April 2014

Baseball and bad decisions…

 

A swing and a miss, another miss, yet another miss…

This morning, I saw a post on the MLB Trade Rumors website (http://www.MLBTradeRumors.com) that asked the poll question of which MLB team had the best draft in 2002?  Of all the examples shown, no Yankees were anywhere to be found.  For a draft that started with Bryan Bullington and B.J. Upton, there was some great talent uncovered in the 2002 draft.  Jon Lester, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Cole Hamels, Joey Votto and a guy who would eventually find his way to the Bronx, Brian McCann, were among the great choices by their respective teams.  But sadly, not a single Yankee selection stuck that year.

Number 26 selection Phil Coke is a major leaguer but with the Detroit Tigers.  He had his moments in the Bronx but was never anything special and was sent to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson-Austin Jackson trade.

But removing Coke, there are 50 rounds of names that Yankee Stadium never heard from.  I really do not recognize any of the names outside of the first round selection and that’s only because he was later the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns (Brandon Weeden).

I know that there are many sad tales among the 2002 draft picks, like 2nd round pick Alan Bomer, a pitcher, who reinjured his shoulder after a previous injury several years earlier, bringing an end to his major league hopes.

But it’s also a testament to the drafting ability of major league teams and 2002 was clearly not a good vintage for the Yankees.  I know the team’s re-focus on the minor league system didn’t occur until a few years later but hopefully barren draft years like 2002 are a thing of the past.  But looking ahead a few years, it’s not too pretty.

2003 really wasn’t much better with top pick third baseman Eric Duncan long gone from baseball.  The only name that stands out to me from that draft is Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard.

2004 was the year the Yankees selected pitcher Phil Hughes and can only wonder what could have been.  Time will tell if he can fulfill his promise in the Twin Cities or if he was simply one of the most overhyped young players of our time.

For the Yankees, solid draft picks do not appear until 2005 which Brett Gardner and Austin Jackson were chosen.  Interestingly enough, the Yankees also chose pitcher Doug Fister that year but he opted to return to college for his final year, and was taken by the Seattle Mariners the next year.  Granted, Fister is currently on the Nationals’ DL, but he’d certainly look good in the Yankees rotation about now.

In 2006, the Yankees made some good choices, but it’s rather humorous that the first round pick went to Joba Chamberlain, a journeyman reliever for the Detroit Tigers, while current Yankees closer, David Robertson was selected in the 17th round.  Ian Kennedy and Zach McAllister were both chosen after Chamberlain, and they are solid starting pitchers for the San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians, respectively.  Dellin Betances was also taken that year and after years of hype, he’s finally contributing as a force in the Yankees bullpen.  Mark Melancon, currently the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates due to Jason Grilli’s injury, was also a draft selection.

Of the decisions the Yankees made regarding trades, the one I didn’t like was dumping McAllister.  He went to Cleveland in 2010 for Austin Kearns who only stayed in the Bronx for the remainder of the season.  That trade felt like the foolish ones that we had grown accustomed to in the 1970’s and 80’s.  McAllister is having a very solid year for the Indians and is another guy who would have looked great in the Yankees rotation.

I will never find fault with the decision to trade Ian Kennedy even though he almost won the Cy Young after leaving the Yankees.  I just never found him to be a good fit in New York.

2007 was another disappointing draft year as the Yankees really only have catcher Austin Romine, currently at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre, to show for it.  Top pick Andrew Brackman was coming off a major injury at the time of the selection and was never able to find his way back.

As I advance to 2008, it’s disappointing to see how poor, outside of 2006, the draft has been for the Yankees.  Atop the list in ’08 is a pitcher the Yankees were unable to sign and who is now entrenched in the starting rotation for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole.  Talk about another guy who would have been a brilliant option for the Yankees rotation.  What could have been…

This really shows how incredibly difficult it is to determine those who will be able to achieve results and success at the Major League level.  It also shows how many people fail to find their way for whatever reasons.

It’s a small wonder that the Yankees have had to spend so much in the free agent market to ensure the team remains competitive.  In a statement of the obvious, the Yankees would be smart to improve the quality of their scouting and development to ensure that the older players are replaced by younger, cheaper talent with high ceilings.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals are solid teams because of their drafting ability.  For the Yankees, they are successful despite it.  I get why owner Hal Steinbrenner believes in the power of the farm system.  This is not rocket science.  Sustainability will only be maintained through youth and controlling costs.

Stupid is as stupid does…

The fans of the Boston Red Sox took great delight when Michael Pineda was tossed from a Yankees-Red Sox game last week due to the blatant smear of pine tar on his neck.  After the fiasco caused during his previous start against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium (“brown dirt”), he had to have known he would be under the magnifying glass.  Yet, he risked detection by continuing the use of pine tar and ended up applying a more generous amount than he had intended to.  So, Boston manager John Farrell had absolutely no choice but to call out Pineda.  This is one instance where I felt the Red Sox were 100% correct in a controversial decision involving the Yankees.  Pineda’s 10-game suspension hurts the Yankees, at a time when they’ve already lost starter Ivan Nova for the season due to an elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery.

For a rotation that looked so strong and full of promise for a few starts, the Yankees now have to replace both Nova and Pineda, plus the top of the rotation has been questionable at times with CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda.  The only source of consistency has been Masahiro Tanaka, who faces an incredibly difficult challenge today against the Los Angeles Angels and the likes of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout. 

Baseball is a team-first sport and Pineda made a “me-first” decision.  I hope that he learns a valuable lesson during his suspension and comes back with choices that are for the good of the team.

For the record, I do believe that Major League Baseball should allow pine tar to some degree for gripping purposes only in colder temps.  But until the rules are changed, it’s a violation and should be handled accordingly.  Baseball has been tolerant of discreet behavior regarding its use, but to blatantly violate the policy warrants the appropriate punishment until such a time the rules are changed.

 

–Scott

 

Why not just build an unbeatable team?…

 

Where is Lyle Overbay when you need him?  I know, he’s enjoying the early season winning in Milwaukee, but the Yankees are clearly in need of someone who can play first base better than just a fill-in.  I am still not convinced that Mark Teixeira will be a reliable force anytime soon even though his DL stint ends on Sunday.  He hasn’t been hitting and he never hits in the early stages of a season.  It’s made worse this year given that he is coming off a year lost to injury.  Maybe we’ll experience a renaissance at first with Tex but put me in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” category.

Poor Kelly Johnson.  Signed to play second base, he became the starting third baseman when he who shall remain nameless was banned for the season.  Johnson subsequently had to move across the diamond to play the other corner when Teixeira went on the DL.  What’s next?  Catcher?  Or maybe he’ll be the team #5 starter should anything happen to a member of the rotation.  He’s versatile, but seriously, I’d rather see Johnson stick to the left side of the infield.  It’s too bad that someone with talent like Stephen Drew remains unsigned when he could help the Yankees in so many ways.  I know, the cost is too great and we’re spoiled Yankee fans.  But seriously, the team needs to protect its investment.  The starting rotation has been solid and is capable of taking the team further than expected.  But the bats and defense have to perform.

With the placement of backup catcher Francisco Cervelli on the DL, I was wondering what moves the Yankees would make.  They have subsequently called up catcher John Ryan Murphy and signed Scott Sizemore to the major league roster after sending pitcher Shane Greene down to AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre.  I’ve never been excited about Sizemore’s bat so the move doesn’t exactly resolve my infield concerns but to his defense, he had gotten off to a good start at AAA.

Interesting that the Yankees called upon Murphy rather than catcher Austin RomineBrian Cashman made the comment that Murphy was the “better player”.  When a GM talks, you always have to wonder if it is the truth or simply posturing for potential future trades.  I fully expect the Yankees to move one of their minor league catchers in the days leading up to the trading deadline.  Could be Murphy, Romine or even Gary Sanchez.  But at some point, someone has to go to upgrade other areas in need.

Shawn Kelley has allayed my early concerns about his ability to close games.  After blowing a game shortly after he became the interim closer, he’s been fairly solid the last few games.  While it is good to see him gain closing experience, I’ll be glad to see David Robertson return.

Even with the help of some liquid brown dirt (yeah right), Michael Pineda has been everything I’ve expected since 2011.  When people were calling the trade a bust, I stayed patient as I wanted to see Pineda perform when healthy.  Yes, he could turn out to be another Carl Pavano but I don’t really expect that to happen.  It’s great to have someone with his ability as the fifth starter.  In many ways, he is better than the so-called “ace” of the staff.  Speaking of the latter, I really hope CC Sabathia can successfully return to his status as a frontline starter if he can make the necessary transition and changes to his pitching style with the loss in velocity.

So far, I’ve been pleased with the performance of the Yankees.  They’re holding their own and they just came off a series victory over arch-rival Boston.  It’s still a long season and the team will have to do something about the holes in the infield but at least they are not in a dire situation at the start.

The nice thing about the Yankees…they’ll always give me something to complain about.  Well, 1998 excluded.

–Scott

 

Fear becomes Reality…

 

During the off-season, when Robinson Cano walked for the cash in Seattle, I was worried about first base when the other holes popped up at second and third base.  The Yankees weakly filled the other holes with injury-prone Brian Roberts and utility-man Kelly Johnson while spending millions elsewhere on the roster.

Shortstop has been a concern as an aging Derek Jeter attempts to make his comeback from a serious ankle injury.

Catcher was truly the only infield position of strength with newcomer Brian McCann backed superbly by Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy.

But first base was and still is my primary concern.  The Yankees did nothing to bring a solid backup to the team as a hedge against Mark Teixeira’s health.  So, when Teixeira went to the DL this week due to a muscle strain in his leg, the Yankees had no legitimate first baseman on the roster.  As it stands, Kelly Johnson has become the team’s first baseman.  When Johnson signed, Cano was still a possible return so Johnson was viewed as the team’s super-sub.  Then, Cano left and Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the season, and Johnson found himself as the starting third baseman.  Now Teixeira’s gone, and Johnson stands at first.  It is great that he’s so versatile, but the Yankees are so vulnerable with its current infield.

Yangervis Solarte has been a godsend but realistically I do not expect the guy to continue to play all season like he has in its first few games.  He is an aging minor leaguer who had never gotten a major league shot and there’s reasons for why that happened.  Yes, late bloomers can happen, but I am too much of a realist to believe that the Yankees have struck gold with the minor league free agent.  I like him in a bench role, but now he’s the apparent starting third baseman along with another career minor leaguer, Dean Anna.

Mark Teixeira has always concerned me with his notorious slow starts and now he has other issues for us to worry about.  I really thought that the Yankees needed to bring in a strong first baseman to help cover for Teixeira.  This is where someone like Nick Swisher is really missed.  An outfielder who can easily step in to play first.

When I heard that the Mets were dangling Ike Davis, I thought he’d be the perfect guy for the Yanks to pursue despite his underwhelming performance and injuries with the Mets.  Son of a former Yankee (former Goose Gossage setup man, Ron Davis), I thought that Davis might benefit from a change in scenery.  In a supporting role for Tex, Davis would be in a good spot to resurrect his career.  The cost to acquire Davis would be less than acquiring a more frontline first baseman, but of course, on the day Teixeira was placed on the DL, Davis hit a grand slam to win a game for the Mets.  It should be noted that on the same day, the Yanks did not score any runs in a 4-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Right now, I think that Ichiro Suzuki’s presence on the roster is hurting the team.  For the Yankees to call-up Scranton/Wilkes Barre first baseman Russ Canzler, the Yankees would have to free up a spot on the 40-man roster.   The Yankees need more help for the infield than they do with the outfield.  Alfonso Soriano provide good relief as the fourth outfielder/DH, and the ever-versatile Johnson can play there as well.

The Yankees need to go out and get Plan B for first base, and perhaps move Ichiro along the way.

–Scott

 

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