May 2014

The Road More Travelled…

Where’s the reset button?…

2014 has been a year of disappointment for many.  Pitchers are lining up for Tommy John surgery at an alarming rate and proven star performers like Prince Fielder and Bryce Harper are on the DL.

Certainly, the Boston Red Sox rank of one of the year’s greatest disappointments (as discussed in Nick Cafardo’s column today in the Boston Globe).  I realize the team has struggled with the losses of Jacoby Ellsbury and Jared Saltalamacchia, but the effort and focus of the team collectively seems to be lacking.  I know, a Yankee fan making negative comments about the Red Sox…shocking.  But still, watch the 15th inning of yesterday’s Sox-Rays game seemed to be a microcosm of Boston’s season.  While everyone was critical of reliever Andrew Miller’s errant throw at second base that allowed Tampa Bay to score the winning run, it was an earlier play that I felt was equally as critical.  The Rays laid down a perfect bunt toward third and Miller had the closest line to the ball, yet he pulled up and didn’t make an attempt for it.  It appeared to me that they would have been able to record an out had Miller gone for the ball, but instead the runners advanced.  Sure, the loss cannot be placed on Miller alone. But it was a random sample of what ails the Sox.

 

Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller walks off after his throwing error in the 15th allowed the Rays to celebrate their walkoff win. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Kim Klement/USA Today Sports

 

I know better than to ever underestimate the Red Sox.  They’ve overcome adversity too often to think their season is done.  But they need to find the “magic” soon if they intend to defend their crown.

Battling to stay above .500…

Of course, as I write about the Red Sox, my team…the Yankees…have their own problems.  Entering the season, there were two primary concerns:  the infield and the bullpen.

The latter has become a strength with the emergence of young relievers like Dellin Betances and Adam Warren.  I have lost no sleep about Joba Chamberlain being in Detroit, whlle Betances has become a late inning force.  David Robertson has been very effective as Mariano Rivera’s replacement (regardless of the two run walk-off home run by Chicago’s Adam Dunn the other night).  But time will tell how long it will hold up with the collapse…at least injury-wise…of the starting rotation.  With CC Sabathia, ivan Nova and Michael Pineda on the DL, the bullpen has lost reliable arms to the rotation (Vidal Nuno and David Phelps).  The Yankees ability to find a permanent solution for the losses of Sabathia and Nova and the successful return of Pineda will go a long way toward determining where the Yankees will be in late September.

The infield has been as expected.  Sure, Yangervis Solarte has been a pleasant surprise but I do not realistically expect him to keep it up for the duration of the season.  Brian Roberts, to no surprise, is nicked up and hasn’t played for a couple of games.  Kelly Johnson is a better role player than starter.  But sadly, the biggest disappointment might be Derek Jeter.  A sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer, Derek is unquestionably on his last legs.  I am not trying to knock Jeter but he’s just as susceptible to age as the rest of us.  Only Mariano Rivera was exempt…

So, it becomes a question of what changes can be made at what price…and when?…

The end of the streak…

In a way, it was good to see Masahiro Tanaka finally lose his first regular season game since 2012.  The streak was becoming the focus and with it, a distraction.    Everyone has a bad day and Tanaka is no exception.  But now, he can just pitch and continue to improve his game without the added pressure of maintaining the streak.

The loss was inevitable and the many storylines about it have been written.  Let’s move on.

 

Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports

 

The Boy Who Cried Wolf…

Now that Kim Kardashian’s wedding in Florence, Italy is over, I wonder what she’ll do for her next wedding when she gets re-married…

 

–Scott

 

Yet another man down…

I wonder if Mike Mussina can still pitch…

It’s still early in May but the Yankees have only two remaining starters in the pitching rotation from the Opening Day roster.  With the placement of CC Sabathia (knee) on the DL, the two Japanese starters, Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka, are the only remaining starters with Ivan Nova (elbow/Tommy John surgery) and Michael Pineda (back) already on the DL.  This means the remainder of the rotation after Kuroda and Tanaka, are David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and perhaps Chase Whitley or Alfredo Aceves.  That’s not exactly a rotation that strikes fear in the heart of opposing batters.

The Yankees are so very fortunate that they won the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes in the off-season.  I’d hate to think where this rotation would be without Tanaka.  Or the team for that matter.

The Yankees will need to do something to address the starting rotation.  Nova is gone for the year, and Sabathia is still showing difficulty in adjusting to the latter stages of his pitching career.  I am really not sure what to expect when Pineda comes back and Kuroda has not shown consistent dominance since early last year.

But with the July trading deadline still over two months away, there are simply no quality options available.  Well, at least not at more reasonable prices.  Hopefully, someone among the Phelps, Nuno, Whitley et al group step up to show that they belong in The Show.  The Yankees need a new starter next year to replace Kuroda, who, more than likely, will retire or return to play in Japan.  Rather than vastly overpay for an upcoming free agent, it would be preferable for a young starter in the organization to step up and take his spot (obviously).

Passing the torch…

With Stephen Drew still available and the June draft upcoming, the rumors are picking up again that Drew would be a great fit for the Yankees.  I do not disagree.  No disrespect for Derek Jeter but he simply is not the player he was once.  He will not ride to the sunset like Mariano Rivera at the top of his game.  It’s unfortunate, but age has a funny way of doing that to the best of us.  I have felt that Drew would be a very solid addition since spring training and better than adding Brian Roberts or Kelly Johnson.  I know it would cost a draft pick, but the Yankees should pull the trigger now and sign Drew rather than wait until the competition is much stronger once Drew no longer has compensation tied to his signing following the player draft.

Brendan Ryan is a great fielder at shortstop but this team needs quality, clutch bats and Drew would be perhaps the best option for production among the middle infielders if signed.

The quarterback who wears gloves picked the right city…

As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I bought into the hype of Johnny Manziel.  After experiencing life as a fan of Donnie Baseball, it was appealing to think of my favorite football team being led by Johnny Football.  When the Vikings were on the clock at #8 and Manziel was still available, I was hopeful, along with many other Vikings fans apparently, that the team would call his team.  But instead, the Vikings swapped places with the Cleveland Browns at #9, and took a defensive player (Anthony Barr).  While I recognize the team needed defensive help, particularly the linebackers and defensive backfield, but the team needs a true leader.  I had been hopeful Christian Ponder would be the guy but it has never worked out.  Perhaps offensive coordinator Norv Turner can pull something out of Ponder but in many ways it is too late.  Matt Cassell will be the starter in 2014 barring injury, so it was a given the Vikings would take a QB in the draft.

After failing to trade up to #22 (the Philadelphia Eagles accepted a better offer from the Cleveland Browns who then took Johnny Football), the Vikings traded back up into the first round (last pick at #32) with the Seattle Seahawks and grabbed the guy who was number one on many top QB lists, Teddy Bridgewater.  So, while I was disappointed the Vikings didn’t get Manziel, it is certainly not difficult to be excited about the potential of Bridgewater.  He’ll have great weapons with Adrian Peterson, Cordarelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph, Greg Jennings and others.  Ponder now becomes an afterthought, unless he is somehow able to find his way back into the starter’s role before Bridgewater takes the position for good.

Happy Mother’s Day!

–Scott

 

Day by day is life in the Bronx…

24:  Live Another Day…

To some, that title refers to the upcoming 12-episode FOX TV Series with Kiefer Sutherland returning as Jack Bauer, but it is also has some parallels with the current state of the Yankees.  24 is the continuation of the roster size until Sunday when Michael Pineda’s suspension ends and he is subsequently placed on the DL.  24 was the return of Robinson Cano to New York even though he now wears #22.  24 seems like the length of yesterday’s 14-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.  24 is the description of the day by day adventure that is a major league baseball season.

Clearly, the Yankees are in a funk right now with a shortened two game sweep by Cano and the Seattle Mariners, followed by last night’s series opening loss to the Rays.

There was a brief stretch earlier in the season where I was feeling very confident with the starting rotation but that lasted about one cycle through the rotation as the Yankees lost Ivan Nova for the season due to Tommy John surgery and Michael Pineda to suspension and subsequently an injured back.  So, Vidal Nuno becomes the #4 starter with David Phelps filling the role of the last man in the rotation.  If CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were pitching to their proven levels, it would be a different story but they are not.  So, it places so much more focus on the back end.  Right now, there is only one starter that conveys a sense of confidence.  It doesn’t mean that he’ll win every time out, but you feel as though you’ll have the best possible chance for success.  That pitcher, of course, is Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka who has been everything as advertised.  I hate to think where the Yankees rotation would be if he was a Chicago Cub or a Los Angeles Dodger.  We’d probably be bracing for the return of Freddy Garcia at this point.

The Yankees need to do something.  With Nuno and Phelps in the rotation, the bullpen, which had actually started to gel after some early concerns, is a mess.  Nuno strikes me as no more than a good long man, not a starter.  I think Phelps has promise but relying on the combo of Nuno-Phelps is too much.  The Yankees need to find a proven starter, somewhere…somehow, so that they can push, ideally, Nuno back to the pen.   Of course, where that starter is going to come from is anybody’s guess.  It’s not exactly like the Detroit Tigers are going to hand Max Scherzer to the Yanks.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see the return of Alfredo Aceves to the Bronx.   It’s too bad that Manny Banuelos didn’t develop as planned as this would have been a good time for him to make his introduction into the major leagues if he hadn’t encountered injury along his path.   He may still make it one day but unfortunately, he’s not an answer right now.  He’s probably not an answer but you gotta love Graham Stoneburner’s name if nothing else about his game.  Hopefully, the Yankees can make some necessary improvements now rather than having to wait until closer to the July trading deadline.

Death, Taxes, and MLB Injuries…

This has been a tough year for injuries given how many pitchers have had to have Tommy John surgery, and frontline players like Bryce Harper and Jason Kipnis currently on the disabled list.  While the Yankees have been plagued with injuries, they are fortunate it hasn’t been more severe.  Losing Nova for 12-18 months hurts, but still, it could be worse.  These are the times that GM Brian Cashman is asked to prove his mettle.  How he responds to the Yankees current situation will shape the remainder of the season.  As presently constructed, I am not sure that this is a team that will be knocking in October.  It was an older, vulnerable team that has had to deal with injuries and one without able, capable young bodies in the farm system ready and capable to make their mark in The Show.  But, as the saying goes, time will tell as it often does…

The (new) Yankee Stadium hits leader in road gray…

Speaking of Robinson Cano, I had mixed feelings about his return to the Bronx.  There was criticism directed at him in the form of the very loud boos and chants against him, but the louder the Bronx cheers, the more you realize how much the player meant to the fans.  I hated to see Cano leave but I felt and continue to feel the Yankees made the right decision not to match the Mariners’ $240 million offer.  It wasn’t about disrespect, but rather a decision that was in the best interests of the long-term health of the team roster through the next 10 years.  I had no issue with the fans booing and it was clear that Cano was prepared to handle it.  His appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon illustrated how ready he was to confront the fans.  The clip where fans thought they were booing a picture of Cano only to have the real thing step out was classic.  It also showed that how much we may boo Cano and how unhappy we were he didn’t take less money to stay in pinstripes, the bottom line is that he is a quality human being and he sets a good example for the game.

Naturally, I hope he fails in Seattle.  Okay, not really.  I recognize that he is the best at his position.  That won’t be the case in 7-8 years and perhaps the Yankees will have found their long term answer at the position by then.  It was good to see Cano back in the Bronx and despite the sweep, I do wish him well.  But, when he returns to the Bronx the next time, I will boo him.  Sorry, it’s just what we do…

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

–Scott

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