Results tagged ‘ Detroit ’

Trying to be optmistic, but failing miserably…

 

The Boston Massacre or the Bronx Massacre?…

Since the games are being held in the Bronx, I suppose the Boston Red Sox kill of any Yankee play-off aspirations should be called the Bronx Massacre.  Unfortunately, the high hopes coming off the sweep of the Chicago White Sox were dashed as the Sox are definitely now on the other foot.

Thursday’s game was disappointing as the Yankees launched a valiant rally only to lose a game they were within one strike of winning.  The defeat came with none other than the legendary Mariano Rivera on the mound.  Friday night, it was the Yankees who built the large early lead, but the Red Sox stormed back and thrashed the Yankees.  Although Boone Logan gave up the key grand slam, I blame Phil Hughes for changing the momentum of the game.  Today’s game (Saturday) is still underway but the team is getting royally throttled at the moment (12-3 in the 5th inning).  The Yankee pitching staff has not shown the ability to get Red Sox hitters out during this series so I have no reason to expect the team to rally from the latest hole (either today’s game or the season).  If they lose today’s game as expected, they’ll be 11 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East standings.  The races for the Wild Card spots are still within reach but the Yankees aren’t playing like a team that wants to win.  They still have one more series against the Red Sox (in Boston) and if they can’t beat the Sox in the Bronx, they certainly are not going to win in Beantown.

This has been a very weird season as a Yankees fan.  The team did nothing to improve upon last year’s squad and simply filled key roles with bargain basement replacements.  Alfonso Soriano is the only quality acquisition, but he is an aging player with a large salary.  It’s not exactly like it was a brilliant acquisition for GM Brian Cashman.  The Chicago Cubs were glad to part with Soriano even if they are still picking up a large part of his compensation.  I’ve been reading many articles that talk about the great managing job Joe Girardi has done this season, but no one is saying the same about Cashman.  The unknown variable is that we do not know the restraints he is under from Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner.  If you are under standing orders that you cannot increase salary, it’s not exactly like you are going to go out and land a Giancarlo Stanton or Cliff Lee.  But it’s odd watching the Pittsburgh Pirates being more aggressive in the addition of reinforcements (i.e., Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd and John Buck) than the Yankees.  A few key “stronger” players here or there could have meant the difference in the current Wild Card standings and the Yankees wouldn’t be on the outside looking in.

The only guarantee is that there will be changes in the off-season.  At this point, I have to believe that the departure of Cashman is a possibility.  I do not expect Joe Girardi to be going anywhere but this team will look radically different, particularly if the Yankees do not re-sign impending free agent Robinson Cano.  I am not sure what to expect with the 2014 Yankees.  I don’t know if optimism will be part of the equation and if we will be looking at another “patched-together” squad of expensive, deteriorating older players and cheap free agent acquisitions of players released from their current clubs.  The Yankees need to get younger but is this going to take a season or two, or years.  The decisions being made by Hal Steinbrenner will impact the Yankees for years to come.  Time will tell if he is making very astute and winning decisions to set up future success, or if he is ensuring that this time period will be the 1980’s re-visited.

If somehow the Yankees manage to salvage the 2013 season and grabbed a Wild Card spot, I seriously doubt they’d be able to do anything with it.  Hopefully, the Steinbrenner family is able to do something to return optimism to the Bronx in the not-so-distant future.

Pondering the Quarterback situation…

As a long-suffering Minnesota Vikings fan, the hope is that this is the year QB Christian Ponder “figures it out”.  He is a talented and intelligent guy, and there’s no reason for him not to become the answer for the Vikings if he chooses to be.  How many guys would like to have Adrian Peterson in the backfield, Greg Jennings out wide, and Kyle Rudolph at tight end?  Ponder has the weapons and he has the physical tools to succeed.  It is all up to him.  If the Vikings have to make the move to replace Ponder with backup Matt Cassel, then the team is sunk.

Last year was a pleasant surprise but it will be more challenging this year with the more difficult schedule.  I do wish that Adrian Peterson would let go of the dream to reach 2,500 rushing yards in a season.  I would not want to see him at such risk for injury nor would I want an individual goal to become superior to the team’s goals.

The Vikings start the season against the Detroit Lions, a team that knows a thing or two about having huge offensive weapons.  The young Vikings secondary will have to show that they are ready for the big time as it doesn’t get any easier in the coming weeks.  It’s too bad that, so far, the team hasn’t been able to get former starter Antoine Winfield to come out of retirement.  Josh Robinson is fast, but we’ll see if he can keep up with Megatron…

Hockey’s around the corner…

Soon, the San Jose Sharks will join the Minnesota Vikings as “distractions” for me during this disappointing MLB campaign.  I am looking forward to a full season of NHL Hockey rather than last year’s strike-shortened version.  I am still having a tough time thinking of the HP Pavilion or “Shark Tank” as the SAP Center.    While it is called S-A-P and not the word “sap”, how long before the latter becomes the norm if the team fails to succeed?

Where are you, Optimism?  I miss you…  ;)

–Scott

 

This is not 1998, sadly to say…

 

Sorry, the Glass is Half Empty…

I am not going to lie.  I am not holding my breath in anticipation of the Yankees making the play-offs in October.  It’s hard to have great faith and confidence in a team that is relying upon a binding agent made up of low budget, past their prime ballplayers.  No offense to Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Alfonso Soriano, and others, but this team would have looked substantially better in 2003 than 2013.

This is why I have mixed feelings about the Yankees being “buyers” at the trading deadline.  Even if…they still do not have the horses to advance very deeply in the play-offs.  Recent years have shown the Detroit Tigers own the Yankees and New York has not done anything to put themselves on a level playing field with the Bankrupt City.

Please do not get me wrong.  I have enjoyed watching the return of Alfonso Soriano.  After a non-existent bat in his first two games back, he homered and knocked in the game winner in his third game.  He is an improvement in left field.  I am not sure how far out Curtis Granderson is from returning, but Soriano is better than what the Yankees were rolling out every day.  Soriano has been a professional throughout his career.  I remember how much he loved being the Yankees’ second baseman, and when there was talk of the Yankees moving him to the outfield, he expressed some displeasure.  Of course, he moved on to other teams and they did exactly that (moved him to the outfield).  So now he is back and is embracing left field and the occasional turn at DH.  The nice thing about Soriano is that there is no “breaking in” period.  He knows how to play in the Bronx and he has the added bonus of being a fan favorite from the start.

The Soriano trade does show what a mistake it was to sign future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki to a two year deal.  I am not sure if the Yankees will re-sign Granderson or not, but there is a potential crowd in the outfield.  Given Granderson’s horrific contract year, the odds are probably better that he stays in New York than if he had a repeat of his 2012 season.

Character First, A-Rod Last…

Sounds like the book is finally going to be thrown at Alex Rodriguez.  I am glad.  I would be very disappointed if he only received the first-timer’s 50 game suspension.  He needs to lose a season at the very least and if I had my way, the rest of his major league career.  If A-Rod never puts on a Yankees uniform again, it will be too soon.  I truly hope that I’ve seen the last of #13 in pinstripes.

Remind me again who’s the #1 starter?…

I am not sure what to make of CC Sabathia this year.  Very ordinary to say the least.  Meanwhile, Hiroki Kuroda, who I always thought of as a #3 starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has been stellar.

Healthy is over-rated…

As I am typing this post, I see that the Boston Red Sox have acquired Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy.  Good move by Boston.  I worry about the health of Peavy but when he’s right, he’s dangerous.  Earlier rumors had the Sox in on Cliff Lee which I thought would have been a mistake as Lee is clearly on the downside of a once magnificent career.  The Phillies asking price is too great for Lee, so I am very hopeful that the Yankees, having previously been burned by Lee, stay out of the picture.  But Boston’s acquisition of Peavy gives them the leg up over the Yankees.  I think the Tampa Bay Rays will win the division as Boston still has a few too many question marks, but I’d be surprised if the Sox do not make the play-offs.

I can still remember watching Jake Peavy’s major league debut in San Diego against the Yankees.  He showed that he was a major league caliber pitcher that day.  I guess he’ll get a few more shots at his debut opponent in the coming months.

Let someone else overpay…

Albert Pujols’ lost 2013 season shows me why it is not worth paying an aging superstar outrageous sums of money.  Hey, throw Mark Teixeira into that mix.  How much better off would the Yankees have been had they let both Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira go to the Boston Red Sox?

The trading deadline is always a fun time of year.  I am not sure that the Yankees will surface with any more transactions before tomorrow (particularly given the lack of interest in Phil Hughes) but it’s always fun to speculate.  But at the end of the day, I am not willing to give up on any promising young talent and I know that GM Brian Cashman feels the same way.  If the Yankees had a shot at a World Series title this year, I’d say ‘screw it, let’s go the championship!’ and let go quality talent to achieve that end.  However, this is not a World Series Yankees team.  Sorry, Ichiro, I know you were once great but those days have passed.  So, hang on to the talent and let’s build for 2014.  I guess I’ll echo what life is like for a Chicago Cubs fan:  “We’ll get ‘em next year!”.

–Scott

 

I am an optimistic guy but…

 

The team of low expectations…

As the Yankees stumbled to the All-Star Break, I was surprised to read the number of stories that said the Yankees may have a hard time making the play-offs if they keep playing like this.  I hate to be the doomsayer but this team isn’t going anywhere.  I love the Yankees and I’ve been a long-time fan, but there’s no doubt that this team is not built for October success.   As it stands, a third or fourth place finish, if nothing changes, is the best case scenario for the injury-plagued, patch-work 2013 Yankees.  When your ace pitches like Jose Contreras used to against the Boston Red Sox while wearing pinstripes, it’s fairly obvious that there are no 10-game winning streaks looming on the horizon.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a season where every player who has been injured, gets re-injured after his return.  Hopefully, Derek Jeter just had a minor setback but at this point, it’s anybody’s guess what the second half of the season holds.

I still do not support trading top prospects for a glimmer of hope.  I think any mid-season deals at this point would only strengthen the possibility of third over fourth.  I do not see any potential deal that would make me line up to buy play-off tickets.  I would so love to be wrong, and you could argue that the Los Angeles Dodgers have arisen from the dead to become potential play-off contenders, but they aren’t pieced together like a quilt comprised of Goodwill cloth.

Erase the standings…well, except for the Yanks…

Even though they aren’t in the top 3 in the AL in wins, I still expect the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers to be the last men standing when the ALCS rolls around.  I don’t buy into the Red Sox “Juggernaut” and I expect the Rangers to eclipse the Oakland A’s this time around.  Tampa Bay will be a threat but in the end, the Tigers and Rangers should persevere.  Detroit will be so scaring if Justin Verlander starts pitching like he can and Max Scherzer continues his Verlander-like impression.

Holiday for A-Rod…

The latest A-Rod news has him proclaiming that he should be ready for the Bronx in about a week.  So, I say, Commissioner Selig, where are those suspensions?  It is time to send A-Rod to the bench.  50 games?  Life?  I would probably prefer the latter, but at the very least, the suspension should, in my mind, prevent his 2013 return.  I do not want to see #13 on the field regardless of the cost.  Sorry A-Rod, I am not a fan of yours.

What’s happenin’ in Scranton/Wilkes Barre and Trenton?…

At this point, 6 games down in the AL East standings, I’d probably prefer to see the Yankees give some younger guys a shot.  This is not 1978 where the Yankees have the team to overtake Boston to win the World Series.  With Rafael DePaula now becoming the most hyped Yankees pitching prospect, let’s see what he has at the major league level.  I’ve watch the Phil Hughes Show and it deserves to be cancelled.  It’s too bad that Hiroki Kuroda is nearing the end of a great career, the Yankees will be hard-pressed to replace both him and potentially CC Sabathia at the top two positions in the rotation if CC continues to struggle.

Do you want Hal’s office or Hank’s?…

So, should the Yankees re-sign Robinson Cano?  Absolutely.  He is the team’s legitimate star, and they need to build around him in coming seasons.  If they are looking for a second baseman next year in addition to a power bat in the middle of the order and the other missing pieces, it’s going to be shades of the 1980’s as the team will have to have some down years before they can re-emerge.

Hope on the horizon…

I was glad to see the Yankees finally sign first-round pick Aaron Judge.  Judge, an outfielder, seems to embody the right ingredients to be a future star in the Bronx.  I think I read the Yankees had signed their top 16 picks which is good.  It’s tough watching a guy like Gerrit Cole pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates knowing he was once a Yankees draft pick that didn’t sign.  I kind of feel the same way about Josh Pettitte.  I would love to see the Yankees sign Pettitte, but it’s been made very clear his path is college.  Andy’s professional success has given Josh the financial security to make that decision.  I can only hope the Yankees have another opportunity to one day draft Josh with the serious intent to sign him.

You need a clutch hit, I give you Donnie Baseball!…

Going back to the Los Angeles Dodgers, I want to say how proud I am of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.  His team came into the season with very heavy expectations and injuries derailed any chance of a strong start.  He became everybody’s favorite to be the next manager fired, but with a recent rally, he has the Dodgers within 2.5 games of the first place Arizona Diamondbacks.  I fully expect Donnie Baseball to surpass the D-Backs after the All-Star Break and he’s proven to me that he is a quality baseball manager.  There’s a reason he has always been my favorite when he puts on a uniform and he is not disappointing me this year.  He’s truly one of the game’s greats.

You’re a Knicks fan, I’m a Knicks fan, we’re ALL Knicks fans!…

I left the Los Angeles Lakes to become a New York Knicks fan before last season, and now Metta World Peace has apparently followed the same logic in signing with the Knickerbockers.  I am not crazy about J-Kidd coaching in Brooklyn, but hopefully the Knicks can pull together some magic for next season.

Sorry, I still can’t get used to the short hair…

Congratulations to Tim Lincecum for his no-hitter.  But it came too late to help my fantasy baseball teams as I cut bait long ago.  I guess if I were a baseball owner, I’d probably be George Steinbrenner.  Billy!!!!  ;)

–Scott

 

Fixing what ails them…

 

Turning the page…

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

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

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

Boo-yeah!  Great accomplishments…

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

Chasing the rumors…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better them than us…

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

Jamie Foxx for President…

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

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

–Scott

 

Where’s George Steinbrenner when you need him?…

Missing the point…

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

Excite the fan base…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Scott

Live by the sword, die by the sword…

 

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

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

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

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

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

The strong get stronger, the Yankees get older…

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

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

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

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

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

Have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  J

–Scott

 

Getting bug bites while lying in the weeds…

What to believe?…

Admittedly, I am concerned with the Yankees’ desire to get under $189 million in payroll by 2014, and what it will mean to the team in the long run.  Granted, many teams would love to struggle with the wherewithal to afford a payroll of $189 million, but the Yankees have $30 million tied up in annual salary to Alex Rodriguez and he’s hardly the player he once was.  As it stands, the Yankees need to find a quality, effective third baseman to play behind a guy who absorbs so much of the team’s payroll budget.  So, how much do the Yankees actually have to pay just to cover third base?  Obviously, the answer is a lot more than $30 million.

Granted, the Yankees are not about to become the new Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals, but to those teams’ defenses, they have better minor league systems at the moment (particularly the Royals).  In a statement of the obvious, the quickest way to reduce payroll is to replace highly paid, unproductive veterans with cheap, inexpensive young talent.  While there is quality youth in the Yankees’ farm system, most are at the lower levels.  The highly rated AAA prospects have stalled for various reasons, like Manny Banuelos and his Tommy John surgery.  A trade for young, inexpensive talent is not out of the question, but so far this off-season, the Yankees have been very quiet.  I do understand it when GM Brian Cashman says that you have to a tortoise and a hare.  Striking too quickly can be more expensive in some situations.  It is a never-ending balancing act.  Strike quick when you must, lay in the weeds when you can.

Is it time for Romine?…

While I am disappointed to see catcher Russell Martin depart (signing a two year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates), I realize that I won’t miss his .211 batting average.  At times, he was a force in the lineup with his bat, but other times, he completely disappeared.  The only downside is the lack of replacement talent at the major league level.  I do not feel that perennial backups Chris Stewart or Francisco Cervelli are starter material.  After a lost year due to injury, all indications are that Austin Romine needs another year of AAA seasoning.  At this point, I am probably with those who feel Romine should be given a legitimate shot at the job in spring training.  He has the pedigree (his father is former Red Sox player Kevin Romine) and he is 24 years old.  If he is healthy, he deserves a shot and certainly has more upside than the other catchers on the roster.

Regarding the loss of Martin, Cashman’s quote was “This isn’t something that caught us off-guard”¹.  Clearly, the Yankees have already identified a plan of action in the event Martin left.  But it will probably fall into the tortoise category.

Maybe Jenny Craig should be hired as a second bench coach…

This past week also brought forward a photo of a seemingly overweight Derek Jeter.  Staying with quotes from Brian Cashman, “It’s probably a wrinkle in the shirt”².  Hmmm, right…

 

 	November 29, 2012: Derek Jeter is seen limping around a South Beach hotel pool wearing a cast after surgery on his fractured left ankle today in Miami Beach, Florida.

INF PHOTO, New York Daily News

I have no reason to believe that Derek Jeter will not arrive at spring training in shape, but it’s tougher as you get older and having a foot in a cast is not ideal for physical workouts.  So, I guess that quality, effective third baseman we need for third had better be able to play short too.

Now playing in right field…

The Yankees have chosen not to be players for any major free agents.  It doesn’t mean that I think they should throw millions at Josh Hamilton, but they do need to find a quality replacement for departing right fielder Nick Swisher.  Plugging in an aging veteran is not the answer.  Hamilton is not old, but there are lower risk and lesser paid options available.

The sleeping giant or the ‘Feeble 40’?…

Brian Cashman says, “We’re still capable of a lot.  People should be leery of us and afraid of us, as if we’re the stalking horse”³.  I really hope so, but it appears to me that the 2013 roster will feature highly paid but underproductive veterans, supplemented by waiver signings and minor leaguers.  That might be a bit extreme, but it does feel that way at the moment.  I do not want to take away anything from the recent re-signings of Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Mariano Rivera, but the fact remains that all three are at the tail end of their respective careers. They’ll be serviceable major league players in 2013, and perhaps will shine at times, but they need help.  “40” is not necessarily the new “30”.

With the baseball winter meetings next week, we should start to see some moves unfold.  The Yankees need to strengthen their roster and put a team on the field next year that is capable of overcoming the Detroit Tigers (among other teams).  They also need to somehow excite the fan base.  George Steinbrenner felt like the master showman at a Barnum and Bailey Circus, whereas Hal Steinbrenner comes across as a nebbish bookworm (even if he really is not).  Yes, Yankee fans are spoiled but it’s also one of the largest fan bases if not the largest.  Rupert Murdoch would not have invested so much money into the YES Network if he believed the team was headed for a downward spiral.  But the truth remains that if left unchanged, the current roster is no better than third in the AL East and perhaps headed for worse in 2014 when guys like Pettitte, Kuroda and Rivera are settling into their retirement homes and the team makes the moves necessary to come in under the $189 million wire.

Despite my pessimistic comments, I do believe that the Yankees will do the right thing in the end.  I am confident the team that takes the field next April will be one capable of competing with the league’s best.  I guess maybe I always preferred the hare over the tortoise…

–Scott

 

¹ Source:  The New York Post

² Source:  The New York Daily News

³ Source:  The LoHud Yankees Blog

2013 begins, well, um, NOW!…

 

Quick, put together the 2013 World Champions…

So, thanks to the San Francisco Giants’ quick disposition of the Detroit Tigers, the infamous Hot Stove League has begun.  For the blueprint, the Yankees should take notice of the Giants’ pitching-first philosophy.  You can deal with a lot of spare parts on defense when you can put a stud on the mound.  Score enough runs to win in the regular season, and then shut down the opposition in the post-season.

It doesn’t matter the Giants had to dig out of some incredible holes to win.  They did want the Yankees couldn’t do…win with your backs to the wall.

Today, the reality of the off-season began when closer Rafael Soriano opted out of his contract and backup third base Casey McGehee chose free agency.  Granted, Soriano is the only vital piece of the equation but it is no sure thing the Yankees can re-sign Soriano.  With Mariano Rivera teetering on the brink of retirement, it would leave David Robertson as the closer.  Nothing against Roberson but he didn’t hold up too well in the role when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season this past year.  Robertson is probably better suited for his set up role.  Going long term (i.e., four years) for Soriano is insanity, so if the Yankees cannot re-sign Soriano on a two-year deal, they do need to look elsewhere for a replacement.  Maybe Joakim Soria is the right answer on a short term deal.

As for third base, the Yankees need to upgrade the back up position.  I like Eric Chavez, but I’d really prefer someone who could take the position for extended periods if necessary.  At this point, Chavez is no more than a spot starter.  Exposed to more play, he is an excessive health risk.

While the Yankees accepted their options for Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, the reality is that Nick Swisher has played his last game in pinstripes.  On one hand, that’s disappointing given how great Swish’s personality has been for the clubhouse, but on the other hand, the Yankees need more dependable production from right field.  Most of the early predictions place Los Angeles Angels free agent outfielder Torii Hunter with the Yankees, but an aged, formerly great player is not the answer.  The Yankees need to acquire another promising, but to-date underachieving player, who can thrive in New York.  Okay, easier said than done, but it’s possible.

The Yankees have to re-sign Hiroki Kuroda, but I do not expect both Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes back next year.  One of the two will be dispatched to a destination unknown.  I am not ready to give up on Hughes, so I suppose that it would be best for the Yanks to move Nova.  But as for a replacement, who do the Yanks bring in?  I don’t really see them spending the dollars it would take to lock up Zack Greinke, but perhaps there is a deal for a promising pitcher that makes sense.  After the Michael Pineda trade, the Yankees might be gun-shy but they need to maintain aggressiveness in acquiring a top line pitcher.

Destined to lose in Detroit?…

The Yankees never felt like a team of destiny this year.  They need to acquire the right players to create team unity and a team that is destined to return the Yankees to the main stage.

The next few weeks and months should be interesting…

 

–Scott

 

 

Over-promise and under-deliver…

The only non-dramatic series of the 2012 post-season…

Sadly, the 2012 season is over for the New York Yankees.  But admittedly, I did not feel the team had the horses to win the World Series this year.  I know, any team can get hot and take the championship (i.e., 2011 St Louis Cardinals), but the team’s hot and cold hitting pattern bothered me.  As the saying goes, “good pitching beats good hitting” so the Yankees’ hitting problems are magnified in the play-offs as they continually face #1 or #2 type starters.  If Robinson Cano had gotten hot, maybe it would have been different but no one rose to the challenge in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.

The ALCS loss by sweep was painful.  For me, it probably ranks with the 1976 World Series when they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds.  If memory serves, they won the World Series the following two years so I guess there is hope for next year!  Well, maybe not.  But all things considered, I’d rather be embarrassed on the ALCS stage than the World Series.  That’s probably awful to say because who wouldn’t want their team in the World Series and I am no different.  But I wouldn’t want to see the Yankees looking as pathetic in the World Series as they did in the ALCS if that makes any sense.

The 2013 season – optimism or pessimism?…

On the heels of Derek Jeter’s successful ankle surgery that will have him out for 4-5 months, there are reports that CC Sabathia will be consulting with Dr. James Andrews for his ailing left elbow.  Apparently, the ligament is intact so there’s hope that either rest or minor surgery to shave the bone spur in his left elbow will be the cure.  This definitely bears close watching over the course of the next few months.  If CC is unavailable to pitch in 2013, the Yankees would be lacking a legitimate #1 starter.  I have not heard how Michael Pineda has been doing, but he’ll  be expected to help fill the void in the rotation regardless of what happens to CC, assuming that he is healthy.  This was a difficult year for young Yankees pitching prospects, with injuries to Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, the latter of whom will be lost for 2013 due to Tommy John surgery.

The Yankees really need to do what it takes to ensure that Hiroki Kuroda returns for one more year, and hopefully, Andy Pettitte will decide to go for one more tour around the American League.  With the Houston Astros moving to the American League in 2013, Andy would be assured of playing a few league games at home.  It would be a great farewell tour with Andy pitching in Houston while standing on the mound with the interlocking N-Y on his hat.

Another year in, and I still don’t know what the Yankees have with Phil Hughes.  At times, he is so promising, but others, such a disappointment.  I am not sure that he can be trusted to be anything more than a #5 starter with his inconsistency.  The Yankees have tough decisions to make on both Hughes and reliever Joba Chamberlain, two pitchers who have seemingly been intertwined since they arrived in New York.

I am concerned about Alex Rodriguez and the huge adverse impact of his contract on the team.  The production no longer matches the pay, and of course, the pay prevents those dollars from being spent more wisely.  The Yankees will have to settle for “less” in other areas, which will further handicap the team’s productivity.  If the Yankees can find a way to move A-Rod, regardless of the cost, I would be in favor of it.  I’ve never been a big A-Rod fan, and I would prefer to see his association with the Yankees eliminated.

I want the Yankees to re-sign Robinson Cano, but if the cost is a 10-year, behemoth mega-million contract, I am not so sure the team should go down that road.  I am tired of these long-term deals where the player only performs to the level of the contract for the first few years.  Cano’s silent bat in the play-offs also was a red flag for me.  It’s disappointing because Cano has been one of my favorite players, but the future of an organization should not be tied to one or two players.  The St Louis Cardinals are an organization that always seems to make the right decisions for the good of the team, and it has worked out well for them.  They are a win away from the World Series despite letting one of the best hitters in baseball walk away last winter.

I do not want to be disrespectful of Derek Jeter and I recognize that he had a great 2012 season, but the fact remains that he’ll be a 39-year-old shortstop coming off ankle surgery heading into next season.

When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, it looked like a great signing…much better than the previous first base commitment to Jason Giambi.  But after a great 2009 season, Teixeira has not been the feared hitter that I thought he would be.  He has been great defensively, but never delivers the key, clutch hit.  Those ice cold starts to begin seasons are getting longer and longer.

I do believe the Yankees need to re-sign catcher Russell Martin.  I’d also like to see them either invest in a stronger back-up catcher or commit to Francisco Cervelli over Chris Stewart.

I had great respect for Eric Chavez when he was the starting third baseman for the Oakland A’s early in his career, and I’ve thought he was a great role player for the Yankees over the last couple of seasons.  But now is the time for the Yankees to move on and find a strong, reliable third base option to spot A-Rod (or replace him if they can somehow find a way to move A-Rod to Miami or Phoenix).

In the outfield, I am hopeful the healthy return of Brett Gardner will be a positive.  I have mixed feelings about re-signing Ichiro Suzuki.  I thought he rebounded to have a very productive end of the season, but the Yankees are too full of guys nearing or at 40 years of age.  A healthy Gardner can replace what the Yankees have in Ichiro…well maybe not the hitting ability, but all other components of his game.  I like Curtis Granderson and even though he underperformed in the play-offs, I would still like to see his return.  I’ve been a big fan of Nick Swisher, and have appreciated how his personality lightens the Yankees clubhouse.  But right field is an area in need of improvement.  If the Yankees can get Swisher to re-sign for a reasonable amount of dollars and years, maybe it makes sense to bring him back.  But if his expectation is 5-7 years at dollars approaching $100 million, then the team should let him walk.

I am not in favor of bringing either Andruw Jones or Raul Ibanez back.  Ibanez had some tremendous hits in the play-off series against the Baltimore Orioles, but the Yankees need to strengthen their bench with younger players who have greater upside.

I am glad to see the Yankees commit to both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi for the 2013 season.  I think both, if given the resources and support, can bring the team back to championship level.  At this point, the Yankees seem to be in an inferior position to the last place Boston Red Sox in terms of roster flexibility.  The Sox ability to unload dead contracts on the Los Angeles Dodgers late in the season was huge.  Now that the Sox have their guy as manager (John Farrell), there’s no doubt that we’ll see an improved Red Sox team next season.  If the AL East was highly competitive in 2012, it will be even more so in 2013.  The difference between first and last place could be which team makes the best decisions this off-season.  The margin for error will be less than it has ever been.

I hate to be so doom and gloom, but the Yankees have much work ahead of them.  Despite baseball’s highest payroll, they have a team comprised of older ballplayers that are experiencing the inevitable declines in production.  The dollars committed to unproductive players like A-Rod and Teixeira are an albatross for a team that wants to reduce its payroll by 2014 to avoid excessive financial penalties.  The Yankees do have the talent in the front office and certainly the resources to persevere so how they navigate the next few months will determine if the Yankees are a team of promise and destiny at the start of the 2013 or just another aging ball club that has seen its better years.

A fan of whatever team plays the Tigers…

Despite being an American League fan, it will be hard for me to cheer for the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.  With the Cardinals holding a 3-2 advantage against the San Francisco Giants heading into tonight’s NLCS Game 6, my preference is for the Giants to somehow find a way to overcome.  But if they are unsuccessful and the Cards advance to face the Tigers, I will pull for St Louis.  Residing in the Bay Area, the Giants are a “hometown” favorite for me; while the Cardinals are a “sentimental” favorite (my first major league baseball game as a kid was in St Louis).  Plus, as a fan of the Minnesota Vikings and San Jose Sharks, it would be tough for me to pull for any city that boasts the Lions or the Red Wings.

At this point, I am ready for the Hot Stove League to begin…

–Scott

Home Field Advantage doesn’t help when you can’t get home…

 

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

While the Yankees have gotten good starting pitching, the one thing I knew they lacked will most likely be the reason that they will find themselves, once again, on the sidelines.  Timely, clutch hitting.  For whatever reason, when the Yankees bats go silent, bad things happen.  After they were ousted last year by the Detroit Tigers, I felt the team needed to find some dependable, productive bats to help kickstart the offense during those lulls.  The weakness does not get overly exposed in the course of a 162-game season, but in a short 7-game series, it most certainly does (particularly when your opponent is able to put baseball’s best on the mound for one or two appearances).

The Yankees made a few minor moves in the off-season, but nothing to help enhance the offense.  Yes, they signed Raul Ibanez and he has had some great at-bat’s this post-season.  But face it, he is not the player he was a few years ago with the Philadelphia Phillies.  Ichiro Suzuki has been a positive but he was merely a replacement for what the Yankees had in Brett Gardner until he was injured.

When Robinson Cano is not hitting, there’s no one on the team that is capable of carrying the team on his back.  A-Rod’s best days are clearly in the rear view mirror.  Nick Swisher is a classic example of hot/cold, and Mark Teixeira is certainly not the feared slugger he used to be.

As I write this post, the Yankees trail the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, 2 games to none.  They are down 2-0 in the 5th, and Phil Hughes has left the game with a back injury.  Justin Verlander is the opposing pitcher (and the aforementioned “baseball’s best”).  The mountain the Yankees have to climb seems impossible from my vantage point.  Prove me wrong, I’d love it.  But the Yankees hitters just do not match up well against Detroit’s pitchers.  I was enjoying it earlier in the season when it looked like the Chicago White Sox might win their division, but they faded and allowed the team I feared most to make the play-offs.  Well, I feared the Tampa Bay Rays too, but started their late season rally too late.

Maybe Cherington was right to the blow up his roster…

The Yankees cannot go into the upcoming off-season with status quo in mind.  With Alex Rodriguez’s contract now becoming a huge albatross, what can the team do to overcome?  Derek Jeter had a great season until his ankle injury derailed him.  Can he put up another successful campaign next year.  I wouldn’t bet against him, but the realist in me knows that he’ll be a 39-year old shortstop.  At some point, the skills do start to erode.  If the Yankees decide that Robinson Cano is not worth a behemoth contract, how do they fill second?  At what point does Mark Teixeira become a liability?  Those long, slow starts are becoming longer and slower as the years go by.  All those questions and we havn’t even gotten out of the infield.

The Yankees and GM Brian Cashman have many difficult decisions ahead.  Putting the 2003 All-Star Team on the field is not the answer.  We need the 2013 or 2014 All-Star Team!  Okay, that’s not realistic, but the Yankees need players with talent, ability and lots of upside.  And, oh yeah, lots and lots of pitching.

George, are you there?…

Given that Hank Steinbrenner’s fingerprints were on the re-signing of Alex Rodriguez, maybe the first action of the off-season should be to neuter Hank and leave the critical decisions to Hal Steinbrenner.  Or better yet, seek a medium (is John Edward available?) to consult with the spirit of George Steinbrenner.

It’s disappointing to watch the Yankees underperform on their way to a quick exit from the ALCS.  Every divisional series went 5 games, and the NLCS has some fire to it.  Meanwhile, the Yankees choke.  C’mon, prove me wrong, I dare you…

 

–Scott

 

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