Baseball America has just released its ever-popular Best Tools list, and while the entire lists are for subscribers only, we’ve got the Yankees and where they fall:
- As expected, A-Rod pops up the most: He’s been voted the AL’s best hitter and second best power hitter. He’s also got the third best infield arm, according to the folks who participated in the pool.
- Bobby Abreu earned himself the second best strike zone judgment award, sitting just behind Kevin Youkilis.
- Derek Jeter is the AL’s third best hit-and-run artist and the third-best defensive short stop. Make of that what you will.
- Robinson Cano is the league’s third best defensive second baseman.
- Jose Molina was voted the third best defensive catcher, falling one spot behind current Yankee Ivan Rodriguez.
- Joba Chamberlain has the AL’s third best fastball, behind the Mariners’ Brandon Morrow and the Tigers’ Joel Zumaya.
- Mike Mussina’s control is third-best in the junior circuit.
- Andy Pettitte still has the league’s best pick-off move.
- And finally, Mariano Rivera is the league’s best reliever. Bet you never saw that one coming.
The Yankees clearly have the tools, according to those who play and watch the games. Too bad they don’t yet have the wins to go along with it.
Are the Yankees and MetLife running out of people to pull the Yankee Stadium countdown clock lever? Maybe so because now, they’re turning to the fans. The Yankees and Countdown Clock sponsor MetLife have teamed up for a contest in which one lucky fan will win the chance to pull the countdown lever on Saturday, September 13. The winner will also receive four tickets to the game, a chance to meet Joe Girardi and on-field access during batting practice. That day, the clock will go from nine to eight. I guess Yogi Berra, owner of the retired number eight, won’t pull the lever yet again this year.
Who am I kidding? I’m totally entering this contest. · (17) ·
Later tonight, when Darrell Rasner faces off against A.J. Burnett (gulp), Hideki Matsui should return to the lineup for the first time in two months. Hideki hasn’t played June 22, and by all accounts, he’ll need knee surgery this year. With Matsui returning, though, I have to wonder how the Yanks plan on using him.
On the season, Matsui had been quietly having a great season before he hurt his knee. While his power was down a bit — he has just 7 home runs in 69 games — his triple-slash numbers are .323/.404/.458.
But Matsui has excelled in a few situations this year when the rest of the team has not. In 78 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Matsui is hitting .338/.449/.462. In clutch situations, he’s been stellar as well. If the Yanks are to make a run for October over the last six weeks of the season, they sure could use a bat like Matsui’s in the lineup.
There’s one catch: Where should the Yankees play Matsui? As far as I can tell, the Yanks’ lineup is full, and inserting Matsui into the order could weaken the team.
Right now, the Yanks’ outfield consists of some combination of Xavier Nady, Brett Gardner, Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu. In the DH slot, they use the odd man out of the outfield — usually Damon or Nady — or Jason Giambi with Wilson Betemit stepping in at first. The Yanks aren’t about to sit Xavier Nady and his +171 OPS. Damon’s been a stellar offense force, and even Jason Giambi has managed to turn in a good season. Bobby Abreu leads the team in RBIs.
Meanwhile, Matsui can only DH. So how will Joe Girardi manage this one? I’m guessing that Jason Giambi will play first and Matsui will DH. Brett Gardner will perhaps be the odd man out, but the Yanks seem committed to playing him. Plus, the defense suffers significantly with Damon in center.
Right now, I’m basically just thinking out loud, but if the Yanks want to insert Matsui in the lineup, the outfield would generally be Nady-Damon-Abreu. That’s not my ideal lineup, but with Matsui returning, it will do.
Of course, we’re being a bit premature. No one knows how Matsui’s knee will hold up, and the Yanks probably won’t push it too much. Damon is better suited to the DH/OF role he’s inhabited for much of the year, and Brett Gardner has, in his most recent call-up, shown the promise and ability we thought he would the first time around.
Considering the way the Yanks have been going, having too much offense would be a welcome problem, and we’ll see, starting tonight, how Girardi and his coaches handle it. As long as Hideki hits, it almost doesn’t matter.
Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off day.
Double-A Trenton (8-2 win over Reading)
Reegie Corona: 2 for 5, 1 R, 2 K
Frankie Cervelli & Austin Jackson: both 1 for 4, 2 RBI – Cervelli was hit by a pitch … Ajax doubled, drew a walk, scored 2 runs & K’ed
Chris Malec: 3 for 5, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K
Colin Curtis: 1 for 5, 1 K – 7 for his last 39 (.179)
PJ Pilittere: 0 for 4, 1 RBI
Edwar Gonzalez & Kevin Russo: both 2 for 4, 2 R – Edwar hit a solo jack giving him 6 homers in his last 7 games
James Cooper: 1 for 3, 1R, 1 BB
Victor Zambrano: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 3-6 GB/FB – can they trade him for Scott Kazmir yet?
Johnny Nunez: 2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 2-0 GB/FB
Jose Valdez: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 3-2 GB/FB
Lisa Kennelly of The Star-Ledger spoke with Brian Cashman today, and the Yanks’ GM was quick to explain Phil Hughes’ less-than-stellar outing last night. According to Cashman, Hughes had a bug, and that’s why he tired quickly as the game wore on. Sounds like the Phil Hughes apologists have infiltrated even the highest levels of the Yankee organization, eh? · (16) ·
Once upon a time, Derek Jeter was the Yankee Golden Boy. In 2000, he captured both the World Series and All Star Game MVP to complement his fourth World Series ring in five professional seasons, and it seemed as though many more would be on the horizon.
Well, over the last eight seasons, by and large, Derek during the regular season has not disappointed. He is six hits shy of 2500 and has a lifetime batting line of .316/.387/.459. While the World Series title to complete the hand of rings has eluded him, that’s more a reflection of the team than of Derek. The Yanks, after all, have made the playoffs every year of his career.
But lately, something’s happened with Derek. The New York media, once the biggest fans of the Yanks’ media-savvy — and don’t forget attractive — young short stop, have come to regard him with a skeptical eye. It’s a prime example of “What have you done for me lately?”
Case in point: This year, Derek, who entered 2008 amid MVP expectations, is having a very quiet year. While a 4-for-4 day yesterday moved his triple slash numbers upward, he’s hitting a very un-Jeterian .295/.356/.404 on the year. His power is well below his career norms, and he’s hit into 19 double plays already this year. Playing his age 34 season, Derek has turned in a singles hitter — one very expensive singles hitter.
And therein lies the rub. As a recent column in The Publication That Must Not Be Named opined, the Yanks could very well be facing a future without Derek Jeter as soon as 2011. His contract, which now pays him over $21 million a year, is up in 2010, and if Derek continues the decline brought about, whether we like it or not, by his age, the Yanks will have a short stop on their hands who can’t really field the position and won’t be the hitter he once was.
Of course, there’s a flipside. There’s always a flipside in baseball. Derek Jeter is the Yankees. He’s been their captain for a long time, and while A-Rod is more or less the face of the franchise these day, the team is still Derek’s. The Steinbrenners, as iYankees remind us, also plan to take care of Jeter once this deal is up, and I don’t think Hank meant in the Tony Soprano sense of the word.
So this is what I leave you with on an off-day in August prior to a vital six-game road trip: What do you do with Derek Jeter? The Red Sox are about to unceremoniously dump their captain, but Derek’s line is far cry from Jason Varitek’s pitiful .215/.305/.339 effort this year.
Should the Yanks re-sign Derek and prime fans for a potential run at 4000 hits? Should he be their short stop? Should he move? And how much should a 36-year-old Derek Jeter earn? I’d hate to be in Brian Cashman‘s, Hank Steinbrener’s or Hal Steinbrenner’s shoes when it’s time to pull the trigger on this move in two years?
According to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, the Yanks are planning to start either Carl Pavano or Phil Hughes this Saturday in Baltimore against the Orioles. Yes, you’ve read that correctly: Carl Pavano may pitch for the Yankees during a pennant race. Right now, I’d say Pavano gets the start. He had a better rehab outing yesterday than Hughes did, and the Yanks are going to be very careful with their pitching prospect. Pavano also has the added motivation of pitching for a contract. This could get rather entertaining. · (51) ·
So the August 15th signing deadline came and went, but sadly a whole bunch of nothing went on in Yankeeland. The Yanks didn’t sign their first or second round pick, and made up for it only by signing their sandwich pick, a LHP who may or may not have elbow issues. It takes about five years before you can accurately judge a draft class, but so far this looks like the weakest crop of Damon Oppenheimer’s impressive tenure as Scouting Director.
That said, the Yanks did add some nice talent and solid organizational depth, with six players jumping right into my Top 30. Overall the system is down quite a bit from this time last year, partly due to the graduation of Joba & IPK, but mostly because of trades, injury and general ineffectiveness. Here’s my pre-draft list, and keep in mind that the prospects I ranked 16 through like, 28 are pretty interchangeable. Fun starts after the jump.
I’ll let Neil do the talking, via metroblog:
It says something about how the Yankees’ season is going that the biggest excitement at the stadium came when the team tried to ban fans from bringing sunscreen through the gates. Anyone who complained was pointed to the concession stands, which offered tiny one-ounce tubes for a whopping $5.
The club ultimately backed off, but the kerfuffle could foreshadow a bigger battle to come. Currently, neither the Mets nor Yanks restrict fans from bringing outside food or drink (aside from alcohol) into their ballparks. While the Mets say this won’t change next year, Yankees management has repeatedly ducked the question.
Why next year? Because that’s when the Yankees open their new stadium, with its 100-foot-wide “Great Hall” that will be jam-packed with places to stuff your face at ballpark prices. This, more than anything, is why the Steinbrenners demanded (and got) two city parks to create space for their new baseball palace, and it defeats the purpose if fans turn up their nose at ballpark food in favor of takeout pastrami sandwiches from the Court Deli up the block…
This may seem like trivial stuff, but it could end up deciding whether many New Yorkers are priced out of attending ballgames. Both the Yanks and Mets, after all, have already built new stadiums with thousands less seats than their old ones, figuring that the resulting ticket scarcity will allow them to sell fewer seats at higher prices than the old ones.
As deMause notes, there is a certain level of historical precedent for a potential decision involving stadium food. The Pirates and Eagles have both tried, unsuccessfully and with much fan opposition, to ban outside food inside their respective stadiums. deMause also chides the city for falling, in its stadium lease agreement, to force the Yankees to allow outside food in, but that point is moot.
This is, on its surface, a very basic populist issue with deep economics overtones. The Yankees will want their patrons to spend reams of money inside the stadium, and the easiest way to do that is through artificially-inflated food prices. As with any ticketed event, Yankee fans are a captive audience. When the vendors sell water for $4.75 and beer for $9, fans can’t go to the stadium down the street to price-shop. They’re stuck with whatever they can get once they fork over their tickets at the gate.
By allowing food in, teams are undermining their potential revenue streams, but they’re also acknowledging tacitly that happy fans are better fans. I’d rather order a pastrami sandwich from any number of New York City delis than eat a lukewarm and wilted boiled hot dog for $5. I’d rather bring in my $1.25 20-ounce water than pay out of the nose for a bottle. The Yankees would rather reap ridiculous profits on their concessions.
This issue — which will come to a head (or not) early next year — will pit the fans against the team. Fans won’t be happy if they can’t bring in food, and they’re continue to see the cost — beyond just the ticket value — of going to a Yankee game skyrocket beyond the level of affordability. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Yanks opt to pursue this route. I hope I’m wrong.