Results tagged ‘ New York ’

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.

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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

Your Opening Day Starter is…

Sorry CC, not this time…

The baseball season will soon be upon us.  The Yankees have yet to name their Opening Day starter, but I know who it should NOT be.  CC Sabathia.  I recognize that CC is viewed by others on the team as the leader of the pitching staff, but I have always believed that the Opening Day starter should be the guy who performed the best during the preceding year.  For me, there’s no question that the Opening Day starter should be Masahiro Tanaka.  He is also now the #1 starter on this staff.

I know that CC has held the role for a number of years, but it is time to pass the gauntlet.  There are still many questions if CC will ever be the pitcher he once was.  Tanaka should be the Opening Day starter for years to come if he keeps up his performance…and of course if the elbow ligament does not go out.

CC did nothing for the Yankees last year and he was the featured performer on the Disabled List for most of the year.  The Opening Day assignment should not be recognition for the sum total of years pitched, it should be about who is the best guy on the staff.  Right now, that guy is Tanaka.

Source:  Bleeding Yankee Blue blog

Conflicting objectives…

Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner talks about how the Yankees must win, but conversely, reaffirms that the Yankees want to get under the luxury tax threshold in two years.  The only way this is possible is through the attrition of expiring contracts, and replacement by young, cost-controlled players.  I am still not convinced the Yankees have the prospects at the upper level capable of placing the team at the footsteps of the World Series.  Sure, guys like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, and Greg Bird have looked great this spring, but it will take more than that.  It’s sad that the Yankees have to pay $30 million per year to a guy who is slated for part-time DH and some back up third base.

I understand the need to control costs but there are other teams that have better farm systems and the willingness to pay for higher level talent, such as the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.  I don’t think the Yankees will be able to close the gap by focusing solely on the reduction of total salaries.

I understand the Yankees do not have to spend $250 million in salaries to win.  The bad contracts on the team were necessary at the time they were signed.  It’s unfortunate the players were unable to sustain their level of play that justified the contracts, but that’s the risk of long-term deals.  Refusing to commit to future long term deals will only cause free agents to look elsewhere.

An argument can be made that if the Yankees really want to commit to youth, they need to get really bad to have a few years of high draft picks.  But that’s at odds with the Yankees ‘win-now’ mantra.

Admittedly, it feels like the Yankees are a long way from the opportunity to win their 28th World Championship.  I guess as a Minnesota Vikings fan, I should be used to years of no championships.  Maybe the Yankees struck gold with their low key off-season acquisitions (Nathan Eovaldi, Didi Gregorius et al).  But I still do not think the current roster construction is sufficient to overcome the better teams in the American League.

Backup catcher…

With spring training rapidly coming to a conclusion, the inevitable decision regarding Austin Romine will be made (since he is out of options).  Will he remain on the team with John Ryan Murphy headed to Scranton/Wilkes Barre or will he be headed elsewhere in a trade?  For years, he was labeled as the organization’s top catching prospect along with Jesus Montero.  Montero is now in Seattle and has already been sent down for minor league re-assignment.  There’s no way the Yankees can slip Romine through waivers without losing him, so D-Day will soon be upon us.  This is tough.  I like Romine and I’d like to see him stay in the organization, but conversely, I like Murphy.  Murphy probably brings more with the bat.  This is a tough call for the Yankees.  I honestly cannot say which path I would like to see the team pursue.  In the end, I am sure that GM Brian Cashman will make the right call.

Presswire

#5 Starter…

My vote to replace the injured Chris Capuano is Adam Warren.  Nothing against Esmil Rogers, but I have more confidence in Warren.  I haven’t heard any updates regarding Ivan Nova but I am assuming that he’s still on target for a late May/early June return.  Not sure what we’ll get from Nova in his first year back from Tommy John surgery, but he’ll be a noticeable upgrade over whomever is filling the #5 spot.

Elsa/Getty Images North America

End of Winter…

Yesterday signaled the passage of Winter and the arrival of Spring.  Last year, living in Maryland, the end of Winter meant far more than it did this year living in Southern California.  But it does place us much closer to Opening Day and that’s a great thing.

–Scott

Out from the Cole…

Let someone else try…

While I greatly respect Boston Globe columnist Nick Cafardo, his column today that implies the Yankees have come the closest in making a bid for Philadelphia Phillies starter Cole Hamels just doesn’t make sense to me.  While I agree that Hamels is a top shelf starter, I find it very hard to believe that the team would be willing to part with top prospects and major league talent to acquire Hamels.  This past winter, they could have acquired Max Scherzer for nothing more than money and a draft pick.

If the team is serious about its bid to get younger, acquiring the 31 year old Hamels is not the answer.  You’d only acquire Hamels if you legitimately felt you had a shot for the World Series.  The Yankees are not at the doorstep for the Fall Classic and they wouldn’t be even if they acquired Hamels.

I know there is great risk with any prospect and of course the path to the major leagues is littered by sure fire prospects who never made it.  In the past, Yankee fans have been teased with the hype associated with players like Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos.  Montero is in Seattle and while he may still be the player people thought he would be, he hasn’t done it yet and despite his injury history, Michael Pineda is a better player at this point in their respective careers.  Manny Banuelos is in Atlanta and he brought a couple of arms for the bullpen.  Perhaps guys like Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino and Aaron Judge are over-hyped because they are Yankees, but still, I would hate to see them leave and prosper in Philly.  I am sure that I felt the same way about Montero and Banuelos at some point, but I do believe the Yankees have made a concerted effort to improve their drafts in recent years.

At a time when there is competitive balance in the MLB thanks to profit sharing and luxury taxes paid by the richer teams and primarily the Yankees, the Yankees have the financial strength to employ the best scouts to uncover the diamonds in the rough.  If over a century of Yankees baseball has proven anything, the Yankees know how to adapt and they’ll continue to do so.  But the key is getting younger and getting more cost controlled players.  That’s why a move for Cole Hamels just does not make sense.

I would love to see Hamels in the Yankees starting rotation.  But I simply do not want to part with the farm system to do it.  Whoever acquires Hamels is going to overpay.  Let some other team overpay, even if it is the Boston Red Sox.

–Scott

For a few dollars more…

Like many Yankees fans, I found myself very disappointed that the Yankees lost Cuban free agent infielder Yoan Moncada to the Boston Red Sox.  After an off-season of inactivity, it felt like the Yankees would make the winning push to bring Moncada to the Bronx.  Then, to come up short to the Red Sox, feels so wrong.  The money the Yankees were offering Moncada was huge ($25 million with the potential to go to $27.5 million), particularly considering the 100% tax associated with the bid had it won.  Boston was all-in with over $31 million, and we are left to wonder why the Yankees couldn’t push a little bit harder.

I know, a 19 year old who has not proven himself and is at least two years from the major leagues.  Still, under best case scenario, he would have been THE replacement for Robinson Cano.  Perhaps the Yankees feel that they are in good hands with Rob Refsnyder at second and potentially Eric Jagielo in a few years at third.  If Moncada puts up Hall of Fame numbers in Boston, this one will be forever a hard one to take.  I felt that he was a blue chip, can’t miss prospect and he certainly would have zoomed to the top of the Yankees prospect list had he signed.

Conversely, if he flops, this will sting in Beantown and Hal Steinbrenner will look like a genius.  But somehow, I suspect that Moncada will be alright and Hal’s frugal mind will leave the Yankees as the bridesmaids.  It’s hard to think of a guy who is spending nearly $235 million to field a team this year as a frugal mind but he is unquestionably more bottom line oriented than his father was.

If the Yankees fail to advance to the play-offs for the third year in a row, it is going to place great pressure on Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman.  But it’s the owner’s decision to go young and cut costs so time will tell if the manager and GM are the casualties.  I am not looking for Girardi to leave.  If he does get the ax, there’s not really anyone out there that I think could do a better job (who is not already employed).

This is a tough year.  We have to have faith that the young moves for guys like Didi Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi will pay off.  Can they bridge the gap to when the farm system is ready and capable of producing major league talent?

If Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and, egads, Alex Rodriguez can’t turn  back the clock, it’s going to be a long year in the Bronx and the future, without Moncada, is still a bit unclear.

I am not sure what I would do if I was the owner of the Yankees.  It is so important to get a collection of cost controlled players to supplement the larger contracts.  Everyone on the 25 man roster can’t be a mega-millionaire.  Something has to give.  But with the younger players, after years of picking lower in the draft or not having any top draft picks, the Yankees have to figure out a way to be creative.  The loopholes that they’ve exploited for a century have closed and they need to find new ways to exert their financial strength.  Otherwise, it’s going to be a long time before a World Series championship returns to its rightful home.

My guess for a World Series champion in 2015 is the easy pick…the Washington Nationals.  On paper, they have it top to bottom.  But inevitably, it will be some surprise team that no one saw coming.  But sadly, the Yankees will most likely be home for the holidays by October.

As usual, I hope they prove me wrong…

–Scott

The Man said he was sorry…

You had me at…, um, no, you didn’t…

We are supposed to simply accept a handwritten apology?  Right.  Sorry, I don’t buy it and I don’t think it would matter if A-Rod spoke before a packed house at Yankee Stadium.  Alex Rodriguez is sorry for only one thing.  He got caught.  He could care less about you or me.  Honestly, at this point, the only thing that I’d accept out of A-Rod’s words would be a retirement announcement.

I saw a few New York sportswriters commenting that home runs will bring the fans back.  Are we so shallow that we could forgive Alex for his behavior by simply forgetting all with the first ball that clears the fence?  I know that I will not be a fan of Alex Rodriguez today nor would I be one if by September he has hit 40 home runs.  My days cheering him are over.   I am still a Yankees fan, and of course, I want the team to win.  I would not wish for A-Rod to do anything detrimental to the team (well beyond the damage that he’s already done) but I will only accept his contributions as team contributions, not individual accomplishments.

I admit that I hope Alex plays so poorly in the spring, the Yankees bite the $60 million bullet and release him.  But that’s too far fetched to be possible.  He won’t need to do much to hold his own on the roster.  Rob Refsnyder could play twice as well in spring training and end up in Scranton/Wilkes Barre while A-Rod is the team’s full time DH.  But still, the thought of an outright release would be the best possible outcome in my mind.

As good as the Boston Red Sox’ front office has become, it’s too bad they weren’t better back in 2003 when they failed to acquire A-Rod from the Texas Rangers.  How differently things might have been had A-Rod gone to Beantown.

Ifs and buts, I know…

It’s a numbers game…

There was a time when it seemed odd that Phil Hughes wore #65 or that Joba Chamberlain wore #62.  Now, with the announcement plans to retire numbers 20, 46 and 51, the lower numbers are slowly going away.  Of course #2 will soon be retired for Derek Jeter and I’ve always wondered if some day #21 will be taken down for Paul O’Neill.  Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Bernie Williams were all great Yankees and they deserve becoming legends of Monument Park.  It was also very classy of the Yankees to announce plans for a plaque for former second baseman Willie Randolph.

It thought it was cool when Manny Ramirez wore #99 for the Los Angeles Dodgers a few years ago.  Now, we’re probably just a few seasons away from someone donning the same number with the Yankees.  Hopefully, I won’t live to see the days when players are wearing triple digits.

Make or break a farm system…

Based on all reports, I would love nothing more than to see the Yankees sign Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada.  However, based on what I’ve read, I do expect the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the bidding.  I hope the Yankees emerge victorious.  Given they’ll be limited in the international market for the next few years, Moncada would be icing on the cake for the fantastic international draft they had this year.  I know that there are no certainties but Moncada does sound like the real deal.  I guess if the Dodgers win the bidding, I shouldn’t fret too much since I live just a few miles away from Dodger Stadium.  But after an off-season of largely inactivity, signing Moncada would make this winter well worth the wait.  I guess we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks.

NESN.com

Open the door…

Count me among those who hope that new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred re-opens the Pete Rose case.  It’s time to let Pete the Ballplayer take his rightful place in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  I will never defend Pete the Man, but I saw the ballplayer play, and he remains one of the greatest that I’ve ever seen.  He has served his sentence and deserves to stand among the game’s greats.

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It’s hard to believe that it is time for pitchers and catchers to report.  With this off-season’s inactivity and losses, it is hard to envision October baseball in the Bronx.  Yeah, yeah, if all things go right and everyone stays healthy, I know they have a chance.  But realistically, this is a third place team at best with the potential for the cellar if things go horribly wrong.  As always, I will throw in the caveat that I hope I am wrong.  But if anything, I do think the Yankees are laying the groundwork for future success.

Let’s play ball…

–Scott

Bonjour, Fevrier…

Ready or not, here come the 2015 Yankees…

The Yankees have stayed the course and true to their word, they didn’t purchase any big ticket items this off-season.  While I am glad to see that they want to end the ridiculous cycle of overbuying for soon to be past their prime ballplayers, it’s an almost certainty that the Yankees will again miss the post-season this year.  There’s always the chance that guys like Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew and Brian McCann play to their prior levels, but really, for everything to come together, the odds are against it.

Max Scherzer might have ensured a few more wins but he would not have made the Yankees a World Series contender.  So, perhaps the current path chosen by Yankees management and ownership will ultimately mean a World Series caliber team in a couple of years rather than a few years of a team trying to hang on.  I am excited for the future when guys like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino begin their ascent to the Bronx.

I thought the Philadelphia Phillies made a good signing with former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley.  There’s a good chance that Billingsley never makes it back from his past injuries, but conversely, there is a small chance that he could.  It was a shot worth taking.  Granted, this is not exactly Clayton Kershaw that we are talking about, but Billingsley, if right, can help a pitching staff.  Meanwhile, the Yankees signed former Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Baker for insurance.  I would have preferred to take a flyer on Billingsley.

Another pitcher that I’d probably be interested in for insurance purposes is former Atlanta Braves starter Brandon Beachy.  I really liked Kris Medlen but unfortunately so did the Kansas City Royals.

The Yankees need options for the spot in the rotation currently held by Chris Capuano.  Of course, Capuano is just a placeholder for the eventual return of Ivan Nova but I don’t really expect Nova to be effective this year when he does.  It will probably be 2016 before we start to see the Nova of old.  I have heard talk of converting Adam Warren to a starter, but I like the current configuration of the bullpen even with the loss of David Robertson.  I expect the Yankees to name Dellin Betances as the closer rather than use a closer committee comprised of Betances and Andrew Miller.  Miller should serve as the prime setup guy, with the others, including Warren falling in line.

While I am hopeful that Stephen Drew returns to the player he can be, I still hope that this is the year Rob Refsnyder arrives to take second base.

While former high prospect Austin Romine is out of options, I feel that John Ryan Murphy is better suited to be the Yankees backup catcher.  Sadly, Romine will see his Yankees career end in spring training either through trade or release.  Hopefully, the Yankees can get something for him when the time comes.

The calendar page is almost ready to turn to February which means that pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting.  Even if this will be another disappointing season for the Yankees, the thrill of the spring is always a great time.

–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

Searching for the diamond in the rough, a/k/a the Rebuilding Program…

Happy New Year!

This has been an odd off-season for Yankees fans.  Quietly, the Yankees have made small deals to get younger.  The only significant addition of a proven high level performer is lefty Andrew Miller.  Didi Gregorius makes sense given the team’s need at short, but he’s hardly proven himself as a top flight shortstop to this point in his career.

It was difficult to see David Robertson leave to sign with the Chicago White Sox, particularly since there were no outward signs the team tried to keep him.  Not sure what the team saw that we didn’t, but Robertson has proved he can pitch in the Bronx and that’s not an easy task…especially when you follow the footsteps of a Legend…

Despite the brevity of his Yankees career, I was disappointed when I heard the news that Martin Prado had been traded to the Miami Marlins.  While I am hopeful that Rob Refsnyder grabs second base in spring training, there’s always the chance that neither he nor Jose Pirela will be successful.  Prado provides great diversity to a roster.  While I am not disappointed that Mark Teixeira will have a sorely needed legitimate backup in Garrett Jones, I am not quite sure what to think about starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi.  I understand the potential is there, but it’s yet to be proven.

Robert Mayer – USA Today Sports

But probably the biggest sadness of the off-season occurred with the New Year’s first trade which saw the Yankees send once top prospect Manny Banuelos to the Atlanta Braves for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.  I can so remember when the “Killer B’s” (Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman) were so highly touted and viewed as the future of the Yankees.  Betances failed as a starting pitcher, but obviously, he resurrected his promise with brilliance in the bullpen and now looms as the likely new closer.  Brackman was released a couple of years ago and is now out of baseball.  Nevertheless, I still had hope that Banuelos would finally arrive.  After Tommy John surgery in 2012/13, I expected him to struggle in 2014.  Few pitchers are able to come back at an immediate high level.  It takes time.  There is still time for Banuelos to blossom.  To the Yankees’ defense, there is always the chance he’ll never be what he could have been.  I will still root for Banuelos, the Brave,  and I do hope that he becomes the pitcher we thought he would be.

Mike James – AP Photo

As a Yankees fan, there are certain guys in the farm system that you follow closely.  Granted, there has been a shortage of high level talent in the system, but still, you hold out hope that certain guys will become the next core of the team.  Yet, in recent years, it has usually just ended in disappointment, with Banuelos being the latest.  I can think of Eric Duncan, Cito Culver, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott as a few who have failed.  The successes of players like Dellin Betances have been few and far between.  So, perhaps that’s why GM Brian Cashman is shuffling the deck.  But it’s hard not to say that this feels like a rebuilding program, rather than re-tooling.  So, the two year play-off drought threatens to be more.  I know, I know, if CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and, eek!, Alex Rodriguez can return to form, the Yankees will be in the hunt.  But that’s not a bet I would take.  Of the players, I think, realistically, McCann is the only way who will bounce back.  That means, with the roster as-is, the Yankee Stadium lights will be out in October.

I do have to add the usual caveat….I hope that I am WRONG!

So now, I look forward to the next wave of prospects making a difference.  I am hopeful that guys like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Gary Sanchez, Ian Clarkin, and the aforementioned Rob Refsnyder are able to accomplish what so many in front of them have failed to do…wear the pride and pinstripes of baseball’s most storied franchise, the New York Yankees.

Here’s hoping for much happiness and success in 2015 for all!

–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

Slowly but Shirley…

It’s a Chess game…

I wanted to see the Yankees make a move but sending Martin Prado to Miami was not exactly what I had in mind.  As with my previous post, I understand why the Yankees can’t pay another $25 million per year for a top starter and how that figure balloons with the luxury cap limitations.

It’s good that the Yankees are acquiring a young arm with Nathan Eovaldi but when I heard the guy has had control problems and allowed the most hits among NL starters, I wasn’t exactly enthused.  Still, there must be something in Eovaldi that Larry Rothschild and company see and know that they can tweak for more effective results (or so one would hope).

The Yankees have long needed a quality back up first baseman so adding Garrett Jones does add some pop off the bench with an ability to play first for extended periods of time.

Al Behrman

I liked having Martin Prado on the roster given his versatility, however, if his departure means that Rob Refsnyder will get a legitimate shot at second base in the spring, then I am all for it.  Jose Pirela has been hitting all winter long and looks like he can be the utility player that Ramiro Pena never was and might even be an option at second base if Refsnyder stumbles.  Clearly, the Yankees do need to open starting spots for young guys and as such, the Prado trade was probably justified after the team re-signed veteran third baseman Chase Headley.

I still do not see the Yankees as more than an 85 win team (and most likely less).  But as some have said, they are accomplishing the goal of getting younger.  Personally, I think if this is the path they’ve chosen, then it’s best to move the most desired players to other teams for quality prospects and wait for the albatross contracts to expire.

As it stands, we’ll be watching the Chicago White Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers race for the AL Championship.  I don’t expect the Baltimore Orioles to go away, but I don’t think the Yankees will be in the thick of things come September based on the current roster configuration.  I am just not convinced that we’ll see the collective bounce back of the group that includes CC Sabathia, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira.  Chances are that one or more will spend a significant amount of time on the DL and the Yankees will be searching for replacements in AAA and on the scrap heap.

Would Max Scherzer change that outlook?  No, probably not.  The Yankees need a vast overhaul and it’s probably going to take a few years just to flush the toilet.  The Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers have been able to maneuver very quickly to unload dead weight but the Yankees have too much of it.

The worst thing the Yankees could do at this point is to sign a veteran infielder like Asdrubal Cabrera to play second.  I don’t want to see a placeholder at the position.  I’d rather see a player with strong long term potential.  No more Mark Reynolds fill-ins.  It is time to develop the future core of the team.

I would love nothing more than to see a guy like Tyler Austin come to spring and force the Yankees to play him in right field.  Carlos Beltran should be the full-time DH at this stage of his career, not Alex Rodriguez.  A-Rod should be playing somewhere in Siberia.  If there is one move that would make me truly ecstatic this off-season, it would be to find a way to eliminate A-Rod’s presence.  If I was a billionaire, I’d gladly give another team $61 million to take him off my hands.

Chris Capuano qualifies as one of those Mark Reynolds fill-ins, but of course, he’ll be the first to go if Ivan Nova successfully returns in May or June.  The wild card that I like is to finally see Manny Banuelos fulfill his destiny of reaching the Bronx.  He is now far enough removed from his Tommy John surgery that 2015 should be his potential breakout year ala Dellin Betances.  If the Yankees broke camp with Banuelos in the starting rotation over Capuano, I’d be very happy.

I am sure that there are still more moves to be made, but at least the Yankees are finally doing something even if we do not yet fully understand the plan.

Meanwhile, Boston Red Sox fans continue to gloat…

–Scott

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