Archive for Musings
You know what sucks about the winter? I can’t give these “thoughts” posts a half-decent title. “Thoughts following the off-day” or “thoughts following the big win over the whoevers.” No nothing. “Thoughts on a random day.” Hate the winter.
1. I would very much like Hal Steinbrenner & Co. to shut up about the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold. It’s going to happen. I know it’s going to happen, you know it’s going to happen, and ownership knows it’s going to happen despite the silly “it’s a goal, not a mandate” comments. It’s going to happen. Now just shut up about it and stop reminding everyone at every opportunity. Very simple request. No ownership group in any sport has ever spoken this much and this openly about slashing payroll. I know the media asks about it and all that, but for once just say “I’ve said already I’ve had to say about it” and move on, please. No need to go through the rigmarole once a week. It’s very off-putting.
2. The playoffs have been incredibly entertaining so far, much more than usual for the LDS round, I believe. Watching all the young pitching — most notably Sonny Gray, Alex Cobb, Gerrit Cole, Michael Wacha, and the still-only-25 Clayton Kershaw — has been simultaneously awesome and depressing. Awesome because, well, they can really pitch and it’s fun to watch. Depressing because the Yankees have nothing close to a guy like that. Ivan Nova‘s had two good really second halves in three full years as a big leaguer now. Big whoop. David Phelps is alright but clearly not on the same level as those other guys. He’s not a notch below, he’s like five notches below. Amazing how the game has so clearly gravitated towards young players and yet the Yankees continue getting older and older.
3. This is worth a full post (a series of full posts, most likely) at some point, but I’m really curious to see how the bullpen shakes out next season. You know David Robertson will be in there in some capacity, either closer or setup man, plus we can probably pencil Dellin Betances into a spot. I can’t imagine the team won’t carry him on the Opening Day roster unless he’s just awful and out of shape and whatever else in camp. Adam Warren would wind up as the long man again, assuming he isn’t needed in the rotation. That still leaves
four three spots (forgot about Shawn Kelley) up in the air without a whole lot of options. Cesar Cabral and Preston Claiborne? Okay, what about the other two spots? Does Matt Daley survive the offseason? Does it even matter if he does? I’m sure Brett Marshall will be the sixth starter in Triple-A rather than a reliever in the big leagues, but we shouldn’t rule him out of the bullpen mix just yet. The Yankees are going to have to actually spend money on relievers (plural) this winter, which is something they haven’t really done in recent years (Rafael Soriano aside).
4. I was talking to Joe about this yesterday, but I’m legitimately surprised the Yankees have kept the entire front office intact. There is still plenty of offseason left and changes could still come obviously, but usually teams like to get these things out of the way early so they can proceed with everything else on the agenda. If they’re going to replace some people (amateur scouting and player development staff, hint hint), it should happen soon. The longer they wait, the longer it takes for any philosophical changes to be implemented and take affect. I guess this is more of a follow-up to item #3, but whatever. I’m surprised and pretty bummed no changes have been made. The lack of farm system production has been an ongoing problem for too long and apparently the Yankees are happy maintaining the status quo.
Later today, Brian Cashman will hold his annual end-of-season press conference, during which he’ll probably reveal … not much in particular. These things never really bring major news, but you never know. Three years ago we found out pitching coach Dave Eiland was being let go, for example. Both Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman say the Yankees are “decompressing” at the moment and will take a few days before getting down to business, most notably hammering out a new contract with Joe Girardi. Until then, here are some random thoughts.
1. My gut feel is heads on the player development side are going to roll this winter. The Yankees replaced both Billy Connors and Nardi Contreras — two long-time player development linchpins — last offseason, the first sign the braintrust wasn’t happy with the development staff. Yesterday we heard amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer and VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman were most likely to get the axe, and it stands to reason director of player development Pat Roessler will be in that mix as well. The Yankees tend to promote from within and there’s definitely something to be said for loyalty and continuity, but it’s time for some new voices. If they make changes (they absolutely should at this point), they should bring in people from outside the organization. That’s easier said than done obviously — “throw money at whoever runs the Rays/Cardinals farm system” is not a realistic solution because those guys have contracts that usually aren’t broken for lateral moves — but what they’ve been doing isn’t working. It’s time for philosophical change, not rearranging the furniture.
2. Among players who are under contract/team control next season, how many would you say unquestionably belong on the Opening Day roster? Here’s the contracts info from Cot’s for reference. I count six: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, David Robertson, Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, and Mark Teixeira. When Derek Jeter exercises his player option, it’ll be seven. I’m assuming Alex Rodriguez gets suspended. A few other guys deserve long looks in Spring Training — David Phelps, Adam Warren, Austin Romine, Preston Claiborne, for example — but I’m not a big fan of handing young players who have been up-and-down (at best) jobs out of camp. Nova’s the exception. That’s just my preference, remember. Anyway, the point of this exercise was just to show just how many holes the Yankees have on their roster. Only seven guys who are slam dunks for the Opening Day roster? Yikes.
3. Eduardo Nunez played just well enough down the stretch to keep the Yankees from replacing him. That’s not a good thing. He hit .260/.307/.372 (83 wRC+) in 336 plate appearances overall this season and .284/.321/.426 (101 wRC+) in 211 second half plate appearances. The Yankees obviously love Nunez and saw just enough late in the year to not move on this winter. He was well on his way to playing himself out of the team’s plans with a rough first half, getting exposed by playing everyday as Jeter’s replacement. Now he’ll get another chance and be back next season. That would be fine if he wasn’t a disaster on defense or if I had any confidence in him being even a league average hitter in the near future.
4. Given the current state of the organization, my biggest concern right now is re-signing Robinson Cano to massive contract and being unable to surround him with quality support players because payroll is coming down. They can’t give Cano huge money and fill out the rest of the roster with washed up reclamation project types like Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki. That’s a recipe for mediocrity and will waste however many elite seasons Robbie has left. This is where the unproductive farm system and having … well … washed up reclamation project types like Wells and Ichiro under contract next season really hurts. The Yankees are stuck relying on free agency which is a) not cheap, and b) completely inefficient. Getting bang for the buck is a thing now, the team has to consider that as long as they try to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold.
This was a question of when, not if. The Yankees were going to be eliminated from postseason contention at some point and that some point just so happened to be last night. As I said in the recap, it’s pretty amazing they were still in the race after 157 games. They should have been dead in the water weeks ago. Let’s start the eulogy:
1. I have absolutely no idea what to expect this offseason. Usually, after the season ends, we have a pretty good idea of what the Yankees will do over the winter, at least a general direction of some sort. This year? No idea. I could see them making serious changes — front office level changes — just as easily as I could see them tinkering and making little moves but nothing major. I could see them continue to target veterans or finally decide to go young. I really have no idea and that’s actually kinda exciting. Exciting and nerve-wracking. This is going to be the team’s most fascinating offseason in a long, long time. Maybe of my lifetime.
2. Just eyeballing the 40-man roster, the Yankees will have five open spots after the season. Twelve players are due to become free agents but six have to come off the 60-day DL, plus Frankie Cervelli has to come off the restricted list. Matt Daley, David Huff, and Mike Zagurski are under team control as arbitration-eligible players but are prime release/non-tender candidates, so it could be eight open 40-man spots. The Yankees have seven interesting at worst, very good at best prospects eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason — the list is in last week’s mailbag — so it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the roster crunch this winter. Unless they go in-house to plug every hole (lol), they’ll need to make 40-man space for like two starting pitchers, half a bullpen, the left side of the infield, at least one outfield spot, and the bench.
3. I wonder if the Phillies would have any interest in Ichiro Suzuki this winter. They were reportedly one of the teams that offered him a two-year contract this past offseason — the Giants were the other — so maybe they’ll still want him for 2014. Obviously Ichiro has no trade value, but if the Yankees could flip him for like $2M in savings and a Grade-C prospect, they should jump all over it. Replacing a no-hit, all-glove fourth outfielder isn’t exactly difficult, so the move would be all about saving a few extra bucks under that all-important $189M luxury tax threshold. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. can’t help himself when it comes to big-name players. Maybe the Yankees will get lucky.
4. This season was cool for like three weeks and it started to suck after that, but it’s still going to be sad when the season ends on Sunday. Baseball is all about routine and come Monday that routine will be broken. Yeah, the playoffs are always fun, even when the Yankees aren’t involved, but it’s not the same. Regular season baseball has this everyday monotony that can be described as both beautiful and awful. Playing every single day is both the best and worst thing about baseball. As frustrating as the 2013 Yankees were for most of the summer, I’m really going to miss them. I’m not ready for the offseason yet.
The final week of the regular season is upon us. To make the postseason, the Yankees need to win each of their final six games while the Rays, Rangers, and Indians win no more than two of their remaining games. Or something like that. Let’s see the Bombers hold up their end of the bargain before we start worrying about everyone else. Mathematically, the Yankees are still alive. In reality, they’re done. Such is life. Here are some random thoughts.
1. I’m not quite sure what the Yankees are supposed to do during this final week. I want them to play kids — Zoilo Almonte, J.R. Murphy, Dellin Betances, and Cesar Cabral, specifically — but mostly because I can’t bear to watch guys like Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, Chris Stewart, and Joba Chamberlain any longer. Six games won’t tell us anything about the kids, or least not anything that should change our minds about their long-term potential and possible role in 2013. I’ve just about hit my limit with Ichiro and Stewart and Joba though. They’re unwatchable and there’s something to be said for having a watchable team. Forget looking at it as a fan, I can’t imagine all those companies paying big advertising bucks aren’t so happy with their bang for the buck this year. So please, for my sanity if nothing else, play some young players these last six games and make them interesting.
2. A team official told Erik Boland the return of Phil Hughes for next season “can’t be ruled out,” which is true of pretty much every free agent, really. That seems especially true for Hughes though because the Yankees will have an awful lot of pitching questions to answer prior to next season. If the price is right, the Bombers should definitely look to bring Phil back. The question is what’s the right price? He’s got a 5.07 ERA and 4.53 FIP in 143.2 innings this year, which is by far his worst (mostly) healthy season as a full-time starter. Hughes has alternated ~2 WAR seasons with ~0 WAR seasons since moving into the rotation four years ag0 and you’d be hoping for a rebound by re-signing him. A qualifying offer is out of the question at this point, but would one-year at $4M work? Maybe push it to $5M? I’m a) not terrible confident in the team’s in-house options, and b) in favor of adding as much pitching depth as possible this winter, so I’d definitely bring Hughes back for a year at $4-5M. The problem is he’ll probably get more on the open market — all it takes is one team to overpay.
3. You know how teams who have nothing left to play for — either because they’ve already clinched their postseason spot or have already been eliminated — will trot out a skeleton crew lineup in the final game of the regular season? I wonder if the Yankees will do that on Sunday. If they do, I’d probably use a lineup along these lines:
- CF Ichiro
- 3B Eduardo Nunez
- LF Wells
- DH Mark Reynolds
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- RF Zoilo
- 2B David Adams
- SS Brendan Ryan
- C Murphy
That … looks dangerously close to their regular everyday lineup, no? The only legitimate starting-caliber MLB players who would be sitting in that scenario are Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano and Alex Rodriguez. There aren’t that many position player call-ups this year. Hiroki Kuroda lines up to start that day, but since he’s out of gas, the Yankees could start Brett Marshall and have him thrown three or four innings before a parade of September call-up relievers take over. I suppose that depends on what they do to replace the injured CC Sabathia this week.
4. With the understanding that the best team doesn’t always win the World Series, which postseason team do you think is most dangerous in a short playoff series? A lot of people will probably pick the Red Sox because they wrecked the Yankees (twice) in recent weeks or the Tigers because hey, they won the pennant last year, but I think it might be the Reds. Johnny Cueto is back from his third lat strain, so manager Dusty Baker will have two aces (Cueto and Mat Latos) and a damn-near ace (Homer Bailey) in his postseason rotation. Their lineup is crazy deep — particularly with guys who work deep counts and make pitchers to throw a lot of pitches — and their bullpen is really underrated behind Aroldis Chapman. Sean Marshall is back from the DL, lefty Manny Parra dominates same-side hitters, and Sam LeCure and J.J. Hoover are as good as any right-handed setup tandem in the game. Not big names, but big results. The Reds are probably going to have to play a wildcard play-in game, which could derail their season in an instant, but that is definitely not a team I want to play in a best-of-five or best-of-seven series.
Mariano Rivera will conclude his remarkable career very soon. The farewell tour has basically come to an end. Unfortunately, once he leaves, he’ll take his patented cutter with him. The greatest closer of all time will presumably hang up his mitt on his own terms, and upon retirement, will instantly join the epic names of Yankee lore. The last #42 in Major League Baseball will depart from the game with dignity and grace. New York fans – baseball fans everywhere, really – will collectively mourn as a man of such notable modesty off the field leaves behind a career that can really only be defined as stellar on it. Statisticians, baseball analysts, fans, and bloggers alike will try to do Mariano’s numbers justice, but they’ll all fall short. His achievements speak for themselves at this point. Two decades of sustained dominance is simply nuts.
So, rather than dissecting Mo’s career (or even trying to digest it for that matter), I want to write about a bit of nostalgia that recently came to mind. The game I remembered occurred back in August of 2010. The Yankees were squaring off against their divisional rival, the Red Sox, naturally. I remember it being one of those dog-days of summer where it was swelteringly hot out; it was the kind of utterly disgusting heat that caused the $10 stadium beer (that should have, at the very least, been ice cold) to taste warm and unsatisfying almost immediately. Our legs felt like they were peeling off the outfield bleachers – which not coincidentally, was right were my wife (then girlfriend) and I were sitting – every time we shifted in our seats.
A rather ineffective John Lackey started for Boston while former-rotation-stalwart, CC Sabathia, took the mound for New York. The game went about as smoothly as it could have despite the Sox taking an early 2-0 lead after Victor Martinez homered and Mike Lowell snagged another RBI. I believe it was Lance Berkman who worked the walk and it was Curtis Granderson who brought him home. Ramiro Pena (yeah, he was still in the lineup) ultimately drove in Granderson on a ground out. It wasn’t until about midway through the game though that the combination of Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and Jorge Posada (yeah, they were around then too) finally broke the score open. Heading into the ninth inning, the Bombers led 5-2. Despite the blistering heat and general lack of Red Sox momentum the stadium was still full. The game wasn’t over. This was late summer baseball between divisional rivals. My wife and I waited. Everyone knew what was going to happen next.
Queue the iconic Enter Sandman riffs. My wife pointed excitedly as Mariano trotted to the mound in his usual unassuming way. I watched with anticipation as I had so many times before; I had seen Mariano take the stage for the better part of my life and he’s never failed to impress me with his calm demeanor on the mound. Moments later, Victor Martinez grounded out on what was probably three pitches. One out. Adrian Beltre hit a pop fly a few pitches later. Two outs. Boston fan-favorite, Mike Lowell, ended the game with a weak fly ball to center field. In anticlimactic fashion, the game was over. That was it. The Yanks won 5-2. There were no loaded bases or late game two out heroics. The Yanks just exchanged a few high-fives between the pitcher’s mound and home plate as is their custom. The Sox unceremoniously slunk back into the visitor’s locker room. Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York captured the speakers.
It wasn’t one of Mariano’s most notable performances by any means, nor was the game particularly critical to season’s outcome for either ball club. It was really just the opposite actually. Mariano simply notched another save. The team benefited from one more stress free afternoon, and New York fans everywhere enjoyed another day of quality Yankee baseball. Really, it all felt quite routine. But it was special for me nevertheless. It was the first time my wife experienced the new stadium, the first time she got to check out Monument Park, and the first time she saw the World Series trophies in the Yankee Museum. More significantly, it was her first time seeing Mariano pitch live. I remember her watching his performance in disbelief. Mariano dismantled the heart of the opposing team’s lineup like he’s done so many times before – that is to say, with brutal efficiency. We loved every minute of it.
As for Mo, it was just another save for the record books. There weren’t any fist pumps following the third out. There weren’t any silly superstitious antics or rituals. There were no invisible arrows flung into the atmosphere, excited shrieks, or violent fist pumps. There was only Mo’s humbling ability to shut opposing batters down and bring happiness to Yankees fans everywhere. From the moment he made his presence on the field known, it was basically a foregone conclusion that he was going to do his job, and do it as well as he always had. But that’s the beauty of Mo, really. He’s a security blanket like no other. He brings peace of mind to everyone. Hell, even the opponents seem to take solace in knowing that if they fail against Mo, it’ll be because they’re supposed to. On the rare occasions where things go astray, we find ourselves more bewildered than disappointed.
Mariano Rivera, as he had done so many times before, finalized another awesome experience that afternoon at The Stadium and on that particular occasion, my wife and I got to experience it in person together for the first time. I doubt that we will ever get to see someone perform so brilliantly and so constantly in our life time again. There have been so many memorable Mariano moments both before and after that game against the Red Sox, many of which are certainly far more significant to the team’s glorious history. That’s the one that happened to pop into my mind though, and I’m happy about that.
Thank you for all the wonderful memories, Mariano. We’ll miss you and we wish you a happy, fulfilling retirement.
1. As Mike noted in the recap, Andy Pettitte has been the most reliable starter for the Yankees for several weeks now, and it hasn’t even really been close. On the off chance the Yankees somehow find their way into the play-in game, you’d have to give Andy the nod at this point. Right? It’s pretty nuts how the oldest pitcher in the game is basically the stalwart of the rotation once again, but baseball is weird like that. Plus, as we all know, Andy is a True Yankee™ and knows how to get it done. (Now if only the rest of the damn team were capable.) Unfortunately, even if the Yankees manage to squeak into the playoffs, they aren’t exactly geared for a run. Even in a crapshoot environment, having one capable starting pitcher and Robinson Cano is generally not enough to win a series.
2. I typically don’t put too much stock into a manager’s influence on a team other than the in-game decisions that he makes. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great that some of the managers are able to deflect the media off the players or deploy a shift appropriately, but ultimately, I’ve always kind of put the burden on the players at the end of the day. I have to give Joe Girardi some major credit this season though. He’s had to cope with far more challenges than most of his peers I think. The team had a disappointing offseason heading into the year, and has been saddled with injuries ever since. Despite a (-17 run differential, 74-77 Pythag. record), the Yankees have miraculously managed to retain hope of playoff contention (though that’s rapidly fading) late into the season. Many of us (including me) didn’t see that happening when they were having that awful stretch in August. It’d be pretty cool if he won the Manager of the Year Award this go around. Well done, Joe.
3. Last night on Twitter, I somewhat sarcastically stated that the team had more non-hitters in its lineup at this point then hitters. The more I thought about it though, the more my sentiments kind of rang true. Here was last night’s lineup along with their respective wRC+.
- CF Curtis Granderson (109 wRC+)
- DH Alex Rodriguez (131 wRC+)
- 2B Robinson Cano (140 wRC+)
- LF Alfonso Soriano (108 wRC+, 122 wRC+ since joining the Yankees)
- 1B Lyle Overbay (90 wRC+)
- 3B Mark Reynolds (98 wRC+, 121 wRC+ since joining the Yankees)
- RF Ichiro Suzuki (72 wRC+)
- SS Brendan Ryan (45 wRC+, 75 wRC+ since joining the Yankees)
- C Chris Stewart (56 wRC+)
Having Overbay batting fifth hurts a lot, though probably not as much as the offensive void that is Suzuki, Ryan, and Stewart. It’s tough to score runs when five of your players are below-average hitters overall. I suppose, if there is silver lining to be seen here, it’s that some of these castoffs have been offensively revived a bit since joining the Yankees. So, kudos to you New York for maximizing talent from sub-par or aging players. Also, please stop putting the team in the position of having to depend on so many sub-par or aging players at once.
4. This has definitely been the season of “what ifs,” at least for me anyway. What if the Yankees had a capable catcher all year? What if CC Sabathia didn’t fall off a cliff? What if Derek Jeter or Mark Teixeira were around all season? Could the Yankees have that elusive Wild Card spot locked up already if they caught a break, anywhere really? Possibly. Probably. I don’t know. Unfortunately “what ifs” are just that. Useless hypotheticals. That said, it’s incredibly frustrating that in spite of the circumstances, the Yankees have had more than a fair opportunity to make the playoffs.
The Rays and Rangers have gone out of their way to play miserable baseball for weeks now. Meanwhile, the Orioles and Indians seem to be more than willing to concede their playoff berth as well as they’ve both had plenty of timely losses. I don’t know where I’m going with this last point other than if the team winds up missing the playoffs – and they probably will – they have no one to blame but themselves. Unfortunately, as Mike noted in his rant the other day, if they do make the playoffs, it’ll probably further mask some of the more serious underlying concerns surrounding the team heading forward.
Despite getting manhandled by the Red Sox this weekend, the Yankees wake up this morning with a small chance — a 4.5% chance according to Baseball Prospectus — of qualifying for the postseason this year. Last night’s loss eliminated them from the AL East race, so it is officially wildcard or bust for this team. New York needs a ton of help these next two weeks but they do have a favorable schedule, including nine of their final dozen games against the lowly Blue Jays, Giants, and Astros.
Getting to the playoffs this season doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things for the Yankees. If anything, sneaking into the postseason would (further) mask some severe organizational flaws, whether they be outdated policies (no contract extensions? really?), an over-reliance on old players (two years for Ichiro Suzuki? really?!?), an unproductive farm system, or a medical staff that can’t seem to keep anyone on the field. The list of problems goes on and on and explains why no matter what the Yankees do these next two weeks, it’s impossible to look forward and feel good about where the club is heading.
The Yankees have spent the last few seasons doing what? Holding onto the last remnants of the dynasty years because they are either unwilling to move on or simply don’t know how to do it. Their plan doesn’t seem to be much of a plan at all. They aren’t trading veterans for prospects, they aren’t trading prospects for veterans, and they aren’t giving prospects opportunities. What they are doing is picking up discarded players to plug whatever hole arises. Seriously, look at the roster: Ichiro, Chris Stewart, Mark Reynolds, Lyle Overbay, Brendan Ryan, David Huff … these guys were all available because their former teams dumped them and now they’re playing significant roles for the Yankees. What kind of plan is that?
I get that injuries really decimated the team. Really, really decimated them. Some were unpredictable (Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira) while others were in no way surprising (Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis, Michael Pineda). Either way, there were a lot of injuries and the club was wholly unprepared for them because the farm system has produced so very little beyond a handful of relievers and emergency call-up types in recent years. The Yankees force Phil Hughes and Eduardo Nunez types down our throats because they so desperately want to prove they can draft and develop competent big leaguers, but they can’t. I feel we’ve beyond the point of saying “they haven’t” and should now say “they can’t.”
Between the unproductive minor league system and the slashing of payroll at the big league level — which ownership will happy remind you of every chance they get, by the way — there’s almost no way for the Yankees to turn around and build a team that can have sustained long-term success this winter. They aren’t a Shin-Soo Choo or a Brian McCann or a Matt Garza away from contention. They’re three starting pitchers, two outfielders, a left side of the infield, a catcher, half a bullpen, and a farm system away from having a club that can have sustained success over a number of years. Their best building blocks going forward are a 30-year-old second baseman and a 30-year-old center fielder. Think about that.
“We have the most money, no secret about that. If we combine that with the best decision-making process on a consistent basis, God help the rest of baseball,” said Brian Cashman to Bryan Hoch when he signed his new three-year contract following the 2005 season. Yes, the 2005 season. That’s almost seven years ago and what has happened since then? The Yankees won the World Series, which was pretty awesome, but have they combined their ability to spend with the “best decision-making process on a consistent basis?” I find that very hard to believe and not just because the ability to spend has been willfully marginalized.
Joe wrote about the team’s need to adapt and improve their minor league development last month, but the Yankees need more change than that. I think the easiest way to put it is that they’re behind the times. Teams have more money to spend that ever before, which means the best young players are not hitting free agency or becoming available in trades as their salaries grow. The talent pool available to New York has become diluted and they can’t wave their magic pinstriped
wand bank account to make it all better. The rest of baseball has gotten progressive but the Yankees have remained the same.
Everything from the team’s policies to their decision making at the MLB level to their player development needs an overhaul and that starts right at the top. Does that mean replacing Cashman is step one? I don’t really know. I can’t say I have much confidence in ownership hiring the right replacement if they do fire him. The last thing I want to happen is Cashman being replaced by a figurehead GM while Randy Levine & Co. call all the shots. Ownership dips their toes into the baseball operations too much as it is. Change has to happen though. The Yankees run an outdated organization and the rest of baseball is leaving them behind. These last few months couldn’t have made it any more obvious.
1. I know I mentioned this on Twitter the other day, but can you imagine being a fan of the Orioles or Rays right now? As infuriating as the Yankees have been at times, I’m guessing fans of those two teams have had their fair share of angst as well. The Rays were tied for first as recently as a couple weeks ago. Instead of running away with the division, or at least securing the wild card spot, they’ve been pretty lousy. Now, they have the Yanks, Orioles, Indians, and even the Royals all breathing down their neck. As a fan, I suppose it’s still better to be rooting for the team being chased than the team doing the chasing, but yeesh, the Rays’ world must be pretty stressful at the moment. Ditto for the Orioles. Like the Yankees they are trying to make a final desperate run for that final playoff spot. The Yankees almost got swept by the Sox and yet the other wildcard contenders have nothing to show for it. That’s how it goes though sometimes. Baseball is odd.
2. Mike has talked about the bullpen workload of late, specifically how often Mariano Rivera has been called into duty. I get it. He’s retiring after the season. The team is at a critical point. They need Mo to be Mo whenever the occasion arises. But the man looks gassed out there, at least he did two nights ago. I was surprised, and thankful, last night that he pitched as efficiently as he did honestly. That’s what happens when you have a closer coming in basically every night of the week though, and sometimes for more than one inning of work – never mind the fact that the guy is in his forties. It’ll be cruel if the Yankees make the postseason and Mo is burnt out by the time they get there. Hopefully, the Yanks can string together some big wins (preferably against the Sox) and give the man a break. Frankly, the whole bullpen needs it. The team needs every player contributing at his peak, and a day or two off each week, might be the difference between blown saves and big wins over this final stretch. Unfortunately, that’s not something that Joe Girardi can control — particularly with the rotation being a mess. From a purely selfish standpoint, I also enjoy seeing Mo out there everyday. If this is the last we get to see of him, then let us enjoy it as often as possible.
3. Is anyone else frustrated with the team’s inability to grab a win without seemingly losing someone to injury? This year has been incredible in that regard. The other day it was Austin Romine, Ivan Nova, and Derek Jeter. Last night it was Brett Gardner. Things like this happen, but gosh, the Yanks have got to be setting some kind of dubious record for it this year. Of course, it goes without saying that losing Gardner hurts the lineup especially. Aside from being a fantastic outfielder and solid base runner, he’s been an important offensive force all year long. The team won’t be able to duplicate his contributions with any of the replacements. If a guy like Ichiro Suzuki takes over his lead-off spot, it’ll definitely represent a downgrade.
4. You know what’s funny? Alex Rodriguez is still a really important player. We saw this season how miserable the alternatives are. A-Rod, on the other hand, has had some big hits since returning, and has looked really sharp at the plate in general. Love him or hate him, he is a necessary part of the lineup. He’ll have to continue hitting well for the Yankees to make any kind of run into the playoffs. Also, I really enjoyed seeing him in the two spot these last few days. I think he’s done a good job there and I wouldn’t mind seeing that continue for the rest of the season.
5. Want some Friday humor? Well this is the best I got. My dream is that the Yankees make the World Series and A-Rod wins game seven on a walk off home run, and as he rounds the bases he mimes the act of injecting steroids into himself and then flips the world off at home plate. Then in a beautifully terrible and ironic nightmare, Bud Selig is forced to award him the World Series MVP award. Alright, that’s all I got. Happy Friday.
I’m sure you’ve all heard Randy Levine’s most recent remarks. A couple days ago, he told Mark Feinsand of the Daily News that Robinson Cano was not guaranteed to return next season as a Yankee if the price went too high, and then followed that up with some other remarks. Here are the quotes along with my two cents.
“Robinson Cano is a great player. … We will sit down and talk to him. Hopefully he’s a Yankee. Nobody is a re-sign at all costs, but we want him back and we feel good about negotiating something with him. But nobody is a re-sign at any cost.”
Randy makes an absolutely valid point. No one should be deemed a “re-sign at any cost” type of player (except for maybe Mike Trout at this point), even if they are a player that the team hopes to retain. Personally, I hope Cano returns, but only if the agreement is sensible for the team too. As great as he is, I don’t want to see something outrageous like ten years, $250M. No matter what, Robinson is going to get paid. You don’t have to fret about his future or that of his family.
That said, why is Randy Levine chiming in on this at all? How does this help contract discussions down the road in any way? I’m sure Brian Cashman (and by extension, ownership) has a good idea of how they value Cano relative to the rest of the league. Conversely, I’m sure Roc Nation Sports has an idea of what they’re seeking for their first major client. I don’t see how Levine fits into the mix. Let the conversations happen before publicizing opinions please.
“The fact of the matter is, the reason this season has taken some bumps is because we have had an incredible amount of injuries … When our players are together and they’re playing, which has been very rare, the team has been very successful. Since the All-Star Game, we have had one of the best records in Major League Baseball.”
The injuries are certainly a major factor in this year’s struggles. That said, that’s not the only reason this team has experienced some “bumps.” Many of the woes this team has experienced were self-inflicted after a very underwhelming off season and trade deadline. Also, in the spirit of fact-checking outrageous claims, the Yankees are 26-24 since the All Star Break and decidedly not one of the best teams in Major League Baseball.
“Take a look at this year; payroll has never translated into winning. What translates into winning is great talent … If you look at this year, some great stories; the Oakland A’s, Pittsburgh Pirates, low payroll teams right in there, possible championship caliber teams. We are taking a look at getting down to 189 (million), which has got tremendous financial incentives under the new collective bargaining agreement. But as Hal Steinbrenner has consistently said and as I have said, it has to be consistent with maintaining a championship team.
At 189, I think we would have the second-highest payroll in baseball. That is a lot of money. We will see what happens at the end of the year. The bottom line is the philosophy of this organization is do whatever it can to win the World Series. That’s what the Boss instituted years ago, and nothing has changed.”
See this is where the Yankees go all Billy Beane and try to reinvent the game using pennies on the dollar. Look, if the team wants to maximize profits, that’s absolutely fine. Frankly it’s the franchise’s prerogative. We as fans may not appreciate that line of reasoning, but we can at least comprehend it. Baseball is a business, and the Yankees are looking to increase profit. Don’t feed us crap on top of it though. Make the moves and just call it for what it is.
$189M is still a very respectable payroll, and it definitely should be competitive with the rest of the league. Of course, it would have been ideal if the team had phased out some of their uglier contracts a bit more smoothly and tried to sign players to smarter deals heading forward — in other words, gradually reach that $189M objective. Instead, the team implemented an untimely austerity budget during a period when every other team in baseball seems to be upping its spending.
Also, regarding the Oakland A’s and Pittsburgh Pirates, they are certainly feel good stories (and low budget teams). Of course, I don’t think the folks in Boston, Los Angeles, Texas, or St. Louis are feeling all that lousy about themselves at the moment either.
Thanks to their back-to-back come from behind wins over the Orioles, the Yankees are right back in the thick of the wildcard hunt with 16 games to play. Yeah, just 16 games left. The end of the season is right around the corner. Here are some thoughts as we await the final of this four-game series against Baltimore:
1. The Yankees crept to within two games of the second wildcard spot in the loss column, and you know what the most ridiculous thing is? They haven’t evenly played all that well recently. They’ve lost four of their last seven games — the Red Sox just demolished them over the weekend, that was ugly — and trailed in all three wins. The Rays are letting New York and every other team right back into the race. Tampa has dropped five of their last six games and 13 of their last 17 to fall from tied atop the AL East to eight back in the loss column. Last night, in the biggest moment of their season (to date), Joe Maddon brought the pitcher former known as Fausto Carmona out of the bullpen. He promptly walked the bases loaded and surrendered a grand slam. You kinda deserve to collapse when you do that. The Yankees were going to need some help to climb out of the hole they dug themselves a few weeks ago, and the Rays have happily obliged. The Bombers just have to start playing a little better to finish this thing off.
2. Can you imagine where New York would be right now if they had gotten anything out of CC Sabathia this season? I was pretty optimistic about him coming into this year because he finished 2012 well (ALCS Game Four notwithstanding) and had his elbow cleaning up over the winter, but boy was I wrong. Think about it, Sabathia’s has been replacement level this year (0.2 bWAR). Replacement level! Nearly 200 innings (198, to be exact) of 4.82 ERA (4.15 FIP) ball. That’s hard to believe and tough to swallow. Obviously Sabathia isn’t the only reason the Yankees are on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, but there’s no doubt he has played a big role in the team’s general mediocrity this summer. I think we all knew CC would decline during the course of his contract, but I don’t think many expected to see him go from ace to fifth starter in one year. Yuck.
3. I’m convinced Derek Jeter will return next season. I don’t see him going out like this, not in a million years. He’ll pick up his $9.5M player option and work like hell this offseason to make sure there are no more physical issues next year. I’m sure of it. At the same time, I don’t see any way the Yankees can count on him in 2014. I think they need to go out and find a permanent shortstop solution this winter so they can treat Jeter as a full-time DH who can step in and play the field on occasion. If he can do more than that, great. I just wouldn’t expect it. I know he’s Derek frickin’ Jeter and a god around these parts, but we are talking about a 39-year-old shortstop who lost what amounts to a full season with a series of leg injuries. The Yankees should plan for the worst because guys like that usually don’t come back and be productive.
4. Hypothetical: what happens if, after the season, Andy Pettitte decides he wants to pitch again in 2014? He had that really ugly stretch after coming off the DL, but he has been vintage Andy of late. Not dominant, but steady and reliable. Pettitte is already the oldest starting pitcher in baseball at 41 and he’s shown that he’s not physically up to the rigors of a full season, meaning 30+ starts of 100+ pitches. The Yankees will need pitching next year and, despite that hiccup a few weeks ago, I think most people would welcome Andy back with open arms. What’s a reasonable cost though? He’ll earn $12M this year and I don’t see any way the team could give him a raise. If Pettitte wants to come back, I think my absolutely maximum would be $10M for the year. Preferably, I’d guarantee him like $6M with incentives that kick in around 20 starts or so. Let’s say a $6M base salary plus $500k for every start after number 20, giving him a chance to match this season’s $12M salary if he manages to make a full 32 starts. Reasonable? That would be a pain to work into the luxury tax-drive payroll, but I think it’s fair considering Andy’s expected production and marquee value to the franchise.