I don’t want to brag, but I totally called the Yankees winning by 3-1 in the chat today (page six). What a performance by CC Sabathia, who put his team on his back and carried them to the ALCS on Friday night. Unreal. Bring on the Tigers.
There’s your run, CC.
So it all comes down to this. The Yankees and Orioles have been separated by more than one run for a total of six outs this series, playing four incredibly tight games that were more “oh my goodness they keep blowing opportunities” than “holy cow what a great game!” You know what I mean. Outside of the ninth inning of Game One and Raul Ibanez, this series hasn’t been a banner “let’s make some more fans!” exhibition for the game.
Anyway, by now you all know the story. Both teams are struggling so much offensively that they only have two players who can not be considered automatic outs each — Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira for the Yankees, Nate McLouth and Manny Machado for the Orioles. Everyone else has been flailing away, running into bad luck, or some combination of both. CC Sabathia needs to come out and dominate like he did in Game One and the offense … I mean, they just have to wake up. What more can you say? Here are the lineups…
LF Nate McLouth
SS J.J. Hardy
CF Adam Jones
RF Chris Davis
C Matt Wieters
3B Manny Machado
1B Mark Reynolds
DH Lew Ford
2B Robert Andino
RHP Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.43)
New York Yankees
SS Derek Jeter
LF Ichiro Suzuki
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
DH Raul Ibanez
RF Nick Swisher
CF Curtis Granderson
C Russell Martin
3B Eric Chavez
LHP CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38)
It’s not the most picturesque of days in New York, but the weather will not be a factor tonight. First pitch is scheduled for 5:07pm ET and the game can be seen on TBS. Enjoy.
Both the Yankees and Orioles will throw their Game One starter in Game Five tonight, which means a CC Sabathia-Jason Hammel rematch. Here is the pitching preview I wrote for Hammel earlier in the series, which won’t change one bit. He didn’t do anything unexpected in his Game One start other than throw a handful of sliders more than usual. Not enough to think it’s anything meaningful. No point in re-inventing the wheel, so check out the linked preview for tonight.
One thing I do have to add is that Hammel wore a brace on his right knee in Game One and will do so again tonight. He had surgery at midseason and soreness in September, which is why he missed basically the entire second half. The Yankees should test him out with a bunt early on, specifically Ichiro Suzuki. After that scorching hot September run, Ichiro has gone 4-for-20 with a sac bunt in the ALDS, hitting just three (three!) balls out of the infield. He’s not the greatest bunter in the world, but it’s worth a shot in the first inning to see how Hammel is moving.
Got five questions for you this week, and none of them are directly tied to the ALDS. Consider this a break from the playoffs for a few hours. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us questions.
Bill asks: If the Yanks were to buy out A-Rod’s contract (not saying they should just if they did) would his salary still count towards the team salary for getting under the $189 million limit?
Yeah, it would. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, player salary that counts towards the luxury tax is “the value of the total compensation (cash or otherwise) paid to a Player pursuant to the terms of a Uniform Player’s Contract, including any guarantee by the Club of payments by third parties, for a particular championship season. Salary shall include, without limitation, the value of non-cash compensation such as the provision of personal translators, personal massage therapists, and airfare and tickets exceeding normal Club allotments.”
In English, that means anything a team plays a player will count towards the tax. The structure of the buyout would determine when and how much applies to the luxury tax calculations. There are five years and $114M left on A-Rod’s contract after this season and the Yankees are goimng to pay every penny. They’re not trading him, he’s not going to retire, and they’re not going to negotiate a buyout so they can cut him loose. It’s not happening. He’ll be around until 2017 whether you like it or not. Ownership made their bed and now they’ll have to sleep in it.
Nick asks: Do you think that Jayson Nix could wind up on the Yankees again next season?
I definitely think it’s possible. Nix, 30, will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and will probably still be in line for a six-figure salary next season. I have a hard time seeing a career up-and-down bench player with a .214/.285/.371 batting line pulling in more than a million bucks his first time through arbitration.
Nix is a useful role player capable of playing a ton of positions and providing some offense against left-handers, so it makes sense for the Yankees to hold onto him. He shouldn’t deter them from acquiring a better utility infielder if one comes along this offseason, the only problem is that he is out of minor league options and can’t be sent to the minors next season without clearing waivers. I wouldn’t call Nix a lock for the 2013 roster by any means, but there’s certainly a chance of it happening.
Austin asks: What do you make of recent Baseball America questions regarding Mason Williams’ makeup/attitude? Isn’t this Gary Sanchez 2011 stuff?
Well, the Sanchez stuff last season was so bad that the team had to send him to Extended Spring Training for disciplinary reasons. He refused to pinch-hit in a game and catch a side session, which is a major no-no. The Williams stuff was reported as “a few headaches,” which frankly is the first I’ve heard of him having any kind of real makeup problem. Mason has been knocked for being too hard on himself and getting frustrated with bad at-bats or plays, but nothing that created a problem with other players or coaches. We’ll have to pay attention to this in the future, because this report did catch me a bit off guard.
JW asks: Here’s a mailbag question: assume Rafael Soriano opts out and the Yankees make a qualifying offer. Under the new FA compensation rules, does it project that the signing team would have to give up a draft pick? I know that the number of players whose signing warrants giving up a pick has been reduced by a lot.
Under the new system, a team would have to forfeit a draft pick to sign a top free agent (who has received a qualifying offer), but that pick does not go to the player’s former team. It just disappears. The former team receives one supplemental first round pick instead, which is pulled out of thin air like the old system. I assume the Yankees will make Soriano a qualifying offer if he opts out because he’d be walking away from more money ($14M) by opting out than he would get through the offer ($13.3-13.4M). I have no idea who would give up a draft pick to sign him but it doesn’t really matter — the Yankees will end up with the same compensation pick no matter where he ends up.
GB asks: If Curtis Granderson, CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Mark Teixeira, David Robertson, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter were all FA’s after this season, what kind of contracts would you see them getting?
Well this is a fun one. I have an amazing knack for underestimating free agent contracts, but I’ll give this my best shot anyway…
- Granderson — 40+ homer power is rare, so that alone will get Curtis paid at age 31. Clubs will probably be gun-shy because of Jason Bay, but his four-year, $66M deal with the Mets seems like an appropriate benchmark.
- Sabathia — Despite the elbow injury and sub-par second half, Sabathia would still wind up with $20M+ a year easy. Frankly I bet he could match the five-year, $122.5M deal he signed with the Yankees last winter if he went back out onto the open market this year. Pitchers of Sabathia’s caliber very rarely hit free agency.
- Hughes — How does four years and $40M sound? Phil is only 27, so you’d theoretically be buying all of his peak years and expect some improvement going forward. Maybe $44-48M would be closer to reality as a free agent.
- Teixeira — At this point, age 32, Teixeira is just a touch above the first base league average offensively (115 vs. 106 wRC+) while remaining a stud with the glove. First baseman make more money than anyone, so I think another Bay-like four-year, $66M deal would be in the cards.
- Robertson — A stud reliever at age 27 is a prime candidate to get overpaid, especially if someone plans on making him a closer. Joaquin Benoit’s three-year, $16.5M deal with the Tigers seems like the floor here. Three or fours years at $6-7M annually wouldn’t surprise me at all.
- A-Rod: Not much right now, probably like two years and $20M with most of that coming on reputation.
- Jeter: The Cap’n is in a weird spot because I don’t think any other team would pursue him as a free agent. Not because he’s a bad player or anything, but because of the “Yankees or retirement” vibe. Could Jeter match the three-year, $51M contract he signed two years ago this offseason? Yeah, I think he might be able too.
The Yankees and Orioles have been neck-and-neck all season, so something will finally have to give in Game Five tonight. They’ve played 209 innings across 22 games in 2012, with New York scoring 103 runs and Baltimore 101. Those 22 games have been split right down the middle at 11-11.
1. The lineup has to change tonight. The Orioles are starting hard-throwing righty Jason Hammel and Alex Rodriguez can not start. He’s 0-for-12 with nine strikeouts against same-side pitchers in the series and looks completely and utterly helpless. Eric Chavez has not been any great shakes himself lately, but the team’s best chance to win tonight has him at third base and A-Rod on the bench. Curtis Granderson has been the club’s worst hitter in the postseason and needs to sit as well. He’s done nothing, absolutely nothing to help the offense. It’s great that he can run into a homer at any time, but the Yankees can’t afford to wait for him to click. Since Brett Gardner hasn’t had enough at-bats lately, just stick Raul Ibanez in left to start the game. CC Sabathia is a ground ball pitcher and hopefully Ibanez’s defense can be hidden, plus Derek Jeter may need another DH day because of his bone bruised left foot.
2. Now obviously the entire offense is struggling, but you know what hurts more than Granderson’s strikeouts or A-Rod’s feeble at-bats? It’s Robinson Cano being a no-show. He’s 2-for-18 in the series (run-scoring doubles in Games One and Two) with an intentional walk. No one on the planet was hotter was Robbie at the end of the season, but either the three days off before the ALDS cooled his bat or the Orioles are just doing a great job of pitching to him. When I see at-bats like this…
… I tend to think it’s more the latter, though I’m sure the time off had something to do with it. Cano will never be the most disciplined hitter in the world, and that’s a weakness that can be exploited from time to time. The Yankees need him to be the impact hitter in the middle of the order and right now he’s not doing it. Not even close.
3. It’s great that Joe Girardi has faith in his players and he trusts them to turn things around, but his biggest weakness as a manager is his stubborn refusal to see the forest for the trees and make changes. When Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner were the only players hitting the ALDS last season, they stayed at the bottom of the order while A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, and Nick Swisher remained in the middle of the lineup and it ended their season. Remember what happened with Tino Martinez and Wade Boggs in 1996? They didn’t hit a lick in the postseason and Joe Torre benched them. The team was better off with them out of the lineup so the change was made and it helped the Yankees win. Girardi has to be more proactive and not just sit around and wait for things to correct themselves. There’s no time for patience anymore.
4. The Yankees have allowed nine runs in 42 innings in the ALDS. Nine runs in 42 innings. That’s a 1.93 ERA as a team. All four starter have turned in not just quality outings, but dynamite efforts that more than gave the club a chance to bullpen. The bullpen has allowed just one run in 11.1 innings, or five fewer than Jim Johnson has by himself. The Yankees have scored eight runs after the seventh inning in the four games compared to one for the Orioles. The entire pitching staff from top to bottom has been brilliant, and it can all go to waste because the bats have gone silent. It would be an unbelievable shame.