Mark Teixeira

Of all the offensive players available this offseason, Tex is clearly the class of the bunch.  He can hit and he plays a great firstbase.  Adding him to the the Yankees lineup would easily replace Giambi and upgrade the defense at the sametime. 

But, there is an inherent problem with signing Mark, you plug up first for the forseeable future.  Heading into 2009 the Yankees have a logjam of players who have positional questions hanging over them.  Will Posada be able to catch regularly?  Will Matsui be able to do anything except DH?  And longer term, they will need to find a position for Derek Jeter soon. 

On the other side, both Damon and Matsui enter the last year of their deals in 2009, which means in 2010 Posada could be a fulltime DH if needed.  That makes signing Teixeria doable, but there is one more factor to consider, his agent.  Boras is going to try and get a big deal for his player and it is important to remember that Mark will be 29 next season.  Signing him for more than six years is going to create problems down the road.  I just don’t think Boras will settle for that, but if for some reason he does, the Yankees should and probably will be the high bidder.   

Reports of the Red Sox Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Lifeless, quiet and stunned.  That is a fairly decent description of both the Red Sox players and their fans.  There was nothing.

In the 7th, I told myself someone has to do something special to keep this series alive.  Well, many Red Sox stepped forward.  David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jonathan Papelbon, Coco Crisp, Justin Masterson and J.D. Drew again.

Now let’s be real here, the Red Sox head back to Tampa Bay down 2-3.  Not a pretty picture, but, to dust off a well used cliché, the Red Sox need to take it one game at a time.  There was a momentum change and a boost in confidence for Boston.  They need to keep it going.

A fantastic game, coming back from 7-0 deficit, but much work remains.

Got Them Where They Want Them

First off, sorry to not post more frequently during this ALCS, but I’ve been moving around a bit and frequently find myself without internet access.

On to the ALCS:

Boston hasn’t hit and hasn’t pitched.  That basically sums up their performance since game 2 (not that they hit much in game 1).  David Ortiz is lost, Jacoby Ellsbury is lost, Jason Varitek remains lost, Kotsay, Drew, Lowrie, all lost!  the only ones producing are Pedroia, Bay and Youkilis and to a lesser extent, Coco Crisp.

As a team the Red Sox are hitting .232/.323/.415 in the ALCS.  Not good.

But surely their pitching has been good, right?  No.  7.17 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP.  Ugly.

Well, we can go on and on about who is doing what and what the underlying issues are, but that is a waste of time.  The fact is, the Red Sox seem to do this to themselves in every post-season.  2003, down 0-2 to the A’s in the ALDS.  2004, down 0-3 to the Yankees in the ALCS.  2007, down 1-3 to the Indians (after winning game 1).  Why do they let it get to this point?  The Red Sox are a good team, why such a flop in crucial games?  Why make life so difficult?

The good news about the aforementioned series is that they did come back in all 3 to win the series in question and in 2 of the 3 years, went on to win the World Series.

But doing it again would be going to the well one too many times.  I mean, there is no way they can come back again, right?  An absurd thought, correct?

We’ll find out tonight and hopefully Friday Saturday and Sunday too.  Daisuke Matsuzaka is on the mound and will try to actually pitch well unlike his fellow starters Josh "I’m healthy" Beckett, Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield.

As for Terry Francona, I was frustrated with his decision making in game 2, but there was nothing he could have done in games 3 and 4.  The Red Sox players just stunk.

These are maddeningly frustrating times (as in Joe Maddon).  Man it would be sweet to see this team put it together tonight with good lead-off hitting and table-setting, good middle of the line-up hitting and productive at bats from the bottom third.  In other words, just seeing the Red Sox play how they’re capable would be rewarding.

Tampa Bay is a good team, so no matter how well the Red Sox play, it is likely to be tough, but at least go down with a fight.

Bye Bobby

Bobby Meacham is out as the third base coach in a move that is clearly a shot across Girardi’s bow.  Meacham was his friend and coached for him in Florida.  After the season, Girardi even said that he didn’t anticipate any changes to his coaches.  Apparently, Cashman felt differenly and he fired Meacham.

I can’t argue with the move, Meacham wasn’t good at all, but it will be very interesting to see who gets the third base job.  If the Yankees hire Willie Randolph for it, Girardi better win and win big next year or you will have #30 managing the club.

This Makes No Sense

I was looking at the ALCS and NLCS schedules last night and realized something, they are different from the World Series.  My apologies for being a year late on this (they added an extra day in 2007) but how can baseball do this? MLB has added an extra day to both series so they now have a scheduled off-day between Games 4 and 5.  Yet, in the World Series, the biggest stage for baseball, no such off-day exists.

I don’t understand the logic here, why use it in one series and not another?  In the LCS, a team could pitch a starter three times by using him in Game 1, then Game 4 on short rest and then Game 7 on full rest.  In the World Series that can only be done by using the pitcher on short rest twice.  It seems crazy to operate under two sets of rules.

The reason has to be TV.  I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect it was done to allow the networks to put more games into primetime.  By having only one game on a given night, which they accomplish up to eight times with this system,  the networks increase exposure.  The thing is, I think they kill the momentum of a series.  The Phillies staged a great comeback last night and after Game 3’s testiness, people are into the series.  It would be fun to see if they can finish the job tonight.  But, thanks to the new schedule, there will be an off-day today and if the Dodgers win, another one on Thursday.  That means one game in three days, not exactly the way to keep everyone interested.  The same thing will happen in the ALCS if they go beyond five games. 

Maybe TV should stop worrying about trying to create drama and just let it happen.  They have had some bad luck this postseason with their best story (The Cubs) getting swept in the first round and not having any of the first round series go the distance.  If the Dodgers get eliminated, they will lose another big story, not that any of us will feel sorry for them.   

 

You Had To Know This Would Happen

This story from MLB.com checks in on Scott Proctor.  Not surprisingly, he is having elbow surgery shortly.

I love Joe Torre, but he has not done right by Proctor.  I hope he makes sure that Scott gets a big contract in the future, the guy has earned it.

Airing of Grievances

A quick check-in after game 2.  Terry Francona has been a wonderful coach and certainly his body of work with the Red Sox speaks for itself.  But last night was clearly an off-night for the Red Sox manager.

First off, Josh Beckett is broken right now.  He is firing on only 5 of 6 cylinders right now (using my car as an example, 1 of 2 cylinders).  While I can’t fault Francona for running Beckett out there last night, I can fault him for keeping him out there.  It was fairly evident that he didn’t have his fastball (topping out at 92-93, a good 2-4 off the norm) and general game presence.

Why then did he insist on keeping Beckett on the mound?  The Red Sox fought back twice to retake the lead only to have Beckett give it up again.  By the 3rd inning, Francona should have had enough.  Paul Byrd was sitting in the bullpen just ready to be asked to come in and help.  But no call came.  Why is he on the team?  This would have been the best opportunity to use him.

Byrd wouldn’t have provided any guarantees, but he would have been a change of pace and perhaps a better option.  But Francona pushed the issue until the Red Sox again were behind.

Ok, on to the last inning of the game.  Mike Timlin in for the Red Sox.  Wait, why?  Why Timlin?  He has been bad all year and is not a MLB caliber pitcher anymore.  In fact, his last season has been a nightmare.  You always want players you respect and pulled for to go gracefully into the night, well, Timlin isn’t doing that.  He has been a disaster and lost 2 big games at the hands of the Rays this year, last night’s being the bigger of the two.

But Timlin is a pitcher and he wants to pitch, it is Francona who needed to tell Timlin that he wasn’t going to be a part of the post-season.  Instead, for whatever reason, he not only put Timlin on the roster, he gave him the ball in extra-innings.  Disaster.

I know Francona to be good and I expect he’ll continue to be good, but he needs to know that last night’s handling of the pitching staff was dreadful.

Back to Boston for game 3, 4 & 5.

Offense

Look at the difference between the 2007 and 2008 Yankees and you can chalk up the win differential on the lack of offense.  There are plenty of reasons for that, from a terrible season by Robinsn Cano to way too many AB’s for Cabrera and Molina.  Let’s look at the current 40-man and talk about who comes back and who has to go.

Catchers:  The Yankees ended the season with five catchers on their 40-man and they will cut that down to 3 immediately.   Chad Moeller and Ivan Rodriguez will be allowed to depart and that leaves the team with Posada, Molina and Cervelli.  Now, the Yankees will keep all three, but they need to look long and far for a better backup than Molina.  Yes, Molina is wonderful with the pitchers, but he can’t hit and he isn’t, how should I put this, "built" to play everyday.  Remember, Posada is coming to camp off of shoulder surgery.  The Yankees would love him to catch 120 games next year, but that may not be realistic.  The problem is, nobody will know what Posada can and can’t do until he makes it to camp.  Counting on him to be the regular cacther is a risky move.

Infielders: We know Jeter and A-Rod are back and beyond that you have a lot of questions.  I would look around and see if there are better bench players than Betemit, Duncan and Ransom.  All three of them are flawed players, but the Yankees don’t have anything in the minors better right now.  That will hopefully change towards the end of the year when the promising players in AA in 2008 do well in 2009, but for now the best idea is to probably just bring the three of them back and sit tight.

Juan Miranda is an interesting guy, buy I don’t know his real age and he hasn’t hit for enough power in the minors to give him a job out of camp. 

And that brings us to Jason Giambi.  There are some compelling reasons to bring Jason back, most of all his patience at the plate.  But, with Posada and Matsui coming off of surgery and Giambi useless at first, the Yankees have to free up his spot and let him go.  They will miss his bat, but deleting him from the roster gives them flexibility.  

Outfielders: Hideki Matsui is the only lock to come back and that is because no one will take him off of knee surgery.  Matsui has volunteered to bring a first baseman’s glove to camp and Brian Cashman should let him.  Flexibility is great and not having to use Matsui as a DH everyday would be a plus.

Damon and Nady should be back, but the Yankees shouldn’t be afraid to trade either of them in the right deal.  Most likely they are staying and you can pencil them in for left and right, though it should be remembered that Nady played first before.

There is no reason not to give Gardner, Christian and Cabrera another shot, though Gardner is probably the only one who can still be called a prospect.  Cabrera went backwards in 2008 and it is doubtful the Yankees would get much from him on the trade market.  Christian is too old to be a prospect, but his speed could help a team off the bench (assuming he learns how to avoid getting picked off)

Gardner is the most interesting guy because it is still unclear what he is.  One interesting pattern with Gardner has been his tendency to struggle when he comes to a new level and then it clicks for him.  He was awful in July and then hit a little bit in September.  Giving him the CF job is a big risk, but the Yankees may want to take a shot.  Austin Jackson is clearly the future, but he won’t be ready probably until 2010.  With Jackson in the system, signing or trading for a centerfielder doesn’t make a ton of sense.  Can Gardner handle 150 games in center?  I don’t know if anyone can answer that question.

Last is Bobby Abreu, who had a very nice offensive season and a terrible defensive one.  Losing Giambi and Abreu from the lineup would be big losses and I think the Yankees should offer Bobby arbitration.  If he accepts it, you bring him back for one year, which isnt a huge risk.  (Remember Nady has played first) If he doesn’t, the more likely scenario, you get draft picks.  To me that’s a win-win, I wouldn’t do anything else lke trying to sign him to a new deal.   

That’s three more off the 40-man and possibly more if there are some better infield options out there.  We will start talking about free agents soon.   

On To Round 2

The Red Sox beat the best team in baseball last night and they didn’t deserve to.  Just ask the Angels.

They managed to take 3 of 4 from LA and while it wasn’t pretty, it worked.

The irony of last night’s game was that Mike Scioscia, who has the reputation of being a master of manufacturing runs, went to the well one too many times.  In the 9th inning, with a man on 3rd and 1 out, Scioscia ordered a squeeze.  The problem, as most of know by now is that the Angels’ Erick Aybar missed the pitch allowing Jason Varitek to tag the runner out before getting to third.

The squeeze is one of those plays that when it works against your team, it just feels awful (I’m writing from a fan’s perspective), but when it blows up in the oppositions face, well, there’s a feeling of "serves you right."  I guess it’s the macho notion that runs should be scored via slugging, not bunting.  That being said, I have no problem with the squeeze as a legitimate method of scoring, but the primitive part of me thinks it’s inherently wrong.

Now if I’m the Angels players, I would be very upset, they did win 100 regular season games and probably had high expectations.  Most of them spoke of being angry and frustrated about the loss.  Pitcher John Lackey took it a step further "It’s way different than last year. We are way better than they are. We lost to a team not as good as us."

Lackey went on to say, "[Referring to Sunday’s game] they scored on a pop fly they called a hit, which is a joke. "[Tonight], they score on a broken-bat ground ball and a fly ball anywhere else in America. And [Pedroia’s] fist-pumping on second like he did something great."

Classy Lackey, classy.  I know you are angry, but try being mature, or maybe that’s as mature as you get.

No matter the outcome of the 2008 season for the Red Sox, it should be interesting when the Red Sox face Lackey in 2009.  I think Pedroia will try to mix it up a bit.  Perhaps by using the Trot Nixon "oops the bat slipped out of my hands while swinging and whizzed right by your head" technique.  We shall see.

On to Tampa Bay.  This series should be exciting and difficult.  More on that later.

Notes:  Mike Lowell was removed from the active roster because of his hip.  In yet another example Red Sox management reads this site, they acted on a specific recommendation that I made.  Yes, I know all…some…very little…whatever.

Lowell was not helping the team and it just makes sense to let him heal.  Lowell fully endorsed the move recognizing that his physical condition made playing baseball effectively unlikely.

Lowell was replaced on the active roster by Gil Velazquez.  It is near impossible Velazquez finds himself in this situation.  As a non hitting career minor leaguer, Velazquez has turned his talents with his glove into a playoff roster spot.  Wow.  At 28 years old (29 in 10 days), he toiled in the minors until September of this year.  A good story, but I’m certainly hoping I don’t see him play an inning unless it is in a blow-out.

Round 2.

Slump

Dustin Pedroia: 0-13

Mike Lowell: 0-8

David Ortiz: 3-13

Jason Varitek: 2-11

Total: 5-45 = .111

Those 4 hitters are collectively hitting .111 thus far in the ALDS.  That isn’t good, is it.

The Red Sox were not good last night and the only reason they got the game into extra innings was because of a colossal error (rule a hit) by the Angels that allowed 3 runs to score on a single.

Terry Francona needs to tell Mike Lowell that he is a great guy, but he can’t play baseball right now.  Jed Lowrie at 3rd, Cora at SS or Youkilis to 3rd, Kotsay or Casey to 1st.  No way Lowell can play.  He is at 60% tops.  His body is a mess and more importantly, he cannot hit with his hip condition.  His defense is important, but even that is limited right now.  Sit him Terry.

Tonight we see a rematch of game one.  It is too bad the Red Sox couldn’t finish the job last night as having Lester to start game one of the ALCS would have been great.  Now the Red Sox need to focus on tonight’s game as there is no way they want to go back to Anaheim.