November 2011

Time to kick it up a notch…

Baseball’s not a slow game but the off-season is…

It’s Thanksgiving, and the Yankees’ big moves this week were to sign journeyman utility infielder Jayson Nix and last year’s Andy Pettitte stand-in, Freddy Garcia.  While I recognize that the Yankees needed to bring Garcia back, I hope that it does not deter them in their search for a legitimate #2 or #3 starter to go behind CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova.  I have not seen any updates on how potential talks are going with backup third baseman Eric Chavez, but hopefully, he’ll return to New York for one more season.  At this point, I view Nix as spring training fodder that will be discarded by the time the team heads for the Bronx.

In recent weeks, I’ve heard the Yankees linked to potential trades for Jair Jurrjens of the Atlanta Braves and Gio Gonzalez of the Oakland A’s.  My preference of the two is Gonzalez because of Jurrjens’ history of knee trouble.  Gonzalez, ironically, has been involved in separate trades involving current Yankees players during his career (Nick Swisher, when he was traded from the A’s to the White Sox, and Freddy Garcia, when he was traded from the White Sox to the Phillies).

I am anxious for the Baseball Winter Meetings so that free agent and trade activity will begin to heat up.  So far, the early winner of the Hot Stove League has to be the Philadelphia Phillies for no other reason than they’ve been aggressive while other teams have been idle.  Jonathan Papelbon was a good choice for closer, especially when you have as much invested in the rotation as the Phillies do.  Ryan Madson did a good job last year, but it’s really anybody’s guess if he would have enjoyed the same level of success this year since he simply does not have the history to support it…yet.  I am not quite sure how Jim Thome fits in, but as a pinch-hitter off the bench, there’s certainly worse bats you could have.

The Texas Rangers also did a good job in picking up former Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan, even if it does come with significant risk.  As long as they have a solid Plan B in place, Nathan could be a very pleasant surprise if he shows that he can still pitch at a very high level.

Who will be the Astros’ DH?…

It will probably be strange for the Houston Astros next season as they make their farewell from the National League.  Andy Pettitte is probably wishing that this had happened during his playing days so that he could have been ensured of playing at home every season.  I think Brad Mills is a good manager but it will be interesting to see if he is retained by new owner Jim Crane when the Astros enter the AL West in 2013.  He certainly deserves the opportunity, but you have to wonder if he’ll be given sufficient time to succeed.

Happy north of the border or wishing that Yawkey Way was a daily routine…

It’s no secret that the Boston Red Sox would love John Farrell as their manager, but the Toronto Blue Jays were obviously unwilling to allow that to happen.  Nevertheless, I wonder how Farrell feels.  Is he happy and delighted to be in Toronto, or does he have an unfulfilled desire for the Sox?  Speaking of the Sox, I just don’t see how Bobby Valentine and the city of Boston are a good fit.  I don’t dispute that he’s a good manager, but eventually he wears out his welcome and the pressure of Boston is greater than Arlington, Texas or even Flushing Meadows, New York.  I don’t really know anything about Torey Lovullo’s managing background and Gene Lamont seems like an uninspired choice so I can’t say who I think would be a great fit for the job.  Admittedly, I am a fan of former manager Terry Francona, so it does seem that whoever takes his place is going to an inferior choice.  If it were my decision, I’d probably go with someone who has strong ties to the organization already, like bench coach DeMarlo Hale.  But Boston’s late season collapse effectively removed any September participants from consideration and perhaps wrongfully so.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the course of the next few weeks.

My first year in Minnesota coincides with the Vikings’ worst year in their 50 year history…

With the Minnesota Vikings standing at 2-8 heading into this weekend’s play, the baseball off-season has already seemed so incredibly long and it hasn’t even really started yet…

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

 

–Scott

 

If Hot Stove League has opened, when do the Yankees play?…

 

With the Boss, we OWNED November…

Life under Hal Steinbrenner is certainly different than it was under the Boss.  In the old days, the Yankees would already be dominating the news in November.  At the very least, their name would be attached as a strong possibility for every elite free agent.  These days, the Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and even the Houston Astros have garnered more press time.

As for the obvious options, I do think the Yankees would be foolish to join the chase for free agent pitcher C.J. Wilson.  I like Wilson as a starter, but he’s not worth the cost.  I still prefer Mark Buehrle because it wouldn’t take as much money and even if he’s not flashy, Buehrle gives you innings and is very consistent.  After life on the A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes Roller Coasters, I’d gladly accept some consistency in the middle of the rotation.  As for trade targets, I’d love to get Matt Cain but I don’t think the San Francisco Giants will trade him.

Now that Eric Chavez has indicated he wants to play in 2012, I hope the Yankees can find a way to bring him back for a second year in pinstripes.  It’s interesting that the team has acknowledged they may have been better off playing Chavez at third in the play-offs instead of the less-than-100% Alex Rodriguez.  A healthy A-Rod is critical for next season and someone like Chavez, assuming he can also stay healthy, is the perfect backup because he can be a very effective starter in spots.  At some point, A-Rod will probably see more time at DH than third, but that’s not going to happen next year.  Chavez is a good bridge to the point the Yanks need  a new full-time third baseman.

Sleep deprived Houstonians…

I think the announced move of the Houston Astros to the American League in 2013 makes sense.  I understand the negatives….they’ll lose the Central Time Zone rivalries with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs and will play more games on the West Coast…but I think they’ll develop good rivalries with the AL CST teams.  As for the time zone differences, they still have it better than the three hour time zone differences the AL East teams face on their West Coast trips.  I realize that those are not in-division games, but all things considered, having balanced leagues for scheduling purposes is important.  Plus, it didn’t seem fair that the AL West had only four teams while the other divisions had five.  I never fully understood why Milwaukee was moved from the AL to NL and I did think they probably should have been the team to move back to the AL, but clearly the MLB team owners used the sale of the Astros as leverage to force the move.

New meaning to ‘one and done’…

Of the other changes, I am not sure what I think about the addition of a second wild card team, and moving to a one game wild card play-off.  I didn’t like the current system that did not differentiate between winning the division or getting into the play-offs as the Wild Card (except for home field advantage).  But a one game play-off?  That doesn’t really seem fair either.  I know that the argument is to win the division and not put yourself in the wild card, but it doesn’t seem fair that one wild card team could finish 5 or 6 games ahead of the second team, but then lose out by virtue of a single off night.  I know, ‘don’t put yourself in that position’ but still…  Nevertheless, I am sure that this change will motivate teams to continue striving for the division championship and not mail it in once the wild card is secured.

I thought they put their pants on just like I do…

I think the right choices were made for the AL and NL Cy Young Awards…Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, respectively.  How scary is it that Kershaw’s only 23?  Donnie Baseball has to be very happy with the top of his rotation.  I am looking forward to the announcement of the MVP Awards, and I am in the category of those who believe that pitchers should not be considered for the award.  Obviously, I am pulling for Curtis Granderson in the AL, but even if a Yankee wasn’t up for consideration, I’d feel the same way about no pitchers for the award.  The Cy Young is a pitcher’s MVP award.

Trading Beer for Wind…

I was surprised to see Dale Sveum get the managing job with the Chicago Cubs.  It’s not that I don’t think he’ll make a good manager, but rather I thought he’d be a good fit for the Boston Red Sox.  I had been hoping that Terry Francona would get the Cubs job, and when he withdrew his name, I thought that Mike Maddux would be the next call.  I know that name withdrawals are usually prompted by behind-the-scenes conversations (Francona probably realizing that he wouldn’t get the job), but I think it’s a travesty that Tito won’t be managing in the big leagues in 2012…unless that was truly his choice.  If I owned a major league team, Tito would be at the top of my short list for managers.  He may have been the manager of my team’s most bitter rival but I have a great deal of respect for him.  It would have been great to see him manage the Cubs to a World Series Championship after ending Boston’s drought.

Joe Mauer, come back!…

I am still missing the lights of Target Field from my condo.  I can see the lighted field name sign, but there is just something about those stadium lights that give a magical feeling to the skyline of downtown Minneapolis.  I am looking forward to April when Jamey Carroll and the Minnesota Twins turn on the lights.  As for how the Twins do, they can lose 99 games again…

–Scott

 

 

Goodbye to an old friend…

End of the road…

Jorge Posada has apparently told reporters that he does not expect to be back with the Yankees next year.  Of course, that’s really a statement of the obvious as the organization has shown no signs of wanting to bring the Yankees lifer back for one more go ‘round.  Ideally, I would like to see Jorge call it a career on his playing days and walk away as a Yankee.  But somehow, I suspect that he’ll be back for one more season even if it is a limited role like the one that Jim Thome will fill for the Philadelphia Phillies.  I heard the Miami Marlins might be a possible fit for Posada, and that would certainly be okay in my mind.  I wouldn’t want to see Posada play for a Yankees rival like the Red Sox or the Rays, so playing in the National League (for someone other than the Mets) would be good.

I don’t know if Posada has managerial aspirations but playing for someone like Ozzie Guillen might be a good training ground after being around the likes of Joes Torre and Girardi.  Posada has always been very intense, and the intensity doesn’t get much stronger than Ozzie.  Not that I’ve ever thought of Posada as a hot-head, but observing how Ozzie deals with his intensity would probably give good insight and perspective to Jorge.

Chillin’ on South Beach…

Speaking of the Marlins, I don’t see how the Yankees can compete with the full court press Miami is putting on pitcher Mark Buehrle.  I think Buehrle would be a good fit for the Yankees, but Miami now has money as a result of the new stadium and they have Buehrle’s manager.  He wouldn’t have to be the ace of the rotation (Josh Johnson holds that honor), and the coming year should be very exciting for the Marlins as they transition from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins in their new digs.

The best thing in life is to be gifted with a golden arm…

Of the other available pitchers, I recognize that Edwin Jackson is a solid starter but I have a difficult time getting enthused about a guy who has moved through so many organizations.  I’d like to see what pitching coach Larry Rothschild could do with C.J. Wilson but I really think that he’ll re-sign with the Texas Rangers.  That doesn’t leave very much on the trading front, and I just don’t see the San Francisco Giants trading someone like Matt Cain.  I don’t think the Yankees can win the World Series next year without improvements in the starting rotation.  I like Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, but even if he is posted this year and becomes eligible to pitch in the U.S., it’s anybody’s guess how long it would take him to arrive in the big leagues.

A return to bitter rival status…

It will definitely be easier to hate the Boston Red Sox next season.  I had a healthy respect for them with Theo Epstein as the GM and Terry Francona as the manager, but now that those two are gone, it will be a different feel to the team next year.  I won’t have the same level of respect for the new Sox manager, and nothing against Ben Cherington, but I don’t know anything about him.  Boston will still have a good team (albeit with suspect pitching) but they’ll be a force in the AL East.  But at least I can go back to just disliking the team which is the way it should be for any Yankee fan.

At least the post-game manager interviews should be a bit warmer…

I am not sure who I would prefer to see get the St. Louis Cardinals managing job.  On one hand, it would be great to see Terry Francona get the chance to manage the defending World Champs but on the other, it would be cool to see Ryne Sandberg finally get a managing opportunity.  Of course, I can say that since I am not a Cardinals fan and don’t have an anti-Cubs bias.  I don’t think that Jose Oquendo should get the job just to maintain organizational continuity.  The team needs a proven manager, and at least Sandberg has done it in the minor leagues and he would have the respect of veteran players.

Sorry for Sori?  Not anymore…

It’s funny listening to sports talk radio and hearing Cubs fans talk about how they’d like to unload Alfonso Soriano (unlikely given his contract).  There was a time when I was very disappointed to see the Yankees trade Soriano (in the Alex Rodriguez trade with the Texas Rangers).  But obviously the Yankees rebounded very nicely with team MVP Robinson Cano filling the void at second base.  I would not want Soriano back on the Yankees in any role, so things certainly worked out in that situation.  When I think how horrible it is for the Yankees to be committed to so many dollars for A-Rod, I just have to think about what the Cubs and Giants are getting from Soriano and Barry Zito, respectively.  There are other examples, but the Yankees aren’t the only team saddled with bad contracts.  Fortunately, the Yankees can bear it better than others.

Donnie Baseball CAN manage…

I hope whoever buys the Los Angeles Dodgers continues to give manager Don Mattingly a chance.  He did a good job with his first year, and he’ll only improve with time.  He was a favorite of mine as a player and he continues to be a favorite as a manager.  I can’t say that I’d really want to see Mark Cuban buy the team…

I am ready for some movement in the Hot Stove League.  Let’s go!…

–Scott         

Stage 1 of Operation Successful Off-Season is complete…

 

Whew…

After a season of ‘will he’ or ‘won’t he’ opt-out, CC Sabathia accepted the Yankees offer and I couldn’t be more pleased.  I am a bit concerned that CC’s weight will eventually prove to be a problem if he doesn’t get control of it, but clearly he is the Yankees best pitcher and the best hope for the next few years.

Since avoiding the opt-out only cost the Yankees $30 million (potentially $50 million if he is still at the top of his game at the end of the contract), it was clearly a bargain since they would have paid more to retain him had he hit the open market or perhaps they risked losing him altogether.  I know that CC’s decision to stay was not solely on his love for the city and organization, but I am glad that he’s a permanent Yankee with no opt-out looming on the horizon.

I was driving home from work on Monday evening when I heard the news of the signing on MLB Radio.  I had feared the worst so the news of his announcement on his website that he was staying was such an incredible relief.  I have felt that the key to a successful off-season is getting both Sabathia and GM Brian Cashman locked up before the start of the free agency period.  Mission accomplished.  I am not sure there’s much on the free agent market that can help the Yanks, but hopefully, the team will be able to make a trade or two to improve the quality of the rotation.

As good as Cash…

Speaking of Cashman, his re-signing was essential for organizational continuity.  I am not sure how long it takes a new GM to get acclimated to the job, but it would seem making your way in the Yankees Universe would take longer than usual.  I am sure that the Yanks would have looked in-house for candidates (such as Billy Eppler or Damon Oppenheimer) but the man for the job continues to be Cashman.  I am sure that he’s thought of what life would be with in a less stressful environment, but nobody is as suited for the Bronx as Cash is.  I thought it was an interesting stat that he’s been the Yankees general manager longer than anyone since Ed Barrow (1920-45).

The start of a new era…

After standing pat for the most part with last year’s roster, it will be interesting to see what the Yankees do this year.  I don’t expect them to go hog wild but they definitely need to get CC some help and they need a few clutch bats off the bench.  At some point, the Yankees will have to say goodbye to Jorge Posada who few people expect to be on the 2012 roster.  It is time for Jesus Montero to take up residence at Yankee Stadium and sadly that means there is no room for Jorge.  He will go down as a great Yankee, and he’ll be heavily cheered at future Old Timer’s Days.  My preference is for him to retire as a Yankee rather than to try and hang on for another year or so with another team.

Despite the Yankees decision to pick up his option, the odds of Nick Swisher still have to be mixed at best.  If the Yankees can pick up a better player for right, I am sure that they’d do it.  Swish’s personality would be missed but if he could be used, in part, to bring a frontline pitcher to New York, I’d be in favor of it.

Rafael Soriano decided against exercising his opt-out?  Big surprise…  L

You win some, you lose some…

I was disappointed to see the failure of Project Andrew Brackman.  When Brackman was drafted, it was clear the Yankees had been able to get him at the spot they drafted because Brackman needed Tommy John surgery.  I had really hoped that the pick would pay off and that Brackman would eventually be the top pitcher his potential screamed.  Sadly, it was never meant to be…at least in New York…as the Yankees declined his option, making the 25-year-old a free agent.

There are other teams besides the Yankees?…

I was shocked when I heard that the St. Louis Cardinals might have interest in Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon as a replacement for Tony LaRussa.  There’s no doubt that he’d be a great fit, but I just cannot see Tampa allowing Maddon to leave.  He has been great for the city and the team…much to my chagrin and to the dismay of my friends in Boston.  But I wouldn’t lose any sleep if Maddon does manage to get out of Tampa to take the Cardinals job.

I would really hate to see the Boston Red Sox get Michael Cuddyer…

–Scott

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.