Yankees

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.

Cut Him or Welcome Him

Two different stories in today’s papers with the same theme- the Yankees are rejecting A-Rod’s attempts to apologize and meet with the top brass. This is a stupid approach for the club to take.

I have said that I don’t think the Yankees should allow Alex to ever wear their uniform today. I still believe that they should cut him. But, if they are not going to cut him, they need to stop acting like five-year olds. Alex has behaved like a total ass, but he deserves some small amount of credit for wishing to meet with team officials and apologize for that. The Yankees gain nothing from preventing him from doing that. In fact it makes no sense at all.

The Yankees owe Alex $61-million for the remainder of his contract that much is clear. Barring a career-ending injury, they are going to have to pay that. So unless they are willing to cut him and swallow that hit, they should make nice with Alex and pray that he can give them some production in exchange for that money. They don’t have to do anything special to accommodate him, but would listening to him apologize really hurt them in any way?  And how will making it harder on him help them get a productive Alex this spring?

I get it, the Yankees are mad at Alex. Get in line, pretty much everyone is. He cheated, then he lied, and then tried to cover it up in a despicable fashion. Everyone knows all of that, but the Yankees have to decide if they want a chance at a return on that $61-million, or they simply want to throw a tantrum.

Back Where They Belong

The Yankees are heading back to Channel 11, WPIX next year for 20 games. I am thrilled by this.

It has been 16 years since the Yankees last appeared on Channel 11, and in the interim the channel became home to Mets games of all things. But from 1951 until the late 70’s, Channel 11 was the only place to watch the Yankees on TV. It was the channel I turned on as a six-year old on October 2nd, 1978, and watched Dent hit a big homer and Greg Nettles catch a huge pop-up. It was the channel that gave us Bill White and the Scooter calling games and showed us flashes of the GWB every game because Rizzuto was worried about beating the traffic.

It is also the channel that broadcasted Batman every afternoon along with the “Pix Game“, and the Yule Log every Christmas. (They still do the latter, and I put it on every Christmas morning.) In short, Channel 11 reminds me of my childhood, so excuse a 40-something guy for getting a bit nostalgic over this news.

Height Matters?

The Yankees made another trade today, getting Chris Martin from the Rockies for cash. Martin is 6’8″, which puts him in good company with the new Yankees’ pitching staff. The Yankees designated Gonzalez Germen, a pitcher they had acquired for cash from the Mets, to make room. Germen is only 6’2″.

Poor Brett Gardner. At 5’10”, he is the shortest Yankee and he gives up three inches to the Yankees shortest pitcher- Adam Warren. The Yankees have the makings of a basketball team with the quintet of Betances, Miller, Martin, Sabathia, and Pineda. Everyone is 6’7″ or 6’8″.

What does the height  mean? I have no clue, but Martin is another guy who throws heat. He has only had a brief cup of coffee in the majors, but he misses bats, a common theme among the Yankee bullpen. (Sidenote- Buster Olney ranked the Yankees bullpen second in MLB today behind the Royals) Realistically, Martin will head to AAA and wait for an injury to get his chance. But, it isn’t impossible that he beats out someone like Rogers for a roster spot.

38 days until pitchers and catchers.

 

An Interesting Point

Buster Olney (subscription required) points out that the Yankees could have a serious platoon advantage in the new AL East.

To summarize, the Yankees can trot out an all-lefty lineup now between switch-hitters and lefty bats. The AL East is projected to have 16-of-20 righty starters on teams other than the Yankees, much less than in recent years.

Add in the fact that Yankee Stadium clearly favors lefties, and it could be a solid advantage.