Results tagged ‘ AL East ’

Waiting patiently for the Cavalry…

A week’s worth of crickets…

For excited as I was for the Baseball Winter Meetings, it was a very unfulfilling time for Yankees fans.  The AL East got stronger as both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays made significant improvements, and the Baltimore Orioles, while they didn’t make a move, are still a better team on paper.

Losing David Robertson hurt.  I fully recognize that not even the Yankees should be paying multiple guys in the pen $12+ million per year so I understand the decision to let Robertson walk after signing last year’s prized lefty Andrew Miller.  Still, when I saw those words, “White Sox to sign David Robertson”, it was a painful sight to see.

David Robertson mug

USA Today Sports

Part of me, for a few days, imagined a bullpen with Robertson, Betances, and Miller for manager Joe Girardi and the limitless possibilities.  After watching the Kansas City Royals and their stellar pen, it was hard not to dream of a similar equation for the Yankees.  With so many question marks in the rotation, a ‘lights out’ bullpen is a must.  With Robertson gone, there’s no reason why the Yankees still can’t have a superior bullpen.  But losing Robertson does show that we care about our tenured players.  Well, except when their name is Alex Rodriguez.

I am in favor of naming Dellin Betances as the team’s closer in spring training.  I think Miller will be great as the primary setup guy and the earlier innings are in great hands with Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and others.  A year ago, there were questions about Robertson’s ability to close.  His attempt to close in 2012 when Mariano Rivera got hurt was unsuccessful.  The team ultimately went to Rafael Soriano who held the role for the duration of the season.

Mariano Rivera was an exception.  Most guys are unable to pitch at the level required to close for an extended period of time.  The days of Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are over.  From a financial standpoint, it makes the most sense to have a shorter term view when it comes to a closer so that you don’t get locked into a bad contract (a la Jonathan Papelbon) as the closer ages and naturally deteriorates.  Robertson may still be playing at a very high level in four years, but equally, there’s a chance that he is not.  He always seems to pitch in and out of trouble, but as he ages, his ability to get out of those jams may not quite be there.  He’ll evolve as a pitcher and I am sure that he’ll make the necessary adjustments, but at the end of the day, the Yankees are better off not being locked into Robertson for four years at $48 million.  Betances showed that he is the team’s future closer.  Next year may be a bit premature, but it was inevitable.

The most important thing for the Yankees is to now re-invest the $12 million per year savings into other areas.  Bring back Chase Headley.  Possibly sign a short term closing alternative like Jason Grilli.  Make a run for Max Scherzer.  But the key is to do something.  The Yankees, as they presently stand, will not win in October.

 

How much?  See ya…

Speaking of bad contracts, I was blown away by the commitment the Los Angeles Dodgers made to Brandon McCarthy.  I thought McCarthy was a great pickup last season and hoped the Yankees could re-sign him to a team friendly deal.  But like Robertson, I am glad the Yankees did not commit those years and dollars to McCarthy.  He is a huge injury risk and in the Dodgers case, McCarthy failed last year in the NL West when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  While I hope McCarthy has a great Dodgers career, my fear is that he and the team’s DL list will become good buddies.  I hope I’m wrong but baseball generally proves ‘past performance equals future results’…

Slowly but surely…

The week preceding the Baseball Winter Meetings was good.  The Yankees acquired their 2015 shortstop with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius and the aforementioned lefty artist Andrew Miller, dominant against both righties and lefties.  It was a good start but the team obviously still has much work to do before spring.

I hear so many Yankees fans say that Gregorius is not Derek Jeter.  Nothing against Jeter, but I’d rather see a 24 year old Gregorius starting at short over a 41 year old Jeter.  Gregorius may not be the player Jeter was in his prime, but Jeter wasn’t in his prime anymore and the Yankees had to do something to improve following Jeter’s retirement.  So, to me, Gregorius is his own man in the position.  It is up to him to succeed or fail, without regard to Jeter.  I was a huge Don Mattingly fan, but I gave Tino Martinez a chance from his first at-bat and his early struggles did not waver my support.  Tino turned out to be one of my most beloved players over the years and I never compared him to Mattingly.

It is possible that Gregorius fails.  If so, the Yankees move on to another option.  ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’.  But at this point in time, it is his time.  Let’s give him a chance…

Paul Ruhter/Gazette Staff

All I want for Christmas is…

Now if we could just send A-Rod anyway.  I know, it’s not that easy.  The most expensive DH/bench player in baseball history.  It’s too bad those dollars can’t be re-directed to a guy like Max Scherzer.  Maybe some challenges are too much for even the Yankees to overcome.  But I’d love to have the money the Yankees have probably spent trying to find a way.

–Scott

Waiting for Signs of Life…

How to build an 80-win team…

The Boston Red Sox have gotten stronger with the recent additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and most likely, the re-signing of their former ace Jon Lester in the coming weeks.  The Toronto Blue Jays quietly signed catcher Russell Martin (a significant upgrade over Dioner Navarro) and last night, pulled off a major trade for arguably one of the best third basemen in the game in Josh Donaldson of the Oakland A’s.  The cost for Donaldson was Brett Lawrie and prospects.  Given Lawrie’s inability to stay healthy, this trade provides further enhancement for a team that has held promise for a few years.

Lance Iversen, The Chronicle

Then there’s the Baltimore Orioles.  They may not have made any big moves but they are still the AL East champs until proven otherwise.

I am not sure what’s going on with the Tampa Bay Rays.  They will be losing a great potential manager in bench coach Dave Martinez when they finally name a replacement for Joe Maddon and the team no longer has the feeling of eternal optimism that it had when Maddon and former GM Andrew Friedman were running the show.  So, we’ll leave them out of the equation.

So, clearly, the Blue Jays and Red Sox are determined to challenge the Orioles’ hold on the division championship.  Meanwhile, in the Bronx, just crickets…

Last winter, the Yankees were quiet at the beginning of the off-season but then launched a flurry of signings in December that netted Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran.  It was a lot of money, but it still had the feeling the money could have been better spent.  Of course, if the Yankees would have just paid Russell Martin a few years ago rather than allow him to leave as a free agent, the Yankees could have gotten him much cheaper than the deal they signed McCann to (or the one Martin ultimately signed with the Jays).  Ellsbury is a known risk given his injury risk.  He held up fairly well in his first season in pinstripes, and I like having him on the team.  But the truth is the Yankees had a center fielder on the roster at the time in Brett Gardner and would have been better served going after a bat for left field.  Beltran has been a great major leaguer but his age simply does not bode well for staying healthy.

Now, I could write major concerns with Ramirez and Sandoval, but the Red Sox are dealing from a position of strength and have loosened some major league players, combined with quality prospects, to make a major trade to further strengthen the team (such as a move for the Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels).  The Yankees last year were just trying to fill holes.

I am surprised that the Yankees have not been linked in any way with star free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer.  Clearly, either one would immediately enhance the Yankees’ chances in 2015.  They need to find answers for other positions (third base, shortstop and the bullpen) but a high end rotation is a must for any team to succeed.  As it stands, there are too many questions with Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, Michael Pineda’s ability to stay healthy or if CC Sabathia is riding the major downslope of his career.

The Yankees need to sign either Scherzer or Lester, and retain the free agent trio of Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, and David Robertson.  With this off-season of inactivity, it feels like the Yankees are going to lose out on all of the above.  At least today, two days after Thanksgiving.

I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder wins the second base job in spring training.  As for shortstop, the easiest solution is to re-sign Stephen Drew.  It’s really too bad that the organization was unable to develop a high level shortstop prospect in time for Derek Jeter’s departure.  Jorge Mateo looks like a strong possibility but he’s years away from being ready for the major league level.  So, the Yankees are best served finding a short-term solution like Drew and hope for a bounce back year with a full training camp.  I’d prefer that over a trade that could potentially cost what high level talent the Yankees do have in the upper levels of the minor league system.

If the Yankees do nothing, they’ll be battling the Rays for last place.  If they merely try to fill holes with cheaper alternatives, they’ll still be cellar rats.  Something has to give….soon.

I agree with Hal Steinbrenner when he says that you don’t need a $200 million payroll to win but the Yankees roster as currently constructed is not championship-caliber in my opinion.  Too much risk and uncertainty, and players who’ve seen their better days.  Alex Rodriguez is such a huge albatross and it’s a shame that he is now the “face” of the team.

Hopefully, Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner boys have a plan in place that is driven for success and not merely a bean counter’s approach to fielding a team.

Time will tell, as it often does (as the saying goes)…

–Scott

Ready or not, here’s the 2014 New York Yankees!…

Introducing the 2014 New York Yankees.  With the demotion of Eduardo Nunez to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees have finalized, for now, their major league roster as the team heads to Houston to open the season against the Astros.

Starting rotation:

  1.        CC Sabathia
  2.        Hiroki Kuroda
  3.        Ivan Nova
  4.        Masahiro Tanaka
  5.        Michael Pineda

No great surprises here.  There was talk of a spring battle between David Phelps and Pineda, but I never expected Pineda to lose the last spot in the rotation regardless of how well Phelps pitched.  I personally prefer to see Phelps as the long man in the pen.  I think he is better suited for that role than Pineda and of course he’ll be the first arm called upon if the Yankees lose any of the starters to injury.

Closer:

  1.        David Robertson

Again, no surprises.  This job is Robertson’s to lose.  While the Yankees do not have any relievers with proven closing experience on the active roster should Robertson falter, Andrew Bailey looms in the wings when he returns to active duty later in the year.  My hope is that Robertson takes the job and runs with it.  He disappointed in the role a couple of years ago when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season and Rafael Soriano ended up as the team’s primary closer.  But that was then and this is now.  It is my hope the Yankees never have to look for Plan B.

Setup:

  1.        Shawn Kelley
  2.        Dellin Betances

This is an area of concern.  It was great having a setup artist like Robertson.  Kelley was good in the pen last year, but he’s no David Robertson.  I am hopeful that this is Dellin’s niche after his previous prospect status as a future starter.  I would like to see him develop into the clear-cut 8th inning option to set the bridge to Robertson.  It’s also great to see a NYC-born player on the main stage.

Lefty specialist:

  1.        Matt Thornton

His departure in free agency was very quiet, but I was sad to see Boone Logan leave.  I am not convinced that Matt Thornton is the answer.  He’s been a great reliever over the course of his career but his best days are behind him.  The Boston Red Sox even left him off the post-season roster last fall.  I thought that Cesar Cabral would make the team as second lefty, but the Yankees expressed a greater need for long relief in the early days of the season so that solidified a position for Vidal Nuno.  Thornton may be starting the season as the Yankees’ lefty specialist but I doubt he finishes it.

Long relief:

  1.        David Phelps
  2.        Adam Warren
  3.        Vidal Nuno

I expect it to take a few months for Joe Girardi to find the right pieces for the bullpen but I fully expect him to make it a team strength by September.  Tampa’s Joe Maddon has shown a tremendous ability to piece together a strong bullpen from a collection of spare parts, and I have every confidence Joe Girardi has the same ability.

Catcher:

  1.        Brian McCann
  2.        Francisco Cervelli

Honestly, I thought the Yankees would trade Cervelli in spring training and make Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy the backup catcher.  But, aside from my disappointment with Cervelli last year due to his drug suspension, I do like the player and his intensity.  McCann has been everything as advertised.  I have been particularly impressed by how he was gone out of his way to get to know his pitchers.  I had always heard he was a great team leader on the Atlanta Braves and that continues to hold true with his presence in the Yankees locker room.

First base:

  1.        Mark Teixeira

Let’s just say that I am cautiously optimistic there are no lingering problems related to last year’s wrist injury.

Second base:

  1.        Brian Roberts
  2.        Yangervis Solarte

I really do not expect Roberts to stay healthy so I hope he proves me wrong.  I was glad to see Solarte make the team over Eduardo Nunez, and I hope his success in the spring carries over to the regular season.  But it will be a long time before we see Robinson Cano-like production at this position.  I just hope the position doesn’t become the team’s Achilles heel this year.

Shortstop:

  1.        Derek Jeter
  2.        Dean Anna

It will be bittersweet watching Jeter on his farewell tour, but a key to the season will be the performance of Jeter’s backups as he won’t be able to do this alone.

Third base:

  1.        Kelly Johnson

Solarte will also spend time at this position, but overall, I am disappointed the Yankees did not do more to try and upgrade this position.  I do not like uncertainty at both second and third, in combination with a 40 year old shortstop and a first baseman attempting to come back from a serious wrist injury.  After years of rumors, maybe this is the year that Chase Headley becomes a Yankee.  Time will tell.

Left field:

  1.        Brett Gardner

The team has made a significant investment in Gardner despite their acquisition of Jacoby Ellsbury.  While I love team speed, I always shutter when I think of the Yankees attempt to convert to speed in the 1980’s with the signing of Dave Collins.  I know this is a complete different situation that draws no parallel to the 80’s disaster, but I still prefer the three run homer.

Center field:

  1.        Jacoby Ellsbury

It still seems weird to see this name in the Yankees lineup.  Nevertheless, he’s here and I hope, really hope that he can stay healthy.  I know, that’s asking a lot.  If he’s hurt, Gardner slides to center and Soriano is the starting left fielder which will weaken team offense and defense.

Right field:

  1.        Carlos Beltran

This might the position that I have the least amount of concerns with.  I fully expect it to be business as usual for the 36 year old Beltran.  He’s happy and excited to be in the Bronx, and he’s played under more difficult conditions in the past and has prospered.

DH:

  1.        Alfonso Soriano

I expect some of the team’s older players to rotate through DH, but Soriano should get the bulk of the at-bat’s in what most likely will be his final year in pinstripes regardless of whether or not his playing career continues.  I can see Derek Jeter getting a healthy number of DH at-bat’s but this goes back to how well Jeter’s backups at short can perform.

Role to be determined:

  1.        Ichiro Suzuki

In actuality, he’ll be the team’s fifth outfielder.  I expect Soriano to be the first option should any holes open in the outfield.  This is a sad way for a Hall of Fame career to end.  I had hoped that the Yankees would trade Ichiro to a team that had a greater need for his services than they do out of respect for the legendary player.  It may still happen, but at this point, I’d rather see someone like Zoilo Almonte as the reserve outfielder behind Soriano.

Ichiro aside, I think the two most vulnerable players for roster moves are Dean Anna (when Brendan Ryan returns in May) and Vidal Nuno (I can see Cesar Cabral being promoted in mid-April).

I’d like to say that I am very optimistic about the 2014 season but the uncertainty of the infield and the unproven bullpen give me hesitation.  I do not think the Yankees have done enough (despite all those dollars) to close the gap with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.  Neither the Toronto Blue Jays nor the Baltimore Orioles will be pushovers in what is arguably baseball’s toughest division.

I do feel better about this team than last year’s version.  People have said the Yankees over-achieved to reach 85 wins and that the Yankees are still an 85 win team despite the upgrades.  I think they can reach 90 wins and perhaps a few more if the pieces come together (younger players take it to the next level, the right in-season acquisitions, and strong overall performance from the team collectively).   It may not be enough to reach October, but the Yankees will help determine who does go.

I am glad that the baseball season is upon us.  It should be an exciting and memorable year.  Time for Joe Girardi’s masterful encore performance…

 

–Scott

 

To the Victor goes the spoils…

 

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox…

I know, I never expected to see the words appear on my blog.  But you have to give credit where credit is due and the 2013 Boston Red Sox proved that they were the best team in baseball.  This is a team that hit the bottom with the 2011 collapse in September that cost beloved manager Terry Francona his job, followed up by a year of Bobby Valentine that ranks as one of the worst teams in recent memory.

Proving that he is nobody’s fool, GM Ben Cherington deserves much of the credit.  I am not sure how much the decisions can be attributed to Cherington or to Larry Lucchino, but the deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year to unload salary-draining dead wood was genius.  The malcontents were shipped to the West Coast, while the recaptured dollars were re-invested to good clubhouse types like Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara among others.  The pieces made for good chemistry and the team, beards and all, became a very cohesive unit.  

This may have been the first time that I ever pulled for the Red Sox in the post-season but they gained my respect and I thought they were the team to beat. 

Naturally, I hope this is the end of the Sox championship run that started in 2004, but for this off-season, they are the champions of Baseball.  Again, congratulations to the Red Sox, the city of Boston, and the Red Sox Nation.

Turns up like a bad penny…

I am so tired of Alex Rodriguez and anything A-Rod.  His battle against the MLB is extending the inevitable suspension and is likely throwing a monkey wrench into the Yankees off-season plans.  For a team that appears bent on getting under the $189 million salary cap, A-Rod’s salary is substantial.  Will they be freed of it, for a season, or will they be responsible for some portion thereof, or does A-Rod win to bring his salary back in full?  I think the latter is very remote if impossible.  I, for one, would accept a year of no A-Rod even if it means the entire salary counts against the cap.  The guy is poison and I don’t think the team will win again with him on the roster.  Yes, they won in 2009, but teams generally do not win with such narcissistic players. 

Rest assured that no decision Alex Rodriguez makes will be in the best interests of the Yankees and Major League Baseball.  MLB needs the authority to end this foolish A-Rod farce and banish him for his sustained PEDS use and lies.  I’d love a lifetime ban but I doubt that happens so I want nothing less than the original 214 game suspension. 

Introducing the 2014 Yankees…

Check back with me in a few months.

There will be changes, but I am not sure that they will be the moves necessary to return the Yankees to AL East and American League prominence.  I saw one New York paper running an article this morning that indicated the Yankees may go after the Detroit Tigers’ Omar Infante should free agent Robinson Cano.  No offense to Infante, but what a drop off.  I don’t think it is smart to pay Cano $300 million, but hopefully the Yankees and Cano can find common ground that is mutually rewarding for both. 

I have seen the Yankees linked to free agents Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Ervin Santana, and A.J. Pierzynski.  Yes, Beltran is a good post-season performer but you need to get there first.  As a McCann fantasy owner this past season, I was frustrated with how much time he spent on the DL.  I’ve always thought Santana was a decent pitcher, but he’s not a frontliner.  Then again, when you’ve lost Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and possibly Hiroki Kuroda, you just need arms.  The Yankees will most likely lose Curtis Granderson so the Yankees will spend most of the winter just trying to fill holes rather than being able to focus on adding significant upgrades. 

It would be nice if some members of the farm system were ready to take the major league stage but that does not appear to be the case.  We may see Dellin Betances in the bullpen as the Yankees look to find a quality setup specialist for new closer David Robertson. 

I do not want to lose Robinson Cano but then again, I do not want the Yankees to give him an A-Rod like contract that will become a financial albatross in future years.  I may be the only one who feels this way, but I am not excited about a 40 year old Derek Jeter at shortstop with bad ankles.  The Yankees really need to find a younger shortstop who can spell Jeter and perhaps push #2 to DH more times than not. 

Mark Teixeira, cold starts and a bad wrist.  Second base…currently there are nothing but crickets.  Shortstop…see aforementioned comment about DJ.  Third base is really anybody’s guess.  Catcher needs more than a backup catcher who can’t hit and a proven PEDS user.  Right field is even older than shortstop.  Left field, at the moment, only shows the largely unreliable Vernon Wells.  Centerfield is truly the only position that I feel comfortable with, and even that carries some injury risk.  On the pitching staff, CC Sabathia is starting to show that he’s on the downward slide, and Hiroki Kuroda could very well be pitching in Japan next season.  The enigma, more commonly referred to as Ivan Nova, will be in the rotation but who really knows what we’ll get.  Adam Warren, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos (if he can make it back), Michael Pineda and others form the pool that Joe Girardi will be picking from.

In the bullpen, it is no sure thing that David Robertson will succeed as a closer.  In 2011, when the great Mariano Rivera went down for the season, Robertson had first crack at the job and failed.  He gave way to Rafael Soriano who proved very capable in the role.  Going into 2014, at the moment, there is no safety net for Robertson.  This is truly an off-season of uncertainty and it doesn’t help that A-Rod is doing his part to ensure greater uncertainty. 

The Red Sox, the Rays, the Jays, and the O’s must be loving this.  I can only hope that GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner Boys prove that they can check Ben Cherington’s move and bring championship baseball back to the Bronx where it belongs.

–Scott

 

 

 

 

When does the NFL Season start?…

Realism is starting to set in…

I know, never give up until the last pitch is thrown.  But seriously, even though the Yankees are within striking distance of the Wild Card, they are virtually out for any chance at a division championship barring complete collapses by the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.  This does not “feel” like a team of destiny that can right the ship and nail down one of the Wild Card slots.  All season long, it has been a team pieced together from players found at Nordy’s Rack.

In spurts, some of these players have excelled but for sustainability, most have faltered.  Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay et al.  The latest to join the circus of cast-off’s is former Arizona Diamondback and most recently Cleveland Indian Mark Reynolds.  High in strikeouts and almost futile in home runs since June, the Yankees decided to take yet another chance to try and catch lightening in a bottle.  Their strategy to re-acquire former Yankees second baseman and now outfielder Alfonso Soriano was good as Sori plays like he’s glad to be back in the Bronx.  This was on display earlier in the week when he hit four home runs with thirteen RBI’s in just two games.  On successive nights, he set personal career highs.  But Sori is a feel-good story because he is a former star Yankee player whose Yankee career was cut short by the now foolish acquisition of Alex Rodriguez.  He is getting a second chance in pinstripes and enjoying every moment of it.  But unfortunately, it will not be enough to propel the Yanks to the play-offs.

Today, Phil Hughes once again proved why he’s soon to be a former pinstriper.  It’s too bad that the Yankees didn’t move him before the trading deadline to get something for him, but he’ll most likely move to a park conducive for pitchers and will finally show some resemblance of the potential that has eluded him in the Bronx.

On the bright side, the Yankees should most likely be without Alex Rodriguez and his hefty salary next season so hopefully Team Frugal (Hal Steinbrenner) will open the purse strings a bit to replace some of the lost and aged talent.

On their current path, the Yankees should have their highest placement in next spring’s draft which should hopefully add some quality talent to the largely disappointing farm system.  I wonder if we are entering a 1980’s like phase of a few down years before young talent brings a resurgence in the Bronx.  I hope not, but at face value, that appears to be the case.  No offense to Derek Jeter, but in 2014 and at his age, I am not so sure that he is a positive.  It’s been a great career, but he is finding out what I found out a few years ago.  With age comes greater susceptibility to injury and a slower recovery cycle.  I guess we’re not 21 anymore.

Hiroki Kuroda has been one of the few very bright spots in this, thus far, disappointing season.  But it’s no sure thing that he’ll be back next year.  At some point, he will return to Japan to finish his professional career.  With the struggles of CC Sabathia, the Yankees can thank Kuroda for not having a stranglehold on last place at the moment.

I would love to see the Yankees catch fire and propel themselves into the play-offs.  However, there is no cavalry on the horizon.  We have to dance with the one who brung us, borrowing a cliché.  Unfortunately, she’s not pretty and she’s not a very good dancer…

–Scott

Live by the sword, die by the sword…

 

Who needs Josh Hamilton or A.J. Pierzynski!…

Austin Romine and Ronnier Mustelier.  Sometimes, the most meaningful additions to the major league roster are from within.  That’s probably never been so important in the Bronx than it is now as the Yankees attempt to reduce their payroll to below $189 million by 2014.  To accomplish the goal, the Yankees will need more than one or two low-cost, high reward type players on the roster.

I admit that I haven’t been watching the minor leagues as close as I probably should have.  I’ve been aware of Romine, the son of former Red Sox player Kevin Romine.  For years, his name was always mentioned in the same breath as Jesus Montero as the type two prospects at catcher.  With the trade of Montero to Seattle last year, it helped clear the path for Romine.  Now, among Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli, Romine represents the greatest upside even if he missed most of last year due to injury.

I have not been aware of Mustelier, a Cuban refugee the Yankees signed a couple of years ago.  But all the guy has done is hit as he’s progressed through the Yankees’ system.  He is a utility man that can play both corners, but I’ve seen speculation about him in right field too.  He’s old for a prospect (27) but it doesn’t mean that he cannot seize an opportunity in spring training to make his imprint on the Yankees’ roster.

If both Romine and Mustelier grabbed key roles for the 2013 team, it will help the Yankees to focus on eliminating other parts of “fat” on the roster and hopefully upgrade the team with lower cost high-producing replacements.  Easier said than done, which does lead me to believe the next couple of years will be ones of transition for the Yankees.  I honestly cannot see them keeping up with the ‘Joneses’ (i.e., namely the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays or even the Baltimore Orioles) with the current roster.  This doesn’t mean that I envision 95-loss seasons in the immediate future.  The Yankees still have too much talent on the roster.  But it will be a dogfight for 90-win seasons if the team continues on its current path.  A game or two here or there is the difference between making the play-offs as a wild card or staying home for October.

The strong get stronger, the Yankees get older…

As it stands, the most successful teams this off-season, in my opinion, have been the Los Angeles Angels and the Toronto Blue Jays.  Of course, the Kansas City Royals added a great pitcher in James Shields even if it did cost their top prospect. The Texas Rangers will be strong again even if they lost Josh Hamilton.  I fully expect them to find an adequate replacement for Hamilton between now and the start of the season.  The bat won’t be as strong as Hamilton’s bat, but it will be a capable one, I am sure.  In the AL East, I still expect the Tampa Bay Rays to be strong despite losing Shields.  If I’ve learned anything in baseball, it is to never underestimate Rays manager Joe Maddon and GM Andrew Friedman.  I assume that the Baltimore Orioles will be as strong as they were in 2012, and I expect an improved Boston Red Sox club under the new leadership of manager John Farrell.

With the strength of the Detroit Tigers and other teams, it’s almost impossible to predict who will be the winners next season.  I’d like to say the Yankees will be one of the last teams standing, but everything would have to align perfectly for that to happen and I just don’t see it.  As usual, I hope I am wrong and that the Yankees surprise me with their performance in ’13.  Time will tell…

I still do not see the Steinbrenner family allowing the value of the franchise to erode.  Either they make the necessary moves to ensure the continued competitiveness of the team or they sell.  The latter is not such a bad idea if it would bring in aggressive new ownership.  I cannot find fault with the current regime’s decision to cut payroll to reduce luxury taxes in future years, but the problem is too many bad decisions in the past (i.e., A-Rod’s contract).  It feels like the Yankees are going ‘cold turkey’ with their new small market budget mentality.  It would have worked better as a slower transition, but of course, the 2014 deadline does not allow for it.

Teams like the St Louis Cardinals have proven in recent years that you can win despite not having the best players or the highest payroll.  I know that’s the model the Yankees would like to emulate.  Going for the best players with inflated payrolls seems to be a ‘play for now’ approach with no sustainability.  The key to long-term success is to develop a farm system that allows the introduction of young, low-cost talent every year (in other words, the Tampa Bay Rays).  It’s just so hard as a Yankees fan to see the team go from one extreme to the other.

Oh well, let’s see what happens when the players step onto the field…

Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  J

–Scott

 

Belated Congratulations for the AL East Championship…

 

All hail the Champions…

A quick post to congratulate the New York Yankees for winning the American League East Division Championship on the last day of the season.  Thanks to the Baltimore Orioles’ loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the division was a foregone conclusion when the Yankees completed their thrashing of the Boston Red Sox.  Still, I am glad that the team won on the day they clinched the division.  A loss on “clinching day” always seems so cheap.

Although it was disappointing the Yankees let a large lead slip, they definitely went into ‘bend but not break’ mode as they held at least a share of first throughout the O’s challenge in the final month of the season.  It was a constant back-and-forth…tied, then Yanks ahead, and then tied again.  But in the end, the team persevered.

A funny thing happened on the way to the World Series…

The big surprise to me on the last day of the season was the Texas Rangers’ failure to withstand a large charge by the Oakland A’s.  I remember looking at the standings in July and writing it off as a foregone conclusion that the Rangers would be the AL West champions.  In my mind, they were still the team to beat in the American League.  While I recognized the A’s had the spirited ‘don’t quit’ mentality, I still viewed them as inferior either the Rangers or the Los Angeles Angels.  This was a team that was throwing Triple A pitchers into the starting rotation in September.  All the way to Game 162, I fully expected the Rangers to take care of business.  But they failed, and were forced to play the one game Wild Card game against the Baltimore Orioles, which they subsequently lost.  Here was the team that was in my mind, the team most likely to go to the World Series and win it, yet they collapsed in the final two most critical weeks of the season.

The Rangers’ loss opens the door for all of the other AL play-off participants to advance to the World Series.  I can’t say there is a clear-cut favorite because even the Yankees, with the best record in the conference, have their share of questions.  The ALDS series format is odd given the first two games of the series will be held in the inferior team’s ballpark.  The Yankees are tied with the O’s late in Game 1 tonight but that always favors the home team with last at-bat.

It was real, it was fun, but it was not real fun…

I am not a Bobby Valentine fan, but I really do believe that firing Valentine was the best case scenario for the Boston Red Sox organization.  As a fan of an opposing team, I’d love for the dysfunction to continue, but the Red Sox fans deserve better.  I subscribe to the adage that ‘to be the best, you have to beat the best’ so I really hope the Red Sox can secure a manager who fits the organization and maximizes the potential and ability of its players.  I still think that recently named Phillies third base coach Ryne Sandberg would be an excellent fit, but maybe it is John Farrell despite the disappointing year in Toronto or other manager.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Respectful of the man who brought two World Championships to Boston…

Speaking of Boston, it was good to see former Red Sox manager Terry Francona return to the game as manager of the Cleveland Indians.  Even when he was the manager of the Red Sox, I had a great deal of respect for Tito.  I have long felt he was one of the game’s truly good guys.  Yes, that final year in Boston did get away from him, but there were so many factors and personalities at play, I feel it is unfair to pin all the blame on Tito.  I am looking forward to seeing what he can do in the Cleveland with his batteries recharged…

A few thoughts on the season…

  • Hey Albert, how did that first year in Los Angeles work out for ya?  Well, at least you have all those mega millions to enjoy your off-season while the team you bailed on continues the defense of its world championship…
  •  Miguel Cabrera has overcome those personal demons, I think…
  • Bryce Harper got the press, but Mike Trout is the stud…
  •  A.J. Burnett proved that he is the latest incarnation of Ed Whitson.  Wilt under the New York spotlight, but thrive in a smaller market with less glare…
  •  Melky Cabrera, disappointment is an understatement.  I respect the San Francisco Giants for their intention to cut ties with the Melk Man.  I really wouldn’t want to be the organization that extends him an olive branch.  In other words, I do not want to see Melky back in the Bronx.
  • How many more years are left on A-Rod’s contract?  Geesh, Jeter continues to pay dividends on his contract at age 38, while A-Rod just keeps making me think of that old Dire Straits’ tune “Money For Nothing”…
  • The Atlanta Braves may have made a quiet departure with their Wild Card loss to St. Louis, but there’s no question that the Braves will continue to be a force with those young pitchers…
  • Oh, Philadelphia Phillies, where for art thou?…
  • The American League Houston Astros?  That sounds so wrong!  But then again, I have finally accepted the Milwaukee Brewers as a National League team so I guess we’ll have to re-visit this in a few years…
  • Trade Ivan Nova and re-sign Hiroki Kuroda…that sounds like a good plan to me!…

I know there’s many more thoughts regarding the 2012 season, but these were a few that immediately came to mind.  It was a fun season and continues to be as we move forward in the AL and NL divisional series.  The idea of two Wild Card teams per league was a success, and win or lose, it was the right thing to do.  There was drama and intrigue up until the last day of the season, and no team “mailed it in”.  I still have too many questions about my own team to anoint them as the AL representative for the World Series.  As of the present moment, my best guess is a “Sparky Anderson” World Series…The Cincinnati Reds versus the Detroit Tigers.  Obviously, I’d prefer to see the Yankees and I hope they prove me wrong about their pitching and clutch hitting…

Ah, October baseball, I love this time of year!

 

–Scott

 

 

You had me at MRI…

A foot apart…

Yes, I admit it.  I was genuinely concerned.  Yesterday, news broke that David Robertson had hurt his foot in a mishap at his home.  The Yankees sounded very concerned and of course they ordered a MRI and were making comments about the severity of the injury.  The immediate thought was the Lisfranc injury suffered by former Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang.  While Wang is pitching again, it took years and he is still not the same guy who won 19 games in successive seasons a few years back.

Today, it was announced that Robertson had a deep bone bruise after missing a step on the stairs at his home.  The foot is a boot and he’s on crutches until Sunday, but it now sounds as though Robertson will be back sooner than initially thought.  So, the best case scenario played out, but it’s another example of how conservative the Yankees are when it comes to injuries.  That’s a good thing, I suppose, from the perspective of the players’ health, but it does cause a little angst among the fan base.  The thought that we’d have to go to the guy who is being paid over $30 million for 3 years to set up (Rafael Soriano) to actually be the set up guy is terrifying!

I know, we’re spoiled but when you live in the midst of a ‘World Series or bust’ environment, it goes with the territory.

Heading into spring training, my concerns for injury resided with players like Alex Rodriguez, Eric Chavez and Joba Chamberlain.  Robertson has been so clutch and reliable that you just don’t expect HIM to get hurt…and particularly not in such a freak accident.  But of course, pitchers are fragile creatures.  You don’t have to look much further than the Mets’ Johan Santana.  Even Pittsburgh’s A.J. Burnett is down after suffering an at-bat injury in a bunt attempt.  The Yankees have been very lucky that CC Sabathia has stayed healthy given the other injuries they’ve dealt with.  Why can’t every pitcher be gifted with the elasticity of David Wells’ arm…

AL East or bust…

Hearing reports of the Baltimore Orioles’ hot and cold interest in Johnny Damon truly shows that Johnny has an interest in playing for every team in the AL East.  I suppose that his agent has been calling the Toronto Blue Jays even if there haven’t been any sightings.  Damon probably should have accepted that trade from the Detroit Tigers to the Boston Red Sox at the trading deadline a couple of years ago.  I hate to see him bouncing from team to team.  That’s probably a good indication that it’s time to go home.  He can still hit, but there’s too many younger, cheaper options.

Have bat, will travel…

The Yankees’ desire to get salaries below the $190 million threshold by 2014, I have to wonder if we are seeing the final two years of Derek Jeter’s Yankee career.  With so much invested in Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia, the Yankees will no longer have the luxury of a huge investment in an aging shortstop.  It’s also disheartening to think that the day will come when the Yankees have to make the decision to keep Curtis Granderson or Robinson Cano.  If they manage to find a way to keep both, then there’s not much left for other key positions.  Who would have ever thought that $190 million would be such a small amount of money…

Teams like the Minnesota Twins probably laugh at the Yankees being placed into a situation where they have to re-tool with less expensive options and make hard decisions on popular players given that’s been their business model for years.

I know, doom and gloom…it will work out.  The Yankees will do what they need to do.  I can’t see them allowing the team to become a modern version of the CBS ownership era of the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Can Minneapolis keep the Vikings where they belong?…

After years, it feels like there finally may be movement in the plans for a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.  The proposal has been finalized and now needs city and state approval.  The new stadium would be located next to the Metrodome, and the team would only be displaced for one season before moving into the new digs.  I believe the target date is in 2016.  This has been a very long road, and hopefully, the city and state will approve the plans so that the construction can begin and Minnesota can be assured of keeping the Vikings.  The Los Angeles Vikings never really had a good flow to it anyway…

Whether it’s in the standings or not, losing still stinks…

If spring training games mean nothing, why do I feel excitement when the Yankees win and angst when they lose…

–Scott

$189 Million by 2014 or bust…

 

His accounting degree was the first tip-off…

So, it’s true that the fiscal conservative in Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is coming to the forefront.  It’s clear that the Yankees have shown considerable restraint in their financial decisions in recent years and none more evident than this off-season when the Yankees watched and let others pay exorbitant dollars for free agent talent.  It was widely rumored that the Yankees have their eye on 2014 and the desire to get their payroll under the $189 million threshold for luxury tax purposes.  But now that Hal Steinbrenner is on record for the stated goal, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few years.

While there are other guaranteed contracts, the most notable in 2014 will be Alex Rodriguez.  If he continues his deterioration as a star player, that $25 million in 2014 is going to look like a huge albatross.  I haven’t tallied the guaranteed dollars, but it’s clear that the next few years will see similar off-seasons like the one we just experienced.  No significant free agent signings, bargain basement ‘right before training camp’ deals like the one given to Raul Ibanez, and trades for young (and cheap) talent.  It will also mean the Yankees won’t overpay to retain talent, which probably shows the door to Nick Swisher.

Meanwhile, teams like the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers are profiting from regional TV deals (not to mention previous dollars they received through revenue sharing at the Yankees’ expense).  So, it will be other teams splurging on big talent, and the Yankees as a passive by-stander.  There is some logic in the team’s decision but I am concerned that it will bring an end to the winning run the Yankees have been on since the early 1990’s.  As a Yankees fan, the 1980’s were very difficult.  Yes, we were spoiled by George Steinbrenner’s win at all costs mentality, but 90 to 100 loss teams wearing the grand tradition of the pinstripes seems sacrilegious to me.  I am sure that the YES Network is not excited at that prospect either.  But if the stars, like A-Rod and Derek Jeter, continue to wither while eating up valuable salary dollars, the team is going to develop a Pittsburgh Pirates feel to it.  Very limited dollars to fill the holes.

In many respects, it is unfair that the salary threshold is equal among teams given the higher cost of living in New York, combined with the increased pressure that goes with playing on the biggest stage.  Once the ownership situation with the Los Angeles Dodgers is settled, there will be a slugfest in LA as the Dodgers spend to rebuild their legacy and prominence in the City of Angels.  Meanwhile, in New York, the Mets and Yankees will be scooping up the leftovers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals.

Okay, I might be a bit pessimistic but there will be a number of very difficult decisions to be made between now and 2014 as the Yankees attempt to reach their goal.  If the Yankees win the 2014 World Series, then credit Hal Steinbrenner for being one of the greatest owners in Yankees history.  If not, how long will it take to recover?…

Open mouth, insert foot…

You know, I don’t really care what Bobby Valentine is saying in Red Sox camp.  I know that if he were the Yankees manager, he’d be making disparaging remarks about the Sox.  It just goes with the territory when it comes to Bobby V.  Whatever helps him get motivated.  Speaking of Red Sox managers, it was really weird seeing the ESPN clips of Terry Francona in Yankees camp, hugging Yankees and talking with Joe Girardi and his coaches.  Unlike Valentine, I have a great deal of respect for Terry Francona.  Regardless, the Bobby V ingredient should make the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry very spicy this year.  It kind of sets the stage for Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays to steal the show…

I’m sure that A-Rod wasn’t saddened by the news…

Since I am on the topic of the Red Sox, I should say congratulations to Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who announced his retirement today.  He was a hated players at times, but like Jorge Posada, his intensity was off the charts.  He is the kind of guy you hate on another team but you’d love to have him on your team.  I think his baseball career is only getting started as I see future success as a manager for him.  I could even see him being an eventual replacement for Bobby Valentine.  Regardless of what he decides to do, we haven’t heard the last of Tek.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em…again…

Back to the Yankees, I am glad to see the return of third baseman Eric Chavez.  It took a long time…right up to the start of training camp…but it got done.  I liked Chavez in his years as an Oakland A, and while he isn’t the player he once was, he is a great role player and teammate.  He is also a very sorely needed third baseman given the fragility of the guy in front of him.  Yes, Chavez is an injury risk but if he can stay healthy, he’ll be an invaluable part of the 2012 Yankees.

The Seattle Mariners pipeline worked last time (Tino Martinez)…

I liked the Yankees signing of former Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma.  I don’t think he’ll be in the running for Mariano Rivera’s replacement when THAT day comes, but it was a low risk, high reward signing.  Having 7th and 8th inning options in late summer of David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, and Aardsma is a manager’s dream.

Best wishes for a fast return…

Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for former Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett.  In a batting incident the other day, a failed bunt attempt led to a broken right orbital bone in his face.  I was frustrated with Burnett as a Yankees pitcher, but I’ll never dispute that he is a great guy and a terrific teammate.  I am hoping that the move to Pittsburgh allows Burnett to flourish and hope the latest injury is not a precursor of things to come.

Don’t trip on the snow rounding first…

It is hard to think of baseball when it is snowing.  Snow has been a rare commodity in Minnesota this year, but we received slightly more than a dusting this week.  Living by Target Field, it’s strange to see the stadium and the surrounding snow while thinking that Joe Mauer and company are practicing to get ready to make the trip home to Minneapolis.  I have already bought my tickets for when the Red Sox and Yankees come to town, however, the Yankees don’t arrive in Minneapolis until late September.  I hope that AL East will be decided in the Yankees favor by that time…

Names I’ve known all of my adult life, and in some cases, when I was just a Daydream Believer…

Whitney Houston, Gary Carter and now Davy Jones?  This has not been a fun couple of weeks…

 

–Scott

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.