Results tagged ‘ Hiroki Kuroda ’

Looking forward to A-Rod’s “Going Away” Party!…

 

He’s a fraud but wait for the hearing…

My position on Alex Rodriguez has not changed.  I do not like A-Rod, the player, and I do not respect “A-Fraud”, the man.  I am anxious for him to begin serving his suspension as he represents everything that is wrong about baseball.  But I have to side with those who think the actions of Ryan Dempster to throw at A-Rod in a recent Red Sox-Yankees game was wrong.  The players do not have the right to be the judge, jury and executioner.  There is a process and A-Fraud is properly following his right to appeal.  It is unfortunate that an actual hearing is so far off, but it is what it is.  At the end of the day, A-Fraud will be suspended and he’ll be banned from games while those currently serving their 50-game suspensions have returned and hopefully have learned from their past mistakes.

Each day that A-Fraud plays, it sickens me.  It bothers me that with each home run, he inches ever so closely to the great Willie Mays in career home run totals.  A-Fraud will never be the man that Willie Mays is, and I will never recognize A-Fraud as a better home run hitter or player for that matter than Mays.  Alex Rodriguez is where he is in career stats because he cheated.  He was fortunate that the rules of baseball, at least those written, did not prohibit him from his actions for the majority of his younger days.  But morally, he was wrong then and legally, he is wrong now.

I am not sure what the 2014 Yankees will look like with A-Fraud on the sidelines (assuming that he serves his full 211-game suspension).  But then again, that’s for GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner family to figure out.  As much as I wanted him to succeed, Kevin Youkilis is not the answer.  Maybe as a role player, but not as the starting third baseman.  The Yankees are in trouble if they are forced to use a mix of Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez.

The Boston Red Sox got better quickly because they were able to blow up the roster and unload some heavy, excess baggage.  The Yankees really need to do the same thing, but of course, the opportunity may not be there.  I am not sure that 2013 has been Brian Cashman’s best year, and it’s always possible that the Steinbrenner family moves in a different direction this off-season.  Cashman’s inability to bring anything more than cast-off’s from other rosters to the team could be directly the fault of the Steinbrenners.  But they are not going to sever ways with themselves.  It would not surprise me at all to see Cashman in some place like Seattle next season.

I’ve missed Soriano’s excitement…

Alfonso Soriano may look and act like an old man next season, but for this season, he has been one of the few bright spots.  I have enjoyed to see his resurgence in the Bronx, and he is very deserving of the accolades that he has received.  While I want to see Soriano back next season, it is time for the organization to begin making some hard decisions on the older players.  Plus, they need to “fatten” CC Sabathia back up again (okay, just kidding, but there might to something to the belief that the change in weight has adversely impacted his mechanics).  I don’t think there is an easy solution on how to re-build the Yankees quickly.  There are too many holes and not enough major league ready talent in the farm system.

The Yankees should be free to catch the season premiere of “The Walking Dead”…

I still do not believe the Yankees will make the play-offs this year.  The hill is too steep and they just do not have the pieces to pull off a September charge to chase down the other wild card contenders.  As I wrote this post, the Yankees lost to the team that they have generally beaten this season, the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Jays were up 6-0 after 2 innings so it was clear that it was not going to be their night.  But it was worse that the Yankees had arguably their best pitcher on the mound in Hiroki Kuroda.  This game is a microcosm of the season.  The Yankees have built too large of a hole to overcome.

 

–Scott

 

 

 

When does the NFL Season start?…

Realism is starting to set in…

I know, never give up until the last pitch is thrown.  But seriously, even though the Yankees are within striking distance of the Wild Card, they are virtually out for any chance at a division championship barring complete collapses by the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.  This does not “feel” like a team of destiny that can right the ship and nail down one of the Wild Card slots.  All season long, it has been a team pieced together from players found at Nordy’s Rack.

In spurts, some of these players have excelled but for sustainability, most have faltered.  Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay et al.  The latest to join the circus of cast-off’s is former Arizona Diamondback and most recently Cleveland Indian Mark Reynolds.  High in strikeouts and almost futile in home runs since June, the Yankees decided to take yet another chance to try and catch lightening in a bottle.  Their strategy to re-acquire former Yankees second baseman and now outfielder Alfonso Soriano was good as Sori plays like he’s glad to be back in the Bronx.  This was on display earlier in the week when he hit four home runs with thirteen RBI’s in just two games.  On successive nights, he set personal career highs.  But Sori is a feel-good story because he is a former star Yankee player whose Yankee career was cut short by the now foolish acquisition of Alex Rodriguez.  He is getting a second chance in pinstripes and enjoying every moment of it.  But unfortunately, it will not be enough to propel the Yanks to the play-offs.

Today, Phil Hughes once again proved why he’s soon to be a former pinstriper.  It’s too bad that the Yankees didn’t move him before the trading deadline to get something for him, but he’ll most likely move to a park conducive for pitchers and will finally show some resemblance of the potential that has eluded him in the Bronx.

On the bright side, the Yankees should most likely be without Alex Rodriguez and his hefty salary next season so hopefully Team Frugal (Hal Steinbrenner) will open the purse strings a bit to replace some of the lost and aged talent.

On their current path, the Yankees should have their highest placement in next spring’s draft which should hopefully add some quality talent to the largely disappointing farm system.  I wonder if we are entering a 1980’s like phase of a few down years before young talent brings a resurgence in the Bronx.  I hope not, but at face value, that appears to be the case.  No offense to Derek Jeter, but in 2014 and at his age, I am not so sure that he is a positive.  It’s been a great career, but he is finding out what I found out a few years ago.  With age comes greater susceptibility to injury and a slower recovery cycle.  I guess we’re not 21 anymore.

Hiroki Kuroda has been one of the few very bright spots in this, thus far, disappointing season.  But it’s no sure thing that he’ll be back next year.  At some point, he will return to Japan to finish his professional career.  With the struggles of CC Sabathia, the Yankees can thank Kuroda for not having a stranglehold on last place at the moment.

I would love to see the Yankees catch fire and propel themselves into the play-offs.  However, there is no cavalry on the horizon.  We have to dance with the one who brung us, borrowing a cliché.  Unfortunately, she’s not pretty and she’s not a very good dancer…

–Scott

This is not 1998, sadly to say…

 

Sorry, the Glass is Half Empty…

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

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

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

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

Character First, A-Rod Last…

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

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

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

Healthy is over-rated…

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

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

Let someone else overpay…

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

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

–Scott

 

I am an optimistic guy but…

 

The team of low expectations…

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

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

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

Erase the standings…well, except for the Yanks…

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

Holiday for A-Rod…

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

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

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

Do you want Hal’s office or Hank’s?…

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

Hope on the horizon…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Scott

 

Where’s George Steinbrenner when you need him?…

Missing the point…

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

Excite the fan base…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Scott

$200 Million doesn’t buy what it used to…

 

Maybe the Yanks should be spending some extra cash on PowerBall…

I get that $200 million is a lot of money, and the Yankees have been the only team to play in that neighborhood “salary-wise” until the Los Angeles Dodgers joined the party.  But I am surprised to hear Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner making comments about the disbelief in fan reaction to the team’s non-activity outside of re-signing its key free agents.  Yes, that point is huge.  Re-signing Huroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and Andy Pettitte were essential to the team’s hopes for 2013 so I do not dispute the importance of the team taking care of those players.  While I like the signings of 3B Kevin Youkilis and DH Travis Hafner, there are huge injury risks prevalent with both players.  I could be wrong but I doubt either player gives the Yankees at least 140 games this year.

My point and frustration with the Yankees ownership is the loss of free agents catcher Russell Martin to the Pittsburgh Pirates and right fielder Nick Swisher to the Cleveland Indians.  Catching is left to a couple of career back-ups, including one recently associated with PED rumors, unless touted prospect Austin Romine can step it up and make his presence felt in the Bronx sooner rather than later.  In right field, the Yankees do have Ichiro but he’s not getting any younger.  He certainly won’t provide the pop that Swisher could.  He’ll make more happen on the base paths, but isn’t that what Brett Gardner is for?  Sometimes, a team needs to make a move to excite the fan base.  I do not equate that to throwing money away to satisfy the fans, but making calculated, smart moves that give the team something to build upon.

As it stands, the possibility the Yankees lose Robinson Cano to free agency is high.  Yes, ownership makes the comments about how they want him to be a Yankee for life.  However, I seriously doubt the organization is going to give an 8 to 10 year deal to a 30-year old veteran player even if he is the team’s best player.  We have A-Rod to thank for making ownership a bit gun shy, and rightfully so.  I think the single biggest detriment to keeping the Yankees from winning the World Series in the next few years is A-Rod.  If you could take those dollars and invest them in better, cheaper resources, the team would be much stronger and the goal of coming in under $189 million next year would be possible.

If catching is a debacle and the older Yankees show their age, this is going to be a very long season.  Personally, I think this will be Manager Joe Girardi’s most challenging year.  He’ll be riding the hot seat all year long, especially if the Yankees get off to a sluggish start in April.  It is a given that Mark Teixeira’s bat won’t show up until around Memorial Day so I am fearful the team will become too dependent on guys like Youk and Hafner which could overexpose them and increase the likelihood of injury.  Now would be the time for infielder Eduardo Nunez to step up in a huge way…

The argument can be made that every team in the AL East has the ability to play better than .500 ball, and all have the wherewithal to win the division outright.  My guess, at this point, is the division goes to the Toronto Blue Jays, leaving the Yanks, Red Sox, Orioles and Rays to fight it out for a Wild Card spot.

But it’s a long season, and there is always the potential the Yankees do make the necessary moves to ensure a strong chance for October success.

The Giambino back in the AL…

I saw a report this morning that former Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi has signed a $750,000 minor league deal and invitation to training camp with the Cleveland Indians.  It seems a bit strange to see Giambi on a team managed by Terry Francona, but if used in the right way, Giambi could help the Indians.  As the Toby Keith song goes, “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was”.  While I think Giambi should have retired, I am sure that he’ll begin his coaching career soon enough and it’s not a bad idea to learn a trick or two from one of the better managers in baseball.

It’s just a number…

Although the Yankees active roster on MLB.com has not been updated, it looks like Kevin Youkilis is going to wear #36.  I would have preferred to see the team dust off Jorge Posada’s #20 given that was Youk’s number in Boston.  I am not trying to be disrespectful to Jorge, but I’ve never been a big fan of retired numbers unless the guy was an absolute legend like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig.  Posada had a great career, but I simply do not put him in the same category with catching greats Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra or Thurman Munson.  With all the retired and reserved Yankee numbers, it is inevitable that many players will be joining Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain in the 60’s or higher.

Time to head to Florida and Arizona…

With all the snow Boston has received this weekend, it’s hard to believe that baseball training camps start to open this week.  It feels much more like baseball weather where I sit in California as temps are expected to reach the 70’s this week, but for my friends in Boston, I am hoping all are safe and warm.  It was a good thing that Truck Day happened before the weather emergency.  Even as a Yankees fan, I would never wish ill will on the Red Sox or their fans.  As they say, you have to beat the best to be the best and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.

Play ball!…

–Scott

 

Getting bug bites while lying in the weeds…

What to believe?…

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

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

Is it time for Romine?…

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

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

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

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

 

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

INF PHOTO, New York Daily News

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

Now playing in right field…

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

The sleeping giant or the ‘Feeble 40’?…

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

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

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

–Scott

 

¹ Source:  The New York Post

² Source:  The New York Daily News

³ Source:  The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello, again…

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

Why did I tell Boston to shove it?…

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

Hal, Rupert Murdoch on Line 1…

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

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

Who died and made you George Steinbrenner?…

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

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

–Scott

The Law of Diminishing Return…

 

Dollars to donuts…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Scott

 

The Hot Stove League Pre-Season is underway…

 

Yes, Brian, I want to believe…

“I am excited about the opportunities we have.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tino, Tino, Tino!…

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

Coach Giambino…

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

The Dodgers quest to overtake the Giants…

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

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

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

–Scott

 

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