Dec
17

Signing Brian Roberts isn’t bad, but the Yanks need a lot more

By

Yankees fans might remember the Brian Roberts in the video above, but that’s not the Brian Roberts the Yankees signed today. According to Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have agreed to a one-year deal with Roberts, worth $2 million plus incentives. That’s a relatively low-risk deal, giving them a potentially serviceable player without the commitment required to sign Omar Infante*. But in order for this to work, the Yankees need to spend in a few more areas.

*I’ve seen a lot of people asking why the Yankees didn’t match or trump the Cardinals’ offer for Mark Ellis. Who’s to even say the Yankees even knew the Cardinals made Ellis an offer? The Cardinals are the class of MLB right now. If I were the 37-year-old Ellis and the Cardinals offered me $5 or so million, I might take it without looking elsewhere.

An infield consisting of Mark Teixeira plus some rotation that includes Roberts, Derek Jeter, Brendan Ryan, and Kelly Johnson just isn’t going to get the job done. Given his injury history it’s doubtful Roberts can play an everyday role. Limited to part-time duty, the Yanks would need someone else to cover reps at second. If that’s Johnson, they’ll need someone to cover reps at third. Adding Eduardo Nunez to this rotation does little to bolster it, so outside help is still necessary.

When word broke last night, Rosenthal said that a Roberts signing doesn’t mean the end of the Yankees’ infield pursuit. They could still add Mark Reynolds, he says, a player who seems to fit in that he provides right-handed power and can play third base — though “play” is a relative term here. His defense at third has always been suspect, and that’s not likely to get better as he ages. But in the short-term, the Yankees could do a lot worse.

The wild card here is Alex Rodriguez. Asked to guess, I still think he gets a 50-game suspension, which would give the Yankees another decent option in that infield rotation. Then again, A-Rod hasn’t exactly been a bastion of durability in the last few years. Joe Girardi will have to manage both him and Roberts carefully in order to keep them on the field (and A-Rod not clogging the DH slot). If A-Rod is suspended, the Yankees absolutely should look into other options. Rosenthal mentions Mariners 2B Dustin Ackley, though he’s another reclamation project. The options do seem thin at this point.

If the Yankees are going to get by with low-cost fliers in the infield, they have to spend elsewhere in order to fortify other weaknesses. If they sign two relief pitchers — Joaquin Benoit and Jesse Crain would work — and also Masahiro Tanaka, they could be in decent shape. In other words, spending money to fill three of four needed positions, while taking a flier on the other, isn’t such a bad deal. But with the flier coming first, we have to hope that they do spend the money on those other needs.

As for Roberts himself, it’s difficult to expect much at this point. At 36 years old, and with his injury slate, he’s not going to come close to his numbers from his late 20s. Even if you give him a break and don’t count his first games back from a hamstring injury last year, he still hit only .253/.321/.404 in his final 252 PA. That’s probably better than what the Yanks would get from in-house options Dean Anna, Jose Pirela, and Corban Joseph. It might also be better than Omar Infante. But it’s not a given that Roberts can reproduce these numbers. Even if he can, it won’t be over 600 PA. His replacement could drag down the second base situation.

It’s hard not to feel bad for Roberts at this point. From 2007 through 2009 he played in 470 of 486 possible games, producing a 114 OPS+ and stealing 120 bags. In 2010 he missed 91 games with an abdominal strain. The next year he suffered a concussion that he says he didn’t truly recover from until some time in late 2012. Even when he came back in mid-2012, before he underwent surgery to repair his hip labrum, he says he didn’t feel 100 percent. Even when he did feel like himself in 2013, he tore a hamstring tendon, requiring surgery that caused him to miss 79 games.

Perhaps Roberts can make it through 400 PA this season without issue. We’ve seen it before. But to count on it is not sound strategy. If this move makes them more comfortable spending money on two relievers and a starter, it could work. They’ll need another cost-effective infield move to make it work, but it still could work. But by itself, this move still leaves the Yanks wanting.

Categories : Transactions

93 Comments»

  1. Alex21. says:

    Let’s immediately put Roberts in a full body cast until opening day.

    • Jimmy says:

      Can’t Soriano be added to mix as a 2nd baseman? Was he that bad a 2nd baseman?

    • Wolfgang's Fault says:

      Concerns way overblown. Roberts will be fine. He basically just started getting his legs back underneath him this past September. I think he’s going to be healthy, fresh, totally psyched to be a Yankee, & if he gets a fair shot, I expect he’ll have a really solid to very good 2014. He’s just gotta stay healthy through the cold & damp early season before opening the throttle up come the warmer summer months. If his legs are sound, you could see both he and Ellsbury stealing some bases, & you can imagine Gardner being dealt, perhaps to the Tigers for Austin Jackson. This signing also tells me Dean Anna is starting 2b at Scranton Wilkes-Barre, & Zelous Wheeler probably joins him there at 3b. Why isn’t Alfredo Aceves in the discussion for re-signing w/the Yankees? The guy can pitch in the AL East.

  2. rogue says:

    I’d rather have Barney, but I bet Theo wanted too much for him.

    Roberts was the best out there and could be a pleasant surprise.

  3. NYYROC says:

    The team needs 2B, 3B, SS, SP. The lack of mL talent is an embarrassment. Yet Cashman still has a job.

  4. What is most worrisome is that truly the entire infield is questionable. It might actually ironically be that Rodriguez is potentially the most productive infielder on the team.

  5. NYYROC says:

    I would rather take a shot with a 25 year old reclamation project than another 36 year old broken down ball player.

  6. Vinny S. says:

    I like the move. Similar to them taking a flier on Chavez, and that worked out pretty well. Lottery ticket signing. If it works out, great. If not, they can afford to punt the position.

  7. nycsportzfan says:

    I think its a great move. They got that Anna kid a few wks back and signed Kelly Johnson, who can also play 3rd and is Lefty with pop, and now you add a line drive, very solid hitting, Brian Roberts to fill out the group. You’ll get some hrs outta 2b now and Roberts dosen’t have to play everyday, and you got righty/lefty, and very good baserunning from roberts. Its a very cheap, effective way to fill up the 2nd base positon. Now we can focus on pitching.

  8. trr says:

    A servicable pick up or this year’s Kevin Youkalis?
    At least he’s clocking in at about $10m cheaper….

  9. Kosmo says:

    Ackley could still be a possibility. Yanks can´t risk going into 2014 without a backup plan.
    I still see 1 or 2 moves to be made in the INF.

    • I'm One says:

      Potential backup plans for 2b: Dean Anna, Corban Joseph.

      If A-Rod is only suspended 50 games, that could be what they go with. They are, after all, backup plans. Only necessay if one of the regulars gets injured.

  10. nycsportzfan says:

    I’ve been talking about hopefully signing Jesse Crain for awhile also Mike. I’d rather Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton personally. Thornton reminds me of Logan alot. I think he could help the younger lefties like Nuno and Cabral as well. If not Thornton, i’d love them to go after O’flaherty. Hes obviously got a positive history with McCann which is a bonus as well..

    There are others i like, but i’m hoping

    Thornton or O’Flaherty
    Jesse Crain
    Adam Warren
    Shawn Kelley
    David Huff
    David Robertson
    Preston Claiborne or Matt Daley or Ceaser Cabral

  11. nycsportzfan says:

    Assuming we open against a RHP. THis lineup is the bee’s knees!

    1). Jacoby Ellsbury CF
    2). Derek Jeter SS
    3). Carlos Beltran DH
    4). Alphonso Soriano RF
    5). Mark Texiera 1B
    6). Brian McCann C
    7). Kelly Johnson 3B
    8). Brian Roberts 2B
    9). Brett Gardner LF

    Holy Crap!

    • sevrox says:

      N I C E – back to the days of actually scoring runs.

      CC, Kuroda, Nova, Tanaka, Pineda – not a bad rotation.

    • Eselquetodolosabe says:

      That is, until…., “shallow fly ball hit to right-center…, Ellsbury coming in…, Roberts running out…, here comes Beltran screaming ‘I got it, la tengo’…, no one’s backing away…, WATCH-OUT !!! They’re all down !…, Jeter running to retrieve the ball, and…, uh-oh, he pulls-up, limps to the ball, throws it back to the infield, as he goes down clutching his surgically repaired ankle ! My, my, my…, first game of the year…, and disaster !

      • lightSABR says:

        Teixeira catches the throw from Jeter, but his wrist tendons all snap when he throws it to third…

        I’m really, really hoping 2013′s injury bug is dead.

    • Laz says:

      Just wait until you can spell Alfonso.

  12. Dan says:

    I like this signing. He’s cheap (yes it reflects the injury risk), but he could still be an average to above average secondbaseman when he plays. They need to keep looking for another IF though.

  13. Dr. Grenaldine says:

    The Yankees signed Eric Roberts????

  14. CS Yankee says:

    Ichiro in 2012
    Pronk & Youk in 2013
    I thought 2014 would be the end of living in 2002.

    Lifelong O’s and thy don’t give him squat, hmm?

    Seems like they give him decent RP money, 189 has to be dead as nobody on a strict budget spends 1-2% of their money on Lotto tickets.

  15. fred robbins says:

    spring training should be really interesting— it could leave the Yankees with more opening than they have now if past injury history comes into play. And the post about Arod being the most productive infielder they have if he only gets 50 games– is right on the money–
    this team will still need 2 more years to really shake out the old and possibly find a GM who sees the need for a good shortstop and not a dream

  16. I'm a looser and a trader baby so why don't you kill me? says:

    For the love of god ERIC FREAKING CHAVEZ.

  17. Batsman says:

    The signing is not bad at all, especially since it’s only for one year @ 2 million. Assuming that the Yankees will get a 3Bman, I am sure Girardi will split 2B duties between Roberts and Johnson in order to preserve Roberts.

  18. mick taylor says:

    roberts is an all time yankee killer . he must have a career 500 batting average against yanks. too bad injuries diminished is talents

  19. Oops I Crapped My Pants says:

    I have changed my mind…the more I think about this signing the more I like it. Brian Roberts does have a history of playing high level ball and a history of injuries.

    You take a cheap flyer on a guy like this and he could be a very pleasant addition, the kind that makes Cashman look smart. If he stinks it up or is anoth KY like last year, oh well you just pissed 2 mil away.

    hopefully he is Eric Chavez 2.0 ….. speaking of which I wish we would sign Chavez too. Much rather him than Reynolds.

  20. Batsman says:

    Right now the priority is pitching and the Yankees should go all out to acquire the Tanaka guy. All other positions can wait.

    Just to remind everyone, last season, with a sub-2nd rate offense, the Yankees climb to first place. With the offensive improvements (and barring no injuries), the Yankees should win way more than 85 games. It is practically IMPOSSIBLE to formulate a pennant winner in the offseason, because no one ever knows how the players will perform during the regular season, especially the newcomers. Therefore, after the Yankees get Tanaka, I’d rather the Yankees hold in acquiring players. Especially since these players are over-valued and unreasonably pricing themselves to the New York Yankees.

    • Rick says:

      thanks for the reminder.

    • lightSABR says:

      The situation isn’t yet as good as all that. I did a full run-through of all the Yankees players currently under contract yesterday, pre-Roberts signing, and this is what I got:

      Pitching: http://riveraveblues.com/2013/.....nt-7960667

      Position players: http://riveraveblues.com/2013/.....nt-7961556

      Summary: assuming no injuries, we’ve lost about 3 fWAR of pitching and added about 9 fWAR of position players. Add some injuries, some sub-replacement replacements, and some regression to the mean in 1-run games, and right now we’re right about an 85-win team.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

        Nix isn’t currently on the Yankees, fwiw. I think on the current roster, Nunez might be the 3B (or Johnson/Nunez, with Roberts/Anna manning second).

        I agree with your overall assessment though, I think the Yankees need to add at least 6 wins (absolute minimum, I think 8-10 is a more realistic expectation of need) to be a strong playoff/possible division winning contender.
        And as the days go by, and more players come off the board, I’m seeing fewer and fewer likely paths to accomplish that.

        • lightSABR says:

          Ah. Thanks for the correction. Somehow I missed that Nix wasn’t around anymore.

          In that case, it’s a bit less than 9 fWAR we’ve added, rather than a bit more.

        • mike says:

          crazy to think that Tex is barely a starter (with a 2WAR)and Beltran’s defensive limitations dragging down his WAR will not be somewhat mitigated by DH/smaller field/Ellsbury, and also that his offensive stats will not improve with the short porch.

          i have to think that just between those two spots (and Cervelli as a fair platoon to McCaan could help both player’s overall value) they can find another 3 total fWAR, where adding Tanaka and Reyonlds puts them right in the playoff mix

          • lightSABR says:

            Those are the pessimistic assumptions behind the fWAR figures I’ve put together. Well, those and that Soriano drops to barely above replacement level.

            The optimistic assumptions are that Sabathia will be worth 3.6 fWAR, that Pineda will pitch a full season, and that nobody important spends any significant time injured.

            I guess the optimistic way of looking at our present situation is that it’s about where we were when spring training started last year: if everything breaks rights, we could make it to the playoffs.

          • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

            Reynolds playing mostly 3B, which is what his role would be on the current roster, would likely be about a 0 WAR player.

            They may be able to add some wins in the way you mentioned, but they are just as likely, if not more likely, to lose some wins through injuries and through CC and/or Pineda not being as strong as projected.

            All of this is an imperfect measure using projected WAR as an absolute, but I think it does give a good general idea of the Yankees still having a long way to go to be a likely playoff team.

        • lightSABR says:

          Yeah. I think if we sign Tanaka, there’s a good chance he’ll be 2 fWAR better than whoever he replaces. If A-Rod is only suspended for 50 games, that probably adds 1 or 2 fWAR over the alternatives. If we sign a couple of very good relievers, that might add another 1.5 or 2 fWAR, plus keep our performance in close games better than the mean.

          So I see how, if we spend a bunch and get really lucky, we might add 6 fWAR over the current team. I’m not sure where the extra 2 to 4 fWAR that you think we need could possibly come from. Who’s still available that could contribute to the team? The only option I’ve come up with is to sign Choo and trade Gardner for an infielder or a starter. That’s clearly out of the question, but what other options are there?

          • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

            I really don’t see a realistic way to get to 8-10.
            I think they’re just going to have to take about 6 and keep their fingers crossed that they can defy age and injury a lot more than they did last year.
            I just think going just 6 gives them a razor thin margin of error.

  21. gbyanks says:

    make him a stright platoon player ala jones of 2011. it would limit his at bat and might keep him productive

  22. OldYanksFan says:

    Look…. Brian is a throw away at $2m.
    So for those of you complaining, please limit your complaints to $2m worth.

    If the Yankees somehow manage to stay under $189m, the team ain’t going anywhere… we all know that. If/When they go over, I’m sure they will be looking to fortify the team throughout the season… and Brian’s $2m will be meaningless.

    Let’s just hope ARod’s suspension is 100 games or less, which forces us over the $189m (we now have about $11m left NOT including ARod’s $27.5m) and gives us a decent 3Bman for 40% of the season.

    • TheEvilUmpire says:

      If he plays Brian Roberts-level ball for 40 games, the Yanks basically break even.

    • monkeypants says:

      But why even bother throwing away the 2 million? According to RLYW he projects to be replacement level. Can’t the organization find replacement level talent…like, in the minors…for league minimum. This is more of the same Yankees-spending-money-for-the-sake-of-it, incoherent strategy. But hey, he was good against us a few years ago and he’s kind of a name brand, so sign him up!

  23. dasani says:

    This is Kevin Youkalis all over again, an injury nightmare

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

      Did the contract details change? Did we spend 12M on Roberts? Woah, then yeah, this sucks.

      Oh wait you mean it was only 2M, 1 year, and we’d have no real headaches cutting him? I’m so confused.

    • Mr. Roth says:

      Except that it’s a ton less money, which was really the biggest problem with Youkilis. No one would have gave a damn about Youk if he was only making 2 million last year.

  24. Darren says:

    Assuming ARod gets zero games and is healthy throughout Spring training, how many games do you want him to play 3rd?

    100?

    And assuming Jeter is healthy and looking ok, how many games at short?

    110?

    Let’s say Jeter is replaced mostly by Ryan and a little Nunez.

    Let’s say ARod is replaced by Johnson and a little Nunez.

    That’s what we have now, right?

    • OldYanksFan says:

      Well…. for one…. if ARod is suspended for 50 games or less, the $189m is 100% gone… so we will have lots of money for mid season pickups.

      I’d say ARod might be good for more than 100 games in the field.
      Let’s remember ARod is NOT injury prone. He was extreme durable before his hips gave out. His hip were congenitally malformed, and the stress of playing MLB finally had them give out.

      They are now both repaired and have had plenty of healing time.
      I’m guessing ARod is better in 2014 than he was in 2013.

      ARod is driven. ARod has something to prove.
      While it’s a long shot, you can bet ARod wants to pass the Babe.

      • Rick says:

        I’m still not sure we’d have “lots of money”… how much higher than that will the Steinbrenner’s really want to go?

        • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

          I agree. I think that’s a big misconception.
          Arod not being out for all of 2014 just adds back his $30M+ to the payroll, and puts them already at about their typical recent spending levels if they’re at about $189M without him.
          They’d be below last years levels, but in line with previous seasons. I doubt adding back $30M+ for ARod is going to encourage a lot more spending.

          • lightSABR says:

            Right. It would just give us an above-average third baseman for most of the year. He’ll be overpriced, but a 3B of his quality isn’t otherwise available at any price, so I’ll take it.

  25. OldYanksFan says:

    Also…. at the risk of repeating myself…
    We can have 2 middle infielders of average or slightly below production and still compete….. IF we get some quality pitching. This means Tanaka and at least #2-#3 production from CC, and another QUALITY BP guy (or 2).

    Without Pitching, the difference between our current 2B solutions and Omar/Phillips/whoever is relatively minor.

    At the beginning of 2013, most wondered if the Red Sox had a .500 team. But Lackey and Laptops over-performed, and just about everyone else was better than expected.

    And the same will have to happen with the 2014 Yankees.
    The COULD be good enough to make the PS… or just be a .500 team.
    We have a lot of unknowns… CC, Teix, Jeter, Sori (who way over-performed for us last year), Els and Beltran staying healthy, can DRob be a quality Closer, etc.

    It’s not like one guy will put us over the top.
    I think how CC/Teix/Jeter will do will have a lot more impact than who our 2nd baseman is.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

      Leaving known weaknesses at 2B and 3B (and probably SS), and possibly pitching as well forces them to rely on CC, Teix, and Jeter having better than realistic comebacks to have a strong chance at the playoffs.
      Wouldn’t it be better to fill the known holes strongly so that their fate wasn’t as reliant on improbable/miracle comebacks?

      The Yankees still need a lot of roster improvement to be a likely playoff team. They’re going to need every little bit extra they can find.

  26. Jim says:

    Don’t undervalue Kelly Johnson, he’s been a more than serviceable hitter over his career. If we sign reynolds for third, that would give us an infields of Reynolds, Jeter, Roberts, and Tex being backed up by Johnson, Ryan, and Nunez. Thats already eons better than last years infield. Infante wasn’t worth the money or years that he got. There aren’t any great secondbasemen available, Cano and Pedroia are the only two elite ones in the league it seems. That being the case, the infield by commitee option doesn’t seem like a terrible one.

    • lightSABR says:

      I agree – the infield already looks a lot better than last year, when it was hilariously awful. Here’s the breakdown of the Yankees’ infield production last year:

      Robinson Cano: 681 PA, 6 fWAR.

      All other infielders combined: 2114 PA, -1.9 fWAR.

      That is a truly prodigious amount of suck.

      • lightSABR says:

        For those curious, that “all other infielders combined” category includes the following, ranked according to fWAR from best to worst:

        Jayson Nix
        Mark Reynolds
        Alex Rodriguez
        Luis Cruz
        Brendan Ryan
        Corban Joseph
        Lyle Overbay
        Travis Ishikawa
        Chris Nelson
        Mark Teixeira
        Alberto Gonzalez
        David Adams
        Kevin Youkilis
        Brent Lillibridge
        Reid Brignac
        Derek Jeter
        Eduardo Nunez

        I am so, so, SO glad the 2013 season is over.

        • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

          I feel really bad for forgeting about four names on that list…but who isn’t surprised Arod and Cruz outperformed all those other guys? Who is wondering who Cruz is?

          • lightSABR says:

            I couldn’t remember Cruz either. Or Chris Nelson. I think I remembered the rest of them, at least sort of.

            The 0 fWAR mark on that list, by the way, is Overbay. So it was extremely easy for guys like Ishikawa and Nelson to outperform the bottom of the list – they just had to avoid seeing enough action to accumulate -1.4 fWAR like Nunez.

      • MartinRanger says:

        Wowee. Losing Cano doesn’t look quite as bad if you can make up a good 4 fWAR if the rest of the infield isn’t horrendous.

  27. Ross says:

    #1 … I agree: Don’t undervalue Kelly Johnson. He slots in everywhere and can be a regular player. Plus, his interview after signing with the Yankees was much better than Ellsbury’s.
    #2 … Roberts is an upgrade from Nix, and we all liked Nix in our own way.
    #3 … Who is coming off the 40-man to make room? I hope they keep this Anna kid. Maybe Cash is close to trading Nunez and a minor leaguer for something useful?

    Depending on #3, I like the move.

    • Kosmo says:

      #1… I don´t: To overvalue Johnson is a mistake. I´ll be surprised if he gets more than 250 ABs. Yanks didn´t sign him to be an everyday player. He´s a ROLE player. I didn´t catch his interview.
      #2… He´s definitely an upgrade from Nix. I can honestly say I never liked Nix the ballplayer.
      #3… ?????????

  28. JRod says:

    They really should sign Reynolds as well. Everyone acts like he’s some creaky old retread, but the guy’s only 30. He may never get back to his 2011 numbers, but it’s not impossible. They need to replace some of Cano’s power in the infield and they should grab Reynolds without waiting to see what happens with ARod. The uncertainty regarding Tex’s rehab makes it more urgent.

  29. Vern Sneaker says:

    McCann, Ellsbury, Beltran, Johnson, Roberts, Ryan, Kuroda — pretty good major league haul so far, I’d say.

  30. FLYER7 says:

    Adding Beltran and Roberts to 40 man and Reynolds or Baker at a future time require moves…perhaps moves for a surplus catcher or Noonie clears spot. Obviously don’t need that many catchers on 40 man and Noonie is expendable especially if there is AAA depth with AAAA talent at SWB.

  31. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    Roberts makes me comfortale enough that adding Reynolds as a backup 3B, backup 1B, PH, and DH would be a great signing if the cost is acceptable.

    I’m no big on Thornton–I’d rather see if we can get the LOOGY from the farm, but it’s not a huge deal.

  32. BigLoving says:

    I would be happy with a .260/.330 BA/OBP and maybe a little speed on the base paths if he can give us 120 games or so. I don’t think he will ever get back to his old numbers but he is still a solid defender and professional hitter that won’t clog up the base paths. Definitely a player that can manufacture some runs for us if he stills healthy….that is a big if though.

  33. bg90027 says:

    I’m mildly opposed to the Roberts signing just because of his fragility and how much uncertainty there already is around the rest of the IF spots, combined with the current 40 man roster crunch. It’s not much money so I guess you can view it as a lottery ticket but they are going to have to clear a roster spot for him and he may add nothing but they may lose something from the guy they have to lose.

    If I had to guess, I’d think they might DFA Huff and either Wells or Flores to clear spots for Roberts and Thornton. They will still need to add at least one starting pitcher, a corner infielder, and another reliever so that’s 3 more spots that will have to be cleared with the choices getting progressively harder.

    Marshall?
    Wells/Flores?
    Nunez?
    Ichiro?

    They’d probably be smart to trade one of their excess catchers (Romine, Cervelli, Murphy) for a good, younger, cheaper reliever to free up another spot on the 40 man while saving some money compared to free agent pricing on Crain or Benoit. They’ll still have to clear 2 more spots most likely from the players above even if they do that though.

    I think I would have just lived with Kennedy as the starter at 2B rather than signed Roberts. I think it’s a 50/50 chance at best that he’s worth the roster spot.

    • bg90027 says:

      I forgot that they still haven’t made the Beltran signing official yet so that’s another roster spot they’ll need or six in total if you assume

      Roberts
      Beltran
      Thornton
      another reliever
      another starter
      a corner infielder.

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