The third and final part of our discussion with YES Network announcer and long-time big leaguer, Ken Singleton, tackles a variety of “state of the Yankees” topics. Here are parts one and two in case you missed them.
Matt Warden: Do you feel that the team is heading in a clear direction? I can’t tell if they’re trying to rebuild, trying to contend, or trying to do some weird (and maybe semi-ineffective) blend of both? Where do you see the team going in the next month or so? A year down the road? Are you expecting things to get worse before they get better?
Ken Singleton: I think right now they’re just worried about getting through this season and I think the offseason would give you better insight into where they’re heading in the future. But as for now, the important thing is getting Curtis Granderson going. Maybe he can provide a bit more spark to the offense. Same with Soriano and hopefully Jeter once he returns. This is what I think is going to happen with this team this year.
I don’t know about the future so much. They could go in a totally different direction after the year’s over. They could start letting people go which would give you an indication of what they’re planning on in the near future. But, as for this year, going out and getting Soriano, Jeter’s coming back, Granderson’s back … I’m not counting on A-Rod, I’m not really sure how that’ll play out…
I do think when you start to put a better lineup on the field, the team starts to feel better about itself and better about their chances. The Yankees, of all the teams in the division, particularly the contending teams — I’m leaving the Blue Jays out of it, but even they did it – all these teams had a stretch where they really played well. Red Sox have done it. Rays have done it most recently. The Orioles had a very good stretch there. Even the Blue Jays won 11 in a row recently. The Yankees are the only team who haven’t really had one of those stretches yet.
MW: You’re not going to count April? The Yanks had a pretty good (albeit surprising) run early on.
KS: Yeah they were okay, but I’m just saying the Rays won 21 out of 25. The Yankees were pretty good in April. Even then, they weren’t at full strength. My point is by putting people back in the lineup, it makes the team feel better about itself and better about its chances on a daily basis. I’m looking for one really good run which could hopefully propel them into the playoff contention even though the odds suggest it is unlikely at this point. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t, but the excuse is there. Not to say it’s an excuse people want to hear, but the reality will be that the team wasn’t able to overcome the injuries. That’s it. They couldn’t overcome them.
MW: I agree with that. I’m sure the injuries will be a big part of whatever discussions take place pertaining to reconciling the season. The Yankees have experienced a crippling amount of injuries that no team on the planet could easily manage, let alone thrive with. Now, to play devil’s advocate, when the Red Sox were in fourth place around this time last year, they jettisoned some of their big named guys.
KS: Yeah they got rid of them. But some of those guys also didn’t want to be there and there was the whole chemistry issue with Bobby Valentine, so I think the situation was a little different. Adrian Gonzalez didn’t want to be in Boston. Crawford didn’t seem like he was flourishing in Boston, and they got rid of all of them in one deal once it felt like they were becoming derisive factors in the clubhouse. Plus the Dodgers were also agreeable to that sort of deal.
MW: I want to hear some bold predictions, Ken, about the off season.
KS: Offseason? I have no idea. [Laughs] Matt, don’t take offense, but I do my job and I react to what’s going on. I don’t pretend to be able to do other people’s job. I just worry about my own, and for me to predict what Brian Cashman’s going to do, I just don’t know. I don’t know what other GMs are going to do either. I would like to see the team get better. I think we all would. I think we would all like the ’98 Yankees on the field every game but those days are gone. Paul O’Neill isn’t here. David Cone isn’t here. El Duque isn’t here. They have to go with what they have or somehow try and improve the team. Remember, these are the Yankees and they always want to win. I’m sure Brian Cashman will try to make the team better. I just don’t know how he’s going to do it.
MW: Sure, and that’s totally fair. You don’t know what the rest of the market will do or what Cashman’s objectives are. Let me rephrase the question. In terms of points of improvement, I see a rotation in flux. There is an obvious hole at third base and question marks surround the catcher – whether it’ll be Cervelli or Stewart, or one of the young guys in the system or whether the team will pursue a big name like Brian McCann. Those are a lot of tough positions to fill in a relatively short time span. Where does Cashman start?
KS: You’re right. Pitching’s first. You have Phil Hughes who’ll be a free agent. Andy Pettitte may retire. Sabathia isn’t having the best year. Kuroda may not return. I’ve heard he’s looking to end his career back in Japan. They have some holes to fill. But I don’t know how they’ll do it. The way I look at it, you have to figure out tonight and go day to day for the remainder of this season and worry about the offseason when you get there.
It remains to be seen what will happen. I’ve been around baseball long enough to know that if you try to be Nostradamus, it doesn’t work out very well. It just doesn’t. You know, look at all the predictions people make about the divisions at the beginning of the year. Look at the Toronto Blue Jays!
Where are they? I kind of liked them at the beginning too. But I was hesitant to pick them because when you put a whole new team together, sometimes the chemistry is just not there. They’ve had issues too. Their pitching isn’t as good as what they thought it’d be.
MW: Everyone short changed the Sox too.
KS: Yeah, you know I did as well. And I know why I did it. I’ve just never liked the Red Sox.
MW: [Laughs] On behalf of our readership, Ken, thank you for that. Okay. Let’s shift direction momentarily. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next year in the outfield. The team will have to figure out how to utilize Ichiro, Wells, Gardner, and Soriano. Plus there’s the pending issue of Granderson and the qualifying offer. The team basically went from a shortage of outfielders to a surplus, though I’d argue none of them are really “complete” players, with the exception of Gardner maybe, in terms of skillset.
KS: Yeah, that’s why I say, they seem to be getting through this year and you’ll get a better idea of what happens in the off season.
Looking out my window here in San Diego. The weather is beautiful out here.
MW: [Laughs] I’m envious Ken. I’m guessing my view here in Connecticut isn’t quite the same.
MW: I could see a guy like Granderson passing on the offer. He’s had some fluky injuries and hasn’t played much this season. While he won’t hit for average, he does offer premiere power at a position often lacking it. I can see a team taking a chance on him with a multi-year deal. Hughes though, has been a complete rollercoaster. I could him possibly accepting the QO. Thoughts?
KS: Well we saw Nick Swisher not accept it last year. I think players are looking for the big deal at this point in their career. Hughes is 27 years old. Granderson’s a little older. I think both would choose free agency if given the opportunity.
MW: Mariano Rivera. This is his last year. Ceremonies are happening all season. He still looks dominant and brutally efficient. How does the team recover from his retirement? Does D-Rob get it done as a closer? At the very least, that has to be a major gap in bullpen depth. I hate to say this, but D-Rob on his best day cannot duplicate the level of comfort and security synonymous with The Sandman.
KS: Yep. Mariano is the biggest security blanket in all of sports. He sits out in the bullpen and the other team knows it. If the Yankees have the lead heading into the ninth, you might as well start up the bus and turn on the showers, because you’re getting ready to go home. For his career he’s like 90%, maybe better. Yeah, it’s going to be difficult. It’s not even so much what he’s done, it’s how’s he’s done it. So much class and dignity. He’s a standup guy. The Yankees will miss that too. When he blows a save, he owns up to it. And when he completes a save, he’s very modest and very humble. You never see him rile up opponents with antics on the mound. After picking up a save, Mo never shoots arrows into the sky.
MW: The $189M budget…is this happening or not?
KS: These are the Yankees. They like to win, and their fans expect it. To get to $189M, it would help if A-Rod were off the books as Showalter said. He was right, but he should worry about the Orioles first and not so much about what the Yankees are doing. They’re trying to get away from this luxury tax because if they do they can start all over. I think that’s what they’ll try and do. If the Yanks can stay under the budget while still adding a guy they’ll do it, but I think $189M is legit.
MW: Yikes. Well, let me end this by saying that I really appreciate you talking with me. I know our readership enjoys it. I’m not sure if you’ve checked out the comments section, but you have more than a few fans.
KS: Yeah, well I’m really glad to hear they like what I do. I really appreciate the fact that I get to be around a team that’s been so good for so long. I really enjoy what I do, and I get to work with some great people for a tremendous network that puts a lot of money into production. I want to have fun and I want people to enjoy the games because that’s what I’m doing.
MW: It shows, Ken. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed! Thank you so much for your time. Folks, be sure to check Ken out on Twitter (@29alltime), and of course, on the YES Network during Yankee games.