Results tagged ‘ Masahiro Tanaka ’

Well, that didn’t turn out as planned…

Be careful what you ask for…

In my last post, I stated my preference for Masahiro Tanaka to be named the Opening Day starter.  This, of course, was before Joe Girardi announced that Tanaka, in fact, would be the starter.  So of course, Tanaka promptly bombed as the Yankees were throttled by the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-1.

The start didn’t change my opinion that Tanaka was the best choice.  Michael Pineda is the next best starter on the staff, but he didn’t deserve the nod over Tanaka.  CC Sabathia may have been the sentimental choice if for no other reason than the consecutive years he has been the starter.  But his performance last season (injuries combined with the continued gradual decline) didn’t warrant the start either.  Nathan Eovaldi wasn’t going to get it, and neither was Adam Warren.  The right choice was made by Girardi even if the results indicated otherwise.

My concern, more than anything, is the health of Tanaka’s arm.  Yes, it was only one start and one start does not a season make.  But going to last year after he returned from the DL, the results of not been great.  If Tanaka has to learn to be a different pitcher at age 26 to lessen the strain on the elbow ligament, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be successful.  A solid outing would certainly help allay some of the concerns, but inevitably, I do feel this road leads to Tommy John surgery.  The sad part is that if he undergoes the surgery at any point this season, we most likely would not see him again until 2017, with 2018 being the target for a full return to health.

It’s too bad the Yankees do not have the quality starters to go six deep.  I’d rather lessen the load on Tanaka by spreading the distance between his starts.

Tanaka’s health certainly increases the spotlight on Adam Warren, as he’ll need to be the man to bridge the gap.  Today he is covering for Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova, but later in the summer, it could very well be for Tanaka.

Larry Rothschild is certainly earning his paycheck.  Earlier in the year, I didn’t think we’d see Luis Severino in the major leagues this year.  Now, it appears to be only a matter of time.

Another prospect lost…

It is hard not to get excited about certain prospects, and that certainly held true for catcher Austin Romine who was once billed as one of the organization’s best catching prospects along with since traded Jesus Montero.  Romine has the bloodline (his father Kevin played for the Boston Red Sox among other teams and his brother Andrew plays for the Detroit Tigers).  I was hopeful that Romine would use spring training to show the team that he belongs in New York.  It didn’t happen with a sub .200 batting average.  Perhaps the odds were against him since he was out of options and John Ryan Murphy, his competition for the back-up catching spot, is the better hitter.  Still, it was sad when the team announced just before the start of the season that it had designated Romine for assignment.  Maybe there’s a chance that he stays in the organization, but it seems inevitable that a trade is the more probable outcome as there isn’t much of a chance Romine could slide through waivers (teams need catching help too much, just ask Boston).  Romine has been an outstanding team guy and he’ll serve some organization well when/if he finally gets his chance at the Show.

A-Rod…

I am still not an A-Rod fan but I have to admit that he carried himself well in spring training and has done everything the team has asked.  If the Yankees suddenly found a way to rid themselves of A-Rod, I’d be all in favor.  But since that’s not going to happen, I’ll have to give A-Rod credit for not rocking the boat.

I still can’t bring myself to cheer for A-Rod but he’s effectively shut me up from booing for now.

*    *     *

I am glad that the baseball season is back but it would have been more exciting to open the season with a victory.  It was tougher to see the loss combined with a convincing Red Sox win on Opening Day.  Red Sox always gloat in victory so Opening Day was no exception.

I do feel more confident with Michael Pineda on the mound Wednesday, however, the team offense needs to step up their game.

Let’s Go, Yankees!

–Scott

Like it or not, here comes the 2015 season…

What’s the plan?…

Well, it’s January 2015.  The Yankees roster is slowly evolving.  The latest addition/return was the surprise re-signing of Stephen Drew which certainly makes sense.  While I still prefer to see Rob Refsnyder win the second base job outright, Drew certainly provides great insurance at both second base and shortstop.  It’s no sure thing that Didi Gregorius will be successful and I’d prefer not to see Brendan Ryan as the only other choice, even if he is a slick fielder.

I am still concerned about the starting rotation.  Reading CC Sabathia say the knee is fine is hardly a ringing endorsement that he’ll be the CC of old.  I think best case he is a strong #3 in the rotation if he is able to come back healthy.  His days as the team’s ace are over…in my opinion.  The hope of the rotation lies with Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Obviously, there are health concerns with both pitchers.  Even though Ivan Nova will return later in the year, I do not expect him to be back up to par until 2016.  Nathan Eovaldi is the project.  The Yankees apparently think they can turn him around and perhaps they can.  It would be good to get him to the point that he is as reliable and consistent as Hiroki Kuroda was.

While I get why the Yankees will not pay $200 million for Max Scherzer, I wish they would make a play for James Shields.  With a rotation containing so much uncertainty, the Yankees really need a dependable starter without question marks.

I have heard some rumblings that the Yankees now have the prospects to make a trade for Cole Hamels, but I am not sure that’s one I would pursue.  I like prospects such as Aaron Judge and Luis Severino and want to see them succeed in pinstripes.  It was tough when I was a kid and the Yankees were always trading youth for veterans.  Doug Drabek, Jay Buhner, Fred McGriff, Al Leiter, J.T. Snow, Brad Ausmus.  I know the list is much longer than this, but it was tough watching guys like that succeed elsewhere.

I don’t think that Cole Hamels would be the missing ingredient to suddenly make the Yankees the World Series favorites.  So, if he is not the difference maker, then the Yankees shouldn’t raid the cupboards to bring him aboard.  I’d rather see Hamels go to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The fear of course is that he’ll be calling Fenway Park home next season.

At this point, I still do not see the 2015 Yankees making the play-offs.  I think the Baltimore Orioles will still be the team to beat.  They suffered off-season losses, yes, but they’ll also be getting back Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters.  The Toronto Blue Jays look to be the most improved team and they’ve been a team of potential for a few years.  Boston will be stronger, and it’s best to never underestimate the Tampa Bay Rays even if Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman are no longer calling the shots.

There’s still time for GM Brian Cashman to make the moves to propel the Yankees into contention but so much is riding on better seasons from Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, and Mark Teixeira.  Of the group, McCann is the only one I feel is capable for turning it around.  Beltran and Teixeira are in their decline years, and that slippery slope is steeper for some guys.

Hear the voice of the Bard!…

There’s a nice piece in Nick Cafardo’s column today (Sunday Baseball Notes in The Boston Globe) about the comeback of Daniel Bard.  It would be good to see Bard successfully return to his position of bullpen relevance after years of struggle.  Perhaps that’s a buy low signing the Yankees should pursue.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  There was a time when Bard was a Yankees draft pick although he never signed.  Even if he goes back to Boston or another team, I truly hope that Bard is successful.

Short walk to the Hall…

Congratulations to the Hall of Fame inductees:  John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, and Pedro Martinez.  I think all of the selections were justified.  It was sad that it was the final ballot appearance for Don Mattingly, but it was a given that he was not going to make it.  Maybe he can take the Joe Torre route…great managerial success to go with a strong playing career…to gain access to the Hall.

25 years is long enough…

Put me in the group of people who want to see Pete Rose allowed to enter the Hall of Fame.  He remains one of the best players I’ve been privileged to see play in my lifetime.  This is not an endorsement of Pete the man and I feel what he did was wrong, however, Pete the player was one of the best players of all-time.

I am glad that this is the last full month without any baseball activity.  Looking forward to the opening of spring training camps next month.

–Scott

Mr Kuroda, it was our pleasure…

Quite simply, a great Yankee…

One thing is assured.  Yankees fans will not be enjoying any of the hoopla that fans of the San Diego Padres, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs et al have been experiencing this off-season.  The Winter of Our Discontent (hat tip to John Steinbeck) continues with the loss of starter Hiroki Kuroda, who has signed a one year deal with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Leagues.

Getty Images

Derek Jeter, David Robertson, Francisco Cervelli, Martin Prado, David Phelps, and now Hiroki Kuroda.  The Yankees have lost some great personalities from the 2014 team and it ensures that 2015 will be “different”.  It remains to be seen if it will be different-good or different-bad, but will definitely be different.

I remember when Hiroki Kuroda arrived in the U.S. in his early 30’s with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  I think in my mind I viewed him as nothing more than a #3 starter but I remember watching a Dodgers game a few years (with the legendary Vin Scully announcing…what a treat!).  He was masterful that game.  I don’t remember the outcome but I do believe it was a Kuroda win and he only gave up a few hits.  I was impressed by his performance, but I don’t think I truly appreciated how great he was until he came to New York.  I was so wrong.  He was more than a #3 starter.  He may not have been an ace, but he was the type of #2 starter every team needs.  He was a stopper, and he kept his team in games consistently from game to game.  After watching A.J. Burnett flame out with essentially the same spot in the rotation with his roller coaster performances, Kuroda gave us stability and an arm that could be counted on.  It’s too bad the team was unable to reward him with a World Series championship.  Everyone knows the high class and character of Derek Jeter, but Kuroda is every bit the man of honor.

Doug Benc/Getty Images

I am glad that Kuroda was able to be a part of Masahiro Tanaka’s first year and to help with his transition.  In a way, there is a bit of an unknown in what it will be like for Tanaka without fellow countrymen Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki on the team.  This is why it would make tremendous sense to add Hideki Matsui to the coaching staff.  I haven’t heard Matsui’s name mentioned as a hitting coach but what about first base?  He had one of the greatest clutch bats in recent Yankees history and is well liked by his former teammates and coaches.

But back to Kuroda.  I read The New York Post headline that blared “Kuroda spurns Yankees, to return to Japan”.  I don’t really view this as Kuroda spurning the Yankees.  It has been known his desire was to finish his playing career in Japan.  The man Kuroda has proven to be is one who would want to put the best possible product on the field in front of his home country.  He wouldn’t want his last year to be a pitcher who stayed a year too long.  I do not view this as a spurning so much as it was a man trying to do the right thing for his fans and country.  As a fan, I know the tremendous respect that he holds for both the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations.  Not many people can play for both and only the Yankees and Dodgers.

Masahiro Tanaka wore #18 prior to his arrival in New York.  I wonder if he’ll now change his number from 19 to 18 out of respect for his mentor.  Tanaka is one of the few guys worthy of wearing Kuroda’s jersey.

Here’s hoping that we see Kuroda at future Yankees Old Timer’s Day games.  He will be missed and we look forward to his eventual return to stand among the Legends.

–Scott

Waiting for Signs of Life…

How to build an 80-win team…

The Boston Red Sox have gotten stronger with the recent additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and most likely, the re-signing of their former ace Jon Lester in the coming weeks.  The Toronto Blue Jays quietly signed catcher Russell Martin (a significant upgrade over Dioner Navarro) and last night, pulled off a major trade for arguably one of the best third basemen in the game in Josh Donaldson of the Oakland A’s.  The cost for Donaldson was Brett Lawrie and prospects.  Given Lawrie’s inability to stay healthy, this trade provides further enhancement for a team that has held promise for a few years.

Lance Iversen, The Chronicle

Then there’s the Baltimore Orioles.  They may not have made any big moves but they are still the AL East champs until proven otherwise.

I am not sure what’s going on with the Tampa Bay Rays.  They will be losing a great potential manager in bench coach Dave Martinez when they finally name a replacement for Joe Maddon and the team no longer has the feeling of eternal optimism that it had when Maddon and former GM Andrew Friedman were running the show.  So, we’ll leave them out of the equation.

So, clearly, the Blue Jays and Red Sox are determined to challenge the Orioles’ hold on the division championship.  Meanwhile, in the Bronx, just crickets…

Last winter, the Yankees were quiet at the beginning of the off-season but then launched a flurry of signings in December that netted Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran.  It was a lot of money, but it still had the feeling the money could have been better spent.  Of course, if the Yankees would have just paid Russell Martin a few years ago rather than allow him to leave as a free agent, the Yankees could have gotten him much cheaper than the deal they signed McCann to (or the one Martin ultimately signed with the Jays).  Ellsbury is a known risk given his injury risk.  He held up fairly well in his first season in pinstripes, and I like having him on the team.  But the truth is the Yankees had a center fielder on the roster at the time in Brett Gardner and would have been better served going after a bat for left field.  Beltran has been a great major leaguer but his age simply does not bode well for staying healthy.

Now, I could write major concerns with Ramirez and Sandoval, but the Red Sox are dealing from a position of strength and have loosened some major league players, combined with quality prospects, to make a major trade to further strengthen the team (such as a move for the Philadelphia Phillies ace Cole Hamels).  The Yankees last year were just trying to fill holes.

I am surprised that the Yankees have not been linked in any way with star free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer.  Clearly, either one would immediately enhance the Yankees’ chances in 2015.  They need to find answers for other positions (third base, shortstop and the bullpen) but a high end rotation is a must for any team to succeed.  As it stands, there are too many questions with Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow, Michael Pineda’s ability to stay healthy or if CC Sabathia is riding the major downslope of his career.

The Yankees need to sign either Scherzer or Lester, and retain the free agent trio of Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, and David Robertson.  With this off-season of inactivity, it feels like the Yankees are going to lose out on all of the above.  At least today, two days after Thanksgiving.

I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder wins the second base job in spring training.  As for shortstop, the easiest solution is to re-sign Stephen Drew.  It’s really too bad that the organization was unable to develop a high level shortstop prospect in time for Derek Jeter’s departure.  Jorge Mateo looks like a strong possibility but he’s years away from being ready for the major league level.  So, the Yankees are best served finding a short-term solution like Drew and hope for a bounce back year with a full training camp.  I’d prefer that over a trade that could potentially cost what high level talent the Yankees do have in the upper levels of the minor league system.

If the Yankees do nothing, they’ll be battling the Rays for last place.  If they merely try to fill holes with cheaper alternatives, they’ll still be cellar rats.  Something has to give….soon.

I agree with Hal Steinbrenner when he says that you don’t need a $200 million payroll to win but the Yankees roster as currently constructed is not championship-caliber in my opinion.  Too much risk and uncertainty, and players who’ve seen their better days.  Alex Rodriguez is such a huge albatross and it’s a shame that he is now the “face” of the team.

Hopefully, Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner boys have a plan in place that is driven for success and not merely a bean counter’s approach to fielding a team.

Time will tell, as it often does (as the saying goes)…

–Scott

Your Objective, Mr Cashman, is to restore October baseball…

It’s a simple formula…

It is nice that Dellin Betances was nominated for AL Rookie of the Year, but it is a foregone conclusion that the award belongs to Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox.  I hope all of the accolades bestowed upon Betances (well deserved) do not go to the heads of the Yankee brass.  I am a bit concerned that they are ready to turn the closer’s role over to Betances, and I believe that’s a mistake.  The Yankees need to do what it takes to bring back David Robertson.  The thought of him potentially being the closer for Joe Maddon in Chicago is troubling, to say the least.

  • Sign Robertson…
  • Sign Brandon McCarthy…
  • Sign Chase Headley…

It’s that simple.  This isn’t rocket science.

If the Yankees are truly serious about not pursuing a frontline starter like Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, or James Shields, they need to bring back McCarthy…and then some.

New York Daily News

In my mind, Headley is THE Yankees third baseman.  I have no love for the other guy and there’s no way that he will be able to physically perform at the position through the duration of a long season, given that he’s about to turn 40 and has been away for a year.  Headley may not be a monster bat, but his defense was electrifying.  With new guys potentially slated for second and short, the Yankees need consistency and stability at third.  Headley, not A-Rod, is the man to bring it.

Even if the Yankees bring back Robertson and continue with the 1-2 punch of Betances-Robertson in the late innings, they need lights out relief in front of them.  I suspect that CC Sabathia will not go deep into his games, and with so many questions in the rotation (Masahiro Tanaka’s health, ability of Michael Pineda to stay healthy, etc.), the bullpen will be heavily relied upon.

Baseball is a game of lemmings, and the Kansas City Royals proved that a great bullpen can compensate for weaknesses in the starting rotation.

Truth or dare…

Regarding the reports that the Yankees will not pursue the Big Three (Scherzer, Lester or Shields), put me in the ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ category.  Those reports always strike me as a way for the Yankees to hopefully keep prices down or to give them leverage with the free agent.  The Yankees would be foolish not to pursue Scherzer or Lester.

Hey Cash!…

I remain heavily behind putting Rob Refsnyder at second.  I know that Jose Pirela is tearing up winter ball, but I still prefer Refsnyder.

As for short, I’d be okay with the Yankees bringing back Stephen Drew.  I really do think that Drew will have a much better season in 2015, with the benefit of spring training.  But if they go the free agent market, then Asdrubal Cabrera probably makes the most sense.  The cost to obtain Troy Tulowitzski or even Alexei Ramirez would be too high.  If there’s anything I want to accomplish this winter besides signing the above free agents, it’s to protect top prospects like Luis Severino or Aaron Judge.

With so many teams needing quality catching, and Russell Martin the lone option on the free agent market, it would seem the Yankees should put Francisco Cervelli on the table.  By himself, he wouldn’t bring top return, but he could be packaged with other prospects to bring a quality return.  Obviously, not game changers but quality talent that a winning club needs.

Wanted:  GM, no experience required…

The GM landscape is certainly taking a different look.  It seems like the veteran GM’s are showing up on radio talk shows (like Jim Duquette, Steve Phillips, and others), while newcomers are breaking into the GM inner circle.  I was very surprised to see the Dodgers name Farhan Zaidi as their GM as I felt Josh Byrnes would get the job, but the Dodgers got Byrnes anyway to lead its scouting and player development areas.  After listening to an interview with the 37 year old MIT-grad Zaidi, I am tremendously impressed and there’s no doubt that he’ll mesh very well with President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, Byrnes, and Manager Don Mattingly.  He gets it.

Another GM that surprised me was Dave Stewart of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  But as a quality guy who can do the job, it’s Stewart.

Still, I wonder what guys like Duquette and Phillips think.  Perhaps they have no interest in returning to the GM role.  It would seem that the stress of a radio gig would be a little less stressful than trying to put together a championship caliber team and keeping it together.

At some point in the future, the Yankees would be wise to promote Brian Cashman to President of Baseball Operations and to move Billy Eppler to GM.

Whatever happened to Kim Ng?…

Getty Images

I know, she works for MLB but I always thought that she’d be the first female GM.

These first few weeks in November are always so quiet.  Awards will be announced next week and the GM meetings are coming up so there’ll be a little activity.  However, it always takes the Baseball Winter Meetings in December to really get things cooking.  I am anxious to see what the 2015 Yankees will look like.  Hopefully, the roster will include Robertson, McCarthy, and Headley.  I shouldn’t say it, but I would not be disappointed if it didn’t include Rodriguez…

–Scott

End of WS, Start of Hot Stove…

Quiet domination…

I am not sure too many people would have predicted the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals in the Fall Classic, but congratulations to the Giants for their third World Series win in five years.  For being the most dominant team since the Yankees of the late 90’s, they’ve gone about it very quietly.  I guess that’s a product of East Coast bias, but Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy deserve much credit for crafting one of baseball’s better organizations.

Getty Images

When the Royals hit the sloppy triple in the top of the 9th of Game 7 against the great Madison Bumgarner, there was never really a sense that the Giants were going to let the game slip away.  Of course, that’s very easy to say when Bumgarner is on the mound.  It was a legendary World Series performance and he was the MVP by far.  Pablo Sandoval played superbly but Bumgarner was simply spectacular.  I did feel bad for the Kansas City fans who came so close to a championship after so many years of bad teams.  They’ll certainly be a force going forward and should have other opportunities.  With their stash of young talent, they remind me of the Tampa Bay Rays of a few years ago.

Maybe we will see it during our lifetime…

Joe Maddon and the Chicago Cubs.  It does seem like a potential great marriage.  Hopefully, former Cubs manager Rick Renteria will get another opportunity sooner rather than later.  He certainly deserves it, but this was a move that the Cubs needed to make.  It is a terrific chance for Maddon to prove that he is the best manager in baseball, and to win the World Series at Wrigley Field would be the crown jewel.

When Maddon first opted out of his contract with the Rays, I thought, or feared, that the Dodgers would foolishly dump Don Mattingly to reunite Maddon with former Rays GM Andrew Friedman.  But fortunately, Mattingly is held in high regard by ownership, so I am sure that solidified his position regardless of what Friedman may have felt privately.  Publicly, the Dodgers didn’t say or do anything to undermine their current manager which was good.  With the Dodgers off the table, the Cubs were the best spot for Maddon.  Unfortunate that it came at the expense of an employed manager, but it was still the right fit.

Maddon and his personality should be an instant success in the Windy City.

Protect your own, well, except #13…

I was glad to see the Yankees extend a qualifying offer to closer David Robertson, but there was no chance they wouldn’t.  It would be awesome if Robertson accepted the qualifying offer but I seriously doubt it.  Hopefully, the Yankees and Robertson can find common ground in bringing the closer back to the Bronx.  Dellin Betances may be a great closer one day, but Kansas City showed that you can go a long way with a stellar bullpen.  The Yankees are better with Betances setting up Robertson.

I am also hopeful that the Yankees bring back third baseman Chase Headley and starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy.  However, McCarthy may get caught in numbers.  CC Sabathia will be back to join Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda.  Shane Greene deserves another shot at the rotation, and it is very likely the Yankees will go after one of the top three free agent pitchers (Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields).  At some point early in the season, Ivan Nova will return.  It’s anybody’s guess what Sabathia will bring and there is some uncertainly with Tanaka and his elbow.  So loading up with starting pitching is never a bad thing, but if McCarthy wants a guaranteed spot, he’ll most likely need to go elsewhere.  It’s too bad because he is a good fit in the Bronx.

Tough decisions lie ahead for GM Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner family.

Too many players with uncertainty.  Alex Rodriguez is certainly at the head of the list.  His days as a premier third baseman are over.  That’s even more reason to bring Headley back.  With someone like A-Rod, I would set my expectations low and then anything he delivers beyond that would be a bonus.  I truly hated to see the World Series end for no other reason than it meant the restoration of A-Rod to the active roster.  I wish there was a way the Yankees could sever ties, but the contract is too problematic unless the Yankees want to simply give A-Rod money for nothing and release him.

With Jose Pirela performing well in winter ball, there should be very spirited competition for second base with Rob Refsnyder in Spring Training.  My preference is to go young with the position and not reach out for an older veteran on the free agent or trade market.  They’ll need to do the latter at shortstop to provide a fill in until young prospect Jorge Mateo is hopefully ready in a few years.

It’s been fun watching the star shine more brightly on Yankees prospect Aaron Judge.  One of the bigger guys in baseball, he is playing better than just a big man and is on track to arrive at Yankee Stadium in a couple of years.

This off-season will see the departure of some prospects as a few are getting older and running out of options like Austin Romine.  The Yankees have a glut at catcher behind Brian McCann, so it would seem that either Francisco Cervelli or John Ryan Murphy will have to go.  I only hope that it doesn’t mean trading away high level talent like Judge or pitcher Luis Severino unless the return is significant (highly unlikely).

Best of luck to Gary Denbo as he takes over for VP of Baseball Operations for the retiring Mark Newman.  The Yankees have made progress in improving their minor league system the last couple of years so hopefully Denbo can enhance the continued growth of quality prospects at the upper levels of the system.  Also, I was pleased to see the return of former third baseman Eric Chavez as a special assignment scout.  I was disappointed last year when he chose a bench role with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the Yankees to be closer to his home in Arizona.

Still no word on a new hitting coach or first base coach, although it looks like Raul Ibanez is getting strong consideration for the former position.  Teaming him with someone like James Rowson would be a great idea.

Decisions made by the Yankees over the next 45 days will go a very long way toward shaping the 2015 Yankees.

I am ready for Spring Training to begin…

–Scott

No plans for October?…

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

The Yankees keep giving deceiving indications that they could actually snag the last Wild Card slot with great performances like the two walk-off wins over the Tampa Bay Rays.  The series ender when Chris Young broke up a no-hitter in the 8th with a double and won the game in the 9th with a three run homer seemed to possess the magical “mystique and aura”.  But the latest post-season hopes were dealt a harsh reality on Friday (September 12th) when the Baltimore Orioles swept the Yankees in a double-header.

The Yankees had a chance in the first game when they took a 1-0 lead in extra innings but the O’s dished the Yankees a taste of their own recent medicine in scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning to snatch victory away.  The second game was no contest as the Yankee bats couldn’t muster anything against Bud Norris.

Ichiro and the Yankees offense combine for one run in 20 innings of baseball on Friday.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

I have felt for some time that this year’s Yankees lack the necessary ingredients to thrive in the post-season and I did not see them hurdling over the likes of the Detroit Tigers, Oakland A’s, and Mariners.

With post-season hopes fading fast, I think the Yankees should shut Masahiro Tanaka down rather than risk trying to bring him back this month for what appears to be a lost season.

It’s hard not to wonder how this year’s team would have done with Robinson Cano in the heart of the batting order.  Jacoby Ellsbury has been great at times but he doesn’t carry the consistency that Cano brought to the park every day.  Carlos Beltran has been a shell of his usual self due to injuries.

The curtain will soon be closed on the Yankees and they can start to think about what it will take to improve the team for 2015.  Of the late season additions, I would like to see the returns of Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy.  I am hopeful that the team re-signs both players.  Martin Prado is under contract so he’ll be back.  It’s a small sample size, but Chris Young is showing enough to be the team’s fourth outfielder next year.  With the virtual certainty that this is Ichiro Suzuki’s final year in the Bronx, Young could play a valuable role next season.  Headley may not be the bat that you want at third, but he is a much better defender than Alex Rodriguez.  I am really not looking forward to A-Rod’s return and it’s anybody’s guess what the Yankees will get from the 39-year old.  At this stage of his career, I think he’s a full-time DH at best.  But he’ll never be the slugger he once was.

Team character takes a huge hit with the departure of future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter and the return of A-Rod.  Honestly, I’d love to see the Yankees find a way to divorce Rodriguez regardless of the cost…

I do think we’ll see a better version of Brian McCann with a year under his belt.  As for second base, I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder will be able to make the leap in spring training and claim the position.  I’d prefer that over a free agent signing or trade for a past-his-prime veteran.  I don’t think that Stephen Drew is the answer at short so I don’t know who will replace #2.  I am sure that will be a focal point of the off-season.  With A-Rod potentially blocking DH, that’s a predicament for Beltran.  I question his durability to play the field at this stage of his career and he’d be a better candidate (and performer) at DH.  The Yankees need to find a young slugger for right field.  I am not sure that the top prospects, like Aaron Judge, will be ready yet so they Yankees may have to explore the trade market.

Mark LoMoglio/Tampa Yankees

It was interesting to see the reports that minor league director Mark Newman will be retiring at the end of the year and the subsequent reports that he most likely would not have returned anyway since his contract was up.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago Newman had great power within the organization and for a time battled GM Brian Cashman for control.  But now, Newman is quietly shown the door.  The first potential successor I heard is Trey Hillman.  I am ready for a change to see better performance from the minor league system.  Damon Oppenheimer has done well drafting in recent years but it always seems like the prospects get stuck at Triple A and never pan out.  Obviously, Dellin Betances is an exception but he had to re-invent himself as a reliever after an unsuccessful attempt to get to the majors as a starter.

The Yankees do need to make re-signing Brian Cashman an early priority so that it doesn’t detract from the team’s off-season plans.  If they can’t re-sign Cashman, I still think that Billy Eppler would be a very capable replacement.  But with Eppler’s name mentioned in every GM opening, the Yankees need to re-sign Cashman before Eppler departs.  A worst case scenario would be for Eppler to get the Arizona Diamondbacks job with the Yankees subsequently failing to lock up Cashman.

Yankees.JPG

Rob Antonelli/New York Daily News

There’s a great deal of uncertainty as the Yankees move forward.  It is unlikely they’ll go on another spending splurge like they did last off-season.  The Yankees do not have too many trade-able chips at the major league level.  Francisco Cervelli comes to mind.  He has done a good job for the Yankees in a much needed support role to McCann but I think John Ryan Murphy is capable of performing well in that role.  But it would take a lot more than Cervelli to bring an infusion of talent into the organization.  I am always on the lookout for the next Paul O’Neill…the type of player who has not lived up to his potential in his current environment but is someone capable to excelling in New York.  Then again, isn’t everybody?

Lots and lots of questions as the sun sets on the Yankees’ 2014 season…

–Scott

I know the Fat Lady is not singing but…

So close, yet so far away…

The Yankees may only be 3 games back in the Wild Card chase as they enter play this evening, but trailing three teams for two spots sounds a bit daunting.  Particularly when two of those teams are perhaps the best in the American League with the Oakland A’s and the Detroit Tigers.  At the end of play last night, Oakland, Detroit and the Seattle Mariners were tied.  While I think the Yankees could catch the Mariners, the odds are against them when it comes to the A’s (or Angels) or the Tigers (or Royals).

Much larger leads have fallen in the past, but I think the superiority of the A’s and Tigers will win out.  If they take their divisions, the Angels and Royals both field superior teams to the Yankees.  I don’t think there are any waiver deals at the deadline that can be made to improve this year’s Yankees.  As with the non-waiver deadline in July, I didn’t want the Yankees to part with prospects nor do I now.  If I legitimately felt that the team had a chance in October, perhaps I’d feel differently.  But the 2014 Yankees, even if they landed a Wild Card spot, would be destined for a one game Wild Card loss or if they prevailed, they’d be bounced in the first round. 

It’s disappointing as a Yankees fan as it doesn’t feel like championship hopes can be restored in the short term.  The Yankees are 11 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox, and yet, the outlook for the 2015 Red Sox is far more promising. 

Huh, I didn’t know he was available?…

When I heard that the Yankees had signed Chris Young to a minor league deal, my first thought was when did the Seattle Mariners get rid of their starting pitcher who is 12-6 with a 3.16 ERA on the season?  But then I heard the talk about him playing the outfield and realized they were talking about the other one.  I don’t know much about OF Chris Young but it seems like he was once a promising Arizona Diamondback who had a disappointing 2013, signed with the Mets and continued to underwhelm until his release.  Given the Yanks success with ex-Diamondbacks (i.e., Martin Prado and Brandon McCarthy) perhaps Young will revert to his old form under the tutelage of the Pinstripes.  Not sure if the Yankees will call him up before or after September 1st but he seems like a good replacement for Ichiro Suzuki if he is successful.

A little early to look to next year but…

With the success of Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy in the starting rotation, it will be interesting next year.  While CC Sabathia will be returning, I honestly do not know what the Yankees will be getting and if it will be an upgrade over Greene or McCarthy.  Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka are obvious locks, although Ivan Nova might be delayed since he’s coming off Tommy John surgery.  I think this is the final year in the United States for Hiroki Kuroda before he heads back to Japan permanently.  Still, even if the starting rotation projects to be Tanaka-Pineda-Sabathia-McCarthy-Greene, I fully expect the Yankees to go after a free agent pitcher like Jon Lester.  Lester, partnered with a healthy Tanaka, at the head of the rotation would be huge. 

Lester was my favorite pitcher when he played for Boston so having him on the Yankees would be ideal. 

There will be lots of interesting decisions to be made by Manager Joe Girardi and company.  And oh yeah, we’ll have to deal with the return of he who shall remain nameless at third and DH. 

–Scott

 

What Dreams May Come…

The end of days…

The realist in me understands that these are the end of days for the New York Yankees.  It is merely a time formality for them to be mathematically eliminated.  A recent 5-game skid has almost assured the Baseball Gods and those twin sisters at Yankee Stadium, Mystique and Aura, that there will be no October baseball in the Bronx.  Realistically, I do not  believe the Yankees have a chance to catch the Detroit Tigers or Kansas City Royals as either one of those teams should capture the second Wild Card behind the Los Angeles Angels. 

What does this mean?  Honestly, I think that Brian Cashman’s tenure as GM has reached its conclusion.  While I’ve enjoyed Cashman as GM, I recognize that it is time for change.  Assistant GM Billy Eppler, a finalist for the San Diego Padres GM job that he lost to A.J. Preller, is a top candidate and my personal choice as a successor.  I would prefer Eppler, who knows and understands the inner workings of the Yankees kingdom, as opposed to an outsider that would have a learning curve.  Eppler is respected and he’ll have the support of the Steinbrenners from Day 1 given his history with them. 

 

New York Post/Charles Wenzelberg

This Yankees team is old and I don’t know what they can do in the short run to turn things around.  In many ways, they should have been sellers at the trading deadline to bring an infusion of youth into the organization.  The Yankees have talent at the lower levels of the minor leagues (man, am I looking forward to the day that OF Aaron Judge takes the field) but the higher level prospects have largely been a disappointment.  While I am hopeful that 2B Rob Refsnyder gets a sniff of Yankee Stadium in September, it is P Manny Banuelos that I am most interested in.  Once touted as the top pitching prospect in the organization, I still think Banuelos can deliver the goods now that he is healthy.  Hopefully, he is able to make a statement in September to convince the team that he is ready for 2015.

 What does it mean? The return of CC Sabathia leaves little to be excited about as he showed nothing to disprove he is aging fast prior to his injury.  Hiroki Kuroda will finally head for the shores of Japan, whether it is to retire or to play one last season in the Japanese leagues.  So, the Yankees will enter 2015 with plenty of questions in the rotation.  Masahiro Tanaka should be the opening day starter, but he’s still just an elbow blowout from Tommy John surgery.  Shane Greene has proven he belongs so I am confident that he’ll be part of the rotation.  Michael Pineda is in the ‘show me’ stage of his career.  It’s time for him to stay healthy and produce.  If he is capable of doing that, he’ll be at the upper echelon of the starting rotation.  If not, he’ll go by the wayside, ala Carl Pavano.  Ivan Nova, I have no clue.

What really makes this down season so bad is that next spring will be met by Alex Rodriguez.  I really hope that the Yankees find a way to sever ties and ensure that A-Rod never wears pinstripes again.

Matt Slocum 

“Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish, and think of me. Make your life spectacular.” – Jack

I know that this is a sports blog but I’d be remiss for not acknowledging the tremendous impact that Robin Williams had on me during the course of my life.  From Mork and Mindy to the many movies that Robin starred in, he made a difference.  His comic genius was unlike any other, and he took to any role and embraced it.  For someone who brought so much joy and happiness into so many lives, it is unfortunate that he was unable to do so for himself.  This has been a tough year with celebrity losses, with actress Lauren Bacall being the latest example, but Robin Williams is a star that will continue to shine brightly.  I hope that he found what he was seeking in his fatal decision, but it’s a given that he’ll never be forgotten.  Thanks Robin, we appreciate you, we love you, and hope that you’re the life of the party at the divine afterlife. 

 

–Scott

 

Patchwork Blue…

Who is #26 again?…

Perhaps the Yankees are trying to give as many players as possible the opportunity to play with future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.  Wow, I am starting to need a program roster to keep up with who is playing for the 2014 Yankees.  Chase Headley taking an infield drive and relaying it to Brian McCann at first in defense of Brandon McCarthy on the mound is not exactly a scenario that I had envisioned at the beginning of the year.

Nothing against either Headley or McCarthy as both have performed well during their very short Yankee careers, but there have certainly been a number of roster changes this year.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen the complete overhaul of a starting pitching rotation as we have gone from CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka, and Michael Pineda to Kuroda, McCarthy, David Phelps, Shane Greene, and Chris Capuano.  Of course, that’s today.  There could be a current non-Yankee in the rotation by next weekend.  McCarthy has performed much better than I had anticipated.  I know that he’s healthier than he was earlier in the year with the Arizona Diamondbacks as he is further removed from prior surgery, and as they’ve said, he was showing marked improvement prior to the trade.  He is not that removed from being one of the Oakland A’s top starting pitchers.  While I do not expect his return to that level, it is nice to know the team has a chance every time he takes the mound.

Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of their baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, June 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) Photo: Eric Risberg, Associated Press

AP Photo/Eric Risberg

I like the job Shane Greene has done but of course it comes with the typical rookie pains.  Admittedly, I was not aware of Greene prior to his call up from the minors.  I try to keep up with the top prospects, but he flew under the radar…at least for me.  I guess it is a good thing that I am not the general manager.

I am not too crazy about the addition of Chris Capuano.  He is just a middle of the road, average pitcher who is susceptible to very bad innings.  He is 8 years removed from winning 18 games in Milwaukee, and he had a disastrous June for his home state Red Sox.

No complaints about David Phelps but he is not going to make me forget Tanaka anytime soon.

It is ironic the Yankees finally acquired Headley.  The Yankees and Headley have been tied together in trade rumors for over two years.  In the end, the cost was not that great.  I think Yangervis Solarte and Rafael de Paula will do well in San Diego, but Headley gives the Yankees a much needed and consistent bat at third.  I am anxious to see how he performs at Yankee Stadium after leaving the spacious Petco Park.  The early returns are good, but it remains to be seen if he can be the Chase Headley of 2012 or if the 2013 version is more indicative of future results.  No matter how this plays out, I would prefer the Yankees to re-sign Headley in the off-season to man third over the impending 2015 return of Alex Rodriguez (I really hope that we’ve seen the last of the latter in pinstripes).

It will be interesting to see what moves GM Brian Cashman is able to make during the upcoming week.  I would like to see a pitcher who can push Capuano into the bullpen and another bat, preferably an outfielder.  I know that he’s had a sluggish start to the season and there’s no way the Cleveland Indians are going to trade him, but a Nick Swisher-type who can play OF or first base would be ideal given the fragile state of Mark Teixeira’s health.   While Francisco Cervelli has thrived with increased playing time, I am not exactly enamored with Brian McCann at first base.

Thanks but no thanks…

I was a little disturbed when I saw the post earlier in the week that the Yankees were talking to the San Diego Padres about starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, and the names being mentioned were prospects 3B Eric Jagielo and P Ian Clarkin, both former first round picks.  While I am not opposed to Kennedy’s (I was actually glad to see him go when he left), I do not feel the Yankees should give up top talent for him.  I still think Kennedy is a hothead and he may be Ed Whitson revisited (guys who just can’t handle the bright lights of Broadway).  I have been intrigued with Jagielo as the future Yankees third baseman, so I hope the Yankees do not thwart that plan.

Mark LoMoglio/Tampa Yankees (via MiLB.com)

I think money owed, overall health, and a no-trade list will prevent us from ever seeing Cliff Lee in pinstripes.  I recognize the no-trade list can be overcome with money but even the Yankees would be foolish to throw that kind of money at a pitcher who has become a frequent visitor to the DL.

I don’t think the Yankees have the talent to swing a deal for a top shelf starting pitcher, but on the other hand, I’d hate to see them give up what they do have for an aging pitcher with questions.

I do recognize that the moves Cashman makes in the next few days will define this season as the Yankees currently only trail the front-running Baltimore Orioles by three games.   I have stress at work, but it’s probably nothing compared to the chess moves that Cashman is facing.

Today is my birthday and all I want is a Yankees win.  So, c’mon…um…uh…you there in #26!

 

–Scott

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.