Results tagged ‘ Dodgers ’

A Magical and Memorable Day…

 

A Legend among Legends…

Most baseball fans remember attending their first major league baseball game.  For many of us, it happened during our childhoods so it was a special event to spend time with a parent, grand-parent or older sibling.  In my case, I attended my first game with my step-father.  My own father had died a few years earlier and he did not have the health in his final years to take me to any games.

I was excited when my step-father informed me that we could be traveling to St Louis by bus to see the Cardinals play.  My step-father had been a life-long Cardinals fan so he was probably as thrilled about the trip as I was.  My step-father had been very active with the local Elks club chapter, as a member and officer of the organization.  The bus trip to St Louis, a five hour drive, had been sponsored by the Elks club.  I am not sure why that’s relevant to this post, but it’s probably just a tribute to my step-father for the passion and support he gave the Elks over the years.

The date of the game was May 29, 1974, and it featured the Los Angeles Dodgers against the St Louis Cardinals.  It was a nice spring Missouri day at the old Busch Stadium, with the Arch looming in the background.  When I look back, I am in complete awe of the players who took the field that day.  At that point of my childhood, I considered myself a bigger football than baseball fan.  Like many of my friends, my favorite baseball team were the Oakland A’s.  I would not become a Yankees fan until the end of the year when A’s starting pitcher and Hall of Famer Jim “Catfish” Hunter would leave Oakland as a free agent to sign with the Yankees.

Thinking about the game, several players stood out to me that day as a kid attending my first professional game.  I was mesmerized by the Dodgers starting pitcher (and future Yankee) Tommy John and his pitching motion.  Surprisingly, I remember John more that day than the starter for the Cardinals, the legendary Bob Gibson.

For the Cardinals, centerfielder Bake McBride made the biggest impression…well, at least until the latter innings.  I thought the name “Bake” was rather cool, and he seemed to move effortlessly with great speed in the field.  He did not do anything with his bat that day, but I enjoyed the grace he displayed in the field.  Late in the game, the Cardinals brought in closer Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky even though they were trailing.  The intensity that Hrabosky brought to the game when he entered to pitch still gives me chills.  He brought the crowd alive, and although the Cardinals would lose the game, 5-2, Hrabosky made me a believer and he became my first favorite closer. I would have subsequent trips to St Louis and I always loved watching Hrabosky pitch while he was in his prime.  I think I’ve always had a favorite closer through the years as a result.  Rich “Goose” Gossage and Mariano Rivera are two other all-time favorites.

The memory of these players vastly overlooks the legends on the field that day (as I now recognize).  The Dodgers were managed by the great Walter Alston, while the Cardinals were led by long-time manager Red Schoendienst.  Some of the Dodger names that would have prominent roles in the ’77 and ’78 World Series agains the Yankees were there…Steve Garvey, Bill Russell, Ron Cey and Steve Yeager.  The Cardinals had Joe Torre at first and Ted Simmons behind the plate.  It is amazing how differently the game looks to me today as I recall it as opposed to my perception in May 1974.  I was blessed with the opportunity to see so many legends that day.

As memorable as the game was for me, it was, believe it or not, a trip to the restroom that has endured the test of time as one of my all-time favorite baseball moments.  It was the fourth inning and I made my way to the restroom.  Over the speakers, I heard that I missed the opportunity to see my first home run as Ron Cey connected off Gibson.  After using the restroom, I was walking down the corridor back toward my seat.  I saw a line of people waiting to see a guy who was signing baseballs and books.  There were actually two guys signing autographs.  I went to the shorter line, and it was famed St Louis Post-Dispatch sports writer Bob Broeg.  Nothing against Broeg, but I was more intrigued by the other gentleman as he was garnering the most attention.  After getting Broeg’s autograph, I got in the other line and worked up my way up to shake hands with none other than the legendary Stan “The Man” Musial.  I had been familiar with who Musial was through my step-father as he always spoke very fondly of the Cardinals great.  I was in awe but admittedly I did not appreciate the moment at the time in the way I do today.  Mr. Musial was very kind to me and it is an encounter that I will never forget.  I can still remember going back to my seat and telling my step-father, “I just met Stan ‘The Man’ Musial!”.

I was very saddened to hear the news of Musial’s passing this weekend.  I have always been grateful for the few minutes I had with him and he’ll always hold a special place for me as one of my all-time favorite players.  He will be missed and as many have written, he was “The Man”…

–Scott

 

Mr Rightfielder, are you out there?…

Why not dream big?…

Admittedly, I keep hoping the Yankees announce the acquisition of a proven slugger for right field, but the realist in me knows that the Yankees are truly serious about getting salaries beneath $189 million by next year.

I’ve also come to realize that whenever the Yankees are publicly attached to a certain player through rumors or expressed interest, those deals rarely come to fruition.  Such was the case with Washington Nationals first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse who was subsequently dealt to the Seattle Mariners.  I thought Morse would have been a good replacement for the departed Nick Swisher, but the Yankees obviously felt the cost in terms of prospects was too much.  Of the remaining options, there’s always the chance that GM Brian Cashman can parlay his good relationship with Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers into a deal for outfielder Justin Upton.  I am really not enamored with other possibilities like Vernon Wells.

I guess I am still waiting for that next Paul O’Neill type of deal to bring a fixture to right for years to come…

What if Boston’s acquisition of A-Rod had come true so many years ago…

Before I write these next words, please know that I am not a fan of Alex Rodriguez.  Therefore, my words about him will always be jaded.  My personal opinion is that A-Rod was as immersed into PED’s as the newly admitted doper Lance Armstrong.  I look forward to the day when A-Rod no longer wears the pinstripes.  When the reports about A-Rod’s ailing hip came to light, there were comments by his doctor that it was directly attributable to his poor play late last season.  But today, the news headline is that the cartilage damage was “less than expected”.  So, of course, my immediate thought was maybe the hip had nothing to do with A-Rod’s performance…he just tanked it as he always does in pressure situations.  The man who lives for his own personal stats is not a friend of mine and certainly not someone I want on my team.

Yogi Berra’s heir-apparent…

I am very pleased to see Jorge Posada accepting an invitation to spring training as a guest instructor.  There’s no doubt his exit from the Yankees could have been handled much better, but it is time to make amends and to embrace Jorge as a Yankees Legend.  Without question, the uncertainty of the 2013 starting catcher is a great opportunity for Jorge to mentor the right candidate for the job.  I think the starter will be Francisco Cervelli or Cervelli in a platoon with another catcher.  As much as I like Austin Romine, it’s just not quite his time yet.  Welcome back to the fold, Jorge!  Hip-hip, Jorge!

Andy, just say “no”…

I know that Andy Pettitte has not committed to the WBC or Team USA yet, but I really hope that it does not happen.  I am not convinced that the Yankees can get an entire season out of Pettitte who missed part of last year due to injury.  I do feel that 2013 most likely will be Andy’s last season so I hope that we can get the best possible Andy for his swan song.

I guess Jenny Craig does work…

After seeing all those photos of “fat” Derek a month or so ago, it’s clear from current photos that he’s in pristine condition and ready to take the field.  Derek has never been my favorite player (sorry, but Mariano Rivera has held that position since 1996), but he’s a future Hall of Famer and his number will be between Billy Martin and Babe Ruth in Monument Park after his playing days are over.  Derek has impressed me with many things over the years but his renaissance after talk he was declining shows how truly special the player is.  I have trust in DJ to know that when his time comes, he will walk away.  He will never be a burden to the Yankees roster…unlike his teammate to his right.

Youk!…

Back to A-Rod, I really hope that Kevin Youkilis holds third base for the entire season…

My favorite manager is…

I can’t help but think the stars are aligning perfectly for Don Mattingly to return to the Yankees as manager.  I do like Joe Girardi and I’d be in favor of an extension, but the Yankees’ sudden budget conservatism places the Yankees in a potential “letdown” season.  If the team loses, can Girardi hold his job?  Meanwhile, baseball’s new salary leaders, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have soared expectations to unimagined heights.  So, if the Dodgers underachieve, is Mattingly a potential fatality?  Mattingly has become a good manager so if the circumstances yield a result with Girardi unemployed and Donnie Baseball available, is #23 the next manager of the Yankees?  It could certainly happen.  As a huge Donnie Baseball fan, I’d like to see this outcome.  Sorry Joe…

Spring training is getting closer and closer.  I am ready…

–Scott

Who’s on First?…

Nobody was the right fielder…

I was surprised that nobody was elected to the Hall of Fame for the Class of 2013.  Count me among those who feel no consideration should have been given to the players accused or who have admitted steroid use.

There no circumstances that I would have supported putting Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens into the Hall.  From the sounds of it, it is the consensus of the HOF members.  However, I am probably not as hard line as Rich “Goose” Gossage who said “If they let these guys in ever — at any point — it’s a black eye fo rthe Hall and for baseball”.  I do believe there will be a day when Bond, Clemens and other suspected users should be given consideration.  With Barry, I realize that ‘roids changed his physique and surely powered a few homers.  However, his terrific hand-eye coordination was his own and not something derived through PED’s.

Same with Clemens.  He was a great pitcher from the start.  Maybe PED’s extended the career, but the ability to leave batters befuddled at the plate, mix up his pitches and play to the batters’ weaknesses was never drug induced.  Baseball has seen too many guys who could throw a baseball 100 mph but couldn’t harness the control to save their lives.  Clemens knew where to place his pitches and it was his natural ability that made him a star, not his suspected PED use.

I am not sure how long they should be excluded for the Hall but personally I would not want to see them allowed to enter for at least 5 years.  Admittedly, I am also in favor of Pete Rose’s entry to the Hall but I suspect that one won’t happen until Pete has met his maker.

The sad part about this entire issue is the presence of suspected and possibly undetected cheaters in the current HOF enshrinement.

As for the 2013 votes, Craig Biggio deserved to get into the Hall.  But I am not convinced he was a first ballot HOFer.  So I think 2014 will be his year as he will be enshrined at some point.

I did not believe that Bernie Williams was a legitimate Hall of Famer but it was still sad to see him make his final unsuccessful attempt.  Given the Yankees have not re-issued #51 or #21 (for Paul O’Neill), it is very likely they will be enshrined in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.  That certainly makes for a nice consolation prize.  I still see votes for Don Mattingly.  I would absolutely love to see Donnie Baseball make the Hall but realistically I do not believe it will happen.  Yet, he continues to garner sufficient votes to remain on the ballot.  Mattingly was my favorite player and has reached the status of my favorite manager.  I hope the expectations for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the newly adorned salary champions of baseball, do not become too overwhelming for Donnie to succeed.  If given the time and support, he will win a championship.

Much ado about something?…

Back to the Yankees, I think the Yanks should aggressively pursue Michael Morse of the Washington Nationals.  His bat would fit nicely into right field.  I would be inclined to move Ichiro Suzuki to left, and move Brett Gardner for prospects.  Morse is the kind of guy that I’d love to see the Yankees pursue.

Today was cold by Northern CA standards.  Yeah, to the Cheeseheads of Wisconsin in town for the NFL play-off game between the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers might beg to differ but I was shivering.  If there is a reason I left my beloved Minneapolis, this might be it.  Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…….

–Scott

 

Are Youk freakin’ serious?…

 

Sleeping with the Enemy…

News that the Yankees have signed veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis have not been well received in the Yankees Universe…obviously.  Sure, there have been a few ex-Boston Red Sox players make their way to the Bronx but certainly none who have been as despised as Youk.  His crime?  Playing with passion and all-out perseverance to find ways to beat the Yankees.  He is one of those tough, gritty players that are relentless and when they smell blood, it’s over.  Youk has struggled with injuries in recent years and he had a falling out with former Sox manager Bobby Valentine, who has historically taken to gritty players.  I know, there is the stat line that he only got one hit in his final 59 at-bats with the Chicago White Sox last season.  Nevertheless, I am willing to give Youk a chance.

Admittedly, I am not an Alex Rodriguez fan and I am still bent the Yankees didn’t let him walk away when he opted out of his first mega contract.  But with third base possibilities such as Eric Chavez and Jeff Keppinger signing elsewhere, the Yankees had to do something given that A-Rod will be lost for most of the season due to his upcoming hip surgery.  Going to camp with Eduardo Nunez as the starting third baseman, given the team doesn’t have a starting catcher or right fielder, was not appealing in any way.  No one really knows how A-Rod will play next season when or if he returns, so odds are they need a solid third baseman for the entire season.  With Youk on board, the Yanks still need to get insurance at third in case Youk goes down.  But I think as long as he gets sufficient rest, he’ll stay healthy and be an effective part of the Yankees lineup.

When Youk homers for the first time against the Red Sox, I am sure that the Yankee cheers will come around.  Yankee fans love players who play with passion so long as the player is on their team.  It will always be hard to look at Youk and not think of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, but he is not the same player he was then and this is a new chapter in his life.  When he walks away from the game, he will be remembered as part of the Red Sox organization but for a year or two, he can certainly make an effective contribution for the home team.

There are guys on the current Red Sox roster that I have great respect for, like Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia.  Youk was one of those guys.  Sure, I hated the guy in difficult games between the Yankees and Red Sox, but I always had a quiet respect for him.  Of course, this could all be premature as Youk still has to pass a physical but I look forward to seeing what he can do in the Bronx sans the famed goatee.  It will also be interesting to see if the Yankees continue to hold #20 in reserve out of respect for Jorge Posada or if they assign it to Youk given it was his number in Boston and Chicago.  I suspect he’ll end up with something other than #20, but until it happens, you never know.

I saw a quote in George King’s column in The New York Post from Mariano Rivera that I agree with completely:  “Yankee (fans) didn’t like him but he was wearing a Red Sox uniform.  I can’t decide for them but he will be my teammate and I have to respect him for that.”  Youk is a Yankee, and like Mo, I respect him for that.

Ichiro, Part II…

All indications are the Yankees will be coming to terms with Ichiro Suzuki on a new deal to keep him in the Bronx.  The question is whether it will be one or two years.  At 39, I’d probably prefer a one year deal so that the team can reassess its options at the end of the year.  Every move has been made with the intent to get the payroll under $189 million by 2014 for luxury tax purposes and a second year for Ichiro would erode into the dollars available for any talent upgrades next off-season.

As it stands, I do not like an outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro, but I will be interested to see who they bring in as the fourth outfielder.  Perhaps that individual will solidify this outfield corps into a strong and powerful unit.  I am not opposed to trading Granderson and moving Gardner to center, but the Yankees would need to replace his offensive production elsewhere in the lineup.  All signs so far this winter indicate the Yankees will not do anything to the extreme.  Yes, they could still swoop in with a blockbuster trade, but I highly doubt it.  The sad part is the current Yankees roster is not as strong as last year’s squad, while the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox have clearly improved.  Tampa Bay may have traded a top starting pitcher in James Shields, but they picked up one of the best prospects in baseball in Wil Myers.  Tampa also seems to be able to pull aces out of their farm system every year so there’s no doubt they’ll find a capable replacement for Shields.  Baltimore hasn’t made any major moves but they still have the team to over-achieve.  I do not know what next year will bring.  The Yankees still have December and January to improve, but the likelihood diminishes with each passing day.  If the Yankees falter in 2013, what does 2014 look like?  I can’t see the team suddenly reversing course and going into “Dodger” mode to sign free agents.  I think the Yankees will remain competitive, but I am not convinced they have the horses to win the World Series.

Maybe the All-Star Game should be the Dodgers against everyone else…

My favorite National League team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I am struggling with the thought of cheering for the two highest payrolls in baseball.  My affection for the Dodgers is primarily because of my long-time hero, Don Mattingly, but the huge salary outlay by the Dodgers will create unrealistic expectations in Dodgerland and it will be tough for Donnie Baseball if the Dodgers struggle.  I remain hopeful that he’ll one day find his way back to the Bronx to manage, but I am not pulling for him to get fired next year.  I am not sure who I would pull for in the NL if not the Dodgers.  I live in the Bay Area so there’s always the San Francisco Giants, but they’ve won the World Series in two of the last three years and I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon.  My fallback has always been the St Louis Cardinals because that’s where I experienced attending my first major league baseball game as a teenager so many years ago.  I suppose that I’ll stick with the Dodgers as long as Mattingly is there, but Magic Johnson and company have certainly made it more challenging by their willingness to spend excessively.

Why does February 12th (when pitchers and catchers report) seem so close yet so far away?…

–Scott

 

When a move that had to be made, is made…

Thank you, Merci, Gracias, Grazie, Danke, ありがとう

Yes, I admit it, I was worried that starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda was either going to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers or head back to Japan to pursue his stated intent to finish his career in his home country.  Pulling Kuroda out of the Yankees rotation was not a promising thought.  Given CC Sabathia’s recent minor surgery, it is no sure thing that he’ll be Mister King of the Hill when the season rolls around.  After CC, there is nothing but question marks.  As it stands, the rotation would be Sabathia, Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and David Phelps.  Nothing against the latter three, but all of them carry their own questions and concerns.  The Yankees are not going after a prize free agent pitcher, so they would have been left to try and find a diamond in the rough.  Fortunately, that’s no longer a concern, particularly if the Yankees get a return engagement from Andy Pettitte.

In the back of mind, I did feel that Kuroda would stay in New York due to a sense of unfinished business.  In his final season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, I remember he had veto power on trades and he made a comment that he wanted to finish the season with the guys he started the year with.  He struck me as a loyal and honorable player with those remarks, and despite rumors he left money on the table from other prospective clubs, he made the decision to return to New York on a one-year, $15 million deal.  This may be his second and final season with the Yankees, but he’s certainly proven to me that he has a great deal of integrity with a genuine respect for the game which places him among the upper echelon of guys who have put on the pinstripes.

Thanks, but don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

As for the other two notable Yankee free agents (Rafael Soriano and Nick Swisher), I am indifferent about who they sign with.  I would prefer to see neither player sign with an AL East club, but then again, they have to find the best deal for them wherever that may be.  I saw some speculation that the Boston Red Sox might go after Swisher, but after their signing of former Oakland A’s outfielder Jonny Gomes today, I wonder if it lessens their interest in Swish.  I am concerned about right field, but I have to trust that GM Brian Cashman has a plan.  His trade for Swisher a few years ago was inspired, and I am sure they’ve scoped the league for players who are long on talent but have underperformed to this point.  Logan Morrison of the Miami Marlins is one player who immediately comes to mind.

Player most likely to replace A-Rod during the inevitable DL stint…

Once we get past Thanksgiving and to the Baseball Winter Meetings, we should start to get a better idea of what the Yankees game plan for 2013 looks like.  I am sure that there will be late moves in January or early February, but at some point, the Yankees have to do something to improve their roster.  Complacency in the AL East will only buy you last place.

There hasn’t been much talk about catching, but I wonder who’ll be the backstop in 2013.  Russell Martin has not been a priority so the potential increases every day that someone steps forward with a reasonable offer that entices Martin to bite.  I get the sense that if he is healthy, Austin Romine may see some time behind the plate.  It’s too bad Gary Sanchez is still so far away in the minor leagues.

Hello, again…

I was surprised to see the Toronto Blue Jays bring back former manager John Gibbons, but then again, they brought back Cito Gaston for a second tour of duty (when he replaced Gibbons a few years ago).  Gibbons must be jazzed about getting control of his old team combined with the influx of great talent through the trade with the Marlins that brought Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Emilio Bonificio to Ontario.  Of course that adds pressure to the job due the increased expectations.  I was still surprised that the Jays didn’t try to keep Torey Lovullo (who followed John Farrell to Boston) given the recent trend to go with younger, unproven managers (ala Robin Ventura, Don Mattingly, Walt Weiss, Mike Redmond, etc.).  Not that Gibbons is old (he is only 50), but he does kind of have that ‘been there, done that’ stigma attached to him.

Why did I tell Boston to shove it?…

Speaking of the Marlins, I wonder how their new hitting coach Tino Martinez feels about the team now.  He signed with the Marlins just prior to the blockbuster trade, so the roster looks completely different now than it did when he joined Miami.  He’ll have his work cut out for him as the Marlins unveil a largely unknown roster when play resumes in April.

Hal, Rupert Murdoch on Line 1…

Now that the News Corporation has acquired a 49% stake in the YES Network, I wonder how much influence Rupert Murdoch will have on the Steinbrenner family.  The YES Network is dependent upon the success of the Yankees, and if Hal’s imposed budgetary constraints on the Yankees result in diminished performance, how loud does Murdoch become?  People will not pay premium dollars to watch a 70-win team on the field.  The Steinbrenner family insists this is not a prelude to the possible sale of the Yankees, but then again, Hal and Hank were always reluctant to join the team’s management when their dad was alive and healthy.  For years, it seemed like a Steinbrenner son-in-law had more interest than a blood-born Steinbrenner (outside of George, of course).  If someone told me that I could make billions, I am sorry but I’d have to let go of my affection for the Yankees.  If Hal is so focused on the bottom line, I believe that inevitably he’ll seek to cash out when the team is at an optimum potential sales price.

The next couple of years will be very pivotal years for the Yankees franchise.

Who died and made you George Steinbrenner?…

The Los Angeles Dodgers remain my second favorite team (otherwise known as my favorite National League team), but I maintain my reservations that they want to become the new “Yankees”.  It is not outside of the realm of possibility that they’ll surpass the Yankees in total annual salaries.  Yes, I am tired of simply buying players.  I do like the good old fashioned trade to help subsidize home-grown talent.  For years, that was the Dodgers’ business model and it is one that has helped propel the San Francisco Giants to two World Championships in three years.  I remain a devout Don Mattingly fan, but I hope that the organization is not creating expectations so great that Donnie Baseball can’t survive.  Then again, there is the scenario that the Yankees and Dodgers regress, and both Joe Girardi and Mattingly are fired, setting up the potential return to New York for the now experienced manager Mattingly.

I want to wish everyone a very happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving!  May it be a time of peace, joy, and robust memories for all of you and your respective families.  Of course, in Dallas, it will only be memorable if the Cowboys win, but everywhere else, I hope everyone is grateful and thankful for life and what life has to offer.  Be well and enjoy!…

–Scott

The Law of Diminishing Return…

 

Dollars to donuts…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Scott

 

The Hot Stove League Pre-Season is underway…

 

Yes, Brian, I want to believe…

“I am excited about the opportunities we have.”

I wish that I could say that was my quote, but unfortunately, I am not feeling as optimistic as GM Brian Cashman who spoke those words.

With the imminent departure of Nick Swisher, Rafael Soriano, and Hiroki Kuroda, combined with another year of age on Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, the future is not looking so rosy at the moment.  For a team that needs to upgrade its rotation, losing Kuroda would clearly be a setback.  I remain hopeful that the team will re-sign him to a one year deal since he appears willing to accept a short-term contract and all signs indicated he enjoyed his time in New York.  I really do not expect the Yankees to re-sign either Swisher or Soriano.  It’s unfortunate as I’ve appreciated the positive impact that Swisher’s personality had on the Yankees’ “corporate” clubhouse culture.  As Soriano, the excessively fat contract for a set up guy paid dividends when Mariano Rivera was lost for the season and he superbly stepped in to give the Yankees a top closer as a brief trial with David Robertson.

If the Yankees could sign Joaquim Soria to a set up role, I do think it would help neutralize the loss of Soriano.  There is also the possibility that reliever David Aardsma could move into the role, along with Robertson, if he successfully makes it back from his injury.

Replacing Swisher’s bat will be the tougher challenge.  No offense against Torii Hunter, but signing him to be the new right fielder does not make me excited.  I do like the talk of moving Brett Gardner to center and Curtis Granderson to left.  Hopefully, the Yankees can bring Ichiro Suzuki back for another year.  I am not sure what the best answer is for right.  The best options are only available through trade.

I read this morning that the Boston Red Sox had signed Atlanta Braves’ backup catcher David Ross, whom the Yankees liked.  I am surprised Atlanta let him get away given the health of starter Brian McCann, but it’s disappointing to see the Red Sox snatch away a player that could have helped the Yankees.

With a team that is trying so hard to reduce payroll by 2014 and one that devotes so much salary space to decreasingly productive guys like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, I just don’t see Brian Cashman being successful playing “Moneyball”.  When you consider how many dollars the Yanks have committed to A-Rod and his drain on the roster, it would appear to me that the team has less dollars to play with than any of their big city rivals if the end game is to avoid luxury tax and penalties in 2014.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been so appreciative of players like Jeter, Rivera and Andy Pettitte.  But the fact remains that they will be another year older in 2013 and at some point, they will begin to break down.  There doesn’t seem to be any high level prospects ready to step into their shoes.  I wish there was a way the team could move A-Rod and his albatross contract but that’s unlikely to happen.

I remain hopeful that Brian Cashman is able to make a move this winter to improve the team.  If the team stays status quo or struggles to replace those they will lose, I do not see the Yankees finishing any higher than third in the AL East next season.  But, of course, if Hal Steinbrenner lets Cash make the moves necessary to position the team for 2013, then they’ll be in the thick of the pack at the top of the division.

Tino, Tino, Tino!…

I am happy to see Tino Martinez become hitting coach for the Miami Marlins.  It is bittersweet to see him leave the Yankees organization, but much easier to see him go to his home state as opposed to being the hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox.  The latter was a real possibility as the Sox had gotten permission to talk to Martinez, but fortunately, he opted to go help Mike Redmond turn around the Marlins.  The Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite NL team in recent years due to manager Don Mattingly.  I enjoy seeing my favorites do well, even if they can’t do it in the Yankees organization.  Another example would be San Francisco Giants’ pitching coach Dave Righetti, fresh off his second World Series championship in three years.  Tino is certainly in the same class with those guys, and will always be someone that I will root for.  That’s why watching him go to Boston would have been so difficult.

Coach Giambino…

Speaking of hitting coaches, I am hopeful that manager “wannabe” Jason Giambi decides to take the hitting coach position with the Colorado Rockies.  Maybe he is not ready to hang up his bat just yet, but I think he would be a very positive addition to Walt Weiss’s staff and it would put him on the path of eventually reaching his goal to be a manager.  While I was surprised to see the Rockies go with Weiss as manager over Matt Williams, I recognize that Weiss knows the Rockies organization and they know him.  If he surrounds himself with the right coaching staff, I think Weiss can be highly successful in Colorado.

The Dodgers quest to overtake the Giants…

Regressing back to the Dodgers but staying on the theme of hitting coaches, I was mildly surprised by Mark McGwire’s decision to move from the Cardinals to the Dodgers.  I know that McGwire is a Southern CA guy, but still, the Cardinals were his organization.  Maybe that’s why it is best to move to another organization so that your legacy as a player is the primary association.  Granted, McGwire does not have the untarnished reputation like Mattingly had in New York, but hopefully it works out for Big Mac.  Performance-enhancing drugs or not, the guy knows how to hit.

It’s funny, particularly given my long history of being a Yankees fan, but I am a little put off by the free spending ways of the new Dodgers ownership group.  While I believe that you have to spend to put a quality team on the field, spending frivolously seems excessive.  For the Yankees, I only need to use A-Rod as the example.  Over $30 million in one season devoted to a player whose skills are rapidly eroding.  $30 million would go a long way toward bringing in multiple quality…and productive…players.  The Dodgers should no qualms about picking up the contracts of Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford when it remains to be seen if they can rise to the current level of their contracts.  It looks like high stakes poker to me with much potential for disaster.

In a couple of weeks, the Hot Stove League should start heating up and it will be interesting to see what form this off-season takes.  I am cautiously optimistic, but understand that it’s very possible the Yanks go into next season hoping some young guys from the farm system are ready to take it to the next level.  I guess I now know what it’s like to be a fan of the Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals…

–Scott

 

It’s 613 miles to Detroit. We’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses…hit it!…

 

Are you mocking me?…

The final series of the season has begun and the Yankees find themselves a game up on the Baltimore Orioles with two games to go in the battle for AL East supremacy.  It’s been a dogfight since the O’s caught the Yankees earlier in the month, and the two teams have pretty much matched each other stride for stride since that time.  Sunday, when the Yankees were trailing the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1 after the O’s had won was the first time that I legitimately felt the Yankees could end the day in second place for the first time since early in the season.  Fortunately for me…and the Yankees, they fought back to emerge with a 9-6 victory.

A season of surprises…

After years of Yankees-Red Sox and most recently, Yankees-Red Sox-Rays, I never expected this to be the year that the Baltimore Orioles would emerge as the Yankees’ primary nemesis.  Still, the Tampa Bay Rays are the team that scares me the most.  With their pitching, they have the potential to go all the way if they make it.  Granted, it’s clearly an uphill battle for them, but they are perhaps the hottest team in baseball right now with 11 wins in 12 games.  Hopefully, the Oakland A’s will end the Rays’ quest but I’d like to see the Rays with an opportunity for at least one more night so they’ll play at the top of their game against the O’s again tomorrow night.  If the A’s win against the Texas Rangers tonight, then it’s over for the Rays.  I am thankful that the Rays’ run got started so late in the season.  If it had occurred earlier, there’s little doubt they’d be bumping shoulders with the Yankees and O’s.

While I am surprised about the successful O’s season, I am flabbergasted by the dismal failure of the Boston Red Sox.  This is a team that could have and should have won the AL East in 2011, but after tonight’s game, the team stands at 91 losses.  It is the highest loss total since 1965 when they lost 100 games.  There’s no threat of 100 losses, but this is clearly an inferior Red Sox team.  I think they’ll be much improved in 2013 but the team has much to do in order to re-tool the once championship squad.  In my opinion, Bobby Valentine has to go.  He has contributed to the dysfunction of the 2012 season and while the losses may not be his fault, he is not the right man for the job.  I do not necessarily think that John Farrell is, or that last year’s runner-up, Gene Lamont, should get the job.  If I were the Red Sox GM, I’d probably go with a guy who has a great deal of minor league managerial experience but has never gotten the opportunity at the major league level, Ryne Sandberg.  He’d be respected by the players and he has the ability to effectively communicate with the younger prospects.

I thought this would be the year the Toronto Blue Jays would take a step forward.  If I would have had to choose between the O’s and the Jays at the start of the season, I probably would have taken the Jays. But I felt they regressed this year.  Well, actually they did.  Who knows how this plays out for John Farrell.  It could be ownership is more willing to let him go to Boston, but of course, does Boston want him and is he truly the right fit?  This remains to be seen.  Nothing like some good old fashioned drama as we head toward the off-season.

As for the other races, I was disappointed to see the Chicago White Sox fade.  I felt they had their division, but the talent of the Detroit Tigers persevered and thrust the team into the lead with a few games left.  Out west, there’s no doubt the Texas Rangers were going to be the champion, but to put the A’s into the play-offs over the Los Angeles Angels was a surprise.  Oakland’s pursuit of Yoenis Cespedes doesn’t look so far fetched now.

In the National League, I never would have predicted a division championship for the Washington Nationals.  They earned and deserved it, but I didn’t foresee it.  The awful season the Philadelphia Phillies experienced was a surprise.  Hey, Cliff Lee, how does that decision to rebuke the Yankees feel now?  I know, one season does not a mega-million contract make, but hey, this is baseball and it’s all about ‘what have you done for me lately?’.  Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves for at least nailing the Wild Card slot.

The Cincinnati Reds were not a surprise, even playing in the same division as the St Louis Cardinals.  This was destined to be a challenging year for the Cards with a new manager and first baseman.  The Cardinals should still make the play-offs, but this division played out as expected.

The NL West is where I am perplexed.  Although I currently reside in the Bay Area, my NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers.  This is primarily because of the manager (Don Mattingly).  But after the expensive acquisitions late in the season (Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Brandon League and others), I really thought the Dodgers would be well poised to surge to the division championship.  Of course, I fully underestimated the San Francisco Giants and their pitching staff.  Tim Lincecum may have had his struggles this year, but I’d still hate to face him in October with all the chips on the table.

Welcome to the 2012 World Series…

As for my prediction of World Series participants, I am going to go with the Cincinnati Reds versus the Texas Rangers.  The Reds, in my opinion, have a slight advantage over the Washington Nationals.  Of course, I’ve underestimated the San Francisco Giants all season long so why should I change now?  I know this is a Yankees blog and I should be ‘all in’ on another Yankees participation in the World Series.  But I am just not convinced the team has the clutch hitting to succeed.  Hey, I hope they prove me wrong, but I don’t really see anyone else emerging from the AL than the Rangers.  I do not like the Rangers but I recognize that their hunger for a World Series championship remains and they have the talent to succeed.  Best case scenario?  The Yankees go to the World Series to face the San Francisco Giants and see how their hitters perform against former closer Dave Righetti’s aces.

It seems like the season just started but now just two games separate us from the 2012 post-season.  The race to the World Series begins…

—Scott

 

Melky, what were you thinking?…

 

Disappointing…

I am not quite sure what was reaction was when I heard that San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera had been suspended for 50 games due to substance abuse.  As a former Yankee, I watched his career as it went through Atlanta and Kansas City before his arrival in the City by the Bay.  The year in Atlanta was forgettable, but Melky rebounded in Kansas City and continued his renaissance in San Francisco.  The highlight of the year for him was capped with the MVP Award for the All-Star Game.

When Melky was a Yankee, he was often in the mix for game-winning hits and the recipient of one of A.J. Burnett’s pies.  It was tough to see him go to Atlanta in the ill-fated trade for Javier Vazquez but I had hoped that he would have a chance to thrive outside of Yankee Stadium and the platoon situation he found himself in.  Even with his recent success, I still feel that Brett Gardner, when healthy, is a better fit for the Yankees.  Nevertheless, I was glad to see that Melky had found major league success as a regular.

Well, until the day it was announced that he had been suspended.  I lost most if not all respect that day.  Melky’s quick acceptance of his suspension only rubbed salt in the wound, and now there’s a report that he staged a bogus website in a botched attempt to mask his guilt.  I can gladly say that I am glad that Melky is not a Yankee today.  I would not want him on my team and if I was the Giants’ GM Brian Sabean, I’d cut my losses and move on.  The last thing the Giants need is a player with the aura of substance abuse, particularly on the heels of former Giants outfielder Barry Bonds.  Character should be the first criteria when determining if a player is a good fit for any organization.  Yes, athletic ability and talent rank very highly but it means nothing if the player is one of poor character.

News of the totally irrelevant…

Speaking of substance abuse, it’s ironic that another former Yankee is again in the news.  There were reports that Roger Clemens has signed with an independent team.  Seriously?  A 50-year-old pitcher trying to make a comeback?  The only guy who could make Jamie Moyer look like a teenager?  I don’t care if Clemens was acquitted in June.  He is one guy that I never want to see wear pinstripes again or ever set foot on Yankee Stadium soil.

I have been supportive of current Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte.  There was something very honest about Pettitte’s admission of substance abuse a few years back.  Maybe he has all of us fooled.  Maybe not.  I tend to believe the latter.  On the other hand, I don’t believe anything Roger Clemens has to say.  Nor do I believe Alex Rodriguez for that matter.  I tolerate Rodriguez because he is on the Yankees but I am not a fan of his.

I’d like to put Melky in the category of guys that should be forgiven, but he just strikes me as another Clemens or A-Rod at this point.  It is incredible that a guy, at this point in time, would risk millions by doing something that is so closely watched.  He was on the fast track for failure.  I doubt we’ve seen the last of Melky but I hope that he learns something from the time off.

I was a Yankee for two months…

I know that the Ichiro in Pinstripes Era is very short-lived and will be expiring at the end of the season, but it was a joy to see him hit two home runs off Josh Beckett in the weekend series against the Red Sox.  Although the Yankees only took two of three from the Sox, this is not the same Red Sox squad of years passed.  Although Bobby Valentine has gotten a vote of confidence from the Front Office, I don’t see how he makes it past just one season in Boston.  It is no secret the Sox covet Toronto Blue Jays manager John Farrell so if there’s a way to pry him from Canada, I am sure that he will be immediately named the next manager of the Sox.

How did I go from Ichiro to John Farrell?  I am not quite sure about that one myself…

Where did all these former Dodgers come from?…

It’s only a brief sample, but I really wouldn’t mind seeing Derek Lowe return as the long man in the pen next season.  I’ve always admired Lowe’s competitiveness and determination.  It’s still a bit weird watching him in pinstripes, but he is a welcome addition.  There’s no doubt that I want to see the return of pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.  He’s been even better than I had anticipated.  I always wondered why Dodger fans were so endeared to him as I had viewed him as a middle of the road starter.  But, wow, I was wrong!  I totally get why he meant so much to Dodger fans.  The team would be lost without Kuroda, particularly after the DL stints of most notably CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.

It’s hard to believe that September is right around the corner.  I guess we will soon be inundated with magic numbers.  There is only one number I am concerned about…#28.  Let’s go, Yankees!

–Scott

 

Forgiving Damon for that 2004 homer…

 

Sayonara, old friends…

This was a sad week for former Yankees stars as Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon were designated for assignment by their respective teams (Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians).  Matsui has subsequently been released and Damon’s release is imminent.  I doubt that either player will be picked up at this point in the season so it is most likely the sunset of both careers.

For Matsui, I think his original plan was to only play in the United States for three years but I am grateful that he extended his stay. He may not have been the “monster” player that he was in Japan (a/k/a Godzilla), but he knew and understood the power of the timely hit.  Time and again, Matsui had a key hit to propel the Yanks to victory.  He always seemed to rise to the occasion in the intense Boston-New York wars.  In terms of character, he could easily stand in the same room with guys like Derek Jeter.

It hasn’t been fun watching Matsui wear Angels, A’s, and Rays jerseys, but he will always be Yankee.

As for Damon, it is ironic that a player who played such a key role in the Red Sox breaking ‘The Curse of the Bambino’, plus the entire Caveman image, could become a valued Yankee.  Unlike Matsui, I won’t view Damon as a “Yankee” given his long tenure and success with other teams, but for his time in New York, he showed nothing but class and dignity.  Like Matsui, he was a clutch player who seemed to excel in the bright lights.

Introducing Billy Beane’s latest star pitcher…

With the apparent end of two great careers this week, I saw the opposite on a plane trip from Portland, OR to Oakland on Thursday.  The guy I was sitting next to was excited to be flying to Oakland to see his son, Dan Straily, make his major league pitching debut for the A’s on Friday night.  He was proud to say that his son led all of baseball in strikeouts, and talked about the hard work his son had accomplished to get to this point.  For the game, Straily didn’t figure in the decision, but his performance was a success:

 

Oakland Athletics
Pitchers

IP

 H

 R

ER

BB

SO

HR

PC-ST

ERA

D Straily

6.0

5

1

1

1

5

0

102-70

1.50

 

The A’s won the game, 5-4, in 15 innings.  I am sure that we’ve not seen the last of Mr. Straily.  Here’s hoping this is the start of a long and memorable career for Straily, his father and the rest of their family.

When in doubt, pick up a Pirate…

While the trading deadline was very active compared to recent years, it was another quiet period for the Yankees.  As the now fiscally conservative Yankees had been preaching, they did not make any moves for expensive, short-term rentals.  They picked up a need (third baseman Casey McGehee) to ensure that backup third baseman Eric Chavez is not over exposed to playing time while starter Alex Rodriguez is on the DL.  It’s a shame that Chavez is such an injury risk at this stage of his career, but I agree that it is best to limit his playing time for the good of his long-term health.

I thought the Yanks might try to make a move for a pitcher (someone like Ryan Dempster or Matt Garza) but it was clear that they would not overpay.  Time will tell if they made the right decisions, but I still have concerns about the team’s offense in the play-offs when every pitcher they face will be a #1 or #2 starter.  But September should see the return of top pitcher Andy Pettitte and a fresh Alex Rodriguez so perhaps those will be the team’s noteworthy “acquisitions” that boost team momentum.

Magic seems to be enjoying his new hobby…

The Los Angeles Dodgers have clearly re-emerged as a force in baseball with the new ownership group as they were the most active team in acquiring upgrades over the past couple of weeks (Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton).  I guess they’ve gotten over the reign of Frank McCourt and have shown that they are back in the game.  The San Francisco Giants are a strong team, but I think the Dodgers’ moves will help propel them past the Giants to the NL West pennant.  Good for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly who remains one of my favorite guys in Major League Baseball.

Nothing but crickets…

I was surprised the Boston Red Sox didn’t make any moves.  If there was a team that I had expected to make noise at the trading deadline, it was the Sox.  I don’t think they should give up quality guys like Jacoby Ellsbury or Jon Lester, but there were moves they could have made to give the team a jolt.  I may not be a fan of the Red Sox so I might be biased in making this comment, but I hope that this is a ‘one and done’ season for Boston manager Bobby Valentine.

We’ve moved into August and the Yankees hold a 6 ½ game advantage at the moment, but admittedly, it’s hard to get comfortable when that team in the rear view mirror is the Tampa Bay Rays.  The next couple of months should be interesting.  Let’s win this thing!…

–Scott

 

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