Spring Training, in pictures

Mike’s Sunday-night Picture Day post showed that, hey, for all the talk of the off-season, there’s nothing like seeing some baseball players. The posed photos were often hilarious, often awkward, and all in front of some nondescript background.

So how about some practice photos instead? Via an e-mail from loyal reader and frequent commenter Brian comes the New York Yankees photos from Daylife.

Soon, very soon, the games start, and then it’s just a short jaunt until Opening Day. I’m ready.

They’re bringin’ sexy back

Via Pinstripes PA, Getty Images has the “photo day” pics available. You should definitely check ’em out, but here are the highlights:

Make sure you take a look at all the photos. Good stuff. Some of ’em remind me of yearbook picture day.

Taking a lesson from Cal Ripken

As Cal Ripken neared the twilight years of his Big League career, he grew to recognize his defensive limitations. A career short stop, in 1996, during his age 35 season, he played a handful of games at third base before moving there permanently the next season. He moved over with the recognition that 23-year-olds are better equipped to handle the demands of short stop than 36-year-olds.

In the Bronx, the Yanks’ short stop will soon undergo similar growing pains. Derek Jeter has played 13 years at short, and during an injury-plagued 2007, it seemed that he had lost a bit from his already slow first step. The rumblings, as we’ve discussed over the last few days, for Jeter to move from short have grown louder over the last few seasons.

Derek, however, will have none of that talk quite yet. As Mark Feinsand from the Daily News reports, Derek wants to stick it out at short:

he plans on playing shortstop through the final three years of his current contract, and on remaining there for however many years he plays beyond 2010.

“That’s the plan,” Jeter said. “I haven’t really thought about how long I’m playing. I take it one year at a time; I don’t sit down and say, ‘Well, I hope I’m playing in two-thousand whatever.’ It’s a tough question, because I haven’t really thought about it much.”

Could Jeter, who has been named to eight American League All-Star teams in his 12 big-league seasons – four as the league’s starting shortstop – ever see himself playing another position?

“Right now?” Jeter said, “No.”

Now, Yankee fans will be up in arms over Jeter’s quotes. “He’s being selfish,” they’ll say. It’s not for the good of the team for him to stick it out at short.

But that’s just silly. No baseball player will ever admit to the media that they’re losing a step or two at their natural position. No one will say that age is catching up to them, that they’re slowing down and that, yeah, they probably shouldn’t be playing short stop. It just doesn’t happen.

Right now, the Yanks need Derek Jeter as short stop. While people can fantasize about A-Rod‘s moving back to short, in reality, he hasn’t played there in 2003, and there’s no guarantee that he would still be a solid short stop.

When the time comes, I believe Derek will take a page from the Cal Ripken book and recognize when it’s time to move from the demands of short. It’s not going to happen yet, but it will.

Yankees saying and doing all the right things

Is it just me, or has the first few days of Spring Training set the expectations for the Yankees rather high? Sure, many of us can see through the media spin on the events of the past week or so. But even at that point, we’re seeing players do things, rather than just saying them. It’s a careful balance that the Yankees have executed perfectly so far. And I have to say, it has me more excited about this season than I have been in any year I can remember — though I’m fairly certain I say that every year.

First, we heard about the pitchers who showed up early. Joba, Phil, and IPK in particular were there before they required to, which is always reassuring. We also heard about Shelley Duncan showing up to work on his first base skills with Tino Martinez. And, Cap’n Jetes was there early, too. But he resides in Tampa, so it only makes sense for him to be around.

Then we heard about Brian Bruney losing weight. Good news, for sure. If anything, it shows that he’s at least a bit motivated. It’s certainly better than him showing up in the same physical shape as last year, and spouting off lines about his determination to make the team. PeteAbe also noted that Mike Mussina checked in lighter, which spoke to his off-season conditioning. We also heard about Kyle Farnsworth being less bulky, but then it was revealed that he dealt with a rather nasty staph infection last month.

[Read more…]

Girardi lighting a fire under Yanks

Via Baseball Musings comes a complementary piece to my farewell to Joe Torre: According to reports out of Yankee camp, Joe Girardi is really cracking the whip this year, and so far, both the veterans and young kids in camp in Tampa are responding well.

As John Harper writes in the Daily News, the Yanks went with Girardi over Mattingly to bring some discipline to what the Front Office had viewed as a lax team:

That was part of the reasoning for choosing Girardi over Don Mattingly as the new manager. After all the years of Joe Torre’s calming influence, Cashman and the Yankee brass wanted someone who would be a little tougher on players.

And although Girardi has downplayed it, his first camp has included considerably more running for the pitchers and catchers than Torre’s camps, and the same is expected today for the first full-squad workout.

Meanwhile, in a piece in The Post, Jason Giambi talks about how Girardi’s demands made him work harder this offseason. Girardi, as Pinto at Musings points out, knows that a good offense will outweigh the benefits of a good defense and wants Jason Giambi at first base. Giambi responded in turn, and it seems that, right now, the players are willing to show deference and respect to someone who isn’t much older than they are and has their attention. This can only be good news for the Yankees.

Damon predicts a hot start

While the Mets and Phillies are engaged in their annual pissing contest over who’s the best in the NL East, Johnny Damon predicted his own early season success today:

“I’m ready to go out there and prove to everyone that I’m still a pretty good player. I’ve been pretty consistent over my career. But when you talk about good players in the league my name hardly comes up and I don‘t think that’s right. I need to go out there and show them.”

Peter Abraham notes that Damon looks like he’s in great shape. This is, needless to say, great news for Yankee fans. Damon got off to a terrible start last season and didn’t really hit his stride until August when his nagging injuries cleared up.

Meanwhile, over the last few seasons, the Yanks have started the year 9-14 (2007), 13-10 (2006), 10-14 (2005) and 12-11 (2004). If they could get out to a fast start, the team’s winning ways would take some pressure off the pitching. Make no mistake about it; Johnny Damon atop the Yankee lineup will be a major factor in that potential success.

Girardi lifts facial hair ban?

Update: Patrick talked to PeteAbe, who said that the no-hair-below-the-lip policy remains in place.

A story making its rounds in the mainstream media today is Joe Girardi‘s list of rules. I’m not sure if these are just for Spring Training or if they’ll extend into the season. There are 17 total, and RAB goat Wallace Matthews got his hands on nine:

1. Be on time. No excuse for lateness.

2. Shorts and T-shirts only permitted during spring training.

3. Curfew of 1 a.m.

4. Jewelry – only one chain is permitted. No earrings.

5. Only neatly cut beards, mustaches, goatees. No long hair or “unshaven looks.”

6. No family members in the clubhouse until after games.

7. No cell phones in the dugout.

8. Cell phones only allowed in the clubhouse until one hour before games.

9. No competing speakers in the clubhouse.

No. 2 makes it seem like these are the Girardi rules. No. 5, then, looks like it supersedes King George’s Law.

No. 7 should be fairly obvious…