Ten years. Ten friggin’ years ago today, Aaron Boone had the moment of a lifetime and sent the Yankees to the World Series (for the sixth time in eight years) with a walk-off homer in Game Seven of the ALCS against the Red Sox. The other day I said I remember pretty much nothing about the 1999 World Series, but this game is the exact opposite. It’s one of my most vivid memories as a fan. I remember where I was, who I was with, where everyone was sitting in the room, what everyone was drinking … all of that like it happened just yesterday. It was one of those moments you never forget.
I figure we’ve all seen the Boone homer a million times by now, so for the sake of variety, there’s the video of the game-tying three-run rally in the eighth inning instead. The video archive for the entire game is right here, so if you want to see Jason Giambi‘s two homers off Pedro Martinez or Mike Mussina’s first career relief appearance or Mariano Rivera‘s three innings of work or, of course, Boone’s homer, it’s all right there. Enjoy.
Once you’re done with that, use this as your open thread for the evening. The Cardinals are looking to advance to the World Series with a win over the Dodgers in NLCS Game Five, which is on TBS right now (Joe Kelly vs. Zack Greinke). At 8pm ET, the Red Sox and Tigers will play Game Four of the ALCS on FOX (Jake Peavy vs. Doug Fister). The Rangers are also playing. Talk about all of that and more right here.
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with a player whose season was sabotaged by fluky injuries.
As the Yankees went through last offseason with nary an offensive upgrade, there were two things Yankees fans could count on in 2013. We all knew with damn near certainty that Robinson Cano would be an elite all-around player with high-end production at the plate. It was pretty much a given and Cano delivered.
We also knew Curtis Granderson would hit a ton of dingers and be the team’s primary power source. Ever since revamping his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long in August 2010, Granderson has been one of baseball’s preeminent homer hitters, going deep 40+ times in both 2011 and 2012. Maybe he wouldn’t do that again in 2013 — that’s an frickin’ ton of homers, I have a hard time expecting almost anyone to do that in a given year — but 30+ homers seemed like a lock.
Instead, Granderson’s season was derailed before it even got a chance to start. Five pitches into his very first plate appearance of Spring Training, he took a J.A. Happ fastball to the right forearm and suffered a fracture. The injury was expected to sideline him for three months, so in a sense the Yankees were lucky it happened so early in camp. The first half of that three-month recovery time took place before Opening Day.
On May 14th, after three months on the sidelines and a week’s worth of minor league rehab games, Granderson finally made his season debut for the Yankees. He took an 0-for-4 in the first game but had a hit the next day and three hits the day after that. A few days after that he had three more hits, including a double and a homer. Curtis missed all of Spring Training and it made sense that he would start a little slow, but he was starting to show signs of life and the Yankees desperately needed offense.
Then, just ten days after returning from the DL, Granderson took a Cesar Ramos fastball to his left hand. He stayed in the game to run the bases but was eventually lifted and sent for tests. The result: a fractured pinky and hand and a six-to-eight week recovery timeframe. He didn’t need surgery, but just like that, Curtis was back on the DL and the Yankees were woefully short on power.
That six-to-eight week recovery time turned into ten weeks for no apparent reason — Granderson was just slow to heal, I suppose. He didn’t return to the team until August 2nd, and in his second game back he hit a two-run homer at spacious Petco Park in San Diego. By then the Yankees were well out of the AL East race and only on the fringes of the wild-card race.
In his first month off the DL, Granderson hit .278/.394/.444 (132 wRC+) with three homers in 109 plate appearances. He wasn’t hitting for the kind of power we’re used to seeing, but he was certainty having an impact at the plate. In his second month off the DL, Curtis hit .177/.233/.375 (60 wRC+) with three homers in 105 plate appearances. Suddenly he wasn’t having an impact. Not coincidentally, the Yankees faded right out of the postseason picture.
Overall, Granderson hit .229/.317/.407 (97 wRC+) with seven homers and eight stolen bases (in ten attempts) in 245 plate appearances around the injuries this year. His power production took a big step back from last season, but there’s really no way to tell if he was still suffering the lingering effects of the injuries — hand/wrist injuries are notorious for hurting a player’s performance even after he’s been cleared medically — or if this was a sign of age-related decline or if he just had 245 substandard plate appearances. Could be all or that or none of that. Who knows?
The Yankees had planned to shift Curtis to left field and install Brett Gardner as their regular center fielder before the season started — they never committed to it and called it an experiment in Spring Training, but it was pretty obvious a change was being made — a plan they implemented when Granderson came off the DL (the first time). He bounced between left field, right field, and DH before Gardner’s oblique injury forced him back into center. I thought Granderson actually look pretty good defensively in the corners. Maybe not above-average, but pretty solid. That was a plus.
“There’s no getting around [it], missing 100 games the year you’re becoming a free agent isn’t great,” said Matt Brown, Granderson’s agent, earlier this month. The 2013 season was disastrous for Granderson due to two unpredictable fluke injuries and the shift to a less valuable defensive position. Maybe the Yankees will be able to bring Curtis back on a one-year pillow contract — his “first choice” is to return to New York, reportedly — but I suspect he’ll wind up with a multi-year contract elsewhere. The Yankees were power-starved this summer and losing Granderson for so much time was a huge reason why. He brings a power element to the team that is damn near impossible to replace these days.
The 2014 draft is still seven months away, but this is as good a time as any to start familiarizing yourself with the draft class. Baseball America published their first top 50 draft rankings yesterday, and best of all, you don’t need a subscription to read it. Fifty players with a little blurb on each. Pretty cool. NC State LHP Carlos Rodon predictably tops the list — he’s the best draft prospect since at least Gerrit Cole in 2011, maybe even Bryce Harper in 2010.
“After a below-average 2013 draft, the 2014 class has potential to be the best class since 2011’s banner crop,” says the very first line in the write-up. The Yankees hold the 18th overall pick at the moment — they could lose that for signing a qualified free agent, obviously — and are in position to add a supplemental first round pick or two if their own qualified free agents head elsewhere. Keep in mind that is is mid-October. The high school and college seasons are still weeks away from starting, so those rankings will change a lot between now and the draft. A lot. In all likelihood, someone not on that top 50 list will wind up going in the top ten next June. These rankings are just a snapshot of what’s going on right now, that’s all. They aren’t intended to be some kind of prediction. · (17) ·
Thanks to long-term contracts and liberal protection of minor leaguers from the Rule 5 Draft, the Yankees have been dealing with a cluttered 40-man roster for a few years now. All of the injuries this season compounded the problem, because for nearly every player who got hurt, someone had to be brought in to replace him.
At this moment, the Yankees have 47 players on their 40-man roster. They can thank the 60-day DL for those seven extra spots. Some spots will be cleared when free agency opens but a bunch will be taken when the team has to protect even more players — most notably top prospect Gary Sanchez — from the Rule 5 Draft. On top of that, the Yankees need to acquire some pitchers (starters and relievers), a catcher, maybe two infielders, an outfielder, a bench, so on and so forth this winter.
Needless to say, Brian Cashman & Co. are going to have to deal with another 40-man roster crunch this winter. Let’s take a look at where things stand and who may be on the chopping block when push comes to shove over the next few months.
Impending Free Agents (13): Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano, Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds, Brendan Ryan, Kevin Youkilis, Curtis Granderson, Travis Hafner
The latest Collective Bargaining Agreement says players officially become free agents at 9am ET the day following the end of the World Series. They got rid of that silly little five-day period during which a player had to formally file for free agency, which was nothing but a time-waster. The day after the end of the World Series, those 13 guys up there will hit the open market — they can’t sign with a new team until five days after the end of the Fall Classic, but that’s another matter — and leave the Yankees with 34 players on the 40-man roster.
Youkilis overlaps with the impending free agents group and I’m assuming Jeter will pick up his player option and not actually become a free agent. The six non-Youkilis guys have to be activated
and leave the Yankees with 40 players on the 40-man roster. So before their offseason even begins, the Bombers will have a full-40-man roster. Hooray inflexibility. but they were already counted in our group of 47, so the Yankees will still have 34 players on the 40-man.
The deadline to tender contracts to players who have yet to qualify for free agency (meaning they don’t yet have six full years of service time) is in late November, and players who don’t receive contract tenders become free agents. Those are usually guys who start earning more than they’re worth through arbitration because the system is still based on pitcher wins and saves and runs batted in, old school stats like that. The Dodgers non-tendered Russell Martin because his production was declining and because he’d been getting hurt, for example.
Stewart, who will be arbitration-eligible the first time, is an obvious non-contender candidate with Cervelli plus three young catchers (Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy, and Sanchez) either on or soon to be on the 40-man roster. I guess there’s a chance the Yankees will cut ties with Cervelli as well, but I don’t see it. Maybe if they bring in two new catchers before the non-tender deadline or something.
Huff had a nice little run late in the season but is cut from the Aaron Small/Shawn Chacon mold — be happy with what you got and move on before you get burned. Nix is a perfectly fine (but eminently replacement) utility infielder who played way too much this season, which could move him to the wrong side of the salary/production threshold.
Wells and Ichiro were awful this past season and have been for three years running now. Their salaries and statuses as proven veterans/good clubhouse guys and whatever else should not keep them on the roster. If (and hopefully when) the Yankees find suitable replacements, these two should be given the axe. I can’t stress this enough: you don’t win by having bad players on the team. These two are bad and they should absolutely be on the hot seat this offseason.
I had high hopes for Flores coming into the season — I had him fifth on my preseason list of the team’s top prospects (lol in hindsight) — but he didn’t hit much with Double-A Trenton (.260/.353/.363, 104 wRC+) and there are serious concerns about his long-term power potential. If there was ever a time to sneak him through waivers and keep him in the organization as a non-40 man roster player, this is it. Same goes for Joseph, who made his big league debut this year but also missed most of the season following shoulder surgery. He is likely at the front of what figures to be a very long designate for assignment line. These guys are on a day-by-day basis — they get removed from the roster when a spot is needed, there is no deadline to get rid of them.
I have not gotten a chance to watch it yet, but Jack Curry recently taped an interview with Joe Girardi and his family, during which they discussed … well, a whole bunch of stuff. His decision to re-sign with the Yankees, his family, Robinson Cano, and more. Check it out.
Once you’ve done that, use this as your open thread for the evening. The Red Sox and Tigers are playing Game 3 of the ALCS right now on FOX (Justin Verlander vs. John Lackey), and at 8pm ET the Cardinals and Dodgers will play Game 4 of the NLCS (Lance Lynn vs. Ricky Nolasco). The Islanders are playing a regular season game and the Nets are playing a regular season game. Talk about any and all games and whatever else right here. Go nuts.
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with a young right-hander who didn’t make much (if any) progress in 2013.
It seems silly after seeing how everything went this season, but the Yankees actually started the year with a nice amount of pitching depth. They had three veteran starters at the front of the rotation (CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte) plus two younger, kinda sorta established types in the fourth and fifth spots (Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes). There was also some optimism Michael Pineda would be able to rejoin the team in the second half.
David Phelps, meanwhile, opened the season in the bullpen as the long man/sixth starter in a round about way after impressing in a swingman role last summer. He was expected to start the season in that same swingman role before being moving into the rotation when Hughes suffered a back injury in Spring Training and had to open the year on the DL. Phelps never did make that first start because the Yankees, in need of a fresh arm, activated Hughes earlier than expected.
In six April relief appearances, Phelps allowed 11 runs (5.29 ERA) and 27 base-runners (1.47 WHIP) in 17 total innings (3.75 FIP). He moved into the rotation in early-May after a triceps problem sent Nova to the DL, and in the rotation is where Phelps stayed for the next two months. Nova’s generally rough first half and Pettitte’s strained trap deserve an assist for that. It was as much a necessity as it was an earned job.
Phelps pitched very well in his first five starts, posting a 3.27 ERA and 3.11 FIP in 33 innings in May. The Mets clobbered him for five runs in just one-third of an inning in his final start of the month, but Phelps rebounded to allow just one total run in his next two starts. Phelps got roughed up in his next four outings, allowing 19 runs (8.41 ERA) and 40 base-runners (1.97 WHIP) in 20.1 innings across his next four starts. Those would be his final four starts of 2013.
On July 6th, the Yankees placed Phelps on the 15-day DL with a forearm strain. An MRI showed no structural damage and he was shut down for ten days, but ten days became ten weeks when Phelps suffered the #obligatorysetback in early-August. The setback was technically a new injury — a second forearm strain in a different spot. There was still no structural damage, thankfully.
The injury was originally expected to end Phelps’ season, but the Yankees were in full-on panic mode late in the year as a postseason berth faded away. He was activated with two weeks to go in the season and made four relief appearances — three good, one not so good — to close out the schedule. Phelps’ overall season performance was right in line with last year in some respects but wildly different in others. To the chart:
The strikeout, walk, and ground ball rates are very similar between the two years, but Phelps allowed fewer homers while surrendering more base hits overall. With no significant change in his batted ball profile, the 63-point jump in BABIP can likely be attributed to poor overall team defense (especially on the infield) and a simple return to normalcy after last season. A sub-.260 BABIP in nearly 100 innings for a pitcher like Phelps — good stuff and command but not great stuff and command — doesn’t strike me as sustainable (I could be wrong, obviously), so it’s no surprise it jumped in 2013.
The near-5.00 ERA is one reason Phelps was part of the problem this season (hence the “what went wrong” tag), but the bigger concern for me is the injury. In addition to the general scariness of an arm injury (two, really), he missed a ton of time and the Yankees didn’t get much of an opportunity to evaluate him and his place on the team going forward. Did he stink in late-June and early-July because he was hurt? Or did league catch up to him? The answer remains unclear. With no statistical steps forward aside from homer rate and the still unknown lingering effects of the two forearm injuries, this was not a good or encouraging year for Phelps.
Via Mark Feinsand: There is expected to be mutual interest between the Yankees and free agent-to-be Carlos Beltran this offseason. The team figures to be in the market for an outfielder and offensive thump in general, while Feinsand hears Beltran would “strongly consider” coming to the Bronx. He’s shown plenty of interest in wearing pinstripes in the past, on multiple occasions too. The Cardinals will surely make Beltran a qualifying offer after the season, so he’ll cost a first round draft pick (#18 overall) to sign.
Beltran, 36, hit .296/.339/.491 (132 wRC+) with 24 homers and a career-low 6.3% walk rate in 600 plate appearances this year. The walk rate is a red flag because older players tend to stop drawing walks when they have to cheat by starting their swing earlier to compensate for lost bat speed. Beltran has now played in 140+ games in each of the last three years, effectively putting any lingering concern about the health of his knees to rest. His defense isn’t all that good anymore, but he could spend time at DH and there isn’t much ground to cover in right field at Yankee Stadium anyway.
There is an obvious spot for a guy just like Beltran — legitimate switch-hitter with power, patience and the ability to hit for average from both sides — in the Yankees lineup. I didn’t think that was the case two years ago mostly because his knees were huge question marks, but things have changed since then. As an added bonus, Beltran dominates in the postseason (career 204 wRC+ in the playoffs), which would be helpful if the Yankees manage to put together a team capable of actually getting to the postseason in the next year or two. · (102) ·
Baseball America wrapped up the Yankees-relevant portion of their league top 20 prospects series yesterday, posting the Double-A Eastern League (no subs. req’d). SS Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox), 3B Miguel Sano (Twins), and RHP Noah Syndergaard (Mets) make up the top three of a generally star-studded list.
C J.R. Murphy was the only Yankees farmhand to make the cut, and he ranked 18th. The 22-year-old hit .268/.352/.451 (116 wRC+) with six homers in 211 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton this summer before being bumped up to Triple-A Scranton (117 wRC+ in 257 plate appearances) and eventually finishing the season in the big leagues.
“Scouts now seen him as a potential regular catcher as his defensive chops have improved,” said the subscriber-only write-up. “He has a line-drive stroke that he uses to spray balls to all fields …. Managers around the league noted how well Murphy handled Trenton’s pitching staff and consistently ranked him as one of the better catch-and-throw guys in the circuit … His solid-average arm is accurate and aided by a quick transfer.”
Neither OF Slade Heathcott and OF Tyler Austin did not make the list, obviously. In the subscriber-only chat, Josh Norris said “there were significant questions about [Heathcott's] plate discipline, makeup and being injury-prone,” while “most evaluators I surveyed only thought of [Austin] as a fourth-outfielder type.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. OF Ramon Flores simply doesn’t have enough power to be considered a top prospect, Norris added.
All of the Yankees-relevant lists have now been posted: Rookie Gulf Coast League (six players ranked), Short Season NY-Penn League (one), Low-A South Atlantic League (one), High-A Florida State League (two), and Triple-A Intentional League (zero). The rankings actually do a pretty good job of summarizing the state of the team’s farm system. Lots of interesting talent at the lower levels but nothing at the upper levels to help the team in the immediate future, either as trade bait or by stepping into the roster. System in a nutshell.
This Sunday, FOX will broadcast a 90-minute feature called “Being Mariano Rivera,” which will look at a side of Mo none of us ever get to see. That’s pretty much everything away from the baseball field. Chad Jennings has all the details, and the video above is a deleted scene from this year’s All-Star Game. There will be an encore presentation next Tuesday, just in case you forget to set your DVR.
Here is your open thread for the night. The Dodgers and Cardinals are playing Game Three of their NLCS at 8pm ET on TBS (Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. Adam Wainwright), and the Monday Night Football Game is the Colts and Chargers. Talk about either of those games or anything else here. Go nuts.
The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with an injury replacement who missed more days than the guy he replaced.
Even though it happened five months before Opening Day, Alex Rodriguez‘s left hip injury and eventual surgery left the Yankees scrambling. They had just lost their starting third baseman and a middle of the order bat, two things that are tough to replace even in the dead of winter through free agency. With no obvious internal replacement, the team was left … well, scrambling.
The best available option was a familiar face and former bitter enemy. The Yankees wound up signing former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis to a one-year contract worth $12M, and in the process he reportedly declined a two-year, $18M offer from the Indians to reunite with manager Terry Francona. It was a risky move given Youkilis’ history of back problems and declining production (103 wRC+ in 2012).
A monster Spring Training (.280/.339/.800 in 56 plate appearances) and stories of a revamped swing courtesy of hitting coach Kevin Long had pretty much everyone thinking Youkilis was primed to be a big contributor for New York. He was further away from his injuries and the Yankees had success with reclamation project hitters like Eric Chavez in recent years, so it wasn’t all blind faith. Just mostly blind faith.
When the season started, it looked very much like Youkilis had found the fountain of youth. Or at least a way to stave off age-related decline for the time being. He doubled on Opening day, had two hits the next game, doubled again in the third game, then homered in the fourth game. In his first nine games with New York, Youkilis went 14-for-33 (.424) with four doubles, two homers, (.727 SLG), three walks, and two hit-by-pitches (.500 OBP).
Obviously that’s not something you’d expect any player to sustain over a full season, but any fear Youkilis was just a washed up ex-Red Sox crony brought in for name value had started to be assuaged. Then, just a week later, Youkilis was sidelined with back stiffness. He missed a week before returning to the lineup at first base, and in his first game back, he slide into the bag on a defensive play and re-injured himself. The official diagnosis was a lumbar strain and it was much more severe this time around.
Youkilis needed an epidural even though his MRI came back clean. He spent a month on the DL before returning in late-May, the same time as Mark Teixeira. Youkilis went a weak 6-for-41 (.146) with 13 strikeouts (28.3%) in eleven games after coming back before, yet again, his back started barking. Another lumbar strain landed him on the DL on June 14th, but just four days later the Yankees announced he needed season-ending surgery to correct whatever needed to be corrected. There was always a small chance Youkilis would get healthy in time to rejoin the team in late September and the postseason, but that never happened. Both the getting healthy part and the postseason part.
All told, Youkilis played in only 28 games and received 118 plate appearances this past season. A-Rod, the man he replaced, batted 181 times in 44 games after returning from hip surgery in August. David Adams even managed more games (43) and plate appearances (153) thank Youkilis after coming up from the minors in mid-May to serve as what amounted to the replacement for the replacement. For their $12 investment, the Yankees got a .219/.305/.343 (78 wRC+) batting line and an awful lot of medical bills out of Youkilis.
As I wrote in What Went Wrong: Injuries, it would have been surprising if Youkilis didn’t land on the DL at some point this season. Backs very rarely get better — ask David Wells or Randy Johnson, for example — at best they get more manageable. Youkilis had two back-related DL stints as well as several day-to-day type problems from 2010-2013, so the surgery was a long time coming. It seemed inevitable and the Yankees were left holding the cards when the time came. The team was in desperation mode after A-Rod’s injury and they wound up wasting a huge chunk of change for very, very little return.