It’s the day after an off-day, and the Yanks are rolling. Hence, there’s nothing groundbreaking in the news. There are some tidbits we can look at before lunch time, though.
Breaking news: Baseball player likes winning. Hideki Matsui has been part of many winning Yankees teams; since his debut in 2003 the team has failed to make the playoffs only once. In the interest of continuing on a winning team, Matsui has made it known that he does like it in New York. He won’t say that he certainly wants to return, at least not to the extent of Johnny Damon, Yet we’ve heard plenty over the past few weeks that the Yanks might not necessarily want Hideki back.
He’s past his prime and has creaky knees. That’s not a good recipe. Yet Matsui can be a very useful player. See the role Eric Hinske plays this year? Hideki can do that next year and better. The problem is that he might want a more prominent role, and an AL team might be willing to give it to him. Still, he knows that he did not live up to the four-year, $52 million deal he signed after the 2005 season. Perhaps that will factor into his decision.
Make no mistake, though: Matsui could be an excellent bat off the bench/part-time player if he were so inclined.
There’s a new Ken Rosenthal column, and in it he discusses a few things Yankees. First up, Derek Jeter. We’ve talked a lot about Jete’s improved defense in 2009, and that’s not by accident. The process started two years ago, and it seems that while it helped last year, it’s taking full form this season.
After the 2007 season, Jeter decided that he needed to work harder to combat the effects of age. He began training with Jason Riley, the director of athlete performance at the Saddlebrook training center in Tampa…
“He came in two years ago with the idea to evaluate his body, see what needs to be worked on,” Riley said. “His goal is to play many more years. We wrote up a program for him not just for the offseason, but for over the next five years.
“We’re starting to see the results of having two good offseasons under his belt. You can’t ask for a more dedicated, loyal player in terms of work ethic and everything else.”
Jeter worked to achieve more power and distance with each step while also seeking to gain greater efficiency, Riley said. The two studied video to assess Jeter’s body position, and even extended their analysis to the angle of Jeter’s toes when he is in the ready position.
It’s always a good story to see a ballplayer admit his flaws and then work hard to correct them. Jeter will never admit it to the media, but his defense was an issue. Now that he’s taken the measures to correct it, perhaps we can lay off those Jeter-to-left field arguments for just one off-season.
In a bit regarding Johnny Damon’s “very likely” return to the Bronx, Rosenthal drops a line about the Yankees payroll: “The Yankees reduced their payroll from $209 million in 2008 to $201 million this season, and they expect to further reduce that number next season.” I’m not sure where he’s getting this from, but Brian Cashman has been strumming the “lower payroll” chord for a while now. I expect they’ll enter the off-season with that goal, but if something comes along that would have them raise payroll with good reason, I don’t see why they’d shy away.
Marc Carig has a bit up about Joba Chamberlain and his extended rest. He hasn’t pitched since last Sunday in Seattle, but that doesn’t mean he’s been dormant the entire time. In fact, five days ago he threw a bullpen session, comprising 80 pitches. They don’t count towards his total, of course, because they weren’t thrown within the stressful situation of a real game. Then again, bullpen coach Mike Harkey was the simulated batter, and he’s one intimidating dude.
So Joba starts tonight on eight days’ rest. We’ll see how it affects his command. The good news is that it’s difficult to imagine him having worse command than he had his past few times out.