

 

 

In Game 1 of the 1949 World Series, Henrich hit the first game-winning home run in Series history in a 1-0 victory over Don Newcombe and the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Henrich, like many of the players from his era, missed three years due to military service during World War II. 

 

 

 

 

Henrich, a five time All-Star, played 11 seasons and hit 183 home runs.  His career batting average was .282.  He retired following the 1950 season.  During his career, Henrich was part of seven World Series Championships.

 

He was nicknamed “Old Reliable” by the great Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen due to his knack for coming up with clutch hits in big games.  On a sad note, Henrich was the final surviving teammate of the legendary Lou Gehrig and the last member of the 1938 World Champions.

 

 

 

 

 

An autographed picture of Henrich has long been one of my prized possessions.  In Yankees history, he ranks as one of my personal favorites.  I never got to meet Henrich, but he will be missed. 

 

 

 

 

The Yankees did not offer arbitration to any of their free agents.  So, Andy Pettitte, Johnny Damon, and Hideki Matsui are free to sign with any team without compensation to the Yanks.  I understand the reasons (they couldn’t take the chance that any of the players accept arbitration), but it does feel that the bonds to the players have lessened considerably.  I still think that Andy Pettitte will come back on a one year deal, but I am getting pessimistic that Damon will return.  It was a given that Matsui most likely will not be back.

 

 

 

 

With the talk of Boston’s interest in Matt Holliday, it will be interesting to see if that sparks any Yankee interest in Jason Bay.  If both Damon and Matsui leave, the Yankees will lose a tremendous amount of production that needs to be replaced. 

 

 

Jason Bay's three-run home run in the first plates David Ortiz and puts the Red Sox up in the first inning.

 

Antonelli/New York Daily News

 

 

Derek Jeter was named Sport Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.  Surprisingly, he is the first Yankee to win the award in its 56 year history.  It was a great year for the Yankee captain, and of course, just another noted achievement, in what is becoming a long list of achievements, for the future plaque that will be placed in Monument Park when DJ retires.  Congratulations to Derek for the well-deserved honor and recognition!

 

 

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The New York Jets brought in Yankees manager Joe Girardi to teach QB Mark Sanchez how to slide?  Seriously?…

 

 

GROUND ATTACK: The Jets reached out to the world champion Yankees to send someone to give quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) some tips on how to slide. The Yankees responded by sending manager Joe Girardi (inset).

 

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