To pay or not to pay…

The high “Price” of success…

The majority of the Yankees starting rotation is gone, with Hiroki Kuroda as the last man standing.  Honestly, I keep expecting reports that Kuroda has been lost for the year and perhaps his career as this is most likely his final year in Major League Baseball. 

I am not ready to declare Brandon McCarthy as a top of the rotation starter after Brian McCann’s comments to the same effect following McCarthy’s debut win as Yankee yesterday but will acknowledge that he is at the top of the rotation with this Yankees staff.  That’s why it is amazing the Yankees are two games over .500 at this point in the season.  It is certainly a testament to Joe Girardi’s managerial ability.  But as it stands, it is not sustainable and by Brian Cashman’s own admission, the team needs starting pitching.

McCarthy feeling like himself while wife tweets support

 Bill Kostroun/New York Post

I have such mixed feelings on this subject because I do not believe there is a move that can be made that would propel this Yankee team to the World Series.  Well, there’s moves that could be made to give the Yankees “something” for “nothing”, but of course that’s not going to happen.  I am watching the increasingly glowing reports about minor league pitcher Luis Severino, and there is part of me that wonders how much is legitimate and how much is the Yankees PR machine.  He is a quality talent, don’t get me wrong, but of course, the Yankees will ‘enhance’ the images of its young future stars given the lack of quality major league ready talent at the upper levels of the farm system.

But with that being said, I don’t want to see Severino, or Peter O’Brien or Gary Sanchez or Rob Refsnyder or any other quality prospect headed to another team for an aging overpaid player that has seen his best years and is a short term option since it still will not mean a World Series and the Yankees will regret having those players in future years.  David Price is one of the few quality exceptions that I’d make, but despite the talk, there’s no way the Tampa Bay Rays trade with the Yankees.  From Tampa’s perspective, I’d only do it if I knew that I could clean out New York’s quality prospects and damage the organization for years to come.

Even if the Yankees bring in pitching upgrades for the starting rotation, you still can’t win games if you do not score runs. 

Open audition for Closer’s role?…

With impending free agency for Mariano Rivera successor David Robertson and the lack of any discussions, I wonder if the team is evaluating whether Robertson or the breakout performer Dellin Betances is better suited for the role long term.  Robertson has done a great job but Betances is younger (albeit by a few years) and he casts a far more imposing presence on the mound by virtue of his height and size (6’8”, 260 lbs) compared to the smaller, more slender Robertson (5’11”, 195).   

Dellin Betances earlier this month.

 Barton Silverman/The New York Times

There’s also the cost factor as Betances will be the cheaper option and the Yankees will need those dollars to upgrade other areas of the team for its 2015 rebuild. 

Robertson has done much better than I thought he did.  There have been a couple of hiccups but even the great Rivera had a few of those.  It’s part of the life of a closer.  But he’s been more successful than not and consistency in the role is the key.  I’d like to see Robertson stay as the knockout punch of Betances-Robertson is a good one.  But of course, I liked the knockout punch of Mariano Rivera-John Wetteland in 1996 but the decision to let Wetteland walk turned out alright. 

This will be an interesting off-season for the Yankees with so many decisions to make.  I am still not convinced that Brian Cashman will be the GM beyond this year.  The only certainty I can project is that Joe Girardi will be back.  Well, that and Derek Jeter is headed to the Hall of Fame.  But beyond that, I am sure there will be a series of moves again this off-season as the team tries to recapture its glory.  The 2014 Yankees are certainly not one that you would stand pat for. 

Farewell to a Champion…

Okay, this is not baseball related, but I was saddened to see the news of the passing of actor James Garner.  As a child, I used to regularly watch The Rockford Files and would catch old episodes of Maverick on syndication.  Garner had such a great sense of “coolness” that he brought to the roles of Jim Rockford and Bret Maverick, and his happy-go-lucky attitude was always so refreshing.  This has been a difficult year in terms of the losses we’ve seen.  Celebrity deaths have been almost a frequent as pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery.  A sad day but Garner made a difference with his life and that’s something all of us aspire to do…

 

–Scott

 

Where do we go from here?…

Glass is starting to look half empty…

I remember back at the start of the year when there was about one dominant cycle through the starting rotation of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka.  At the time, I was very optimistic about the team’s chances, particularly if the new acquisitions like Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran hit like they always had.  But fast forward to July, the team is playing .500 baseball and as Michael Kay said on a recent YES network broadcast, Hiroki Kuroda is “the last man standing”.  One moment, Masahiro Tanaka was the pride of the Yankees…most wins for an AL starter, an All-Star selection, league leader in ERA, front-runner for Rookie of the Year, but then the next moment, after a couple of non-quality starts, it’s learned that he has a slight tear an elbow ligament that will sideline him for six weeks.  While it is encouraging that surgery is not recommended at this time, the threat of potential Tommy John surgery is real if the rehab is not successful.

Masahiro Tanaka Masahiro Tanaka joins teammates to listen as Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees speaks at a media availability after announcing that the 2014 season will be his last before retiring at George M. Steinbrenner Field on February 19, 2014 in Tampa, Florida.

Mike Carlson/Getty Images North America

With Kuroda standing as the lone original starter, the rest of the spots are starting to feel like last year’s attempts to fill first base with journeymen to replace Mark Teixeira.  Of the replacement starters, David Phelps has had the most consistency.  Others like Chase Whitley may have had greater success at times but they’ve also had the more horrific starts.  The pressure the patchwork rotation has placed on the bullpen has been immense.

The trade for Arizona Diamondbacks starter Brandon McCarthy, on the fast track for 20 losses, doesn’t improve the starting rotation but he does give them much needed innings.  The only spots in the rotation right now that provide any source of confidence are Kuroda and Phelps.  Shane Greene is the latest minor league hopeful.  Maybe he will prosper at the major league level, maybe he won’t.  It’s a tough situation when there are so many holes in the rotation.  The latest acquisition, Jeff Francis from the Oakland A’s, has not been a quality starter since his days in Colorado many years ago.  Francis appears earmarked for long relief so it is still anybody’s guess who fills the fifth spot in the rotation.  Today is Saturday and I do not know who will start for the Yankees on Sunday.  Perhaps Chase Whitley gets plugged in or they recall Bruce Billings, but neither option is overly appealing on a day, the last day before the All-Star break, that should have featured Tanaka.

I would have liked to have seen the Yankees acquire Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs before the Oakland A’s did but it’s obvious the Yankees do not have the upper level prospect and major league ready talent to make that type of deal.

I have mixed feelings about whether the Yankees should be buyers or sellers at the trading deadline.  If I felt they had a great chance for October success, then I’d be all in for sacrificing some promising talent for a run.  But I am not sure there is a move that can be made which would propel the Yankees past the Toronto Blue Jays and/or Baltimore Orioles.  Perhaps it would be better for the team to sell and pick up some younger talent for a recharge next year.

There are not any available starters in the Yankees’ price range (in terms of trade-able talent, not dollars) which make sense.  I keep hearing Cliff Lee’s name mentioned but the stars have never aligned to bring him to New York in the past and he openly spurned the Yankees when he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Even if he did finally come to New York, he would not be a long-term solution.  Ian Kennedy, a former Yankee, is another name bounced around but his stuff just isn’t tailored for Yankee Stadium.  A return of A.J. Burnett?  No, thank you.

The cost of a lackluster season…

I am starting to get the sense that this will be Brian Cashman’s last year as general manager.  Maybe it is time for a change.  I’ve been watching the San Diego situation with interest as I am hopeful that Billy Eppler does not become the Padres’ new general manager.  For in-house talent to replace Cashman, Eppler is at the top of the list.  I would prefer replacing Cashman with someone who knows the inner workings of the Yankees organization and not someone from the outside who would have to go through a transition period.

AP

The All-Star break comes at a good time.  The.500 Yankees need some time to reassess where they are and regroup.  It also wouldn’t hurt to capture some good luck before they embark on the second half of the season.

The prodigal son returns home…

I am not a Cleveland Cavaliers or Miami Heat fan, but I have to say that I was pleased with LeBron James’ decision to return to his home.  The way that he rejected Cleveland with “The Decision” in 2010 to sign with the Heat was awful and he deserved the backlash that came with it.  But he has shown that he’s a better man today with his words for why he wants to return to his Northern Ohio roots.  Of today’s NBA superstars, LeBron has always been one of my favorites and I wish him the best in bringing a championship to the City by the Lake.  The Cavs should be a fun team to watch next season, particularly if they can acquire Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Kyrie Irving must think that he won the jackpot with his new contract and the addition of the best player in the NBA.

Now that LeBron has decided where he’ll play next season, Carmelo Anthony should follow suit fairly soon.  Still hoping for a return to the New York Knicks…

–Scott

 

Sometimes Money Does Matter…

The Hunger Games…

When the Yankees said they were going to be big spenders during the opening signing period for international prospects, I still didn’t imagine how aggressive they would be. Based on MLB.com’s list of top international prospects, the Yankees have apparently signed five of the top ten players:

• Dermis Garcia, SS, Dominican Republic, #1
• Nelson Gomes, 3B, Dominican Republic, #2
• Juan De Leon, OF, Dominican Republic, #5
• Jonathan Amundaray, OF, Venezuela, #7
• Antonio Arias, OF, Venezuela, #9

In the second ten (11-20), they grabbed three shortstops:

• Hyo-Jun Park, SS, Korea, #13
• Wilkerman Garcia, SS, Venezuela, #14
• Diego Castilla, SS, Venezuela, #16

They also signed the #25 player in catcher Miguel Flames, Venezuela.

At first pass, it seems like a number of shortstops but I’ve read that Dermis Garcia will eventually be a corner infielder and Wilkerman Garcia may be switched to second base.

Dermis Garcia, the prized signing, represents the most the Yankees have spent on the international market since they signed top catching prospect Gary Sanchez in 2009. Garcia received $3.2 million, while Sanchez received $3.0 million.

It’s interesting that Garcia was born in 1998, perhaps the greatest year of the modern Yankees era.

I can still remember when the Yankees selected an 18-year-old Derek Jeter out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Hopefully, the 16 year-old Garcia will be a presence in pinstripes for more than 20 years too.

Of course, while the Yankees were focused on position players, the Boston Red Sox quietly signed the top two pitchers in Christopher Acosta, Dominican Republic, and Anderson Espinoza, Venezuela.

I thought it was a telling choice in the selection of the catcher (Flames). The Yankees seems overloaded with catching prospects and the Flames arrival is probably the prelude to the inclusion of another catching prospect such as Sanchez or John Ryan Murphy in a potential trade this month. I would not want to lose Sanchez for a middle-of-the-road starting pitcher but if the return were say someone like David Price, then I am all in.

With the international signings at approximately $14 million, the cost could be as much as $30 million with penalties plus the Yankees will be non-players in the next two signing periods as they’ll be restricted to no more than $300,000 per player. But with their aggressive approach this year, the Yankees have infused significant future talent into the lower levels of the farm system.

The future is now…

I saw a reference that Park would be the first Korean-born Yankee but that’s unfair to AAA second baseman Rob Refsnyder. Although raised in CA since he was 3 months, he was born in Seoul, South Korea to Korean parents. So I’d say Refsnyder will be the first Korean Yankee. Speaking of Refsnyder, I seriously hope that his Bronx arrival is sooner rather than later. The Yankees need to upgrade second base. Brian Roberts was once a great player but he’ll never be that guy again. Why not go with a younger player who has upside potential? The sooner we can put Robinson Cano in the rear view mirror, the better.

What have you done for me lately?…

So much for the rags to riches story for career minor leaguer Yangervis Solarte. After a terrific start to the season, he has been non-existent for the past month and it earned him a free ride to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His replacement is actually an older career minor leaguer, Zelous Wheeler, so we’ll see how this goes. If it were me, I would have brought up Refsnyder. But there’s a reason that Brian Cashman is GM and I am not, so I’ll just have to have faith in the decision.

Too little, too late?…

Honestly, I am not sure there is anything the Yankees can do to save this season. They are a game under .500 entering play tonight and have played with virtually no offense. They only win if they can hold the opponent to a couple of runs or less. Robinson Cano is one player that could ignite the offense but obviously there’s no way the Seattle Mariners are going to give him up. In retrospect, the Yankees should have overpaid to keep Cano. Alfonso Soriano was that kind of player at times last year but he’s been in a season long slump that almost certainly means this is his final year in pinstripes. I thought that Brian McCann would be hitting by now but he is showing that he’s one of those guys who needs a long acclimation process to the Bronx. Carlos Beltran is merely showing that he is a 36-year-old outfielder. The other off-season right field option, Shin Choo-Soo, has fared no better in Texas.

At this moment, the Detroit Tigers stand as the team to beat in the American League. For the past couple of weeks, they’ve been invincible and easily handled the second best Oakland A’s this week. Joba Chamberlain is probably loving life at the top.

While I recognize the Yankees will make a move this month, I hope that they do not trade any top prospects unless the return is top shelf (i.e., David Price). I’d hate to lose Gary Sanchez and still finish 3rd or 4th in the AL East.

Oh well, tonight the Yankees play Phil Hughes in Minneapolis. Let’s hope the results are better than the last time they saw Hughes in the Bronx when he and the Minnesota Twins dominated the Yanks.

–Scott

The Carlos has landed…

 

Welcome to the Bronx!…

With one swing of the bat, Carlos Beltran has arrived as a Yankee.  On Friday night, with the Yankees down by one run and two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, Beltran crushed his most important hit to date into the left center stands with two on to give the Yankees a 5-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

 

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News

 

For many new Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka excluded, it takes a while to get acclimated to pinstripes.  I remember that it took Jason Giambi a season or so to really feel comfortable.  Brian McCann started his Bronx career a little on the slow side, and in many Fantasy Baseball rankings, his replacement in Atlanta and former backup, Evan Gattis was rated higher among catchers.  He delivered a key hit this past week to win a game and perhaps that was his “moment”.  He is starting to hit so there’s no reason not to believe that he’ll be an offensive force for the remainder of the season.  But Beltran came with high expectations even at his age.  Not to say that McCann didn’t, but perhaps the bar is a little higher for Beltran given his history in the City with the Mets.

 

Carlos B

 Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports

 

Ironically, Beltran may never have gotten his “moment” if not for a clutch RBI single by McCann in the prior at-bat.  The game had many heroes.  A diving stop by Jacoby Ellsbury that could have easily bounced past him to allow more Oriole runners to score in the late innings, David Huff limiting the O’s to one run in the top of the 9th after an error by Yangervis Solarte, and the very strong performance by Hiroki Kuroda.  Conversely, Solarte could have been the goat with the error, in combination with his inning ending at-bat with two on in the bottom of the 8th.  Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the Gatorade was dunked on Beltran and all was good in the Bronx.

If second basemen were as plentiful as catchers…

I like Francisco Cervelli as backup catcher given his versatility.  But it was still sad to see John Ryan Murphy sent down to AAA.  I know, he’ll get the chance to start every day, but I thought he did a great job backing up McCann.  I know that when the Yankees make a deadline move in July, it will almost certainly include one of the young catchers (Murphy or top prospect Gary Sanchez).   If the Yankees somehow swing a deal for David Price (unlikely in my opinion), Sanchez would have to be one of the pieces headed to Tampa.  But in other deals, it’s more likely that Murphy will go unless the Yankees move Cervelli.  Austin Romine seems to have become an afterthought.

Have bat, will travel…

I am glad to see that prospect Peter O’Brien is thriving.  Another catcher, he has been performing well at first base and is perhaps an option to replace Mark Teixeira at some future point if he doesn’t get moved in July.  Conversely, it is sad to see that talented prospect but oft-injured Slade Heathcott is dealing with, surprise, injuries…

 

Peter O'Brien hit a walk-off home run to score two runs and give Tampa the 6-5 win.

Mark LoMoglio/Yankees, via MLB.com

 

Sabathia, Nova and Pineda who?…

Hats off to the young Yankee pitchers.  Entering the season, the bullpen was perceived as a weakness but young arms Dellin Betances and Adam Warren have become go-to guys, and represent superior upgrades to guys like Joba Chamberlain and other former relievers.  But the biggest surprise is how well the replacement pitchers, Chase Whitley and David Phelps in particular, have performed.  Vidal Nuno has done a decent job but he is the top candidate to go to the pen or to AAA when CC Sabathia returns after the All-Star break.  It’s almost a given that the Yankees will pursue another starting pitcher in July but the reason the Yankees are buyers and not sellers is directly attributable to the support that Whitley and Phelps have provided for ace Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda.

The bearded brigade…

I am glad to see that Phil Hughes has found a home in Minneapolis but I am among those who believe his strong performance would not have happened in the Bronx.  I wish that he could have worked out for him, but he did need the change of scenery.  It wasn’t that long ago that Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain were cited as the next great Yankee pitching hopefuls, and now they play in Minnesota, San Diego and Detroit, respectively.  The only one that the Yankees received a return for was Kennedy and in retrospect it was not for market value.  Kennedy went to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers when the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson.  Given that Granderson left as a free agent, the Yankees essentially have nothing left to show for the losses of the three former top prospects.

What’s with the former Yankees who feel the need to grow a beard when they leave New York?…

 

ESPN.com

 

I know the Yankees have history and tradition with their no facial hair policy, but I feel that it is something that the new Steinbrenner regime should consider relaxing.  Some guys just need a beard.  Sorry McCann…

No reminder needed, thank you…

I have to admit that I had almost forgotten about Alex Rodriguez (it was nice) until I heard his name yesterday after it was announced that he had dropped his lawsuit against the team’s doctor.  I don’t know what A-Rod has left in his bat but honestly I do not care.  I am not looking forward to his return next year and remain hopeful that the Yankees will find a way to sever ties.  But I know that’s wishful thinking on my part.  For now, I just have to enjoy that the team is doing fine without A-Rod and know that he is not missed.

 

alex rodriguez

–Scott

 

It is high, it is far, it is caught…

A penny for your hits…

What does it take to buy a hit?  Apparently not the $45 million the Yankees paid to Carlos Beltran or the $85 mil to Brian McCann or $175 million for former Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.  This season has been a struggle for wins despite the team’s winning record.  It was finally starting to feel a little better at 29-25 but then the Yankees promptly lost 4 in a row.

 

 

Playing a good team like the Oakland A’s, the Yankees bullpen failed miserably until the final game of the series when David Robertson locked away a win for ace Masahiro Tanaka.  That bleeding started in the series with the Minnesota Twins and was inevitable with the short innings being provided by the replacement starters (i.e., David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Chase Whitley).  When the Yankees are only scoring 1 or 2 runs a game, the starters need to throw a gem almost every outing which obviously is not realistic given the current state of arms.

I thought the Yankees should have aggressively tried to sign Stephen Drew before the Boston Red Sox re-signed him, and now I feel the same way about slugger Kendrys Morales.  Now that there is no longer draft pick compensation tied to him since the MLB started yesterday, I felt the Yankees should go after him.  Maybe they are, but there’s competition.  Based on yesterday’s first draft pick for the Yankees in the second, had they signed Morales earlier, the cost would have been lefty reliever Jacob Lindgren who is already projected to make an appearance in the Yankees bullpen this year.  But now it’s an open field for Morales and the Yankees have reluctance, wanting to see how Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran perform.  In my opinion, the odds of one or both going back to the DL at some point is very high, and the designated hitter, Alfonso Soriano, is not hitting, so I would aggressively pursue Morales to cover 1B/DH.  Ironically, Morales is the guy the Los Angeles Angels turned to when Mark Teixeira left as a free agent.  It worked out well for the Angels and I think it can work out well for the Yankees.  No ifs, ands, or buts, the Yankees need a proven consistent run producer in the middle of the order.  I agree with those who say the Yankees sorely miss Robinson Cano’s bat.  Ironically, the Yankees were also unable to re-sign another slugger having a good year in Milwaukee this year (Mark Reynolds) despite the usual anemic batting average.  Those home runs would look pretty good about now in Yankee Stadium.

 Courtesy:  hailstate.com

On nights the Yankees are scoring only a run or getting shut out, I even see guys like Milwaukee’s Lyle Overbay, another 2013 Yankee, driving in a couple of runs for his new team.  And of course, who delivered the key hit in the Yankees last game with the Twins when the Yankees bullpen collapsed in the late innings?  None other than former backup shortstop Eduardo Nunez.

At this point, the Toronto Blue Jays are starting to run away with the division.  They are clearly playing like the class of the division and they just came off a very successful series against perennial AL contender Detroit.  If I had to pick two teams playing in the ALCS right now, I’d pick the Blue Jays and the Oakland A’s.  If the Yankees do not figure out how to fix the current offensive drought, they really will be offensive and done for the season in September.

Not everybody was meant to be Mariano Rivera…

Nothing against David Robertson but I am still not sold on him as the team’s closer.  Sure, replacing Mariano Rivera is big shoes to fill.  However, I still think that Robertson’s stuff plays best in a Set Up role.  I have been intrigued with the possibility of trying Dellin Betances in the role, but he needs more major league experience so maybe next year.  The reliever the Yankees picked yesterday (Jacob Lindgren) is also a future possibility.  If Robertson blows a few more games like he did against Minnesota, I’d really consider using Andrew Bailey in the role when he gets healthy…for now.

I love you, I love you not…

Speaking of former Yankees thriving outside of New York, both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain seem to be doing fine.  Hughes even captured a victory in the Bronx with the aforementioned bullpen collapse, a place that he couldn’t buy a win last year.  Chamberlain has a couple of saves and a decent ERA.  I can’t say that I’ve watched him too closely but his stats seem to say that all is good.  Why couldn’t have these guys performed like this last year?  Rhetorical question and of course, there is something to be said about the pressure of playing in New York.  It’s not for everyone.

Farewell to a champion…

It was sound to hear about the passing of former Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer this week.  The image of Zim sitting next to Joe Torre on the Yankees bench is forever burned into my memory.  He was such a part of those late 90’s championships and he helped mold Torre into a Hall of Fame manager and one who will soon have his number retired in Memorial Park.  I realize that sooner or later, all of us must depart.  But still, it is sad to see Zim go now.  I understand he had been in poor health since April and hopefully he is now at peace.  He will be missed as he was truly one of Major League Baseball’s landmarks.

 Courtesy:  Keith Torrie/New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images

–Scott

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

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

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.