After a month of no news or action, the Randy Winn signing was a bit underwhelming…
All off-season, Yankees fans everywhere have yearned for the return of fan favorite Johnny Damon. Perfectly suited for left field in the new Yankee Stadium, it seemed, at least initially, as though the two sides would eventually come together.
Yet, as we approach February, the link between Damon and the Yankees is irreparably damaged. I don’t blame the player and I clearly find fault with the agent, Scott Boras. If, at one point, the Yankees were willing to pay 2 years at $14 million when Damon wanted at least 2 years at $22 million, it would seem that there was room for compromise. However, neither side actively pursued resolution and now the team has clearly moved on.
It’s a sad situation and the Yankees will regret the move at some point this season. Perhaps a couple of years down the road when Carl Crawford is patrolling left, it won’t get a passing thought. But for now, we say goodbye to Damon…prematurely in my opinion. I wish him the very best wherever he lands (even if it is in Toronto). Thanks, Johnny, for the great memories in the Bronx!
William Perlman/The Star Ledger
Meanwhile, the Yankees have signed former San Francisco Giants outfielder Randy Winn. Winn is coming off a disappointing season but he’s been a reliable player in years past. I am very disappointed with the move and I truly hope that Brett Gardner wins the job outright in spring training. Perhaps another signing is imminent (Reed Johnson or Rocco Baldelli?) but most likely, the Yankees have made their final player move before heading to Tampa.
It was difficult to watch Xavier Nady sign with the Chicago Cubs. I had really hoped that if the Yankees didn’t sign Damon, they’d pursue Nady. Maybe he regresses in his attempt to come back from an injury-filled 2009 season, but I really think he’ll have a solid season and will be one of the free agent success stories. It was an excellent move for Lou Piniella and the Cubs.
Chris Faytok/The Star Ledger
Sports-wise, this has been a tough week for me. On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings lost a heartbreaker to the New Orleans Saints. The Vikings had their chances but it was not meant to be. As Buster Olney put it, you expect to win as a Vikings fan but you are conditioned to lose. I am not optimistic about next season if the starting QB is either Tavaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels so this was definitely the lost opportunity of a lifetime. It was more painful than the loss in the 1998 NFC Championship to the Atlanta Falcons.
So far, 2010 has not been a great year for my sports teams but there is still much time for a major turnaround. Sorry Julia! I do not intend to lose to you this year…in any sport!
Silence is Golden…
Courtesy: Erik van den Ham
Okay, it has been incredibly quiet around the Yankees Universe since they acquired pitcher Javier Vazquez late last year. But all things considered, I think that GM Brian Cashman has the team exactly where he wants them. There is much discussion about left field, but really, a platoon of Brett Gardner and Jamie Hoffmann is not necessarily a bad thing. Or perhaps Colin Curtis makes major strides in training camp. Regardless, the Yankees are in good shape regardless of what happens in left. In fact, it was just last April when the Yankees broke camp with Gardner as their starting center fielder. They now have a centerfielder who can match Johnny Damon’s lost production, so why not take a chance on Gardner in left? If he could improve his on-base percentage, he would be a terror on the base paths.
Antonelli/NY Daily News
Growing up, it always seemed as though owner George Steinbrenner would purposely leak stories about the Yankees to the tabloids just to keep the team in the news. It has been a new world order since Hal Steinbrenner took over the team, but that doesn’t mean the younger Steinbrenner is any less motivated to win than his father. He just wants to avoid those foolish long-term contracts that can haunt a team for years. If greater efficiency ensures the sustainability of the team’s success in recent years, I am all for it. The late 80′s were not a fun time to be a Yankees fan.
I am not saying that I wouldn’t be excited if the Yankees and Johnny Damon somehow came to an agreement for 2010, but at this point, I am not counting on it. I am prepared for the team to move forward with its current cast of players. I know that if a need develops, they’ll pursue a solution that makes sense for the team.
But I respect Hal Steinbrenner, and I am pleased that he is in charge of the Yankees. He has shown support for his manager and general manager, and he is willing to open the purse strings when it makes sense for the team. I remember sitting in the stands at Yankee Stadium during the 1980′s when fans used to yell negative comments about George Steinbrenner. Somehow, I don’t think that will happen with Hal. He is not going to run a frivolous organization, but it will be efficient, streamlined, and a winner. Works for me…
On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship with a 34-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys. The Vikings will face the Saints in New Orleans next weekend.
Favre finally prevailed against the Cowboys after compiling a 0-3 record against them in the play-offs while a member of the Green Bay Packers.
For me, it was vindication, in part, for the disappointing loss in the Hail Mary game of December 1975.
The Vikings have a tough match-up against the Saints, particularly considering that it is an away game. The Vikings have been invincible at home, but on the road, they’ve met mixed results. In facing the Saints, they’ll see a familiar player in former Viking safety Darren Sharper. Sharper and Favre were teammates in Green Bay, but now Sharper stands in Favre’s way for a trip to the Super Bowl.
After the game against the Cowboys, a friend sent me the following “prayer”. I don’t know who wrote it but it is excellent:
Our Favre-ther who art in Mississippi, hallowed be thy name. Thy bowl will come, it will win, in Miami as it is in the Dome. Give us this Sunday, our weekly win. Give us touchdown passes, but do not let others pass against us. Lead us not into frustration but deliver us to the Super Bowl. For thyne is the MVP, the best of the NFC, and the glory of the Purple People Eaters now and forever…
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Good luck to the guys in purple, but seriously, I am ready for some baseball…
P.S. Contrary to what Julia may think, ‘Yankees Suck’ did not win Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat through a write-in campaign!
Roger Maris, 61 Home Runs*…
For years, the asterisk was a negative mark against Roger Maris. It signified that his record was accomplished in a 162-game schedule whereas Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs occurred when the regular season consisted of only 154 games. There is no question that the asterisk was unfair to Maris and baseball in general.
However, with the admission by Mark McGwire that he juiced during the record breaking year when he hit 70 home runs, it stands to reason that the asterisk should again be placed by Maris’s record…only this time it should be construed as a positive. When you look at the guys who have hit more than 61 home runs, all are confessed, proven or highly suspected steroid users (McGwire, Sammy Sosa and current single season HR leader Barry Bonds). Roger’s mark should stand alone as THE record…accomplished by a player who set the record with natural ability. Ruth did not have to withstand the incredible pressure that Maris faced in 1961, and of course, Ruth didn’t have to contend with “juicers” breaking his record. Once and for all, Roger Maris deserves the recognition of being that champion he is.
I hope that I do not see McGwire, Bonds, or Sosa in the Hall of Fame in my lifetime. I refuse to be hypocritical, so I will say that the same should apply to Alex Rodriguez. There are obviously reasons that guys like Ty Cobb, records aside, should not be in the Hall of Fame, but those decisions cannot be undone. The Hall of Fame can prohibit the entry of any proven or confessed steroid abusers, and I feel very strongly that they should. I would probably be more willing to consider Pete Rose (well, maybe not while he is still living), but if the Hall can take action against Rose, why can’t the same prohibitions apply to the cheaters of the game?
I feel the game owes a huge debt of gratitude to the players who stood “clean” in an era of deceit. Whether it is Derek Jeter, Dwight Evans, Cal Ripken, or Chase Utley, they played the game the right way and deserve special recognition for staying true to the integrity of the game. Hats off to the good guys…
Time for some non-baseball talk (sorry, there just isn’t much happening in the Yankees Universe)…
I was surprised to see Pete Carroll jump at the opportunity with the Seattle Seahawks. Pete has an unsuccessful record as a NFL head coach, and his style of leadership seemed to be best suited for the college level. USC is certainly one of the plum college coaching jobs, and the departures of top college coaches to the NFL has generally been met with less than desired results. Granted, I wouldn’t want the job of babysitting the college kids and making sure that they do not do anything to violate NCAA rules, but the USC job seemed like it would be Carroll’s for as long as he wanted it. I was surprised when John McKay left USC back in the 70′s, and I am equally surprised about Carroll. Hopefully, he’ll be able to “recruit” the right players to Seattle.
John W. McDonough/SI
Speaking of USC, I was even more shocked that the school was able to land Lane Kiffin as their next coach. This morning, the breaking news on ESPN was that the school had offered the job to Jacksonville Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio. That actually made sense to me since Del Rio doesn’t have that many years left unless he starts to win. But by the end of the day, Del Rio had announced that he was staying in Jacksonville, and USC had a new coach in Kiffin, who is bringing his father, Monte, along as defensive coordinator. The school also successfully brought UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow back too. The loser in this whole ordeal (sorry Rick Neuheisel!) is the University of Tennessee. They gave a great opportunity to Kiffen when he was dumped by Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. He rewarded them with some questionable coaching practices, confrontation with SEC coaches, and a less-than-stellar 7-6 mark. For $800,000 (payable over 36 months), Kiffin can simply walk away. Incredible. Hopefully, Tennessee will rebound with a solid coaching hire, but they didn’t deserve this treatment from Kiffin. I think I will be a UCLA fan next season (how sick is that?)…
Given that the San Francisco Giants have signed Aubrey Huff which would potentially keep Pablo Sandoval at third, and Mark DeRosa in left field, the Atlanta Braves appear to be the only viable option outside of the Yankees for free agent Johnny Damon. Personally, I think the Braves will opt for a less expensive option, so it really means that the Yankees and Damon need to sit down and determine a fair salary that works for both sides. This is not rocket science. But of course, the negative factor is agent Scott Boras. I vote for the removal of Scott Boras from the Scott Club! Johnny, pick up the phone and call Brian or Hal. You can get this deal done…
John Munson/Newark Star-Ledger
How many more days until the Yankees beat the Red Sox? That’s right, I just need to check Julia’s website…
If the reports are true, Derek Jeter will be breaking the hearts of women and girls across the country…
According to Newsday and the New York Post, Derek Jeter will marry Minka Kelly on November 5th…right after the end of the World Series.
The reception will likely be held at Oheka Castle in Huntington, Long Island.
It is hard to believe that DJ has finally decided to settle down, but I think he’s made a wise choice with Minka. From afar, they seem like a very happy couple. Let’s hope that 2010, all the way around, is DJ’s best yet!
New York Post
Much is being made of the alleged wedding date which ends a day or two after the last possible game for the World Series. I think Derek will be fine with a night’s rest after he helps the Yankees win their 28th World Championship. But, of course, my friend Julia will argue that DJ will have several weeks, if not more, to rest up for the wedding following the end of the Yankees’ season. Well, I guess that’s why they play the games.
Congrats to Derek and Minka!…if the rumored wedding is true…
Speculation continues to churn out more names for left field. I like the one that would put Rick Ankiel and Rocco Baldelli in a platoon. I do not want to see the team sign an aging veteran like Brian Giles or Jermaine Dye. But the longer Johnny Damon goes unsigned, the more I get renewed hope that he’ll settle for less and return to the Bronx. Clearly, his return is the best case scenario.
Al Bello/Getty Images
The Dallas Cowboys are headed to Minnesota in the divisional play-offs next week. For me, it is chance for revenge of 1975′s Hail Mary Pass by Roger Staubach as the Cowboys ousted the Vikings from the play-offs. The 1975 Vikings were a great team, much like the 1998 version, and both of those teams suffered bitter, disappointing losses to end their respective seasons. Brett Favre has a great deal of experience facing the Cowboys in the play-offs. Too often, the games were played at Texas Stadium and Favre ended up on the losing end. However, this time, the game is at home so Favre has a chance for vindication. After years of watching the Cowboys end his season, he can finally return the favor. Let’s hope that a trip to the NFC Championship is in store for the Vikings.
The Cowboys entered December trying to find post-Thanksgiving success…something that has eluded the team in recent years. This year, the Cowboys were able to turn it up a notch when the temperatures dropped. They definitely have momentum on their side following two lop-sided wins over their bitter division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. Many experts had predicted that the eventual NFC champion would come from the winner of the Cowboys-Eagles game. I hope that’s not the case…
Hey Julia, only 84 more days until you experience the Red Sox first defeat!
“I consider this position I am playing in as a bench role”…
These were the words of Yankees GM Brian Cashman on January 6th regarding the current Yankees outfield. Cashman is apparently looking for a right-handed bat to complement Brett Gardner in left. Let’s see if these words still hold true on, say, February 23rd. I guess we’ll check back at that time to see if Cashman held true to his words.
An intriguing option in a platoon situation is free agent outfielder Rocco Baldelli. Rocco has had medical issues the past few years and suffers from channelopathy, but in a limited role, he might be a viable option. He appeared in only 62 games last season for the Boston Red Sox, batting .253 with 7 home runs and 23 RBI’s. I don’t know what the future holds for Rocco, but if he can overcome his medical condition, he might thrive in a part-time position. I am sure the price tag would be enticing to a GM looking to keep the payroll under $200 million…
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
I am warming up to the idea of Reed Johnson as a possibility for a potential platoon, but as each passing day goes by and Johnny Damon remains a free agent, I am hopeful that his price tag falls far enough that he fits into Cashman’s budget. If the Yankees could get Damon to come back for one year, it would be an ideal situation and Johnny could test the free agent waters next fall.
It’s tough when you pull up a New York paper, and the leading Yankees story is the signing of pitcher Sergio Mitre to a one-year, $850,000 deal. Okay, I accept that the possibility that Mitre will be significantly improved since he’ll be further from his elbow ligament replacement surgery (July 2008). But to spotlight him in the New York tabloids is a bit much. I do not see Mitre as more than a bit player in 2010. Maybe he’ll prove to be the second coming of Aaron Small but who knows…
Sipkin/New York Daily News
Peter Abraham says that Chien-Ming Wang is ready to move on from the Yankees. I am still a bit perplexed why the Yankees didn’t try to give Wang one more chance. Maybe there’s a possibility that he could still return, but I would hate to see him experience a rebirth in Boston (not that they need another starter with that rotation). Actually, if it were me, I’d go to Seattle. The Mariners are definitely poised to make a run in what should be Ken Griffey, Jr.’s final year. The Mariners have made some great acquisitions this off-season. Sure, they lost Adrian Beltre, but they’ve acquired Cliff Lee, Casey Kotchman, and Chone Figgins. But like with Damon, I do hope that Wang finds his way back to the Bronx.
Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger
I was sorry to see David Cone leave the YES Network. There was always something very re-assuring about Coney as a player and as a broadcaster. I can’t say that I was pleased when he decided to go to Boston to pitch, but he is a class guy. Whatever the future holds for Coney, I hope that it’s what he wants to do.
Congratulations to pitcher Joba Chamberlain for being a winner of the Thurman Munson Award (which acknowledges excellence in competition and philanthropic work in the community). The award will be given on February 2nd. This is definitely a preferable off-season event over a DUI. I am glad to see Joba’s growth and maturity in a very positive direction.
Sports Illustrated, courtesy of Microsoft
My weekend football predictions:
Cincinnati Bengals 21, New York Jets 17
New England Patriots 31, Baltimore Ravens 20 (Okay, this is for my friend Julia!)
Arizona Cardinals 27, Green Bay Packers 17
Dallas Cowboys 33, Philadelphia Eagles 31
The only problem with my predictions is that it would bring the Dallas Cowboys to Minnesota to face the Vikings. This, of course, is the match-up that has haunted me for many years. On December 28, 1975, I was watching the Cowboys and Vikings in the NFC Divisional Play-offs. It appeared that the Vikings had the game in hand until Roger Staubach threw the unbelievable Hail Mary pass caught by Drew Pearson as Nate Wright fell to the ground. I remember exactly where I was, where I was standing, and my reaction. Fortunately, I’ve had the Yankees all these years to give me some “relief” from the disappointment…
When can we start talking about baseball?…
Let’s Go Yankees!
New Year, same problems in left…
Okay, I didn’t really want to start the new year with any mention of left field, but unfortunately, there hasn’t been much more to talk about. 2010 begins where 2009 left off…the Yankees are still in search of the right combination for left field. Perhaps the answer is already on the roster in the form of Brett Gardner and Jamie Hoffmann, or maybe the Yanks should move Curtis Granderson to left and install Gardner back in center. Ultimately, I don’t think either of those options will be viable ones when training camp opens in Tampa. But they do underscore the lack of urgency on the Yankees’ part.
I am a big proponent of finding a low-cost option with high upside. When Paul O’Neill was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds, he wasn’t a “big” name and he only cost the Yankees the long-forgotten Roberto Kelly. At the time, I was miffed that the Yanks would give up on Kelly, but history clearly showed that it was one of the most astute moves in Yankee history.
I read a blog that speculated David DeJesus of the Kansas City Royals would be a good fit. I do not disagree. Today, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues suggested Travis Buck of the Oakland A’s. Regardless of the latter’s health history, I am okay with either player. Ideally, there’s no question that I’d prefer Johnny Damon first and foremost. But I just don’t think it will happen for whatever reason. So, short of Damon, I like the idea of inserting a player with potential. It is a given that the Yankees will aggressively pursue Plan B if Plan A doesn’t work out. I don’t think the Mets would give him up at this point, but I have liked Jeff Francoeur. I still think that he’ll turn it around and live up to his early career promise. The Indians signed free agent and former Yankee Shelley Duncan today. In retrospect, it is too bad that the Yankees never gave him a chance.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
At the end of the day, I think that GM Brian Cashman won’t leave the Yanks short-changed in left. I have faith in the man with the plan…
John Munson/The Star Ledger
Allegedly, 15 teams have expressed interest in pitcher Chien-Ming Wang (with the Yankees included). I hope that the team can find a way to bring Wang back home. If Wang is right, how awesome would the Yanks bullpen be with both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes?
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
So, the Boston Red Sox finally solved their third base woes with the signing of free agent Adrian Beltre. I do not dispute that he is masterful with the glove, but anybody who has owned him in fantasy baseball knows that he is brutal offensively. He is clearly not the slugger he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers a few years ago. So, if you ask me if I am disappointed the Red Sox signed Beltre? No, if it means that the team can no longer pursue San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (financially speaking). Gonzalez is a difference-maker; Beltre is not. The sad part of the Beltre signing is that it will relegate Casey Kotchman to the bench or at the most, DH. At DH, he has potential, but of course, it means the end of David Ortiz. Also, this almost certainly ensures that Mike Lowell will be dealt. The latest rumor has him going to the Mets for Luis Castillo, which is kind of funny considering that the Mets haven’t been able to unload Castillo on anybody. So, the Beltre signing is “nice”, but it doesn’t improve the Sox in the long run, in my opinion.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Did the Vikings’ total domination of the New York Giants and capture of the NFC second seed restore my faith in the Minnesota Vikings? Not really. The New York Giants gave up last week, so they pretty much rolled over for the Vikings on Sunday. It is hard for me to believe that the Vikings are truly a team capable of laying a 44-7 whuppin’ on a play-off foe. It’s funny that the Vikings were rooting for the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday considering that the Cowboys have long been my “second” favorite team dating back to the Roger Staubach days. I admit that I was a bit miffed with the Cowboys beat the Vikings on the Hail Mary pass, but I did enjoy the Cowboys’ success under Jimmy Johnson and Troy Aikman in the 90′s. Of course, I did live in Dallas at the time, so it was a bit more enjoyable. Nevertheless, I still remain on the Purple side, so I’ll await the outcome of the NFC wild card games to see if the Vikings can legitimately move the closest to the Super Bowl that they’ve been since 1998. I am not a great fan of the current Dallas Cowboys so I don’t know who I’ll root for should my Vikings stub their toe. Perhaps I’ll root for Julia’s New England Patriots, but admittedly, they’ll have a tough road sans Wes Welker.
I am not surprised that the Washington Redskins sacked head coach Jim Zorn. I know they are wining and dining Mike Shanahan, and that would probably be a very good move for them. I think Shanahan is a better fit than Steve Spurrier ever was. He knows owner Daniel Snyder so I think the two could co-exist so long as Shanahan can produce. Yeah, I wish the Vikings could be in play for a good coach…
I hope everyone had a great holiday season, and a very happy New Year! Just think, baseball training camps open next month. I can’t wait. I am anxious to resume my battles with a certain friend in Boston…