Here is the Yankees’ ALDS roster:
DH: Jorge Posada
Here is the Yankees’ ALDS roster:
DH: Jorge Posada
More than any other season in recent memory, this version of the New York Yankees was built on the anticipation of future improvement and change. This process began in earnest nearly one year ago when the Giants defeated the Rangers in the World Series. Despite turning a howitzer-sized spotlight on Cliff Lee, they watched him go to Philadelphia instead, and then found that the market beyond him was quite unattractive. The team headed into Spring Training with one known quantity in CC Sabathia, two quantities thought to be known in Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett, and a slew of unknowns in Nova, Garcia, Colon and more. “Wait til the season starts, let the pitching trade market develop” was the refrain. “Something will pop up”.
Several things popped up, but for various reasons they were never a great fit for the Yankees. Ubaldo Jimenez’s price was sky high, and he wasn’t exactly a savior for the Indians once they acquired him. Other targets like John Danks and Gavin Floyd never materialized as expected. Hiroki Kuroda ruled himself out despite his team’s interest in trading him and the Yankees’ interest in acquiring him. It was simply a bad market. It still wasn’t over on July 31st, though. While it appeared unlikely, the Yankees still had the chance to obtain someone to bolster the pitching staff via the waivers system. Wandy Rodriguez was considered, but nothing came of it. As far as pitchers went, the team was rolling with what they started with.
The Yankees still had one ace up their sleeve, one final shot in the arm. It was the baby-faced kid from Venezuela, Jesus Montero: the big-time prospect, much anticipated, long-awaited and sick of being bored. In September he made his debut for the big league club and exceeded even the highest expectations we had placed on him. Montero was really the one and only big change to the team’s composition, though. As changes go, it was quite small.
This team has been stable and calm for awhile now. In a lot of ways, it feels like they’ve been playing September baseball for months. September baseball is by and large a languid affair. For a lot of teams the games are played by AAA players – prospects or organizational filler- as bigger and older names get some rest after a long season. Many of the games are played in half-empty stadiums now that kids are back in school and going to bed on time. Many of the games have little to no import in the grand scheme of the season. September baseball is a time for unwinding, for reflection on the season drawing to a close. It’s slow and peaceful, and it couldn’t be any different from the violence of October.
This violence was on full display Wednesday night when two teams had their seasons snuffed out right before their very eyes. This was particularly brutal for Red Sox fans, who went from expecting a victory and a Rays’ loss to realizing it was all over in the course of no more than five minutes. With two outs and Papelbon on the hill, one has to imagine many of the fans had already started thinking about Game 163, perhaps debating different potential starters. Maybe some of them were even looking past it to the ALDS rotation, considering which opponent they preferred to face. And then it was all gone.
It’s enough to make one nostalgic for September baseball, where everything is safe, where the games don’t matter and you watch for nothing more than the love of the game. In September other teams may look better than yours, but there’s always tomorrow. There’s always that next lineup, that next pitcher, that next game. There’s always time for trying new tactics, testing new players, tinkering with the lineup or the roster or hoping for a bounceback from under-performers. September ends tonight. There’s no savior on the horizon, no improvements to be made, no reinforcements coming. The Yankees are dancing with the ones that brung ’em.
With that in mind, and knowing that nothing risked will always mean nothing gained, there’s really nothing left to do but leave the safety of September. All that is left is to embrace the whirlwind with clear eyes and anticipatory hearts and hope for the best. There is no escape hatch, no way out, no Plan B now. There is only Plan A, and it’s the plan that germinates and sprouts deep down in the heart of every fan the moment they see those first photos of pitchers and catchers stretching on the green grass in February. It’s the same plan that motivates fans to stick with the team through the ups and the downs, through the dumb losses and the frustration. It’s the same plan that calls for the biggest payoff possible. It’s the same plan every year. It’s Plan A, and Plan A is to win eleven games and dance in the streets of lower Manhattan.
Via Mike Ashmore, Brandon Laird and Austin Krum have won the minor league Gold Gloves at third base and left field, respectively. Apparently they only give out one Gold Glove per position for the entire minor leagues, it’s not like there’s one set of awards for each individual league. I didn’t even know these Gold Gloves existed, but congrats to both guys. Laird seems to be getting a lot of love for his defense lately, which certainly wasn’t his strong suit when drafted.
The regular season is over, and the madness officially starts tomorrow. Obsessing over every pitch, leaning to the side to help every line drive go fair or foul, not looking when Boone Logan enters the games … we have all this and more to look forward to in the postseason. After all those meaningless games over the last week, the increased stress level might come as a huge shock at first. I suggest taking tonight to just chill out and relax, prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for what we’re about to go through. Use this thread to talk about whatever you like in the meantime though, anything goes.
Just like Game One, MLB has announced that Games Two and Three of the ALDS will begin at 8:37pm ET. Game One is tomorrow, Game Two is Saturday, and Game Three is Monday. The entire series will be broadcast on TBS.
The Yankees workout at Yankee Stadium was rained out this afternoon, or rather the workouts on the field were cut short. I’m sure they got their work in under the stands indoors. They have not yet released their ALDS roster, but bits and pieces have trickled out this afternoon. Let’s recap…
And finally, MLB announced umpire assignments for the four LDS matchups. Gerry Davis will be the crew chief for the Yankees-Tigers series, and will be joined by Tony Randazzo, Eric Cooper, Dan Iassogna, Ted Barrett, and Bill Welke.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman has never shied away from assessing his own performance. When he produces a failure, he admits it. We saw him do just that during the off-season, when he said that he wasn’t able to answer the team’s needs as well as Boston did. Instead of landing the one sure thing he pieced together a high-risk group of pitchers who weren’t even guaranteed Opening Day roster spots. As it turns out, luck made all the difference.
The old cliche goes, it’s better to be lucky than good. But luck runs out for everyone, and only those who are good have something to fall back on. Fortunately for the Yankees franchise, Brian Cashman is good. That makes his lucky breaks that much better. The 2011 Yankees — AL East Champions and holders of the best record in the American League — benefitted from the good that built the core of the team, and the luck that held it together.
The evidences of Cashman’s luck surround the team. They start with the pitching staff, which got 311 innings and a 3.82 ERA out of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. When they signed minor league deals last off-season they felt like stopgaps. Surely the Yankees would pull off a trade and bring in top-flight reinforcements. Such a trade never materialized, but it didn’t exactly hurt the Yankees’ standing. Even as Garcia and Colon faded a bit down the stretch, the Yankees still persisted.
While Garcia and Colon stand out, other minor Cashman moves paid off enormously. Luis Ayala also signed a minor league deal in the off-season. If it weren’t for Pedro Feliciano’s injury, he might not have even made the Opening Day roster. By season’s end he threw 56 innings to a 2.09 ERA, soaking up innings when Girardi didn’t want to, or couldn’t, go to his top guys. His 20 games finished was second most on the team.
Cory Wade turned into a brilliant signing, not only because of his performance but because of what might have been. The Yankees snapped him up in mid-June, when he opted out of his minor league deal with the Rays. Had the Rays promoted him, the Yankees would never have realized his 2.04 ERA. Wade got them out of numerous jams this season, and made Rafael Soriano‘s absence a little easier to bear. Most importantly, he added a third reliable setup man to the bullpen, which allowed Girardi to better spread the workload.
On the other side of the ball, Cashman was more good than lucky. The first indicator of that: signing Russell Martin. After April he rarely impressed with the bat, but it didn’t take long to realize that Cashman signed him for other reasons. As Baseball Prospectus’s Mike Fast showed, Martin saves plenty of runs with his glovework behind the plate. Cashman also brought in Andruw Jones to fill the fourth outfielder role, after Jones showed signs of life, especially against lefties, in 2010. He even got a little lucky in that department: who thought Eric Chavez would have even 175 PA this year?
Those moves aren’t the only way Cashman is good, of course. It might seem, at times, that he succeeds because of others. There’s the core he inherited from Gene Michael. There’s the enormous Steinbrenner wallet that allowed him to sign CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira in a single off-season. He acquired A-Rod because he had the money to do so, and then re-signed him for the same reason. While those might seem like moves that anyone with a pocket book could have made, it conveniently ignores one point. Not everyone has that pocket book.
That pocket book is not a perpetual blessing. It comes with certain strings attached, the foremost being the mandate to win every year. That mandate requires a balancing act. Sign too many free agents and you have no first round picks to rebuild the farm. Even with the first round picks, you’re on the board after all the blue chippers are long gone. Since taking the reins in 2006, Cashman has walked that line with precision. He’s made mistakes here and there, as any human being would. But for the most part he’s balanced the need for high-priced free agents with the need to bring in young talent.
Then we get to trades, where Cashman has fared very well. Two key players on the 2011 team, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher, came over in recent trades. Swisher was a complete heist, wherein Cashman took advantage of his opponents’ weakness. The Granderson acquisition was no man’s definition of a heist, but it was still a useful trade. They had to give up plenty — a top prospect in Austin Jackson and a useful pitcher in Ian Kennedy — to get him. But an outfielder was on the priority list for the 2010 off-season, and Granderson fit the bill.
At the same time, trading isn’t only about the transactions made. It’s also about the ones avoided. A recent report circulated that the Yankees and Twins had worked out a deal for Francisco Liriano this season. The Yankees ended up nixing it, which worked out pretty well for them. That’s just one known example. While every GM will lose on some trades, Cashman has, for the most part, managed to stay away from the big losses that can cripple teams — even teams with $200 million payrolls.
No GM is perfect. Brian Cashman has made his share of blunders. But on the whole he’s done a good job of balancing the Yankees’ need to win now with their need to win in the future. He’s made shrewd trades and acquisitions to build up the core of his team, and has gotten lucky on a few gambles. This is usually the part where the author compares him to his peers, but that doesn’t quite work with Cashman. He plays a different game than other GMs. He can afford to make certain mistakes that others can’t, but he still has to deliver a winner year in and year out. It’s easy to get lost in that jungle. But Cashman delivers. It will be reassuring, when the season ends, to hear that he’ll be back for three more years.