Hal Speaks: Farm System, Offseason, Coaches

Hal Steinbrenner appeared on Michael Kay’s radio show yesterday and, among other things, he apologized to Yankees fans for the team’s second straight postseason-less year. “I apologize. We did not do the job this year. We know what you expect of us, and we expect the same thing of ourselves, and we certainly did what we thought we could do in the offseason to field a pretty good team come April 1st, but it didn’t work out,” he said. The full interview is above, but if you don’t want to sit through all 20 minutes of it, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

  • On incorporating young players going forward: “There’s no doubt, young players, player development, that’s going to play a big part, because you’re correct, it’s hard to just play in the free agent market and bring a bunch of veterans on board because you’ve got a lot of parity in the league now … We’ve had our struggles in player development and the minor leagues.”
  • On the upcoming offseason: “I’ve been a little trade averse as far as getting rid of younger kids as you saw last year, but we’re going to have to analyze. We know we need a shortstop, of course. I think with (Ivan) Nova coming back probably not until May, I think we need a starting pitcher. And then we’re going to have to go from there. As we do, every offseason, we’re going to look at everybody.”
  • On the $189M luxury tax threshold: “The decision to go over 189 was for one player and that was (Masahiro) Tanaka, and I have no regrets about that because he’s going to be everything that we saw in the first three months of the season. He’s going to be great.” Steinbrenner indicated the team will try to get under the luxury tax threshold again sometime in the future. The Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2016 season and the threshold will probably go up then.
  • On the coaching staff: “The hitting coach is responsible for the hitters, the pitching coach is responsible for the pitchers, and we’ve got an infield coach responsible for defense and fielding. That comes with any position in life. You are liable for what goes on. We have not made any decisions yet as to what we’re going to do with any of the coaches. That will be the first step to look at the manager and the coaches as we do every single year.”
  • On making decisions and changes: “I don’t have an answer to that because I don’t make rash decisions. I want to talk to all my people, including having long discussions with (Brian Cashman) and his people and really get into, could anything have been different or did these guys just have a down year, these three or four guys? But, rest assured, we’re going to get to the bottom of it. And if I do deem that somebody is liable, or if I do deem that somebody is responsible, that things could have been better, I will act.”
  • On Alex Rodriguez and the possibility of releasing him: “I’m not a lawyer, so (I’m won’t) get into what can be done to a contract or not. But like I said, when he’s healthy, he’s an asset. We need those kind of assets. We need the hitting … If he’s healthy, he’s going to be an asset to the team, and I would never not want that.”
  • Steinbrenner also said they are planning extensive interviews to replace VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman, who is retiring this winter. Newman has run the farm system for more than a decade now.

Since we’re on subject, also make sure check out Joel Sherman’s recent sit down with Hal as well. He discussed some of the same stuff as in the radio interview plus some other topics as well.

MLB to test pace of game rule changes in Arizona Fall League

MLB announced it will test pace of game rule changes in the Arizona Fall League this year. The list of changes is right here. Here’s the short version: batters must keep one foot in the batter’s box at all times (unless there’s a wild pitch, passed ball, foul ball, etc.), intentional walks are automatic (manager signals, batter goes to first with no pitches thrown), pitcher-catcher conferences are limited, and a game clock will be installed. Pitchers will have 12 seconds between pitches with the bases empty and 20 seconds with men on base.

There’s no doubt baseball has a pace of game problem and these days people have short attention spans with plenty of ways to distract themselves. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve looked down at my phone between pitches at a game, or at my computer while watching at home. MLB isn’t going to shorten up commercial breaks, so this is the next best thing. I do think the pace of play would be less of an issue if offense hadn’t disappeared — it’s one thing to watch a high-scoring game last three and a half hours, it’s another to watch three total runs score and batters ground into the shift for three and a half hours. We’ll see. The AzFL begins play next week.

Girardi’s Press Conference Notes: Coaching Staff, A-Rod, Offseason, Prospects, Leadership, More

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

The Yankees wasted no time jumping into the offseason this year. Joe Girardi held his annual end-of-season press conference on Monday afternoon, the day after the team closed out its regular season. Usually they wait two or three days. Not this year though.

There was no major news announced during Monday’s televised press conference — no coaching staff changes or surprise injuries, etc. — though Girardi did talk at length about all sorts of stuff. Especially Alex Rodriguez. People love talking about A-Rod. Here’s a recap of Girardi’s state of the team address.

On A-Rod

  • “We’ve gotta see where he’s at. That’s the thing we have to do,” said the skipper when asked what he expects from Alex next year. “We have to see where he’s physically at. If he can play the field, how many days will he DH, play the field … I don’t think any of us know about him until we get him in games in Spring Training.”
  • “I thought our guys handled it pretty well (when A-Rod returned in 2013),” added Girardi while acknowledging the first few days of Spring Training will be hectic. “Will there be a number of new guys in there? I’m sure … We’ll do everything we can to make sure it’s not a distraction, but until we get into it we don’t really know. My personal opinion is it won’t be.”
  • “I have a good relationship with Alex. Our team enjoys Alex (in the clubhouse),” said Girardi. “I don’t think that will be an issue. Will he have to deal with some angry fans? Yeah, but we’ll help him get through that.” (Girardi also joked that fans have been hating on A-Rod for years and he’s used to it by now.)
  • Girardi said the Yankees “absolutely” expect Rodriguez to be on the team next year. “He hasn’t played in a year. That’s not easy to do, to sit out a year … Do we expect him to be a player on our team? Absolutely.”
  • Girardi also confirmed they have not discussed having A-Rod work out at first base. “We expect him to be our third baseman,” he said. They’ve stayed in touch via text message over the summer.

[Read more…]

Stark: MLB, MLBPA working to “clarify” home plate collision rules

Via Jayson Stark: MLB and the MLBPA are working on an agreement that would “clarify” the new home plate collision rules, specifically for plays like this. An official announcement is expected soon. Stark says the clarification “would remind umpires that while the intent of the rule was to protect catchers from violent collisions at the plate, the wording was not intended to be interpreted so strictly that it would allow runners to be called safe on a technicality if the throw had beaten them to the plate by a substantial margin.”

As Dave Brown put it the other day, home plate has become the twilight zone. No one really seems to know what’s happening on plays at the plate anymore and they’re often followed with reviews and arguments and confusion. Hopefully whatever MLB and MLBPA are working on will clear up some things, but I still expect there to be some bumps in the road. I think the spirit of the rule is great — avoid turning catchers’ brains into mush, basically — but the new rule is clearly a work in progress. There has definitely been a league-wide learning curve in year one.

2015 Schedule Released: Yankees open at home against Blue Jays

MLB released the 2015 regular season schedule this afternoon, and the Yankees will open next season at home against the Blue Jays on Monday, April 6th. The season begins with the ESPN Sunday Night game on April 5th — the league says details about that game are forthcoming — then all 30 teams play on Monday. There are no more staggered starts like this season, when the Yankees and Astros opened on a Tuesday and were literally the last teams to play their first game of 2014.

The team’s full schedule can be seen right here. After the season-opening three-game series with Toronto — the two teams are off on Tuesday, the annual “just in case it rains on Opening Day” off-day — the Yankees will play three games against the Red Sox before heading out on a ten-game road trip through Baltimore, Tampa, and Detroit. As always, April is heavy with intra-division play against AL East rivals. Here are some more schedule details:

  • Subway Series: Rather than the usual four-game home-and-home series, the Subway Series will be split up next season. The Yankees and Mets will play three games at Yankee Stadium from April 24-26 (Friday to Sunday), then another three games at Citi Field from September 18-20 (also Friday to Sunday).
  • 2009 World Series Rematch: The Yankees will play three games against the Phillies in Yankee Stadium from June 22-24. That’s Monday through Wednesday. The two teams will not play in Philadelphia next summer.
  • Interleague Play: The NL East is up for interleague play next year, hence the six games against the Mets. In addition to the Mets and Phillies series, the Yankees will travel to Washington (May 19-20) and Atlanta (August 28-30), and play a four-game home-and-home series with the Marlins (June 15-18). Giancarlo Stanton is coming to the Bronx, people. The Nationals will also be at Yankee Stadium from June 9-10.
  • West Coast: The Yankees only have two West Coast trips next year. They go to Oakland (May 28-31) and Seattle (June 1-3), then Houston (June 25-28) and Anaheim (June 29-July 1). Houston isn’t on the West Coast, but it’s a stop on the way. The Yankees are done with the West Coast before the All-Star break.
  • All-Star Game: The All-Star Game will be played on Tuesday, July 14th next year. The game is at The Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The Homerun Derby will be Monday the 13th and the Futures Game will be Sunday the 12th.
  • End of the Season: As usual, the Yankees will close the season out with a bunch of games against AL East clubs. They’ll play four games at home against the Red Sox (Sept. 28-Oct. 1) and then three on the road in Baltimore (Oct. 2-4) to close out the year. Twenty-six of their final 33 games will be played within the division.

Joel Sherman says MLB wanted to avoided opening the season in March, which is why the first games will be played on April 5th and 6th. That means the regular season ends in early-October, like the good ol’ days. That last series against the Orioles could wind up being pretty important.