Results tagged ‘ Hal Steinbrenner ’

Getting bug bites while lying in the weeds…

What to believe?…

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

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

Is it time for Romine?…

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

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

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

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

 

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

INF PHOTO, New York Daily News

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

Now playing in right field…

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

The sleeping giant or the ‘Feeble 40’?…

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

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

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

–Scott

 

¹ Source:  The New York Post

² Source:  The New York Daily News

³ Source:  The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe Cherington was right to the blow up his roster…

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

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

George, are you there?…

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

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

 

–Scott

 

We were once only one game away from the Sox?…

 

The 10-Game Roll…

Back when the Yankees were struggling, I knew in the back of my mind that it wasn’t anything that a 10-game winning streak couldn’t fix.  Well, the Yankees have done just that with tonight’s victory over the Atlanta Braves.  Just like last year, interleague play has proven to be the Yankees’ friend.  Although the team hadn’t enjoyed a 10-game winning streak for a few seasons, they did rise up to the challenge of interleague play last year and this year, well, they’ve been nearly invincible.  Not bad for a team with questions throughout the starting rotation and perhaps its most valuable pitcher (Mariano Rivera) lost for the season.

Improved starting pitching from #2 through #5 has been the key.  Of course, the resurgence of former retiree Andy Pettitte has been crucial, but Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova have all been raised the level of their play.  This sure beats last year when you could count on an implosion every fifth start by A.J. Burnett.  To Burnett’s defense, he has been very good for the Pittsburgh Pirates, proving that some guys are better served away from baseball’s main stage.  There was never any doubt about Burnett’s arm so he just needed a place to get his head straight.  But I digress.  I prefer Hiroki Kuroda over Burnett, even though Kuroda has had a few clunkers of his own.  Kuroda has always mixed in a few stellar starts and seems to finally be getting a grasp of life in the American League East. 

Hats off to Cashman…

Why can’t every trade work out as nicely as the one that brought Curtis Granderson to New York?  After a slow start in the Bronx during his first year, Grandy has been nothing short of a superstar since.  Time and again, he is getting a key hit and propelling his team to victory.  The price of the trade was high, and the players going the other direction have fared nicely in their new surroundings, but the trade was worth it. 

The personality alone is worth a few million…

With this being Nick Swisher’s walk year, it is assumed that he’ll move on after the season but I really hope that the Yankees find a way to bring his excitement and energy back to the Bronx next season.  With the Los Angeles Dodgers’ re-signing of potential free agent Andre Ethier, the free agent market won’t yield anyone of Swisher’s caliber.  Sure, you can have Vernon Wells or Alfonso Soriano for a bag of peanuts and a boatload of cash, but I’d rather take Swish. 

No recollection of who he played for between the Blue Jays and Astros…

So, Roger Clemens has been found not guilty.  Good for him.  Do I want to remember his Yankees legacy now that he is a free man?  Sorry, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  Let Clemens be remembered as a Red Sock, Blue Jay, or Astro.  I really don’t want to see Clemens at any future Old Timer’s games at Yankee Stadium unless he is buying a ticket. 

Git ‘er done!…

Note to Hal Steinbrenner:  Break team tradition and get Robinson Cano signed to an extension.  The key is the Yankees’ MVP, and he deserves a contract that rewards a player of his caliber.  It is unfortunate that the Yankees have so many dollars going to third base when their success or failure hinges on second base.  If they were on opposing teams, there’s no way that I’d trade Robinson Cano for the combination of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter…

Spending the end of July in the Hamptons…

If the Yankees are players at the trading deadline, I am not sure that they’ll focus on.  An outfielder given the slow return of Brett Gardner?  Another starting pitcher?  But if so, who do you move out of the rotation?  Last year, I was surprised when the team stood pat but this year, they probably don’t have any choice.  I think any moves will only be secondary in nature, such as another bullpen arm or some other auxiliary type of player.

Farewell to a beloved city…

My time in Minneapolis is coming to an end, unfortunately.  I have really enjoyed my short stay in the city and I was graced with an incredibly mild winter so I leave with great memories and much sadness.  Living in downtown Minneapolis, with a view of Target Field, was an incredible experience.  I am returning to Northern California.  No views of any baseball stadiums (Oakland, no thanks; San Francisco, too expensive), so I’ll just have to deal with BART to find my way to games.  As much as people in Minnesota complain about the winters, I am sure that I will be glad to be spending my Decembers and Januarys in NoCal but I definitely leave with mixed feelings.  A new job opportunity pulled me back to CA, but I can’t say that I am overly excited about the move (location; not job).  I loved Minneapolis so I leave with a heavy heart…

–Scott

$189 Million by 2014 or bust…

 

His accounting degree was the first tip-off…

So, it’s true that the fiscal conservative in Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is coming to the forefront.  It’s clear that the Yankees have shown considerable restraint in their financial decisions in recent years and none more evident than this off-season when the Yankees watched and let others pay exorbitant dollars for free agent talent.  It was widely rumored that the Yankees have their eye on 2014 and the desire to get their payroll under the $189 million threshold for luxury tax purposes.  But now that Hal Steinbrenner is on record for the stated goal, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few years.

While there are other guaranteed contracts, the most notable in 2014 will be Alex Rodriguez.  If he continues his deterioration as a star player, that $25 million in 2014 is going to look like a huge albatross.  I haven’t tallied the guaranteed dollars, but it’s clear that the next few years will see similar off-seasons like the one we just experienced.  No significant free agent signings, bargain basement ‘right before training camp’ deals like the one given to Raul Ibanez, and trades for young (and cheap) talent.  It will also mean the Yankees won’t overpay to retain talent, which probably shows the door to Nick Swisher.

Meanwhile, teams like the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers are profiting from regional TV deals (not to mention previous dollars they received through revenue sharing at the Yankees’ expense).  So, it will be other teams splurging on big talent, and the Yankees as a passive by-stander.  There is some logic in the team’s decision but I am concerned that it will bring an end to the winning run the Yankees have been on since the early 1990’s.  As a Yankees fan, the 1980’s were very difficult.  Yes, we were spoiled by George Steinbrenner’s win at all costs mentality, but 90 to 100 loss teams wearing the grand tradition of the pinstripes seems sacrilegious to me.  I am sure that the YES Network is not excited at that prospect either.  But if the stars, like A-Rod and Derek Jeter, continue to wither while eating up valuable salary dollars, the team is going to develop a Pittsburgh Pirates feel to it.  Very limited dollars to fill the holes.

In many respects, it is unfair that the salary threshold is equal among teams given the higher cost of living in New York, combined with the increased pressure that goes with playing on the biggest stage.  Once the ownership situation with the Los Angeles Dodgers is settled, there will be a slugfest in LA as the Dodgers spend to rebuild their legacy and prominence in the City of Angels.  Meanwhile, in New York, the Mets and Yankees will be scooping up the leftovers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals.

Okay, I might be a bit pessimistic but there will be a number of very difficult decisions to be made between now and 2014 as the Yankees attempt to reach their goal.  If the Yankees win the 2014 World Series, then credit Hal Steinbrenner for being one of the greatest owners in Yankees history.  If not, how long will it take to recover?…

Open mouth, insert foot…

You know, I don’t really care what Bobby Valentine is saying in Red Sox camp.  I know that if he were the Yankees manager, he’d be making disparaging remarks about the Sox.  It just goes with the territory when it comes to Bobby V.  Whatever helps him get motivated.  Speaking of Red Sox managers, it was really weird seeing the ESPN clips of Terry Francona in Yankees camp, hugging Yankees and talking with Joe Girardi and his coaches.  Unlike Valentine, I have a great deal of respect for Terry Francona.  Regardless, the Bobby V ingredient should make the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry very spicy this year.  It kind of sets the stage for Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays to steal the show…

I’m sure that A-Rod wasn’t saddened by the news…

Since I am on the topic of the Red Sox, I should say congratulations to Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who announced his retirement today.  He was a hated players at times, but like Jorge Posada, his intensity was off the charts.  He is the kind of guy you hate on another team but you’d love to have him on your team.  I think his baseball career is only getting started as I see future success as a manager for him.  I could even see him being an eventual replacement for Bobby Valentine.  Regardless of what he decides to do, we haven’t heard the last of Tek.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em…again…

Back to the Yankees, I am glad to see the return of third baseman Eric Chavez.  It took a long time…right up to the start of training camp…but it got done.  I liked Chavez in his years as an Oakland A, and while he isn’t the player he once was, he is a great role player and teammate.  He is also a very sorely needed third baseman given the fragility of the guy in front of him.  Yes, Chavez is an injury risk but if he can stay healthy, he’ll be an invaluable part of the 2012 Yankees.

The Seattle Mariners pipeline worked last time (Tino Martinez)…

I liked the Yankees signing of former Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma.  I don’t think he’ll be in the running for Mariano Rivera’s replacement when THAT day comes, but it was a low risk, high reward signing.  Having 7th and 8th inning options in late summer of David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, and Aardsma is a manager’s dream.

Best wishes for a fast return…

Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for former Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett.  In a batting incident the other day, a failed bunt attempt led to a broken right orbital bone in his face.  I was frustrated with Burnett as a Yankees pitcher, but I’ll never dispute that he is a great guy and a terrific teammate.  I am hoping that the move to Pittsburgh allows Burnett to flourish and hope the latest injury is not a precursor of things to come.

Don’t trip on the snow rounding first…

It is hard to think of baseball when it is snowing.  Snow has been a rare commodity in Minnesota this year, but we received slightly more than a dusting this week.  Living by Target Field, it’s strange to see the stadium and the surrounding snow while thinking that Joe Mauer and company are practicing to get ready to make the trip home to Minneapolis.  I have already bought my tickets for when the Red Sox and Yankees come to town, however, the Yankees don’t arrive in Minneapolis until late September.  I hope that AL East will be decided in the Yankees favor by that time…

Names I’ve known all of my adult life, and in some cases, when I was just a Daydream Believer…

Whitney Houston, Gary Carter and now Davy Jones?  This has not been a fun couple of weeks…

 

–Scott

GM Cashman has total control, except when he doesn’t…

I said ‘NO’, oh, by the way, here’s a $30 million contract for you…

There is still not much to write about in the Yankees Universe.  There’s a report that Managing GM Hal Steinbrenner has talked with super agent Scott Boras about pitcher Edwin Jackson, but other than that, not much to talk about.  Given that Steinbrenner orchestrated the signing of reliever Rafael Soriano last season (much to the disagreement of GM Brian Cashman), it would be interesting to hear what Cash has to say about Jackson.  Universally, any team would be happy to sign Jackson on a short term, but a longer term deal is perceived as problematic.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  The Yankees need a solid #2 or #3 pitcher in addition to the current roster, but it is not worth the price of paying Jesus Montero and/or Manuel Baneulos.

Personally, I would not be opposed to Jackson in the rotation as I feel that pitching coach Larry Rothschild would be a very strong influence on the pitcher.  He certainly has the potential of being better than anything in the rotation outside of CC Sabathia.

It’s a given that the Yankees need to do something.  I think standing pat is the wrong approach.  It would most likely ensure a second or third place finish behind the Boston Red Sox and/or Tampa Bay Rays.  They need to improve the rotation.  There are too many question marks attached to Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter will be another year older.  The Yankees need a pitcher other than Sabathia that is completely capable of shutting down the opposition.  Jackson can be that guy.  I don’t like the idea of “saving your bullets” for another off-season in terms of projected free agents.  In 2013, A-Rod and Jeter will be another year older and further from their prime.  Why couldn’t have George Steinbrenner instilled this win at all costs mentality in his sons?  Okay, fiscal responsibility is a good idea, but the Yankees need to ensure that they can withstand improved Red Sox, Rays and Blue Jays squads.

Preston Baseball?…

I like the Yankees’ signing of former Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Preston Mattingly.  Granted, Donnie Baseball is one of my all-time heroes.  But I’d like to see what the Yankee coaches and instructors can do with the former first round pick.  He certainly has the pedigree to succeed.  But time will tell if he can be Ken Griffey, Jr… or Pete Rose, Jr.  His current path leans toward the latter, but he is only 24 years old.  This goes into the category of ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’.  For Preston’s sake, I hope that he succeeds in the organization that his father starred.

It was only $35.5 million…

I really feel bad for former Philadelphia Phillies closer Ryan Madson.  Once rumored to be close to a 4-year, $44 million contract with the Phillies, he signs with the Cincinnati Reds for a one year contract at $8.5 million.  He’ll close for a fraction of the money that the Yankees pay 7th inning guy Rafael Soriano.  The hope, obviously, is that liquidity will return to the closer market during the next off-season so that Madson can capture a lucrative long-term deal.  I don’t know what went wrong with his negotiations with the Phillies and what led to their acquisition of former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon, but he’ll long wonder what could have been.

We’ll give you over $50 million, but we’d really prefer to keep his salary at a couple mil…

For as much as the Texas Rangers bid for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, I will be very surprised if they fail to come to contract terms with Darvish returning to Japan.  But at this point in the negotiations, you have to wonder if that’s not the likely outcome.  It would be interesting to see Darvish on the open market after next season.  I wonder if that would change the Yankees interest level…

Wanted:  Snow…

It’s hard to believe that pitchers and catchers will be reporting to camp next month.  I’ve been in Minnesota all winter long hoping for snow…and being sadly disappointed.  At least the opening of baseball camps gives me something to be excited.  I am looking forward to the debut of the 2012 Yankees!  Bring it on!…

–Scott

 

Not your Daddy’s Yankees…

 

All my rowdy friends are coming over tonight, but I’ll just listen to Beethoven…

The Miami Marlins make a big splash to create perhaps the best Marlins squad since 2003 in signing Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle, and Jose Reyes.  The Los Angeles Angels rock the largest Hispanic community in the United States by nabbing #1 Baseball Superstar Albert Pujols.  Oh yeah, they also picked up former Ranger ace C.J. Wilson along the way.  Even the Boston Red Sox, in a season of chaos with the prolonged managerial search, managed to do SOMETHING with the acquisition of former Yankees reliever Mark Melancon from the Houston Astros for shortstop Jed Lowrie and minor league pitcher Kyle Weiland.  Meanwhile, at Yankee Stadium, nothing…

I know, how do you improve upon a 97-win team?  Baseball is a game of constantly trying to improve.  A little here, a little there…a big splash here, a big splash there.  This off-season the Yankees haven’t fallen into any of those categories.  They haven’t even moved to re-sign outfielder Andruw Jones or third baseman Eric Chavez which, in my mind, are important cogs for the 2012 team.

The team with the most money is…

Tonight’s wait is to hear whether the Toronto Blue Jays or the Texas Rangers have won the bidding for Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish.  In the days of George Steinbrenner, the Yankees would have been the highest bidder and there would have been no speculation about who placed the highest bid (through a few “unnamed sources” within the Yankees organization).  I am not saying that it is prudent to spend $50 million plus just to have the right to talk to Darvish, nor do I feel the Yankees made a bad decision by not going after him harder.  But this is definitely a different Yankees ownership and one that is not particularly fond of footing the bill for the other owners through luxury tax payments.  It’s too bad the Yankees have so much wrapped up in Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.  A-Rod, in particular, is not the player he once was and no longer worthy of his behemoth contract.  I’ll give Jeter the benefit of the doubt since he did finish 2011 strongly.

If the Yankees are gauging what they need to do by the Boston Red Sox or the Tampa Bay Rays, they’re severely underestimating the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Yankees had trouble with that team last year, and the 2012 Jays will only be stronger (with or without Darvish).

If you’re not winning, you’re losing…

This has been a tough sports year for me.  The Yankees felt like a team with shortcomings entering October and it revealed itself in the play-offs against the Detroit Tigers.  They are still essentially the same team, minus a few players.  There’s nothing to lead me to believe that the World Series is in their immediate future.  Meanwhile, my pro football team, the Minnesota Vikings, continues their march to become the worst team in professional football (only one game separates them from the Indianapolis Colts and the right to draft future NFL superstar QB Andrew Luck).  I am sure that even Peyton Manning is a Vikings fan these days.  It really stinks when you hope your team loses so that they can place higher in the draft.

I am not a Minnesota Twins fan, but I do live within view of Target Field so it’s been tough watching local favorites Michael Cuddyer (Rockies) and Jason Kubel (D-Backs) sign elsewhere.

Clearly, I am someone that needs a ‘pick me up’ in sports.  I want to see a player acquisition that I am excited about.  Someone that brings energy, drive and commitment to the team, and helps them reach just a little bit further…

I will say that the Yankees should not trade Jesus Montero regardless of whether it could bring Gio Gonzalez to the Bronx.  I’d love to see Gio in pinstripes, but I think that Montero has a chance to be a special talent.  You just don’t let guys like him get away, even if it means no acquisitions this off-season.

Is that too much to ask?  Sometimes I wish Hank Steinbrenner’s impulsiveness would prevail over Hal Steinbrenner’s calculated intellect.  Fiscal responsibility, with a dash of insanity.  C’mon, we were “raised” by George Steinbrenner.  Weren’t you too, Hal?…

At least somebody is doing something…

Recently, I changed my NBA allegiance from the Los Angeles Lakers to the New York Knicks.  I’ve been thinking about this move for several years, but adding Carmelo Anthony to Amare Stoudemire was the clincher.  The latest news has the Knicks signing Baron Davis.  As a former Bay Area resident, I was saddened when Davis left the Golden State Warriors to join the Los Angeles Clippers.  He was perhaps the most popular basketball player in the area.  I have a great deal of respect for him, and it’s tremendous that he and I have come together on the same team.  I know Baron is hurt so his Knicks debut will be delayed, but I really like the off-season moves the Knicks have made.  I’d be foolish to think that they are suddenly a NBA finals team, but they are definitely getting better.

Meanwhile, at Yankee Stadium, just crickets…

 

–Scott

If Hot Stove League has opened, when do the Yankees play?…

 

With the Boss, we OWNED November…

Life under Hal Steinbrenner is certainly different than it was under the Boss.  In the old days, the Yankees would already be dominating the news in November.  At the very least, their name would be attached as a strong possibility for every elite free agent.  These days, the Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and even the Houston Astros have garnered more press time.

As for the obvious options, I do think the Yankees would be foolish to join the chase for free agent pitcher C.J. Wilson.  I like Wilson as a starter, but he’s not worth the cost.  I still prefer Mark Buehrle because it wouldn’t take as much money and even if he’s not flashy, Buehrle gives you innings and is very consistent.  After life on the A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes Roller Coasters, I’d gladly accept some consistency in the middle of the rotation.  As for trade targets, I’d love to get Matt Cain but I don’t think the San Francisco Giants will trade him.

Now that Eric Chavez has indicated he wants to play in 2012, I hope the Yankees can find a way to bring him back for a second year in pinstripes.  It’s interesting that the team has acknowledged they may have been better off playing Chavez at third in the play-offs instead of the less-than-100% Alex Rodriguez.  A healthy A-Rod is critical for next season and someone like Chavez, assuming he can also stay healthy, is the perfect backup because he can be a very effective starter in spots.  At some point, A-Rod will probably see more time at DH than third, but that’s not going to happen next year.  Chavez is a good bridge to the point the Yanks need  a new full-time third baseman.

Sleep deprived Houstonians…

I think the announced move of the Houston Astros to the American League in 2013 makes sense.  I understand the negatives….they’ll lose the Central Time Zone rivalries with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs and will play more games on the West Coast…but I think they’ll develop good rivalries with the AL CST teams.  As for the time zone differences, they still have it better than the three hour time zone differences the AL East teams face on their West Coast trips.  I realize that those are not in-division games, but all things considered, having balanced leagues for scheduling purposes is important.  Plus, it didn’t seem fair that the AL West had only four teams while the other divisions had five.  I never fully understood why Milwaukee was moved from the AL to NL and I did think they probably should have been the team to move back to the AL, but clearly the MLB team owners used the sale of the Astros as leverage to force the move.

New meaning to ‘one and done’…

Of the other changes, I am not sure what I think about the addition of a second wild card team, and moving to a one game wild card play-off.  I didn’t like the current system that did not differentiate between winning the division or getting into the play-offs as the Wild Card (except for home field advantage).  But a one game play-off?  That doesn’t really seem fair either.  I know that the argument is to win the division and not put yourself in the wild card, but it doesn’t seem fair that one wild card team could finish 5 or 6 games ahead of the second team, but then lose out by virtue of a single off night.  I know, ‘don’t put yourself in that position’ but still…  Nevertheless, I am sure that this change will motivate teams to continue striving for the division championship and not mail it in once the wild card is secured.

I thought they put their pants on just like I do…

I think the right choices were made for the AL and NL Cy Young Awards…Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw, respectively.  How scary is it that Kershaw’s only 23?  Donnie Baseball has to be very happy with the top of his rotation.  I am looking forward to the announcement of the MVP Awards, and I am in the category of those who believe that pitchers should not be considered for the award.  Obviously, I am pulling for Curtis Granderson in the AL, but even if a Yankee wasn’t up for consideration, I’d feel the same way about no pitchers for the award.  The Cy Young is a pitcher’s MVP award.

Trading Beer for Wind…

I was surprised to see Dale Sveum get the managing job with the Chicago Cubs.  It’s not that I don’t think he’ll make a good manager, but rather I thought he’d be a good fit for the Boston Red Sox.  I had been hoping that Terry Francona would get the Cubs job, and when he withdrew his name, I thought that Mike Maddux would be the next call.  I know that name withdrawals are usually prompted by behind-the-scenes conversations (Francona probably realizing that he wouldn’t get the job), but I think it’s a travesty that Tito won’t be managing in the big leagues in 2012…unless that was truly his choice.  If I owned a major league team, Tito would be at the top of my short list for managers.  He may have been the manager of my team’s most bitter rival but I have a great deal of respect for him.  It would have been great to see him manage the Cubs to a World Series Championship after ending Boston’s drought.

Joe Mauer, come back!…

I am still missing the lights of Target Field from my condo.  I can see the lighted field name sign, but there is just something about those stadium lights that give a magical feeling to the skyline of downtown Minneapolis.  I am looking forward to April when Jamey Carroll and the Minnesota Twins turn on the lights.  As for how the Twins do, they can lose 99 games again…

–Scott

 

 

Somehow I knew it would end like this…

 

Sad but realistic…

Well, the Yankees lost a series that they could have and should have won.  I can’t say that I am as disappointed as I’ve been in past years during play-off failures as I recognized the team had its fatal weaknesses that would be exposed the deeper it got in the play-offs.  Clearly, starting pitching has been a problem.  CC Sabathia has been great, but he hasn’t been Justin Verlander- or Roy Halladay-great.  He is still the ace and legitimately so, but the weaknesses in the rotation behind him put more pressure on CC to be perfect.  That’s a tough for anyone.  Even if the Yankees had gotten past the Detroit Tigers, I am not so sure that they would have fared well against the Texas Rangers.

When the season began, I felt that on paper the Boston Red Sox had a superior team.  My picks for the World Series were the Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies.  I was wrong on both counts, but I felt that the Yankees weak rotation would put too much pressure on the hitters.  When the big bats go cold, there just haven’t been the consistent key hits off the bench.  There have been a few here and there, but nothing like the critical and timely hits that Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui used to deliver.  I was concerned that this would be the final fatal blow for the Yankees chances in 2011, and that’s exactly what happened.

At the trading deadline, I had hoped the team would at least make an attempt to acquire a clutch hitter if they weren’t able to find any pitching depth.  They stood pat and did nothing.  I agree that it was the right decision if the moves would have cost talent like Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances or Jesus Montero, but other teams found ways to spend a little to acquire a lot like the Tigers with their pickup of pitcher Doug Fister.

The priority move – sign Cash…

Although the 2011 season was a “failure” as per owner Hal Steinbrenner, I clearly hope the team decides to bring back GM Brian Cashman.  No one understands the Yankees or the city of New York better than Cash, and he’s still the right man for the job.  With so much to do in the off-season, the Yankees need to move quickly to sign Cash.  With CC likely to opt out of his contract, the Yankees will need to be equally as quick to renegotiate a replacement contract so that they can turn to ways to improve the team as opposed to sustaining the current depth of talent.  I would hate to see the Yankees lose other opportunities because they are too focused with the Cashman and Sabathia negotiations.  Last off-season, it appeared that the team was only capable of dealing with one issue at a time.  When they were chasing Cliff Lee, it seemed as though that’s all they did.  They let other matters sit, including the topic of Andy Pettitte, until Lee surprised everyone and returned to Philadelphia.  I am not quite sure why the organization is incapable of multi-tasking, but they do need to ‘divide and conquer’ if they intend to be the dominant force in 2012.

Looking forward to Jorge Posada Day…

Jorge Posada played very well in September and October, and he’s been a fantastic Yankee, but the time has come for him to go.  I hope that he decides to put the bat down and simply walks away.  I’d really hate to see him try to play again in 2012, which most likely would be with a different team.  His legacy is secured in Yankees history, and he’ll always be treated as royalty by the organization.  He was the greatest catcher since Thurman Munson, and he’ll certainly be remembered in the same room with Munson, Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, and Elston Howard.

The “Opt-Out” I wish would happen…

How great would it be if Rafael Soriano opted out of his contract?  Sadly, that’s not going to happen and the Yankees are stuck with the guy who is trying to be the next Jose Veras rather than the next Mariano Rivera…

Bay Area Losses…

Northern California has certainly suffered great losses this week with the passing of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and now legendary Raiders owner Al Davis.   Davis is one of the guys that you just thought would live forever.  I am not a Raiders fan, but he revolutionized the game and was one of its most colorful characters.  I admired his strength and resolve, and it’s unfortunate that his final Raider seasons were filled with losses.  The game certainly won’t be the same without Davis…

–Scott

 

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