The Phil Hughes Dilemma

It’s amazing it has come to this, but the Yankees are going to lose Phil Hughes after this season and receive nothing in return. Before the 2013 season started, I think everyone expected that however Hughes pitched, he would pitch well enough that the Yankees could easily offer him arbitration and therefore receive a draft pick if he left, secure in the knowledge that he wouldn’t take it. Now, I don’t think they can make that gamble. If they offered him arbitration, I think he would absolutely accept it and then the Yankees would be on the hook to pay him around $14-million next year. You can argue he would turn it down, but  a 4-13 record with a 5-ish ERA isn’t going to let you break the bank and teams are going to be very reluctant to sign him if he costs them a first-round draft pick.  Hughes could take $14-million or so from the Yankees in 2014 and take another shot at putting himself in a spot for a big contract in 2015.

The Yankees can’t take that risk especially with the $189-million goal, and it most likely means they lose Hughes for nothing. If he becomes a free agent, I guarantee he will find somewhere to play where fly balls don’t fly as far as they do in the Bronx. He may take a small deal, but he will take it somewhere that can set him up for a bigger one and that won’t be New York.

So if the Yankees are going to lose him anyway at the end of the year, why not trade him for something right now? I can think of three reasons that it makes sense.

1- The Yankees would get a return, however small it may be, on Hughes

2- The Yankees woud clear his rotation spot for Adam Warren.

3- Hughes isn’t helping them win right now.

There is risk involved of course. For one thing, Warren might stink. For another, there is almost nothing left in the minors depth-wise if a starter were to get hurt. (Let’s face it, the Yankees probably would have replaced Hughes a few turns ago if they had better alternatives) But the alternative is to move Hughes to the bullpen and let him throw in low-leverage spots for the next month before slipping quietly out of town this fall.

Whatever happens, we are watching the final weeks of Hughes and Joba time with the Yankees play out in a way we once thought was impossible.

 

Ortiz and A-Rod Are Friends

Baseball is so different than it was when I was growing up.  Opposing players hug each other during BP and go out to lunch and dinner with one another.  The hate seems to be gone for the most part.  It could be my memory is distorted, but I don’t recall the kind of love today’s players show for each other back in the 80’s.  Perhaps most MLB players are so rich that little things like rivalry and winning take a backseat to friendship.

No matter, David Ortiz today expressed displeasure with Ryan Dempster hitting A-Rod on Sunday.  He said it wasn’t because he and A-Rod are friends, rather it woke up the Yankees and breathed life into the them.

If I was Dempster, I’d be steamed right now.  Ortiz did say that Dempster was a “great guy” but calling out a teammate in public is wrong.  Especially for an isolated incident vs. an ongoing, well documented issue.  By criticizing his teammate on a strategy decision, he might as well call out John Farrell for bringing Brayan Villarreal, he of the 7.5 walks per 9 innings between MLB and AAA this year, into a bases loaded tie game only to see him walk in the winning run on 4 pitches (not much of a surprise).  Or he could call out Shane Victorino for not letting a foul ball drop and instead catching allowing the game tying run to score on a sac fly.  Or myriad other examples.

So Ortiz claims his words aren’t because of his friendship with A-Rod (they reportedly did lunch on over the weekend) but rather the fallout after the plunking with the Yankees rallying to win the game.  I’m not buying it David but either way, keep your trap shut.  What good does it do to throw your teammate under the bus.  Why not pull him aside and tell him you disapproved, in private, and leave it at that.

So while it is easy for Ortiz to blame Dempster for the Yankees rallying, I think we can all point to Ortiz and blame him should the Red Sox falter down the stretch.  You can’t have it both ways David.

Closer To The Bottom

So the A-Rod saga took a number of additional twists and turns over the weekend and it only got uglier.

First we had A-Rod’s lawyers saying the Yankees covered up his injury last year while Alex played dumb with the press.

Then we had Ryan Dempster throw four times at Alex with the umpires ejecting Joe Girardi.

Finally, we had MLB try to humiliate Alex’s lawyer on TV this morning.

Nobody looks very good here folks, but let’s break it down.

For the injury news, the bottom line is why didn’t Alex file a grievance until this weekend? My suspicion is that Alex’s motivation is to force the Yankees into a corner. They can either keep sending him out there while he takes his shots at the club, or they can swallow and cut him loose paying him a fortune in the process. I imagine Alex thinks that as long as he produces, someone will be happy to give him AB’s in the majors, especially if they can pay him the league minimum. So, maybe he does get suspended for 2014. But if he hits like he has so far in 2013, someone would be willing to take a flier on him in 2015. (Miami?) All he needs is his freedom from the Yankees, which he might get if he keeps this up.

As for Dempster, I have a number of problems with what happened. First, don’t hit A-Rod because he can play while appealing a suspension under the rules that YOUR union negotiated. Change the rules? Second, you sent your message with the first pitch, you don’t need to keep trying until you actually hit him.  As a Yankees’ fan, I was actually pleased by Dempster’s actions because I think they motivated the Yankees, but what are the umpires doing warning both benches after that? I don’t blame Girardi for flipping out, his player got thrown at four times and his pitcher hadn’t done a thing. Very, very strange way to handle that.

Finally, how in the world can MLB send a letter to A-Rod’s lawyer via Matt Lauer? When Alex said MLB was out to get him, I shrugged it off, but if MLB will stoop to trying to play “gotcha” with his lawyer by using a national TV figure, I am not sure Alex is wrong to be paranoid. It was a stupid, stupid PR stunt for an organization that should be smarter.

The race to the bottom continues….

Last Laugh

If only Ryan Dempster was as good at winning as he is hitting people.  Actually wait, it took him 2 tries to really hit A-Rod (or 4 if you think pitches 2 and 3 were meant to hit him), so perhaps he isn’t good at either.  Dempster was signed in the off-season to add quality depth to the Red Sox rotation.  A 2-year deal at $13.25 per season, it was a good signing I thought at the time.  Yes, pitching in the AL East is different from other divisions but I figured he’d be a helpful component to this team.

Dempster did last night what I think many players in baseball have been wanting to do.  Fine, hit the guy, but then, please go out and finish the task at hand.  A-Rod came back to make Dempster look silly.  Not only did Dempster allow A-Rod to score after hitting him, he later gave up a home run to him.  Look, I don’t like A-Rod and the fact he is playing right now is a joke, but these are the cards that have been dealt and Dempster has to remember that PEDs or not, A-Rod is talented.  No one knows just how talented he really is as we don’t know when we are watching a clean A-Rod vs. a PEDed A-Rod, but he can hit and is always going to be at worst an above average player.

Dempster has a 4.77 ERA now and 6-9 record.  That’s not good enough and if Dempster is going to go out and make a statement like he did last night, he HAS to back it up.  Terrible outcome.  Horrible loss.

I will say that last night’s game was interesting and certainly reminiscent of Red Sox v. Yankee games of old.

We Haven’t Hit Bottom- Yet

Just when you thought you couldn’t have a lower opinion of Alex Rodriguez the news breaks that someone in Alex’s “inner circle” leaked Ryan Braun and Francisco Cervelli’s names to MLB investigators.

We won’t see the full report until 60 Minutes airs Sunday Night, but this would be a shocking turn in a sordid story. Cheating and then lying to cover it up is bad enough, but implicating other people, including a teammate, to try and take the heat of yourself is despicable.

Alex hasn’t addressed much since he came back, but he is going to have to address this.

Finally!

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees have signed Mark Reynolds. This means the Yankees finally have a decent platoon partner for Lyle Overbay. Overbay has hit .271/.321/.466 vs. RHP this year, but only .205/.252/.314 vs. LHP. Reynolds has hit .215/.333/.411 vs LHP this year and .237/.363/.480 against them in his career. He can also play third, in case you know who disappears for whatever reason….

So the Yankees finally have a lineup that can do some damage against LHP.  It took way too long to assemble it and it is probably too late to change the course of 2013, but the Yankees have a chance to do some damage over the final stretch of the season. Let’s see if they can.

What’s Going To Happen?

I am really curious to see what happens when Alex Rodriguez steps to the plate tonight. I think there could be three different reactions.

1- The St. Louis/San Francisco reception. He gets a standing ovation because fans hate cheaters, but only cheaters on other teams. You have to support your cheater.

2- The every other ballpark in the league reception. He gets booed unmercifully.

3- The LA reaction. The fans haven’t entered the ballpark by the time he steps to the plate, or they don’t really react at all because they are checking out their hair.

I certainly hope it isn’t #1 or #3. And while I would understand #2, I would like to see Yankees fans get creative with expressing their scorn. I would like to see two things happen.

1- In the Top of the First when the roll call happens, I hope the Bleacher Creatures simply skip chanting A-Rod’s name. That would be a neat form of protest.

2- Whenever he comes to hit, I hope all the fans just get up and walk to the concession stands or turn their backs SILENTLY on A-Rod. Can you imagine that? Alex gets introduced and everyone simply ignores him? That would be the perfect reaction in my mind. Save the boos for the next time he comes to the plate.

Whatever happens, I suspect most of us will be watching.

The Kids Are Alright

Took a trip over to Staten Island today to check out the ballpark and the young kids on the Staten Island Yankees. If you live in the area, it is well worth the trip for the views from your seats alone. Over the outfield wall you can see downtown Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor in all of its glory. It’s a spectacular view.

The talent is pretty good, at least it was today. My chief focus was on first round pick, Eric Jagielo. Unfortunately, he only DH’ed, so I didn’t see him in the field, but he put on a show with the bat. In the first he did a nice job with a runner on third and one out in getting him home with a sac fly. In the 4th he hit a bomb to dead center than only the wind kept in the ballpark. In the fifth, he hit another bomb for a double, driving in two runs with two outs, and in the 7th he had a double down the firstbase line. I was impressed and can definitely see why the Yankees drafted him.

Fifth round pick, David Palladino made the start. He is a big kid, 6’8″ and he threw hard. (A scout told me mid-90’s with his fastball) Problem is, it looked pretty straight and his changeup wasn’t fooling anyone. What impressed me was his curve. He had a big bender and he wasn’t afraid to throw it at any point. Keep an eye on him.

A pitcher who really impressed me was 7th rounder, Nick Rumbelow. He got the save with a perfect ninth and looked great. He struck out the first two guys and then got the final one on a weak pop up that he called for himself.

28th round pick, Tyler Garrison was very good behind the plate, catching a good game and handling a sometime wild pitching staff effectively.

On the down side, eighth round pick, Brandon Thomas looked terrible at the plate, striking out four times and popping out to the catcher.

It was a fun time overall and as my Sister said as we left the ballpark, “It was nice to see the Yankees win a game again”. Ain’t that the truth.

The Appeal Is In

As expected, Alex has appealed his 211 game suspension. Now we wait for the hearing and the decision, but it sounds like we won’t have a final answer until November. That has big implications for the Yankees.

If the decision isn’t handed down until November, any suspension will be applied to the 2014 season (and possibly beyond). With his signing bonus, Alex is slated to make $26-million next year or $160,493.83 per game.

So a 50-game suspension would save the Yankees $8,024,691

A 100-game suspension would save the Yankees $16,049,383

A 150-game suspension would save the Yankees $24,074,074

Or to put it another way.

50 games saves them Derek Jeter’s 2014 salary

100 games saves them Hideki Kuroda’s potential salary

150 games saves them Robinson Cano’s potential salary plus a couple of million for another player.

In the quest to get to $189-million this is all very good news.

Of course the downside is that we have to watch and discuss all of this for another few months.

Back To Baseball

That PED thing sure was fun, wasn’t it? Now I am going to focus on the actual team for a little bit.

Since the All-Star Break, the Yankees haven’t won a series. They are 6-10 and the solid starting pitching of the first half has deserted them. It’s a small sample of course, but Yankee starters in the second half have a 4.89 ERA compared to a 3.96 ERA in the first half. Of major concern, three-fifths of the rotation, Sabathia, Hughes and Pettitte all have ERA’s closer to 5 than to 4 for the season and they have been getting worse for awhile now.

The problem is, there are not a lot of alternatives right now. Both Phelps and Pineda are going to see Dr. Ahmad today. Vidal Nuno is on the DL in AAA and the rest of the rotation in Scranton is a mess. In fact between Scranton and Trenton the Yankees have only one pitcher younger than 28, with 10 starts this year, and an ERA under 4. That’s really bad. So the rotation is ” Kuroda and Nova and then it’s ovah.”

A look at the standings paints a grim picture. They are 9-1/2 back from the division and 5 back from the second wild card. Coolstandings puts their playoff odds at 3.4%.  We can certainly expect the offense to improve with Granderson and that other guy back in the lineup, But unless the pitching improves a lot, it’s hard to see how the Yankees get back into the playoff picture.