• A-Rod, targeting May 15, heading to Tampa soon

    While the Yankees will finally leave Tampa soon to make their way up north, one of the team’s biggest pieces is set to head south to continue his rehab. According to Bryan Hoch, Alex Rodriguez should head from Vail to Tampa sometime after the Yanks break camp to continue his rehab. The Yanks are hoping to get A-Rod’s baseball workouts started soon, and he’ll join some spring minor league games shortly thereafter. Their target date for his return is May 15, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back sooner. · (10) ·

A lot of RAB readers have taken to analogizing Yankee officials to characters from The Godfather. At issue is Tom Hagen. Which one of the Yanks’ various VIPs gets to fill that ever-popular consigliere role? Based on an article in tomorrow’s Times, Randy Levine can take pride in inheriting that mantle.

Richard Sandomir, The Times’ sports business reporter, tackles Levine in a profile a week before the Yanks’ president’s pet $2 billion project opens in the Bronx. Levine, as Sandomir puts it, has inherited the George Steinbrenner persona. He has, as Sandomir writes, “emerged as the strongest voice of the Yankees, baseball’s wealthiest team. He is their executive-as-prosecutor, a tough, short-tempered and smart protector of the Steinbrenner family and the Yankees brand.”

Levine has long been in the public spotlight. Prior to his term with the Yanks, he served in the Reagan Administration’s, as Rudy Giuliani’s deputy mayor and labor commissioner and as a personal lawyer to Steinbrenner. The Yankees brought him aboard in 2000 when they needed a figure well versed in the inane intricacies of New York City politics to shepherd a complex and comprehensive stadium plan through the political process.

“The Yankees wanted a leg up on the maneuvering that goes on in that system,” Giuliani said to Sandomir.

But over the years, his role has moved beyond that of a political powerbroker. He has become the blunt voice of the team. He defends the Yanks from their critics inside baseball but can come across as brash to those on his own team. He is largely blamed for the departure of Joe Torre, and it’s clear from Torre’s book that the former Yankee manager had little respect for a man who often negotiates through anger and brashness rather than through tact.

Sandomir’s article reveals little we don’t know about Levine, but he does offer glimpse into the important role he plays as team president. As Sandomir reports, Levine was integral in determining that Hal should be the Steinbrenner son to take the reins. I wonder, then, what the relationship is like between Hank and Levine.

In a way, Yankee fans long used to the presence of a George Steinbrenner should embrace Levine. He is an outspoken defender of the Yankees who isn’t above criticizing his players. At the same time, he seems like a bully.

Earlier this week, I was wondering if Levine’s power would wane now that the new stadium is completed. Based upon Sandomir’s account though, Randy Levine — the Yanks’ own Tom Hagen — won’t be pushed out any time soon. He is their war-time consigliere, and with the Yanks, it’s always time for war.

Categories : Front Office
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In Disney World today, the Yankees’ three long relief candidates — Brett Tomko, Al Aceves and Dan Giese — are each scheduled to make their cases for that final spot in the bullpen. Meanwhile, the center field job is all but wrapped up, and Brett Gardner is emerging as the one to start the season manning center field.

For those of us watching the Yankee news over the last few days, this revelation can hardly come as a surprise. After all, the Yankees, as Ken Rosenthal reported, would be willing to trade Melky Cabrera at this point. That kind of news doesn’t leak out five days before you name the trade candidate as your starter.

At the same time, though, Kat O’Brien says that both players will earn jobs with the Big League club. For the Yankees, that’s simply a personnel matter. Melky Cabrera is out of options, and while the Yanks may not have a trade lined up, the Yanks would have to put Melky through waivers to send him down to AAA. We might not be too high on Melky’s future potential, but a 24-year-old with 415 MLB games under his belt wouldn’t clear waivers.

Rob Neyer agrees but only to a point. In a blog post yesterday, Neyer analyzed the Yanks’ center field situation and urged the team to send off Melky if they can. In fact, he doesn’t think both players should earn a spot on the team. While Neyer has a point about that, as I said, the Yanks don’t want to lose Melky and will probably try to trade him this spring. Writes Neyer:

[If] you’re going to get rid of one of them, Cabrera’s probably the guy. At least Gardner’s demonstrated that he can do something (run and field) and might do something else (reach base). At this point, it’s not clear that Cabrera can do anything. And I say that having written — just two or three years ago — that by now Melky would be one of the 10 best center fielders in the majors (not one of my more brilliant predictions).

Cabrera’s upside might still be higher than Gardner’s … but the Yankees can’t worry about upside. They’re trying to win right now, and Gardner gives them a slightly better chance of doing that…

The Yankees aren’t going to trade Nick Swisher because they need him. If Joe Girardi can’t somehow get Swisher nearly 500 plate appearances this season, then he’s not a good enough manager for this club. I’m at the front of the line criticizing the supposed decision to make Nady the everyday right fielder, but I’m willing to cut Girardi just a little slack for the moment. There just isn’t any justification for Nady getting more playing time than Swisher in the long run.

In a way, this news is good for Brett, bad for Melky, but in another way, it doesn’t really matter. Gardner will earn the center field at bats until his hitting becomes a liability. If he isn’t doing the job out of the gate, the Yanks can put Melky back into that lineup spot if they haven’t traded him. If neither emerge as viable candidates for the job, Nick Swisher may be pressed into service or Brian Cashman will look elsewhere. For now, though, April 6 will mark the start of the Brett Gardner Era in the Bronx.

Categories : News
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  • Padres place Nova on waivers

    Via Ken Rosenthal, the Padres have placed righty Ivan Nova on outright waivers (as well as lefty Justin Hampson) after he posted an 8.31 ERA and 3-4 K/BB ratio in 8.2 IP this spring. Nova was selected from the Yanks in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, so he would have had to stuck on the Pads’ 25-man roster all season for them to keep him. If no other team claims Nova, he’ll be offered back to the Yanks for half of the $50,000 R5D fee. I think it’s safe to say Nova will be coming back. I mean if the Padres couldn’t find room for him on their staff, no team will. (h/t pat for the email)

    Elsewhere in Rule 5 news, Brian Cashman wouldn’t comment on the rumor that Jason Jones was placed on waivers by the Twins, cleared, and has been offered back to the Yanks. Jones had a 2.70 ERA in 10 IP this spring, and as you probably remember he had some unkind words for the organization last month. The Yankees have more arms than spots available in Triple-A and Double-A, so I suspect they’ll just thank the Twinkies for the $50k and let them keep Mr. Jones.

    Update (1:24pm): The Yanks acquired righty reliever Charles Nolte from the Twins for the right to keep Jones today. Nolte had a 2.05 ERA and a 75-35 K/BB ratio in 70.1 IP with Low-A Beloit last year. He was the Twins 24th round pick in 2007. (h/t Marc)
    · (23) ·


Scouting the Yankees

By in Players. · Comments (38) ·

Part of our jobs as fans is to develop opinions about everyone on the team, for better or worse. Everyone once in a while it’s nice to get an outside opinion on our boys, and thankfully Mark Feinsand spoke to a Major League scout recently about the team. I’m not going to repost the entire article obviously, but here’s some of my favorites. Make sure you check it out, it’s a great read.

“Jeter is the No.1 guy on the club no matter how you look at it. He makes that team go. He can play for my team any day. He has the damndest inside-out swing I’ve seen in my life. He’s a smooth player. He doesn’t have a lot of time left at shortstop, but he’s what he should be – a captain. He’s the leader of this team and has the greatest makeup of any player ever. He’s the consummate professional. His defense is solid. He can make all the plays, can turn the double play and still has good feet. Is he the best? No. But he’s still good enough. I like everything about Jeter.”

Defense is solid? Well, Cap’n Jetes can make the play on any ball he gets too, but the problem is that doesn’t happen often enough.

“Ransom has been released twice – and there’s a reason for that. He did a good job last year when he came up, and in the utility role, he’s fine. As a starter, he won’t see a fastball. Changeups and sliders get him out, and when the season starts, that’s all he’s going to see. Players can live on the first-pitch fastball in March, but in April that doesn’t happen. He’s been a subpar hitter at the major league level, so there’s no reason to think that will change if he plays regularly. If they’re lucky, he’ll get hot for the first month. Pitchers are going to slider him to death.”

This is something worth watching. Ransom saw just 46.5% fastballs last year, and 34% breaking balls according to Fangraphs. It’s too bad he doesn’t have much big league experience before that to compare it too.

“Wang’s sinker ball is terrific, but he needs his stuff to be working and his command to be right. He drives scouts crazy with his windup, but he puts hitters to sleep. If you don’t get to him early, he’s got you beat.”

That last little line is so true. You can usually tell what kind of game it’ll be for the Wangster based on how the first inning goes. If he mows through the top three hitters on like, nine pitches, then you know you’re golden. If not, then more often than not you’re looking at one of those 3 IP, 10 ER games he’s capable of putting together.

Here’s the scout’s take on Joba:

“The first two outings this spring, he looked terrible, but after he got it back together, he’s had great movement in the strike zone and knee-buckling breaking balls. I think he’s better off as a setup man for Rivera, because it fits him best to come in and blow it out for an inning or two. Can he be effective as a starter? Of course. They just have to build his innings up and hope he doesn’t break down. I understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.”

So this guy’s a B-Jobber, but that’s okay because at least he acknowledges that it’s smart of the Yanks to give him a shot at starting first. No one is guaranteeing that Joba can hold up as a starter, but isn’t worth trying at least?

“Rivera is absolutely remarkable. The first couple outings in the spring, he looked as good as ever. You know what’s coming, and whether you’re lefty or righty, you just can’t hit it. He’s just fabulous. I hope he goes on forever, even though we know he can’t. Teams know it’s over when he comes in. As long as they keep feeling that way, he’s got the upper hand. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.”

Amen, brother.

Categories : Players
Comments (38)

Si Si!

By in Game Stories, Spring Training. · Comments (28) ·

The game wasn’t on television, but CC Sabathia showed the Yankees and their fans what their new ace is capable of tonight. After a 23 pitch first inning in which he allowed just a single, Sabathia surrendered a run in the second on three singles. He then retired sixteen Reds’ hitters in a row, pitching into the eighth inning while throwing 68 of his 93 pitches for strikes, exactly what he was scheduled for. Sabathia struck out seven, walked one and had a 14-3 GB/FB ratio. That … is purdy.

Damaso Marte relieved Sabathia, getting the only batter he faced to fly out. Mariano Rivera worked a flawless ninth, striking out one and inducing a pair of groundballs on the bare minimum of five pitches. The pitching staff was simply awesome tonight. You gotta love it, Spring Training or not.

The offense was led by El Capitan and Mark Teixeira, who each drove in a run. Jeter doubled and went 1-for-4 with a run scored out of the leadoff spot, while Tex went 2-for-3 out of his customary three-hole. Xavier Nady went 1-for-3 and picked up the Yanks’ only other hit, while Jorge Posada drew a walk and scored a run. Brett Gardner and Cody Ransom each swiped a bag, but otherwise went hitless. The 4-1 win was the Yanks twelfth in their last fourteen games.

The Yanks play the Braves in Orlando tomorrow afternoon, but the MLB Network broadcast has been blacked out at YES’ request. It’ll long reliever competition day, as Brett Tomko (starter), Al Aceves and Dan Giese are scheduled to throw three innings each.

Comments (28)
  • PA: New stadium is TV unfriendly

    Here’s an odd little tidbit about the new stadium: According to Peter Abraham, the new digs are “not particularly conducive to television cameras.” The YES camera crews say that the views from the camera pits down the line are not too clear, and the view from behind the plate will be through a net. Abraham imagines that YES, ESPN, Fox and TBS may ask the Yankees to improve the view. In an age in which TV viewership is so important to the game, the Yankees probably should have thought of this one already. · (14) ·

Oh you can just go to hell Memphis. I’m down to three of my Final Four and six of the Elite Eight, max.

Here’s your open thread for the night. The Yanks are in action against the Reds in an untelevised game tonight, while the Isles and Devils are in action locally. You’ve also got a quartet of college baseketball games going on. Anthing goes, just be nice.

Categories : Open Thread
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  • Boss to be at new stadium opener

    George Steinbrenner doesn’t pop up too often in New York City these days. He is reportedly in very bad health, and in Joe Torre’s book, Steinbrenner comes across as suffering from either Alzheimer’s or dementia. Despite the 78-year-old’s frailty, according to Kat O’Brien, Steinbrenner will be at the Yanks’ home opener in April. Kat’s sources say George is confined to a wheelchair these days and probably won’t make a public appearance because of that. The old lion, though, will still want to see the new stadium after which he had lusted for so many years. I wonder if he’ll be able to truly appreciate the new digs. · (6) ·