Results tagged ‘ Rafael Soriano ’

Can you throw 95 mph…and beat the Sox?…

 

If you can beat Boston and Tampa Bay, we want you!…

The Yankees’ season of uneven play continues.  They go to Oakland and sweep the A’s, and then lose a series to the Angels of Los Angeles but located in Anaheim or whatever they are called these days.  Granted, the Angels have always been a thorn in the Yankees’ side, but they started the season slowly so there was hope it would continue through the series with the Yankees.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  At the least the Yankees salvaged the final game of the season.  It is always good to win the get-away game regardless of the outcome of the prior games in the series.

Given the Yankees had pinned much of their 2012 hopes on starting pitcher Michael Pineda (lost for the season due to injury), it is not a surprise that trade rumors are starting to surface.  I saw one today about interest in Matt Garza of the Chicago Cubs.  I’ve always liked Garza, and even if his time in Chicago has not been stellar, the guy knows how to pitch in the AL East.  He’s not going to be the second coming of Roy Halladay, but he would be an effective choice.  I would think that a trade for Garza, among other highly touted prospects, would include either Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova.  I couldn’t see the Cubs making the trade for prospects only.  I also couldn’t see the Yankees trading Hughes given his recent strong performances.  But including Nova would cost greater minor league talent to be included.  What I don’t want to see is a trade for the Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez.  He has had a decent season so far, but the AL East is a different animal and I’d rather have someone with proven experience.

I saw a comment on one of my recent posts that Yankees fans needed to get over losing Cliff Lee.  Huh?  Where did that come from?  Yes, I would have liked to have signed Lee, but he obviously preferred to return to Philadelphia.  There’s nothing wrong with his choice.  I’ve moved on, and I think other Yankees fans have too.  Just because we are concerned about the state of the current starting rotation has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not we lost out on Lee.

Youk, the star of Chavez Ravine…

I saw today that the Boston Red Sox are trying to move Kevin Youkilis in a move that would not qualify as a surprise.  Will Middlebrooks has shown that he is major league ready and the earlier confrontation in the media between manager Bobby Valentine and Youk shows that the clutch hitter supreme might be better suited in a different uniform.  Given the Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite NL team, I am hopeful that the Dodgers will acquire Youk for manager Donnie Baseball.  I’d really hate to see the Sox trade Youk to the Rangers and only strengthen what has been the AL’s best team.

Leave it to Santana to say “f” Mets history…

About a week ago or so, I was listening to the guys on MLB Radio talk about how the New York Mets did not have a no-hitter despite having no-hitter king Nolan Ryan on their roster at one time.  But of course all good things must end as Johan Santana threw a no-no tonight.  Congratulations to Santana as it has been a tough road since he left the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it must be a…

I am a big fan of David Robertson, but I am hopeful that manager Joe Girardi keeps Rafael Soriano in the closer role and returns Robertson to his key setup position.  Robertson is the best setup guy in baseball in my opinion.  Sori has showed signs of his dominance several seasons back as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays as the team’s closer.  He’s no Mariano Rivera, but I think Robertson-Soriano provides the Yanks with the best case scenario all things considered.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  J

Scott

 

Winning is so much better than the alternative…

 

Playing better while waiting for an old friend…

With news that Andy Pettitte will be starting on Sunday against the Seattle Mariners, it’s good to see the Yankees starting to play with more consistency.  It’s no coincidence that the Yankees better play of late comes during a month when Robinson Cano’s bat has started to heat up.  He is essential to the team’s success given an inability to consistently depend upon Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. 

CC Sabathia was in prime form against David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays as the Yanks took the final game of the series this week, and 2 of 3 from the Rays after getting swept in the season opening series in St. Petersburg.  I realize that David Robertson was not available to pitch on Friday night after his previous workload, but Rafael Soriano’s performance in saving the game does help illustrate the Yankees might be better served by having Soriano close and returning Robertson to his highly successful setup role.

I am not ready to condemn Robertson for the failed save that gave the Rays their only win of the series, but Soriano simply has much more experience closing games.  Robertson is great in the 7th and 8th innings, and perhaps he’ll be a future All-Star closer.  But for now, I’d rather go with experience at the end of the game and ensure that the 7th and 8th innings are covered.  It’s tough because I think very highly of Robertson, but his ability to weave in and out of trouble plays better in the earlier innings than it does the 9th.  Soriano is being paid like a closer, and it would be easier to fill his setup role than it is Robertson’s. 

When I first heard Friday’s pitching match-up was Seattle’s King Felix against Hiroki Kuroda, I wasn’t sure what to think.  Felix Hernandez is among the best pitchers in baseball and Kuroda has been inconsistent since his arrival in the AL.  But it turned out to be one of Kuroda’s better performances as the Yankees defeated the Mariners, 6-2.  The game did see a home run from former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero.  I hope this is not a sign of things to come.  It was never fun watching Jay Buhner taunt the Yankees after they traded him to Seattle, and I was glad when Buhner finally retired.  But now, with Montero in Seattle, it is Buhner revisited as I am sure he’ll become the latest Yankee killer. 

I was relieved to see the Yankees option Eduardo Nunez to minor leagues after his continued errors.  I am not sure what he can do to improve his fielding but I’d rather see him work on it in the minors rather than at Yankee Stadium.  Nunez’s exit meant the return of Eric Chavez from the DL, which is good for Alex Rodriguez. 

I am anxious to see what Andy Pettitte is able to do on Sunday.  Based on his late start in the minors, he didn’t appear ready.  But then again, with a professional like Pettitte, you can’t really judge his performance in a minor league game.  Andy knows when he is ready and he would not have accepted the advancement back to the Bronx if he didn’t feel that he was ready for major league hitters.  I was listening to John Smoltz on ESPN Radio today and he said that it would probably take 3-5 starts for Pettitte to get back up to speed.  I am sure that Joe Girardi will have David Phelps on call during Pettitte’s starts in case he needs long relief, but I am hopeful that Andy can keep his team in games while he works his way back.  At any rate, best of luck to Andy on Sunday!

Billy Beane’s working the bargain bin once again…

What’s Brandon Inge good for?  All he does is hit grand slams!  Seriously, it is good to see Inge start off his Oakland A’s career in grand fashion.  I haven’t followed the Detroit Tigers closely this season but admittedly I was very surprised when Inge received his release from the Tigers.  He had been such a mainstay in Detroit over the years, and was always there to fill a need.  From afar, he seemed to be the consummate professional.  After he was cut by the Tigers, I didn’t expect him to be unemployed for long and of course the A’s signed him shortly thereafter. 

When I first heard this morning that Inge had hit a grand slam, I thought they were referring to the one a few days ago.  But he had hit his second slam in three days on Friday.  If getting hits had been a problem in Detroit this year, Inge doesn’t seem to have the same affliction in the Bay Area.

Hopefully, this is a start of good things for Inge in Oakland….

Role model for not how to act…

I have never been a fan of Josh Beckett.  I may be a Yankees fan, but there are players on the Red Sox roster that I respect.  Beckett just isn’t one of them.  Beckett played a key role in the September swoon that cost the Red Sox a play-off spot last season and he showed no remorse for his actions.  So, it should come as no surprise that Beckett was dismissive of the public’s negative perception of his decision to play golf after missing a start due to a lat muscle.  Regardless of whether he was physically able to play golf is not the issue, it is the negative perception that it created in the minds of the Red Sox Nation as well as the rest of the country. 

I agree with the backlash against Beckett.  His comments after getting pummeled by the Cleveland Indians last night came across as very smug.  His comment that he only gets 18 days off a year was ridiculous.  If baseball isn’t important to him, then he should return his $17 million annual salary to the Red Sox.  I just don’t understand why he couldn’t say something like he was physically feeling well enough to play golf and the golf swing had no impact on the muscle soreness that he had been experiencing, and he was sorry for putting himself ahead of the team.  I know that’s just not Beckett’s personality, but these types of incidents are creating a wedge between Beckett and the RSN.  I’ve heard some say that the next time Beckett racks up 13 strikeouts or throws a shutout, all will be forgiven.  Perhaps there’s some truth to it, but I don’t see Beckett ever fully repairing the damage he’s done. 

I am surprised that Bobby Valentine is not saying much, but then again, he probably learned his lesson after he made negative remarks about Kevin Youkilis.  Or maybe Bobby doesn’t want to completely alienate his pitcher, given how critical he had been of Beckett when he was part of the media. 

Beckett deserves much credit for the success the Boston Red Sox have enjoyed in recent years, but he is doing his best to put a sour note on his legacy.

After being sacked on third down, Vikes toss a Hail Mary…

Congratulations to the Minnesota Vikings and the city of Minneapolis, as well as Vikings fans everywhere, for the passage of the $975 stadium deal through the Minnesota House and Senate.  This has been an incredible roller coaster ride for years.  Just a couple of weeks ago, it looked as though all might be lost.  Then , NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell came to Minnesota, and helped to reignite talks.  The bill still has to be signed off by the governor, but that’s a foregone conclusion as he’s been in support of a new stadium.  I am glad to see that the Vikings will be staying in Minnesota and won’t be a flight risk to Los Angeles. 

 

–Scott

 

Down but far from out…

 

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”…

There is a reason that Mariano Rivera has been my favorite Yankee for a very long time.  I know that Derek Jeter is a quality guy and a favorite of many, but for me, Mariano Rivera has always been the premier player in my opinion.  It doesn’t mean that I feel Jeter’s not a great player…he is.  He is most likely a first ballot Hall of Famer and will go down as the greatest shortstop in Yankees history (with no disrespect to Phil Rizzuto).  But Rivera has always handled himself with dignity and class, and he’s always been accountable when things have gone wrong.  He has never disrespected another player or team, nor has he placed blame anywhere but with himself.  He hasn’t always been perfect, but he’s clearly the best closer in major league history (with no disrespect to Goose Gossage).

I have been dreading the day when Rivera walks off the field as a player for the final time.  But I never dreamed that, potentially, his final moment would be inability to walk off the field under his own power. It was very disheartening to see the pre-game injury when Rivera tore the ACL in his knee this week against the Kansas City Royals.  I kept hoping for the best when I first heard the news, but it is now known that he’ll miss the remainder of the season.  Given that he is 42, the road to recovery is going to harder than if he was still in his 30’s.  Nevertheless, withn 24 hours, Rivera was saying that he wasn’t going to go out like this and that he’d be back next season after much speculation this might be his final season prior to the injury.

If Mo says that he’ll back, I am fully confident that he will be.  I am sad that we won’t see #42 come out of the bullpen for the rest of the year, but I look forward to next season when Mo perhaps takes the final lap in what has been a legendary career.  I will always be appreciative that Rivera wore pinstripes, from beginning to end, and he’ll remain one of my favorites in the history of the storied franchise.

That first step is a doozy…

David Robertson has big shoes to fill as he steps into the closer’s role but I have faith and confidence in his abilities.  I hope that Rafael Soriano is up to the challenge of making a positive impact as he slides back into the role of primary setup man.  Just as Andy Pettitte has become a much more needed pitcher than he was when it was announced he was going to pitch this year, the need for the return to good health for Joba Chamberlain is equally important.  I am glad that one of Manager Joe Girardi’s strengths is his ability to work the bullpen so I continue to view the Yankees relief corps as a strong unit despite Rivera’s absence.

A few favorites…

With Rivera as my favorite current Yankee player, it made me think of my other favorites:

  • Favorite living former Yankee:  Don Mattingly
  • Favorite former Yankee who played during my lifetime:  Thurman Munson
  • Favorite all-time player:  Lou Gehrig
  • Favorite manager:  Billy Martin (followed closely by Joe Torre)
  • Favorite owner:  George Steinbrenner
  • Favorite current Yankee (excluding Rivera):  Robinson Cano
  • Favorite Yankees team:  1998 Yankees (closely followed by 1927 Yankees)

There are many other players that I will always have special feelings for…most notably, pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter, for whom I attribute to why I am a Yankees fan today.  I was a fan of the Oakland A’s and Hunter in particular when I was young, but everything changed when he signed with the Yankees as a free agent in December 1974.  I had always admired the history and the tradition of the Yankees (the first book I recall reading was a biography about Lou Gehrig), so bring the combination of the Yankees and Hunter together brought me to the team as a fan.  I’ve been a faithful one ever since that time.

I’d be remiss by not mentioning Mickey Mantle.  A great player who really could have been even greater than he was.  I was able to attend his funeral in Dallas, and I remember seeing a few of the former Yankee greats who were in attendance.  It was an experience that I’ll never forget.  Bob Costas delivered a tremendous eulogy.  It’s amazing to think of what Mantle could have accomplished if he had held himself to the same standards as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera do.

Yogi Berra, of course, is an invaluable link to the Yankees’ history of success.  There are way too many guys to acknowledge, but these are a few that stand out to me.

Hard to close…

It’s amazing to me how 2012 has been the Year of the Fallen Closers.  So many closers on the DL (Rivera, Andrew Bailey, Drew Storen, etc.); so many demotions (Jordan Walden, Carlos Marmol, whoever is pitching for the White Sox, etc.); and guys who are on the brink of losing their jobs (most notable being Heath Bell).  This is one of the only years in fantasy baseball where all my bench slots are filled with guys on the DL.  But as they say, one guy’s misfortunate is another guy’s opportunity.  Sports is about the ability to step up and take it to the next level.

Game of Stars…

I realize that Bryce Harper is only 19 but I am hopeful that he can find success at this level now rather than a return trip to the minor before he is ready.  I can’t recall a player who has received as much hype (well, perhaps Stephen Strasburg) but I genuinely would like to see the player match (or even exceed) the hype.  It is good for baseball.  Robin Yount was in the majors by age 19 and I think he had a fairly successful career (<understatement).  While I still question the signing of Jayson Werth, it is fun watching the accumulation of talent in DC.  I am just glad they play in the NL and not the AL.

Where’s the caveat?…

When a pitcher throws a no-hitter like Jered Weaver did this week against the Minnesota Twins, they should come up with a degree of difficulty score.  C’mon, it was the freakin’ Twins!  It wasn’t like Weaver was facing the monster bats of Texas, New York, Tampa, Detroit, or Boston.  So, while a no hitter is a great achievement, it’s hard not to discount Weaver’s performance.

What am I doing writing this post?  I should be in line to buy my ticket to see The Avengers!  Have a great weekend, everyone!  J

–Scott

 

You had me at MRI…

A foot apart…

Yes, I admit it.  I was genuinely concerned.  Yesterday, news broke that David Robertson had hurt his foot in a mishap at his home.  The Yankees sounded very concerned and of course they ordered a MRI and were making comments about the severity of the injury.  The immediate thought was the Lisfranc injury suffered by former Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang.  While Wang is pitching again, it took years and he is still not the same guy who won 19 games in successive seasons a few years back.

Today, it was announced that Robertson had a deep bone bruise after missing a step on the stairs at his home.  The foot is a boot and he’s on crutches until Sunday, but it now sounds as though Robertson will be back sooner than initially thought.  So, the best case scenario played out, but it’s another example of how conservative the Yankees are when it comes to injuries.  That’s a good thing, I suppose, from the perspective of the players’ health, but it does cause a little angst among the fan base.  The thought that we’d have to go to the guy who is being paid over $30 million for 3 years to set up (Rafael Soriano) to actually be the set up guy is terrifying!

I know, we’re spoiled but when you live in the midst of a ‘World Series or bust’ environment, it goes with the territory.

Heading into spring training, my concerns for injury resided with players like Alex Rodriguez, Eric Chavez and Joba Chamberlain.  Robertson has been so clutch and reliable that you just don’t expect HIM to get hurt…and particularly not in such a freak accident.  But of course, pitchers are fragile creatures.  You don’t have to look much further than the Mets’ Johan Santana.  Even Pittsburgh’s A.J. Burnett is down after suffering an at-bat injury in a bunt attempt.  The Yankees have been very lucky that CC Sabathia has stayed healthy given the other injuries they’ve dealt with.  Why can’t every pitcher be gifted with the elasticity of David Wells’ arm…

AL East or bust…

Hearing reports of the Baltimore Orioles’ hot and cold interest in Johnny Damon truly shows that Johnny has an interest in playing for every team in the AL East.  I suppose that his agent has been calling the Toronto Blue Jays even if there haven’t been any sightings.  Damon probably should have accepted that trade from the Detroit Tigers to the Boston Red Sox at the trading deadline a couple of years ago.  I hate to see him bouncing from team to team.  That’s probably a good indication that it’s time to go home.  He can still hit, but there’s too many younger, cheaper options.

Have bat, will travel…

The Yankees’ desire to get salaries below the $190 million threshold by 2014, I have to wonder if we are seeing the final two years of Derek Jeter’s Yankee career.  With so much invested in Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia, the Yankees will no longer have the luxury of a huge investment in an aging shortstop.  It’s also disheartening to think that the day will come when the Yankees have to make the decision to keep Curtis Granderson or Robinson Cano.  If they manage to find a way to keep both, then there’s not much left for other key positions.  Who would have ever thought that $190 million would be such a small amount of money…

Teams like the Minnesota Twins probably laugh at the Yankees being placed into a situation where they have to re-tool with less expensive options and make hard decisions on popular players given that’s been their business model for years.

I know, doom and gloom…it will work out.  The Yankees will do what they need to do.  I can’t see them allowing the team to become a modern version of the CBS ownership era of the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Can Minneapolis keep the Vikings where they belong?…

After years, it feels like there finally may be movement in the plans for a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.  The proposal has been finalized and now needs city and state approval.  The new stadium would be located next to the Metrodome, and the team would only be displaced for one season before moving into the new digs.  I believe the target date is in 2016.  This has been a very long road, and hopefully, the city and state will approve the plans so that the construction can begin and Minnesota can be assured of keeping the Vikings.  The Los Angeles Vikings never really had a good flow to it anyway…

Whether it’s in the standings or not, losing still stinks…

If spring training games mean nothing, why do I feel excitement when the Yankees win and angst when they lose…

–Scott

$189 Million by 2014 or bust…

 

His accounting degree was the first tip-off…

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

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

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

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

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

Open mouth, insert foot…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes for a fast return…

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

Don’t trip on the snow rounding first…

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

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

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

 

–Scott

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

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

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

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

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

Preston Baseball?…

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

It was only $35.5 million…

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

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

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

Wanted:  Snow…

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

–Scott

 

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

Somehow I knew it would end like this…

 

Sad but realistic…

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

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

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

The priority move – sign Cash…

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

Looking forward to Jorge Posada Day…

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

The “Opt-Out” I wish would happen…

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

Bay Area Losses…

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

–Scott

 

Time to look to October…

The 2011 AL East Division Champions…

 

Most importantly, congratulations to the New York Yankees for their AL East Division Championship.  They should have been AL East Champions last season but stumbled in the final days of the season to allow them to be eclipsed by the Tampa Bay Rays.  So, fortunately, the Yankees have returned to their rightful throne!  Well, at least for September.  Come October, nothing less than a World Series Championship is acceptable!

 

So, I was only half right…

 

Admittedly, I am surprised the way this season has played out.  At the beginning of the season, I had picked the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies as the World Series participants.  The Phillies still look like the odds-on favorite at this point given their stellar starting pitching, but the Red Sox have faded oh so quickly.  I remember listening to Sox fans who were predicting at least 114 wins or more for their revamped Red Sox, and while I openly scoffed at the notion, there was a part of me that was concerned that the Red Sox did have the necessary personnel to pull off a magical season.  The chances for the magical season faded quickly when pitcher Clay Buchholz was lost for the season, but the Red Sox had charged back after a sluggish start and were in the thick of things at the end of August.  Up to that point, the Red Sox had played the Yankees very aggressively with a significant advantage in the season series.  They showed they had the offense to destroy virtually any pitcher on any given night, and there is no doubt that Adrian Gonzalez is perfectly suited for Fenway Park.  But sadly for the Sox, the calendar turned to September and the deteriorated pitching staff started to show the stress and strain of the long season.  Still, I didn’t expect the free fall that has currently left the Sox tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the Wild Card slot, while the Yankees have wrapped up the division championship and best record in the AL.  I never dreamed that the Yankees would be in position to walk to the finish line.

 

Pitching, pitching, pitching…

 

My lack of faith in the Yankees at the beginning of the season was due primarily to the pitching staff.  I was concerned about A.J. Burnett and his ability to bounce back from a disastrous season (and rightfully so).  I did not think the Yankees could replace Andy Pettitte with two scrapheap pitchers in Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.  Plus, the Yankees were placing much emphasis on Phil Hughes who, despite his 18-win season, had not proven that he was a reliable and dependable starter.  Rounding out the rotation was a rookie pitcher (Ivan Nova), who had not even been mentioned in the same breath with Yankees prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances.   With CC Sabathia followed by a cast of characters, I did not see how the Yankees could compete with the Red Sox and felt that the Wild Card was the team’s best hope.  Now, I am very delighted that I was wrong.  While Burnett and Hughes have been disappointments, Ivan Nova has been huge and is now the second best pitcher in the rotation.  Garcia and Colon have been terrific even if Colon seems to be wearing down at this point in the season.  Garcia is definitely a play-off caliber starting pitcher.  If the Yanks go with a four man rotation, then the 4th man should be Burnett.  But he’ll have a very short leash with Colon and Hughes potentially in the bullpen.

 

Don’t play Poker with Brian Cashman…

 

If I had been the GM, I am sure that I would have made some impulsive and regrettable move at the trading deadline.  GM Brian Cashman, on the other hand, stood pat and played with the hand he was dealt.  In retrospect, he looks like a hero (which includes his anti-Rafael Soriano stance in the spring).  I hope the Yankees do whatever it takes to ensure Cash’s return to the Bronx.  I am sure that there would be significantly less stress in Chicago with the Cubs or some other major league team, but nobody understands New York better than Cash.  I definitely think the Steinbrenners need Cashman more than he needs them.  Hopefully, they’ll recognize it and make sure that Cashman is re-signed.

 

Passing of the Guard…

 

If the Yankees have learned anything in September (aside from the importance of quality starting pitching in watching the Sox freefall), it’s that Jesus Montero is ready for The Show.  This does not bode well for Jorge Posada who is most likely playing his final year in Yankee pinstripes.  If he continues his career season, it will be tough to see him play in different team colors.  My only request would be for him not to go to Boston or Tampa.  It’s always tough to see players cross those lines, and if it were me, I’d retain the respect for the Yankees and walk away from the AL East.

 

He surprised me yet again…

 

Count me as one of the skeptics in Ozzie Guillen’s decision to orchestrate his departure from the Chicago White Sox so that he could join the Florida Marlins.  While I realize that Guillen will sell tickets in Miami, I don’t see it as a good fit with ownership.  I am still not quite sure how someone could have issues with Joe Girardi, but fortunately, Miami did and he’s the highly successful manager of the Yankees.  But Joe is far less out-spoken than Guillen, so if Joe’s comments got him into trouble, what’s going to happen with Guillen who always openly and freely speaks whatever is on his mind.  I had always heard that White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf loved Ozzie like a son, so there’s no way the relationship in Miami will be anything comparable.  His on the field performance had better outweigh the baggage that comes with Ozzie as your manager.  He may regret taking the money and running…

 

Two game sabbatical from ‘Red Sox Suck!’…

 

With the Red Sox and Rays tied for the Wild Card tonight, I’ll have to go with the Red Sox as my preferred team to advance.  I don’t think the Sox will be the easier opponent in the play-offs but that doesn’t concern me.  I’ve always believed that you have to ‘beat the best to be the best’.  This comes down to respect and I simply respect the Red Sox more…

 

–Scott

First Place, but hardly reason to gloat…

 

I am an Iowa Hawkeyes fan, I am used to build up then disappointment…

It’s ironic that the Yankees currently hold the lead in the American League East since it has seemed as though the Boston Red Sox and their fans have had more reason to gloat this year.  Every time I get excited about the Yankees, they do something to temper the excitement.  Headed in September, the team was playing at an incredibly high level, with solid pitching from the entire rotation including A.J. Burnett (well, one start).  During the first two games of a four game set with the Baltimore Orioles and the manager I love to hate, Buck Showalter, the Yankees looked like they could hang with the Philadelphia Phillies in a 7-game play-off series.

But alas, all good things must end, and the Yankees promptly lost two consecutive extra-inning affairs with the O’s.  Fortunately, the Red Sox were struggling with the Toronto Blue Jays, losing 2 of 3, so the Yanks didn’t lose any ground (they currently lead the Sox by 2 ½ games).

For the record, I don’t take any joy in the health issues surrounding Josh Beckett and Kevin Youkilis.  I’d rather beat a Red Sox team at full strength than one depleted by critical injuries.

Many Yankees fans are probably already counting on the AL East Flag, but like last year, I know how easy it can slip away and of course a 2 ½ game lead is nothing on September 9th.  The Sox have plenty of time to make up the difference and they are certainly a team capable of getting on a roll.  That’s why I consider those two O’s losses as lost opportunities.  It doesn’t get any easier for the Yanks as they are now in Anaheim to face the Los Angeles Angels.  Tonight, they are pitted against Jered Weaver who is arguably the best pitcher in the American League not named Justin Verlander.  Plus, the Yankees generally do not fare well on those West Coast swings.  So, the Red Sox certainly have a golden opportunity to re-take the AL East.

Hip-hip, Jorge!…

While I am one that feels this should be the last year in the Bronx for Jorge Posada (almost a virtual certainty given how well Jesus Montero has performed), I do hope that he gets his moment in Yankee Stadium like Paul O’Neill did when the fans started chanting his name.  Posada can leave knowing that his name will rank up there with Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Elston Howard, and Thurman Munson.  It will be odd seeing Posada in a different uniform if he chooses to play next year, and I definitely hope that he is not one of those who travel north to Boston.  I’d rather see him play for the Tampa Bay Rays.  Best case scenario would be the National League, but I doubt he’d switch leagues at this late juncture in his career.  Of course, his catching days are behind him so a team with a DH is where he is best suited.  I am sure that he’ll be more prepared for DH next season.

Random thoughts…

I am ready for the Scott Proctor reunion to end…

So, how can we convince some team to offer Rafael Soriano a ridiculous amount of money to walk away from his contract with the Yankees after the season?  Sadly, I think he’ll be a Yankee for all three years…

Tell me again why we kept Phil Hughes and traded 19-game winner Ian Kennedy?  Okay, I can’t fault the Yankees on this one as I was ready for Kennedy to leave and he probably would not have achieved the same level of success in the pressure cooker known as New York…

Funny how Derek Jeter drop-kicked Minka Kelly on the eve of her becoming a national sex symbol with the new Charlie’s Angels TV series.  When you are DJ and you can have any girl in the world, why settle for one?  I am sure that he has no shortage of friends, and he can certainly buy a few if he needs them…

When I saw the photo of Cameron Diaz “pregnant” (costuming for a movie), my first thought, thinking it was real, was definitely about Alex Rodriguez and additional future child support payments.  But fortunately, A-Rod has been able to afford “protection” and he doesn’t have to worry about any unexpected A-Rod, Jr’s in the world…

Are you ready for some football?…

Getting a little off-topic, it was disappointing to see that Indianapolis Colts QB Peyton Manning had to undergo a second surgery on his neck that will keep him out of action for 2-3 months, if not all season.  Some are saying that he should just retire rather than risk further injury, and I’d certainly agree that he doesn’t have any more to prove.  He’ll definitely go down in history as one of the great ones.  Kerry Collins has a good knack for being in the right place at the right time…

Two years ago, as a Vikings fan, I had to learn to root for a former hated quarterback (Brett Favre).  Now, as a former resident of the Philly area who witnessed the fan apathy toward Donovan McNabb, I have to pull for him as the QB of my team.  I am a fan of Christian Ponder, and I suspect that he’ll get his opportunity to take a few snaps at some point in the season.  Actually, I hope McNabb proves me wrong and leads the Vikings to the promised land.  But I see this as just another attempt to capture glory from a faded star…

I keep hearing how great it is that LB Erin Henderson has landed a starting role with the Vikings (alongside his brother, E.J.) as an undrafted free agent.  But in the year of his draft, I was somewhat surprised that he did go undrafted.  It was evident that he was a quality player at Maryland, and I would have thought some team would have taken a shot in the later rounds.  Just as I liked Erin that year, I like RB Caleb King this year.  He didn’t make the final cut when the team pared its roster to 53 players, but he was retained on the practice squad.  Hopefully, a position on the roster will materialize before some other team realizes the diamond in the rough…

If I am Mike Shanahan, and my choices for starting QB are Rex Grossman and John Beck, I am retiring to see what NBC Sports has to offer…

As a resident of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis, I am really hopeful that the city will find a way to step forward to retain the Vikings.  Presently, the proposal is for a new stadium in Arden Hills, and I know the ownership group is highly in favor of the area.  I’d really like to see the Vikings stay in Minneapolis with the Twins and the Timberwolves.  The options are either the existing Metrodome/Mall of America Field area or the Farmer’s Market.  I’d prefer the latter.  But all things considered, I would accept Arden Hills over Los Angeles.   Whatever it takes, I hope Minnesota does the right thing to retain the Vikings.  It would be horrific for the Land of 10,000 Lakes to lose a second professional team to the city of Los Angeles…

I saw that Buddy Ryan was delaying surgery (he has been diagnosed with cancer…again) so that he could witness the Week 1 match-up between Rex Ryan and the New York Jets and Rob Ryan and the Dallas Cowboys.  I am hopeful that he’ll see a Jets victory, but then again, the Cowboys have always been my second favorite team so I won’t be disappointed if Tony Romo and company pull out the victory.  Buddy apparently has a history of beating cancer so hopefully this is just another one of those dominating Ryan situations…

I know that I kept jumping back to the Vikings (hey, I am a Vikings fan!), but I have to say that I really like what I’ve seen from new head coach Leslie Frazier.  I have not always been a big fan of the team’s coach.  When you grow up with Bud Grant as the man, it’s hard to see others in the role.  The worst, of course, was Les Steckel, but there have been varying degrees over the years.  I did like Mike Tice but recognize that he was limited from a coaching perspective.  Leslie Frazier is the first coach since Grant that I’ve been able to fully embrace.  I hated to see the Vikings lose former defensive coach Mike Tomlin when he was named coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I felt the Vikings were facing the same situation with Frazier (just like they had with Tomlin and Tony Dungy in previous years).  Fortunately, the Vikings canned Brad Childress (sorry Brad!) and promoted Frazier to the top job.  I was slow to accept Joe Girardi as the Yankees manager (I was a Don Mattingly supporter), but today, there’s not really anyone that I’d rather see as manager of the Yankees.  I feel the same way about Leslie Frazier.

We are now in the midst of perhaps one of the best sports months of the year.  It is the pennant race in baseball, and the opening of the NFL Season.  Granted, my focus is on baseball, but it will still be fun to watch some football this Sunday.  Down, set, 247, 247, hutt, hutt…

–Scott

 

 

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