Thoughts prior to Derek Jeter’s final home game

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Derek Jeter will play the final home game of his career later tonight. Pretty much the only silver lining to being eliminated from postseason contention yesterday is that everyone will now be able to focus on Jeter and not the outcome of the game. (Not that Jeter’s retirement was lacking coverage or anything.) Here are a few random thoughts prior to the Cap’n’s last game in Yankee Stadium.

1. First things first: today’s weather forecast is not so good. Last I checked, there was a 70% chance of rain throughout the day before dropping to 20% later this evening. The tarp was put on the field immediately following yesterday afternoon’s game. Because the Yankees have been bounced from playoff contention and the Orioles have already clinched the AL East title (and are just about locked into the second best record in the league), this game normally would not be made up if it is rained out. It’s meaningless to the final standings. A league spokesman told  Brendan Kuty that “all efforts will be made to get the game in” tonight and there have been no discussions about what would happen if it is rained out, nor should there be. There’s no way the league would force them to make the game up next week just to honor Jeter. It’s not fair to the postseason-bound Orioles, for starters. The weather is the weather and there’s really nothing anyone can do about it. I’m just going to put my faith in the baseball gods and hope the skies clear up enough at some point.

2. I and I think everyone else is looking forward to seeing what the Yankees and Joe Girardi do for Jeter after Mariano Rivera‘s memorable exit last season. Pulling him in the middle of an inning so he can get a standing ovation seems a bit too obvious but that just might be what happens. The KISS method (keep it simple, stupid) is never a bad choice. My guess? The rest of the team will stay behind in the dugout when Jeter takes the field defensively in the ninth inning — maybe earlier if they’re worried about rain in the later innings — so he can be alone on the field and get a roaring ovation. Then Girardi will pull him mid-inning so Jeter can get another ovation. I dunno, I’m just spit-balling here. Either way, I’m sure it’ll be awesome and memorable. The Yankees have a knack for doing these right. After all, it’s the people that make this stuff special. Everything else is secondary.

3. Earlier this week Girardi said he plans to play Jeter during the final three games of the season in Boston, though he softened that stance after yesterday’s loss and said he’ll ask Jeter what he wants to do. Of course Jeter said he wants to play, but maybe he’ll change his mind if tonight’s send-off is just too perfect. That’s what happened with Rivera last year. Needless to say, I selfishly hope he doesn’t play in the series against the Red Sox at all. Like Rivera, let his final moment on the field come at Yankee Stadium with the home fans sending him off in a matter befitting of an all-time great. It would be different if the team was contending and set to go to the postseason, but they’re not, and I want to see Jeter end his career in the Bronx, not Fenway Park. I don’t care if that makes me sound like a jerk — yes, I know lots of people paid lots of money for tickets to see Jeter this weekend, including plenty of Yankees fan — I want his final moment to come at Yankee Stadium. That’s my selfish storybook ending for his career.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

4. As for his post-career life, I’m guessing Jeter will stay out of the limelight for the most part, aside from the occasional charity appearance and whatnot. I’m sure he’ll show up to Spring Training and Yankee Stadium a handful of times in 2015, though I would bet on him waiting a few years before coming to Old Timers’ Day like most new retirees. Jeter will have his publishing business to keep himself busy and I’m sure he has a bunch of other stuff going as well (based on the recent NY Mag article). If Jeter gets involved in baseball in any way after retiring, I assume it’ll be at an ownership level, not in some sort of coaching position that comes with the day-to-day grind and a lot of travel. I could absolutely see the Steinbrenners letting Jeter buy a stake in the team at some point in the future, even if he’d be nothing more than a spokesman/figurehead like Magic Johnson is for the Dodgers. His relationship with the Yankees is far from over, obviously.

5. Admittedly, I have not spent a ton of time thinking about this, but right now I consider Jeter to be the sixth best player in Yankees history behind (in order) Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Yogi Berra. That’s my personal list. There is no right answer to this stuff. We all have own personal top Yankees lists and none are wrong. If you want to take the lazy way out and look at WAR, Jeter is fifth in franchise history with both 71 bWAR and 73 fWAR, behind that top four and ahead of Berra. This is about so much more than on-field production though. We’re talking about players who transcend stats. The Bronx Bombers are the Bronx Bombers because of Ruth and Gehrig. Mantle is the greatest switch-hitter ever. DiMaggio has his record hitting streak and the guy married Marilyn Monroe. Berra? He has a World Series ring for literally every finger. These guys aren’t just baseball players, they’re icons and important historical figures. The same is true of Jeter. Want to argue with me that he is the fifth or seventh or tenth best Yankee instead of the sixth best Yankee? Fine. I’m not sure it’s worth the effort though. We’re talking about all-time greats either way and Jeter’s place among the Ruths and Gehrigs and Mantles of Yankee universe is well-deserved.

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The Yankees and 2014’s major awards

(Alex Goodlett/Getty)
(Alex Goodlett/Getty)

The regular season ends six days from now, which means the voting for the various league awards will soon end as well. The voting ends after the regular season but before the postseason — what happens in October has no bearing on anything. These are regular season awards, as it should be.

The Yankees are an extreme long shot to make the postseason and teams that don’t make the playoffs tend not to have major awards winners. That’s not always the case — Alex Rodriguez was the 2003 AL MVP on the last place Rangers, for example — just most of the time. Don’t get mad at me. That’s the way the voters vote. The Yankees do still have some candidates for each of the major awards this season, however. Let’s run them down.

Most Valuable Player
There is an excellent chance the Yankees will not have a player finish in the top ten of the AL MVP voting this year for the first time since 1996, when Mariano Rivera finished in 12th place. The lack of a truly elite player, a Robinson Cano or prime-age A-Rod or Derek Jeter, combined with their second straight postseason-less year all but eliminates anyone on the team from serious MVP consideration. The BBWAA has shown time and time again they prefer to vote for players on contending teams.

Now, that said, the MVP ballot is ten players deep and those last two or three slots are like the Twilight Zone. A lot of weird stuff happens there. Raul Ibanez received a tenth place MVP vote in 2012, remember. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have been the team’s two best players all year and I’m guessing they’ll combine for at least one down-ballot vote this year. Same with Dellin Betances and maybe David Robertson. The Yankees don’t have any serious MVP candidates this season but I feel comfortable saying someone on the roster will appear on a ballot.

Cy Young
Had he not gotten hurt, Masahiro Tanaka would have been an excellent Cy Young candidate alongside Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber (and Chris Sale). The injury takes him right out of the running for the award, unfortunately. The Cy Young ballot is one five players deep and it would surprise me if Tanaka even managed to sneak on and grab one fifth place vote at this point. He simply missed too much time and there are too many good pitchers in the AL. Maybe Betances will grab a fifth place vote like Robertson did in 2011. Maybe. He is the club’s only real shot at being included in the Cy Young conversation this season.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Rookie of the Year
Believe it or not, the Yankees have never had two players receive Rookie of the Year votes in the same season. That is all but certain to change this year thanks to Tanaka and Betances. There are a lot of good rookies in the AL this year but Jose Abreu has lapped the field — I think he should win unanimously, this is a no-brainer in my opinion — so neither Tanaka nor Betances will win. I do think both are safe bets to garner multiple second and third place votes though. (The ballot is only three players deep.)

Shane Greene has had a nice year but I would be very surprised if he received any votes. There are too many other good rookies in the league (Collin McHugh, Matt Shoemaker, George Springer, Marcus Stroman, Yordano Ventura, etc.) for him to get serious consideration. That doesn’t take away from what he’s done this year. This just isn’t a good year to be a good but not great rookie in the so-called Junior Circuit.

Manager of the Year
The Manager of the Year award has morphed into the “manager whose team most exceeded expectations” award, so Joe Girardi won’t win. I’m guessing the award will go to either Ned Yost of the Royals or Lloyd McClendon of the Mariners, depending on which non-Athletics team wins a wildcard spot.

The Manager of the Year ballot is only three names deep and it’ll be tough for Girardi to get even a third place vote this year given his competition. I’m guessing at least one BBWAA member will give him a vote based on the team’s ability to linger in the wildcard race until the final week of the season though. After all, nine of 15 AL managers received at least one Manager of the Year vote last season.

Comeback Player of the Year
This one will be interesting. If Jeter put together nothing more than a decent season, say hitting .280 with a .340 OBP and no power, I think he would have won the Comeback Player of the Year award easily. Mariano Rivera won last year and deservingly so, but, even if he had been merely good instead of excellent, I think he would have won anyway for sentimental reasons.

Jeter’s brutal August and pre-current homestand September really dragged down his season numbers (.256/.304/.313) and it will be hard for voters to look the other way. Melky Cabrera and Albert Pujols stand out as two deserving Comeback Player of the Year candidates, so there is no lack of competition. Maybe Jeter will win on the strength of sentimental votes, but I don’t think it’s a slam dunk at all.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Gold Gloves
A sabermetric component was added to the Gold Glove voting a few years ago, but it only counts as 25% of the vote. The other 75% is still based on the league’s managers and coaches. Whether they admit it or not, offense still has some impact on the voting, though it has gotten better in recent years.

Right off the bat, we can completely eliminate the entire infield. I mean, maybe Jeter will get a sentimental vote, but I can’t see it at this point. Gardner is a good left field Gold Glove candidate — they used to hand out three general outfield Gold Gloves, but they are position specific now — but Alex Gordon has this one in the bag. He’s outstanding in left and his offense won’t hurt his case either. Yoenis Cespedes might also get more votes than Gardner because of his throwing arm.

Ellsbury has been stellar in center field all season though the numbers hate him for whatever reason: -6 DRS, +1.1 UZR, and +0 Total Zone. I don’t get it. That doesn’t match up with the eye test at all. The various defensive stats always seem to hate Yankees center fielders. Maybe because Gardner takes plays away from them. Anyway, Ellsbury has some stiff Gold Glove competition in Mike Trout, Jackie Bradley Jr., Adam Jones, Leonys Martin, and Desmond Jennings. I think the chances of Ellsbury winning the Gold Glove are better than the chances of any Yankee winning any other award, but I would bet on the field with this many qualified candidates.

Silver Sluggers
Yeah, no. You actually have to hit to win a Silver Slugger and not many Yankees did that this year. Gardner and Ellsbury have been the team’s two best hitters and they aren’t beating out Gordon or Trout, respectively. Nevermind the other candidates around the league. As far as the Yankees are concerned this year, the most exciting part of the awards voting will be seeing where Tanaka and Betances finish behind Abreu for the Rookie of the Year award. Jeter’s possible Comeback Player of the Year and Ellsbury’s possible Gold Glove are the only other items of note.

Must Read Link: Derek Jeter story in NY Mag

You may have seen this already, but if not, NY Mag ran a great article that delved into Derek Jeter’s personal life, at least somewhat. The Cap’n is a very private person but he opened up a bit to author Chris Smith and photographer Chris Anderson. He spoke about his post-retirement plans, among other things. It’s an excellent piece and a must read for Yankees fans. Make sure you check it out.

Game 141: Derek Jeter Day

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

It’s hard to believe today is Derek Jeter‘s retirement ceremony. I still remember when he just came up as a rookie. It feels like … not that long ago, really. But man, it has been a long time since then. A long time with lots of hits, lots of championships, and lots of awesome moments. I think my all-time favorite Jeter moment is the Flip Play because it was so unexpected — what in the world was he doing there? You never see a shortstop on that part of the field. What a tremendously heads up play in a season-saving game.

I don’t think the Yankees will retire No. 2 this afternoon — they haven’t said anything about the ceremony, it’s all a secret — and will instead save it for sometime in the future. Just a hunch. Retiring No. 42 for Mariano Rivera last year was a special case because it was already retired. I’m sure the team will give him some amazing gifts and there will be a few great speeches, and I’m sure there will be something unexpectedly awesome as well. Like Metallica showing up for Mo’s ceremony. Something like that but obviously not exactly that.

Today’s ceremony will begin at 12:30pm ET, according to the Yankees. You’ll be able to watch on YES locally and TBS nationally, plus I believe it will be streamed online at MLB.com. Maybe even MLB.tv too. Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Hideki Matsui, Gerald Williams, and Tim Raines are among the confirmed special guests, plus there are a bunch of others who have not been announced. Rumor has it Michael Jordan will be in the house. He was at the U.S. Open yesterday, so if nothing else, he is in town at the moment.

As for this afternoon’s game, it is scheduled to begin at 1:35pm ET and, again, you can watch on YES locally and TBS nationally. It is also the free MLB.tv game of the day. Here is the Royals lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. 2B Martin Prado
  4. RF Carlos Beltran
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 1B Mark Teixeira
  7. DH Stephen Drew
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. LF Ichiro Suzuki
    RHP Shane Greene

It was overcast all morning but the weather cleared up wonderfully for the afternoon — temperatures in the upper-70s and lots of sunshine. Perfect weather for the ceremony. Enjoy the day.

Yankees at their best when Jeter is the DH

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

For the fourth time in the last nine games, Derek Jeter started at DH last night. That comes after he started only four of the team’s first 121 games at DH. Carlos Beltran‘s elbow injury relegated him to full-time DH duty for a few weeks, but even when Beltran was on the disabled list, Jeter was still playing shortstop every day while guys like Alfonso Soriano and Brian McCann got regular turns at DH. All these recent starts at DH are a change of pace for the Cap’n.

Joe Girardi, naturally, isn’t making too much of it. He simply chalked it up to giving a veteran player some extra rest late in the season when the opportunity presents itself. Here’s what he told Chad Jennings prior to last night’s game:

“I’m in the mode that I’m just taking it day by day,” Girardi said. “But with Carlos being able to go into the outfield once in a while, it gives me more flexibility to do this. … We’ve had some long stretches. We have a lot of lefties coming up the next five days after today where he’s going to play (probably at shortstop), so try to give him a little blow when I can. And I thought today was probably a good day. Two plane flights in two days, and as I said, we have day games after night games, so we’re going to need him in there a lot.”

“I don’t think I can play him much more than I’ve played him,” Girardi said. “He’s played in all but about 10 games maybe, maybe a few more than that, but there was a time when he missed three because his leg was bothering him. But when you get in these long stretches, these 13-game stretches, I’ve usually given him on day off. And that might be all he gets in this.”

Jeter is completely unfazed by the starts at DH — “I don’t know how many times I’ve done it … My job is to come here, and when I’m in the lineup, play,” he told Jennings — and that isn’t surprising at all. The Yankees have used that DH spot as something of a revolving door to rest their older players over the years, a practice that has caught on around the league. The full-time DH like David Ortiz is a dying breed. Jeter, McCann, Beltran, and Zelous Wheeler (!) have all started a game at DH at some point in the last week, so the revolving door is in full effect.

At this point though, the best Yankees team doesn’t have a revolving door at DH. The best Yankees team right now, in late-August and September of 2014, has Jeter at DH full-time. He hasn’t hit at all this month — .222/.237/.278 in August even after last night’s 2-for-4 — but you and I both know the Yankees aren’t going to drop him in the lineup, let alone take him out of the lineup entirely. Not with only a month of regular season baseball left in his career.

The best thing the Yankees can do at this point is take Jeter out of the field and play Stephen Drew, the far superior defender, at shortstop. The trade-off for the improved infield defense is Drew’s weak bat — he’s over 200 plate appearances now, so “he didn’t have a proper Spring Training” is no longer a valid excuse for his lack of production — as well as Beltran’s awful right field defense, though the latter is a small issue thanks to the ground ball heavy pitching staff. Well, everyone in the rotation except Michael Pineda is a ground baller. Prioritizing outfield defense makes sense when he’s on the mound.

We all know turning Jeter into a full-time DH just isn’t going to happen. He’ll still see his fair share of time in the field, but he started four of the last nine games at DH and that seems like a decent framework going forward, no? I mean, there are only 32 games left in the season. Four out of nine works out to 14 games at DH and 18 at short the rest of the way. The Yankees are still in the race for the second wildcard spot (despite their best efforts in the summer months) and improving the defense by giving Jeter more time at DH the last 32 games makes sense.

All of this is contingent on Beltran’s elbow, obviously. If he can’t play right field, he’ll play DH regularly and Jeter will play shortstop, end of story. If that is not the case though, if that third cortisone shot makes Beltran’s elbow a non-issue these next four and a half weeks, the Yankees could have him and Jeter essentially split their time between DH and the field. Work it around Pineda’s pitching schedule, off-days, the opposing starter (no Drew against lefties, etc.), whatever. The best Yankees team right now has less Jeter in the field and it seems like they’ve acknowledged that these last nine games. Now they just have to continue doing it.

Cashman confirms Yankees do not have interest in Dan Uggla

While talking with reporters yesterday, Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees do not have any interest in Dan Uggla. The Braves gave Uggla his unconditional release yesterday even though there is roughly $19M left on his contract. “I don’t see where he’d fit, to be honest,” said the GM to Bryan Hoch.

Uggla, 34, hit .162/.241/.231 (35 wRC+) with two homers in 145 plate appearances before his release. He’s put up a .175/.295/.332 (79 wRC+) line in 682 plate appearances over the last two years. Uggla doesn’t even hit left-handers at this point (60 wRC+ from 2013-14) and he’s a bad defender with no versatility (hasn’t play anywhere other than second in a decade). He’s an unrosterable player. He brings nothing to the table other than name value. Next.