Yankees

Trouble Ahead!

On the surface, facing David Price tonight might be the best thing for the Yankees’ moribund offense. After all, Price sports a 5.76 ERA and has been pretty lucky to win three games so far this year.

But don’t be fooled by the ERA, he has also been the victim of some extremely bad luck. Pick your advanced stat, but I like FIP, which takes the fielding out of ERA, and his FIP is 2.38. That’s in large part to his insane strikeout ratio of 14.0 per 9, but it is validated by the fact that Price has a BABIP of .386. So if Price pitches like he has so far this season the Yankees are in deep trouble and a shutout is on the table.

If they lose tonight they will fall to 8-15. That’s pretty ugly, but not an anomaly. I’ve been away and have some thoughts about why this is happening. I will share them tomorrow.

 

A Peek Behind The Curtain

I wasn’t around this weekend, but if you missed Michael Powell’s article detailing the ways the Yankees used public financing to build their new ballpark, you should read it now. It’s a potent reminder of how much of that palace was paid for by we the taxpayers.

I love the Yankees and will always support them on the field, but they are a bloodless business machine. Pretty much every professional team is, but the Yankees are really good at it. From $12 beers, $20 for five sliders with french fries, $30 hats, to the incredibly expensive tickets, the new place is a cash machine for Yankee ownership. The Yankees could put some of that back into the community and the city, rip up the tax-exempt financing they received, and pay some property taxes, but they won’t.

That’s the deal we make as sports fans and it is good to remember it. When Hal Steinbrenner says he doesn’t believe you need a $200-million payroll to win a championship he is really saying “I don’t want to spend $200-million on payroll because that is money I could keep in my pocket.” If he ever achieves that goal, do not expect ticket prices to decline or concessions to get cheaper. The owners are the hammers and we are the nails. That’s reality.

Sizzle Not Steak

The Yankees are signing Nick Swisher to a minor league deal with a June 15th opt-out. This move is getting a lot of ink, but it really shouldn’t.

It’s amazing how circular history can be- consider Swisher. In 2012 he was the Yankees’ right fielder and did a great job- .273/.364/.473- while switch-hitting and playing decent defense. The Yankees let him walk in exchange for a draft pick. That draft pick became Aaron Judge, the right fielder of the future.

Back to today and this move is essentially a no-risk lottery ticket. Swisher hasn’t hit in the past two years and he really can’t play the outfield anymore. His only potential use is as a first baseman and the Yankees are never going to use him unless Mark Teixeira gets hurt. If that happens, they have Swisher in the minors possibly ready to go and play first. If it doesn’t, Swisher probably leaves after June 15th for brighter pastures.

Let’s Overreact!

I get it, the media has air time to fill and column inches that need print, but the conclusions drawn three games into the season are pretty hysterical. The NY Press is up in arms that no Yankee starter has made it through six innings yet. But thankfully the bats are exploding. Maybe we could wait for some warmer weather and a few more games before we worry/exalt either of those facts?

But the biggest jump based on shaky reasoning has to be with Starlin Castro. Castor is now either Rogers Hornsby or Joe Morgan, maybe better. Yes, he has had an amazing three games, but again, THREE GAMES! And some of the stuff people are saying about it is just laughable. On YES they keep going on about how he is doing it in spite of the weather. Last I checked, Chicago in April isn’t exactly warm, so he might be somewhat used to the weather? Furthermore, look at Castro’s career. Guess which month is his best offensively? That’s right, April. He hits .324/.347/.459 in April. Over his entire career he is a  .282/.321/.407 hitter. I don’t think it is a faulty conclusion that this guy usually gets off to a good start.

I like Castro. This video with him cracks me up. (Though I think Didi steals the show with his head movements) I think Castro is going to have a fine season for the Yankees, but he isn’t going to become Robinson Cano in his prime. That’s ok,the average second baseman in the AL hit .262./.317/.402 last year. Castro has better career numbers than that, so if he can produce as he has in his career, and play solid defense at second, the Yankees will have an above-average player at second. After two years of watching Roberts and Drew play second, that will be thrilling for the fans as well.

On to Detroit.

Stupid Stuff

Three dumb things that I want to talk about.

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9/11 was such an intensely personal event for all New Yorkers and a lot of us took refuge in sports. Ten days after that horrible day the Mets became the first team to play a home game in NYC. It was an incredibly emotional night and when Mike Piazza put the Mets ahead in the 8th with a home run, the crowd erupted in “USA” chants. It was a really great moment. Piazza later signed the jersey he wore and gave it to the Mets for safe keeping.

Well, the Mets SOLD it. It just came to light that the jersey is now being auctioned off by the person who bought it. The Mets originally claimed a mistake was made and the jersey wasn’t meant to be sold, but the jersey was authenticated by the team. Piazza is incredibly upset, as are a lot of people who can’t believe the Mets would be so stupid.

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John Oliver makes a living skewering people and he turned his attention to the Yankees. Specifically, their high-handedness when it comes to Legends Seating and their attempts to keep the ‘riff-raff” out of it. Oliver decided a way to level the playing field, albeit temporarily, was to buy three sets of Legends seats and sell them to people for 25-cents each. The one condition was they had to send him a picture of what they would be wearing in the seats, and the more outlandish, the better.

That’s how two guys dressed as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ended up right behind home plate yesterday. The contest continues tonight and tomorrow, so keep an eye right behind home and see what shows up. It is a pretty hilarious bit by Oliver, you have to give him credit.

Thankfully, the Yankees didn’t take the bait, the turtles got to enjoy the game. But the Yankees need to act more humbly. I detailed the real reason behind the paper ticket ban in February and yesterday people had to walk a pretty far distance because of that. The Yankees are in this to make money, that is never in question, but they should be smarter about it and think about their image every now and then.

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Finally an on the field incident. Baseball has a rule problem and Joe Girardi and the chief umpire yesterday agree on the solution. Let’s review.

Carlos Correa hits a weak grounder towards first. Betances grabs it and turns to throw to first, but Correa is running inside the baseline and on the grass so he can’t see the firstbaseman.   Betances tries to loft it over Correa, but throws it into right. Girardi claims obstruction, but is overruled because the umpires can’t judge whether it was simply a bad throw or if Betances was actually hindered.

That all makes sense, but the solution, which Girardi and umpire Dana DeMuth agreed on is pretty radical- drill the runner in the back. Girardi wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea, comparing it to an assault. DeMuth said the following:

“Do it. Throw it into the runner’s back. Because then what’s happening? He is impeding.”

Now, you could argue that this is similar to the double-play grounder to second. Why does the runner going into second slide? Primarily because the fielder is going to whip a throw right into their chest if they don’t. Think about it, if you weren’t worried about getting drilled in the chest with the ball, it would make more sense to stand up all the way through the play and obstruct the fielder’s view of first.But you are, so you slide and hope to get into the fielder’s legs to disrupt the throw. I suspect that if you were worried about getting drilled in the back, you wouldn’t run inside the baseline, but that seems like a bad way to handle this. Baseball needs a better way, anyone have any suggestions?

 

Opening Lineup

We have an official lineup and Brett Gardner isn’t in it. The lineup is:

Ellsbury

Hicks

A-Rod

Teixeira

Beltran

McCann

Headley

Castro

Gregorius

While I am not surprised that Girardi decided to put Hicks in against a tough lefty, I am surprised he put him 2nd. And, it is interesting how he has put two switch-hitters back-to-back and Didi in the 9th spot. I wonder if this is just an Opening Day alignment and things will be different in Game 2, or if this is the basic lineup with Gardner normally in for Hicks? Stay tuned.

 

Christmas Is Cancelled!

The home opener has been postponed, due to the return of winter in NYC. Seriously, it is nasty out there this morning, so there is no way to argue with this.

Personally however, this stinks. I had tickets and was really looking forward to a day of baseball, and then a night of rooting on UNC in the finals. Plus, I can’t go to the make up tomorrow.

But again it is the right call, 45 and rainy is not baseball weather, and kudos to the Yankees for doing it two-plus hours before the gates were due to open. That should prevent most people from even heading towards the Stadium.

 

Almost Set

The Yankees have almost finished their roster construction, surprisingly the biggest question still remaining is who is the 5th starter?

We know that the competition was between Sabathia and Nova, and both have finished their springs, but we still don’t have an answer. All Girardi will say is that the Yankees are not going to use six starters.

Austin Romine is officially the backup catcher and Ronald Torreyes is the last guy on the bench. Torreyes is interesting as he has played short, second, third, and left field in his career, giving the Yankees plenty of flexibility. The Yankees traded for him, then waived him, then signed him back this offseason. I suspect his tenure in the bigs will be based in large part on what Refsnyder does in AAA at third base.

Another interesting note is that the Yankees are taking Luis Cessa and putting him in the big league pen. Cessa earned a spot with his pitching, but with Mitchell now on the DL, the starter depth at AAA is perilously thin. The bullpen, assuming Miller can pitch with his broken hand, will start the year as Betances, Miller, Shreve, Barbato, the loser of the 5th starter competition, and Cessa. Add one more player to replace Mitchell and you have the starting roster.

We know Chapman will be back May 9th, but I suspect the Yankees will be actively promoting and demoting players as needed in the bullpen. Barbato, Cessa, and Shreve all have options and could therefore ride the Scranton Shuttle frequently this year

In about 80 hours Tanaka will be delivering his first pitch of the season. I can’t wait!

Uh-Oh-UPDATED

Reports are that Andrew Miller got hit by a comebacker on his right wrist and left today’s game in pain.  I will update this post as details become available.

UPDATE(12pm)- Strangely my update from last night seems to have failed. Either way, Miller has a broken bone, but he plans on trying to pitch through it. He still needs to see a hand specialist to confirm he can do that.

The news is not so good on Bryan Mitchell.  He has a Grade 3 turf toe which basically means he will be out about three months. Mitchell had pitched really well this spring and was in line to make a lot of contributions out of the bullpen.

What A Trade That Would Have Been-UPDATED

Buried deep in this story is a nugget about Jeffrey Loria and his love of Derek Jeter. In the late 90’s he ordered his GM to get Jeter no matter what. His GM called up Brian Cashman and offered Pedro Martinez and Vlad Guerrero. Brian Cashman replied that he couldn’t trade Jeter and that was that.

It’s delightful to think about what that trade would have meant to the Yankees. Vlad was one of the best outfielders in the game for about ten years. Pedro was apart from Randy Johnson, the most dominant pitcher of his generation. From a pure talent standpoint, the Yankees would win the trade.

But would they have won so often without Jeter? Who would have been the shortstop? Would Paul O’Neill have been traded or put in left field? Who knows, but it is fun to speculate.

UPDATE(6:37pm)- Greg provided this link in the comments section which shows that this story is a bunch of baloney. Sorry for getting anyone going on this, and thanks to Greg for setting the record straight.