Yankees

Hold On a Sec….

So the Mets aren’t quite ready to take over NYC. Yes, they could win the next two and take this series, but tonight the Yankees sent a message.

NL Rookie of the Year- they shelled him.

Eleven-game winning streak- it’s over.

Best 26-year old pitcher in NYC- your move Matt Harvey.

It’s one night and it’s certainly not conclusive, but tonight belongs to the Yankees.

Until tomorrow…..

This Will Be Fun

The Mets are coming to the Bronx and they are on an 11-game winning streak that makes them the best team in baseball.

But don’t sell the Yankees short. They went 7-3 on their most recent road trip and took 3-of-4 from the best team in the American League.

It’s still April, but this is about as good as it gets at the beginning of the season. Let’s enjoy the next three, they should be awesome.

They Needed That

Six games is not even five percent of a baseball season, but if the Yankees had lost last night, it would have been open season on the overreactions and condemnations in the press. For now, they have earned a slight reprieve.

I say slight because they are 2-4 and about to launch a 10-game road trip through Baltimore, Tampa, and Detroit. They then come home and face the Mets. If they return from their road trip further under .500 the criticism will grow louder, and if they fail to win the series from the Mets-  look out.

One example of a popular overreaction in the media is the constant trumpeting of the Yankees’ error totals. The thinking is that the nine errors the Yankees have committed show that their defense is nowhere near as good as advertised, and might even be a big weakness. To that I say nonsense.

First, it is silly to make blanket statements about anything after six games. It is even dumber when you are relying on a subjective criteria like errors to do so. Errors simply don’t tell you a lot about defense. A player with great range might bobble a ball that a player with lesser range wouldn’t even get close to. Yet the player with the better range gets the error and the other player isn’t penalized for his range deficiency at all.

A better way to judge defense is DER- Defensive Efficiency Rating, which measures the percentage of balls in play that a team converts into outs. For the Yankees, that figure current sits at 72.8%. That rate would have put them at the top of the rankings for 2014. But the sample size is way too small, so let’s table the questions about the defense for now.

And let’s avoid making other pronouncements. Sure, A-Rod has hit a lot, but are we really going to believe that he will keep doing so all season?  Yes, Drew and Didi have not hit, and Beltran looks old, but again we must beware the small sample. We simply can’t draw any intelligent conclusions at this point. What we can say is that the Yankees are 2-4. Not a good start, but not a total disaster. Let’s get through April and see where we are then.

 

Is This The Lineup?

With Jacoby Ellsbury back from injury, the Yankees are only short Didi Gregorious today. Today’s lineup is:

Gardner- LF

Ellsbury- CF

Beltran- RF

Teixeira- 1B

McCann- C

Headley- 3B

Rodriguez- DH

Drew- 2B

Ryan- SS

Put Didi in for Ryan and I suspect you have the regular lineup, but I hope I am wrong.

The Yankees are going to have a lefty problem no matter what. Gardner, Ellsbury, McCann, Drew, and Gregorious are all lefty bats, but bunching them up like this makes little sense to me. If you start the lineup with Gardner and Ellsbury and end it with Drew and Didi, you allow opposing teams the chance to bring in a lefty reliever for four-straight batters. Sure, the Yankees could counter with a pinch-hitter for Drew or Didi, but considering Ryan’s lack of hitting skills, that would probably necessitate a two-for-one swap where Young hits and Ryan comes in to field. I would prefer to see a lineup more like this:

Gardner- LF

Headley- 3B

Ellsbury- CF

Beltran- RF

McCann- C

Teixeira- 1B

Drew- 2B

Rodriguez- DH

Gregorious- SS

This breaks up the lefties as best you can, putting forth a lineup of L-S-L-S-L-S in the first six spots and then L-R-L in the bottom three. Yes, Rodriguez shouldn’t be hitting 8th behind Drew, but Torre did it almost ten years ago when he could really hit, so I don’t see the harm in it now.

The Final Stretch

Today is a weather day where I can believe Opening Day is right around the corner. In eleven days, the Yankees open their season on what will probably be a 25-degree and snowy day in the Bronx. But let’s put aside our discussion of the weather and look at the decisions left for the Yankees to make roster-wise

1- Who is the fifth starter? When camp opened it seemed that Chris Capuano would win by default. His injury opened up a competition and it looks like Adam Warren has won it. I expect he will be given the job in the next few days.

2- What does the rest of the bullpen look like? We knew Betances, Miller, Carpenter and Wilson were locks coming into camp, but the last three spots were up in the air. Based on spring numbers, Esmil Rogers and Chase Whitley, both stretched out as starters, would seem to have an edge. Beyond that, the seventh spot seems up in the air. Chris Martin has been up and down. Chasen Shreve has too. Too close to call.

3- Who is the backup catcher? Austin Romine hasn’t hit, either has John Ryan Murphy. Romine has to either make the team, or be exposed to waivers, so I think he might make it.

4- What about the bench? With A-Rod looking like the probable DH the bench has four spots left. One goes to Murphy or Romine. Garret Jones and Chris Young were locks from the start. The only intrigue was the potential for Jose Pirela to sneak onto the roster, and that seems to have ended with his concussion. Brendan Ryan should make the team in his place.

That’s it, barring injury we know 24-out-of-25 Yankees who will break camp in 11 days.

Why Not Try It?

The Yankees had been expected to try Alex Rodriguez at first base this spring, but apparently have backed off that idea. I don’t get it.Yes, the only way Alex Rodriguez makes this team is if he hits. And yes, the Yankees don’t want to use him at first, but isn’t positional flexibility a good thing?

The Yankees keep trying to find a guy who can play every position on the field. Don’t get me wrong, that person would be a bonus, but that person isn’t easy to find. But with a four-man bench, and if you carry 13 pitchers that’s what you have, you need guys who can cover more than one spot.

For the Yankees, that is even more important as Mark Teixeira last played 150 games in 2011. And while his wrist injury caused him to miss most of 2013, he is also prone to smaller, non-DL type injuries that leave him out of the lineup for five to seven days. Now the Yankees brought in Garrett Jones for those eventualities, but wouldn’t it be nice to have more backup?

Again, Alex’s place on this team is as a hitter, anything his glove does is a bonus. But if (when?) Teixeira gets hurt, the Yankees will want options. Spring training is the perfect time to give Alex a bunch of games at first and see what happens. Maybe he can handle it, maybe he can’t. What’s the harm in finding out?

Hamels?

Here’s a rumor that has me scratching my head, the Yankees have apparently come closest to meeting the Phillies’ asking price for Cole Hamels. Nothing against Cole Hamels, but I don’t get it. Yes, he is a wonderful pitcher, but he is 31, and costs about $100-million for the next four seasons. If the Yankees were a clear playoff contender, I would get it, but at this point it seems like a foolish move.

I’m not saying the season is lost, but there are a lot of things that need to go well for the Yankees to make the playoffs. In no particular order- Tanaka’s elbow must hold up, Ellsbury and McCann have to live up to their paychecks, Beltran and Teixeira need to contribute more than they did in 2014, Nova needs to make it back, Pineda needs to continue to develop, and Gregorius must prove to be a regular shortstop. I think a lot of those things could happen, but I am not willing to mortgage a significant part of the future for Hamels until I know for sure. And if most of them don’t happen, the Yankees are going to be in trouble.

Maybe this is simply a case of the Yankees checking in with Philadelphia and making sure that they don’t trade Hamels to Boston for a low price. That would make more sense. But for now, Hamels in pinstripes shouldn’t happen.

There Should Be Another Captain

Brian Cashman said on the radio today that Derek Jeter should be the last caption of the Yankees. Jeter was a wonderful Yankee, but the idea of ending the captaincy with him perversely taints the legacy of two other wonderful Yankees- Lou Gehrig and Thurman Munson.

If ever there was a time to end the idea of a Yankee captaincy, it was with the death of either of those two players. In fact, Munson, was the first captain of the Yankees named after Gehrig’s death in 1941. When Munson subsequently died in 1979, the Yankees waited a few years before naming Greg Nettles captain. Willie Randolph and Ron Guidry followed and then Don Mattingly. When Mattingly retired at the end of 1995, the Yankees waited until 2000 to tab Jeter.

The fact that the captaincy went on and thrived after both Gehrig and Munson’s shows that there should be another captain. Not today, maybe not in five years, but at some point. Some day another player will come along who is worthy of the title and the Yankees should bestow it on him.

A-Rod Gets it Right

I don’t know if this was A-Rod acting on his own, or someone told him to do it, but issuing a handwritten apology for his actions was the smartest thing he has done pr-wise ever.

There was zero upside to some sort of press conference to discuss what happened over the past few years. First of all, would anyone believe what he had to say ? Second, what answers would he have been prepared to give?  I hope Alex takes a page from Mark McGwire when the cameras do reach him and tells everyone, “I am not here to talk about the past”.

Some will say A-Rod didn’t need to apologize to the fans. I disagree with that. He played all of us for fools. He proclaimed his innocence, attacked his accusers and tried to create the case that he was getting railroaded by MLB. I think the sentence he wrote about how he, “made the situation worse than it had to be”, captures what happened perfectly. I commend him for apologizing for that.

But an apology doesn’t excuse his behavior. Alex cheated and lied. He tried to manipulate lots of people involved in this sordid saga. There have been plenty of worse crimes committed, but that is a not a person I want to root for. I will still cheer for the Yankees as vociferously as I have in the past, but I will also be very happy when Alex, and all the drama that goes along with him, is no longer a part of the equation.

 

A Good Offseason

With James Shields now heading to the Padres, I think we can declare the Yankees offseason is over. They could always bring in another guy on a minor league deal, but the heavy lifting is certainly complete. Let’s review the results.

The Yankees did a lot of good things this offseason, but I wonder if we will think about it more in the future for what they didn’t do? They didn’t make another huge bet in free agency. They certain weren’t parsimonious, they gave Chase Headley and Andrew Miller contracts that total over $80-million combined, but they were careful. Nobody received more than $13-million a year. Nobody received more than a four-year commitment. For the Yankees, this equals frugal.

They also got younger. Not incredibly so, but about as much as they could given the commitments they have made in years past. Didi Gregorious will only be 25 when the season starts. The hoped-for rotation in May of Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, Eovaldi and Nova would have four guys in their 20’s with Sabathia as the grey beard at 35. The bullpen will probably only have guys in their 20’s when the season starts. What will the end result be? Your guess is a good as mine. I can make a case for them finishing first, and I can make a case for them finishing last. Let’s get through March and then assess where the team might end up.

For now, I think we can be cautiously optimistic that the Yankees are trying a new way of building a roster. There are some real benefits to that, but there will be hiccups along the way. The next two seasons will be some of the most interesting ones we have seen in a long time. Prospects are coming and the Yankees will have some tough choices to make with sunk costs like Sabathia, Teixeira, and you know who. How long do they run they out there based on their salaries and at what point do they simply move on?  As a fan, I am very excited to see it all unfold.