Results tagged ‘ Austin Romine ’

The Carlos has landed…

 

Welcome to the Bronx!…

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

 

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

Mark Bonifacio/New York Daily News

 

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

 

Carlos B

 Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports

 

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

If second basemen were as plentiful as catchers…

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

Have bat, will travel…

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

 

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

Mark LoMoglio/Yankees, via MLB.com

 

Sabathia, Nova and Pineda who?…

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

The bearded brigade…

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

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

 

ESPN.com

 

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

No reminder needed, thank you…

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

 

alex rodriguez

–Scott

 

Baseball and bad decisions…

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stupid is as stupid does…

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

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

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

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

 

–Scott

 

Why not just build an unbeatable team?…

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Scott

 

Fear becomes Reality…

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Scott

 

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

 

Feeling better than last year, but…

 

With the current state of the Yankees’ infield, I remain worried if Plan A does not come to fruition.  I still have not been able to wrap my head around Kelly Johnson being the everyday third baseman.  I feel that he is so much more useful in a utility role.  It would be great If Eduardo Nunez, Yangervis Solarte or Dean Anna could step it up to the next level, but that’s not something I am counting on.  Maybe the source of my discomfort with the infield is that Stephen Drew is still available.  I know, he costs money and maybe it’s too much for the Yankees given their huge off-season investments.  However, Drew would secure third base (with a little help from his “friends”, i.e., Nunez, Johnson et al).

With questions about Mark Teixeira’s wrist and how that will impact his power, whether or not Brian Roberts can prove he is still the player of yesteryear, and Derek Jeter’s ability to bounce back from a severe ankle injury at an advanced age, we do not need third base to be a question too.

Catching is set.  This is the best I’ve felt about the position since Jorge Posada was in his prime.  I like Francisco Cervelli as the back-up, but if his trade value could help other areas of the team like the infield or the bullpen, then I’d be in favor of a trade.  I feel that Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy are capable of supporting Brian McCann.

For a change, the outfield is not a question mark.  It’s great to know that the outfield is so good that Alfonso Soriano is the fourth outfielder and Ichiro Suzuki, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, is essentially a man without a position.  Of course, that could change quickly if injuries were to impact Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and/or Carlos Beltran.  I am hopeful that this is a major move forward in the developmental progress of prospect Mason Williams so that he, along with Slade Heathcott, can be serious contenders for Soriano’s spot next year.

Nothing against David Phelps, but I am pulling for Michael Pineda to secure the fifth spot in the pitching rotation.  I really like Phelps as the long man.  He provides the consistency, support and flexibility that Ramiro Mendoza brought to the team years ago.

I am cautiously optimistic that the duo of Shawn Kelley and Dellin Betances will provide the level of set up support for David Robertson that Robertson provided for Mariano Rivera.  That will go a long way toward determining how successful the 2014 Yankees can be.

There are not too many Plan B’s available on the current roster.  As current set, the Yankees will need the cards to fall right for them to contend in October.  This could be a 90-win team if all goes right, but conversely, it could just as easily be an 80-win team if it does not.

In my opinion, the Boston Red Sox remain the team to beat.  They are the champions until proven otherwise.  The AL East, perhaps baseball’s most competitive division, has improved.  Tampa Bay, Toronto and Baltimore have all made solid off-season moves.  The O’s were quiet for most of the off-season but their late signings of Ubaldo Jimenez, Nelson Cruz, and Johan Santana could pay dividends.  Never underestimate a team managed by Buck Showalter.  Tampa Bay has arguably baseball’s best manager so it’s a certainly that he’ll have his team in the race at the end.

This is my first prediction for the final season standings in the AL East:

  1. 1.       Boston Red Sox
  2. 2.       Tampa Bay Rays
  3. 3.       New York Yankees
  4. 4.       Toronto Blue Jays
  5. 5.       Baltimore Orioles

But you could probably throw these team names into a hat and pull them out in random order and it could be the potential finish.  I doubt Boston or Tampa finish anything worse than third, but the other three, including the Yankees, have the potential of finishing anywhere in the standings.

This should be a very fun and exciting year…

 

–Scott

 

With a New Year, brings New Hope!…

 

Happy New Year to all Baseball Fans!…

January 1, 2014.  Time to replace the calendars.  With the arrival of the New Year, it brings optimism for baseball fans everywhere as they anticipate whether or not their team has done enough to ensure October success.  Boston fans dream of a back-to-back championship, while others hope they can be the ones to de-throne the defending champs.  In January, anything is possible, although arguably some teams have a much better chance than others. 

As a Yankees fan, it has been a bittersweet off-season.  The team finally made some bold moves after a couple of years of inactivity in signing Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran, but the loss of Robinson Cano will hurt.  The team still has not done enough to improve the starting rotation nor has it repaired the losses in the pen.

I thought the Washington Nationals did a good job in bringing in Doug Fister for its starting rotation.  He was a solid performer for the Detroit Tigers and he should help provide back-end stability for the frontline starters. 

The Boston Red Sox did well in re-signing Mike Napoli.  He is a great role performer and he seems to thrive in the Fenway environment, however, I am not sure that A.J. Pierzynski makes up for the loss of Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  I think they’ll be okay losing Jacoby Ellsbury if Jackie Bradley, Jr is able to take the next step up in his promising career.  While it remains questionable whether Stephen Drew will be back or will be playing in Citi Field, any team would love to have Xander Bogaerts standing ready to take over the shortstop position.  Regardless of what happens, I think the Red Sox will be a force in 2014 and won’t relinquish their crown easily. 

The Minnesota Twins showed an unusual side in signing free agent pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, and bringing back Mike Pelfrey.  They missed out on A.J. Pierzynski, but the signing of Kurt Suzuki will allow them to bring their young catcher, Josmil Pinto, along slowly in the major leagues as they replace Joe Mauer who has moved to first.

Among others, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland A’s, and the San Francisco Giants (in bringing Tim Hudson back to the Bay Area) have had productive off-seasons. 

There are countless other major moves that have been made and other teams that have significantly enhanced their chances for winning, but the point is that January is a time of optimism.  Spring Training looms on the horizon as this is the last full month before pitchers and catchers begin to report.  Players, if they took time off for the holidays, are aggressively starting or continuing their off-season workout regimens.  This is the time that will set in motion the attitudes and the chemistry that makes up each team.  Baseball is not about having the most physically gifted team, it’s about the team that can do the most to maximize the synergy of the team and create a culture that is unwilling to accept losing. 

It should be a fun season.  It’s too early to form an opinion of the teams that stand the best chance as there are still some roster-changing moves that will be made before spring training breaks, but in the AL, you know that the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, A’s, and Angels will have a say in who wins and who loses. 

I hope it’s a very happy and enjoyable New Year for everyone!  Time to make new friends, create fantastic new opportunities, experiences, and memories.    Time to get excited about the arrival of the upcoming Major League Baseball season.  May the 2014 season bring you great satisfaction and enjoyment!

The Masahiro Tanaka Sweepstakes…

It’s been written that the New York Yankees are the favorites to sign prized Japanese free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, but it’s really anybody’s guess where he will sign.  Personally, I could see the Los Angeles Dodgers blowing away the competition, and they would certainly provide a main stage for Tanaka to perform.  No offense to the Minnesota Twins, but I couldn’t really see a player with Tanaka’s potential playing in a small market.  I would love to see Tanaka sign with the Yankees and I think Hiroki Kuroda would be the perfect mentor to help Tanaka’s transition to the United States.  But the Dodgers have a strong history with Japanese players.  The Texas Rangers may be players and you certainly cannot underestimate the Seattle Mariners or the Los Angeles Angels.  The Tanaka decision will be made within the next three weeks as it has to be completed by January 24th, so it should be interesting to watch Tanaka’s tour and to see how much teams are willing to pay for his potential.  Guys like Clayton Kershaw, with free agency looming in the not-so-distant future, have to love this, and it will help enhance the monetary packages it will take to sign or retain them with proven superior performance in the MLB. 

If the Yankees lose out on Tanaka, I am not sure what a good Plan B will be.  I’ve heard Ubaldo Jimenez’ name mentioned, but it’s not a guarantee that 2013 was a return to the promise he once held or if it was just an aberration and he’ll continue his prior downward slide.  Bronson Arroyo, Ervin Santana.  None of these names excite me.  I am more hopeful that guys like Michael Pineda and Manny Banuelos can come into training camp and make statements for why they should be the guys. 

Roster moves await…

With the 40-man roster filled, and the signings of second baseman Brian Roberts or reliever Matt Thornton to be made official, it’s clear the Yankees will need to open roster space.  Given the excess at catcher with the signing of Brian McCann, it’s fairly clear that either Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy could be moved.  I think we’ll see the departure of Vernon Wells despite his salary friendly status thanks to the Angels.  Even something free is not worth keeping if it has no value.  As speculated, I could still see a trade of Ichiro Suzuki to a team like the San Francisco Giants.  I have no problem with Zoilo Almonte taking the fifth outfielder role, particularly in light of his strong winter play.

I don’t think the Yankees have done enough yet, but I also do not think they are finished.  I am confident that by the time training camp opens, the Yankees will have the collection of players capable of restoring the team’s 90+ win ability.  Time will tell if they’ve caught up with their prime AL East competitors but at least with the Yankees, you know it won’t be for the lack of trying.

The words of Randy Levine…

Admittedly, I do not know much about Yankees president Randy Levine, but I am not impressed with the man.  I wasn’t before the text messages between Levine and Alex Rodriguez were released and I am even less so now.  Some of his comments come off as very unprofessional.  I remember how vilified Red Sox president Larry Lucchino was by Yankees fans when he made his ‘Evil Empire’ remark and how hated he is, but I really do not see Levine as any better and very likely, much worse.  At least Lucchino has overseen three world championships since 2004.  The Yankees’ 2009 World Championship was more Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, among others. 

Perhaps Levine is a great leader and effective in his role within the Yankees organization, but it is not apparent from the outside looking in.  I can only shake my head when I see his text message comments.  Aside from any of his words or how I may feel about the man, I strikes me as very odd that the president of the team would go direct to a player, bypassing the manager and the GM.  Maybe it would help if more stories about Levine’s positives were written, but then again, they wouldn’t be interesting and wouldn’t sell papers.  So, maybe we’ll never know the good the man potentially does.  But as it stands, he just seems like a buffoon to me.

Happy Holidays…

I hope the holiday season has been a very happy time for you and your families.  Enjoy the New Year, and may good health, success, happiness, and prosperity be yours!

–Scott

 

 

 

 

For the 2014 Yankees, there is still much work to do…

 

The highs and lows of the Hot Stove League, thus far…

For Yankees fans, the off-season started nicely.  After early speculation that manager Joe Girardi might jump to the Chicago Cubs, he re-signed a long-term deal with the Yankees and expressed it was his desire to remain in New York.  All good.

Then, Derek Jeter quickly signed a one year deal with negotiations that where smooth, quick and efficient (unlike the prior Jeter negotiations).  It remains to be seen if we’ll get the Jeter of 2012 or the injured, aging 2013 model, but there’s no question that Jeter must finish his career in pinstripes.  I don’t think Derek would want to go anywhere else at this point anyway, but still, he is the face of the franchise and he’ll forever be remembered as one of its legends.  In the distant future, when the old greats from the 50’s Dynasty era are gone (Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, among others), it will be guys like Jeter that maintain the honor and tradition in baseball’s most storied franchise. 

The Yankees struck fast in signing free agent catcher Brian McCann after last year’s parade of backups in the starting role.  It gives the team its first legitimate starter at the position since Russell Martin left, and the best offensive bat at the position since Jorge Posada retired.  This is a move that places backup catchers Francisco Cervelli, J.R. Murphy, and Austin Romine in a better position to succeed.  At first pass, I expect Cervelli to take the backup job in spring training but the other two are capable.  On the days that McCann slides to DH, the catching position will be capable hands.

Next came a big surprise.  I honestly did not see the Yankees signing centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.  While I have been a fan of Ellsbury’s work, it didn’t seem to be a great need for the team.  Brett Gardner has been an effective centerfielder, and has the speed to burn.  Still, Ellsbury’s signing upgrades the position and allows the Yankees to slide Gardner to left where he a defensive upgrade over Alfonso Soriano.  The concern here is that by making Soriano the full-time DH, it does limit the DH opportunities for Derek Jeter and Brian McCann.  Soriano’s bat is still very valuable, and it’s much needed in the lineup. 

Then came the bittersweet day of Friday, December 6th.  The night before, there had been reports that second baseman Robinson Cano had flown to Seattle, but in the morning, the early reports indicated that talks had stalled or perhaps even ended.  It gave a brief ray of hope that he’d come back to the Yankees, but those hopes were soon dissolved when it was reported Cano had agreed to a 10-year $240 million deal with the Mariners.  While it’s tough to lose a great player, perhaps the team’s best, it is simply too hard to justify those numbers.  I have enjoyed the early 30’s version of Cano at second, but in his late 30’s and early 40’s, the prospect doesn’t look too promising at $24 million per year.  That’s a huge chunk of any team’s overall payroll.  I think of when Chase Utley was the premier second baseman, but now, with injuries, he has become a shell of what he once was.  What happens if Cano does not age well?  I guess I am not a gambling man and would prefer that the M’s take that bet.  $240 million can be better spent by spreading it over multiple positions rather than locking it into only one.

This is where I find Robinson Cano to be extremely selfish.  You can’t begrudge anyone from wanting as much money as they can get, but this is a team game and every team has a budget…even the Yankees.  If it were me, I would have taken the Yankees offer of 7 years at $175 million because the average annual salary was stronger and I’d know that the team would be more flexible in other areas by not being locked into so many years.  For those additional three years, it would be up to me to perform and if so, there would be a reward.  It also would have kept the Yankee legacy intact and ensured a potential place among the team’s legends.  But now, Cano is just another player who took the money and ran.  He proved that money is more valuable than wins, and money is more important than helping build a strong supporting cast of quality players.  That doesn’t mean Seattle doesn’t have quality players, they do, but they are a long way from contending.  It is very possible that when they are ready to contend, Cano has started his career regression due to age that’s inevitable for everyone. 

Cano has carried the “lazy” rap for years.  While he is an exciting player at times, it was frustrating when he didn’t hustle.  I think of someone like Dustin Pedroia, whose motor is always running.  He creates opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be there because he is alert and proactive.  He seizes the opportunities and takes advantage of them.  That’s what winning ball players do.  Cano is not that guy.  I have never thought of him as a team player, and I didn’t view him as a player who helped raise the performance level of those around him.  Rest assured the Yankees will miss his offensive production at the position.  At this point, I have no idea who will be the second baseman in 2014.  Kelly Johnson seems better suited to help replace Alex Rodriguez at third base, in a platoon situation.  Omar Infante signed a four year deal with the Kansas City Royals, and Brandon Phillips is starting the downward slide that comes with age.  David Adams, a young player who had the talent but couldn’t show it at the major league level during brief auditions, was non-tendered and is now a Cleveland Indian.  It looks as though the Yankees will fill second base with a bargain basement fill-in, much like they did last year with first and third bases.  I wish the organization was better stocked with up and coming second base talent, but that does not appear to be the case.  I personally thought Infante would have been the best short-term option, but the Yankees allowed them to get beat by the Royals in signing the player.  You know it’s an odd year when the Yankees get beat in free agency by both the Royals and the Mariners.

But enough about Cano, he is gone and so is his Yankees legacy.  

Around the same time as the news had broken about the former second baseman signing with Seattle, it was reported that starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda had signed a new one year deal with the team.  This was very good news to hear.  Kuroda is much needed, and I am grateful that he chose to delay his return to Japan by a year or head back to his home in Southern California.  So, Cashman has filled 200 of the 400 innings he previously stated were needed this off-season. 

After the tumultuous events of the day, news broke on the evening of December 6th that the Yankees had signed outfielder Carlos Beltran.  At 36, he is no longer the player he once was, but he is a “gamer” or as George Steinbrenner would say, a warrior.  Even an aging Beltran is an upgrade over an even older Ichiro Suzuki or the outfielder still primarily funded by the Los Angeles Angels, Vernon Wells. 

But after the three free agent signings, the news has mostly been about departures.  Phil Hughes was the first to depart, signing a three year deal with the Minnesota Twins.  It was probably a good move for Hughes.  Minnesota will be less pressurized and he should have the opportunity to flourish, much like Carl Pavano was able to resurrect his career in Minneapolis after leaving New York.  I certainly did not expect the Yankees to re-sign Hughes after the season he had last year, but I thought he’d go to Southern California and saw the San Diego Padres as a good fit.  Nevertheless, Minneapolis is a fun city and it’s a good ballpark. 

A couple of other notable defections occurred in the bullpen, where Joba Chamberlain signed a one year deal with the Detroit Tigers and Boone Logan went for three years with the Colorado Rockies.  Of the two, it is Logan that I really hated to see leave.  He was a trusted left-handed reliever, but it really didn’t seem like the team made much of an effort to retain his services.  They obviously had other priorities, but I suppose the Yankees are hopeful that a less expensive options like Cesar Cabral will step up to fill Boone’s role.  It was a foregone conclusion that Joba had thrown his last pitch for the Yankees.  But admittedly, I was surprised he went to Detroit.  There are worse things to do than to go to a team that is probably the best one in the American League right now, but I thought that Joba would go to the Kansas City Royals since it is closer to his hometown roots.  The one year deal does give him an opportunity to try and restore the promise he once had with the Yankees.  Plus, if he wins a World Series, it will help give his career a further boost. 

The Yankees also lost last year’s starting catcher when they traded Chris Stewart to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  This move was a given after the McCann signing combined with the surplus of backup catchers. 

For as crazy as December started for the Yankees, the week of the baseball winter meetings was extremely quiet.  The Yankees still have much work to do.  On paper, after consideration of all plusses and minuses, they are not noticeably better than last year’s 85 win team.  They still need a quality starting pitcher, a second baseman, and bullpen help.  Brian Cashman has his work cut out for him between now and spring training.

I honestly do not know where the Yankees will go from here.  I’d like to see the free agent signing of a pitcher like Matt Garza, but so far, the Yankees have not been one of the team’s linked to the pitcher.  Same with Bronson Arroyo, who is certainly capable of eating a large number of innings as a #4 starter.  For second base, the latest reports have the Yankees interested in Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs but I have no idea what he would cost in terms of talent in a trade.  I will feel much better about the 2014 Yankees once the additional starting pitcher and second baseman are in the fold, but at least it is reassuring to know that Hal Steinbrenner wants to win as much as the rest of us do.

Happy Holidays!

–Scott

 

The Return of the Empire…

Why?  Because the Yankees McCann!…

I have to admit that the Yankees’ free agent signing of former Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann caught me by surprise.  Like so many people did last Saturday, I went to see The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire.  No sooner than I walked out the theater after the movie, I immediately saw the alerts the Yankees had signed McCann. 

I had heard the Yankees were interested in McCann, but so were other teams like the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, and Colorado Rockies.  I thought the Rangers were the most likely landing spot.  It’s a winning organization in a city that puts more pressure on the local football team.  The cost of living is reasonable, and the area is spacious.  There’s not too much to dislike about Texas…well, outside of those hot humid summers, the long drives to get anywhere, and the infrequency of trees (at least in North Texas).  I also thought the Boston Red Sox might have an advantage with former McCann backup David Ross on the roster.  Either Texas or Boston offers the chance for World Series participation. 

But in the end, it was the Yankees’ offer (number of years) in combination with the short porch in right field which is very attractive for the left-handed slugger. 

I had Brian McCann as my catcher on my fantasy baseball team this year and his health caused me to seek other options.  While he was on the DL, I leaned on his Braves replacement (Evan Gattis) among others.  So, McCann’s health is an obvious concern.  But if healthy, he is a tremendous addition to the team.  He gives the Yankees their best offensive threat from the position since Jorge Posada retired.  Russell Martin would occasionally get hot, but he is not close to the hitter that McCann is.  Plus, McCann’s leadership abilities are well documented.  When Chipper Jones retired, he gave a strong recommendation for McCann as a team leader. 

Nothing against Francisco Cervelli, but I think he is better suited to backup someone like McCann than to start.  He had his moments last year before getting hurt and then the subsequent suspension, but he’ll get his opportunities when McCann rests or moves to DH.  I am fine with the number of years on the contract because I think McCann is an excellent bridge to super prospect Gary Sanchez.  When Sanchez is ready for the majors, it will be time to slide McCann to first or DH anyway.  It also frees GM Brian Cashman to potentially include other catching prospects like Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy is potential trades.

Signing McCann was a great start to the off-season but there is obviously still much work ahead for Cashman and the Yanks.

Where are we?…

As we turn the page to Thanksgiving, the Yankees have their manager, backup shortstop and catcher in the fold.  They are rumored to be the leaders for the services of free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran of the St Louis Cardinals, although I have heard he has a preference for staying in the NL (I don’t know if that’s true or not, and I personally believe he’d have even greater success in the American League).  I like the idea of Beltran in right. 

As it sounds, Robinson Cano’s camp is still asking for something in the neighborhood of $300 million.  They’ve dropped “slightly” from the initial figure of $310 million, but anything in the Alex Rodriguez area of contracts is too much…even for arguably the team’s best player.  I would rather see the Yankees use the money on multiple key players, shift the offense to other positions and then backfill second base with someone like Omar Infante.  I still hope there are compromises made on both sides to bring Cano back to the Bronx, but if it is not meant to be, I don’t want to see the Yankees overspend. 

So far, no help for the starting rotation.  Several notable free agent pitchers in a market void of any aces have already signed.  Dan Haren with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tim Hudson with the San Francisco Giants, and Ricky Nolasco with the Minnesota Twins.  I don’t think the Yankees were linked to any of those guys, but the smaller the free agent pool, the more intense the competition becomes at least for the guys who can win 12-14 games for you.  I know the Yankees are rumored to be heavily counting on the posting of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka if MLB and the Japanese are able to come to an agreement for a new posting system.  But you have to wonder what Plan B will be.  So far, I have not heard much about Hiroki Kuroda but I would like to see the team try to bring him back for one more year. 

The next few weeks will go a long way toward determining how strong and competitive the 2014 Yankees will be. 

Coaching staff intact…well, almost…

Several weeks ago, I heard that Joe Girardi’s entire coaching staff would be returning.  However, today, I saw that the Arizona Diamondbacks have named Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey as their new pitching coach.  Congratulations to Mike!  Larry Rothschild is not going anywhere so it is good to see Harkey get his opportunity elsewhere.  Now, the Yankees will be in the market for a new bullpen coach.  Say, I wonder what Mariano Rivera is doing…  ;)

Well, that’s all for now.  Have a very Happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season!

–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

 

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