Results tagged ‘ Texas ’

$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

Wanted:  Clutch Hitter – Only the experienced need to apply!…

Although there have not been any official explanations for the DH plans this upcoming season, there’s been reports that the Yankees are content with a rotation to include Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones and Derek Jeter, with Eduardo Nunez sliding around the infield filling the holes.  My concern last season and it gave me a bad feeling heading into the play-offs that the Yankees had missed the clutch bats they enjoyed when Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui were on the roster.  Damon’s home run in the 2004 ALCS helped propel the Boston Red Sox to a comeback victory over the Yankees, and propelled the Sox to their first World Championship since the days of Babe Ruth.  I’ve heard minor league slugger Jorge Vazquez mentioned as a possibility, but I am with those who believe that he skills do not translate to the major league level.

In my opinion, the Yankees need to do something.  I am not looking for a $10 million slugger who would command 90% to 95% of the DH at-bats.  I am content with someone who could take the majority of the at-bats, allowing for the A-Rod/Jeter rotation, and would know and accept their role.  That’s why I feel that either Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui would make complete sense.  I know the Yankees want to limit their payroll at this point and I get that.  But if the difference in making the World Series or not was an additional $5 million, would it not be worth it?  Yeah, yeah, it’s not my money and $5 million is a lot of money.  But when you are spending $210 million, what’s $215 million?  Wouldn’t the return on a championship more than replenish the difference?  The Yankees have options and I know that’s why they are not in a rush.  I’ve even heard Raul Ibanez’ name mentioned and would agree that he would be a viable option.  I guess I have greater affection for guys who have proven they can win in pinstripes.

It’s funny but the Philadelphia Phillies look like geniuses for signing Jim Thome early in the off-season.  At the time, it looked like a bad fit.  Maybe he stays with the Phillies, but they could actually move him for something at this point given the DH desperation that exists for a number of teams besides the Yankees (like the Detroit Tigers, for example).  If GM Ruben Amaro could somehow swing Thome for a decent prospect, he’d build upon his legacy as a great general manager.

It will be interesting to see how the coming weeks play out, but the Yankees clearly need a guy who can come through in the clutch.  Now more than ever…

If he is older than dirt, what does that make me?…

Congratulations to Jamie Moyer for his minor league contract with an invitation to spring training with the Colorado Rockies.  I was really surprised when I heard that Moyer intended to make a comeback following his recovery.  At 49, the odds are probably against him, but you have to love his no-quit mentality.

Sometimes good fans are the difference…

Similar congratulations go to reliever Joel Zumaya, who signed with a quality organization (the Minnesota Twins).  Ironically, it was at Target Field where Zumaya’s elbow exploded a couple of years ago.  I remember when he was hailed as THE flamethrower in the league, and was a huge part of the Detroit Tigers bullpen.  It’s anybody’s guess what kind of pitcher he will be going forward, but it would be good to see him recapture success for an organization that deserves better than last year’s 99 losses.  With the departure of Joe Nathan and the inconsistency of Matt Capps, there’s certainly going to be opportunity with the closing and set up roles for the Twins.

It was a bit hard to imagine Zumaya throwing from the mound at Target Field this morning as the temperature reading in my car read -10 degrees in downtown Minneapolis.  The weathermen were reporting that with the wind chill factor, it felt like -38.  In weather like that, it’s hard to imagine that the lights of Target Field will be back on in just a couple of months.  While I admit that the 16 degrees I experienced in Winnipeg, Manitoba a few weeks back felt much colder, there’s no question that in temps like this you just want to go from your heated house to your heated car to your heated work.  This past summer, I was in Phoenix when it was in the 120’s.  All things considered, I’ll gladly take -38 in Minneapolis as opposed to 122 degrees in Phoenix.  I don’t care that it’s paradise in Arizona right now…

Deux Sorianos?…

Back to the Yankees, I’ve wondered if some kind of deal involving the Chicago Cubs would work.  The Yankees want to unload A.J. Burnett, and he’d clearly benefit from a change of scenery.  He’d also be more effective in the National League at this point.  I wouldn’t say that the pressure would be less in Chicago, but I think A.J. could more himself.  Conversely, the Cubs have an albatross with Alfonso Soriano.  Soriano could still be a fairly productive DH at this point in his career.  Not that I want to give two rosters spots to over-paid, under-productive Sorianos but it would be a potential solution.  I think I can speak for most Yankees fan when I say that we’ve rode the Burnett train about as far as we care to.  Now that Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda have all but pushed Burnett out of the rotation, a win-win trade with the Cubs would certainly make sense.

Yeah, you and what bank?…

If I’m Cole Hamels, I am going for free agency in the fall of 2012.  Don’t even talk to me about an extension!  If the Texas Rangers will lay out $110 million for an unproven, albeit very highly talented, pitcher, there’s no question what a championship performer like Hamels can command on the open market.

I choose you, no, maybe you…

I am glad that Bartolo Colon was able to find a home with the Oakland A’s, but admittedly, I am glad that he is not returning for an encore performance in the Bronx.  I am not quite sure with what happened between Colon and the Arizona Diamondbacks (he apparently agreed with them and then reneged, ala David Wells a few years ago), but I am sure he had his reasons for why Oakland was a better fit.  But I guess those reasons didn’t include W’s…

Those pesky Nats!…

As for the ongoing Prince Fielder sweepstakes, I just wish the Washington Nationals would put one of those ridiculous Jayson Werth type contracts in front of him and get him signed.  I’d be surprised if the Texas Rangers were financially able to sign both Yu Darvish and Fielder but stranger things have happened.  I really don’t want to see Fielder in for Mitch Moreland on the defending AL Champions.  I still think the Los Angeles Angels, thanks to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, are a better team in the AL West, with or without Fielder on the Rangers, but I certainly do not want the potential roadblocks to a Yankees World Series getting stronger.

First base at Yankee Stadium will forever mean Lou Gehrig to me until the day I die, even if I didn’t personally get to see him play.  For what I have seen, Don Mattingly is the epitome of greatness.  I was a bit skeptical when Tino Martinez took over for Mattingly, but he played the position as well as anyone could have following the footprints of #23.  I loved the signing of Mark Teixeira and he was a prime reason for the Yankees success in 2009, but after a couple of disappointing seasons with the usual stone cold starts, something has to give.  Defense alone at first base is not enough.  Not that I want to go back to the days of Giambi (great bat, not-so-great glove), but Tex needs to dedicate himself to an improved performance in 2012.  I know that we’ll have to deal with the usual sluggish start, but he needs to show that he can be more like the 2009 Teixeira than the 2011 version.

Well, I am at this end of this post, but I see that GM Brian Cashman still has much work ahead of him before we start talking about games at Legends Field…

–Scott

Didn’t see that one coming…

Yeah, but at what price?…

I am bummed…

After years of trade rumors involving Yankees prospect Jesus Montero, I thought he was finally home free and slated to be a member of the 2012 Yankees unless a trade for the seemingly untouchable Felix Hernandez were to materialize.  So, to hear tonight’s news that the Yankees have traded Montero to the Seattle Mariners is a shock since it did not involve the aforementioned King Felix.

I was perusing the MLB Trade Rumors tonight when I saw the blurb that the Mariners were close to acquiring an “young impact hitter”.  Of course, there aren’t too many guys that fit that description and Montero is near or at the top of the list.  I didn’t suspect a King Felix trade since there have been no signals that the Mariners are interested in trading him, so my immediate reaction was the fear of trading Montero for something else.  My fear has been justified as the word has come the Yankees traded Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi, a potential candidate for the starting rotation, to Seattle for pitcher Michael Pineda and minor league pitcher Jose Campos.  I  know nothing about Campos (whether he is a high or mid level prospect or just fodder for the lower leagues).  So, this trade was clearly about Pineda, 22, who made the All-Star Team as a fill-in for Justin Verlander last year during his rookie season.  I recognized that Pineda was a quality pitcher, and I had him on a few of my fantasy baseball teams.

But still, I bought into the hype that Montero was going to be an offensive force.  I recognized that he was a liability at catcher, and that Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli represent the best catching tandem at the moment until Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez are ready to advance.  To ask a young player to start at DH does seem to be a poor major league decision, but I was looking forward to seeing Montero star in pinstripes.  His bat would have found a good spot in the starting lineup.  Maybe a few years down the road, this trade will look great for the Yankees if Pineda wins the Cy Young or becomes the ace of the staff.  But right now, I am just shocked.  It’s not the type of move that one can embrace or create excitement among the fan base.  I truly would have preferred a short term deal to Edwin Jackson or Roy Oswalt as opposed to giving up young, quality talent.  I also liked Noesi, and knew that he was a viable candidate for the starting rotation.

At the moment, and this could change in time, I think the advantage goes to the Seattle Mariners.  I am assuming that they have the young pitching talent, to go with Noesi, to find a suitable replacement for Pineda in the rotation.  Meanwhile, they get one of the best young bats in the game today.  This takes a little heat off first baseman Justin Smoak so perhaps now he can thrive.  Right now, I rate the Yankees rotation as CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett.  This means that Freddy Garcia is the pitcher most likely to be cut unless the Yankees can find a home for Burnett.

Maybe he missed pitching to #55…

Okay, after an off-season of solitude, Friday the 13th has just become Yankees Night.  The latest word is the Yankees have signed former Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.  Based on recent reports, I had expected Kuroda to sign with the Boston Red Sox.  Bobby Valentine’s experience with Japanese players, in my mind, gave the Sox the clear advantage.  Regardless of what transpired and why he decided to come to New York (Russell Martin?), he’s an innings-eater and fits nicely in the back of the rotation.  So, if the news of Kuroda’s signing is accurate, I need to update my starting rotation…CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, Phil Hughes, and Kuroda (although an argument could be made for why Hughes should be at the back end of the rotation).  The wild card is Hughes, so do the Yankees keep Burnett for long relief and a potential return to the starting rotation if Hughes falters or do they simply cut their losses?  I suspect that it will be the latter with Freddy Garcia held in reserve.  I also think this virtually confirms that we’ll see Dellin Betances and/or Manny Banuelos in the starting rotation at some point during the season.

My second favorite team is my National League favorite, the Los Angeles Dodgers, so I have to say that I enjoyed the starts I saw from Kuroda in his Dodger days.  He may be older, but he’s a quality pitcher.  He’s not going to shut down the opposition but he’s going to keep you in the game.  I would have preferred Edwin Jackson if no other reason than age (and Jackson’s ability to occasionally be a very dominating pitcher).  But still, it’s hard to find fault with the Kuroda signing.  I’d rather go with Kuroda over Roy Oswalt.  I’ve got to believe that the Yankees figured out the game plan for A.J. Burnett before the events of today unfolded so it’s likely that another deal is forthcoming before pitchers and catchers head for Tampa next month.

The fingerprints of Cash or Hal?…

I always wonder on these types of days if these moves were effected by GM Brian Cashman or if Hank and Hal Steinbrenner got bored and decided to take matters into their own hands.  I am not sure that there’s a move out there that could excite me at this point, but there’s no question the Yankees have a better rotation.  My primary concern still remains a quality backup third baseman for those inevitable A-Rod absences (i.e., trips to the DL).  But now, with Montero in Seattle and Posada on the beach waiting for Old Timer’s Day, who is going to be the DH?  At the moment, it’s a DH by committee with a rotation of A-Rod, Andruw Jones, and others.  It does make one believe that there is a potential acquisition for a veteran hitter in the making.  Bring back Johnny Damon?  It’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

The sleeping giant has awakened…

I know the Yankees objective is to get under $189 million in salary by 2014, but the team is always a sleeping giant.  If the Texas Rangers can come up with $51 million just to talk to Yu Darvish, you know the Yankees are capable of so much more.  It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks unfold.  After a season of inactivity, the Hot Stove League just got warmed up for the Yankees…

–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

 

Aren’t the Yankees supposed to rule the Winter Meetings?…

Wow…

After more than a year of speculation and news about the Albert Pujols contract negotiations, he shocks the world and accepts Arte Moreno’s $250 million to go to Anaheim.  I guess you can blame the Yankees for this one.  Don’t they always get the blame?  If the Yanks hadn’t gone on a spending binge several years to secure the services of then-Angels first baseman Mark Texeira, the Los Angeles Angels would not have been in the market for a top shelf first baseman.  Albert, of course, is more than top shelf, he is THE top shelf.  Still, I was surprised by the move.  The Angels have Mark Trumbo returning, a player they control, and a healthy Kendrys Morales.  I am sure that there are other areas of the team that could have used upgrades.

The Angels did follow up immediately with the signing of top free agent pitcher C.J. Wilson.  I had a feeling that Wilson would be headed to the West Coast despite the Miami Marlins pursuit of the former Texas Ranger.  He leaves the top of the rotation for perhaps the #3 or #4 slot with the Angels.  The Philadelphia Phillies have been recognized for the best rotation, but the Angels cannot be too far behind with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and now Wilson leading the rotation.  I don’t know who the #5 starter is for the Angels off the top of my head, but does it really matter?  You could probably go grab Mark Langston out of retirement and throw him in the rotation…it wouldn’t matter.

This has to be a reactionary move by owner Arte Moreno.  The Los Angeles Dodgers are primed to re-capture the LA market once a reputable, financially-sound owner or ownership group takes control of the team.  After being considered the class of the AL West for years, the Angels have become an understudy for the Texas Rangers.  Today’s moves clearly re-establish the Angels as the class of the AL West, and perhaps of the American League.

I do feel bad for the St Louis Cardinals and their fans.  As an iconic player, the fans deserved to see Albert play his entire career in St Louis.  Stan “The Man” Musial is beloved to this day, and Albert is the first Cardinals player that could have rivaled Musial after his playing days are over.  Now, Albert will never be automatically thought of as a Cardinal.  He’ll carve out a legacy as an Angel, and will give us reasons to remember him in Anaheim.  A very disappointing day for the Cardinals.  No offense to Lance Berkman, but that’s a big drop-off from Albert.

The Miami Marlins had looked like the crown prince of the Winter Meetings with their acquisitions of Heath Bell, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle, but they were torched on the last day by the Angels.  It’s been a good off-season for the Angels, who earlier picked up a new backstop in Chris Iannetta.

Meanwhile, I can hear crickets at Yankee Stadium…

A little bit of nothing…

The Yankees did win the posting for Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima, but based on the reports I’ve read, the Yankees will have difficulty signing him.  The leading speculation is that he’ll return to Japan for another season and then sign with the Boston Red Sox next winter.  That would really stink if the Yankees lost a prospect to their bitter rival.  But from Nakajima’s perspective, Boston could offer him a starting role at shortstop (something the Yankees could not do) and their manager has tremendous experience with Japanese players.  The posting I want the Yankees to win is for pitcher Yu Darvish, but reports indicate the Yankees interest is lukewarm.  Of course, that could always be a ploy to help keep posting bids down, but the lukewarm comments certainly proved to be accurate for the Yankees interest in C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle.

I remain hopeful that the Yankees have started the groundwork for a successful acquisition of a pitcher like Gio Gonzalez, John Danks, or Kyle Drabek.  Brian Cashman may feel that he doesn’t need to do anything with a 97-win team, but I heard a GM on MLB Radio say that if you’re standing pat, you are getting worse.  I agree that you need to consistently seek upgrades and for the most part, the Yankees stood pat last season.  Catcher Russell Martin was huge, but at the time of the signing, it was very low key.  Same with the signings of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.  It’s been a very long time since Yankees fans have had a reason to feel great excitement and joy for a player acquisition like the Angels experienced today.  Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are getting older and certainly not better…

I know, we’re Yankees fans, we want it all…

Go New York!…

Now that the NBA is back, I am at the crossroads.  I’ve been a Los Angeles Lakers fan in recent years, primarily because of my appreciation for Kobe Bryant as a player.  But as funny as this sounds as a Yankees fan, I am tired of backing a team that is always expected to win and often does.  I want a team that has suffered so that when the team does win, there is greater satisfaction.  As a result, I am switching my allegiance to a team that has my favorite player, Amare Stoudemire as well as my second favorite player, Carmelo Anthony…the New York Knicks.

First year in Minnesota, worst year in the history of the franchise…

Despite my relocation to Minnesota, I remain committed in my support of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.  And despite their 2-10 record, I am still a Vikings fan.  On the bright side as a Vikings fan, I won’t have to wait long to find out who the Vikings select in the NFL Draft in April 2012.  At this point in the season, you’re pulling for losses, hoping the team can overtake the Indianapolis Colts for the worst record.  But of course, that’s a moot issue if the Colts can’t win a game. This is probably one of the first years ever that I’ve accepted and embraced that the Green Bay Packers will win the Super Bowl.  It’s easier to say that when your team was left for dead long ago.

I need one of my teams to step forward and win a championship.  It’s been a drought since 2009, and I need something to cheer about!

–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

 

The Improbable Championship…

 

The 2nd winningest team in baseball history…

Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals for their World Series championship over the Texas Rangers.  It was a thrilling World Series, especially the three home run game by Albert Pujols and the edge-of-your-seat Game 6 that saw the Cards eliminate two 2 run deficits with two outs and two strikes in the 9th and 10th innings.  The Cardinals now have 11 World Series Championships, only 16 more needed to catch the Yankees…

2005 Astros and 2010 Yankees were nice, but…

A year after experiencing play-off failure with the Yankees, Lance Berkman achieved his first championship and played a significant role for the team.  I wish the Yankees could have seen the Berkman that played in 2011, rather than the 2010 version, but it wasn’t meant to be.  Berkman made the right choice in selecting the Cardinals over the Rangers in the off-season.

Remember me?…

I kept wondering how Arthur Rhodes felt after spending the majority of the 2011 season with the Rangers before being released in August, only to sign with the Cardinals and help them to the championship over his former team.  Sweet vindication…

I liked the Cowboys, Mavericks and Stars…

I lived in Dallas for 14 years, however, I could never embrace the Rangers.  I am not quite sure why.  I don’t care for the Arizona Diamondbacks after living in Phoenix, but I can attribute that to how rudely fans treated me during the 2001 World Series.  I am not a rude, “in your face”, obnoxious type of fan, but that’s how I was treated simply for wearing a Yankees cap.  Still, I am not sure why the Rangers bother me, but I just am not a fan.  I would prefer to see any of the AL West teams succeed over the Rangers.  So, I did take some satisfaction that the Rangers were SO CLOSE, but ultimately SO FAR AWAY in their quest for the organization’s first championship.  Of course, they’ll be a contender again next year so I recognize that their time may still come.

A signing that makes sense…

It was good to hear that the Yankees and GM Brian Cashman have apparently agreed on a new three year deal that will be announced on Monday.  Wrapping up Cashman before the expiration of his contract was essential for the Yankees to have a successful off-season.  Next up is re-signing CC Sabathia before he exercises his opt-out by midnight on Monday.  I really do not want to see CC hit the open market because it will take away the Yankees focus in finding other pieces to the puzzle.

Plus another signing that would make great sense…

As for free agents, I do hope the Yankees pursue C.J. Wilson.  I recognize that he lost Game 7 of the World Series, however, he is a talented pitcher and I think that he’d excel under pitching coach Larry Rothschild.  A top three rotation of Sabathia-Wilson-Nova would be very competitive.  It’s too bad that Phil Hughes took such a step back this year, and that A.J. Burnett continues to under-achieve.  But I really do not want to go another year relying on the aging arms of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.  The Yankees have to improve the rotation, and I do not believe that Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos are quite ready for the challenge yet.

Admittedly, a sense of relief…

Congratulations to Jerry DiPoto for being named the new GM of the Los Angeles Angels, but I still think it’s an injustice that Kim Ng doesn’t get stronger consideration.  She is as well qualified (if not more) than her male counterparts, and she’ll make a terrific GM one day.  If I owned a team, she’d certainly be on my short list of people to hire.  As for DiPoto, it had seemed like he was destined for the Baltimore Orioles just a few weeks ago.  I don’t think they’re top candidates, but I’d hate to lose either Billy Eppler or Damon Oppenheimer to an AL East rival.  So, hopefully, the O’s will either go with an internal candidate or select someone without ties to the Yankees.  I do hope that Eppler and Oppenheimer get recognized for their great contributions, but I’d prefer to see it happen outside of the division (well, except for the Rangers).

Have we seen the end of the term ‘Lovable Losers’ in Chicago?…

I have to admit that I am anxious to see how Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer put their stamp on the Chicago Cubs.  I hope it doesn’t involve signing free agent slugger Albert Pujols, whom I really hope finishes his career in St. Louis.  But someone like Prince Fielder might make great sense for the Cubs.  I am sure that they’d love to find a way to get out from under Alfonso Soriano’s contract.  While I can’t say that I am thrilled about Alex Rodriguez and view the weight of his contract as an albatross, the Yankees made the right decision in parting with the free swinging Soriano and of course it eventually opened a spot for the Yankees true MVP, Robinson Cano.  I expect Epstein to be aggressive and it will be interesting to watch the 2012 Cubs take shape.  I just don’t see how manager Mike Quade survives, but I could be wrong.  I believe that Ryne Sandberg would be the best field general for the Epstein regime.

My favorite NL team continues to be the Los Angeles Dodgers, primarily because of manager Don Mattingly, but I’ll definitely be pulling for the Cubs as well.  I would like to see them win a championship in my lifetime, well, so long as the opposing team is not the Yankees.

Bright Lights, Great City…

When the Minnesota Twins played their final home game at the end of the regular season, I knew that I was going to miss the magical lights of Target Field from my downtown Minneapolis home.  I don’t know why, but the lights were on at the stadium a few days ago and it is amazing how much they enhance the already beautiful Minneapolis skyline.  I am looking so forward to the lights next April.  However, I recognize that there is still about 50 to 80 inches of snow that stand between me and those lights.  Let the Hot Stove League begin…

 

–Scott

 

 

 

Watching CSI in October is so wrong…

 

What’s on TV?…

With the Yankees at home for the year and an AL team that I don’t care for still playing, I have to admit that I have not been watching the World Series this year.  Of course, that cost me the chance to watch history last night as Albert Pujols showed why he is a living legend with three home runs, ala Reggie Jackson.  Somehow that huge contract that he’ll get in the off-season just got a little bigger.  I am not saying that the Yankees should try to sign Albert (I’m satisfied with Mark Teixeira at first and feel that the money is better served for weaker areas like starting pitching), but the Yankees do need someone like that who is capable to singlehandedly taking over a game.  I have no doubt that Robby Cano is that type of player, but with the deteriorating skills of Alex Rodriguez, it puts so much pressure on the rest of the lineup to pick up the slack.

Back to Albert, I do hope that he continues his drive and helps deliver another world championship to the city of St. Louis.  As much as I would like Albert on my team, I really hope that the Cardinals do what it takes to keep him in the organization for the duration of his career.  To this day, Stan “The Man” Musial is still a huge part of the Cardinals and their history, and Albert would have that same impact for years to come.  If he departed and played a few years for, say, the Chicago Cubs, it would definitely taint his Cardinals legacy.

If there are no concerns, why am I concerned?…

I keep hearing that there are no concerns about getting a new contract in place for GM Brian Cashman, but as each day passes and we draw closer to the end of the month, I do grow a bit more concerned.  Given how difficult the Derek Jeter negotiations were last year, what if the team tries to short pennies on Cash?  What is Plan B if Cashman opts to leave?  With Damon Oppenheimer and Billy Eppler talking to other teams, the best in-house talent could be gone.  I doubt if both of those guys leave and from the sounds of it, neither one is the leading candidate for the Angels GM job.  Still, a team could turn to one of them.  I’d really prefer to go to Oppenheimer or Eppler should Cashman leave in order to maintain the continuity within the organization.  That’s very similar to what the Red Sox will be doing by promoting Ben Cherington to GM to replace Theo Epstein.

Can he replicate the success of Larry Lucchino?…

I do wish Theo Epstein and soon-to-be GM Jed Hoyer the best of luck in Chicago as they try to end the World Series drought for the Cubs.  I know that the road is much more difficult than it was when Epstein became the Red Sox GM, but I’ve certainly learned to never under-estimate Theo.  He has made his share of poor decisions (such as signing John Lackey), but that only means that he is not afraid of making difficult decisions.  Some will pan out, some will not.  I am sure that there are a few moves that Brian Cashman would like to undo.  But I’d rather see a GM make the bold moves and potentially uncover great talent and chemistry for the betterment of the team.  Given that Theo will be bringing a few of his guys to Chicago, I wonder when manager Mike Quade gets the ax.  It would be interesting to see if Theo and Jed would go for a top managerial candidate with Red Sox connections like DeMarlo Hale or go to a Cubs legend like Ryne Sandberg.  I think either move would be sound should they decide to part ways with Quade.

It’s only money…

Put me in the category of those who would like to see the Yankees pursue Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish.  I know that the past success of Japanese pitchers has been mixed, but I really feel that Darvish is a special talent.  He would like great in the middle of the rotation.  I am also anxious to see what pitcher Hector Noesi can do in winter ball.  As much as I thought Freddy Garcia did everything asked of him, I’d really rather see the Yankees develop a younger arm in the rotation.  Just like last year, A.J. Burnett will come to camp as a question mark.  Plus, there’s the potential that CC Sabathia opts out and takes an offer from another city despite how well he has adapted to New York.  I have come to not rely upon Phil Hughes, so that means the only certain reliable starter at the moment is Ivan Nova.  I would aggressively go after Rangers starter C.J. Wilson regardless of whether CC stays or goes.  I wish the Yankees could find a way to unload Burnett, but it’s probably not going to happen.  The Red Sox will probably have better luck getting rid of John Lackey.

You have the right to remain silent…

As a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, I’ve faced my share of disappointment over the years.  I have never had to deal with losing Super Bowls like I did as a kid, but that’s only because the team has never been back.  I think character is a quality component to building team chemistry and unity, and the Vikings have had more than their fair share of poor off the field decisions.  Now we have the latest news that starting cornerback Chris Cook is in jail for the weekend on domestic assault charges.   This is very disappointing news.

The Vikings certainly have their hands full this weekend as they will be facing the undefeated Green Bay Packers with a rookie QB (Christian Ponder) making his first NFL start.  It looks to me as if the deck has been stacked against Ponder, but hopefully, he’ll show why he was a surprise, but great, early selection in the first round of the last NFL Draft.

–Scott

 

 

 

 

 

Season Ticket Holder for the Hot Stove League…

 

Waiting for the Hot Stove League to start…

I think the longest point in the off-season for a Yankees fan is from the day the team exits the play-offs until the conclusion of the World Series.  The shorter that gap, the better.  Unfortunately, it was not to be this year with the team’s departure after the opening series loss to the Detroit Tigers.

The saddest part of 2011 is that the Yankees could have beaten the Tigers, and I think they would have been very competitive with the new AL League champion Texas Rangers.  Texas pulled the perfect play-off card in getting the unexpected wild card Tampa Bay Rays who had been left for dead by everybody except themselves.  In the ALCS, they avoided the Yankees, or the top clubs that didn’t make the play-offs, the Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels.  I have long been in favor of expanding the divisional series from 5 to 7 games, and this year is just another reason why.  The Yankees, with the best league record, were unable to start against the weakest team in the play-offs, the Rays, because they are from the same division.  So, that pitted the Yankees against the stronger Tigers in a shortened series.  I am not saying that the Yankees would have won it had the series been in the 7-game format, but at least it would yield a more truthful result.

I am a former Dallas resident but not a Rangers fan…

I am not a fan of the Texas Rangers so it’s hard to feel any satisfaction in their team reaching the World Series for the second year in a row.  However, my son is a Rangers fan and he’s certainly excited about the team’s success.  We lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth area when my son was small, and after a Rangers game, we had gone to a nearby restaurant for dinner.  There weren’t too many people in the restaurant at the time, and my son must have been about 2 or 3.  On the other side of the restaurant, then Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan was having dinner with his family.  We told our son who was at the table, and a friend walked him over to the table to introduce my son to Nolan.  My son was wearing a Rangers cap, so Nolan took it off and signed the bill of the cap.  My son is now almost 22 years old, and he still has that signed cap with him.  He remains a Rangers fan to this day, despite his dad’s loyalty to the Yankees.

The team with the second greatest World Series success…

While I think the World Series will be competitive this year, I still think the National League will emerge victorious again.  I don’t really see the Milwaukee Brewers getting past the St. Louis Cardinals, so it should be the Cardinals in the World Series against the Rangers.  It’s too bad the Cardinals don’t have Adam Wainwright in their rotation, but the team is certainly on a mission.  I think the Cardinals will end the NLCS with a Game 6 win tonight in Milwaukee.

Strike quickly with full force and focus…

I am anxious for the World Series to conclude so that we can move on to the Hot Stove League.  I really hope the Yankees can re-sign GM Brian Cashman to a new deal before the end of the month and before the start of the free agency period.  This off-season is about timing and the Yankees need to move very quickly to secure Cashman and hopefully re-negotiate with CC Sabathia so that they can turn to free agency and the trade market with full and heavy focus.  My wish list for the off-season is an improved starting rotation, strength on the bench, and perhaps a heavy hitter to offset the declining production from Alex Rodriguez in the batting order.

But I thought beer and hot dogs were part of baseball…

I am not quite sure what to make of the situation in Boston.  I think former manager Terry Francona has taken too much blame, and I was a little surprised to see GM Theo Epstein leave his hometown and his favorite team to take over as GM of the Chicago Cubs.  Granted, he’ll have greater authority in Chicago, and it would be tremendous to be the GM responsible for the first World Series victory for the Cubs after their historic drought.  But it leaves Boston without a manager or a general manager.  Obviously, when the Red Sox move Ben Cherington to GM, they’ll maintain the continuity and Ben will do a fine job.  However, the Sox will definitely have a new look in 2012.  It will be interesting to see what moves they make with the roster in the off-season if they intend to place greater priority in character.  Jon Lester has been one of my favorite pitchers, so I am hopeful that he is surrounded by better influences going forward.

Missing the view…

Living in downtown Minneapolis, I have to admit that I miss seeing the lights of Target Field at night.  It created a great view from my place, and there’s definitely a void now that the ballpark lights have  been shut off until next spring.  So, as a newcomer to Minnesota, the obvious question to me as how many inches of snow will I have to deal with before those lights come on again?  ;)

–Scott

 

 

 

Here we are, Game 5 — Play Ball!…

 

The Yankees are playing an elimination game, so of course, I need something to take my mind off the game!  ;)

Maybe we’ll see the new White Sox manager run toward the Texas Rangers owner’s box in a fit of rage…

I was surprised to hear the announcement that former Yankees third baseman Robin Ventura had been named the manager of the Chicago White Sox.  I think Robin’s a great guy and he should be a good manager, but he’s definitely the anti-Ozzie Guillen.  I thought that Jerry Reinsdorf and company would go for a more experienced manager.  Personally, Terry Francona would be at the top of my list but I am sure that Reinsdorf had good reasons for taking a chance with Robin.

I have not done any research to see what Ventura has been up to in recent years but hopefully he’s prepared for the rigors of managing in a big city with high expectations.  If the Chicago Cubs somehow managed to land GM Theo Epstein and/or Terry Francona, it would put pressure on Ventura to produce quickly in the Battle of the Windy City.

Now you see them, now you don’t…

I was equally surprised to see the quick exit from the play-offs by the Tampa Bay Rays.  After they successfully caught the Boston Red Sox in September and captured the Wild Card, I did think they were a team of destiny.  They certainly have the starting pitching to contend, but it was not meant to be.  Red Sox fans were so hoping for the ouster of the Yankees and Rays on the same night.  Fortunately, they were disappointed.  I really hope the Yankees get the chance to play the Texas Rangers in the ALCS to, hopefully, avenge the play-off loss last year.  Texas has an incredible offensive machine, but they are not unbeatable.

Weren’t the Cardinals left for dead just a month or so ago?…

It is interesting that all division series, except Rangers-Rays, have gone the full 5 games.  I don’t expect the St. Louis Cardinals to beat the Philadelphia Phillies, but they’ve certainly shown they can play on the same field.  The Phillies remain the team I think will win the World Series, but I’d be foolish to underestimate the heart of the Cardinals.  The Arizona Diamondbacks were able to dig out of a 0-2 hole against the Brewers, but I don’t really expect them to beat the Brewers in Milwaukee on Friday night.  I think the NLCS will feature the Phillies and the Brewers, with the Phils advancing to the World Series.

The Vikings are dead…

Football has definitely not been fun this year as my team, the Minnesota Vikings, have lost all four games to open the season.  Every game has been close, but the Vikings simply do not know either how to win or how to close out games.  Is that the coach or the players?  I really want to see Head Coach Leslie Frazier succeed, but I am not a big fan of QB Donovan McNabb (he will never again approach the success he enjoyed in Philly).  Also, I was not a fan of Mike Singletary when he was coach of the San Francisco 49ers and now he has Leslie’s ear as his chief confidant and close friend.  Perhaps Frazier would be better off without Singletary and with Christian Ponder as the starting QB…

Thanks for my iPod…

The Yankees and Detroit Tigers are getting ready to play Game 5 so I’d better cut this short.  But before I go, I’d like to say my condolences to the family of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.  His passing this week was difficult news to hear.  Somehow it seems as though we’ve lost a great friend and the world will never be quite the same.  He is missed by so many and rightfully so.  When he stepped down as the CEO of Apple in late August, I didn’t realize that he was so close to the end.  Nevertheless, he lived his life his way and on his own terms.  He left a legacy for all of us to learn from.  If we could accomplish 2% of what he did, we’d be wildly successful…

 

–Scott

 

 

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