Results tagged ‘ Don Mattingly ’

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 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

 

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

 

I must be in the front row!…

 

Slip, slidin’ our way to first place…

Here I was getting concerned about the uneven start to the 2012 season and the Yankees have quietly showed up at the threshold of first place in the AL East.  A few weeks back, there was just a game I believe that separated the Yankees from the Red Sox.  Ironic since Boston had gotten off to such a horrid start.  But the Yankees started to win, and they now share first place with the Tampa Bay Rays after defeating the New York Mets tonight.  The Mets game, by the way, shows that Hiroki Kuroda misses the National League.  He was stellar tonight in the 9-1 victory.

Speaking of pitching, I have continued to be very pleased with the return of Andy Pettitte.  He had a not-so-great start followed by perhaps his best start in years.  Andy has been a great Yankee.  Yes, there is the association with steroids but Andy has taken far more personal accountability than most of the ‘roid users that we have seen.  When I think of the great Yankees, the guys that should be forever immortalized as part of the great Yankees franchise, Andy is in the same room.  When Whitey Ford passes, Andy will be the greatest living lefthander in franchise history.  I can still remember when he first came up from the minor leagues.  I certainly never thought that he’d have such an illustrious career.  There’s those Houston years, but the Yankees could have and should have done more to keep Andy in the fold.  Conversely, maybe Andy needed a few years away to realize how much he loved the Yankees.  He may be a Texan by birth and by heart, but he’s a Yankee forevermore.

Glad to see that Mark Teixeira is hitting again, but then again, it’s June so he is supposed to be…

I am anxious to see how much better the Yankees can be when Brett Gardner gets back on the field.  Nothing against Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, or the rest of the fill-in’s, but the Yankees lineup has been missing Gardner’s speed…

Russell Martin deserves a contract extension.  Get ‘er done!

I love David Robertson but the only place for him to go is the 8th inning.  Rafael Soriano has earned the closer’s role in his absence and the team is stronger with Robertson-Soriano than it is with Soriano-Robertson…

I like the draft pick of pitcher Ty Hensley, and I appreciate his excitement about being a member of baseball’s most storied franchise…

Robinson Cano has been and still is the team’s MVP…

But Curtis Granderson gets honorable mention…

I enjoy having Joe Girardi as manager, but I am very impressed by the growth and maturity Don Mattingly has exhibited as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I will always be a Donnie Baseball fan and it is sad that he’s not a part of the Yankees organization currently.  Maybe one day he can find his way home…

It’s still a long season, but I like where the Yankees are at.  I fully expect an upcoming hard run by the Boston Red Sox and there’s no way that the Tampa Bay Rays are going to go away.  But it should be a fun ride to the end of the season…regardless of the outcome.  Go Yankees!

–Scott

 

Can you throw 95 mph…and beat the Sox?…

 

If you can beat Boston and Tampa Bay, we want you!…

The Yankees’ season of uneven play continues.  They go to Oakland and sweep the A’s, and then lose a series to the Angels of Los Angeles but located in Anaheim or whatever they are called these days.  Granted, the Angels have always been a thorn in the Yankees’ side, but they started the season slowly so there was hope it would continue through the series with the Yankees.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  At the least the Yankees salvaged the final game of the season.  It is always good to win the get-away game regardless of the outcome of the prior games in the series.

Given the Yankees had pinned much of their 2012 hopes on starting pitcher Michael Pineda (lost for the season due to injury), it is not a surprise that trade rumors are starting to surface.  I saw one today about interest in Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs.  I’ve always liked Garza, and even if his time in Chicago has not been stellar, the guy knows how to pitch in the AL East.  He’s not going to be the second coming of Roy Halladay, but he would be an effective choice.  I would think that a trade for Garza, among other highly touted prospects, would include either Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova.  I couldn’t see the Cubs making the trade for prospects only.  I also couldn’t see the Yankees trading Hughes given his recent strong performances.  But including Nova would cost greater minor league talent to be included.  What I don’t want to see is a trade for the Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez.  He has had a decent season so far, but the AL East is a different animal and I’d rather have someone with proven experience.

I saw a comment on one of my recent posts that Yankees fans needed to get over losing Cliff Lee.  Huh?  Where did that come from?  Yes, I would have liked to have signed Lee, but he obviously preferred to return to Philadelphia.  There’s nothing wrong with his choice.  I’ve moved on, and I think other Yankees fans have too.  Just because we are concerned about the state of the current starting rotation has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not we lost out on Lee.

Youk, the star of Chavez Ravine…

I saw today that the Boston Red Sox are trying to move Kevin Youkilis in a move that would not qualify as a surprise.  Will Middlebrooks has shown that he is major league ready and the earlier confrontation in the media between manager Bobby Valentine and Youk shows that the clutch hitter supreme might be better suited in a different uniform.  Given the Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite NL team, I am hopeful that the Dodgers will acquire Youk for manager Donnie Baseball.  I’d really hate to see the Sox trade Youk to the Rangers and only strengthen what has been the AL’s best team.

Leave it to Santana to say “f” Mets history…

About a week ago or so, I was listening to the guys on MLB Radio talk about how the New York Mets did not have a no-hitter despite having no-hitter king Nolan Ryan on their roster at one time.  But of course all good things must end as Johan Santana threw a no-no tonight.  Congratulations to Santana as it has been a tough road since he left the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it must be a…

I am a big fan of David Robertson, but I am hopeful that manager Joe Girardi keeps Rafael Soriano in the closer role and returns Robertson to his key setup position.  Robertson is the best setup guy in baseball in my opinion.  Sori has showed signs of his dominance several seasons back as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays as the team’s closer.  He’s no Mariano Rivera, but I think Robertson-Soriano provides the Yanks with the best case scenario all things considered.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  J

Scott

 

Down but far from out…

 

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”…

There is a reason that Mariano Rivera has been my favorite Yankee for a very long time.  I know that Derek Jeter is a quality guy and a favorite of many, but for me, Mariano Rivera has always been the premier player in my opinion.  It doesn’t mean that I feel Jeter’s not a great player…he is.  He is most likely a first ballot Hall of Famer and will go down as the greatest shortstop in Yankees history (with no disrespect to Phil Rizzuto).  But Rivera has always handled himself with dignity and class, and he’s always been accountable when things have gone wrong.  He has never disrespected another player or team, nor has he placed blame anywhere but with himself.  He hasn’t always been perfect, but he’s clearly the best closer in major league history (with no disrespect to Goose Gossage).

I have been dreading the day when Rivera walks off the field as a player for the final time.  But I never dreamed that, potentially, his final moment would be inability to walk off the field under his own power. It was very disheartening to see the pre-game injury when Rivera tore the ACL in his knee this week against the Kansas City Royals.  I kept hoping for the best when I first heard the news, but it is now known that he’ll miss the remainder of the season.  Given that he is 42, the road to recovery is going to harder than if he was still in his 30’s.  Nevertheless, withn 24 hours, Rivera was saying that he wasn’t going to go out like this and that he’d be back next season after much speculation this might be his final season prior to the injury.

If Mo says that he’ll back, I am fully confident that he will be.  I am sad that we won’t see #42 come out of the bullpen for the rest of the year, but I look forward to next season when Mo perhaps takes the final lap in what has been a legendary career.  I will always be appreciative that Rivera wore pinstripes, from beginning to end, and he’ll remain one of my favorites in the history of the storied franchise.

That first step is a doozy…

David Robertson has big shoes to fill as he steps into the closer’s role but I have faith and confidence in his abilities.  I hope that Rafael Soriano is up to the challenge of making a positive impact as he slides back into the role of primary setup man.  Just as Andy Pettitte has become a much more needed pitcher than he was when it was announced he was going to pitch this year, the need for the return to good health for Joba Chamberlain is equally important.  I am glad that one of Manager Joe Girardi’s strengths is his ability to work the bullpen so I continue to view the Yankees relief corps as a strong unit despite Rivera’s absence.

A few favorites…

With Rivera as my favorite current Yankee player, it made me think of my other favorites:

  • Favorite living former Yankee:  Don Mattingly
  • Favorite former Yankee who played during my lifetime:  Thurman Munson
  • Favorite all-time player:  Lou Gehrig
  • Favorite manager:  Billy Martin (followed closely by Joe Torre)
  • Favorite owner:  George Steinbrenner
  • Favorite current Yankee (excluding Rivera):  Robinson Cano
  • Favorite Yankees team:  1998 Yankees (closely followed by 1927 Yankees)

There are many other players that I will always have special feelings for…most notably, pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, for whom I attribute to why I am a Yankees fan today.  I was a fan of the Oakland A’s and Hunter in particular when I was young, but everything changed when he signed with the Yankees as a free agent in December 1974.  I had always admired the history and the tradition of the Yankees (the first book I recall reading was a biography about Lou Gehrig), so bring the combination of the Yankees and Hunter together brought me to the team as a fan.  I’ve been a faithful one ever since that time.

I’d be remiss by not mentioning Mickey Mantle.  A great player who really could have been even greater than he was.  I was able to attend his funeral in Dallas, and I remember seeing a few of the former Yankee greats who were in attendance.  It was an experience that I’ll never forget.  Bob Costas delivered a tremendous eulogy.  It’s amazing to think of what Mantle could have accomplished if he had held himself to the same standards as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera do.

Yogi Berra, of course, is an invaluable link to the Yankees’ history of success.  There are way too many guys to acknowledge, but these are a few that stand out to me.

Hard to close…

It’s amazing to me how 2012 has been the Year of the Fallen Closers.  So many closers on the DL (Rivera, Andrew Bailey, Drew Storen, etc.); so many demotions (Jordan Walden, Carlos Marmol, whoever is pitching for the White Sox, etc.); and guys who are on the brink of losing their jobs (most notable being Heath Bell).  This is one of the only years in fantasy baseball where all my bench slots are filled with guys on the DL.  But as they say, one guy’s misfortunate is another guy’s opportunity.  Sports is about the ability to step up and take it to the next level.

Game of Stars…

I realize that Bryce Harper is only 19 but I am hopeful that he can find success at this level now rather than a return trip to the minor before he is ready.  I can’t recall a player who has received as much hype (well, perhaps Stephen Strasburg) but I genuinely would like to see the player match (or even exceed) the hype.  It is good for baseball.  Robin Yount was in the majors by age 19 and I think he had a fairly successful career (<understatement).  While I still question the signing of Jayson Werth, it is fun watching the accumulation of talent in DC.  I am just glad they play in the NL and not the AL.

Where’s the caveat?…

When a pitcher throws a no-hitter like Jered Weaver did this week against the Minnesota Twins, they should come up with a degree of difficulty score.  C’mon, it was the freakin’ Twins!  It wasn’t like Weaver was facing the monster bats of Texas, New York, Tampa, Detroit, or Boston.  So, while a no hitter is a great achievement, it’s hard not to discount Weaver’s performance.

What am I doing writing this post?  I should be in line to buy my ticket to see The Avengers!  Have a great weekend, everyone!  J

–Scott

 

Is Generallissimo Francisco Franco still dead?…

 

Isn’t this kind of like pulling my finger- and toe-nails?…

One thing I’ve learned with these extended A.J. Burnett trade talks, patience is not my middle name and it’s not one of my virtues!  While the Michael Pineda-for-Jesus Montero came very fast and furiously, the potential Burnett trade has been dragging for an eternity.  There’s no question the Yankees have identified the Pittsburgh Pirates as the prime target.  It’s been reported that the Yankees and Los Angeles Angels were willing to make a trade that would have brought the return of Bobby Abreu to the Bronx, but it was nixed by A.J. as the Angels were one of the ten teams on his no-trade list.  This actually blows my mind to think that he’d turn down the Angels, arguably one of the best teams in the major leagues with Jered Weaver and Albert Pujols, but he’d be willing to go to Pittsburgh.  To me, and maybe I am off-base, baseball is about winning and championships.  Nothing against the Pirates, but the Angels, as currently built, will see deep October sooner than the men from the Steel City.

Granted, Burnett would be the #2 starter on the Pirates staff and no better than #5 on the Angels.  But, c’mon, how much pressure can there be pitching behind Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, and Ervin Santana?  With Burnett in a low-risk situation, the Angels would have an absolutely ridiculous starting rotation and one that would clearly put the Philadelphia Phillies in an inferior position as baseball’s best rotation.  But Mrs. Burnett apparently has issues with flying, so the perfect situation for Burnett won’t happen.

What will it take to consummate the deal with the Pirates?  I’ve read the Yankees have proposed a sliding scale…the more money the Pirates take in salary, the less the Yankees will seek in terms of prospects.  I do think that Burnett could excel in Pittsburgh.  There’s pressure but it is certainly nothing like playing in New York.  A.J.’s problems tend to be mental as there is no questioning the value of his great arm.  I think A.J. can relax and trust his stuff better in a lower-pressured situation.

For the Yankees, I think the #5 slot is Phil Hughes’ to lose regardless of the contract the Yanks gave to Freddy Garcia.  Garcia will be the long man and spot starter.  That leaves no room for Burnett, and of course, that would only bring a bad attitude if he reports to camp with the Yankees.  So, hopefully, GM Brian Cashman can put the distractions of his poor sleeping partner decisions to rest long enough to hammer out the deal with the Pirates within the next 24-48 hours.  With the recent promotions of Assistant GM Jean Afterman to SVP and Angels GM Candidate #2 Billy Eppler to Assistant GM, maybe the second string is working this one.  I don’t care if George Steinbrenner’s widow, Joan, is working this one, let’s just get it done…

Sorry, A.J., I love your arm, but I haven’t wanted to see a player leave New York this bad since Ed Whitson was a Yankee.

Welcome to New York…err, Tampa!..

I really enjoyed reading some of the early reports about new pitcher Michael Pineda.  He reported to camp early and talked about how excited he was to be a Yankee.  He gave glowing reports of his interactions with Robinson Cano, and it is easy to see that he’ll mesh very nicely with “King of the Hill” CC Sabathia.  Passion and intensity are two qualities that I’ve always respected, and Pineda seems to have “it”.

If Ken Griffey, Jr and Gary Matthews, Jr can do it, so can Donnie Baseball, Jr…

I realize that minor league OF prospect Preston Mattingly is getting a bit long in tooth after two failed tries with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians, but he is still only 24 years old.  I know that he’s getting “old” for a prospect, but it would be a wonderful story for Mattingly to seize the opportunity with the Yankees and prove that he can be the talent that he was once projected to be with the Dodgers.  So far, I’ve liked what he has had to say.  He certainly has his father’s positive attitude and realistic perspective, even if he isn’t the player his father was.  I’d like nothing more than to see Preston eventually earn a spot on the Yankees roster.  I am biased because his father was my favorite player and is the reason that the Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite NL team.  Let’s hope that good things happen for a deserving son of a great legend…

Scratching nails on a chalkboard…

It rubs me wrong every time the Yankees sign a former Boston Red Sox player.  Well, I might be okay if the Yankees picked up Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury or Dustin Pedroia.  But otherwise, I really have no desire to see former Red Sox players pull on the pinstripes.  Conversely, it is even harder to watch former Yankees sign with the Red Sox.  When the Yankees cut ties with Alfredo Aceves due to his injury history, my immediate thought was a potentially huge mistake.  At that point, I was hoping someone like the San Diego Padres would sign Aceves, but unfortunately, the Red Sox swooped in and captured Aceves.  He went on to have a brilliant season with the Sox in the bullpen, and is a valued member of their pitching staff heading into 2012.  So, it pained me today when I saw that the Red Sox had signed former Yankee pitcher Ross Ohlendorf.  I realize that Ohlendorf had a miserable 2011 season with the Pirates, but I’ve always liked the guy who the Yanks acquired when they dealt Randy Johnson back to the Arizona Diamondbacks a few years ago.  I am really hoping that Ohlendorf doesn’t become the next Tim Wakefield for the Sox.

Clearly our loss…

Baseball-speaking, today was a very sad day.  I had heard that Gary Carter was battling cancer, but it was still hard to hear the news that he had passed.  I think back to when I first became aware of baseball and a Yankees fan.  It was in the mid-1970’s.  In those early years, I was focused primarily on the Yankees.  I was aware of other teams and players, but I can’t say that I know too much about them.  Thurman Munson was the catcher and he quickly became my favorite player.  I could never fully appreciate the greatness of Johnny Bench because of my admiration for Thurman.  Same holds true for Carlton Fisk, who I always saw as a Red Sock even after his trade to the Chicago White Sox.  My world changed on August 2, 1979, and it caused me to step back and look at the bigger picture.  Only then did I begin to truly appreciate the value of great players on other teams.  At that point, the catcher of the Montreal Expos quickly rose to the surface, for me, as one of the premier players at his position.  There was something very clutch and special about Gary Carter.  He went on to drive the New York Mets to a World Series championship in 1986, and proved that he was the catcher of my era.  I am glad that he saw his entry into the Hall of Fame and there’s no question that he packed more into 57 years than I’ll ever experience regardless of how old I live to be.  A good man, a proud father, a legendary baseball player.  Gary, we will never forget you.

Maybe Phil Jackson would like to have one more shot…

I had fun on Saturday night when the New York Knicks came to Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Timberwolves.  As a Knicks fan (my first year!), I was excited to see what Lin-mania was all about.  He was a little off that night, but at the end, it was Jeremy Lin’s basket that proved to be the game-winner.  The T-Wolves, or the Muskies as they were referred to that night in tribute to a former Minneapolis basketball team from the 60’s or 70’s, had led the game from the start.  The Knicks had caught the T-Wolves a couple of times, but then Minnesota seemed to drop a few consecutive buckets to pull ahead again.  But at the end, Lin was not to be denied, and “Lin-sanity” continues.  It’s funny because I bought the tickets to the game hoping to see Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, and neither player dressed for the game.  But all things considered, Lin was the perfect substitute.

Yes, it was exciting to see the opening of Fantasy Baseball…

It’s fun to see the return of fantasy baseball.  I’ve already set a few teams with ESPN and I think my first draft is this weekend.  I am looking forward to when they open the live drafting functionality.  I like fantasy baseball if for no other reason than it helps you know and understand players on other teams than just your favorite team.  If Jon Lester heads my starting rotation or if Jacoby Ellsbury is roving my outfield, I am okay with that.  Granted, when Lester and Ellsbury come to Yankee Stadium, I’ll be pulling for L’s and O-fer’s but when Lester shuts down the Rays or Ellsbury slams a homer to beat the O’s, there might  be a smile on my face.

Baseball, let’s get started…

–Scott

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