This Is Stupid-UPDATED

I don’t understand what the Yankees are doing with Kevin Youkilis. They rest him for six days, start him on Saturday and then when he misses Sunday’s game they finally send him for a MRI. Why didn’t he get a MRI earlier and why are the Yankees content to play with 24 players and no backup infielder?

Think about this, who is going to play the infield if one of the starters gets hurt during a game? The answer until Friday was probably Francisco Cervelli. The Yankees could move Bosch to first, but if they need someone to cover 2B, SS or 3B, things are going to get very interesting.

There is a quick and fairly painless solution to this. They could promote Corban Joseph. He is on the 40-man roster and he is hitting well in Scranton (.272/.344/.457) and has played at second, third and first in his minor league career. But he is a lefty hitter, something the Yankees don’t particularly need right now.

But that isn’t the only option. Realistically, the guy who is getting cut if the Yankees promote a hitter is Ben Francisco. He hasn’t hit (3-for-29) and he is truly the square peg in the round hole. Let me explain. Francisco is being asked to hit lefties, but he hasn’t done that well during his entire career. In over 1500 AB’s his numbers are .754OPS vs. RHP and .720OPS vs. LHP. So why keep him? Thomas Neal is hitting well in the minors and is a righty bat who could fill Francisco’s role after the Youkilis issue is resolved. David Adams plays third and has played second in the past. He could certainly help the team right now.

Obviously, the Yankees will make a move if Youkilis’ MRI leads to a DL move but they shouldn’t wait. They can’t afford to get caught short.

UPDATE 4/30@5:45PM- Well Youkilis is headed to the DL and Joseph has been recalled. I forgot that since David Adams was released for a few days in March before being signed back by the Yankees, they cannot promote him to the 25-man roster until May 15th. I suspect that and the fact that the Yankees already need to find roster spots for Jeter, A-Rod and Pineda when they come off the 60-day DL are the reason Joseph got the call. Francisco’s spot probably gets saved until Granderson comes back.

Really?

Add two more to the DL. Francisco Cervelli has a broken hand and is out at least six weeks. Ivan Nova left the game with elbow tightness and is on the way to a MRI. Hard to believe he will escape the DL based on that. I wondered in spring training if the Yankees had some sort of hex on them and I am really starting to believe it. (Sidebar- Cervelli was not set up properly for the foul tip that broke his hand. There were no runners on, why was his hand out in front of his knee instead of behind it? I’ve never noticed if Cervelli sets up like that normally or not, but I can’t believe someone on the Yankees wouldn’t have corrected that mistake if he did.)

So what happens now? I suspect we may see a flurry of moves from the Yankees. Obviously, Phelps joins the rotation and the Yankees promote someone from AAA (probably Eppley?) if Nova hits the DL. And Austin Romine was removed mid-inning from Scranton’s game, so he is obviously on the way to the Bronx. But that may not be it. Hard not to notice that Ben Francisco isn’t exactly working out and with Youkilis still hurting I could see the Yankees bringing David Adams up as well. The Yankees could also add someone not on the 40-man without dropping Francisco because Jeter can be moved to the 60-day DL.

Whatever happens, the Yankees should hold their breath, cross their fingers and maybe consider sacrificing a chicken before their next game.

Scrapping The Plan?

Yahoo is reporting that the Yankees are going to abandon their plan to be below a payroll of $189-million next year. The article explains that one of the main reasons for the change is the fact that revenue-sharing rebates are not expected to be as much as the Yankees projected. It also breaks down the savings the Yankees could accrue if they kept their payroll at certain levels.

I am sure that the revenue-sharing component has a lot to do with this idea. (I couldn’t think of a better word as I don’t think we can call it a decision yet. Plus, why would the Yankees let anyone know what they are really going to do as it only gives leverage to players looking for big contracts?) But I really think the impetus for this change is the damage it could be doing to ticket sales.

Yankee attendance is down. In 2012, they average 43,733 fans per game. This year they are averaging exactly 6,000 less per game. Now it is April, which is traditionally the hardest month to sell tickets, and we are only talking about 10 games, but I think there is more to it than seasonal factors. I have been a partial plan ticket holder for 10 seasons and this is the first season where I have been treated reasonably well by the Yankees. In past years I would never get a chance to upgrade my tickets. This year I had a 20-minute conversation with a ticket representative and got much better seats. The flip side to the improved service is that this year it has been a real struggle to find someone interested in buying tickets that I can’t use for the games. So I think the Yankees have an attendance problem.

Watching the games on TV certainly will lead you to agree to that conclusion. They don’t seem to pan around the stadium as much as they used to, but take a look when they do. They empty seats are not just inside “the moat” anymore. Big swathes of the upper deck are empty. Again its early and school isn’t out yet, but I suspect this won’t go away when July rolls around either because this is about price and product. Yankee tickets are expensive, $20 is the cheapest seat outside of the bleachers and once inside the park everything costs a lot of money. I think fans are willing to pay those prices when they think they are going to see a winner. But subtract a winning team from the formula and suddenly a $200 night at the ballpark doesn’t seem like a great investment.

The $189-million payroll goal was always a longshot because it appeared after the Yankees had made enormous commitments to A-Rod, Teixeira and Sabathia. The Yankees still might have been able to make it if they had developed enough quality minor leaguers to replace their aging core, but they didn’t.  Think about this. If Jeter exercises his option for 2014 (an almost certainty I would think now that he is out for 1/2 the year) the Yankees have spent just about half of that $189 million for 2014 on four players. Kuroda, Pettitte, Hughes, Granderson, Cano, Logan, Youkilis, Hafner and Joba are all free agents. Gardner, Robertson, Nova, Pineda, Stewart, Cervelli, Bosch, Kelley and Nix are all arbitration eligible. Could the Yankees build a competitive team for 2014 under those conditions? I think that is the ultimate reason why the $189-million plan is probably out the window.

The $45-Million Question

Who comes back and plays for the Yankees first in 2013- Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez?

This is now a legitimate question because Derek Jeter has another ankle fracture and won’t be back until after the All-Star Break at the earliest. He took about four months off to heal the original fracture and didn’t really do much for a month after that, so I wouldn’t hold your breath for a July return.

So, Eduardo Nunez is now the everyday shortstop and the Yankees are going to find out if that is a good thing or a bad thing. On the good side, Nunez is playing a lot better defensively this year. On the bad, his bat hasn’t done anything. (Small sample size in both cases.) The problem is, if Nunez flops then what? Nix isn’t going to hit more than Nunez and Gil Velazquez (Scranton’s SS) is a career minor-leaguer who has .246/.308/.329 in 16 seasons in the minors. I don’t think there is any good answer at this point so the Yankees will just have to make do as they have been so far this season.

Prayers For Boston

I lived right in Boston for 10 years and some of my fondest memories are of Patriots’ Day. It is simply a great sports day and while I certainly didn’t root on the Red Sox, I always tried to get to the marathon course to cheer on the runners. For a number of years I worked right in Copley Square, so I would walk right across to Boylston and up a few blocks to see the runners finishing. Today that very place is the scene of terrible carnage and tragedy.

In the days ahead we will find out just how many people have died and been injured as a result of this craven attack. Whatever the final tally, it is too many and it feels futile to offer my meager  condolences and prayers to those who have lost so much. But, I also remember that in the aftermath of 9/11 how much it meant to me when people expressed their support for New York so I hope that in some small way this helps.

Boston, we are with you. Our thoughts, our prayers, our hopes and our condolences go out to you tonight.

It Keeps Getting Worse

The New York Times is reporting that MLB has evidence that Alex Rodriguez bought documents from the PED clinic in Miami that he is said to have used.

I can’t see how buying these documents would be a crime, but it certainly looks very, very bad. What reason would Alex have to buy the documents besides the fact that he didn’t want someone to see his name in them? It certainly looks like a desperate attempt to preserve his credibility and avoid a major suspension from baseball.

Alex has three choices now that this story has broken. He can stand up and deny it, essentially forcing MLB to prove that he did this. He can stay far away from the Yankees and the cameras under the guise of injury rehab and let the fallout from this hit his teammates and anyone else the press can get to. Or, he can stand up and admit to what he has been accused of doing. Does anyone care to bet that he takes option #2?

Sending a Message?

I’m not buying the Yankees explanation for skipping Ivan Nova’s turn in the rotation. Here’s Joe Girardi’s quote when asked about it:

If you start moving everyone back, then Andy is going to move back to seven days (because of Monday’s off-day) and I don’t necessarily want to do that. We’re going to probably get banged tomorrow, too. Hopefully we don’t.”

I believe the part about not wanting to push Andy Pettitte back seven days, but the Yankees could have avoided that by letting Nova pitch and skipping Phil Hughes. Instead they are going to pitch Hughes today and then CC, Kuroda and Pettitte this weekend.

Ok, so it doesn’t sound that suspicious, but here’s the thing. Phil Hughes had a major stomach bug yesterday when the Yankees announced this. in fact, Chad Jennings reported that he looked “rough” in the clubhouse and was trying to eat applesauce. Yet, the Yankees decided to skip Nova and try and start a guy who probably won’t be 100% tonight.

Why did they do that? I suspect its because Nova doesn’t seem to understand that he hasn’t been getting the job done recently. After he got hit around in Detroit last weekend he told the press, “I didn’t feel I pitched that bad” This is very similar to what he said most of the second half of 2012 when he made 11 starts and racked up an ERA of 7.05. So, I would guess that the Yankees are trying to get Nova to shut up and realize that he needs to change his definition of “not that bad”.

The thing is, the Yankees are not getting to $189 million next year without Nova in the rotation. Pettitte and Kuroda are on one-year deals for about $27-million combined. I don’t think the Yankees can afford one of them, let alone both of them. Phil Hughes is in the last year of his deal and he is either going to pitch well enough to merit an expensive contract in free agency or badly enough that the Yankees probably won’t want him in their 2014 rotation. That leaves you with Sabathia and a lot of question marks for 2014. But, an Ivan Nova who pitches around 200 innings this year with an ERA around 4 would be an answer to some of those questions. I think the Yankees are sending him a message to try and get him there.

Early Season Red Sox Observations

Interesting to see that so early in the season there are no undefeated or winless teams left.  Every team 3-1, 2-2, 1-3 or 3-2.

Red Sox observations:

Koji Uehara is awesome.  Not just that he has ridiculous control, but rather when he finishes an inning, he sprints to the dugout and enthusiastically high-fives everyone.  Amazing energy.

Johnny Gomes, when he is in the line-up, you can see he is an all out competitor.  A few years back while he was with Tampa Bay, the Devil Rays and Red Sox had a dust-up and Gomes was first into the fray.  I hated him then for that but I can see he is all about team and now that he is own the Red Sox, it’s great.  He also took issue with Shelley Duncan of the Yankees a few spring trainings ago.  That kind of player is more commonly found in the NHL.  Ken Linesman comes to mind and a more modern version is Brad Marchand.  Perhaps the latter two are more agitators but either way you hate playing against them but love them as teammates.

While this Red Sox edition has far less talent than prior years, they seem to be far more competitive.  Players like Gomes, Victorino, Uehara and Pedroia get dirty and leave it all on the field.  Less complacency.  It is refreshing to see and I think it’ll energize the fan base.  It’s only been 4 games but I’m seeing life and excitement with this squad.  If some of the younger players can develop and if some of the veterans can regain their form, we might just have a low-level playoff team.  That’s a lot of “ifs” I realize.

My original prediction on 82-88 wins stands but you never know.