Results tagged ‘ David Robertson ’

All Quiet on the Eastern Front…

Still no shortstop, closer, help for the starting rotation, hitting coach, first base coach, legitimate third baseman…

Understandably, the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving are always quiet.  Okay, we’ve seen signings elsewhere (Russell Martin to the Toronto Blue Jays, Michael Cuddyer to the New York Mets) and a new $325 million dollar man.  But in the Yankees Universe, the biggest news this week was GM Brian Cashman’s Thursday night sleepover on the streets of New York.

There have been reports the Yankees will not pursue any of the major free agents, comments that they may join the chase, followed by more reports of non-interest.  With the Yankees, you never know if that’s just a smoke screen to help keep prices down or if it is genuine Hal Steinbrenner fiscal conservatism at play.  But one thing is known, the 2015 Yankees will not win with the current roster.  As it stands, they are losing talent from last year’s team that arguably over-achieved.

I know the thought of another long-term mega contract is frightful, but to plug Max Scherzer or Jon Lester into the starting rotation would provide an immediate upgrade.  Yes, they still need to bring back David Robertson, Chase Headley, and Brandon McCarthy but there’s too much uncertainty in the starting rotation at the moment.  The San Francisco Giants have proven time and again that a great starting pitching rotation helps to offset a less than elite offensive lineup.

Honestly, I am not sure what to expect this winter.  If the Yankees maintain the status quo, it will be yet another October-less season for the Yanks.

When the Yankees drafted shortstop Cito Culver a few years ago, it was the perfect setup for him to be the eventual successor for Derek Jeter.  He never developed as expected and will always be left to wonder what could have been.  The Yankees are certainly worse off for his failure as they’ll either need to pay to bring back Stephen Drew as a temporary solution or give up quality prospects to bring in other options.  There’s absolutely nothing in the upper levels of the farm system to provide relief in the foreseeable future.

I look at the current Yankees roster and do not see anyone that is worthy of replacing Derek Jeter as Captain.  That’s one spot that will sit vacant for a few years.  There’s certainly no urgency to pass the baton.

There’s no doubt the Yankees have a plan.  Eventually, the plan will start to unfold and we’ll see what the team has up its sleeve.  Until then, eat lots of Turkey, potatoes and gravy and look forward to the Winter Meetings in December.  We’re at the calm before the storm.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

–Scott

If we pay you this money, can you get 8 of your buddies to cover the other positions on the field?…

13 long years…

Say what?…

As Giancarlo Stanton and the Miami Marlins approach the finish line on the potential largest contract in the history of Major League Baseball, I can’t help but wonder how crazy this is.  13 years at $325 million is a lot of money any way you slice it.  Granted, Stanton will only be 37 at the end of the deal, but I stand with the many who believe that excessively long contracts are not good for the sport.

While guys like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera earned their pay through their last games, the tail end of the contracts for Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia are looking ghastly.  For A-Rod and over $30 mil per year for three more years, the Yankees get a guy who hasn’t played for a year and is being mentioned as a back-up first baseman/DH type.  If he manages to hit 20 home runs next season, it will be considered a success but not when you tally the cost of each of those home runs.  Stanton is not A-Rod and odds are that Stanton will be playing at a higher level toward the back end of his contract, but there is so much potential for this deal to go drastically wrong.  With players now frequently receiving opt out clauses, it’s too bad that the teams do not get an opt out when things go sourly.  I would love to see the Yankees use the money slated for A-Rod, Teixeira and Sabathia elsewhere.  If the Yankees maintain the status quo this offseason (signing only their own free agents) and do not make any attempt to upgrade the team, we’re faced with another mediocre season and it’s directly the result of the bad contracts.

The Yankees lost a great player when Robinson Cano signed his monster deal in Seattle, but even in retrospect, I think the Yankees were smart in not matching Seattle’s offer.

Giancarlo Stanton is a great player and the Marlins are better with him than without.  But I do not like the precedent that it sets.  Odds are that Stanton opts out and gets even more money so good for him.  Yet, what protects the Marlins from a bad investment?  Or how the bar is elevated for future deals?  I am trying wondering if I will see players receiving a percentage of team ownership one day.

When I was a kid, I remember star pitcher Ron Guidry having to settle for $900,000 because George Steinbrenner said that he’d never pay a pitcher a million dollars a year.  I guess times have changed…

The early results…

So far, the Yankees have re-signed Chris Young and acquired lefty reliever Justin Wilson.  I think both moves are good for the back of the roster.  The Yankees needed to do something with Francisco Cervelli given the catching depth and to get a guy like Wilson was a smart move given the team’s difficulty in finding a replacement for Boone Logan.

Young earned a return to the Bronx with his September performance.  Hopefully, that’s the player the Yankees are getting for 2015 and not the earlier Mets version.

As much as I would like to see the Yankees pursue Jon Lester or Max Scherzer, I’ll be very relieved if and when the Yankees re-sign David Robertson, Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy.  New York is a hard place to play, but all three of these guys have shown they can prosper in the Bronx.  Robertson followed a legend with grace and ease, Headley showed brilliant defense at a position we really haven’t seen since Graig Nettles, and McCarthy gave the Yankees a chance to win with almost every start.  Dellin Betances had a great first year but we really do not know if he could make the transition to closer.  It wasn’t something that Robertson was able to do immediately as he did not enjoy success the year Mariano Rivera was hurt in Kansas City.  I believe that A-Rod will look to be the older, injury prone player that he has become, if not worse.

The Yankees need to make some inspired trades.  It may mean taking a chance on someone who, for whatever reason, has not found his potential, but that’s okay.  I’d rather take a chance on a young player with upside than getting locked into a three year deal with an aging outfielder.

I was glad to see former Yankee and Pirate A.J. Burnett re-sign with Pittsburgh, foregoing more money from his last year’s team, the Philadelphia Phillies.  Burnett was a good fit in Pittsburgh and it was nice to see a player take an offer that extended beyond just money.

Not that I want to wish the year away, but I am anxious for next month’s winter meetings so that Project Improve the Yankees can start taking form…

–Scott

Your Objective, Mr Cashman, is to restore October baseball…

It’s a simple formula…

It is nice that Dellin Betances was nominated for AL Rookie of the Year, but it is a foregone conclusion that the award belongs to Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox.  I hope all of the accolades bestowed upon Betances (well deserved) do not go to the heads of the Yankee brass.  I am a bit concerned that they are ready to turn the closer’s role over to Betances, and I believe that’s a mistake.  The Yankees need to do what it takes to bring back David Robertson.  The thought of him potentially being the closer for Joe Maddon in Chicago is troubling, to say the least.

  • Sign Robertson…
  • Sign Brandon McCarthy…
  • Sign Chase Headley…

It’s that simple.  This isn’t rocket science.

If the Yankees are truly serious about not pursuing a frontline starter like Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, or James Shields, they need to bring back McCarthy…and then some.

New York Daily News

In my mind, Headley is THE Yankees third baseman.  I have no love for the other guy and there’s no way that he will be able to physically perform at the position through the duration of a long season, given that he’s about to turn 40 and has been away for a year.  Headley may not be a monster bat, but his defense was electrifying.  With new guys potentially slated for second and short, the Yankees need consistency and stability at third.  Headley, not A-Rod, is the man to bring it.

Even if the Yankees bring back Robertson and continue with the 1-2 punch of Betances-Robertson in the late innings, they need lights out relief in front of them.  I suspect that CC Sabathia will not go deep into his games, and with so many questions in the rotation (Masahiro Tanaka’s health, ability of Michael Pineda to stay healthy, etc.), the bullpen will be heavily relied upon.

Baseball is a game of lemmings, and the Kansas City Royals proved that a great bullpen can compensate for weaknesses in the starting rotation.

Truth or dare…

Regarding the reports that the Yankees will not pursue the Big Three (Scherzer, Lester or Shields), put me in the ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ category.  Those reports always strike me as a way for the Yankees to hopefully keep prices down or to give them leverage with the free agent.  The Yankees would be foolish not to pursue Scherzer or Lester.

Hey Cash!…

I remain heavily behind putting Rob Refsnyder at second.  I know that Jose Pirela is tearing up winter ball, but I still prefer Refsnyder.

As for short, I’d be okay with the Yankees bringing back Stephen Drew.  I really do think that Drew will have a much better season in 2015, with the benefit of spring training.  But if they go the free agent market, then Asdrubal Cabrera probably makes the most sense.  The cost to obtain Troy Tulowitzski or even Alexei Ramirez would be too high.  If there’s anything I want to accomplish this winter besides signing the above free agents, it’s to protect top prospects like Luis Severino or Aaron Judge.

With so many teams needing quality catching, and Russell Martin the lone option on the free agent market, it would seem the Yankees should put Francisco Cervelli on the table.  By himself, he wouldn’t bring top return, but he could be packaged with other prospects to bring a quality return.  Obviously, not game changers but quality talent that a winning club needs.

Wanted:  GM, no experience required…

The GM landscape is certainly taking a different look.  It seems like the veteran GM’s are showing up on radio talk shows (like Jim Duquette, Steve Phillips, and others), while newcomers are breaking into the GM inner circle.  I was very surprised to see the Dodgers name Farhan Zaidi as their GM as I felt Josh Byrnes would get the job, but the Dodgers got Byrnes anyway to lead its scouting and player development areas.  After listening to an interview with the 37 year old MIT-grad Zaidi, I am tremendously impressed and there’s no doubt that he’ll mesh very well with President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, Byrnes, and Manager Don Mattingly.  He gets it.

Another GM that surprised me was Dave Stewart of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  But as a quality guy who can do the job, it’s Stewart.

Still, I wonder what guys like Duquette and Phillips think.  Perhaps they have no interest in returning to the GM role.  It would seem that the stress of a radio gig would be a little less stressful than trying to put together a championship caliber team and keeping it together.

At some point in the future, the Yankees would be wise to promote Brian Cashman to President of Baseball Operations and to move Billy Eppler to GM.

Whatever happened to Kim Ng?…

Getty Images

I know, she works for MLB but I always thought that she’d be the first female GM.

These first few weeks in November are always so quiet.  Awards will be announced next week and the GM meetings are coming up so there’ll be a little activity.  However, it always takes the Baseball Winter Meetings in December to really get things cooking.  I am anxious to see what the 2015 Yankees will look like.  Hopefully, the roster will include Robertson, McCarthy, and Headley.  I shouldn’t say it, but I would not be disappointed if it didn’t include Rodriguez…

–Scott

End of WS, Start of Hot Stove…

Quiet domination…

I am not sure too many people would have predicted the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic, but congratulations to the Giants for their third World Series win in five years.  For being the most dominant team since the Yankees of the late 90’s, they’ve gone about it very quietly.  I guess that’s a product of East Coast bias, but Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy deserve much credit for crafting one of baseball’s better organizations.

Getty Images

When the Royals hit the sloppy triple in the top of the 9th of Game 7 against the great Madison Bumgarner, there was never really a sense that the Giants were going to let the game slip away.  Of course, that’s very easy to say when Bumgarner is on the mound.  It was a legendary World Series performance and he was the MVP by far.  Pablo Sandoval played superbly but Bumgarner was simply spectacular.  I did feel bad for the Kansas City fans who came so close to a championship after so many years of bad teams.  They’ll certainly be a force going forward and should have other opportunities.  With their stash of young talent, they remind me of the Tampa Bay Rays of a few years ago.

Maybe we will see it during our lifetime…

Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs.  It does seem like a potential great marriage.  Hopefully, former Cubs manager Rick Renteria will get another opportunity sooner rather than later.  He certainly deserves it, but this was a move that the Cubs needed to make.  It is a terrific chance for Maddon to prove that he is the best manager in baseball, and to win the World Series at Wrigley Field would be the crown jewel.

When Maddon first opted out of his contract with the Rays, I thought, or feared, that the Dodgers would foolishly dump Don Mattingly to reunite Maddon with former Rays GM Andrew Friedman.  But fortunately, Mattingly is held in high regard by ownership, so I am sure that solidified his position regardless of what Friedman may have felt privately.  Publicly, the Dodgers didn’t say or do anything to undermine their current manager which was good.  With the Dodgers off the table, the Cubs were the best spot for Maddon.  Unfortunate that it came at the expense of an employed manager, but it was still the right fit.

Maddon and his personality should be an instant success in the Windy City.

Protect your own, well, except #13…

I was glad to see the Yankees extend a qualifying offer to closer David Robertson, but there was no chance they wouldn’t.  It would be awesome if Robertson accepted the qualifying offer but I seriously doubt it.  Hopefully, the Yankees and Robertson can find common ground in bringing the closer back to the Bronx.  Dellin Betances may be a great closer one day, but Kansas City showed that you can go a long way with a stellar bullpen.  The Yankees are better with Betances setting up Robertson.

I am also hopeful that the Yankees bring back third baseman Chase Headley and starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy.  However, McCarthy may get caught in numbers.  CC Sabathia will be back to join Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Shane Greene deserves another shot at the rotation, and it is very likely the Yankees will go after one of the top three free agent pitchers (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields).  At some point early in the season, Ivan Nova will return.  It’s anybody’s guess what Sabathia will bring and there is some uncertainly with Tanaka and his elbow.  So loading up with starting pitching is never a bad thing, but if McCarthy wants a guaranteed spot, he’ll most likely need to go elsewhere.  It’s too bad because he is a good fit in the Bronx.

Tough decisions lie ahead for GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner family.

Too many players with uncertainty.  Alex Rodriguez is certainly at the head of the list.  His days as a premier third baseman are over.  That’s even more reason to bring Headley back.  With someone like A-Rod, I would set my expectations low and then anything he delivers beyond that would be a bonus.  I truly hated to see the World Series end for no other reason than it meant the restoration of A-Rod to the active roster.  I wish there was a way the Yankees could sever ties, but the contract is too problematic unless the Yankees want to simply give A-Rod money for nothing and release him.

With Jose Pirela performing well in winter ball, there should be very spirited competition for second base with Rob Refsnyder in Spring Training.  My preference is to go young with the position and not reach out for an older veteran on the free agent or trade market.  They’ll need to do the latter at shortstop to provide a fill in until young prospect Jorge Mateo is hopefully ready in a few years.

It’s been fun watching the star shine more brightly on Yankees prospect Aaron Judge.  One of the bigger guys in baseball, he is playing better than just a big man and is on track to arrive at Yankee Stadium in a couple of years.

This off-season will see the departure of some prospects as a few are getting older and running out of options like Austin Romine.  The Yankees have a glut at catcher behind Brian McCann, so it would seem that either Francisco Cervelli or John Ryan Murphy will have to go.  I only hope that it doesn’t mean trading away high level talent like Judge or pitcher Luis Severino unless the return is significant (highly unlikely).

Best of luck to Gary Denbo as he takes over for VP of Baseball Operations for the retiring Mark Newman.  The Yankees have made progress in improving their minor league system the last couple of years so hopefully Denbo can enhance the continued growth of quality prospects at the upper levels of the system.  Also, I was pleased to see the return of former third baseman Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout.  I was disappointed last year when he chose a bench role with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Yankees to be closer to his home in Arizona.

Still no word on a new hitting coach or first base coach, although it looks like Raul Ibanez is getting strong consideration for the former position.  Teaming him with someone like James Rowson would be a great idea.

Decisions made by the Yankees over the next 45 days will go a very long way toward shaping the 2015 Yankees.

I am ready for Spring Training to begin…

–Scott

The End is near…

The Kid from Kalamazoo rides away…

I hate that I’ve been so pessimistic about the Yankees’ chances of making the play-offs this year, but the realization is slowly becoming a reality as time on the 2014 season draws to a close.  For whatever reason, this just has never felt like the Yankees’ season.  It had more promise than last year yet the team will actually end up with a worse record.  As I write this, the Yankees hold a two game lead for second place in the AL East and that’s the most the team can aspire for.

After losing Martin Prado for the season due to an appendectomy, the latest blow is the potential season-ending loss of Jacoby Ellsbury with a hamstring injury.

It’s sad that the final season for future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter will end so quietly.  In a way, it carries the same sadness that saw Don Mattingly’s career end with the 1995 play-off loss to the Seattle Mariners (his only post-season appearance in a tremendously successful Yankees career).  Granted, DJ has enjoyed far greater post-season success than Mattingly could have ever imagined, but still, for the man coined as Mr. November, it’s sad that we will no longer be able to see his presence grace October.

Ironically, it is Mattingly who will experience the post-season this year as he has his Los Angeles Dodgers in a good position with a play-off spot secured and a 3 ½ game lead in the NL West over the San Francisco Giants.

With Jeter’s desire to one day be a major league owner, I wonder where his post-Yankees career will take him.  It’s tough to see Mattingly wear another team’s uniform after he wore pinstripes for the duration of his Yankees career.  I can’t imagine seeing Derek wearing another uniform.  I was listening to Cal Ripken on the radio this week and his radio career ensures that he’ll forever be known as an Oriole and nothing else.  That’s the way it should be, but Jeter’s aspirations for ownership will inevitably lead him elsewhere.  I can’t see the Steinbrenner family selling him a substantial piece of the prized Yankees.

Thank you, Lord, for making him a Yankee…

Hats off to Hiroki Kuroda who has been such a great Yankee.  I respected him when he was a starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but never really got a sense of his professionalism and the honor he bestows wearing his team’s colors.  He has only been a Yankee for three years, but he made a difference and if this is his last year, he will leave a solid legacy.  If he does play another year in the majors, I hope that he does return to the Yankees rather than going back to the Dodgers.  But for whatever he decides, I will respect his decision because he has earned that right.  If he does pitch for the Dodgers next year, or plays in Japan, or simply calls it a career, I will remain a fan.

My choice…they passed the audition…

I really hope the Yankees move quickly to re-sign Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy, and decide to bring back Chris Young.  I think all three can play valuable roles for the 2015 season even with the return of Alex Rodriguez or the potential signing of a frontline starter like Jon Lester.  The first order of business when the season ends is for the Yankees to re-sign GM Brian Cashman (or move on and name Billy Eppler as his replacement).  The GM situation needs to be settled quickly so that the team can focus on its pursuit of improvement for 2015.  I clearly want Cashman back, but I’d be happy with Eppler in the role too.  I would not want to see the team bring in an outsider for fill the role.

I am anxious to see if Rob Refsnyder can take second base next spring.  He may not be Robinson Cano but I think he’d bring excitement to the position.

A plethora of catchers…

The Yankees will need to do something about the glut of catchers this off-season.  Francisco Cervelli is a great back-up and a potential starter, but John Ryan Murphy deserves a chance.  Austin Romine seems to have become an afterthought and maybe he’d thrive with a change of scenery (not unlike what happened for his brother, Andrew Romine, who was dealt from the Angels organization and is now starting at shortstop for the Detroit Tigers).  One of these days, Gary Sanchez will be knocking at the door and he will force his way onto the roster.

We know who replaced Mariano Rivera…

I guess the predictions that reliever Jacob Lindgren would make the majors by the end of the year after he was drafted in June did not come to pass.  But there’s no doubt that he’ll be a contender for the bullpen next season.  I really have no clue what the Yankees intend to do with David Robertson.  If he becomes a free agent, there is a very real possibility that he will become a former Yankee.  I am sure the Yankees are intrigued with the possibility of making Dellin Betances the closer after his All-Star breakout season.  I think Betances can be a great closer but Robertson has certainly done everything the team expected from him.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  I remember hating to see closer John Wetteland leave via free agency which thrust set up man Mariano Rivera into the closer’s role.  I think that situation played itself out correctly (statement of the obvious).  Time will tell if the team makes the right decision with Robertson.

Wanted:  Clutch hits…

One Yankee that has come under a great deal of heat is hitting coach Kevin Long.  Long respected at his craft, I wonder if the team’s offensive failures this year will force the Yankees to change coaches.  As great as Long is, if the players are not responding to his message, it’s either time to get new players or change coaches.  The latter is the cheaper route and it will most likely be the one the team makes.  There are no obvious choices for who would make a better hitting coach.  I’ve always liked Don Baylor but I don’t know his current situation.  I think Bernie Williams would have made a terrific coach if he had chosen that path, but his musical adventure is his passion.  Paul O’Neill?  Another one of the hard choices for the Yankees to make.

As Derek Jeter rides off to the sunset, many questions and few answers confront the Yankees as they move forward.

–Scott

It is high, it is far, it is caught…

A penny for your hits…

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

 

 

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

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

 Courtesy:  hailstate.com

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

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

Not everybody was meant to be Mariano Rivera…

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

I love you, I love you not…

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

Farewell to a champion…

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

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

–Scott

The Road More Travelled…

Where’s the reset button?…

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

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

 

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

Kim Klement/USA Today Sports

 

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

Battling to stay above .500…

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

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

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

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

The end of the streak…

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

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

 

Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports

 

The Boy Who Cried Wolf…

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

 

–Scott

 

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

 

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

 

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