Results tagged ‘ Angels ’

And the WINNER is…

 

For months, the talk centered on prized Japanese pitcher Mashiro Tanaka.  He was highly touted as the most valuable free agent pitcher on the market.  Of course, his free agency began slowly when there was doubt if his Japanese team would allow him to be posted, particularly after the posting fee was capped at $20 million.  Nevertheless, Tanaka was subsequently posted, as we all know.

Almost immediately, the Yankees were regarded as the frontrunner.  But given that any team to offer to pay the $20 million posting fee, it opened the field to any team that wanted to make a run at the latest Japanese import.  Early on, there was talk that the Seattle Mariners would make a play for Tanaka.  It was said that the Los Angeles Dodgers would not be outbid, and the Chicago Cubs were completely enamored with the idea of Tanaka headlining their rotation.  The Los Angeles Angels and the Arizona Diamondbacks were other teams mentioned as strong possibilities.

I read that the Mariners were favorites because the team is predominantly owned by Nintendo and Los Angeles was cited because of its close proximity to Japan and its strong Asian community.  There was talk that some team would make a surprise late bid, kind of like what the Angels when they signed Albert Pujols.

I never really expected the Dodgers to be “all-in”.  They had their own pending free agent to be in Clayton Kershaw and they couldn’t make a ridiculously high bid without driving up their costs to retain Kershaw.  They subsequently re-signed Kershaw to a $215 million deal, but I still didn’t think they’d go hard after Tanaka.  I did think the Chicago Cubs were a strong challenger for Tanaka despite prior rumors that he preferred a coastal destination.  If I have learned anything with Major League Baseball, it’s to never underestimate Theo Epstein.

But fortunately, when Tanaka finally made his decision, he was a Yankee.  Almost instantly, the stories about his superior talent turned to questions about how he’ll make the adjustment to life in America and how he is a #2 or #3 starter at best.  Everyone is now quick to say that he does not have the talent of Yu Darvish, and I’ve seen the name “Kei Igawa” more than I’d care to in recent days.  But still, this was a move that the Yankees HAD to make.  With a weak farm system at the upper levels, they had no choice but to overpay for young pitching talent with solid upside.  With the hype surrounding Tanaka (who went 24-0 in Japan last year), he also represents a gate attraction.  With Tanaka in the fold, the Yankees become the second major league team to have two Japanese players in their starting pitching rotation (the first was the Dodgers with Hideo Nomo and Kaz Ishii).  If the Japanese media made it a circus following Hideki Matsui, they’ll have a field day following the trio of Tanaka, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki.

The realist in me knows not to expect top of the rotation stuff from Tanaka.  I know the Yankees want more, but I’d be very satisfied if he could give the Yankees what Kuroda has for the last two years.  This is most likely Kuroda’s last year, and it is good that Tanaka will have a year to spend under Hiroki’s wing.  I think that will greatly aid his transition to the United States and MLB.

I thought that it would take a contract of 7 years, $140 million to sign Tanaka.  So, the Yankees did overbid in that regard.  Today I saw an article that one GM speculated the next highest bid were the Cubs and D-Backs at $120 million.  I really doubt the gap between the Yankees and the others was that great.  The same source mentioned the Dodgers were at $119 million which doesn’t make sense as everyone knew it would take $120 million plus to sign Tanaka.  My guess is the Cubs and Dodgers were in the vicinity of $140 million plus.  Not bad for a pitcher who has never thrown a major league pitch.

While I would still like to see an additional pitcher brought to camp, there is potential with a rotation that features CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda or David Phelps.  If Pineda could possibly show the potential that caused the Yankees to trade for him (prior to the injuries), the rotation could be very strong.  While I would not be opposed to seeing Bronson Arroyo or Ubaldo Jimenez signed, I think the Yankees need to focus on the infield.  Yes, they’ve brought in San Diego’s Dean Anna, signed Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Scott Sizemore, and still have Eduardo Nunez but there are too many questions.  What happens if Mark Teixeira struggles in his return, or Derek Jeter?  Neither of those positions are air tight without getting into the holes at second and third.  Jeter will be 40, and Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter.  April could be a very challenging month.

My preference would be to find a decent third baseman so that Kelly Johnson could be the primary second baseman.  But the team is probably enamored with the idea that Roberts is capable of rebounding from the injury filled years that have plagued him since 2009.  Scott Sizemore is nothing more than camp fodder.  One magazine I read said “But other than OK pop and a few walks, offers little even when healthy”.  Anna is nothing more than a potential reserve.

Catching and the outfield is set, but there is still work to be done in the infield and in the bullpen.  I agree with the choice to anoint David Robertson as the closer, but there needs to be an insurance plan in place.  Grant Balfour would have been a great option but he is now a Tampa Bay Ray once again.  I don’t want Fernando Rodney, but the Yankees need someone who is capable of closing games if Robertson is not up to the task.  If Boston can find an elite closer as their fourth choice last year, there are potential arms that can be found.  I really hated to see the departure of Boone Logan.  Not much has been written about it, but I can only hope that Matt Thornton is a capable, albeit older, replacement.  I know the team has long admired lefty Cesar Cabral so perhaps this is Cabral’s year to take it to the next level.  I’d also like to see Dellin Betances take advantage of his opportunity and become a force in the pen.  I guess every team thinks they can follow the Tampa blueprint for bullpen success given how the Rays are always able to craft something out of nothing.

With pitchers and catchers reporting to training camp in a few weeks, I am sure that the transaction wires will be busy as teams, and most notably the Yankees, look to create playoff caliber rosters.

For the Yankees, while it will be great to see Brian McCann show up to become his orientation with the Yankee pitchers, the cameras and the reporters will be flocked around #19, Masahiro Tanaka, as he begins his pinstriped career.  Time to build upon last year’s 85 wins and return the Yankees to October baseball.  With the commitment the Yankees have shown this off-season, it’s clear their last move was not their “last” move.

Go Yankees!

–Scott

Fixing what ails them…

 

Turning the page…

After getting swept by the Baltimore Orioles, it was a relief to see the team head to Minneapolis for a four-game set against the Minnesota Twins.  I didn’t expect the Yankees to sweep the Twins, but I had hoped for at least 2 or 3 wins in the Twin City.  Fortunately, the Yankees did better, taking all four games from the Twins.

Most believe the Yankees have held it together with smoke and mirrors this season, but I am hardly one to disagree.  The Yanks have gotten good production from guys who other teams were glad to vacate.  Today’s hero was Vernon Wells, and clearly the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels were glad to move him on when they did.

Lyle Overbay is a good guy but he’s not exactly going to suddenly emerge with his best season ever.  I think those days are far behind him.  With no return of Mark Teixeira this year, the Yankees need to find a stronger first base solution.  Unfortunately, I think there are too many holes to fill and I’d certainly hate to see the Yankees give up quality prospects in trades that will probably still result in no October success for the Yankees.  As always, I am hopeful the team proves me wrong, but clearly, the odds are against them.

Boo-yeah!  Great accomplishments…

Congratulations to Joe Girardi, CC Sabathia and Max Scherzer.  For Girardi, he won his 600th game earlier this week.  Not bad for a guy who lasted only one season as the manager for the then Florida Marlins.  CC achieved success through his 200th win, and Max Scherzer, an opponent’s “ace” gets kudos for starting the season 13-0.  When a staff is led by the great Justin Verlander, you certainly do not expect anyone to challenge his tag as the staff ace.  But with Verlander’s struggles this year and Scherzer’s legendary start, Verlander is no better than #2 on the Detroit Tigers’ staff this year.  As for CC, it just doesn’t seem that long ago he was a promising rookie pitching for the Cleveland Indians.  Hard to believe that he’s already at 200 wins.  Still, it’s a great accomplishment and I hope that we’ll soon be seeing CC win his 250th game in pinstripes.

Chasing the rumors…

When you hear of possible deadline trades, I have to admit that it’s sad to hear Chase Utley’s name mentioned.  He’s been a great Phillie although a bit injury-plagued in recent years.  Still, I identify the guy with the Phillies and it would be good to see him play in the City of Brotherly Love for the remainder of his career.  Michael Young is another name mentioned and given that he made his name in Arlington, Texas, I’d rather see him moved if the Phillies do anything.

I am fairly certain the Yankees will move Joba Chamberlain by the deadline.  It would also not surprise me to see Phil Hughes go considering that Michael Pineda should finally be able to make his Yankees pitching debut soon.

The Yankees need to do what it takes to re-sign Robinson Cano…

Ugh, I really dislike the possible return of Alex Rodriguez.  Maybe there’s still something in the bat, but I am not a fan and I’d prefer to see Alex as the starting third baseman for some team in Siberia.  With Yankee GM Brian Cashman’s recent outburst against A-Rod and Yankee President Randy Levine’s back-pedaling, I am clearly on Team Cashman regarding A-Rod.

I am also convinced that this is the final season in pinstripes for free agent-to be Curtis Granderson.  His final season has been a disappointment given his extended stays on the DL.  Same goes for Andy Pettitte.  I think if the team finishes third or lower in the AL East, Andy will no longer have the fire to compete.  It’s the thrill of playing October baseball that drives Andy at this point so an unsuccessful season will probably prove to him that it’s time.

Say, Mo, isn’t that your spot in Monument Park?…

Speaking of impending departures, I loved the gift the Minnesota Twins gave to Mariano Rivera.  The Chair of Broken Dreams.  A rocking chair constructed of broken bats.  How great was that?  Mariano is a living legend, and I am so thankful that I got to watch him pitch for the duration of his Yankees career.  This is a guy who could still be a very effective closer in 2014 despite his age, so clearly, he’s going out on top regardless of what the team does.

Ask me how much I wish that I still lived in Minneapolis so that I could have experienced the past four games?…

Better them than us…

I thought it was a bad decision for the Texas Rangers to sign Manny Ramirez.  Yes, I’ve always admired Man-Ram’s ability to hit, but it’s the baggage that goes with the guy that is too much.  I guess he is usually on his best behavior during his first year so maybe the Rangers are on to something.  But this should be a very short-term relationship.  If I were Nolan Ryan, I would not want Manny as part of my strategy for 2014.

Jamie Foxx for President…

I saw White House Down today and thought it was very good.  Quite predictable, but still, as an action flick, it had all of the right ingredients.  Felt a little like Die Hard in the White House but hey, there have been a lot worse movies!

I hope everyone has a wonderful 4th of July!  Enjoy the fireworks!

–Scott

 

Early Season Success and then nothing…

Bay Area and Thud…

Living in the Bay Area, there was no reason that I should not have attended the Yankees’ just completed three game series against the hometown A’s.  But miss it I did, and in retrospect, it was probably just as well.  Today’s 18-inning loss marked a sweep for the A’s.  The Yankees were punch-less and the combined 0-for-12 in today’s game for Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis certainly did not help.

I was worried about Teixeira’s late start due to injury.  A notoriously slow starter, he began his 2013 season strong but lately he is playing to form (in other words, “ice cold”).  I think the Yankees’ early season success was an aberration at this point, and if things do not improve, they’ll be sellers at the trading deadline, not buyers.

The A’s series continued to show me that Phil Hughes is not the answer and the team will be best served by letting him walk at the end of the season if they don’t move him in July.

Speaking of Yankees who have to go, I sincerely hope that Alex Rodriguez has played his last game for the Pinstripers…

Future Potential…

The MLB Draft was exciting this year with three picks at the end of the first round.  I think the Yankees did very well with 3B Eric Jagielo and OF Aaron Judge.  I am very intrigued by Judge and look forward to his arrival in the Bronx.  Jagielo, as a college player, should be on the fast track to replace A-Rod at third.  It was enjoyable to see two players with ties to the organization selected by the Yankees.  Paul O’Neill’s nephew, Michael, an outfielder, and Andy Pettitte’s son, Josh.  Of course, Pettitte was just a token selection as a hat tip to Andy as he’ll never negotiate or sign with the Yankees…at least not this year.  I love Josh’s potential, but it will be interesting to see what he is able to do at Baylor University.  Hopefully, the Yankees will have another chance at selecting him when he is ready to turn professional.  Then again, he could end up someplace like Pittsburgh, ala Gerrit Cole.  Given Paul O’Neill’s popularity in the Bronx, Michael O’Neill should be well received if/when he arrives.  Of course, he’ll need to perform to maintain the applause, but not many players get the grand treatment from the start.

With the promotion of catcher JR Murphy to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, I wonder if it is a matter of time before he supplants Austin Romine as the immediate catcher of the future pending the arrival of super-prospect Gary Sanchez…

It’s good to see that pitcher Michael Pineda is finally throwing again.  The trade with Seattle was starting to look rather one-sided, but now Jesus Montero is in the minors and the Mariners have called up another catching prospect to the major league team, while Pineda is getting his arm back in shape.  I could easily see the Yankees dumping Phil Hughes to drop Pineda in his rotation spot.

I think I am in the mood for a few consecutive Yankee wins.  C’mon, guys, pick up the intensity in Anaheim!…

–Scott

 

None of it makes any cents…

Wells, that was not quite the answer I was looking for…

I have never been a big fan of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vernon Wells, and was one of many who quietly laughed when the Angels took his financial albatross of a contract off the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays.  But I guess it is apparently better to have the last laugh and that would not be me.  The move allowed the Blue Jays to re-group to the point that they now have arguably the best team in the American League East.  And, as health would have it (or lack there of), the Yankees find they have the need to take what’s left of Wells off the Angels hand so that they can pay those hefty contracts belonging to Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.  Granted, the Angels will be paying most of the freight to bring Wells to the Bronx (assuming the deal goes through as expected), but he has been the Crown Prince of Disappointment for so many years.  Yes, he’s had a good spring, but so have a lot of guys who didn’t amount to a hill of beans in the big leagues.

At first I heard that the Yankees would be paying less than $10 million on the Wells contract which has $42 million more to go until it expires following the 2014.  But the latest word has the Yankees paying up to $13 million which means it will probably be more like $15 million or more when the deal is finally announced.

With the opening day absences of Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees need proven production in the lineup.  Robinson Cano is only one man.  There’s question marks at every turn, but the likelihood of Curtis Granderson’s return is far better than Mark Teixeira (who some say could miss the season).  This means I would have preferred to see the Yankees allocate resources toward an alternative first baseman.  The prospect of outfielder Juan Rivera playing first on a full or part-time basis is just not very satisfying for me.

But speaking of first base, the only talk I hear is the potential acquisition of first baseman Lyle Overbay from the Boston Red Sox.  Overbay can opt out of his deal this week and that would put him at the forefront of Yankees’ attention.

None of these acquisitions will give anyone illusions of a championship.

At some point, the Yankees are going to have to just blow it up and start over…

This is the time of hard cuts.  I saw today that the Cleveland Indians cut Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Okay, I don’t consider that a hard cut, but there will be notable names mentioned in the coming days.  It is hard to believe that the Yankees will be powering up Yankee Stadium just one short week from tomorrow.  As for the Yankees, I remain hopeful that both Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch will travel north with the club despite the apparent acquisition of Vernon Wells.  While I’ve been pulling for Boesch, I have to say that Francisco has played well enough to start at least as part of a platoon.  I seriously doubt that Travis Hafner and Kevin Youkilis will make it through the season injury-free so at some point, Wells will probably start to take the majority of the at-bats at DH.

I guess there should be plenty of drama this week as MLB teams shape up their opening day rosters.

It’s just a number…

As a Minnesota Vikings fan, I am still trying to wrap my head around Greg Jennings playing for the Vikings.  After Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell, and Brett Favre, I should be used to this.  Jennings may not have the athleticism of departed slot receiver Percy Harvin, but if healthy, he is a weapon.  It’s interesting that he selected #15.  I can’t say that I can remember another Viking who wore the number although I am sure a few have.  Of course, #15 for me is always going to be Thurman Munson but that’s a different sport.  Greg Childs currently holds Jennings’ Packer number, #85.  After missing his first season due to injury, I can’t say that his grasp on #85 is very strong.  Perhaps Jennings is just biding his time until he can retrieve #85.  Childs’ childhood friend and lifelong teammate, Jarius Wright, is clearly the favorite to fill Harvin’s role.

Decisions…

Part of me wants the Vikings to sign former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, but of course, the sensible part of me only wants guys that can be part of the future as the door is starting to open for the Vikings again as a play-off contender.  I would like to see the Vikings to find a way to bring Antoine Winfield back to purple and gold.  I have faith in the younger guys and GM Rick Spielman has shown that he knows a thing or two about the NFL Draft so I am sure the secondary will be addressed next month.  I am anxious to see what Josh Robinson is capable of, but it would be nice to have Winfield to help the transition.

Hey Zygi…

I like the job that Leslie Frazier has done with the Vikings and I am hopeful that it will lead to a long-term contract.

Next month is a big sports month.  Opening day in Major League Baseball and the NFL Draft.  It should be a very fun time.  And for my friends in the East and Midwest, it should mean a little less snow…

–Scott

Where’s George Steinbrenner when you need him?…

Missing the point…

Life has been incredibly difficult since the Yankees, expectedly, lost to the Detroit Tigers in the play-offs last October.  While the Angels were adding Josh Hamilton to go with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout and the Dodgers were adding Zack Greinke to go with Clayton Kershaw, the Yankees did nothing.  Okay, they did fork over the cash to bring back senior citizens Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda, but there was nothing to excite the fan base.

Excite the fan base…

Why is that so difficult?  So, we watch Russell Martin leave for the 2013 version of the 1950’s Kansas City A’s…the Pittsburgh Pirates.  No worries, rather than chase a proven catcher like A.J. Pierzynski, the Yankees announced that they’ll go with an in-house candidate.  So, that leaves a career back-up, a AAA catcher last year, and a minor leaguer who missed most of last season due to injury.  Nick Swisher leaves, but no worry, we have an aging 39-year-old former great player in Ichiro Suzuki who is now sporting more gray hair than Bill Clinton and was clearly a player on decline until a brief renaissance after his trade to the Yankees.

Last year’s closer, Rafael Soriano, departs so what is the response?  We have ace set up man David Robertson returning and a rehabilitating former closer in David Aardsma on the roster.  If memory serves, Robertson was not effective during his brief stint as closer following Mariano Rivera’s season-ending injury.  Plus, Rivera is a not-so-young 43 years old.  He is a first ballot Hall of Famer and my favorite Yankee for a number of years, but time is destined to catch up with even the greatest.

The bench strength (Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez) depart, and the Yankees answer by signing former rival Kevin Youkilis and role player Matt Diaz.  I sent a picture of a clean shaven Youkilis to a Red Sox friend asking if this was really THE Kevin Youkilis (as he looks so less intimidating than those goatee’d Red Sox years).  The response was, “I hear he’s hurt (oblique)…yes, that’s him”.  The only thing I know about Diaz is that he pronounces his name DYE-az rather than DEE-az.  All I ever saw him as was a part-timer for the Atlanta Braves.

We go to camp and the calendar doesn’t even turn to March before we hear that Curtis Granderson is lost for 10 weeks due to a broken forearm.  Immediately, the response from the Yankees is that they’ll cover the loss in-house.  Believe me, I get the reasons for why you wouldn’t chase down Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells for 10 measly weeks but Granderson represented a major part of the team’s offense.  You KNOW that Mark Teixera’s bat won’t show up until at least June.  Derek Jeter is another year older and coming off injury. The outfield is full of those Dave Collins type players…speed first, light hitting outfielders.  It’s too bad that Billy Martin isn’t around to consult with Joe Girardi on the fine art of small ball.

My trust in the Yankees farm system to produce a quality major league starter is weak at best.  We hear how great Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances are, yet now we sit with Banuelos recovering from Tommy John surgery and Betances proving himself to be Prince Overrated.  I look at guys like Al Leiter and Doug Drabek.  They struggled when called up to the Yankees but prospered as quality major leaguers elsewhere.  It has been awhile since a Jeter or Robinson Cano burst onto the scene.  So, my faith in the minor league system producing a surprise that immediately helps the Yankees this year is weak.

Today, the news comes out through GM Brian Cashman that the Yankees did make a significant offer to free agent to be Robinson Cano.  Given that the news didn’t say the Yankees actually signed Cano, I see this as a negative move.  If there is resistance on the player’s front, this is most likely going to lead to Cano’s free agency in the fall.  With Hal Steinbrenner’s “financially responsible” approach, that most likely means that some other team makes an incredibly ridiculous offer to snatch Cano from the Bronx.

As I write this, the Yankes are 1-6 in spring training.

Excite the fan base.  Why is that so difficult Mr. Steinbrenner?…

–Scott

All Quiet on the Eastern Front…

 

How come there are no players available through Groupon?…

It’s a new year but the new fiscally-responsible Yankees are still in late-2012’s penny-pinching mode and all remains quiet at River and 161st.

The latest move is the waiver pickup of utility man Russ Canzler who can play the corners and some outfield.  By all accounts, he is less talented than the guy he replaced on the 40-man roster (outfielder Chris Dickerson) but a better fit overall.  I only hope the Yankees are able to flip Dickerson, who was DFA’d, for a decent prospect.  There’s no doubt the Yankees need good depth behind third baseman Kevin Youkilis who has not exactly been the pillar of health in recent years.

At this point, I would be really surprised to see the Yankees make any bold moves.  It appears they are willing to go to spring training to see what shakes out.  A few years ago, when Mark Teixeira left the Los Angeles Angels via free agency, the Angels’ farm system produced Kendrys Morales as a very capable replacement.  When Morales went down to a season-ending injury a year or so later, Mark Trumbo stepped up.  Of course, the Yankees do not have that type of depth in the farm system, particularly at first base, but there’s always the possibility that someone somewhere unexpectedly takes it to the next level.

Clearly, the Yankees would benefit greatly by having a few more cost-controlled young players on the roster.  But as far as major league ready prospects go, the Yankees need another year or two as the best talent is still in the lower levels.  I guess that means we’ll see more Russ Canzler type moves as GM Brian Cashman tries to capture lightning in a bottle.

If the Yankees underperform in 2013, are manager Joe Girardi and/or Cashman at risk for losing their jobs?  Or does the team’s current reduced spending posture mean ownership will be more tolerant of losses?  It remains to be seen but this is clearly putting Girardi and Cashman in the proverbial hot seats.

Scott Hairston, if your choices are the Mets or the Yankees, what are you waiting for?  Your brother looked great in pinstripes and you can too!  With Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, and Ichiro Suzuki as the starters, you are assured of receiving numerous quality at-bat’s in the Bronx and you are wanted by the team.  I might be biased but who wouldn’t want to put on the same jersey as Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and so many other legends?…

Maybe we should just flip a coin to see who makes the play-offs…

I am glad to see the NHL has finally resolved its differences with the players and have agreed upon a new collective bargaining agreement.  However, it will be tough, admittedly, to be energized about a 48- or 50-game season.  If your favorite team struggles at the start of the season, it could possibly cost them play-off contention.  An entire season would have looked radically different than the upcoming shortened season.  Every year, new stars and heroes emerge and I wonder about the guys who could have been that star but now may never get the opportunity.  I guess pure talent perseveres, but still, there were far too many sacrifices made for the lockout.

Play-off loss, but a very successful season…

I was not optimistic about the Minnesota Vikings’ chances against the Green Bay Packers last weekend, particularly given the game was being held at Lambeau Field.  I did not realize that Christian Ponder’s elbow injury threatened his ability to play so Sunday’s announcement that he had been ruled inactive came as a shock.  The designated starter, Joe Webb, had not started a NFL game in two years.  Say what you will about quality practices and reps, but there’s nothing better than playing the games.  So, I did not expect Webb to provide a championship performance.  He didn’t, and the 24-10 loss was pretty much as expected.

Nevertheless, what a terrific season by the Vikings!  At the beginning of the year, the talk was the team would be drafting high in April 2013, perhaps as high as second or third.  Yet, the team won 10 games and made the play-offs over the Chicago Bears.  Adrian Peterson’s 2,097 rushing yards was an incredible accomplishment.  I remember being envious of the Bears when Walter Payton was playing as it was clear he was head and shoulders above everyone else.  But the Vikings have that guy in Peterson.  It was a special season to build upon and hopefully it will propel the Vikings to legitimate contender status in 2013.

Happy New Year to All!

–Scott

 

Farewell to a Champion!…

Exit Stage Left… 

A great Yankees career has come to an end with the retirement of former outfielder Hideki Matsui.  It has been gone from the Bronx for a few years but he’s certainly not forgotten.  When he arrived in 2003, he immediately attracted the attention of New York.  He had been well hyped as a Japanese superstar, and of course, everywhere he went, he was followed by a large pack of Japanese reporters.

As I remember his great career and those key clutch hits, I recall his Yankee Stadium debut in April 2003.  I remember it was a day game, and while home for lunch (I was in a West Coast time zone), I had turned on DirecTV in time to watch “Godzilla” hit a grand slam in the 5th inning that powered the Yanks to a 7-3 win over the Minnesota Twins.  If memory serves correctly, it was a gray day and Matsui’s shot was one of those line drives that kept going (it wasn’t a booming shot that you knew had been parked from the start).

Tuesday, April 8, 2003 at Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY

Minnesota Twins AB R H BI
Jones, lf

3

2

1

0

Guzman, ss

3

0

1

0

Koskie, 3b

3

1

0

0

Hunter, cf

2

0

1

2

LeCroy, dh

4

0

1

1

Mientkiewicz, 1b

4

0

1

0

Cuddyer, rf

4

0

0

0

Pierzynski, c

4

0

0

0

Rivas, 2b

3

0

0

0

Totals

30

3

5

3

 

New York Yankees AB R H BI
Soriano, 2b

4

0

1

0

Johnson, 1b

3

1

2

0

Giambi, dh

4

1

1

0

Williams, cf

3

1

0

0

MATSUI, LF

3

2

1

4

Posada, c

4

1

1

0

Ventura, 3b

4

1

2

2

Mondesi, rf

4

0

1

1

Almonte, ss

3

0

0

0

Totals

32

7

9

7

 

Minnesota

0

0

0

1

0

2

0

0

0

-

3

5

1

New York

0

1

0

2

4

0

0

0

x -

7

9

1

E-Pierzynski (2), Almonte (3).  DP-New York 2.  PB-Posada (1).  2B-Jones (4), Hunter (1), Posada (2).  HR-Ventura (3),  MATSUI (1) 5th inning off Mays, 3 on, 1 out.  SF-Hunter (1).  SB-Johnson (1).  CS-Mondesi (1).
Minnesota Twins

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Mays, L (1-1)

5.0

8

7

7

2

3

Fiore

3.0

1

0

0

1

2

Totals

8.0

9

7

7

3

5

New York Yankees

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

Pettitte, W (2-0)

5.2

5

3

3

3

2

Osuna

2.1

0

0

0

1

3

Anderson

1.0

0

0

0

0

1

Totals

9.0

5

3

3

4

6

WP-Mays, Osuna.  T-2:36.  A-33,109.

He finished his Yankees career as the MVP of the 2009 World Series.  Time and again, he came up with the crucial big hits, and seemed to excel against the Yankees’ key rival, the Boston Red Sox.  As a Yankee, he hit 140 home runs with 597 RBI’s.  Including his 10 years in Japan and major leagues together, he hit 507 home runs.  He represented the Yankees with the grace and dignity that he had with his prior organization, the Yomiuri Giants.  I wish there had been room on the Yankees roster for Matsui the last few years but sadly it was not meant to be.  He may have subsequently worn the uniform of the Angels, A’s and Rays, but he will forever be a Yankee.  I am hopeful he will return for future Old Timer’s games at the Stadium as he is now engrained as part of the Yankees history and lore.

Where’s Paul O’Neill when you need him…

While I have always liked outfielder Matt Diaz as a role player, it’s hard to be enthused about his arrival in the Bronx.  With no other additions, there’s a huge drop-off from former Yankees rightfielder and now Cleveland Indian Nick Swisher to Diaz.  The Yankees are banking a great deal that Ichiro Suzuki will be the player he was in pinstripes last year and not the Seattle Mariners version earlier in the season.  Inevitably, as Matsui showed, there is a time when the ability to execute simply erodes with the passage of time and age.  Given that Matsui is, in fact, younger than Ichiro shows that Ichiro is on borrowed time.  I know his superior conditioning has much to do with his late career continued success, but Matsui was no slouch when it came to physical conditioning.  I remain hopeful that GM Brian Cashman is able to bring a young outfielder with strong upside before spring training starts.  Yes, it’s easier said than done, but he’s done it before and can do it again.

Well, 2012 is rapidly coming to a close and it will soon be 2013.  Only January stands between now and the arrival of the Yankees in Tampa for spring training.  So close, yet so far away.  Hopefully, the Yankees will do something to enthuse the fan base in the coming days…

Happy New Year!

–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

 

The Law of Diminishing Return…

 

Dollars to donuts…

Joel Sherman has a good post today with his Hardball Blog in The New York Post entitled ’What would George do?’ among questions in Yanks’ $189M quest.

I do not dispute the reasons for why the Yankees are financially motivated to get under the $189M threshold given the reduced tax penalties it will create for future years in addition to the savings in 2014.  But can the Yankees maintain a championship caliber club in their quest to reconcile the bottom line?  Something’s got to give, and I am fearful that it will be the quality of the Yankee clubs put on the field in the next few years.

That sounds kind of ridiculous to say when other clubs have proven you can succeed with lesser dollars, but in Tampa, for example, it was years of high draft picks that filled the cupboards with premier players like Evan Longoria and David Price.  I see the same thing happening in Kansas City as they’ve been building solid, young talent.  The Yankees, on the other hand, have been picking at the bottom end of rounds for years and there have been more than a few misses along the way.  There has been a renewed emphasis on the farm system in recent years, however, it is still not within the upper echelon among the other clubs.

This paragraph in Joel Sherman’s post cuts to the heart of the problem:

“The aging/diminishing Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira plus the roughly $11 million each team is charged for a benefits plan costs about $84 million toward the luxury tax each season. That would give the Yankees roughly $105 million to complete a contender in 2014. But say Robinson Cano gets $22 million a year. Now it is $83 million for everything else. That is doable, but less so after a year in which the Yankees’ farm system regressed horribly, potentially derailing the expected pipeline of lower-cost talent.”

I checked the cities of Baltimore, Boston, and Tampa against Manhattan on a cost of living calculator and found that the equivalent salaries in New York would need to substantially greater to maintain the same cost of living.  A Boston salary would need to be 63.10% greater, Baltimore 89.70%, and Tampa 145.28%.  Okay, not every player will live in Manhattan and that’s probably an extreme, but it still shows on the affordability scale, it simply takes more dollars to live in New York than anywhere else.  Other places like Florida and Texas have no state income tax.  I am sure that when A.J. Burnett got to Pittsburgh, it wasn’t just the reduced spotlight that helped his successful turnaround, the realization of how much further his millions would go in the Steel City probably factored into the equation.

As it stands at the moment, it is very likely the Yankees enter the 2013 season as a weaker team than the one who was swept by the Detroit Tigers last month.  I know, a lot can happen between now and then, but for the sake of this post, I have only the insight for where we stand today.  I felt that it was essential for the Yankees to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda.  As soon as there were indications that Kuroda would consider a one-year deal, the Yankees should have been aggressive in locking him up.  But by delaying, the two LA teams are stepping up their pursuit and the area has an advantage given Kuroda’s familiarity and close ties to Southern CA.  I believe that his wife and two daughters still reside in California.  Losing Kuroda from the rotation will hurt.  I am not convinced that David Phelps can match the level of performance that Kuroda achieved this past season.

The sooner the Yanks can move Alex Rodriguez to full-time DH will be better.  They need a quality, front-line third baseman who can hit in the clutch.  Sadly, there are not any high level prospects so free agency or a trade might be the only options.  Given the former is probably not where the team intends to put its “limited” dollars, a trade is most likely the only solution.  Of course, that will only deplete the Yankees of other young talent.

I guess Moneyball is alive and well and living in the Bronx.  It is time for Brian Cashman to prove to the critics that he is a good general manager despite the Yankee resources.  I do believe that he is so it will be interesting to see how the next few months unfold.  I have read those who believe the Yankees will ultimately spend without regard to 2014, but given Hal Steinbrenner’s financial background, I see the team sticking to its plan.  Time will tell if his stance is justified.  Perhaps this is a radical, game-saving approach that will bring fiscal responsibility back into the game.  Then again, maybe not…

–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

 

 

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