Can You Blame Him?

Chili Davis has chosen to be the next Red Sox hitting coach instead of the next Yankees hitting coach. I think it is a very smart move for Chili.

For one thing, the Red Sox actual have some young hitters he can work with. For another, the Yankees just fired a very respected hitting coach for not getting a bunch of 30-plus year olds to hit in 2014. Why would Chili think he could do any better? The Yankees will need to keep looking, and Dave Magadan will not be the choice.

In other news, the Yankees have tapped a former hitting coach, Gary Denbo, to take over as VP of Baseball Operations. The news on Denbo comes along with the news that Pat Roessler, the Director of Player Development is out. These are two encouraging moves as they demonstrate that the Yankees understand they need to fix their minor league system.

The Yankees Fired The Wrong People

The news today is that Brian Cashman has a new three-year contract while Kevin Long and Mick Kelleher have been dropped from Joe Griardi’s coaching staff.

I’ve already said that I would not have given Cashman a new contract, but these moves puzzle me. Yes, the offense was bad this year, but is that Long’s fault? Is it his fault the Yankees are old? Is it his fault Derek Jeter played like he was 40? Wasn’t Long the guy who helped Curtis Granderson have back-to-back 40+ homer years? Wasn’t he the hitting coach when the Yankees scored all of those runs? I would have stuck with him for at least another year.

And I have no idea what Mick Kelleher did. He was the defensive coach, and while the Yankees were not especially good on defense, I can’t see how you blame him. Let’s be honest, the Yankees may have had the worst middle infield defensively in their history this year. Jeter was never a good defender and Brian Roberts didn’t help matters. Kelly Johnson at first, a revolving door at third for the first three months…. When you add it up, I can’t see what Kelleher could have done better.

The Face of The Yankees

The Yankees have had various characters as the face of their franchise through the years. Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle weren’t saints. Lou Gehrig might have been. Reggie Jackson was a narcissist. Derek Jeter and Joe DiMaggio were intensely private. And while the “job” is open again, it is about to be filled by Alex Rodriguez. Short of the Yankees bringing Mike Trout to the Bronx before the start of next season, and that is absolutely not happening, Alex will become the face of the Yankees. He will be the person most associated with the team and that is one of the  reasons the Yankees should cut him outright instead of letting him be reinstated at the conclusion of the World Series.

Let’s start with the obvious reason. Alex is a disgrace. He has been exposed as a massive cheat and refused to take the stand at his own arbitration hearing claiming the process was rigged and his lawsuits would prove it. Yet, he quietly dropped those lawsuits on a Friday in February and disappeared for the 2014 season. Opposing teams’ fans will obviously boo him, but Yankees fans should too. Management know that and the only reason the Yankees are even thinking of letting him in the front door is because they owe him $61-million.

Tradition matters to the Yankees. Perhaps it matters to them more than any team in baseball. They constantly market it. They are the only team that still has an Old Timers’ Day. They practically shove it down your throat at times. It has been a big part of the reason why the Yankees are the most valuable brand in sports. Fobres estimates that the Yankee brand is worth $521 million alone. That is a valuable asset and one that the Yankees should protect. Letting Alex return to the team will only reduce the value of the club. Maybe it won’t be $61-million of damage, but it will be damage and the Yankees could take a stand here and show that they value their principals more than their wallets.

But here’s the thing. Even if they won’t. Even if they desperately want to earn something off of that $61-million can they? Alex is about to be 40 and hasn’t played since 2013. He has missed at least 20 games every season since 2008, and was just slightly above average with the bat in 2013. Is a 2015 season where he hits .260 with say 15-20 homers really worth all the distractions his presence will create or the logjam at DH?

So, I hope the Yankees wake up to the reality that it is time to close the door on Alex. Sadly, I don’t think they will.


The Price of Qualifying

MLB has announced that a qualifying offer will cost $15.3 million this year. Only players who are free agents and have played the entire past season with a club may have an offer extended. If an offer is extended and rejected by the player, a club signing that player will forfeit its first draft pick in next June’s draft. If the offer is accepted, the player is signed for a one-year deal of $15.3 million.

This news gives the Yankees an interesting decision as they have two players who could get qualifying offers- Kuroda and Robertson. While it is a lot of money, I would absolutely give Robertson a qualifying offer. While it is a much bigger salary than he would otherwise get, it is a one year deal. And, if he rejects it, the Yankees pick up a draft pick. (They could theoretically also work out a longer deal with him, but that’s a different topic)  If Robertson accepts a qualifying offer, the Yankees will have their 1-2 punch in the bullpen back for another year.

As for Kuroda, I wouldn’t extend an offer. Kuroda has been a great addition to the Yankees and remarkably consistent during his time here, but he is going to be 40 next season. The Yankees need to get younger and the rotation is the one place where it is obvious that they can do so. Imagine a rotation next year of Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, Phelps and Greene with Nova working his way back in and Bryan Mitchell and Manny Banuelos waiting in the wings. Sabathia is the only guy in that group over 30, and he is only 33. Not everyone will work out in that group, but the Yankees have enough arms around that they can put together a reasonably strong rotation internally, and there are some other arms in the system that could help out  very soon.

Teams have until five days after the end of the World Series to make a qualifying offer.

That’s Why You Play The Games

I am sure I am not alone in admitting that on July 31st I had the ALCS as a matchup between the Tigers and the A’s. I figured with the additions of Price and Lester both teams would cruise to the playoffs and end up playing each other for the right to go to the World Series. Whoops! Oakland staggered into the playoffs and lost the wild card game. Detroit barely eked out the AL Central crown and just got swept out of the playoffs by Baltimore. It’s funny how that always seems to happen.

And I will bet that very few people had the Royals doing much in the playoffs, yet they are a game away from joining Baltimore in the ALCS.


No More Cash

Unlike 2011 or 2008, I think the Yankees should not keep Brian Cashman as GM. I have three reasons for this.

First, the farm system has not produced enough talent in the past few years. A lot of this has to do with some pretty bad drafts. Now the Yankees have been handicapped because of their low draft position, but they still should be able to get players in the first round who can at least contribute to the big league club. That hasn’t happened since the 2006 draft when they took Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in the first round. Since then they have picked Brackman, Cole, Heathcott, Culver, Bichette, Hensley, Jagielo, and Lindgren. With the exception of Brackman and his 1/3 of an inning, none of them have reached the bigs as a Yankee and most are never going to.

But it goes beyond the draft. The players who we hear about being on the verge of contributing seem to flame out. Take Mason Williams. Before the 2013 season, he was the #32 prospect in all of baseball. Now he is on the verge of getting released after a sub-.600 OPS season in AA. Maybe he simply didn’t have it, but there are other names like him and I question the instruction the Yankees are providing. Whatever the reason, the Yankees are not getting the talent they need from their minor leagues and that is Cashman’s fault.

My second reason for letting him go is his approach to roster building is outdated in my mind. While there have been exceptions, I think the game has been cleaned up dramatically in terms of PED’s. Furthermore, amphetamines are not part of the game now. Maybe those are the reasons why players in their late 30’s don’t hit like players in the late 30’s once did, but whatever the reason, the game is more about youth and positional flexibility than it was. Brian Cashman hasn’t shown an ability to thrive under those conditions. Year after year, he builds his roster around stars and then tries to round it out with castoffs from other clubs. Part of this is simply the Yankees way of doing business, but part of it is simply an inability or unwillingness to try younger players in certain spots. The Yankees need to stop signing guys like Brian Roberts to round out the roster and sign more guys like Yangervis Solarte. I know Cashman signed both, I just believe he prefers the former to the latter.

Finally there is the simple fact that he has been on the job for 17 years and that is a really, really long time. Thinking becomes calcified in organizations without change. Opportunities are missed because there are not enough new perspectives. Brian Cashman has been a great GM, but it is not a lifetime appointment.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the Yankees will make a change. There are already stories that they are working on a new deal with Cashman. I can only hope that if they keep him they make him change some of the ways he operates. Brian has been a wonderful GM for 17 years, but the time has come to try a new one.


Great Job Boston

I want to compliment the Red Sox and all of Boston on a fabulous job this weekend. The fans were awesome and the way the club handled the Derek Jeter ceremony was incredible. While we may be enemies on the field, it is always great to see us come together off of it.

October in September

Sometimes the baseball gods give us a perfect moment.

Start with the first inning as we saw Derek rip a double off the wall in left to drive in a run. It was a sight we haven’t seen much of lately and it was only an appetizer.

There was the 7th inning where it looked like Jeter had driven in the winning run. And it happened not with a hit, but on an error when the guy who won the last two gold gloves at shortstop inexplicably threw the ball into right field.  It was as if the baseball gods intervened and decided that Jeter had to finish with the game winning RBI.

But then they realized they could write an even better story. They noticed that Jeter would hit third in the bottom of the ninth, if there was a bottom of the 9th.  And so the Yankees closer, who had been dominant all year, who had not given up two home runs in the same game since 2012, promptly did just that and blew a 5-2 lead. If you didn’t know what was going to happen next, you haven’t been paying attention these past 20 years.

Jose Pirela, with all of 11 big league AB’s , slapped a single to left,  The Yankees brought in Richardson, their designated speedster, and Gardner sacrificed him to second. The stage was set and once more Jeter proved homself to be able to rise to the occasion. The swing was one we can see in our sleep and the result was classic Jeter- a single to right. The throw was a tad late and there was Derek being mobbed at first and the new place rocking with emotion.

It was glorious. It was perfect. It was something to savor for a long time.

Jeter Needs To Play This Weekend

We know that tonight will be emotional. We know that the fans will give Derek Jeter a huge sendoff and however Joe Girardi handles it, Jeter will leave to the loudest ovation in the new place since 2009. (My bet is he gets replaced at short in the middle of an inning so he can walk off the field alone.) But whatever happens, tonight should not be the end.

I never knew until the other day that Ted Williams finished his Red Sox career three games early. I knew he hit a homer in his final Fenway AB, but I didn’t know the Red Sox had three games in New York after that which Williams didn’t play in. People are calling for Jeter to do the same thing Williams did and take the uniform off tonight and start his retirement. They are wrong.

They are wrong because this is not 1960 and they are wrong because of the way Jeter has handled his retirement. In 1960 fans didn’t go to games like they do today. The COMBINED attendance for the three final Yankees-Red Sox games in 1960 was less than 40,000, and the Yankees were heading to the World Series. Furthermore, there wasn’t a scalping market in 1960 like there is today. The cheapest ticket on Stub Hub for Sunday’s game right now is $211. People are not paying those prices to see the 90-loss Red Sox face the .500 Yankees. They are paying to see Jeter and he owes it to them to show up and play in all three games. (In the interest of full disclosure thanks to Andy, I have a ticket to Saturday’s game which he purchased at face value.) 

Furthermore, Jeter has turned his retirement into a sappy good-bye tour that he is making a fortune off of. Mariano Rivera took the time to meet with season ticket holders and behind the scenes employees last year. I thought that justified the endless tributes he received around the league.  Jeter says he can’t do that as an everyday player, but he managed to have a meet and greet for anyone willing to pay from $149 to $2999 Monday before the Yankees night game. Jeter and Steiner Sports have flooded the marketplace with Jeter memorabilia. For $25,000 you can buy a uniform he wore. If that’s too much, how about $2500 for a lineup card with his name in it? Still too much?  Then the name plate for his locker at “only” $1500 may be for you. Jeter is entitled to make as much as he wants, but he gets paid to play baseball games, almost $100,000 a game this year. None of the tributes or financial windfalls would happen without Jeter’s approval. The Red Sox will offer him one last tribute and Jeter will take some swings and head off to a very comfortable retirement. That’s his prerogative, but not until September 29th.

Checking Back

With the Yankees almost officially eliminated and the playoffs essentially set, I wanted to look back at my predictions made before the season. I will break things down by division.

I totally blew the AL East. I picked Tampa and Boston to both make the playoffs and the Orioles to finish last. The only saving grace is I had the Yankees in third at 85-77, which won’t be far off from where they finish.

I picked the Tigers to win the AL Central, but had Cleveland finishing second and the Royals third. Theoretically, that could still happen, but I doubt it. That’s the only thing that will prevent me from picking the division completely correctly as I had Chicago and Minnesota finishing 4-5. I also said Phil Hughes would have a “nice” year. (15-10, 3.61 ERA and 200 IP is pretty nice!)

I got the top of the AL West correct with Anaheim-Oakland going 1-2, but I thought Texas would be better and Seattle worse. I even expected Robinson Cano to be playing meaningless games in August. Whoops!

I picked Oakland to beat Boston in the wild card.

I picked Tampa to beat Anaheim and Detroit to beat Oakland with Tampa winning the pennant.

So, I got three of the six playoff teams, but the ones I missed crippled my “bracket”.

Over int he NL East I had Washington winning the crown with Atlanta second. That can certainly happen, but my assertion that this was a “two-tier” division with Washington and Atlanta being miles ahead of everyone else was clearly wrong.

In the NL Central, I had the Cards winning the division and the Reds beating the Pirates out for a wild card.

The NL West was my best division as I am 5/5 in my picks with only the chance that the Rockies and Diamondbacks switch places threatening a perfect division.

I picked San Francisco and Cincinnati for the wild card with the Giants winning. I picked LA to beat them and the Senators to beat St. Louis with the Dodgers advancing to the World Series and winning it. So, my NL picks are very healthy.