Press Conference Roundup: Girardi, Joba, Lee, Rangers, Montero, More

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman held their annual end-of-the-season press conferences today, so as you’d expect there was plenty of news to come out of Yankee Stadium this afternoon. We’ll surely break everything down in detail throughout the offseason, but let’s round it all up here first and digest everything before moving on.

Obviously, the biggest news to come out of the presser was the announcement that pitching coach Dave Eiland will not return in 2011, but we covered that already. Ditto Andy Pettitte‘s various injuries. Everything else you see below comes from the various beat writers, who as usual did a bang-up job today. Seriously, we’re lucky to have such a great crew covering the team full-time. Those guys deserve their own appreciation thread. Anyway, on to the chatter.

  • Cashman spoke to Hal Steinbrenner about Girardi today, and he will meet with the manager’s agent tomorrow. Both sides want to work out a new deal as quickly as possible and get it out of the way.
  • Girardi on Joba Chamberlain: “We consider him a bullpen guy in the back end of the bullpen.” Well, so much for everyone hoping that they’d let him try the starting thing again next season. Maybe in a different uniform.
  • When asked about Cliff Lee, Girardi replied “I’m sure we’ll definitely look at a free agent market pitcher.” Remember, because Lee is still under contract with the Rangers, it would be tampering to talk about him directly.
  • Cashman on the Rangers: “[They were] a locomotive that we couldn’t withstand … You didn’t see the real Yankees at that point in time, but I think the Rangers had everything to do with that. We didn’t look old against Minnesota, and that was a week before. Texas made us look old.”
  • Cash on Cliff Lee: “Bottom line, pitching is the key to the kingdom.”
  • On Jesus Montero: “Is Montero ready for the big leagues? I have people who believe that. But he’s going to have to prove that.”
  • Cashman’s bland Derek Jeter quote: “”Derek has been – and will be – an important part of this organization … There’s still game left in that guy. He’s going to be a part of this franchise. We’ll work something out.” Blah blah blah.
  • On the contract negotiations with Jeter and Mariano Rivera: “These aren’t regular negotiations. These are legacy players.” I’m scared.
  • Cash owned up to his poor 2009-2010 offseason as well: “I didn’t have a great winter last season.” He added that Nick Johnson was Plan C at designated hitter behind Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.

Pettitte battled back and hamstring issues in ALDS

Via Marc Carig and Ben Shpigel, Andy Pettitte‘s back and hamstrings tightened up during his Game Two start in the ALDS, which is why he was pushed back to Game Three of the ALCS. Andy also had to cut his between-start bullpen session short, and if the LDS had gone five games there’s a chance he might not have been able to start. At 38-years-old, it’s hard to be surprised that the lefty was battling nagging injuries down the stretch, it’s what guys that age do.

It’s almost like everyone bashing Joe Girardi for flipping Pettitte and Phil Hughes in the ALCS rotation didn’t have all the information and now look stupid for criticizing him. Funny.

Cashman: Eiland will not return as pitching coach

Via Mark Feinsand and Marc Carig, Brian Cashman told reporters this afternoon that Dave Eiland will not return as pitching coach in 2011. Cashman said Eiland was not being blamed for the way the pitching staff fell apart down the stretch, and that reasons for his decision to go in a different direction are “private.”

Eiland had been the team’s pitching coach since the 2008, and before that he held the same role with the club’s various minor league affiliates. His contract was up, so technically he isn’t being fired. They’re just not going to bring him back. Eiland missed basically the entire month of June for undisclosed personal reasons this year, and I wonder if that played a role in the move.

Rangers reworked roster key in ALCS victory

Of all the 2010 AL playoff teams, the Texas Rangers finished with the worst record. But that didn’t mean that they were the worst team. During the six months of the regular season plenty changes. For the Rangers it felt like everything changed. It was those mid-season tweaks that made them better than their record indicated. For the past three weeks they’ve been the best team in the AL.

Here is the starting lineup the Rangers sent to the field on Opening Day:

1. Julio Borbon, CF
2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Josh Hamilton, LF
4. Vladimir Guerrero, DH
5. Nelson Cruz, RF
6. Chris Davis, 1B
7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
8. Andres Blanco, 2B
9. Elvis Andrus, SS

The only out of place player is Blanco, who was subbing for the injured Ian Kinsler.

The pitching staff, too, was quite different. Do you know who started Opening Day? Scott Feldman. You might remember him, though I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t, for his solid 2009 season, in which he went 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA. His peripherals were a bit worse; it’s unlikely that a player who doesn’t strike out many and still walks around the league average rate will sustain that type of performance. The crew behind him wasn’t that impressive, either.

1. Scott Feldman
2. Rich Harden
3. C.J. Wilson
4. Colby Lewis
5. Matt Harrison

During the course of the season the Rangers made the necessary improvements to the club. Borbon started off poorly before picking it up, but by July it was clear that the Murphy-Hamilton-Cruz outfield was optimal. In fact, had it not been for Cruz’s two DL stints and Hamilton’s missed September, Borbon probably wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the 468 PA that he did. Kinsler eventually came back and replaced Blanco. Saltalamacchia and his fellow backstop Taylor Teagarden were eventually optioned, opening the door for Matt Treanor and, eventually, Bengie Molina. Davis was horrible, which led to Justin Smoak, which eventually led to Mitch Moreland.

The pitching staff, of course, received the biggest makeover. Three of the five Opening Day starters didn’t make it to season’s end. This happens to plenty of teams, but rarely to a playoff team. Yet the Rangers upgraded where needed. It helped that Wilson and Lewis had better than expected years. Tommy Hunter returned from the DL and provided quality innings. And, of course, the Cliff Lee trade reshaped everything. To that point Wilson was the ace of the staff. Putting Cliff Lee at the top made the rotation that much deeper.

What killed the Yankees was the Rangers’ mid-season acquisitions. Lee is the obvious culprit here, as he pitched well enough to win Game 3 on his own. Molina also provided destruction of his own. We’ll remember him because of his dream-crushing three-run homer in Game 4, reminiscent of his dream-crushing homers of playoffs past. But for the series he went 5 for 16 with a double in addition to that homer. His counterpart, Matt Treanor, who didn’t join the club until the second week of the season, went 2 for 6 with a homer and a walk.

The regular season can tell you plenty of things. It lets you know which team performed best over the long haul. It tells you which teams were built to last. It makes clear which teams have strengths that can mask weaknesses. What it doesn’t tell you is which teams have changed and to what degree they did. It doesn’t tell you, at least not explicitly, that the Rangers suffered because they got off to a slow start and then limped to the finish because they were assured a playoff spot by the beginning of September. The Rangers were better than their record indicated, and their in-season changes were a big part of that.

Fan Confidence Poll: October 25th, 2010

Record Last Week: 1-3 (11 RS, 26 RA) lost best-of-seven ALCS four games to two
Season Record: 95-67 (859 RS, 693 RA, 98-64 Pythag. record), finished one game back in AL East, won Wild Card

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.


A requiem for the 2010 season

The joy of winning in 2009 is still a fresh memory in Mr. Potato Head's mind.

Pity the poor Yankee fan. For the past 48 hours, since Alex Rodriguez struck out looking to send — Schadenfreude alert! — his former Texas Rangers ballclub to its first World Series berth in franchise history, the atmosphere around Yankee fans has been funereal. We wanted another Fall Classic appearance; we wanted another trophy; and we’re going to mourn our loss like it’s nobody’s business.

Since the game ended, the Yankees have gotten it on all sides as the haters have come out of the woodwork. You have your “told you so” folks who just knew the Yankees wouldn’t win. You have your commentators examining the team with a fine-toothed comb to find the flaws in every player. You even have your displaced Orioles-fan Marylanders fans who live in New York City but take special glee in a Yankee playoff loss. Even as we realize that the Yankees were outplayed by a very good Texas team, we know that theonly people sad this weekend were the Yankees and their fans.

And Major League Baseball.

As the league office reminded the media this weekend, the two 2010 League Championship Series were the most-watched series in the past three years, and the ALCS was TBS’ most successful. “The 2010 ALCS was the most-watched LCS on TBS since the network began airing the round in 2007 averaging 8.22 million viewers,” the release said. “Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS registered 11.86 million viewers making it the second most-viewed baseball game ever on cable television beating the game where Mark McGwire tied Roger Maris for the most home runs in a season on ESPN on September 7, 1998 (10.62 million viewers). Only the 2008 ALCS Game 7 between the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays registered more viewers (13.36 million) on cable.”

Everyone, it seems, loves the bad guys. While most of those millions were rooting for the bad guys to lose, as long as the bad guys are still around, baseball enjoys its popularity. No one likes the Yankees, but where would be without them?

As the Yanks’ own 2010 season draws to a close, we can look back at a successful year and shouldn’t let the dull finish in the ALCS ruin the fun we had. We watched the Yankees win 95 times this year, and only two teams in all of baseball enjoyed more victories. A Major League-best 3,765,807 fans saw the team win 52 of their 81 home games, and on the road, Yankee games averaged a league-best 34,939 fans per game. Overall, the Yanks’ average per-game attendance of 40,715 was best in the game by nearly 2000 fans. Everyone loves the bad guys.

On the field, we had our memories. On April 22, the Yankees turned their first triple play since 1968. Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter banged out some inside-the-park home runs. Jorge Posada tied a career high with three stolen bases. Robinson Cano came into his own, hitting .319 with a .914 OPS, and he could be due for some post-season hardware. Alex Rodriguez launched his 600th career home run. CC Sabathia won 21 games. Mariano Rivera sported a 1.80 ERA at the age of 40.

Of course, we saw our fair share of frustrations too. Derek Jeter, playing out the final year of his contract, turned in a down season. Mark Teixeira struggled through a dreadfully cold start and an injury-plagued finish. A.J. Burnett couldn’t turn his stuff into outs, and Javier Vazquez flat-out lost his stuff. But over the course of 162 games, the bad will come with the good.

So this year, we won’t get a parade or a trophy. We won’t get 11 wins in October and November. We won’t have the joys of seeing 27 turn into 28, and we won’t get back-to-back titles for the first time since 2000. We’ll get the hate and the gloating, but we’ll always have the Yankees. Most fans love to hate the bad guys, but we just love ’em through thick and thin. Here’s to 2010. It didn’t end as we wanted it to, but it was a very good year.