Results tagged ‘ Nick Swisher ’

Over-promise and under-deliver…

The only non-dramatic series of the 2012 post-season…

Sadly, the 2012 season is over for the New York Yankees.  But admittedly, I did not feel the team had the horses to win the World Series this year.  I know, any team can get hot and take the championship (i.e., 2011 St Louis Cardinals), but the team’s hot and cold hitting pattern bothered me.  As the saying goes, “good pitching beats good hitting” so the Yankees’ hitting problems are magnified in the play-offs as they continually face #1 or #2 type starters.  If Robinson Cano had gotten hot, maybe it would have been different but no one rose to the challenge in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.

The ALCS loss by sweep was painful.  For me, it probably ranks with the 1976 World Series when they were swept by the Cincinnati Reds.  If memory serves, they won the World Series the following two years so I guess there is hope for next year!  Well, maybe not.  But all things considered, I’d rather be embarrassed on the ALCS stage than the World Series.  That’s probably awful to say because who wouldn’t want their team in the World Series and I am no different.  But I wouldn’t want to see the Yankees looking as pathetic in the World Series as they did in the ALCS if that makes any sense.

The 2013 season – optimism or pessimism?…

On the heels of Derek Jeter’s successful ankle surgery that will have him out for 4-5 months, there are reports that CC Sabathia will be consulting with Dr. James Andrews for his ailing left elbow.  Apparently, the ligament is intact so there’s hope that either rest or minor surgery to shave the bone spur in his left elbow will be the cure.  This definitely bears close watching over the course of the next few months.  If CC is unavailable to pitch in 2013, the Yankees would be lacking a legitimate #1 starter.  I have not heard how Michael Pineda has been doing, but he’ll  be expected to help fill the void in the rotation regardless of what happens to CC, assuming that he is healthy.  This was a difficult year for young Yankees pitching prospects, with injuries to Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos, the latter of whom will be lost for 2013 due to Tommy John surgery.

The Yankees really need to do what it takes to ensure that Hiroki Kuroda returns for one more year, and hopefully, Andy Pettitte will decide to go for one more tour around the American League.  With the Houston Astros moving to the American League in 2013, Andy would be assured of playing a few league games at home.  It would be a great farewell tour with Andy pitching in Houston while standing on the mound with the interlocking N-Y on his hat.

Another year in, and I still don’t know what the Yankees have with Phil Hughes.  At times, he is so promising, but others, such a disappointment.  I am not sure that he can be trusted to be anything more than a #5 starter with his inconsistency.  The Yankees have tough decisions to make on both Hughes and reliever Joba Chamberlain, two pitchers who have seemingly been intertwined since they arrived in New York.

I am concerned about Alex Rodriguez and the huge adverse impact of his contract on the team.  The production no longer matches the pay, and of course, the pay prevents those dollars from being spent more wisely.  The Yankees will have to settle for “less” in other areas, which will further handicap the team’s productivity.  If the Yankees can find a way to move A-Rod, regardless of the cost, I would be in favor of it.  I’ve never been a big A-Rod fan, and I would prefer to see his association with the Yankees eliminated.

I want the Yankees to re-sign Robinson Cano, but if the cost is a 10-year, behemoth mega-million contract, I am not so sure the team should go down that road.  I am tired of these long-term deals where the player only performs to the level of the contract for the first few years.  Cano’s silent bat in the play-offs also was a red flag for me.  It’s disappointing because Cano has been one of my favorite players, but the future of an organization should not be tied to one or two players.  The St Louis Cardinals are an organization that always seems to make the right decisions for the good of the team, and it has worked out well for them.  They are a win away from the World Series despite letting one of the best hitters in baseball walk away last winter.

I do not want to be disrespectful of Derek Jeter and I recognize that he had a great 2012 season, but the fact remains that he’ll be a 39-year-old shortstop coming off ankle surgery heading into next season.

When the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, it looked like a great signing…much better than the previous first base commitment to Jason Giambi.  But after a great 2009 season, Teixeira has not been the feared hitter that I thought he would be.  He has been great defensively, but never delivers the key, clutch hit.  Those ice cold starts to begin seasons are getting longer and longer.

I do believe the Yankees need to re-sign catcher Russell Martin.  I’d also like to see them either invest in a stronger back-up catcher or commit to Francisco Cervelli over Chris Stewart.

I had great respect for Eric Chavez when he was the starting third baseman for the Oakland A’s early in his career, and I’ve thought he was a great role player for the Yankees over the last couple of seasons.  But now is the time for the Yankees to move on and find a strong, reliable third base option to spot A-Rod (or replace him if they can somehow find a way to move A-Rod to Miami or Phoenix).

In the outfield, I am hopeful the healthy return of Brett Gardner will be a positive.  I have mixed feelings about re-signing Ichiro Suzuki.  I thought he rebounded to have a very productive end of the season, but the Yankees are too full of guys nearing or at 40 years of age.  A healthy Gardner can replace what the Yankees have in Ichiro…well maybe not the hitting ability, but all other components of his game.  I like Curtis Granderson and even though he underperformed in the play-offs, I would still like to see his return.  I’ve been a big fan of Nick Swisher, and have appreciated how his personality lightens the Yankees clubhouse.  But right field is an area in need of improvement.  If the Yankees can get Swisher to re-sign for a reasonable amount of dollars and years, maybe it makes sense to bring him back.  But if his expectation is 5-7 years at dollars approaching $100 million, then the team should let him walk.

I am not in favor of bringing either Andruw Jones or Raul Ibanez back.  Ibanez had some tremendous hits in the play-off series against the Baltimore Orioles, but the Yankees need to strengthen their bench with younger players who have greater upside.

I am glad to see the Yankees commit to both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi for the 2013 season.  I think both, if given the resources and support, can bring the team back to championship level.  At this point, the Yankees seem to be in an inferior position to the last place Boston Red Sox in terms of roster flexibility.  The Sox ability to unload dead contracts on the Los Angeles Dodgers late in the season was huge.  Now that the Sox have their guy as manager (John Farrell), there’s no doubt that we’ll see an improved Red Sox team next season.  If the AL East was highly competitive in 2012, it will be even more so in 2013.  The difference between first and last place could be which team makes the best decisions this off-season.  The margin for error will be less than it has ever been.

I hate to be so doom and gloom, but the Yankees have much work ahead of them.  Despite baseball’s highest payroll, they have a team comprised of older ballplayers that are experiencing the inevitable declines in production.  The dollars committed to unproductive players like A-Rod and Teixeira are an albatross for a team that wants to reduce its payroll by 2014 to avoid excessive financial penalties.  The Yankees do have the talent in the front office and certainly the resources to persevere so how they navigate the next few months will determine if the Yankees are a team of promise and destiny at the start of the 2013 or just another aging ball club that has seen its better years.

A fan of whatever team plays the Tigers…

Despite being an American League fan, it will be hard for me to cheer for the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.  With the Cardinals holding a 3-2 advantage against the San Francisco Giants heading into tonight’s NLCS Game 6, my preference is for the Giants to somehow find a way to overcome.  But if they are unsuccessful and the Cards advance to face the Tigers, I will pull for St Louis.  Residing in the Bay Area, the Giants are a “hometown” favorite for me; while the Cardinals are a “sentimental” favorite (my first major league baseball game as a kid was in St Louis).  Plus, as a fan of the Minnesota Vikings and San Jose Sharks, it would be tough for me to pull for any city that boasts the Lions or the Red Wings.

At this point, I am ready for the Hot Stove League to begin…

–Scott

All things considered, the first half was a success…

 

A 7-game lead is nice, but…

As the All-Star Break comes to a close, I should be very happy the Yankees hold a 7-game lead in the AL East (7 ½ and 9 ½ games over their chief rivals, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox, respectively).  There were times during the early weeks of the season that I really questioned the makeup of the 2012 team.  At one point, after the horrific start of the Red Sox, only one game separated the two teams.  Fortunately, the Yankees began to put together consistent pitching performances and powered their way to first before July arrived.

But, as I sit here waiting for the second half to start, it’s evident the Texas Rangers have the most balanced squad in the league even if the Yankees have the slightly better record.  Last year, the Detroit Tigers simply shut down the Yankee bats to eliminate the Pinstripers in the play-offs.  The old adage, good pitching beats good hitting.  The problem is the Yankees didn’t have and still do not have a true, legitimate clutch bat.  I am not trying to take anything away from Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and others, they’re good hitters.  But there’s always doubt in key situations.  There are certain hitters that always come through in the clutch or at least it seems like it.  I’d put former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis in that category.  You know that he’s not going to get cheated in an at-bat…win or lose, he’s going to grind.

While the Yankees have gotten good pitching lately, it’s still a fact that their top two starters are on the DL.  Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes have pitched very well in their absence, but even with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, the Tampa Bay Rays have a better pitching staff.  I still find it hard to believe that the Red Sox are as bad as their record indicates.  The realist in me keeps expecting them to go on a tear sometime in the second half.  Neither the Rays or the Red Sox are finished, and I am confident both will be making noise in September.

While it is likely the Yankees do not make any moves this month as the trading deadline nears, the team needs to be aware that the competition is not going to sit back and go with the status quo.  I fully expect the powerful Rangers to make a move to further improve their team.  It’s scary to think of them potentially acquiring a frontline starter like Cole Hamels.  I recognize and understand that the Yankees are more budget conscious under Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner than they were under the Boss.  I get the reasons for reducing payroll by 2014 to avoid additional penalties.  Plus, there’s always the fear that the Yankees trade a strong prospect or good player for a risk, only to see the player hit a home run and win the MVP award in an All-Star Game wearing an opponent’s jersey.

It will be good to see the return of Sabathia, Pettitte, and Brett Gardner in the coming weeks.  Plus, Joba Chamberlain will finally begin his rehab starts this weekend.  So, there is help on the horizon.  But will it be enough?  Time will tell.

Farewell to the better Twin City…

I moved from Minneapolis to the San Francisco Bay Area so I no longer have my great downtown view of Target Field.  I so loved downtown Minneapolis, living in the Warehouse District.  It was a great experience in a great city.  Northern CA is a wonderful place to live, but it will take time for me to re-adjust to California after enjoying Minneapolis so much.  So, now instead of being within walking distance of Target Field, I am a BART ride away from the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants.  It’s not quite the same thing.  Of course, ask me in December or January and my response will probably be substantially different.

The Kidd from Cal…

After completing my first year as a fan of the New York Knicks, I was pleased to see the team sign veteran point guard Jason Kidd to back up starting guard Jeremy Lin.  I have always felt a connection with Kidd.  I lived in Dallas when he was drafted by the Mavericks, and I moved to Phoenix shortly after he was traded to the Suns.  Yes, I have moved a fair amount during the course of my life.  I am not sure that the Knicks will win in 2012-13, but they should be very fun to watch.

So wrong on many levels…

Speaking of basketball, it was hard to see Steve Nash don a Lakers jersey.  Despite his years in Dallas, I will always associate Nash with the Phoenix Suns.  The Lakers, of course, are a chief nemesis of the Suns, so Nash’s move would be like Derek Jeter signing with the Red Sox at this stage of his career.  I was a Lakers fan prior to moving my allegiance to the Knicks, but still, I hate to see players join a chief rival in any sport or league.  I know that whenever a Yankee or a Minnesota Viking leaves as a free agent, I am always hoping they sign in the other league or conference.

I want but cannot have…

I feel bad for Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic.  After openly expressing his desire to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, the teams were unable to consummate a deal.  Given that Howard has no desire to stay in Orlando, it will be interesting to see where he ends up.  But Brooklyn would have been a lot of fun with the upcoming inaugural season for the former New Jersey team.  I guess the Magic didn’t want Kris Humphries.  Well, maybe Kim Kardashian was right after all…

Okay, let’s throw the first pitch for the second half!  Time to race to October!

–Scott

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

 

The 10-Game Roll…

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

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

Hats off to Cashman…

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

The personality alone is worth a few million…

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

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

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

Git ‘er done!…

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

Spending the end of July in the Hamptons…

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

Farewell to a beloved city…

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

–Scott

$189 Million by 2014 or bust…

 

His accounting degree was the first tip-off…

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

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

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

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

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

Open mouth, insert foot…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes for a fast return…

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

Don’t trip on the snow rounding first…

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

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

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

 

–Scott

In Red Sox We Trust?…

 

Once you’ve failed Boston, come to New York…

Okay, I admit it.  I am not overjoyed to see the Red Sox reunion on the Yankees roster.  First, there was former Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima, then reliever Manny Delcarmen, and now utility infielder Bill Hall.  Of the three, Okajima is actually the only who’s last team was the Red Sox but still, the three have served their time in Beantown and are now “enemies” in a friendly camp.

If Okajima can win a job, that’s fine but I don’t really see him beating out Cesar Cabral unless the latter is a complete washout in camp.  Delcarmen, in my mind, is simply fodder for the spring with no hope of seeing the major league roster come Opening Day.  Hall is an interesting pickup.  I am concerned because I want to see the return of backup third baseman Eric Chavez, who is the perfect as a substitute for Alex Rodriguez when A-Rod takes his usual spot on the DL.  Indications are that the Yankees are still interested in Chavez despite the Hall signing and I hope so.  Reports have also indicated that the Yankees are in deep conversation with Raul Ibanez.  If both Hall and Ibanez are signed, is there room for Chavez?  I really hope that Chavez is independent of the other decisions.

Nevertheless, even if the Yankees break camp with Okajima, Delcarmen and Hall, they are still inferior to what the Yankees could have had with long reliever/spot starter Alfredo Aceves.  At the time the Yankees cut bait with Aceves, I thought it was a mistake.  I realize that he had been hurt and subsequently suffered a setback that cost more time.  But never once did I consider him to be the second coming of Carl Pavano.  I thought that once he was healthy, he’d return to being the effective reliever he was prior to the injuries.  Of course, that’s exactly what he did…only in a Red Sox uniform.  That’s why I always hate to see ex-Yankees go to Boston.  Sure, it would be fun to see Okajima, Delcarmen or Hall thrive in the Bronx, but I just don’t see it happening.  I’d have to score this one as ‘Advantage, Red Sox’.

Swisher deserves compensation!…

I enjoyed seeing pitcher Jeremy Guthrie’s quote after being traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Colorado Rockies.  He said the loser in the trade was Nick Swisher’s batting average.  Hopefully, Swish can find a replacement pitcher to pick on!

$19 Million?  Put it on the tab…

Good move by the Los Angeles Dodgers to lock up arbitration-eligible starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw for two years.  It helps buy some time for the new ownership group to take control and do what’s right by ensuring Kershaw is a long-term fixture in Chavez Ravine.  I am sure these are tenuous times for Donnie Baseball given the uncertainty regarding the ownership picture and the current financial constraints.  But the Dodgers have done well in securing Matt Kemp and now setting up Kershaw for discussions on a longer-term deal under a time frame that will suit the new owners.

RBI, or IBRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR….

It’s hard to believe that we are just a few weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to camp.  The temps in Minnesota have dipped back into the 20’s with some sub-zero temperatures looming on the horizon.  Target Field is looking a bit frigid to think the lights will once again be illuminated in two short months.  Nevertheless, I am glad to see the return of the America’s Favorite Pastime.  No offense to Eli Manning, but I’ll be glad when the “star of New York” is someone like CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano, or Curtis Granderson rather than Peyton’s little bro.

–Scott

The Yankees did what?…

 

Yankees sign top free agent…

Well, it wasn’t exactly Prince Fielder but I’ve felt all off-season that re-signing Andruw Jones was important for the 2012 Yankees.  In this off-season of inactivity, I was concerned that the Yankees would let Jones slip away to a team like the Boston Red Sox or the Texas Rangers.  There’s no question that Jones is NOT the player that he used to be (that’s a given), but he fills a valuable fourth outfielder role and I prefer him over Justin Maxwell, Chris Dickerson, or Melky Mesa.

When I read that the Red Sox were potentially interested in Jones, I was worried that it would drive up his price tag (which was probably the prime reason for the Red Sox “interest”).  But the base salary of $2 million (with additional incentives that could push the package to $3.4 million) was very reasonable for Team Suddenly Frugal.  The Yanks have a good outfield with Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher, but Jones allows the Yankees to play match-ups and move guys around.  Plus, if any of the aforementioned starters spend any time on the DL, Jones is certainly a capable fill-in.

Wanted:  Non-starting starting third baseman…

Now that the outfield depth has been filled, I am anxious to see what the Yankees do about the mandatory need to acquire a strong backup for third base.  I remain in favor of the return of Eric Chavez, but regardless of what happens, the Yankees need a proven performer that does not weaken the team during the inevitable A-Rod absences.

Yeah, that’s the ticket…

It’s too bad that MLB teams don’t get a mulligan for bad contracts.  They should give every team a one player exemption that could be called the “Stupidity Clause”.  Given A-Rod’s $30 million annual salary with $5 million production, the Yankees could get a waiver for luxury tax on the bulk of A-Rod’s salary.  Same goes for the Angels and Vernon Wells, the Cubs and Alfonso Soriano, or the Red Sox and Carl Crawford (although CC does have the ability to re-earn his money).  It does stink knowing how much the Yankees will be paying A-Rod and Derek Jeter in several years in terms of the return.  I remain hopeful that Derek Jeter will depart gracefully when he realizes that his performance is not equal to his compensation.  But I know that A-Rod is into his contract for every undeserved cent.

Hats off to a rival…

In a statement of the obvious, I knew that Mark Melancon was not destined to be the closer for the Red Sox when they acquired the former Yank from the Houston Astros.  This week’s acquisition of Andrew Bailey by the Sox from the Oakland A’s was a solid move.  Bailey, a native Easterner, will thrive in Boston.  He matches Jonathan Papelbon in ability, and exceeds him in character and integrity.  The risk with Bailey is his health, but the Sox do have relievers with closing experience in Melancon and Bobby Jenks.  While I don’t think that the Bailey acquisition is the big bold move I’ve been expecting from new Boston GM Ben Cherington, it is certainly one that improves the team.

Not looking forward to the day…

With the surplus of closer talent available this off-season, I hope that it is a similar environment when the ‘Greatest Closer Who Ever Lived’ decides to take his ageless arm and signature cutter home to Panama.  I like Derek Jeter but I will be ready for the day when a younger, talented option becomes available.  I will cry the day Mariano Rivera walks off the mound for the final time.  I loved Goose Gossage as the Yankees closer, but it took so many years for an equal (or in this case, greater) replacement to emerge.  There’s always been something so magical about a great closer.  I grew up watching the wild antics of the Mad Hungarian, Al Hrabosky, in St. Louis, so the role of the closer became the “it” position for me at a very early age.  There’s nothing better than a game-ending punch-out with high intensity.

Game plan:  Success!…

Well, as 2011 comes to a close, I want to wish everyone a very Happy and Joyous New Year!  May your dreams come true and your happiness reach heights never before imagined!  It will be a fun and rewarding new year, and I’m glad you are here…

–Scott

Time to kick it up a notch…

Baseball’s not a slow game but the off-season is…

It’s Thanksgiving, and the Yankees’ big moves this week were to sign journeyman utility infielder Jayson Nix and last year’s Andy Pettitte stand-in, Freddy Garcia.  While I recognize that the Yankees needed to bring Garcia back, I hope that it does not deter them in their search for a legitimate #2 or #3 starter to go behind CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova.  I have not seen any updates on how potential talks are going with backup third baseman Eric Chavez, but hopefully, he’ll return to New York for one more season.  At this point, I view Nix as spring training fodder that will be discarded by the time the team heads for the Bronx.

In recent weeks, I’ve heard the Yankees linked to potential trades for Jair Jurrjens of the Atlanta Braves and Gio Gonzalez of the Oakland A’s.  My preference of the two is Gonzalez because of Jurrjens’ history of knee trouble.  Gonzalez, ironically, has been involved in separate trades involving current Yankees players during his career (Nick Swisher, when he was traded from the A’s to the White Sox, and Freddy Garcia, when he was traded from the White Sox to the Phillies).

I am anxious for the Baseball Winter Meetings so that free agent and trade activity will begin to heat up.  So far, the early winner of the Hot Stove League has to be the Philadelphia Phillies for no other reason than they’ve been aggressive while other teams have been idle.  Jonathan Papelbon was a good choice for closer, especially when you have as much invested in the rotation as the Phillies do.  Ryan Madson did a good job last year, but it’s really anybody’s guess if he would have enjoyed the same level of success this year since he simply does not have the history to support it…yet.  I am not quite sure how Jim Thome fits in, but as a pinch-hitter off the bench, there’s certainly worse bats you could have.

The Texas Rangers also did a good job in picking up former Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan, even if it does come with significant risk.  As long as they have a solid Plan B in place, Nathan could be a very pleasant surprise if he shows that he can still pitch at a very high level.

Who will be the Astros’ DH?…

It will probably be strange for the Houston Astros next season as they make their farewell from the National League.  Andy Pettitte is probably wishing that this had happened during his playing days so that he could have been ensured of playing at home every season.  I think Brad Mills is a good manager but it will be interesting to see if he is retained by new owner Jim Crane when the Astros enter the AL West in 2013.  He certainly deserves the opportunity, but you have to wonder if he’ll be given sufficient time to succeed.

Happy north of the border or wishing that Yawkey Way was a daily routine…

It’s no secret that the Boston Red Sox would love John Farrell as their manager, but the Toronto Blue Jays were obviously unwilling to allow that to happen.  Nevertheless, I wonder how Farrell feels.  Is he happy and delighted to be in Toronto, or does he have an unfulfilled desire for the Sox?  Speaking of the Sox, I just don’t see how Bobby Valentine and the city of Boston are a good fit.  I don’t dispute that he’s a good manager, but eventually he wears out his welcome and the pressure of Boston is greater than Arlington, Texas or even Flushing Meadows, New York.  I don’t really know anything about Torey Lovullo’s managing background and Gene Lamont seems like an uninspired choice so I can’t say who I think would be a great fit for the job.  Admittedly, I am a fan of former manager Terry Francona, so it does seem that whoever takes his place is going to an inferior choice.  If it were my decision, I’d probably go with someone who has strong ties to the organization already, like bench coach DeMarlo Hale.  But Boston’s late season collapse effectively removed any September participants from consideration and perhaps wrongfully so.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the course of the next few weeks.

My first year in Minnesota coincides with the Vikings’ worst year in their 50 year history…

With the Minnesota Vikings standing at 2-8 heading into this weekend’s play, the baseball off-season has already seemed so incredibly long and it hasn’t even really started yet…

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

 

–Scott

 

Stage 1 of Operation Successful Off-Season is complete…

 

Whew…

After a season of ‘will he’ or ‘won’t he’ opt-out, CC Sabathia accepted the Yankees offer and I couldn’t be more pleased.  I am a bit concerned that CC’s weight will eventually prove to be a problem if he doesn’t get control of it, but clearly he is the Yankees best pitcher and the best hope for the next few years.

Since avoiding the opt-out only cost the Yankees $30 million (potentially $50 million if he is still at the top of his game at the end of the contract), it was clearly a bargain since they would have paid more to retain him had he hit the open market or perhaps they risked losing him altogether.  I know that CC’s decision to stay was not solely on his love for the city and organization, but I am glad that he’s a permanent Yankee with no opt-out looming on the horizon.

I was driving home from work on Monday evening when I heard the news of the signing on MLB Radio.  I had feared the worst so the news of his announcement on his website that he was staying was such an incredible relief.  I have felt that the key to a successful off-season is getting both Sabathia and GM Brian Cashman locked up before the start of the free agency period.  Mission accomplished.  I am not sure there’s much on the free agent market that can help the Yanks, but hopefully, the team will be able to make a trade or two to improve the quality of the rotation.

As good as Cash…

Speaking of Cashman, his re-signing was essential for organizational continuity.  I am not sure how long it takes a new GM to get acclimated to the job, but it would seem making your way in the Yankees Universe would take longer than usual.  I am sure that the Yanks would have looked in-house for candidates (such as Billy Eppler or Damon Oppenheimer) but the man for the job continues to be Cashman.  I am sure that he’s thought of what life would be with in a less stressful environment, but nobody is as suited for the Bronx as Cash is.  I thought it was an interesting stat that he’s been the Yankees general manager longer than anyone since Ed Barrow (1920-45).

The start of a new era…

After standing pat for the most part with last year’s roster, it will be interesting to see what the Yankees do this year.  I don’t expect them to go hog wild but they definitely need to get CC some help and they need a few clutch bats off the bench.  At some point, the Yankees will have to say goodbye to Jorge Posada who few people expect to be on the 2012 roster.  It is time for Jesus Montero to take up residence at Yankee Stadium and sadly that means there is no room for Jorge.  He will go down as a great Yankee, and he’ll be heavily cheered at future Old Timer’s Days.  My preference is for him to retire as a Yankee rather than to try and hang on for another year or so with another team.

Despite the Yankees decision to pick up his option, the odds of Nick Swisher still have to be mixed at best.  If the Yankees can pick up a better player for right, I am sure that they’d do it.  Swish’s personality would be missed but if he could be used, in part, to bring a frontline pitcher to New York, I’d be in favor of it.

Rafael Soriano decided against exercising his opt-out?  Big surprise…  L

You win some, you lose some…

I was disappointed to see the failure of Project Andrew Brackman.  When Brackman was drafted, it was clear the Yankees had been able to get him at the spot they drafted because Brackman needed Tommy John surgery.  I had really hoped that the pick would pay off and that Brackman would eventually be the top pitcher his potential screamed.  Sadly, it was never meant to be…at least in New York…as the Yankees declined his option, making the 25-year-old a free agent.

There are other teams besides the Yankees?…

I was shocked when I heard that the St. Louis Cardinals might have interest in Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon as a replacement for Tony LaRussa.  There’s no doubt that he’d be a great fit, but I just cannot see Tampa allowing Maddon to leave.  He has been great for the city and the team…much to my chagrin and to the dismay of my friends in Boston.  But I wouldn’t lose any sleep if Maddon does manage to get out of Tampa to take the Cardinals job.

I would really hate to see the Boston Red Sox get Michael Cuddyer…

–Scott

Right on Target…

 

The weather is Minnesota was beautiful…

Last Sunday, I attend a simply great baseball game.  Well, outside of a few harmless errors and miscues.  As a resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota, I went to Target Field and saw the Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins, 3-0.  It was a great afternoon for baseball (temperature in the upper 70’s, with lots of sun).

The game was a pitcher’s duel in the early going.  I was surprised when the Twins pulled starter Nick Blackburn in the second inning despite not giving up any runs, but later heard that he had been injured.  The Twins bullpen did a good job until the 7th inning when Curtis Granderson hit an inside-the-park home run.  I was watching him run between second and third, and his stride is so long that he almost looks like he is going slow motion.  There wasn’t much hesitation as he rounded third and headed home.  I always cringe when players go in for headfirst slides but Curtis slide his hand across home plate before the ball arrived and the Yanks were up 2-0.  In retrospect, the Twins outfielders blew the play when both the right and center fielders went to the wall on Granderson’s hit ball which bounced off the wall.  One of the outfielders should have backed up the other, but that’s the hazard of fielding a young, inexperienced outfield.

Mark Teixeira followed with one of those line drive shots that never drop as the ball was deposited in the left field stands.

The Twins definitely had their chances.  At one point, they had men on second and third with no outs and couldn’t score.  David Robertson worked out of a jam in the 8th when the bases were loaded despite no balls leaving the infield.  There were miscues, like when a ball dropped between Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson (you get it, no, you get it…) or A-Rod’s bobble of what should have been a routine fielding play.  Fortunately, the Twins couldn’t do anything with the opportunities, so the Yankees emerged the victor.  I had a decent seat (lower level, left field) but for the 9th inning, I moved over to the standing area behind the home plate lower level seats.  I had a perfect line to watch Mariano Rivera throw his cutter to catcher Russell Martin, and it was great to catch that view.  It was also nice to see Mariano walk off the field with another save…

I am always amazed at how many Yankees fans are in attendance on road games.  Not that I’d feel threatened in Minnesota, but it’s nice having “support” nearby!

So close yet so far away…

Monday night’s game was a disappointment.  After the Yanks fell behind 6-0, I wrote the game off.  But then, in the final two innings, the Yanks brought it to within one at 6-5, with the bases loaded.  I started to get excited about the potential huge comeback, but Nick Swisher hit a fly ball that was caught near the fence to end the game.  That was harder to accept than if the Yanks had just lost 6-0.  Then, of course, every time I looked at the TV, the loss was scrolling across the ticker on ESPN.  While A.J. Burnett is my personal favorite to be yanked (no pun intended) from the rotation, I realize that there are financial reasons for why that move won’t be made.  Therefore, the next to go would be Bartolo Colon.  I’d definitely take Freddy Garcia over Colon, and there is no way that Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova will be coming out of the rotation anytime soon.

Of course, as I sit here typing this blog, Nick Swisher has just hit a home run to put the Yanks up 2-1 over the Oakland A’s in the 6th inning.  Dude, where was that shot last night?…

Wasn’t he a Yankee for about 5 minutes a few years ago…

I saw the blurb today that the Yankees had claimed Chicago Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena on waivers.  Listening to comments from GM Brian Cashman, it doesn’t sound like the Yanks will do anything, but it would be nice to acquire Pena as an option at DH and a backup to Mark Teixeira.  He is definitely familiar with the AL East having played with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.  I don’t like Pena’s batting average, but his other stats are respectable.  The Yanks clearly need a clutch bat on the bench and perhaps Pena could be the guy if the Yanks and Cubs can work out a trade.

Fat, dumb, and happy…

Entering play tonight, the Yankees held an 8 ½ game lead over the Los Angeles Angels and Tampa Bay Rays.  While that’s certainly not insurmountable, it’s nice to have such a large cushion as we enter the final days of August.  Granted, I’d prefer to win the AL East, but then again, with the current play-off structure, it doesn’t really matter.  If the Yanks can keep the lead in the WC standings, they should be able to rest some guys in September to allow the team to head into October at full strength.  At this point, my biggest concern is getting a healthy Alex Rodriguez on the field.

Have a good night!

–Scott

‘Just Win, Baby!’…

 

So far, the Yankees have started like last season…winning their series as they’ve taken the first two from the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins.  As the saying goes, ‘Two outta three ain’t bad!’.  Keep it all season and it would equate to a divisional championship.

 

 

A.J. Burnett remains perfect in pinstripes in April with a six-inning, two-run outing against the Twins to close out the Yankees' season-opening home stand with a 4-3 win.

Simmons/NY Daily News

 

 

I was a bit surprised about Rafael Soriano‘s implosion that cost the Yankees the second game in the series with the Twins.  His career high three walks in an inning proved fatal as the Twins rallied in a game CC Sabathia should have won.  But the bigger problem was avoiding the media after the game.  Being in New York is about being a stand up guy through thick and thin.  Frustration is understandable, but unfortunately, there is more to baseball than just a game.  I think Soriano will learn from the situation and of course being around Mariano Rivera is sure to have its positive impact.  There’s not too many people that understand New York better than Mo and Derek Jeter.

 

I was really sorry to hear that Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka broke his leg on a hard slide at second base by Nick Swisher.  I thought it was very classy of Swisher to visit Niskioka after the game to express his apology.  Swish likes to have fun but he’s certainly not a dirty player and it would be unfair to pin that tag on him because of the incident.  I thought Nishioka has done an admirable job in his MLB debut season and wish him the very best for a full and speedy recovery.

 

For all the problems that A.J. Burnett has endured in New York, I am amazed about the stat that he is undefeated in April.  Of course, with today’s win, the streak continues.  I want to say that Burnett is pitching so much better than last year and I don’t have the fear I used to have when he took the mound.  But still, I guess I had better wait until May before forming any opinions.  Whatever it is, I hope that A.J. can keep it going. 

 

Who would have thought the biggest pitching concern in the rotation would be Phil Hughes?…

 

Freddy Garcia did miss out on his start because of a rain postponement when Joe Girardi skipped his turn in the rotation for the next game.  So the Yankees still don’t know what they have at the back end of the rotation.  If Hughes implodes again, I’ll definitely be concerned since it will put a fair amount of pressure on Ivan Nova. 

 

I am very surprised that both the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays are a combined 0-12.  Despite the slow start, I still recognize that the Boston Red Sox have a very powerful and formidable team.  With 156 games to go, I am sure the Red Sox will have a higher winning percentage than most teams over the same period of games and will be leading the way into October.  Actually, I am not too excited about the Yankees facing their most bitter rival at a time when they’ve been backed into a corner.  A win or two against the Yankees can definitely kick start the Red Sox Machine and give them the momentum to charge forward.   I don’t think the series will be a sweep in either direction but it is going be a hard-fought battle, and the winner will have their share of bumps and bruises.

 

 

Sox turn to Lester

AP 

 

 

Of course, with the Yankees playing the Red Sox, it is time for yet another wager with my good friend, Julia, of Julia’s Rants.  For the latest bet, the loser will write a critical analysis of what ails his/her team.  The loser will also have to write about why the other team is better.  Pride and ego will definitely have to be checked at the door for this one.  The opening game of the series on Friday pits two huge question marks against each other…Phil Hughes versus John Lackey.  The game will most likely set the tone for the rest of the series.  May the best team win…which, of course, are the Yankees!  ;)

 

It should be a great weekend for baseball!

 

–Scott

 

 

 

 

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