Now that CC is getting warmed up, Spring Training is officially underway…
Noah K. Murray/The Star Ledger
So far, Camp has been very quiet for Team World Champions. Of course, that figures to change when position players report next week. But it has been great to see the guys arriving in Tampa as they begin defense of their World Series championship.
Noah K. Murray/The Star Ledger
I always enjoy hearing about the players who re-committed themselves during the off-season, and arrive in camp in better shape than ever. This year’s “Biggest Losers” are reliever Jonathan Albaladejo and right fielder Nick Swisher. Both reported significantly lighter than we lost saw them in October. I have been a bit concerned that Swisher will have difficulty matching last season’s success, but hopefully, the weight loss will help him build upon the success and we’ll continue to see the A’s version of Swisher and not the White Sox version.
It’s evident the players have a great deal of respect for Andy Pettitte. Andy could have had the perfect ending to a great career by riding off to the sunset after last year’s championship, but he decided that he is not ready to hang up the glove yet. Obviously, I was disappointed when Andy admitted steroid use, however, throughout his career and including the time of the admission, Andy has handled himself with nothing but class and dignity. CC Sabathia credited Pettitte for helping his transition, and I am sure that he’ll have a similar influence on Javier Vazquez as he re-adjusts to life with the Yankees. I would have preferred if Andy had never left to play in Houston for three years, but conversely, the time away definitely gave Andy a different perspective and he clearly values his Yankees legacy now more than ever before.
I saw the comment by Hideki Matsui on the Angels MLB.com website that although he feels physically strong, his knees aren’t 100%. As tough as it was to see Godzilla leave, I think the Yankees made the right decision. While I recognize that he may have a great 2010 season, sooner or later he’ll begin breaking down and missing more time. Besides, there’s not much more that he could have done for a Yankees farewell than being named the World Series MVP.
Speaking of ex-Yankees, Johnny Damon is now officially a member. He signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers for $8 million. Damon will definitely be the poster child for negotiating failures, at least for the short term. With better strategy, he could have secured a longer term deal for more money from the Yankees, but Damon and agent Scott Boras overvalued the market. Of course, the Yankees quickly moved on. I do not find fault with the Yankees approach because had they waited, they risked getting nothing. As it stands, the Yankees offense should be fine with Nick Johnson, Randy Winn and Marcus Thames on-board. I am still puzzled by the Tigers since they moved Curtis Granderson because of money, and he would have made less this year than Damon will cost them. I guess Damon is an $8 million insurance policy as a hedge to see if Austin Jackson is capable of making the leap to the major leagues.
Another former Yankee, Chien-Ming Wang, signed with the Washington Nationals. I am surprised that he went with the Nats. Nothing against them, but I really expected to see Wang go with Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have a clear need for a fifth starter, and if healthy, Wang could have potentially filled the void. Whatever happens, I wish Wang the best of luck…and health. I hope he has learned to run the bases now that he’ll be hitting in the National League.
Now that Jose Molina is in Toronto, it sounds like manager Joe Girardi is going to make sure that Jorge Posada and A.J. Burnett work as a team this spring. Hopefully, they’ll be able to build a good rapport. If not, I hope that Francisco Cervelli is up to the challenge of being A.J.’s personal caddy.
The Yankees will definitely encounter more than a few former players (and manager) during the upcoming season.
Hopefully, the “pies” will belong to the current Yankees and not the former crowd. It should be a fun season, and I am looking forward to the renewed battle with Julia. I was hoping that we’d have a few “warm-ups” during the Spring, but the Yankees and Red Sox are not scheduled to face each other until Opening Day. Oh well, I am looking forward to starting the season 1-0. Right, Julia?
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
This is off-topic, but now that American Idol has reduced the field to 24, my early favorite is Janell Wheeler…
But then again, Ashley Rodriguez does have a great voice…
It should be a great Season 9 on American Idol! Music and Yankees baseball…sounds like it will be a great summer to me! If Julia doesn’t agree, this video says it all…
Mostly cloudy and 58 degrees…
So, that’s the forecast for the first workout scheduled on Thursday for pitchers and catchers. It seems very appropriate that the Yankees would face cloudy skies on their first official workout. The skies, during the upcoming season, are sure to be filled with dark clouds, thunderstorms, and hurricanes. Nobody said it was going to be sunny skies on the road to a repeat World Series championship…
The Yankees will attempt to repeat without World Series heroes Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, or regular season “Pie King” Melky Cabrera. The team also said goodbye to Phil Coke, Jose Molina, Jerry Hairston, Jr., and Brian Bruney.
But newcomers Curtis Granderson, Javier Vazquez, Nick Johnson, Randy Winn, Jamie Hoffmann, Marcus Thames, and Boone Logan intend to give Yankees fans another summer to remember. Curtis Granderson was penciled into centerfield, particularly after the trade of Cabrera to Atlanta for Vazquez. However, talk in recent days has Grandy receptive to a potential move to left if Manager Joe Girardi decides to go that direction. Somehow, I think Grandy will always say and do the things that exhibit a ‘team first’ approach. Personally, I think Grandy should have gotten #28. However, he stepped aside so that Girardi could upgrade his number from 27 to 28 as the Yankees pursue their 28th World Championship. He’ll wear the number immortalized by Lou Piniella instead (#14). Hopefully, Girardi will hold the number for just one season and then switch to #29!
The presence of Javier Vazquez in the starting rotation should pay dividends. At various points during last season, there were times when the Yankees didn’t know what they were going to get out of their starting pitching outside of CC Sabathia. Vazquez should ensure no long losing streaks, and give consistency to the middle of the rotation. With slots 1 through 4 secure in the rotation, the battle is for the 5th spot. Best case scenario, in my mind, is Phil Hughes in the starting rotation, and Joba Chamberlain setting up Mariano Rivera. The others (Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, and Alfredo Aceves) can vie for long relief.
While it is sad to see Jose Molina go, I am excited for Francisco Cervelli. He proved last year that he is a capable backup, and I look forward to watching him in a more critical role this year as Posada will see more time at DH than years’ past. Of course, Cervelli is just keeping the plate until Posada’s replacement, Jesus Montero is ready, but it will still be good to see his attitude and play during the upcoming season. If the Yankees decide to carry three catchers, the most likely candidate is veteran Mike Rivera.
Nick Laham/Getty Images
If the newcomers can quickly adapt to New York, and some of the younger guys can step up their play, the Yankees will be in good shape for another championship run. I know, it’s not a given that they will win, but they should be in position to determine who will be. For the upcoming season, I am most fearful of, in no particular order, the Boston Red Sox (don’t tell Julia!), the Seattle Mariners, the Tampa Bay Rays , and the Texas Rangers. I think the Los Angeles Angels will contend once again, however, their off-season losses outweighed their gains. I also think the Baltimore Orioles will be much improved and of course you can never count out the Minnesota Twins. It should be a very challenging and competitive run to the American League Championship!
On the National League side, I don’t really see any team that will dethrone the current NL champs, the Philadelphia Phillies. With Doc Halladay at the top of the rotation and starving for a championship, the Phillies will be in a league of their own. I’d like to see Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers make it to the World Series, but they weren’t able to do enough this off-season to bridge the gap with the Phillies. The Phillies do need to solve their bullpen woes, but I suspect they’ll make the necessary moves (with or without Brad Lidge).
Steven M. Falk/philly.com
Best wishes and prayers to longtime Yankees head trainer Gene Monahan. Monahan will miss his first spring training since 1963 with a “significant illness”. The Yankees also announced that he will most likely miss the first portion of the season as he undergoes treatment. Here’s hoping Gene makes a successful recovery and is able to resume his normal duties in the not-too-distant future…
Frank Franklin II/AP
Despite record snowfalls on the East Coast, spring training is right around the corner…
Yankee pitchers and catchers report next week, and the battle will begin for the fifth spot in the rotation. Of course, everyone is quick to indicate that Alfredo Aceves, Chad Gaudin, and Sergio Mitre have a shot, but this is really about a competition between Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. Personally, I am putting my faith in Phil Hughes. I’d prefer to see Joba take over Hughes’ old spot as setup man for Mariano Rivera (positioning himself to be Mo’s successor when the eventual day comes). I am really anxious to see what Hughes can do in the rotation now that he has achieved success at the big league level.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
It will be interesting to see if Curtis Granderson stays in center, or if they ultimately decide to move him to left and return Brett Gardner to center. There should be good outfield competition among Jamie Hoffmann, Marcus Thames, and Randy Winn. Minor leaguer Colin Curtis and off-season pickup Greg Golson (from Texas) will also be on hand to compete. I am hopeful that Hoffmann, a good defensive player, finds a way to make the team. If not, the Yankees will have to offer him back to the Los Angeles Dodgers since he was a Rule 5 pickup.
Miles Chrisinger/Icon SMI
At catcher, Francisco Cervelli should break camp as backup to Jorge Posada. With each passing season, the backup catching position becomes more vital as Posada ages. I am anxious to see what Jesus Montero brings to camp. He’s not ready for the Bronx yet but he is getting close and will obviously be Posada’s eventual successor if they don’t move him to first base because of his physical size.
John M. Setzler, Jr.
It appears that Johnny Damon will sign next week, most likely with the Detroit Tigers based on the latest rumors. I do find it odd that the Tigers would pay Damon more than they would have owed Curtis Granderson yet Grandy was moved for financial reasons. It’s also disappointing that the Tigers will end up getting Damon for less than what the Yanks had been willing to pay at the start of the off-season. Agent Scott Boras forced the Yankees’ hand in signing DH Nick Johnson and outfielder Randy Winn, leaving no room for Damon. If Boras had shown a willingness to negotiate early on, perhaps Johnny would be returning to the Bronx for another go-around. But for as much as I will miss Damon’s ability on the bases and his offensive power, I won’t miss his throws from left field (which seemed to move in slow motion). I wish him the very best wherever he lands…Detroit, Chicago or Atlanta.
All things considered, it should be a fairly quiet camp compared to the past few years. I am not expecting any drug use admissions or sex scandals, but of course, you never know. I am just glad that it’s time for the guys to pick up the gloves, balls and bats and head back out for another summer of fun.
Josh Haner/The New York Times
By the way, congrats to Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum, who avoided arbitration by signing a two-year deal worth $23 million with San Francisco. With a pay increase from $650,000 to $8 million plus $2 million signing bonus in 2010, he can now afford to buy in Nob Hill…
Also, so long to the Big Hurt. Frank Thomas has decided to hang up his cleats and take his 521 home runs home. Of course, he’s been out of the game for a year, but now it’s official. No Brett Favre comebacks in Frank’s future…
Finally, I’d like to send my prayers to the family of Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, a luger for the former Soviet republic of Georgia, who died today during a trial run at the Olympics in Vancouver, British Columba. I cannot say that I am well familiar with Luge but it seems like there could have been better safety precautions. The Olympic Games start on a disappointing note, but I hope the other athletes from Georgia rise to the occasion and give performances their fallen teammate would have been proud of…
Meaningful Yankee talk has definitely been a rarity in recent weeks…
We are rapidly approaching the start of training camp, so hopefully, we’ll have more to talk about than we’ve experienced in the past month and a half. Of course, I don’t really want a repeat of last spring’s A-Rod saga with the steroids admission and hip surgery.
As we head to camp, many positions are locked up. However, there are questions about left and center fields. I know that Curtis Granderson is a centerfielder, but there’s obviously been talk about his possible move to left so we’ll put center in the ? mark column. Otherwise, all positions are set. If the season started today, the lineup would look like this:
Brett Gardner/Randy Winn-lf
With this configuration, I am with the majority that still want the Yanks to find a way to bring Rocco Baldelli to camp.
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
I read the article about how excited Hank Steinbrenner was about the Yankees’ off-season additions. However, I have to admit that I remain a bit skeptical. The off-season losses were huge. The Yankees will definitely miss Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon. I think the team will regret not bringing back at least one of those players. Also, in Buster Olney’s blog post yesterday, he stated that as the dust has settled on the AZ-Det-NY trade, all of the players were flawed. From a character-standpoint, Curtis Granderson is a first class addition…no argument from me. However, he has trouble with lefties and he strikes out too much. He’ll need to improve in these areas for long-term success in the Bronx. Javier Vazquez is a quality pitcher and he strengthens the rotation, however, the fact remains that he struggled in the Bronx during his last go-around so he still has to prove himself regardless of his subsequent success in Chicago and Atlanta. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox have clearly improved themselves so the gap between these two teams has probably faded… but don’t tell Julia that I said that!
Antonelli/New York Daily News
If you missed Harold Reynolds interview with Derek Jeter on MLB.com, I encourage you to listen to it. Hat tip to Jane Heller, Confessions of a She-Fan for the heads-up about the interview. DJ shows why he is a legend in our midst. He has a quality that clearly sets him apart from others. Sure, there are other players like him (Chase Utley immediately comes to mind), but I am glad to have witnessed the entire career of a great player. I hope the Yankees find a way to ensure that DJ ends his career in pinstripes. During the interview with Harold Reynolds, DJ mentioned how strange it was to see Don Mattingly in a Dodgers uniform. I don’t really want to experience seeing DJ, as a player, in another uniform. After he retires, if he decides to stay in baseball, he’ll most likely wear different colors but I can deal with that. Don Mattingly remains my favorite living Yankee, and his presence in Dodger gear doesn’t diminish that respect. I hope that Donnie Baseball is the next Dodgers manager.
Speaking of the Dodgers, the Yankees travel to Chavez Ravine this year to face Joe Torre and company. I definitely want to make the trip to see at least one game of the series. It should be very exciting times.
What else is there to talk about? Despite my beloved Minnesota Vikings losing to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship, I am pulling for the Saints in the Super Bowl. I think the Vikings could have and should have beat the Saints, but that’s water under the bridge at this point. While I want the Saints to win, do I think they’ll beat the Colts? Not really. Peyton and Crew are simply too superior to allow for an upset. So, while I want the Saints, I am prepared for a Colts victory. This is one time that I hope I am wrong…
I have tickets to see Daughtry and Lifehouse in concert in early May. I am very excited to see Daughtry perform. I still can’t understand how Taylor Hicks beat Chris Daughtry on American Idol, but Chris has his revenge. He has clearly had the best career of any of his AI opponents, and stands among the other AI greats like Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson.
Pardon me for saying this, but if I were New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, I would have thrown the finger too!…