An Album for Alex Rodriguez

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Alex Rodriguez will retire following the 2017 season. Or maybe he won’t. We’ll see, I guess. Regardless, we’ve long since passed the time when A-Rod‘s past days in pinstripes severely outweigh his future days in pinstripes. Two full seasons is a long time to start waxing about most players’ careers, but few players in baseball have been as meaningful to the game–positively and negatively–as Alex has during his time in the Majors. His tenure with the team has been at times tantalizing, tumultuous, tedious…it’s safe to say we’ll likely never have an experience with a player quite like we have with A-Rod.

To kick off my part in his two-year “retirement” tour, as Mike put it in his post, I’m going to turn to an assignment I’ve given out to multiple classes. In the assignment, the students had to make an album for our curriculum, selecting songs that they felt spoke to the characters and/or themes of the texts we’d been studying. For the purposes of this assignment, the “text” is Alex Rodriguez’s Yankee career.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

1. Okay, I Believe You, but My Tommy Gun Don’t–Brand New: “I am heaven sent/Don’t you dare forget/I am all you’ve ever wanted/What all the other boys all promise…”

Ignoring any sort of nuance to the words or song, let’s take them at face value for a moment. I remember exactly where I was during the press conference that introduce A-Rod to the Yankees–I was getting a haircut–and while I didn’t think of this song at the time, looking back, it makes perfect sense. When the Yankees acquired A-Rod, he was the best player on earth, hands down, bar none. He was heaven sent. He was all anyone would ever want or could ever want out of a baseball player. And, likely, deep down, Alex knew that and comported himself as such. Was he cocky at times, even arrogant? Sure he was. But when you’re a player like that, you’ve earned it.

2. One-Eighty by Summer–Taking Back Sunday “Go on, just say it/You need me like a bad habit…”

Are there any words that could more aptly sum up the media’s obsession with Rodriguez over the last 12 years? No matter what he did, no matter what he said, it was all taken in by a hungry media, digested, and spit back out as a hot take of some sort. This has cooled since season, but there has always been an undercurrent of tension with Rodriguez and the media, and for certain outlets, he’s a habit they just can’t break.

3. The Mountain Range In My Living Room–The Early November “It’s never been harder to fall/There’s nothing to grab and that’s/All I want to hold on to/Just another sweep and it’ll be fine/But this carpet’s got hills/And I can’t see this helping at all.”

Alex has had troubles in his times with the Yankees, and there’s no denying that. Sometimes, he’s wanted them swept under the rug, and we have too, thinking some things were non-stories or not important. But the fact remains that he’s brought a lot of things upon himself through both words and actions. He’s most definitely been held accountable for them and he’s most definitely changed, but we can’t ignore his issues, be the hills in the carpet or mountain ranges.

He's not a businessman he's a business, man. (Cindy Ord/Getty)
He’s not a businessman he’s a business, man. (Cindy Ord/Getty)

4. Sympathy for the Martyr–Straylight Run “A laundry list of problems doesn’t make you interesting/Never getting help doesn’t make you brave/Not listening to reason doesn’t mean that you have faith/You’re just cutting off your nose to spite your face…”

After Alex danced around steroid suspicions and admissions in the offseason between 2008 and 2009, we were all glad to be rid of that distraction, especially when he dominated the 2009 playoffs like he did. Things came up again in 2013 and 2014 and most of us still defended Rodriguez from our fan’s perspective. It’s hard, though, to ignore the feeling that at that point, continuing to do PEDs was probably the dumbest thing Rodriguez could’ve done and his reaction to his mistakes wasn’t exactly professional. All of that led to his 2014 suspension, and certainly a change of heart.

5. I Don’t Like Who I Was Then–The Wonder Years “I put my past self in the ground/I’ve been dancing on his grave/I’m not the person that I was then/I’m sending him away/I was bitter/I was careless…”

This song is Alex’s 2015 (and so far 2016) in a nutshell. He recognized who he was and changed it after his 2014 suspension. Yes, he’s still goofy and awkward now, but he’s embraced it. He had a season no on expected. He endeared himself to fans and media alike. He went onto Fox’s World Series coverage, something that seemed beyond inconceivable in 2014. The person that Alex was before 2015 is long gone.

6. My Hero–The Foo Fighters “There goes my hero/He’s ordinary…”

Alex Rodriguez is not a hero. He’s also not a villain. He is, by all accounts, ordinary. He has an extraordinary talent and is an extraordinary baseball player, but as a human being, he is as ordinary as you are and I am. He has strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and charms. He is a real person, and over the course of his time in the Bronx, we have seen the full picture of him as a person more than we have just about any other player. I’m thankful for his time in pinstripes and will remember it fondly.

Open Thread: March 26th Camp Notes

The Yankees beat the Blue Jays 4-3 this afternoon. Bryan Mitchell started and was fantastic again, allowing just one hit in four innings of work. He fanned four. Hard to think he won’t be on the Opening Day roster at this point. Branden Pinder tossed a scoreless frame and three-time Tommy John surgery guy Conor Mullee struck out the side in the ninth for the save. One strikeout per surgery. Mullee was up from minor league camp for the day.

Aaron Hicks led the game off a homer and both Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez had base hits. Ronald Torreyes went 2-for-4 with a double off a wall after just barely missing a home run earlier in the at-bat. The ball sailed just foul. Pete Kozma had a hit as well. His chances of making the team are annoyingly high. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here is the rest of the day’s news from Tampa:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury (wrist) took batting practice again today and said he’s good to go for tomorrow’s game. Rob Refsnyder, meanwhile, took a ground ball to the face for the second straight day. This one caught him in the cheek and he’ll see a doctor. The third base experiment is not going too well these days. [Bryan Hoch, Erik Boland, Mark Feinsand]
  • Masahiro Tanaka threw a bullpen session with increased intensity today after the team told him to stop holding back. “I heard some people talking about that he did turn it up a little bit today. We think that’s important because we have to get him going too and get him feeling good about himself,” said Joe Girardi. [Chad Jennings]
  • Meaningful roster cuts before today’s game: James Pazos and Nick Rumbelow were optioned to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. That effectively takes them out of the running for Opening Day bullpen spots. Chris Parmelee was sent to minor league camp after the game. The Yankees still have 40 players in camp by my unofficial count.
  • The upcoming rotation: Nathan Eovaldi (Sunday on TV) and Luis Cessa (Monday, no TV). The Yankees are playing the Tigers on Monday, and it seems Cessa is getting the start because they don’t want Detroit to see one of the regular starters. The Yankees play the Tigers in the second series of the regular season. [Jennings]
  • Dellin Betances pitched an inning in a minor league game today. Shane Hennigan has the day’s minor league lineups, if you’re interested. Aaron Judge hit a grand slam. [Hennigan]

This is your open thread for the night. MLB Network is showing the Giants and Cubs live right now, then they’ll show a bunch of games on tape delay throughout the night. All of the local hockey and basketball teams are in action tonight except the Devils, and there are two March Madness games as well. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Spring Training Game Thread: Only One Week Left

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

One week from today, the Yankees will play their final exhibition game of the spring. We can finally see the light at the end of the Spring Training tunnel. These games are fun in their own way, but the novelty has more or less worn off at this point, and I’m ready for meaningful games. Soon.

The Yankees made the quick half-hour ride up to Dunedin to play the Blue Jays this afternoon. I’m not sure there is anything in particular to watch this game — Rob Refsnyder‘s play at third is worth monitoring, especially since he seems to be getting exposed of late — and that’s probably a good thing at this point of the spring. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Aaron Hicks
  2. RF Carlos Beltran
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Austin Romine
  6. 3B Rob Refsnyder
  7. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  8. SS Pete Kozma
  9. LF Cesar Puello
    RHP Bryan Mitchell

Available Pitchers: RHP Anthony Swarzak and RHP Branden Pinder are scheduled to pitch. RHP Gio Gallegos, RHP Jonathan Holder, RHP Conor Mullee, RHP Matt Marsh, RHP Alex Smith, and LHP Caleb Smith are up from minor league camp and on the trip as well.

Available Position Players: C Carlos Corporan, 1B Deibinson Romero, LF Chris Parmelee, CF Lane Adams, RF Juan Silva, and DH Eddy Rodriguez will come off the bench. C Kyle Higashioka, IF Vicente Conde, IF Cito Culver, and IF Jose Rosario are on the trip too.

It is cloudy with temperatures in the low-80s in Dunedin, and there are some thunderstorms in the forecast. Doesn’t look like it’ll be anything long-lasting though. Maybe just a quick shower. We’ll see. There is no YES or MLB Network broadcast for this afternoon’s game. If you’re in the Blue Jays’ home market, which I’m pretty sure is all of Canada, you can watch on Sportsnet. Otherwise MLB.tv is your only option. Enjoy the game.

Saturday Links: Hicks, Revenue Sharing, Garagiola

Hicks. (Presswire)
Hicks. (Presswire)

The Yankees begin their final week of exhibition games a little later this afternoon. Only seven days of Grapefruit League play to go. Hooray for that. Here are some links to help you pass the time until today’s game thread comes along.

Hicks among Law’s top breakout candidates

Earlier this week, Keith Law (subs. req’d) posted his annual list of the top breakout candidates for the upcoming season. These are post-hype players. Guys who were once highly touted prospects, have been in a show for a little while now, and are ready to break out and live up to their potential. Aaron Hicks is among then. Here’s a snippet of Law’s write-up:

Hicks, like Schoop, came up before his bat was ready — his glove was ready, but his bat had developed gradually over the previous three years — and in hindsight it appears skipping Triple-A was the wrong move for him. He was a different hitter in 2015, becoming much less passive, taking fewer strikes and looking more for pitches to drive when he was ahead in the count. Now he’s moving to a better park for power and will have a full-time job from day one.

Hicks will not have a “full-time job from day one” — Law said he was joking about the injury and age concerns in the outfield — but he’s going to play a lot. The Yankees have made it pretty clear. It’s possible Hicks will end up starting something like four out of every five games as the regulars rest. He made some adjustments last year and it appears Hicks might indeed be on the verge of a breakout. I’m excited to see what happens this summer.

Levine takes shots at Mets over revenue sharing

According to Ken Rosenthal, Yankees team president Randy Levine took some shots at the Mets over the revenue sharing system. “What is very burdensome to us — and is unfair — is the amount of money we have to pay in revenue sharing compared, for example, to teams in our market that pay ten times less than us,” said Levine. “Hopefully that is something that will get looked at in the next labor agreement.”

The Yankees pay more money into revenue sharing than any other team — Levine said they paid roughly $90M in revenue sharing last year — because they generate more revenue than every other team. There’s no mystery here. Commissioner Rob Manfred told Rosenthal the Yankees have been very supportive of the revenue sharing system, though they are looking forward to seeing proposed changes for the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement.

I doubt Levine and the Yankees will gripe too much about the Mets or any other team — I’m sure the Yankees do plenty of fancy accounting and don’t want MLB digging too deep — but obviously they think it’s unfair they’re paying so much more than a team in the same market. We’ll see how the revenue sharing system is tweaked with the next CBA, if at all.

Joe Garagiola passes away at 90

Sad news to pass along: former Yankees announcer Joe Garagiola passed away earlier this week. He was 90. Garagiola grew up with Yogi Berra in St. Louis and the two were lifelong friends — the Cardinals signed Garagiola, not Berra, out of a tryout camp in 1943 — and he played for four teams from 1946-54. After his playing career ended, Garagiola got into broadcasting, and he called Yankees games on WPIX from 1965-67. He spent most of his career on NBC’s lead broadcasting team. Our condolences go out to Garagiola’s family and friends.

Open Thread: March 25th Camp Notes

The Yankees lost 11-10 to the Orioles this afternoon, and if it were a regular season game, it would have been a Very Bad Loss. Nick Rumbelow gave up a homer in the ninth to blow the save, the Yanks took a 10-8 lead in the top of the tenth, then the Orioles scored three runs in the bottom half to walk-off with the win. Rob Refsnyder committed two errors at third base in that tenth inning. Tough fake loss.

Anyway, Ivan Nova started and got roughed up, allowing six runs (five earned) on five hits and three walks in 4.2 innings. He struck out five. Nova allowed three homers, and to be fair, the wind was blowing out this afternoon. “I put myself in a really bad position. I didn’t help myself today,” he said to Pete Caldera after the game when asked about the fifth starter’s competition.

Chris Denorfia whacked a three-run home run — like I said, the wind was blowing out — and Brett Gardner had two hits. One was a beautiful bunt single, the other was a triple off the wall. Didi Gregorius doubled off the wall. Dustin Ackley and Chase Headley each had a base hit as well. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here are the day’s notes from Tampa:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury (wrist) took full batting practice today. “I felt very good today. I felt confident in my swing. I was able to drive the ball to all gaps. (Thursday) was just nice and easy batting practice to see how I felt and today I was taking my normal swing. I walked away today feeling very pleased how it went. It was a nice progression,” he said. Ellsbury is going to track pitches tomorrow and hopefully play Sunday. [George King, Jared Diamond]
  • On his second error in that tenth inning, Refsnyder took a hard hit ground ball to the face. It took a weird hop and jumped up on him. He was bloodied and left the game with a cut up near his eye. That’s the only damage. Just the cut. The third base experiment will continue, according to Joe Girardi. [Bryan Hoch]
  • Michael Pineda threw five scoreless innings in a minor league game. Austin Romine caught him. No surprise there. Romine is on track to be the backup catcher and he needs to learn the pitching staff. Andrew Miller, Luis Severino, and Luis Cessa threw bullpens. [Erik Boland, Chad Jennings]
  • For what it’s worth, CC Sabathia went back to using an old two-seam changeup grip last night. He had a 6/1 GB/FB in that start after having a 14/10 GB/FB in his first three Grapefruit League starts. Eh, we’ll see. I’m not sold on a new changeup grip solving Sabathia’s problems. [Brendan Kuty]
  • Shane Hennigan has the day’s minor league lineups. Cito Culver batted tenth for Triple-A Scranton. I’m not joking. Rain screwed up the minor league travel plans this afternoon, so the Yankees had their players stay in Tampa and play a bunch of intrasquad games. [Hennigan]
  • Prior to last night’s game, Severino and Gary Sanchez were named the 2015 Kevin Lawn Award winners as the Yankees’ minor league pitcher and player of the year, respectively. It was Severino’s second straight Kevin Lawn Award. Congrats to the two of them.
  • Among the players making tomorrow’s road trip are Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Aaron Hicks, Carlos Beltran, and Bryan Mitchell. I assume Mitchell is starting. Pineda had been lined up to start that game. That will be one of those MLB.tv only games. No YES or MLB Network. [Mark Feinsand]
  • Some non-Yankees news: Collin McHugh will start the second game of the season for the Astros (behind Dallas Keuchel), and Evan Gattis (hernia) is expected to start the year on the DL. The Yankees open the season at home with three games against the ‘Stros. [Evan Drellich]

This is tonight’s open thread. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES at 7pm ET, if you’re interested. MLB Network is showing the Angels and Athletics live right now, then they’ll have games on tape delay all throughout the night. The Devils and Islanders are both playing, and you’ve got the four March Madness games too. Have at it.

Spring Competitions: The Backup Catcher & Final Bench Spot [2016 Season Preview]

Romine. (Presswire)
Romine. (Presswire)

Coming into the spring, half of the bench was set. We knew Dustin Ackley and Aaron Hicks would occupy two of the four spots and nothing’s changed. The last two spots were up for grabs. One will go to the backup catcher, and because the plan to play Starlin Castro at third base didn’t work out, the other has to go to a backup third baseman. The Yankees don’t have much of a choice with those last two spots, positionally. Let’s preview those last two bench players, whoever they may be.

The Backup Catcher (For Now)

The Yankees have had some pretty good backup catchers in recent years. At the very least, they were strong defenders. The Yankees place a lot of emphasis on catcher defense. Some of those backups even hit too, like Frankie Cervelli a few years back and John Ryan Murphy last year. Murphy was traded for Hicks over the winter, leaving the backup spot to a spring competition.

The two main competitors: actual prospect Gary Sanchez and former prospect Austin Romine. The Yankees brought in veteran journeyman Carlos Corporan for depth, but Joe Girardi quickly ruled him out of the race, surprisingly. Others like Eddy Rodriguez and Sebastian Valle didn’t get much of a look in camp at all. It was either Sanchez or Romine. Anyone else would be a surprise.

It’s not yet official, but all signs point to Romine getting that backup catcher job to start the regular season. The Yankees optioned Sanchez to Triple-A last night, which effectively takes him out of the running. If he was still being considered for the job, the Yankees would keep Sanchez in big league camp so he could continue working with the big league pitchers. Instead, they sent him to minor league camp for at-bats and regular reps.

Sanchez and Romine are very different players. Sanchez hit 25 home runs in 500 total plate appearances a year ago. Romine hit 25 home runs from 2011-15. Sanchez is an outstanding thrower and an adequate receiver. Romine is an adequate thrower and a very good receiver. They’re pretty close to polar opposites, really. Sanchez was miserable during Grapefruit League play (1-for-21!) though, and Girardi said he felt he was pressing in an effort to make the team.

Sending Sanchez to Triple-A for a few weeks is totally justifiable given his still rough around the edges defense. The service time aspect can’t be ignored either. Thirty-five days in the minors delays Sanchez’s free agency a year. That’s potentially huge. If he turns into the type of player his tools suggest he can become, gaining control of his age 29 season in 2022 would be enormous. It’s a no-brainer, really. How do you not send him down to delay free agency?

The Yankees have gone young at almost every opportunity over the last 18 months, and replacing Murphy with Sanchez seems like the logical move. Remember, Romine was pretty close to out of the organization last year. The team designated him for assignment at the end of Spring Training, he slipped through waivers, and they stashed him in Triple-A. He was added to the 40-man roster and called back up in September only because Sanchez was dealing with a hamstring issue and the Yankees wanted a third catcher when rosters expanded.

So, for now, Romine is in line to be the backup catcher. The key words there are “for now.” There is zero doubt Sanchez is in the club’s long-term catching picture. Ideally, he would spend some time as Brian McCann‘s understudy before taking over the starting job. That apprenticeship is still likely to begin this year, I think. Once his free agency is delayed and once the Yankees are comfortable with his defense, Sanchez will be in the show. Romine is a placeholder more than anything.

Ref Robsnyder. (Presswire)
Ref Robsnyder. (Presswire)

Open Tryouts At Third Base

Eight different players have played third base for the Yankees during Grapefruit League play this spring. Eight! It would have been nine had the team not pulled the plug on the Castro experiment. One of the eight is the starter (Chase Headley) and another is a prospect (Miguel Andujar) who was up from minor league camp for a day to help out during a set of split squad games. The other six: Jonathan Diaz, Pete Kozma, Rob Refsnyder, Deibinson Romero, Donovan Solano, and Ronald Torreyes.

Diaz, Romero, and Solano have all already been assigned to minor league camp, taking them out of the running for the final bench spot. The remaining three candidates hit the bench guy stereotype trifecta:

  • Kozma: Veteran utility man who’s played for some pretty good teams in the past.
  • Refsnyder: Prospect with no clear path to playing time, so he’s trying to improve his versatility.
  • Torreyes: Third tier prospect with just enough tools to potentially force the issue.

Kozma is a known quantity at this point. He’s not going to hit, but he can play some pretty good defense at the three non-first base infield positions. Refsnyder has handled himself quite well at third base this spring despite being thrown into the fire. Give him some props. Learning a new position and trying to make the team at the same time isn’t easy. Torreyes? Well, I learned his name is pronounced “to-reyes” and not “torre-eyes” like I had been saying in my head. That about sums up his spring.

I get the feeling Refsnyder has the inside track for the final bench spot right now, though cases could be made for Kozma and Torreyes. Remember, this is a part-time gig. The Yankees could want Refsnyder playing everyday in Triple-A — and working on his third base defense — rather than sitting on the bench and playing maybe twice a week in the big leagues. Two months (55 days to be exact) in the minors delays his free agency a year. Like Sanchez, is it worth keeping Refsnyder up to play only a handful of times in those two months when he could instead play everyday in Triple-A and push his free agency back? That’s a question worth asking.

Kozma could be buried on the bench for weeks at a time a la Brendan Ryan and no one would care. Torreyes does not have Refsnyder’s offensive upside but he’s a contact machine with some speed and solid defensive chops. He truly may be a better bench option than Refsnyder because he does more things well. Refsnyder’s all bat. Torreyes is more well-rounded and his development isn’t a huge priority. If he sits on the bench and plays once every ten days, so be it.

The Yankees say they want to rest their regulars more often this season, but Girardi also acknowledged Didi Gregorius and Castro don’t need as much rest as everyone else because they’re so young. Whoever gets this last bench spot will be responsible for backing up Headley, first and foremost. Didi and Starlin don’t need as many days on the bench. I think Refsnyder will get the job. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees go with the “safer” bet in Kozma or the more well-rounded option in Torreyes.

Spring Training Game Thread: Ivan’s Last Chance?

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night, CC Sabathia had his best start of the spring (two runs in five innings) as he supposedly competes for the fifth starter’s spot. His primary competition, Ivan Nova, gets the ball this afternoon. For Nova to win the job, he’s going to have to show he is clearly the best option. Anything close to a tie is going to go to the veteran making huge money. Ivan has to dominate today to stay in the hunt. It might be his last chance to make a case for the rotation.

The Yankees made the 60-mile trip down to Sarasota to play the Orioles this afternoon. Not many regulars on the trip following the night game last night, as you could imagine. Pretty soon the regular season will begin and we’ll see the starters every day. Can’t wait for meaningful baseball. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Didi Gregorius
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. 3B Chase Headley
  5. 1B Dustin Ackley
  6. C Carlos Corporan
  7. DH Chris Parmelee
  8. RF Chris Denorfia
  9. CF Cesar Puello
    RHP Ivan Nova

Available Pitchers: RHP Johnny Barbato, RHP Nick Goody, LHP James Pazos, and RHP Nick Rumbelow are all scheduled to pitch. LHP Matt Tracy, RHP Eric Ruth, and LHP Caleb Smith are up from minor league camp and made the trip as well.

Available Position Players: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Deibinson Romero, 2B Ronald Torreyes, SS Pete Kozma, 3B Rob Refsnyder, LF Ben Gamel, CF Dustin Fowler, and RF Jake Skole will be the second string off the bench. C Radley Haddad, C Kyle Higashioka, and IF Dan Fiorito, also made the trip.

It is cloudy and humid in Sarasota, and there is a chance of some rain throughout the afternoon, though nothing too heavy. They shouldn’t have much trouble getting the game in. This afternoon’s game will begin just after 1pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB.tv everywhere. (And MASN if you’re in the O’s home market.) It’s the only YES road game of the spring. Enjoy the game, folks.