42

If you are a Yankee fan and you didn’t shed tears tonight, you have no soul. Bravo to Joe Girardi for scripting a great farewell.

When Rivera came in during the 8th, I was positive he wouldn’t close the whole game, but I never expected the pitching change to be handled the way it was. Sending Pettitte and Jeter out there to get Mo was the absolute perfect move. And if you didn’t know where Rivera was going when he got up to leave the dugout after the game ended, you haven’t been paying attention.

As a kid, I was always jealous of the fans who came before me and saw Ruth, Mantle, etc.. They had those memories, but I saw Mo and I wouldn’t trade places with them for anything.

$300 Million?

So Robinson Cano asked for $300 million, not a complete shock.  The Yankees probably need him a lot more than he needs them at this moment and he is smart to see if they will panic and accept his number.  I am more surprised by the numbers the Yankees reportedly offered. According to the Post, the Yankees initially offered 8 years at $17.5 million per year. When that was rejected, they offered 7 years at around $23 to $24 million per.

In July, ESPN Insider did a projection on Cano’s future value and found him to be very valuable over the next 8 years starting in 2014. Even in the final year of an eight-year deal, they projected him to be worth 1.8 wins above replacement. They pegged him to be worth 8 years and $181 million, or $22.625 million per year.

So the Yankees are close to “fair value” for Cano. Now the ESPN numbers only factor in on-field contributions and do not factor in the “AIS” factor. (Asses in the seats) Cano obviously sells some tickets and the Yankees have to figure that part out on their own. (I strongly suspect the AIS factor was what led to Ichiro’s two-year deal last offseason.)

They will also need to factor in what they expect the luxury tax threshold to be under the new labor deal after the 2016 season. Next year MLB will start new TV contracts that are worth about twice what the old deals were. So, I would expect the $189-million threshold to increase. And, with each team in line to receive about $50-million from national TV rights alone, the game will be awash with cash.

It’s going to be an interesting offseason and it starts Monday.

 

It Seems Fitting

Tonight, in what truly is a must-win game for the Yankees, they will turn to their aborted ace, Phil Hughes, while Tampa will turn to their true ace, David Price. For Hughes, this will be the last start of his Yankees career. For Price, it will be another start in what is shaping up to be a great career.

I hope Joba gets to pitch in this game too, because that would really cement the symbolism of all of this. After all, Price was like Joba once. A young flamethrower pushed into the bullpen to help a team make a playoff run. The only thing is, the Rays figured out a way to get him back into the rotation permanently.

When we write the obituary of this Yankees’ season, we will justifiably focus on the sheer volume of injuries. But, as much as the injuries are a reason for the third or fourth place finish this year, the lack of young talent ready to step in also figures in this equation. Now, it is unreasonable to expect for a team to have a David Price ready to step into the bigs, but the Yankees didn’t even have average replacements.

An average AL hitter put up a line of .256/.321/.405 this year. If you look at the entire lineup and take the players who played the most at each position, the Yankees exceeded those figures in a total of 8 spots out of 27. Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner each exceeded all three of those figures. Ichiro hit .261 and Nunez is currently at .257. Every other player was below those averages. Chris Stewart, Lyle Overbay, Jason Nix, Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner combined for almost 2,000 plate appearances and none of them finished with an average higher than .256 an on-base higher than .321 or a slugging higher than .405. And not one of those players are younger than 30. So, not only did the Yankees throw away offense on mediocre players, they did it with mediocre and OLD players.

The Yankees did try a few youngsters. Adams and Romine got about 300 plate appearances between them. Mark Reynolds, a youthful 29, got 100. Almonte, Mesa, Boesch, there were some other sprinkles of youth, but for the most part, they stuck with the old guys, even as the showed again and again that they couldn’t do it.

There is something broken in the Yankees’ player development process. They are either not drafting the right guys or they are not developing them correctly or a bit of both. That is the greatest challenge facing this organization right now. If it were my team, I would start by asking Brian Cashman to explain what is going on and to explain what he is going to do to fix it. Then I would have a decision to make, is Brian the right guy to fix it?

Goodbye Again

The reports all over the internet say that Andy Pettitte will announce his retirement later today. Pettitte is scheduled to make two more starts, one at home this Sunday and one next weekend in Houston. That means he will close his career pitching in the only two baseball homes he has ever known. His last start at home will also coincide with the day the Yankees have chosen to honor Mariano Rivera.

I wrote about Andy in detail when he retired back in 2011 and I don’t think I can do it better now. As for 2014, I think this is actually a good thing for the Yankees. Andy has done a solid job this year, but the Yankees have to break their dependence on older players.

I imagine plenty of reporters will now connect the retirements of Mo and Pettitte to Jeter and speculate that he is going to hang them up as well. I would bet almost anything against that. Jeter will be back next year unless a doctor tells him he can’t physically play anymore. He has a player option and I see no reason why he wouldn’t exercise it.

The one major downside to this news is that it will put more pressure on the Yankees to overpay Robinson Cano. We can get into the wisdom of paying Cano later, but for now let’s just all agree that a 10-year/$200 million deal would be insane.

It Was 20 Years Ago Today…

The Yankees beat the Red Sox 4-3, coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the 9th after making what seemed to be the final out. What happened? A fan (who was either “drunk” according to the first link I posted, or “overzealous” according to Jack Curry’s game story in the NYT) fell/walked onto the field as the final pitch was being delivered. One of the umpires called time, but the pitch was on the way and Mike Stanley (ironically the last player traded between the Yankees and Red Sox) flied out on it. But because time had been called, the play didn’t count and the Yankees went on to win the game.

The thing that surprised me about looking back at that boxscore was that the game was sold out. My memory isn’t as sharp as it once was, but Yankees-Red Sox in 1993 wasn’t much of a rivalry. The Yankees had stunk since the late 80′s and the Red Sox finished last in 1992. Yet, they got a full house for this game. I guess the rivalry had more juice than I remember. (As a comparison, only 27,000 came out for a Saturday game two weeks earlier against Cleveland)

 

A Horrible Weekend

Let me start with the Mariano tribute. There was the part shown on ESPN and the part you could only see online. I would like to talk about the part online which I thought was in poor taste. Yes, Mariano blew the save in Game 4 of the ALCS, but if you are honoring him is that the time to bring it up? Did we really need to see Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller and Dave Roberts walk us through that again? If the Red Sox didn’t want to honor Mariano, I can’t blame them, but don’t put on a ceremony and then bring up one of his bigger failures. If the Giants ever decided to honor Tom Brady, I hope they wouldn’t show highlights of the Super Bowls the two teams have played to date. The rest of it was nice, but the first part really struck me as off key.

As for the baseball itself there isn’t much to say beyond that they lost to a better team. Boston is playing great baseball and the Yankees are not. Just like last weekend they didn’t pitch. Unlike last weekend, they didn’t hit either. That’s a pretty bad combination.

But the Yankees have to thank Texas and Tampa for falling apart at just the right moment. Texas got swept this weekend as well and they are 1-9 over their last 10. Tampa won 2-of-3, but they have been shaky over the last few weeks. Add it all up and those two clubs are tied for the two wild card spots with four teams, including the Yankees, within 3.5 games  of them.

And now Texas travels to Tampa for a four game set, so one of the two wild card leaders is guaranteed to lose each of the next four nights. The Yankees have three games in Toronto starting Tuesday, so they certainly have a great opportunity to get back into the race. The question is, can this team get off the mat one more time?

Gaining Ground

The Yankees have gone 4-4 over their last eight games. That’s usually not a good formula for making up deficits in the standings, but over that same period the Rays have gone 2-5. So, what once was a 2-1/5 game deficit in the wild card standings is now a one game deficit.

And here’s the really good news. After this series against Boston, the schedule gets a lot easier. The Yankees have only one series left with a team not in last place and that series is against the Rays. Meanwhile, the Rays have to face Texas and Baltimore, two good teams and two teams in the thick of the wild card race, so the Yankees have a number of things in their favor, but they have to survive this upcoming weekend.

That’s going to be tough. Boston is tearing through the AL right now and the Yankees certainly couldn’t stop them last weekend. The one positive you can take from last weekend is that the Yankees certainly hit well. They will need to do that again and try and bring some pitching this time. They have the right three guys starring- Kuroda, Sabathia and Nova. The bullpen is healthier, but also a bit overused. They are going to need their starters to give them length.

And Brett Gardner is probably out of this series and maybe much more. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Yankees make a trade for someone to help cover the outfield. After all, they just brought in Ryan to do the same with shortstop. If they do, that would be their 55th player this year, only four short of the MLB record. And yet, here we are with two weeks to go and they are legitimate playoff contenders. Keep that in mind the next time you get frustrated with Joe Girardi.

 

Now It Makes Sense

The Yankees have decided to DL Derek Jeter. They have also announced that he will not return even if they make the playoffs. That explains the trade last night for Brendan Ryan.

Now, the Yankees can try and dress this up anyway they choose, but they have two serious problems with Jeter. The first is the $9.5-million player option he holds for 2014. You have to assume he is going to exercise that and that will create the second problem- what do the Yankees do then?

The organization simply cannot plan on him being the shortstop in 2014. Even if Jeter shows up in camp next year in the best shape of his life, the odds are seriously stacked against him playing short next year. Defensively, he has never been good and he is going to turn 40 next season. Odds are he will be terrible at short next year. If he can hit, they can move him to DH, but if he hits like he did this year, the Yankees will have to bench him and think of how that will go over.

 

The 2014 Schedule

Some people get excited by mundane things. I certainly do when it comes to the MLB schedule. Today, we have the preliminary 2014 schedule to ponder.

Some points of interest.

The season opens in Houston and ends in Boston. Encouragingly, the Yankees play their first six games in domes or warm weather. (Houston and Toronto)

The home opener will be April 7th against Baltimore and the Red Sox come in right after that and the Cubs right after that.

The pitchers better be ready to hit in May because all 10 of the Yankees games in NL parks are that month. They have the four-game subway-split series May 12th-15th and Milwaukee, Chicago and St. Louis that month.

After June 15th, the Yankees have three games west of the Mississippi and those three are in Texas in July.

They play 17 of their final 26 games at home.

 

Wild Pitch?

I don’t usually take notice of official scoring decisions, but ruling the last pitch of today’s game a wild pitch seems crazy to me. That pitch was down the middle. It was a bit out of the strike zone, but not a hard one to catch. If that’s not a passed ball, I am not sure what one is. Anyway, on to some analysis.

The Yankees saw Mariano blow two saves, gave up more than 8 runs in three-consecutive games and still emerged from the weekend with the same playoff situation they entered it in. Of course my nerves are completely shot and now I have a pretty big football game to watch tonight, but that’s the bottom line.

I have no idea what it will mean next weekend in Fenway and I am not going to worry about it. The Red Sox cleaned our clocks this weekend, but now it is time to worry about Baltimore. The Yankees need to do a lot better over these next four games.