The only good thing about the Yankees being this bad — 27-38 in their last 65 games, a 67-win pace over a full season — is that I can kinda stop caring about the outcome of each game. Just sit back and watch baseball, that’s all. Maybe even get excited when they win. Crazy idea, no? Being free of expectations is pretty cool. Anyway, some random thoughts.
1. The Yankees should absolutely start playing some of their young players, but they aren’t exactly loaded with big league ready talent. They can steal at-bats from various veterans to give David Adams more playing time and flat-out replace Chris Stewart with Austin Romine, but that’s really it. Maybe dump Joba Chamberlain for Dellin Betances. Not much more they can do besides that unless Michael Pineda gets healthy pretty soon. It’s still worth it though, Romine and Adams (and Betances) might actually be useful next year and it’s worth seeing what they’ve got.
2. I threw this out there on Twitter the other day, so I might as well do it here: what positive long-ish term developments have there been for the Yankees so far this season? Just at the big league level and not something like Hiroki Kuroda being awesome. Something that improves the team’s 2014 outlook. You know what I mean. There’s Ivan Nova‘s last five or six weeks, Preston Claiborne and Shawn Kelley in the bullpen, and … that’s it, right? I suppose Adam Warren as well, despite last night’s outing. There has not been much of a silver lining so far this year, though I suppose that could change if they do start playing some more youngsters. I’m not going to hold my breath though. It’s not in their DNA.
3. Although he’s been slumping since the All-Star break, Robinson Cano is still hitting a stellar .287/.371/.492 (131 wRC+) on the year. It is down a touch from his .311/.370/.538 (142 wRC+) performance from 2010-2012, however. How much of that step down do you think is the result of his recent slump, and how much is actual age-related decline? The 30-year-old Cano has been really good this year overall, though he has had some frustrating;y long stretches of being straight up bad and I don’t know what to think. With Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley signing contracts valued at $14M per year (or below), the idea of a $20M+ annual deal for Robbie isn’t sitting well with me. He’s better than those two, but that much better? I keep going back and forth with the idea of signing him long-term, but I full expect the Yankees to give him a fat new deal at some point.
4. This isn’t Yankees related, but have you noticed the NL playoff field is just about set already? The Braves and Dodgers are running away with their divisions, plus the Pirates, Cardinals, and Reds all have comfortable leads on a postseason spot. They just have to sort out the NL Central winner and two wildcards. Cincinnati has the worst record of the trio and they’re four games up on the next best team, the Diamondbacks. That NL Central race will be interesting, but otherwise all the late-season excitement will come from the AL.
That wasn’t the worst loss of the season. The worst loss of the season should come in a game that means something. The Yankees were dead in the water before being swept by the lowly White Sox, this series just clinched it. Wednesday’s final was 6-5 in 12 innings.
If you were still trying to convince yourself this was something other than not the Yankees year, this game should change your mind. I know this because I watched Adam Dunn slap a single (!) through the left side of the infield (!!) in an 0-2 count (!!!) off Mariano Rivera (!!!!) to tie the game with two outs in the ninth. That’s right, the rare quadruple exclamation point schtick. I don’t get bothered when Mo blows a save anymore, not in a long time actually, and this is no different. What are you going to do? I’ll take a one-run lead with Rivera on the mound in the ninth every day of the week.
Of course, one blown save wasn’t enough … well, actually, Adam Warren didn’t blow a save. He blew his win, technically. Dumb rules. Robinson Cano finally decided to show up for the second half with a long solo homer in the 12th inning, giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead. It was his first dinger since the All-Star break and second in the last month. Warren, who was in his second inning of work, couldn’t preserve the lead though, allowing three straight hits with two outs for the walk-off loss. It all started with an infield single off his glove that deflected away from the infielders, a Murphy’s Law type of hit. Mo and Warren faced five total batters representing the final out, and all five picked up hits. What a spectacular loss. They really went all-out for this one.
Four Is Better Than Three But Not As Good As Five
For the first time in eight games, since the game before the start of the road trip, the Yankees scored more than three runs. Granted, it was only five runs this time, but I’ll take it. Two of the five came on Alfonso Soriano‘s first inning homer, which was a bomb halfway up the stands in left. The under-rated part of the Soriano pickup is that the Yankees finally have someone with a decent bat flip. He pimped that homer a little bit. Vernon Wells singled in the third run — it was a bloop that fell between two miscommunicating fielders — and Eduardo Nunez solo homered in the fourth run. Cano’s dinger accounted for the fifth.
The offense did have several chances to blow this game open and make it a bit easier on the pitching staff, but they kept squandering rally after rally. Bases loaded with two outs in the sixth, first and second with no outs in both the seventh and eighth, runner on second with one out in both the ninth and eleventh … zero runs each time. The Yankees went 1-for-16 with men in scoring position as a team, which is a huge eyesore. If you want to get mad at someone, get mad at the offense. Not Mo or Warren. They had plenty of opportunities to tack on runs and never bothered to actually do it.
Better … I Think
Was this a good outing by CC Sabathia? I can’t decide. I mean yes, three runs in 7.1 innings is solid at worst and very good at best, but Sabathia is still clearly not right. He did show off some noticeably different mechanics — quicker tempo specifically, but his arm slot was a bit higher it seemed — and he did a better job of keeping the breaking ball down in the zone, but we are talking about a bad White Sox offense here. The worst non-Yankees offense in the league. Was Sabathia good or are the ChiSox just bad?
Either way, Joe Girardi has clearly lost some faith in his nominal ace because he pulled him from the game after only 86 pitches, which is a very short outing for Sabathia. In fact, it was his shortest outing since August 2010, ignoring some rain-shortened starts. I actually thought Girardi should have gone to the bullpen to start the eighth, but he let Sabathia start the inning for the left-on-left matchup. All told, CC allowed five hits (three singles, a double, a homer) and walked none while striking out just one. Sixty-four of those 86 pitches were strikes (74%), but only six were swings and misses (7.0%). This was a much better outing for Sabathia than what he’s been doing for the last two months, but let’s not declare him out of the woods just yet.
Sabathia did allow what is becoming the #obligatoryhomer, this one a solo shot to Gordon Beckham. It was the 25th dinger he’s given up this year, the second most in the league behind A.J. Griffin (28). It was also the third homer he’s given up in an 0-2 count since the start of last year. He allowed zero 0-2 homers from 2007-2011. Hat tip to Katie Sharp for that one.
Rivera, meanwhile, threw more than one inning in an outing for the first time since July 2011 and two complete innings for the first time since June 2011. It was the first time he came back out for a second inning after blowing a save since August 2008. Something about desperate times blah blah blah. His 30 pitches were only four more than his season high.
All together, the Yankees had eleven hits and eight walks in the game. Nunez went 3-for-4 with two walks and was a triple shy of the cycle, plus both Wells and Soriano had two hits apiece. Alex Rodriguez singled and walked, Austin Romine drew two walks, and Brett Gardner laid down a gorgeous drag bunt single to leadoff the game.
Soriano’s homer was his second with the Yankees this year and his 100th as a Yankee overall. He’s the 40th player to get to that number in pinstripes. That seems high to me. I’m surprised that many guys have hit a hundred homers with the team.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees are one game over .500 with a -20 run differential, and Cool Standings says they have 1.8% chance of making the postseason. That’s too high.
The Yankees are off on Thursday and will welcome the Tigers to the Bronx for a three-game weekend series. Ivan Nova and the local kid Rick Porcello will be the pitching matchup for Friday night’s opener. Detroit has only won eleven games in a row, so they’re totally due for a loss.
Triple-A Scranton (7-2 win over Syracuse)
- CF Melky Mesa: 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — 3-for-12 (.250) since being sent down, but all three are extra-base hits (two doubles and a dinger)
- C J.R. Murphy: 0-3, 2 BB — 42 walks in 90 games this year after 42 walks in 110 games last year
- 1B Dan Johnson: 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — four homers in his last five games, giving him the farm system lead with 20
- RF Ronnie Mustelier: 1-4, 1 RBI
- RHP Caleb Cotham: 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 13/2 GB/FB — 57 of 77 pitches were strikes (74%)
- RHP Dellin Betances: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 23 of 36 pitches were strikes (64%) … 63/21 K/BB in 49.1 innings as a reliever
Alex Rodriguez has officially appealed his 211-game suspension for his ties to Biogenesis, the players’ union announced. No surprise here, everyone knew this is coming. He had until tomorrow to file the appeal and can continue to play until the arbitrator makes his ruling. The Joint Drug Agreement says that’s supposed to happen within 45 days, but apparently that’s not a hard deadline and this is expected to drag on into the winter. · (11) ·
This has felt like a really long road trip, hasn’t it? Yeah it’s only eight games, but there were also three off-days mixed in as well. Going out on the road for eleven days is an eternity for an East Coast team. Factor in the different time zones and I’m definitely ready for the Yankees to come back to the Bronx. A few games back home well be a welcome sight no matter how poorly they’ve played. Here’s the starting lineup that will face (yet another lefty) Hector Santiago:
- CF Brett Gardner
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- 3B Alex Rodriguez
- 2B Robinson Cano
- DH Vernon Wells
- RF Curtis Granderson
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- C Austin Romine
And on the mound is CC Sabathia, who currently ranks 81st out of 91 qualified pitchers with a 4.78 ERA. They need to figure out what’s wrong him and soon. Not necessarily for this year, that ship has pretty much sailed, but for next year and beyond. This ain’t good.
It was raining rather hard in Chicago this afternoon, but it’s all cleared up and they aren’t expected to have any trouble getting the game in. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
Via Dan Barbarisi: The Yankees held a closed-door team meeting following Monday’s loss to make sure everyone knew losing should not become part of the clubhouse culture. “This meeting yesterday, it was to make sure that we’re all together, working toward that goal, and not getting off track and saying, ‘[losing] is going to be how it is. If we start thinking bad thoughts, we’re not going to be successful. I think we kind of got a little bit of that, where we started feeling sorry for ourselves, and we can’t do that, because then it doesn’t work,” said one veteran player.
Joe Girardi, Robinson Cano, and Derek Jeter spoke at the meeting. The message was “the playoffs start today” and “we need to ratchet up the intensity level down the stretch,” more or less. Pretty typical team meeting stuff, really. These meetings always seem to get overblown and they rarely make a difference. Example: last night’s loss. The Yankees are not losing because they’ve adapted that kind of mentality in the clubhouse. They losing because they just aren’t all that good. · (47) ·
For the last 18 months or so, almost every move the Yankees have made has been geared towards getting under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014. They’ve gravitated towards short-term contracts, in some cases choosing future financial flexibility over roster quality. It’s cost them on the field, but they are better positioned to get under the tax threshold.
The luxury tax, if you don’t know by now, is based on the average annual value of contracts on the 40-man roster. Players who are added to the 40-man late (called up, trade, etc.) or taken off early (released, traded, etc.) have their “tax hits” pro-rated. Performance bonuses count against the tax as well, as does each team’s portion of the league’s player benefits. The benefits are expected to jump from $10.8M to about $12M for 2014. Just like that, the $189M threshold is really $177M.
This post is Part Two because I actually did a Part One once upon a time, but that was all the way back in January. Obviously a lot has changed since then and the payroll situation is worth revisiting. Let’s start by looking at the 2014 contract status of every player currently on the 40-man roster. The salaries listed are “tax hit” numbers, not their actual take-home salary. That doesn’t matter for the luxury tax calculation.
- Under Contract For 2014 ($84.9M): Alex Rodriguez ($27.5M), CC Sabathia ($24.4M), Mark Teixeira ($22.5M), Ichiro Suzuki ($6.5M), Alfonso Soriano ($4M), Vernon Wells ($0)
- Contract Options For 2014: Derek Jeter ($9.5M player option)
- Arbitration-Eligible In 2014: Brett Gardner (third time), David Robertson (third time), Shawn Kelley (third time as Super Two), Jayson Nix (second time), Frankie Cervelli (first time), Ivan Nova (first time), Michael Pineda (first time as Super Two), Chris Stewart (first time)
- Pre-Arbitration In 2014: David Adams, Zoilo Almonte, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Preston Claiborne, Luis Cruz, Ramon Flores, Corban Joseph, Brett Marshall, Melky Mesa, Eduardo Nunez, Vidal Nuno, David Phelps, Jose Ramirez, Austin Romine, Nik Turley, Adam Warren
- Potential Bonuses For 2014 ($37.5M): A-Rod ($6M each for 660, 714, 755, 762, and 763 career homers), Jeter (up to $7.5M based on awards)
- Free Agents After 2013: Robinson Cano, Joba Chamberlain, Curtis Granderson, Travis Hafner, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Lyle Overbay, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Kevin Youkilis
Some fancy accounting at the time of the trades brought Soriano’s and Wells’ tax hits way down. Wells is actually free, and had MLB allowed it, the Yankees would have actually received a $2M credit against the luxury tax because of the way the money was structured. That won’t happen though, he just counts as zero dollars against the tax.
Given his self-proclaimed “nightmare” season, I have to think Jeter will exercise that player option. It’s very tough to see him opting out and getting more after looking very much like a 39-year-old shortstop whose body is broken down this summer. He could try it and maybe the Steinbrenners will cave, but it would surprise me. Also, that extra $7.5M in bonuses is really $7M because he won’t trigger any incentives this year. All told, Jeter’s current contract can realistically only max out at $16.5M next year.
According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, that player option year is treated as a one-year contract if exercised. It does not get lumped together with the first three guaranteed years of Jeter’s contract and averaged out. The bonuses are reachable but some ($4M for AL MVP) are more reachable than others ($500k for Silver Slugger). They’re in the contract though, and the Yankees have to account for them. Could you imagine barely staying under the threshold all year only to have Jeter blow it up by winning the MVP or something? That would be hilarious.
Anyway, adding Jeter to the “under contract” guys gives us a guaranteed $94.4M for seven players, or $101.4M when accounting for the $7M in bonuses. That leaves the team $75.6M under the $177M “real” threshold to fill 33 40-man roster spots. Fifteen of those spots will go to the extra guys stashed in the minors, where they make much less than the big league minimum. I’ve seen those spots estimated anywhere from $2-5M total, so let’s stick with the high-end and be conservative. Now the Yankees are at $70.6M to fill 18 big league roster spots.
Barring something completely unexpected, a big chunk of that money will go to Cano. His tax hit could end up in the $20-25M range. Suddenly we go from $70.6M for 18 spots to $45.6M for 17 spots. If the Yankees trust Pineda in the rotation and go with Stewvelli behind the plate again, they could fill eight of those 17 spots on the cheap with the arbitration-eligible guys. Gardner, Robertson, and Nova will be the highest paid arb guys, but none will get more than $6M or so and Gardner’s the only one who will realistically approach $5M. That trio could pull in $15M total on the high end, the other five guys about $7-8M total, just spit-balling. That brings us to $22.6M for nine remaining roster spots.
To use his words, the pink elephant in the room here is A-Rod. If his suspension is overturned, he and his $27.5M tax hit — he’s only 13 homers away from his first $6M bonus, so the team would really have to prepared for a $33.5M tax hit — will be on the roster and splitting time between third base and DH. If his suspension is upheld and he misses the entire year (believed to be the most likely scenario, but who really knows?), suddenly the team has an extra $27.5M to play with. They will need a replacement third baseman, however. The difference between a suspension and no suspension is $22.6M for nine roster spots or $56.1M for ten roster spots. It’s the difference between digging through second tier free agents or going on a nice little free agent shopping spree in the winter.
For the sake of argument, let’s say the team re-signs Cano, Jeter picks up his option, and A-Rod does indeed wind up missing the entire season due to suspension. This is the roster they’d be looking at based on the guys they have under contract/control:
|Cervelli||1B Teixeira||CF Gardner||Sabathia||Robertson|
|Stewart||2B Cano||RF Ichiro||Nova||Kelley|
|SS Jeter||LF Wells/Soriano||Phelps||Claiborne|
|3B Nix||OF Mesa or Almonte||Pineda||Nuno/Warren|
|Designated Hitter||IF Nunez||Nuno/Warren||Betances|
|Wells/Soriano||IF Adams or Cruz||?|
There’s plenty of room for improvement with that roster, so having that $56M-ish to spend is more necessity than luxury. A legitimate starting catcher, a starting third baseman, an outfielder better than Ichiro/Wells/Soriano, a veteran starting pitcher or two, and a handful of relievers would be on the offseason shopping list. If A-Rod is not suspended, they still need all of that stuff (except for a third baseman), but will have only half the money to spend.
The Yankees have an awful lot of cash coming off the books this offseason, which is a very good thing as far as the payroll plan is concerned. The downside to having that money free is all the holes they have to fill. There’s a reason all that money is available — a whole bunch of important, centerpiece-type players are becoming free agents. The offseason should be fun because there figures to be busy with lots of moves, but make no mistake: the Yankees are not in a good position to get under that luxury tax threshold and remain competitive if A-Rod misses anything less than the entire season.
Imagen Yankez have all hom grown pleyerz.* Seriously, it’s a neat little exercise to go back and see what current major league players went through the Yankees system. Thankfully, Scranton RailRiders beat writer Donnie Collins has saved us some time and put together such a list himself. If nothing else, it’s a nice little thought experiment.
*You’ll have to follow @Seinfeld2000 to get the joke.
Without further pontification, here’s Collins’s list, complete with commentary and other goodies.
The best (current) pitcher on this list might not even technically qualify, depending on how you define homegrown talent. Quintana originally signed with the Mets as an international free agent in 2006, but they released him while he served a drug suspension in 2007. The Yankees signed him before the 2008 season, but then let him walk after the 2011 season. He was pitching successfully in the majors the next year.
Even if you count Quintana as a homegrown talent, it’s not as though it’s some developmental win. He’s arguably the best (current) pitcher on this list — certainly is in terms of results for the last two years — and the Yankees got nothing from or for him.
None of these pitchers rates in the top 30 in ERA among qualified starters for the last three years. The highest is Ian Kennedy at No. 46. On the flip side, Phil Hughes ranks No. 103, out of 112, in ERA during the last three years.
The disabled list doesn’t really mitigate this situation at all. Karstens is a fringy guy, obviously better off in the NL than in the AL. Phelps has been useful, but more on the level of Nova than above the level of Quintana. We still await the arrival of Banuelos; it seems the guys is constantly facing setbacks in his development.
You could probably go a few different ways with this list, since the Yankees have developed a goodly number of relievers. If you count Quintana, you could also count Jose Veras, who is having a fine season. There’s also Joba Chamberlain — whomighthaveremainedastarterunderdifferentcircumstancesbutthat’sbeyondthepoint — who has been good in the past but is having a really poor season that makes his overall numbers look that much worse.
Here the Yankees do have some clout. Rivera, Robertson, and Clippard all rank in the top 30 among relievers in ERA for the last three seasons. Melancon ranks in the top half and is on the rise. Dunn, Coke, and Choate form a decent cadre of lefties. Warren has shown that he’s a pretty good long man, at the least.
Yet again we find a blunder, though. While Coke and Dunn were both traded in large-scale transactions, Clippard got shipped out of town for Jonathan Albaladejo, which I’m sure Brian Cashman ranks as one of his worst trades. That’s not to mention how much Ramon Ramirez could have helped in the past.
Is there need for much commentary on the infield? Robinson Cano has been a phenomenal developmental success, especially at the major league level. He went from a guy whom the Rangers and Diamondbacks snubbed as a trade chip in 2004 to a veritable star by 2010.
And then we have the rest of the list.
After a hot 180 PA to start his career, Paredes has predictably stunk. Nunez has potential, and you can see it in nearly every swing he takes. It’s pretty, and it produces some of the hardest hit frozen ropes you’ll see. To date, it has failed to produce results worthy of an MLB starter. Adams still has potential, but he hasn’t done himself any favors in the bigs. I will refrain from commenting on Duncan.
Jeter obviously represents a developmental success, though that development occurred two decades ago, while Cashman was a mere peon in the organization and his staff wasn’t even with the team. Joseph could be decent, but lacks an arm to play 3B and so probably has no future with the organization. Pena was having a good year in part-time duty before getting hurt, but it’s not as though he’s going to be some surprise star.
This isn’t the worst group in the world, though there isn’t much power to speak of. Jackson is no superstar, but he did produce a solid rookie year and a standout season in 2012. Outside of that he’s been a little below average, which is fine for a center fielder with his kind of range. He and Gardner would prevent plenty of fly balls from dropping in.
The curious case here is Tabata, who earned Manny Ramirez comps while in the minors — and that’s a direct lesson to not comp minor leaguers to superstars. He’s been adequately above average for the Pirates in three of his four seasons to date, but like his Yankee-developed brethren he doesn’t hit for any power. Soriano is the only source of power here, and once again he’s not a true developmental success, since the Yankees signed him as a free agent after he played in Japan for a bit.
Again, a section that defies comment. The Yankees have had a pipeline of catchers, and none has really worked out. It does make me wonder what might have become, had Cervelli put his damn hand behind his back instead of leaving it prone and having a foul ball break it.
The roster above does not provide much inspiration. Collins wondered how it compared to the product actually on the field, and I think it’s pretty clear that the 2013 Yankees are a bit better than this crew.
Teams are built in many different ways, though, and an all-homegrown team ignores the Yankees greatest competitive advantage: money. So it makes sense, in a way, that they haven’t developed an elite corps of big league players. With money to burn on high-tier players, it’s not necessary.
Then again, a necessary cousin to spending on high-tier players is trading prospects for established talent. The Yankees have done this, and really haven’t surrendered all that much in the way of helpful big leaguers. But their track record suggests that teams aren’t getting a whole lot in return. I’m not sure if this turns teams away from dealing with the Yankees, but it certainly can’t help.
The landscape is changing as well. Players are opting for security over top dollar, signing extensions with their current teams that leave them off free agency lists at ages when it might make sense to sign them to long-term contracts. When they do hit free agency it could be in their early- to mid-30s, a time when long-term contracts become far, far riskier.
In the past, this kind of development had worked. In the future, it will not. Therefore, people railing against Cashman and the front office in the comments — an inevitability in nearly any post but a 100 percent certainty on this one — miss the point. How the Yankees have performed in the past in terms of player development does not necessarily reflect how they will perform in the future. In the past they didn’t need to emphasize development because of their other advantages. Now that players and teams have changed their behaviors, the Yankees will have to adapt in kind.
Which is to say that they have to do better if they want to avoid a long period of losing teams. The old methods just don’t work as well.
Friend of River Ave. Blues and YES Network announcer, Ken Singleton, was kind enough to give an hour of his time to discuss some of the current affairs swirling about the Yankees. We discussed everything from the all-consuming Alex Rodriguez saga, the trade deadline, Brian Cashman‘s relationship with the front office, to the team’s direction heading forward. If you haven’t read RAB’s first interview with Ken, be sure to check it out here.
Matthew Warden: Might as well start with the huge elephant in the room. What are your thoughts on A-Rod, the pending suspension, and particularly, the Player Union’s stance on the matter of PEDs?
Ken Singleton: Well, you know, it’s unfortunate what’s happened to Alex Rodriguez but I think you’re dealing with this issue of PEDs — the first time it happened was bad enough and it kind of put a stain on his career. If all these allegations prove to be true it’s certainly going to put an even deeper mark on his career, to the point where the fans say “enough is enough.” You talk about the Player’s Association, and they’re involved with it, but I think you’re getting to the point where they’re saying “enough is enough” too.
You heard Michael Weiner, the director, mention that he’s going to take each case on an individual basis, and, if there is enough evidence against a particular player, that the Player’s Association will not back him, at least not to the point that they had in the past when they just stonewalled all kinds of punishments. But now, I think what you’re seeing is that the majority of the players in the game want the game cleaned up. They don’t want it to be stained by anyone taking PEDs. Take your punishment and move on. And for Alex, it seems like his punishment will be more than anyone else’s because some of the other things he’s done regarding the Biogenesis investigation.
MW: It is sad. Correct me if I’m wrong, but A-Rod has never failed a drug test.
KS. That’s true.
MW: He came out and admitted to having used them during a time when free passes were being handed out. Now, I understand the league being infuriated with him allegedly tampering with their investigation, which has to be what the punishment emphasizes, right?
KS: Yeah. And I think it’s because number one, he admitted to using it before and he’s come back and has appeared to have used them again. And number two – and this is why I think his punishment is so much larger than everyone else’s – is because of what you just said. He supposedly interfered with the investigation, and that’s not a good thing for anyone to do. It’s almost at the point where legality has to be involved. I think this is why the book has been thrown at him, and it’s almost as if they want him off the field and that’s it. There’s a lot of money involved and that’s probably part of it, but he’s brought this situation on himself. As I said, it’s sad that he’s had such a great career and if it ends like this, it’s really a shame.
The thing about it is if his suspension is so long – you have to remember he’s missed all of this year – and if he misses a large remainder of this season and all of next season, that’ll be two years basically of not playing. He’ll be nearly 40 years old. How many simulated games can he go through and still be able to keep his edge? It’s difficult for anyone coming back from an injury – even after a two week period – to get ramped up again, let alone more than half the season. I just don’t know. I know that he wants to play.
MW: Yeah. It’s tough too because he’s always had his fair share of baggage.
KS: [Laughs] You’re right. It’s not always PEDs. It’s other situations too.
MW: Yeah, I think I can speak for most rational Yankee fans when I say the amount of baggage that he brought off the field, for most of his career, was grossly dwarfed by the amount of quality production he’s provided on it. There have been instances here and there where he drives everyone crazy, sure, but he’s been a dominant player for a long time and really that’s what’s most important.
KS: That’s true too.
MW: And I feel like in the last few years, perception surrounding Alex has begun to change in this regard. He’s become more of a problem then he’s worth (his abilities don’t justify his actions, perhaps unlike a guy like Ryan Braun who is still potentially an elite Outfielder) and you get the feeling the team is hoping/preparing for that moment when they get to cut their losses at this point. Do you agree?
KS: Yeah that might be the case. Everybody is going through the motions as if he’s going to come back and play. Major League Baseball — it’s not the Yankees, it’s MLB — holds the hammer here. If MLB says, “No,” he won’t come back. So the Yankees have to play as if he’ll come back, and play for their team. They’ve got four home runs out of their third basemen this year.
KS: They need someone at third base whether it’s A-Rod or anyone else. I mean Kevin Youkilis has been out practically all season – he’s played only 28 games – the Yankees are struggling at a position that teams usually get a lot of production from. You have to play it like he’s coming back but I have a feeling that Major League Baseball and Bud Selig will not allow it to happen. That’s the feeling I get.
MW: I think you’re right too, and for exactly that reason. The production the Yankees have gotten out of their third basemen has been abysmal, like the worst in Major League Baseball abysmal. You would think if A-Rod weren’t so stigmatizing, they’d be chomping at the bit to get him back out there if they had any real hope of contending this season.
KS: Yep, but unfortunately that’s not the case.
MW: Perhaps some of that has to do with that rather bizarre incident with the doctor and the strained quad.
KS: It just added to the circus, Matt. It’s almost like he’s trying to make things even more convoluted and it’s hard to do that because it is that way already. [Laughs] I just think a lot of players on the team would like to see this go away whether it means A-Rod comes back and plays or is just gone altogether. They’re getting a lot of distractions and A-Rod hasn’t even been with the team nearly all season long. It’s been a tough enough year as it is with all the injuries, but they’ve still managed to have a chance to make a playoff spot.
MW: Pretty incredible, huh?
KS: Yeah it is. It’s just amazing that they’re at this point. Sabathia’s 9-10; he’s giving up over 19 runs in his last 15 innings and is pitching the worst that he’s ever pitched through his time in the Major Leagues. They need to get him going to have any chance. But that seems to be a mild distraction compared to what’s going on with Alex Rodriguez, and CC’s been on the field all season long.
This whole thing is uncharted territory, and Bud Selig and Major League Baseball are really trying to make a statement here. Remember, Bud Selig is retiring pretty soon. PEDs came to the forefront in the middle of his watch and I don’t think he wants that to be his legacy. I think he wants his legacy to be, “I did the best I could to clean this up. I went out and got rid of one of the best players ever because of the fact he had been doing PEDs.” I also think this would be like Joe Jackson. Pete Rose, that sort of thing. These are big time players who were suspended for life, and if that happens to A-Rod, he’ll fall into that category.
MW: I’m glad you mentioned Bud Selig. Do you think that his legacy will be that of the guy who cleans up the sport, or that of the hypocrite – that is to say the guy who cleaned up the sport after profiting off PEDs during baseball’s revival after the strike?
KS: [Laughs] Yeah, I see your point Matt. The point is that these issues all came to the forefront while he was commissioner and a lot of people feel he looked the other way, but now he he’s getting it cleaned up so he can leave with his hands kind of washed. I don’t think they’ll ever be totally washed no matter what he does.
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That’s part one of our chat with Ken. Next we’ll get into some more “state of the team” issues, so check back for that!
Do you think the Yankees make it through the weekend with a winning record? They’re only two games over .500 following Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to lowly White Sox, and the Tigers are coming to town for three games this weekend. Then again, New York has done a swell job showing they can be beat by anyone lately.
A few weeks ago I wrote something about how the Yankees only seemed to score when their opponents make a mistake. It was mostly sarcasm, but there was also some truth to it. This offense is pretty bad — even with Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, and Curtis Granderson back with the team — and needs all the help it can get. In the first inning, the White Sox gave them that help.
It all started with a leadoff walk by Brett Gardner, but Alfonso Soriano followed with a little double play ground ball right to the second baseman. The out was made at second but the throw to first pulled Paul Konerko off the bag, allowing Soriano to beat it out. That was the first mistake. The second came a few pitches later, after he’d stolen second base. Chris Sale’s slider in the dirt got by catcher Josh Phegley and managed to bounce all the way to the third base dugout. Phegley couldn’t find the ball, and that gave Soriano enough time to score all the way from second. All it took was a botched double play and a wild pitch that bounced so far it allowed a runner to score from second. Piece of cake.
Snubbed All-Star Hiroki Kuroda pitched well but not as well as we’re used to seeing. The White Sox had several long at-bats against him and scored three runs on nine hits and a walk in seven innings. He struck out four and threw a season-high 116 pitches. On a team with a decent offense, that’s probably good enough to win. On the Yankees, it’s his seventh loss despite a 2.45 ERA on the season. Would you be surprised if he signed with a different club this winter because he wanted a better chance to contend? I sure wouldn’t be.
It’s pretty amusing Gardner will slide head-first into first base like once a week, but he wouldn’t slide around Phegley to touch home plate on Robinson Cano‘s single in the third. To be fair, Gardner was safe. The replays confirmed it. But he was called out anyway. Sliding around the the catcher would have helped him out there because it would have been tougher for the tag to be applied. Naturally, Gardner drove in a run in the ninth to ensure this play sticks out like a sore thumb in the one-run loss.
So Alex Rodriguez is already the team’s second or third best hitter, right? He went 1-for-2 with a walk, a hit-by-pitch, a ground ball single through the left side, and a hard-hit line drive out right at the center fielder. A-Rod also works the count (!) too, which is pretty refreshing. I don’t know if this is a good sign for Alex or a indictment of the rest of the offense.
The Yankees scored no more than three runs for the seventh straight game and 11th time in their last 13 games. In case you’re wondering if seven straight is some kind of franchise record, it’s not. Not even close. Franchise record is 13 straight back in 1917. It is their longest such streak since that magical 1991 season, however (nine straight).
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, do to MLB.com. For some other stats, go to FanGraphs. For the standings, go to ESPN. Depend on what happens in the Rangers-Angels game, the Yankees will either be four games back (Rangers loss) or five games back (Rangers win) of the second wildcard spot. Pipe dream.
The Yankees will try to salvage this sorry excuse of a series on Wednesday night, when CC Sabathia gets the ball against Newark-born lefty Hector Santiago. Getting swept by the second-to-worst team in baseball would pretty much kill the already small chance they have at the postseason. These are supposed to be the easy wins.