Category Archives: Analysis
Let’s be honest. When the “Yankees” lined up down the first base line on Opening Day, was this a team you were ready to watch for 162 games? Probably not.
Sure, there was Robinson Cano. You may have spotted Brett Gardner and Ichiro as well. But besides them, did anyone else catch your eye? Kevin Youkilis in pinstripes was “something else”, but what I mean is, did you feel comfortable relying on Lyle Overbay at first, or Vernon Wells in left? I don’t think so.
Where was Nick Swisher, the heart and soul of the team the past four seasons? What about Russell Martin, our Munson-esque backstop? How could we possibly win with these replacement-level, over the hill scrubs?
These questions and more swirled through many fans’ heads as the Yankees opened up the season back in April. Numerous analysts were picking them to finish last, and if they weren’t that harsh, they still predicted them to miss the playoffs.
Now of course it’s still early in the season, but who could have thought just how different the first month and a half would play out on the field, than we thought it would in our minds.
Here are our 2013 Yankees, at 22-13, first place in the A.L. East. A familiar sight without a doubt, but how they’ve gotten to the top of the division is as unusual as it’s ever been in the Bronx. Absent are the headlining stars – Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson – and present are former big name players revitalizing their careers, and youngsters trying to sink their teeth into the major leagues.
They still hit home runs like the usual Bombers, but win close games more often than not with solid pitching and nearly flawless defense. When was the last time those two aspects were keys to winning for the Yankees? It may have been in the playoffs, but certainly not on the path to get them there.
As mentioned, injuries have paved the way for players young and old to make an impact in pinstripes. Vernon Wells is second to Robbie Cano in runs scored, home runs, and average, Lyle Overbay already has 20 RBI, and Travis Hafner has made a fairly big impact when it matters with his still ferocious bat. Austin Romine, Preston Claiborne, Adam Warren, [and soon David Adams] have all made their big-league debuts and figure to be relied upon more as the days get longer and the season moves into the dog days of summer.
It’s hard to pinpoint the last time the Yankees have had so many role players, rather than superstars, and have been A) successful, and B) fun to watch. Maybe sometime in the 90’s, but they never went anywhere.
Sensing the sarcasm, no, this roster right now is not world championship worthy, and it will be a big help when everyone comes back off the DL. But, when they do, don’t be so willing to part with the Overbays, Hafners, and Wellses of the world.
Because truth be told, they’re the reason why Tex, Grandy, A-Rod and the Captain will jump right back into a pennant race they can win.
Keep it up guys…
Following a long awaited start to major league games that count, the minor leagues kicked off last week with opening series against the Red Sox affiliates. Over the past months we at YFU have brought you numerous prospect profiles along with our top 40 in the system list, so many of you will be familiar with the names thrown around here in the regularly scheduled recaps. Each week we’ll highlight performances and keep you updated on some of the bigger names in the system, along with some who should be on the radar soon. Without further ado, let’s get rolling.
The newly coined RailRiders kicked off the season with a thud, losing 4 straight and going 1-5 in what was a dismal, rainy start to the season. Like the parent club, SWB missed their last two games due to inclement weather, and luckily so. There’s been a bit of good news though, and that starts with budding catcher Austin Romine who went 7/18 with 3BB’s and 8K’s. No extra base hits yet, but it’s ggod to see him out there and making a bit of contact. Addison Maruszak stepped in at short and drew 5 walks to one strikeout while going 4/11. Melky Mesa is busy doing his best windmill impression, hitting .250 while whiffing 13! times. Newly re-signed Mike Adams is struggling to get going with just three hits in 15 AB’s, but has walked as many times as he’s struck out (4). 2B Corban Joseph is also off to a sluggish start going 5/23 with 5BB’s and 4K’s. Good to see at the least his plate discipline is holding fast.
On the pitching end Vidal Nuno continues to shine. He went from an impressive 2012 campaign to shining in winter ball, carried that opver to major league spring training and he still hasn’t stopped. The soft tosser didn’t pick up a win, but threw 11.2 IP of 3 run ball on 6 hits, walking none and striking out twelve. Aside from the guys already in the BX, Nuno is making a strong case to be the next in line for a spot in the rotation or that of long man. I iamgine he could serve as a lefty reliever, but he shouldn’t be limited to short bursts and lefties only. Dellin Betances also made his debut and threw 4 innings of 2 run ball on three hits and two walks, striking out four. He started off a bit shaky and then settled in. Normally a stat line like this wouldn’t be much to speak of, but considering the drubbing he took last year this is actually a good sign. Sinkerballer Brett Marshall was toasted in his outing, giving up 5 runs on 6 hits over 3.2 innings. He walked and struck out four. Mark Montgomery got in five innings of work and gave up a home run….the second of his professional career spanning over 100 innings. I suppose he’s allowed. He conceded only one run and four hits, walking none and knocking out nine. Left Juan Cedeno has been solid, going 3.1 innings, allowing a lone run on one walk and four K’s. Craig Claiborne also had a good week, throwing 3.1 innings of two hit ball, walking none and striking out four.
The Thunder have quite a team this year, sporting several players in the top 20 of the system, with a few more likely to join them later this year. They ended the week 4-3 backed by Neil Medchill, who went 9/23 with three 2B’s and 2 HR’s, driving in 8 runs. Catcher JR Muprphy is focusing more on his bat this year now that his defense is well on it’s way, going 6/23 with a HR, driving in 4, taking 4 walks and striking out 4 times. Ramon Flores is sputtering a bit with only 8 hits in 33 AB’s including a double and three RBI’s. The notable part of his line is that he’s only taken 2 walks while striking out 9 times. He’s considered one of the better disciplined hitters in the system so let’s hope he gets himself adjusted to AA ball. Fellow outfielders Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin are having their struggles getting used to a new level as well. Slade has gone 7/29, albeit with a pair of doubles and a triple, but had some early strikeout woes ending the week with 8 K’s and 3 BB’s. Austin went 6/31 with three doubles and a HR, driving in three while striking out 11 times. Let’s hope he can get his feet under him as he adjusts to life in Trenton. 1B Kyle Roller chipped in 6 RBI’s this week including a HR.
The Thunder pitching has gotten knocked around a bit, namely southpaw Nik Turley who made two starts this week, going 8.2 innings, allowing 9 runs on 14 hits. He walked four and struck out 6. Matt Tracy made his brief debut, recording a single out before getting yanked for giving up 5 runs. He walked the park (4) and recorded a K in his only out. Zach Nuding had the best debut, allowing just a single run in his two starts totaling 9.2 innings and 11 hits. He walked four and struck out eight. Newly converted starter Francisco Rondon threw 5 innings of 3 run ball, all on HR’s, and all to right handers. We’ll see how long this experiment lasts, as he could be a very effective guy out of the bullpen for the Bombers. Kelvin Perez, who may be a victim of the numbers game finds himself back in Trenton after making his way to AAA last year, went 5 IP, allowing just two hits while striking out five. Branden Pinder has gotten kicked around thus far, allowing 8ER over just 4.2IP. Tommy Kahnle is also off to a shaky start, albeit not as ugly as Pinder’s. He’s allowed a pair of runs to cross the plate in his two innings pitched, walking two and striking out a pair. Jeremy Bleich….yep, that Jeremy Bleich has returned to the fray pitching in relief. He’s tossed 5.1 scoreless innings on 5 hits, walking three and striking out four.
Tampa sports the other half of our top four prospects in Gary Sanchez and Mason Williams. Gary has picked up where he left off, going 11/30 with four 2B’s and four RBI’s. He’s taken one free pass and struck out four times. Mason is getting back into the swing of things after having season ending shoulder surgery last year. He went 7/27 with a pair of doubles, walking 6 times and striking out 7. New to the Tampa club is Angelo Gumbs, who is struggling as of now in a 3/30 slump, a triple his only XBH. He’s walked once while striking out five times and swiping a pair of bases. Another outfielder to keep an eye on is Ben Gamel, who I spoke with Matt about earlier in the offseason, regarding why he was left off the top 40 list. It was for the most part a matter of too many players and not enough chairs, and at that point in the list you could re-write it a dozen times and make a case for a myriad of endings. Gamel is one to watch though, and from all accounts he added some mass to his frame over the winter and should see a power spike this year. If that comes to fruition he’ll be making his way up the best of sheets in no time. The kid can hit, but for a corner outfielder he’s going to have to add some pop. He’s had a nice start to the year showing some gap power with 5 of his 11 hits going for doubles. He’s walked twice, struck out four times and stolen two bases.
Bryan Mitchell led the team in innings this week, tossing 12 while allowing 4 runs on 8 hits. He walked five and struck out ten. Corey Black added 11 innings of his own, giving up 3 runs on 9 hits. He walked four and struck out ten. He was also noted to be in the low to mid 90′s, touching 96 at times. He has no problem getting it up there, but maintaining that velocity through the latter innings has been his issue. He’ll need to show he can build up some stamina or he could be off to the pen. Nothing wrong wit ha late inning guy that can dial it up to triple digits, but you can’t blame them for trying to get as many innings out of him as they can. Scottie Allen and Shane Green combined for 11 innings of two run ball, Mikey O’brien pitched 4.2 innings allowing 3 runs on five hits. He walked none and struck out four. Nick Goody, who was invited to big league camp but missed most of it due to a sprained ankle as the result of a car accident returned to action, pitching 3 innings of one run ball on two hits. He walked two and struck out three. Once he gets rolling he could be a quick mover, and a trip to Trenton is not out of the question later this season. Manny Barreda chipped in 2 innings of one hit ball while Sean Black added 3 innings of 3 hit ball.
Cito Culver is the big news this week for the RiverDogs. Over the winter he decided to ditch the whole swithc hitting thing and go solely as a right hander. He also gave up the high leg kick for one more abbreviated and so far the results have been outstanding. He kicked off opening week going 11/37, which included three 2B’s, a 3B, and 2 HR’s. No…that’s not a typo. Cito went deep twice in the same game and has amassed about a third as many XBH/s in the first 8 games as he did all of last year. Small sample size admitted, but he looks damn good at the plate. Robert Refsnyder rolled in with nine hits of his own, including three doubles. He drove in one, took four walks, struck out five times and stole four bags. He’s getting used to life at second base and could give Gumbs a run for his money as best in the system at that spot. Greg Bird, who is now a 1B after back problems moved him away from catcher, started off the year going 10/30 with a double a HR and 4 RBI’s. He’s walked eight times while striking out ten. Taylor Dugas is also off to a good start, going 9/26 with a double. He’s driven in a pair, walked four times, struck out twice and stolen two bases. Dante Bichette was getting it going later in the week and finished 6/33 with a pair of HR’s (one a grandy) and 11 RBI’s. He also adjusted his swing over the winter, so keep an eye on him even if last year soured you on his future.
Two of our more interesting pitching prospects currently reside here, first in Jose Campos, the other piece in “The Trade” who went down with elbow inflammation early last year. He made his first start in 11 months, and was a little rusty, He allowed 4 ER on 4 hits including a HR, while walking one and striking out three. Cobwebs i’m sure…he has great stuff and is pretty polished for his age. Expect a lot more from him moving forward. Rafael DePaula was the big story this week. He rang in his stateside debut with a bang…er, K. Eleven of them actually. He went about 70 pitches in his opener and knocked out eleven of the nineteen batters he faced. He made another start later in the week and was a little wild, giving up four free passes. He finished off with 6.1 IP, 6H, 4ER, 5BB, 16K and 2 HB. There’s a lot to look forward to with this guy as he has some great stuff coming from a good sized frame and free and easy delivery. Gabe Encinas had a nice little game of his own, going 6 innings and allowing just one hit. He walked three and struck out four. Even Rutckyj pitched five shutout innings of his own, allowing 3 hits and two walks against one K. Daniel Camarena had a rough first week, allowing 5ER on 11H, walking one and recording not a single strikeout. Charlie Short, Ben Paullus and Alex Smith pitched a combined 13.2 innings of eight hit ball, striking out 20 while walking just five.
That’s it for our first week in review, tune in every Friday for the rundowns of all our minor league action, and keep an eye out for more prospect profiles, as well as some articles detailing the upcoming 2013 first year player draft.
In a little less than three weeks, the Yankees will begin their home-opener against the Boston Red Sox with CC Sabathia on the mound. However, this year’s Opening Day lineup might be a little different than what we’re used to due to all of the injuries the Yankees were plagued with during the 2013 season. The Yankees are missing Curtis Granderson (broken forearm), Mark Teixeira (strained forearm) and Alex Rodriguez (hip surgery) in their offense which is sure to look like the ‘Robinson Cano Show’ for the first month and a half. But with still some time to go, just how are the Yankees shaping up as they prepare for the season?
The Yankees lineup has many question marks after losing so many players to free agency and injuries. The bats of Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez will be with different ball clubs, while we will most likely have to wait for Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson to return to their post in early to mid-May. However, the lineup hasn’t looked as puzzling as it did when Spring Training started. The Yankees proved that they can manufacture runs by using a key element that they possess: speed. Players like Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Eduardo Nunez are capable of getting on base, going station to station on their own before a key teammate has to drive them in with an RBI. Speed will play an important part this season since the Yankees have lost over 100 home runs than in season’s past. But just because the Yankees are relying on speed, it doesn’t mean we should start calling them the ‘Bronx Bunters’. They will still find a way to hit home runs with Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira making their way back into the starting lineup.
Throughout the course of Spring Training, the starting pitching has been one early glimpse of how our starters will perform during the 2013 season. It looks as if they left off from last season. Hiroki Kuroda looks to be in mid-season form, David Phelps has a 0.63 ERA 14 Spring appearances Ivan Nova has an ERA of 1. Andy Pettitte has still proven that his pitches are effective although he’s the oldest starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. And as expected, there is no concern over CC Sabathia, whatsoever. The starting pitching looks to be one of the Yankees strong points like it was in season’s past. Let’s hope that the pitching can carry the Yanks this season.
The Yankees bullpen was another one of their key pieces that helped define the Yankees last season. With pitchers such as David Robertson, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Joba Chamberlain, it seemed like an easy task to get the ball to the 9th inning before handing it off to the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. Last season’s bullpen dynamic was different since there was no Mariano in the bullpen due to an ACL injury, giving the Yankees a glimpse of what it would look like if Mariano Rivera wasn’t there. With Rafael Soriano, the Yankees were able to still close games with a dominant force but this year there is no Rafael Soriano. Mariano Rivera plans to retire after the 2013 season, which gives Yankees fans one last look of the greatest closer before he hangs up his cleats and says goodbye to the game. The bullpen is expected to be a strong part of the Yankees once again, and from Spring observations, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shawn Kelley and David Phelps get spots in the bullpen. With both of their arms this spring, the Yankees bullpen could become an iron gate to prevent runs from scoring.
There’s only 17 days until Opening Day so from now until Spring Training is over, it would be a good time to start watching the games to see who has a legitimate shot of making the team. And from what I’ve seen all Spring so far, there are quite a few who have a chance to go north.
With spring training under way and a pretty good view of what’s to come, let’s get into a little fortune telling for the 2013 season. I’ve singled out a few categories to focus on concerning our young up and comers and have chosen a position player and pitcher to highlight in each one, so without further nonsense let’s get started….
Returning from Injury:
Here’s the obvious choice for a rebound season after spending much of 2012 on the DL. The sometimes referred to “spare part” in The Trade, Campos broke out of the gate and did exactly what he was projected to have done. Through his first four starts consisting of 22 innings, he allowed three earned runs, walked five and struck out 23. In spite of only allowing 2 runs in that fourth start, he allowed twice as many hits (8) as he had in any other game, indicating a bit of an issue. In his following outing the wheels came off and he gave up a staggering 8 earned in just 2.2 innings. He was pulled from that game and shut down for what ended up being the remainder of the season. It later came out that he was experiencing some elbow discomfort, and not just the usual aches and pains that pitchers go through but something more serious. He admitted that he tried to look past the pain in order to stay on the mound, not wanting to disappoint his new team. Armed with some plus stuff, excellent command and polish not usually found in players his age, Jose has an excellent chance to make his way up the prospect lists. His health is obviously a question mark right now, but if he can stay off the DL he will be an important part of the depth of pitchers in the system.
Santana made his way back to the diamond last year, but it was on the tail of a devastating ankle injury, much like that suffered by David Adams. Reports were that he was not operating at full tilt, and was tentative in many respects. It wasn’t surprising to see as the injury was fairly severe and a full recovery wasn’t expected to come in his first year back. After a stint in the DSL, Ravel made his stateside debut in the GCL in 2011 and put up a .929 OPS. His season ended in ugly fashion, and he spent the winter and into the following summer rehabbing his way back to the field. Before the injury, Santana was a five tool player that was one of the most exciting in the system. Since his recovery he’s held back in the field and on the bases, as well as getting antsy at the plate. He also experienced some issues seeing the ball in his first ever night games, which was addressed and supposedly he began to adjust to. It remains to be seen how he’s going to come back once he’s had a full recovery and he gains his confidence back, so this prediction has a few caveats but I’ll take the gamble. Ravel has major upside to his game and can make an impact in a number of ways; the kind of player you’d love to dream on.
Dante Bichette Jr.
Dante’s first year of full season ball was well, a disaster on paper. A former first round pick, DBJ tore up his debut in short season leagues hitting to the tune of a .947 OPS across both the GCL and NYPL. Dante earned a promotion to play in low A at Charleston and that’s when he hit a wall. Both his power and patience at the plate took a hiatus, and his average fell nearly a hundred points, bringing his OPS down to .653. What you won’t find on any of the stat sheets are the things behind the scenes; mainly the changes in his approach that he went through in his quest to make it to the big leagues. While Dante has always been a bat first guy, there were some things about his swing that concerned the team with him moving forward. While it wasn’t something that would hinder him in the lower levels, his swing was a bit long and would be subject to exposure against advanced pitching. Better to address it now then to wait until he was already over his head. DBJ went through a few different approaches at the plate, making slight alterations to his mechanics throughout the year. He finally settled in to something that was comfortable to him, and reports were that it finally paid off, although it was quite late in the season for it to make any significant change in his overall numbers. With his swing working the way they want it to, look for Dante to bounce back in 2013 and show the prowess at the plate we saw in his debut.
Mitchell is regarded as having some of the best raw stuff in the system, but has yet to put it all together in a consistent season long run. He has the strike out numbers you want to see, knocking out a batter per inning, but his walk totals tell the story of his inconsistencies around the zone. Looking at his game logs you’ll see him go from one run games to an ERA north of 9, further exemplifying his issues with staying on track. He’ll be heading into his age 22 season and a trip to Tampa this year, so he’s not exactly behind the curve, but with his raw stuff and pitchability you want to see better results. He did end the season on a high note, throwing two scoreless 6 inning outings to cap off an up and down year. If he can stay within himself and not revert to the max-effort approach on every pitch he might just start to live up to his potential. When he’s free and easy he’s a force to be reckoned with, it’s a matter of getting that guy on the mound each night.
I did a profile on Jose last year, as I really liked what I was seeing out of him and his finally putting it all together. The rub with Jose was his issues in staying on the field, and is still a concern but the questions about his stuff have been put to rest. He’s always had potential as a reliever, with two offerings that are easily a plus grade if not higher. He throws a heavy FB with good arm side run to it that sits in the mid 90′s and gains a few ticks as he gets warmed up. He was reported to have hit a legit 100 mph last year and can get just below that with regularity. His changeup is one of the two or three best in the system beside Banuelos and Kahnle giving him a great jump-off point. What he struggled with for so long was his breaking ball, changing it numerous times trying to find something he was comfortable with. He eventually settled on a slider, which shows being anywhere from average to plus depending on the outing. It’s this third pitch that will help keep him in the rotation and keep his value at a maximum. We’ve gotten to see him a few times during this years spring training, and so far he’s showing that potential. He’s garnered some praise from the staff and stood out on the mound flashing his plus pitches. One area that was questionable about him, his poise and makeup, has been put to the test thus far as he’s gotten himself in a few jams but managed to work his way out of them. A good sign for sure, and hopefully he’ll continue in that vein. He’ll be part of a pretty solid rotation in Trenton and with a solid year could make a play for time in the BX in 2014.
Bird could have been also fit into the bounce back from injury category, just Ravel could have been pegged into this one, but so be it. Bird is all bat; he started out as a catcher but injury concerns have pushed him to first base. He has plenty of stick to remain there though, as he displays plus power to the pull side and above average to the opposite field. A short stroke, tremendous bat speed and an eye for the plate could easily have him hitting for average as well. He’s also showed to have above average defense playing first base. A healthy season in Charleston could have him putting his middle of the order potential on display for us all in 2013.
I’ve mentioned Nuno in the past, and probably have a bit of bias towards the guy but he’s earned a mention here as a dark horse candidate. Vidal went through some growing pains as a young player and ended up getting cut from Cleveland’s system and looking for work in the Indy Leagues. Through all that he’s come a long way as both a person and a player, committing himself to his craft and further developing his repertoire. He worked on his changeup and cleaned up his mechanics, giving him a nice pitch mix and a consistent solid delivery that saw him handing out very few free passes and leading the system in K’s last year. He’s not an overpowering pitcher, sitting around 88-91 with his FB, but he has a fair amount of deception to his delivery and very good command of the zone. He’ll always have to rely on his accuracy as he won’t be able to simply muscle his way through a lineup, but being left handed and keeping runners off the basepaths is a good thing in YS. He will come to SWB to start the year, and likely sits behind Warren in the pecking order but i’d really like to see him get his shot in the BX, wether it’s for a few spot starts or as a left handed long man in the event that Phelps gets bumped up to the rotation. Nuno is a bit of an underdog here, and I like that about him.
Gamel got the snub on our prospect list this year, but when you consider how close those guys are at the bottom of that list it’s not as bad as it first seems. When you get to that point, you could exchange several of them and they all could make a claim for making the cut. Gamel, like Flores a year ago gets lost in the fray a bit with all of the big name OF prospects that have made their way to center stage the last two years. Flying under the radar isn’t a bad thing though, but it may not be for long. Gamel can flat out hit, showing excellent plate recognition, the ability to hit to all fields and get the barrel on the ball. Right now his power is mainly to the gaps, but from what we’ve heard he’s packed on a bit of muscle this past winter and that gap power could translate into over the fence power. Gamel can cover any spot in the OF, playing up a bit more to the plus side in the corners. In a system wrought with center fielders his best chance to make a name for himself may be a corner spot, so his power will have to evolve as he moves along. If he did indeed bulk up and it carries over to game time Ben could make his bones as a regular corner guy. Everything else is there, it’s all about the long ball now.
The baseball world is no doubt abuzz today with the news that one Mariano Rivera will announce his retirement upon the conclusion of the 2013 season in a press conference being held tomorrow. I just want to take a quick moment to tip my cap to not just the greatest closer the game has ever seen, but one of the greatest pitchers, mentors, role models and all around human beings to ever grace the diamond. It’s been nothing short of a thrill to have spent the better part of the last two decades watching him confound hitters, breaking their bats and sending them on their way. He is as ageless as he is beguiling, and I look forward in relishing every last time he takes the stage this final season. Thanks for all of the great memories Mo… words that hardly seem adequate.
Turning 39 years old this June, Derek Jeter has re-iterated over the past few years that age is simply just a number to him and the rest of his veteran teammates.
Of course, most baseball minds have thought otherwise, saying as they have in prior offseasons that this upcoming season will be the season the old guard finally breaks down and prevents the Yankees from making the playoffs.
“I’ve heard it before,” Jeter told the New York Post in response to the skepticism. “Regardless of how old anyone is, it’s our job to come here and be ready to play and help us compete. We’ve been able to do that pretty successfully over the years. Our plans don’t change.”
It’s definitely great to hear The Captain having that mindset, and he’s right. With the old age and doubt at its highest, the Yanks have won consecutive division titles and made two ALCS appearances in three years. Mind you, the reason there was even a chance for a pennant last October was thanks to a 40-year old carrying the team on his back in the late innings – Raul Ibanez.
So whether it’s the experience factor, fate, plain luck, or some other reason, time nor age has phased this Yankees team. They have remained just as big a threat to win the World Series as they were when Robinson Cano was a teenager in the late nineties.
Without saying its a problem, however, the oldest guys on the roster must do the un-expected once again to keep the Yanks at the top of the American League’s totem pole.
That may have been stating the obvious, but the team is definitely centered around a group of extraordinary, extra-old veterans who somehow have kept up with the rest of MLB over the past decade. Jeter (38), Andy Pettitte (40), Hiroki Kuroda (38), Ichiro Suzuki (39), and Mariano Rivera (43) are absolutely essential parts of this year’s ball-club. As I said, it’s not too often players their age are still in the game, let alone performing at a high level.
Now is it fair to doubt them, with all they’ve done in each of their careers? No. But people will, and have some reason to do so. To think that these players can lead the team through a six-month season and still have it in them to keep it up [hopefully] in October is a lot to ask. It’s not impossible, but I wouldn’t consider it the most likely scenario.
I refuse to say this will be the year the Yankees’ age finally catches up to them, as each year in thinking that they surprise me and win the division. They are not too old to compete, but we’ve seen in the past few seasons the team dominating in the regular season, and just running out of gas come October. Things could change between now and September, but a realistic take on the 2013 Yankees is that they have the talent to return to the postseason. But their efforts to win in the postseason may again derail their quest for a 28th title.
Not even one full day into his first day at spring training, the few sentences said by Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis sent fans and the media into a frenzy. Likely a few hours after he was sized for his pinstripes, Youk was telling reporters he’d always be a Boston Red Sox.
He’s learned now, but that’s a big no-no and certainly not something that will go unnoticed in the big New York spotlight. Of course, his allegiance to Boston spread all over the back pages of newspapers was not the only quote he gave, but it was the only one people cared about.
Already on Yankees fan’s bad side, Kevin Youkilis said he will always remember the first nine seasons of his baseball career, which just so happened to take place with the Bombers’ biggest rival. Two World Series rings, three All Star appearances, a Gold Glove and Hank Aaron Award, and he is being ridiculed for saying he enjoyed what he accomplished there? Are fans truly clinging to any little thing he says that sounds the slightest anti-Yankee? That is truly pathetic.
Now, there’s not a fiber in my body that tells me a clean-shaven Kevin Youkilis wearing our beloved Yankee pinstripes is right. This is not a plea of defense nor show of love to the guy who batted .235 last season and yet received $12 million, from an apparently penny-pinching Yankees front office. But it’s just me accepting it.
Many people have brought up the argument that players like Sparky Lyle, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, and Johnny Damon all started out as hated rivals in Beantown, and ended up becoming fan favorites [and more importantly, World Series champions] in the Bronx. Did any fan really expect those four “idiots” to put on the pinstripes, play with Yankee pride and partake in some of the greatest moments the team has ever had? I don’t think so.
I’ll give you a moment to reminisce about Sparky’s 1977 Cy Young season. Or Boggs riding the horse after ’96. Don’t forget Clemens’ postseason dominance either. Or Damon’s double-steal.
That is not my number one point, but it largely contributes to the idea that fans need to just wait and see what happens this season. The fact is, no one knows what Kevin Youkilis will do for the Yankees this year. I don’t expect anything outstanding, but I don’t expect anything horrible either.
Yankees fans have been considered vulgar, ignorant, downright stupid and clueless in the past. They have also been known as classy, every now and then, for cheering for whoever is wearing the pinstripes. I’m not a fan of A-Rod and a number of guys on the team. But I still support them and cheer for them. Why? Because they’re Yankees. And Kevin Youkilis is now one too.
So forget what he was, as he is now a player for our favorite team. Forgive and forget. Give him a chance. All those statements and more apply. The fact is, you don’t know anything until you know everything. Who knows what these upcoming 162 games have in store for Youk. Only time will tell. Not me or you.
As the offseason winds down, aside from the Alex Rodriguez drama and the small signings of Matt Diaz, Kevin Youkilis and Juan Rivera, the Yankees seem to be almost the exact same team as in 2012 minus a few losses. Nick Swisher packed his bags and went to the Cleveland Indians, Russell Martin did the same and rejoined former Yankees teammate A.J Burnett with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Raul Ibanez decided to take his bat to Seattle where he could end his career on a good note and Andruw Jones went to Japan, one of the few loses the Yankees won’t mind at all. However, as the 2013 season comes upon us, the Yankees look as if they hadn’t done much on the market. The 2013 team has been predicted by multiple fans that they will finish from either 2nd place – 4th place in the AL East.
The Yankees may look like the same old Yankees as the 2012 season, but there’s one small detail that the Yankees completely missed: some of the players that are ready to play this season, weren’t available last season due to injury or health issues. Some of the big names on the team spent quite some time on the DL and the reason that the Yankees didn’t make a deal with other players, is because they believe there’s someone on the team that can do the job better than someone on the market.
Brett Gardner – OF
Last season looked very promising for Brett Gardner. Once April came around, he was hot right off the bat. He looked as if he was going to bounce back from his so-so 2011 season–until injury struck. Gardner was unsure what was going on with his elbow. At first he went on the DL believing that 15 days later, he would be back to help the team. Once he started to swing a bat again, he felt the pain again. The Yankees tried to rehab him for a third time and he still felt pain in his elbow. A concerned Gardner was then sent to a surgeon to see if there was something wrong with his elbow. Alas, the young outfielder once again needed surgery. Gardner is now back for the 2013 season and this time he’s healthy. In the 2010 season, he proved that he was a starter, but his most impressive stat was his stolen base numbers. Although his hitting was down in 2011, Gardner outdid his stolen base numbers from 2010, going from 47-49. A healthy Brett Gardner can steal bases, is the only Yankee that truly knows how to play small ball and can work the count with his impressive patience at the plate. No need for Michael Bourn. Brett Gardner is already an upgrade from what’s on the market.
The Royals are looking to contend in 2013 and appear to have the young offensive core to do so. Their bullpen is also strong but they must improve their pathetic starting rotation to be taken seriously. K.C. was 26th in MLB with a 5.01 ERA from their starters this year and are looking to trade from their strong young offensive core in order to improve their staff. According to this article by Tim Passan of Yahoo Sports, even MLB’s top minor-league hitter, Will Myers is available.
Apparently only young starting catcher Salvador Perez and starting SS Alcides Escobar are off-limits with the Royals willing to listen on DH/1B Billy Butler, 1B Eric Hosmer, 3B Mike Moustakas, OF Alex Gordon and OF Myers. The article explains Kansas city’s budget parameters as follows:
“The Royals’ payroll commitments are around $69 million, leaving them two options to stay within their expected payroll around $73 million: They can pursue a young starter with a cheap contract but not as much experience as the Royals want; or deal for a veteran with a higher salary whose cost would cause them to deal a veteran.”
What could the Yankees offer KC?
The Yankees could offer a package centering around Phil Hughes or Ivan Nova with David Phelps, Joba Chamberlain, Adam Warren and Brett Marshall as other possibilities. The Yanks could also explore a 3-way trade in which they trade players like Curtis Granderson or Eduardo Nunez for pitching that they could flip to KC for a bat like Gordon. There are several contenders in the market for a CF this year and many teams would plug Nunez in as their starting SS. Gordon will make $9M in 2013 and go up to $12.5M in 2015. That is a high price for a team with a $73M payroll andhuge pitching holes. Gaining Hughes and another cheap starter like Phelps or someone acquired for Granderson/Nunez, KC would plug 2 rotation spots and save money to spend on more pitching. Myers could replace Gordon’s bat in the lineup and KC would be a more balanced team.
It’s time for the Yanks to look at players and decide if they are part of the team’s plans in 2014 and beyond. With Granderson, Hughes and Joba as FAs in 2014, will NY be willing to pay them on multi-yr deals?Will they ever be comfortable turning the SS position over to Nunez? If the answers to those questions are no as I expect – now is the time to move these guys. Getting a player like Alex Gordon back would be a great return and is precisely the type of player they should target.
Gordon will turn 29 next year and is under team control for 4 more seasons at an AAV of $11 Million per season. That is fair value for a 2-time Gold Glove OF who could hit 3rd in the lineup and become the team’s new leader as they transition away from the Core 4 Glory Years. Over the last 2 years he’s hit .298/.372/.478/.850 with an average of 48 Doubles, 5 Triples, 19 HRs, 80 RBI, 14 SBS and a 133 OPS+.
Yankees in 2013
The loss of Hughes could be offset by signing Dan Haren or Edwin Jackson. Haren is one of baseball’s most consistent pitchers who had a down 2012 due to back problems. Signing him now after a down season would be wise. Jackson seems like he’s been around forever but is still only 29 yrs old. He has an excellent arm and has been a consistent Innings eater averaging 32 starts and 199 IP over the last 5 seasons. He’s posted a 105 ERA+ over the last 5 years so he’s been 5% better than the average starter. Pitchers like Jackson often don’t hit their prime until they are about 29-30 when they learn to pitch and harness their great stuff. I believe either Jackson or Haren would be an improvement over Hughes and have the benefit of staying with the team beyond 2013. The rotation this yr would be a solid CC/Kuroda/Pettitte/Haren or Jackson/Nova or Phelps.
Losing Granderson’s power would hurt but Gordon is a better all-around offensive player and Gardner could move to CF. Ichiro could be brought back for 1 year to play RF along with a RH hitting OF like Scott Hairston, Chris Denorfia or Red Johnson. Then in 2014, hopefully one or more of Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams or Zoilo Almonte could be ready to join the OF.
In the IF, David Adams should be brought up to play 3B when ARod DHs. Corban Joseph could also be brought up to DH some against RHP and to rest Cano at 2B. Either Adams and/or Joseph could also become a backup 1B for Tex. Rather than bring back a 41-yr old like Ibanez to DH some vs RHP, give a young player like Joseph a shot. A veteran like Ibanez can always be acquired mid-season. The Yanks have also been linked to veteran IFs like Jeff Keppinger and Stephen Drew who could play the Utility role Adams & Joseph would. I’d like to give the young guys a chance because I believe in both of them as hitters. Either way, the Yankee lineup would look something like this:
DH/3B Adams/Joseph or Keppinger
The 2012 outfield for the Yankees had somewhat of a different look when Brett Gardner went down with an elbow injury and Ichiro Suzuki came along to fill in for the last 2 months. However, the two (somewhat) constants in the outfield were Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. With free agency coming up, the Yankees have some decisions to make and frankly, the Yankees could have a completely different outfield (aside from Brett Gardner) in 2013.
Center Field – Curtis Granderson
Curtis Granderson reminds everyone of Detroit Tiger’s Austin Jackson, at least in the speed and strikeout department. Granderson’s power numbers were good: 43 HR’s, 106 RBI’s, the home runs being a career high. However, the disappointing part was the strikeouts and the average. Curtis Granderson struck out 195 times in the regular season and ended the year with a .232 average, his worst since his rookie year in Detroit (.240). Granderson’s postseason was so horrific that fans could actually predict what he was going to do–strike out. He had a .158 AVG against Baltimore in the ALDS and a .000 AVG against the Tigers in the ALCS. How many strikeouts did Granderson have? Sixteen strikeouts in 30 at-bats. That’s counting both series. If it weren’t for Alex Rodriguez and his ridiculous contract, then Granderson would have been hearing a lot of boos from the crowd.
Regular Season Grade: C+
Postseason Grade: F
2013 Outlook: Granderson has an option for 2013, which the Yankees are almost certain to pick up, but 2013 could be Granderson’s last year in Yankee pinstripes. It wouldn’t be all bad. The Yankees have Brett Gardner who can be the CF should the Yankees pick up Granderson’s option and then trade him. The 43 HR’s are nice…but with Granderson’s average and strikeouts, it makes Granderson look like the all or nothing guy.
Right Field -Nick Swisher
Nick Swisher had a good regular year for the Yankees that it almost looked like the Yankees were sure to offer him a contract. I mean, why wouldn’t they? Swisher had a .272 AVG, 24 HR’s, 93 RBI’s, and he walked 77 times in the season. Unfortunately, Nick Swisher forgot that he is supposed to keep hitting in October–and he’s been forgetting that every year he’s been in the playoffs. Against the Orioles, Swisher had a .111 average and against the Tigers, he hit .250. The .250 average looks decent, right? He had three hits in 12 at-bats, and he was five for 30 in the whole postseason. Swisher has a good personality and he lightens up the clubhouse, but the Yankees are not paying him money just so he can smile. He is supposed to have a good bat all year, not become a postseason zombie like his fellow zombies Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson.
Regular Season Grade: B
Postseason Grade: F
2013 Outlook: Nick Swisher will not be a Yankee next year. I can bet on that. Swisher has had too many flubs in the postseason for the Yankees to give him another chance. It is one thing to get into the postseason. It is another thing to go ice cold once you are in. The Yankees could re-sign Ichiro to take Swisher’s spot in right field but when you think about it, at 39 years old is Ichiro really the better choice? The Yankees would have to offer Swisher $13.3 Million when free agency season comes around (which is sometime next week or so) but if he wants Jayson Werth money–he’s going to have to go somewhere else.
There’s been a ton of talk about change that is needed for the Yankees to go even further in the playoffs in 2013. Some suggest blowing the team up, while others suggest slight tweaking and bargain-bin signings could get the job done. But what most likely will not change, despite Yankee fans’ cries to, is the left side of the infield, which has been a constant for New York nine straight seasons, and should be again for its tenth.
Shortstop – Derek Jeter
Right now, when you think about Derek Jeter’s 2012 season, you’re still picturing him falling to the ground and being helped off the field in Game 1 of the ALCS. What would be a broken ankle put a startling and abrupt end to one of the Captain’s best seasons, even though his “prime years” have long past. The 38-year old recorded 216 hits (good for a .316 batting average) and was a true jumpstart to the lineup atop it as the leadoff man. His leadership at the plate and in the field matched no other, and say what you want about his range, but he did not cost the Yankees any games in 2012 and hasn’t cost them much more in his 18 seasons. We’ll keep replaying that injury in our minds up until the Captain takes the field again in 2013, which is unfortunate, because up until that moment we saw an incredible season from a future Hall of Famer and one of the true Yankees legends. Grade – A
As great a season as he had this year, expect that ankle injury to slow some of Jeter’s abilities in 2013. We’ve all counted him out before, but it was because of age and not necessarily any physical derailment. Now, he just went under the knife and had surgery to completely repair the ankle, and won’t be back for 4-5 months. He could still start more games at shortstop than at DH, but expect Derek to get a lot of time off and the Yankees to treat him very cautiously. Even still, hitting wise, the man’s a god, and should put up numbers that will be heads and shoulders above any other 39-year old starting shortstop.
Third base – Alex Rodriguez
2012 was definitely a trying year for A-Rod, as once again he couldn’t stay healthy and missed 40 games in the regular season. But when he was on the field he was an above-average third baseman, and that’s saying a lot considering he too is past his prime. He is one of the best defensive third basemen in the game, and that alone was a big help to the Yankees in 2012. And yes, we all know he didn’t hit 40 home runs or was an MVP contender but that era of A-Rod baseball ended in 2007. 18 home runs, close to 60 RBIs and a .272 average are great statistics for a former steroid user who’s in what would be the twilight of a player’s career. Don’t blame him because Joe Girardi decides to bat him third or fourth every night. Grade – C+
His postseason was absolutely horrible, I get that. But so too was any other Yankee player excluding Derek Jeter. So go ahead and come up with any trade ideas you think can get him out of New York, but it’s time to accept it: Alex Rodriguez will be the Yankees third baseman in 2013. Say what you will about his production in October, as detailed he still is a solid third baseman on all sides during the regular season. I expect similar numbers from him in 2013, and maybe even slightly bigger stats should he stay healthy. Which is a big “if”, and the Yankees probably should rest him a bit more than they did this year. But if they do, and A-Rod just does what he does best, and that’s hit, look for another good year from him, despite all his apparent issues this fall that were just simply a 9-game slump.
Although both Cashman & Girardi have stated that Alex is the Yankees 3B in 2013 and they have no plans to pursue a trade, they would be foolish to not explore every opportunity to move him. We all know the obstacles in place to move Alex, the 5 yrs @ $114 Million remaining on his deal, the no-trade clause and his decline at the age of 37. However, if anything has been proven over the last year in MLB, it’s that any player can be traded regardless of the obstacles.
This is not meant to be a typical, blame all of the Yankees problems on ARod piece. Alex is still an above average player in the regular season and has value going forward. So why should the Yankees trade him? Well, there are 3 major motivations for the Yankees to pursue a trade:
- The Money - In years past, it really wouldn’t matter what ARod made as the Yankee payroll was routinely $210-225 Million. However, with Hal dead serious about reducing the payroll to get under the $189M Luxury Tax threshold, the ARod deal is the biggest albatross. Although he will make less in the latter years of the deal, he will still count $27.5M towards the Cap every year due to the Annual Average Value and that amount will balloon to $33.5M in the years he hits his milestones. That first milestone is likely to be hit in 2013 as he needs 13 HRs to tie Willie Mays.
- Derek Jeter - We don’t know how Jeter will recover from his broken ankle or how it will affect his already declining range at SS. I’m not one who thinks Jeters range kills the team but the facts are he will have to play fewer games at SS in 2013 and beyond. With Derek needing more time at DH in coming years, can the team really afford to have 2 players in their late 30′s that need extensive DH time?
- The Post-season - I really thought Alex lifted an enormous monkey off his back with his performance in the 2009 Playoffs when he helped lead the team to the WS. However, since then he has been totally invisible in the post-season for the last 3 years. Since 2009, he is 12 for 75 (.160 BA) with 0 HRs and only 2 Doubles for an anemic .448 OPS and 24 StrikeOuts. In his Yankee career, he has had 2 good post-seasons, 1 meh and 5 complete debacles. For a team that goes to the post-season nearly every yr, they need better than that and it is clear that Alex presses during the post-season.
With the above demerits, why would any team want to trade for ARod? Well, let’s look at the motivations for a team like Miami. The money is definitely an issue and the Yanks would have to take back a big salary, eat money and perhaps sweeten the pot with another good player. But Miami wouldn’t have the same financial issues as the Yankees do. For starters, the Luxury Tax is not an issue for them so the fact that Alex’ AAV is higher than his actual paycheck is meaningless to them. The fact that his salary drops to $20-21M the final 3 years is advantageous to Florida. The other big detriment to the Yankees is also meaningless to Miami – the post-season performance. Miami was in last place in 2012 and they would be happy just to make it to the post-season in the next few years.
The 3 major reasons Miami would be interested in Alex are the following:
- Attendance/Exposure - Miami just opened their new stadium in 2012 and have been looking for Latino box office draws to create a buzz and fill seats. If anything, Alex is interesting and always creates a huge media buzz. Miami would definitely benefit from the added exposure and the fact that Alex is aa Miami-native with deep ties to the community is a huge factor for them. Miami tried to sign Albert Pujols in FA as a big Latin draw but failed, they signed Jose Reyes for the same reason. Alex could play the role Pujols was intended to play in the community. Chasing down some HR landmarks may also create a buzz in Miami where it’s almost hum-drum in drama-filled NY.
- Leadership - Despite his flaws, Alex has become a solid leader for younger players and youn Latin players specifically. With Florida building with a young club, ARod could be an important force in the clubhouse to show the young players how to work hard and what is required to succeed. In NY, he’s always in the shadow of Jeter but in Miami – his town, his home – he could be in charge.
- Performance - Like Cashman said, Alex is still an above-average 3B. Although his #s are in decline, he still had a 112 OPS+ in his worse season of his career in 2012. If healthy and rejuvenated in a new setting, he could be a good complement in their lineup to young stud Giancarlo Stanton.
Miami has 2 high-priced, long-term commitments on their books after trading Heath Bell. Both players have heavily back-loaded contracts. The first – Jose Reyes – is highly unlikely to be moved as he’s still young, productive and dynamic. the 2nd player is Mark Buehrle who may be a candidate for the Yanks to take back in an ARod deal. Buehrle made just $6M in 2012 but his salary jumps to $11M in 2013 , then to $18 & $19M in the final 2 seasons. To me, that means Miami intends to trade him in those latter years. He has 3 yrs @ $48M left on his deal and he’s still a solid starter with proven success in the A.L. The Yanks could take him back, eat some money and maybe throw Miami a player to make the deal even. It could be done.
The last impediment of such a deal is ARod and his no-trade clause. But after being embarrassed by the club in the Playoffs and having lukewarm at best support from the NY fans, I think Alex would jump at the chance to go to Miami – his hometown, with a chance to start over and without the glaring spotlight of the NY media and constant post-season pressure.
What do you think? Is a trade possible and should the Yankees pursue it or just sit back and listen like Cashman says? Cashman has always been a very stealth operator who feeds the media a lot of mis-information. I have to believe he will explore every option to deal ARod this Winter because of the reasons above.
Very soon Brian Cashman will bring all of his lieutenants together to go over the team’s players and formulate an off-season plan. We will do the same thing here, position by position to see what assets the team has, what is available in the upper minor leagues as an option and evaluate if it’s an area of need moving forward. Today we’ll start with the left side of the infield.
First base – Mark Teixeira
Tex had the worst season of his career in 2012 as he had his streak of 8 straight seasons of 30-100 snapped. He missed basically all of September due to a calf strain which is part of the reason his HR & RBI totals were down. However, he also had career lows in SLG (.475) & OPS (.807) and had his 3rd straight season with a BA below .256. Whether it’s his heavy pull tendencies, the severe defensive shifts, his uppercut swing or a combination of them all, Tex just isn’t the same hitter from the left side that Yankees signed for $180 Million.
After his great initial season with the Yanks he’s been a .252/.347/.484/.831 over the past 3 years and I have little hope he’ll ever return to the .290-.300 hitter he was through 2009. Last offseason he vowed to work on using the whole field more as a LH hitter but after his typical slow start in April, he quickly scrapped it and went back into pulling everything. In addition to the declining BA, he’s also been walking less (just 10.3%) the last few yrs which doesn’t make him a good #3/#4 hitter anymore. Grade: C-
2013 Outlook: With 4 years @ $90M left on his contract, he is going nowhere. Unfortunately, it looks like Tex is what he is at this point in his career and there’s little hope he changes. He’s going to be about a .250 hitter with around 30 HRs-100 RBIs who plays very good defense. With his diminished BA & OBP, he’s no longer a viable #3/4 hitter but he’s still capable of impacting any game with his power and defense. With Tex signed til 2016, the organization hasn’t looked to develop a 1B in the upper minors and with Swisher likely gone they may look for a veteran who can play some 1B and OF or get someone like Nix, Joseph or Adams to work on 1B.
Second Base – Robinson Cano
Cano had a career year in the regular season with personal highs in HRs, 2Bs, Walks, Runs, SLG, OPS, WOBA & RC+. He was patient at the plate for much of the regular season which is the key for him at the plate. When he’s patient and using the entire field, he’s as dangerous as any hitter in the league. Unfortunately he has lapses where he loses discipline and looks to drive everything like he did in the playoffs. He also has lapses in concentration on the bases and the field at times but his bat usually makes up for those. All told, he was one of the best hitters in baseball with a .929 OPS and a very good defensive second basemen who loses some luster because of his terrible post-season. Grade: A-
2013 Outlook: Cano has a no-brainer $15M option that the Yankees will definitely exercise. There is a possibility that Cashman and Boras could discuss an extension this Winter to see if Free Agency can be avoided but I think that ship has sailed. I believe last yr was the time to talk extension and there is little to gain for either side to come to an agreement this yr. Cano is coming off a career yr and Boras is already flapping his gums about a 10-yr deal. So while it would help for the team to have an idea of what Cano is looking for, I wouldn’t expect anything to happen until he’s a FA. There is the option to trade Cano since the Yankees have 2 promising young 2B ready to make their MLB-debuts in 2013. However, that seems very unlikely since Cano is their only legitimate offensive threat and Cashman doesn’t usually operate like that.
Although Cano is almost definitely going to be at 2B in 2013, the team needs to give a role to Adams and/or Joseph as they are their 2 most MLB-ready bats. Joseph is a soon-to-be 24 yr old lefty hitter who hit .276/.375/.465/.840 between AA & AAA. He makes good solid contact and had an impressive 68/70 Walk to K rate. Adams is a 25 yr-old RH hitter who hit .306/.385/.450/.834 in AA and is finally healthy after 2 years. Adams is also a line-drive hitter with good strike zone recognition. He played 3B for the final month of 2012 and could be an option there as well.
Yesterday afternoon I went to New York City’s Comic-Con event for the very first time. A bigger fan of the movie adaptions instead of the comics themselves, I didn’t really enjoy myself as the thousands of others did. Also, I couldn’t help but check my phone every couple minutes, making sure I’d be able to get home in time for the 8:07 first pitch of ALCS Game 1.
Being bored out of my mind and having no where to go, I figured I might as well look through some comics that were on display and on sale to the public. Some were cool, like finding one of the first Superman comic books from the 1940s. But most were from the past 10 years, and clearly had little to no value at all.
But I kid you not, I did stop at one comic in particular as the date intrigued me – October, 1996. It was a Spider-Man comic, but with the Yankees on my mind I just stood there and thought “what a month that was.”
That month, the Yankees led by 22 year-old Derek Jeter defeated the Atlanta Braves in the World Series to win their first championship since 1978, their 23rd in franchise history. Of course guys like Paul O’Neill, Andy Pettitte, Jim Leyrtiz and David Cone played an arguably even bigger role, but New Yorkers were captivated by the play of this young adult from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
He went on to win Rookie of the Year that season, and five years later he was a 4-time World Series champion and the face of the New York Yankees. Giving it his all day in and day out, Jeter piled up multiple seasons of 200-plus hits and a .300 batting average, quickly solidifying himself as a true superstar.
Statistics of course can’t measure the other, over-powering elements of Derek’s game. His hard work, dedication, leadership and professionalism could not be matched by anyone in this day in age. The Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner realized this and made him their team captain in 2003.
Following the multiple championships, October baseball was still common, but playing in the final weeks of the month was not. Just two pennants and four early-round (ALDS, ALCS) playoff exits occurred from 2001-2007, but Jeter kept on fighting and searching for that elusive fifth ring.
New York missed the postseason all together in 2008, and Derek had an off year for his standards at age 34 (.300 batting average, 179 hits – yeah, what a horrible year!). People doubted him, and some even said he was finished being the Yankees’ everyday shortstop. But that year was just a reminder he was human, but still god-like.
He finished third in MVP voting in 2009, as well as becoming the Yankees’ all-time hits leader passing Lou Gehrig. Most importantly, he led the rejuvenated Yanks straight through October and into early November with a World Series win over the Phillies, the 27th for the team and the fifth for him, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada. The Core Four was re-united and it never felt better, as in what you’d call the “twilight” of their careers, they were on top of the baseball world.
Following a 16-month period where he hit just .270 in 2010, had an ugly negotiating period with the Yankees on a new contract, and got injured in mid June, the second half of 2011 proved to be the Derek Jeter revival show. He returned off the disabled list and recorded his 3,000th career hit in the most dramatic way possible – a home run, and went 5-5 that day. For the rest of the year he’d bat .327 and truly hit like the Derek Jeter of old [and thankfully not an old Derek Jeter] at age 37.
The retirement of long-time teammate and friend Jorge Posada put a damper on Jeter’s thoughts as spring training began this year. But with a couple of key pitching acquisitions in Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda, as well as the surprise return of Andy Pettitte, it looked like the Yanks had a shot at #28.
That shot heightened even more when Jeter had one of the best seasons of his career. The 38 year-old racked up 216 hits with a .316 batting average and 15 home runs. With many tough injuries and moments for the team throughout the year, Jeter was their old reliable and truly led the team to just barely winning the division over the Orioles and just as barely defeating them in five games in the recently concluded ALDS.
Therefore, all seemed right as today began. The Yankees in the ALCS, just four wins from the World Series with Jeter leading the way. 16 years after this same situation first occurred.
I returned home just in time to catch Andy Pettitte deliver the first pitch to Austin Jackson for strike one. There you go. Another postseason series for the Yankees with Andy on the hill and Jeter at short. Nothing seemed more usual.
Well, maybe yet another game of failing to drive in runners in scoring position was more usual. That’s sort of become Yankee culture the past three Octobers. But nevertheless, the Yankees overcame a 4-0 deficit in the bottom of the 9th, thanks to who else but Raul Ibanez. The game was tied.
In the 10th inning, with the winning run on third in Brett Gardner, Jeter had a tough at-bat before he popped out to right to end the threat. In the 11th, a single by Ichiro would be all for the Yankees as well. All the momentum from that 9th inning was gone, and it was just a matter of time before the Tigers struck.
A hit by Miguel Cabrera, a strikeout of Prince Fielder and a mis-played line drive by Nick Swisher [hit by Delmon Young] put Detroit up 5-4. If that wasn’t deflating enough, nothing prepared us for what happened next.
Down went the Captain. A fairly routine ground ball was fielded cleanly, but Jeter’s momentum going to his left caused him to put too much pressure on his left ankle, and it twisted the wrong way and he tumbled to the ground. I hate to do a play-by-play, as I’m sure you’ll all watched it a thousand times already, but that’s what happened.
He lay on the field in tremendous pain, not being able to stand as the Tigers tacked on another run, but at that point the game was second in the Yankees’ priorities – Derek Jeter was #1. He was no doubt coming out of the game, and as Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue helped him off the field, the fans rose and cheered “DER-EK JE-TER – *CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP CLAP*”, as they had so many times before following a hit or during the Bleacher Creatures’ roll call. Tears were in mine and as I’m sure many of Yankee fans’ eyes as we watched it all unfold.
Joe Girardi said following the loss that it was what we feared the most – broken. Well, fractured, but the point being he was done for the remainder of the playoffs. In a matter of literally minutes, the Yankees went from being tied in extra innings, to down by 2 and their most important player in the past 50 years out of the game, and done for the year. Wow.
There are really no words to describe how much he has meant and means to the Yankees’ organization, and how devastating a loss this is. For the first time since 1995, the Bombers will try and win a World Series now not only without Mariano Rivera, but Derek Jeter as well.
I don’t know if any playoff loss in Yankees history will be as impacting and depressing as last night’s. That injury could be many things. It certainly could be the dagger in this Yankees team for 2012. But even that aside, it could be the dagger in Jeter being the Yankees’ shortstop, and also being as consistent and clutch a player as he’s been all of these years. A broken ankle is never good, but turning 39 as Derek will be doing next June, it’s even worse.
We always say how much we love and appreciate Derek Jeter. We stop whatever we’re doing to watch his at-bats, and even go to games just to see him play. But now that he’s hurt and can’t do anything but watch the Yankees try and win the World Series, it’ll be very different over at least the next three games as it will make us all realize as we did when Mo went down, that we never know what we have until it’s gone.
Here’s to a quick and successful recovery for Derek, and for this current team who will try and win #28 for him over these next couple of weeks. Cliques are aplenty in these situations, but all I can say is – don’t stop believing. I know Derek Jeter won’t. That’s just who the man is.
As regular as the Yankees being in the playoffs has become, so has the annual jeering of third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Despite carrying the team on his back to the World Series in 2009, all that was forgiven has re-surfaced as Alex has followed ’09 with three consecutive horrid postseasons.
Of course, this October is hopefully still just beginning for the Yankees after an exciting Game 3 win that put them up 2-1 in the ALDS. As you know, Raul Ibanez hit the game-tying and game-winning home runs in the 9th and 12th innings making for a truly historic playoff win. But unfortunately, the bigger story is that he came into the game for A-Rod, who has now struck out in 7 of his 12 playoff at-bats. The cheers that were heard when A-Rod was taken out rivaled the cheers that erupted following Ibanez’s homer(s).
You can’t go on one sports website (even here at Yankees Fans Unite) or watch one sports show without them bringing up the tremendous struggles of the Yankees’ $300 million man. They all point to that bust of a contract and also how he continues to bat third in the order through the first three games, despite clearly not deserving to be.
No doubt people have a solid argument to be mad at A-Rod and want him either benched or off the team completely. But they are thinking in terms that would have applied several years ago, but not at this present time.
Get it through your heads Yankee fans – Alex Rodriguez is no longer Alex Rodriguez. Forget about his contract; he clearly isn’t worth the money. But the guy is 37 years old, and a former steroid user. Not only is he at the age where most athletes begin to break down, but he’s also at the stage in his life where performance-enhancing drug use starts to take its toll.
Granted, he is far more mature and smarter than he was when he juiced down in Texas. Yet the fact remains that he is simply an aging superstar who is past his prime. Actually to me the numbers he put up this year are impressive considering he played in just 122 games. He will never hit 30 home runs again, and likely won’t fare too well in other offensive categories as he plays out the final half of his 10-year deal. He simply isn’t the same A-Rod, and yet Yankee fans think of him as that guy who should be carrying this team and getting at least a hit if not a home run every at-bat, which sparks their hatred and dislike towards his play.
Another gripe quick-thinking fans have with Alex is that he hits third in this Yankee playoff lineup. Correct me if I’m wrong, but does he put out the lineup card every day? Does he decide who to pinch-hit for and who to bring in from the bullpen in close games? No. Those are the duties of the Yankees manager, and that is Joe Girardi. Alex doesn’t ask to bat third and won’t refuse to when Joe says so. A-Rod batting third is nothing of his own fault. I’m not saying blame Joe, but certainly don’t act like him batting third is something that is catastrophic to the Yankees’ chances. Because the players fans want to replace him in the three hole – be it Robbie Cano, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, or Mark Teixeira -none of them have done that much better as far as producing runs. (Teix has hit better than the other three, but he too has had his struggles)
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like Alex Rodriguez. I never have, and simply root for him mutually for him being a member of the Yankees. But acting like he is the only one causing the Yankees’ offensive woes is ridiculous, and so is the idea that he should be hitting like the A-Rod of old, because he’s long gone. What you have now is simply an old A-Rod, and fans need to accept it and understand him still being on the team is something to point fingers at Brian Cashman and the late George Steinbrenner for. The Boss especially had a change of heart after letting him walk and quickly re-signed him in hopes of him continually breaking records and establishing himself as an MLB legend in the Yankee pinstripes.
Instead of signing Mike Lowell, or trading with the Florida Marlins for Miguel Cabrera, George wanted A-Rod back, and he wanted him back for another decade. How could anyone turn down the money he was offered, and also, how could anyone have thought that at age 37 he’d still be hitting 40 home runs and being one of the top hitters in baseball? Not me. Most 37 year olds aren’t, no matter how legendary or productive they were in their prime. And especially considering his PED use, he only adds to the lesser production a veteran player like him will contribute to the Yankees.
So before you begin to hate on A-Rod and want him kicked out of New York, remember it was barely his fault he’s still here and certainly not his fault that at age 37, he can’t hit like he’s 29. I don’t remember too many others who were able to do that.
The TBS booth was something special last night, for an Orioles fan. I get bringing Cal Ripken into the booth seeing as this is the first time the Birds have been in the postseason in many many years, but how about a little balance up there? I don’t think it’s any bit of a stretch that Smoltz is still a little bent about the Yanks sending him packing back in the 90′s, and it shows in the commentary. A little bit of balance would have been nice to hear; how about Tino or Paulie to go back and forth with Rip? Is that too much to ask? The saving grace was that our Yankees came out on top, sparked by Russell Martin, who was greeted with cheers after barely ducking a fastball to the helmet. In that moment when his shot to left went over the fence you could hear a collective sigh both from the broadcast booth and the stadium. Speaking of the stadium… where did all that orange come from? My guess is they bussed a bunch of extras in from the nearest correctional facility, and judging from the applause at the near beanballs to Martin and A-Rod i’d be right. Their silence as Jim Johnson was smacked around by the Bombers in the ninth was deafening and Yankee fans everywhere loved every minute of it.
Speaking of home runs…
The two most homer-happy teams in the league went head to head and launched only one in the hitter friendly Camden Yards in the series opener, courtesy of the guy who had been DFA’d by nearly every Yankee fan at some point this season. Kudos to the Russ-Bus; the guy has had a few tasty hits this year and has accounted for the only two walk-off hits off the year, both of which left the yard. The Yanks put numbers on the scoreboard in a variety of ways; they got hits, they went deep and even sacrificed a man in from third. I love seeing the opposing pitchers head jerk back like a human Pez dispenser, but it’s cool to see them cross home plate in a variety of ways. RISPFail haunted the home dugout last night and the Yankees sailed on to victory.
Not an ace….
The Big Man came through last night and showed everyone why he gets paid the big bucks. 8.2 innings and two runs against a team that has found a way to win for 183 games, and he did it in style. Over the last few starts (4ER 24IP before last night) CC has found his changeup and he and Martin used it effectively last night, working out of some big jams and keeping the O’s lineup off balance and in check. While it may not have seemed like it at the time, his time on the DL may end up being a good thing. CC is in the midst of a low in innings pitched in several years now, and has had just enough time to get sharp for the October run. Buck had a lineup full of righties out there to try and get the best of Sabathia, but with his change and a nasty slider coupled with excellent fastball command, the Birds never stood a chance.
Baseball America has been releasing their top 20 lists for the various MiL levels and there are some familiar faces making the cut. The trio of Sanchez, Austin and Williams all made the cut for the SAL, and Sanchez and Austin both made another appearance on the FSL list along with Slade Heathcott and Nik Turley. Tyler and Gary came in at 8 and 9, while Slade and Nik took the 17th and 18th spots. Jose Fernendez of the Fish and Gerrit Cole took the top honors. Heathcott has drawn praise from opposing managers as an exciting player and a real gamer, his only real drawback being his durability. His go-for-broke style of play should probably be scaled backa bit if he expects to protect that shoulder of his, which has seen two operations thus far. His tools give him a high ceiling, but his health concerns keep his floor somewhat low. He’ll get his cuts in the AFL this year, which starts very shortly.
A Yankee Legend returns to the big stage…
Andy Pettitte‘s return to the mound happened months ago, but let’s be honest… this is what we’ve all been waiting for. Andy will make his first October start since game 3 of the 2010 ALCS and his first against the Birds since 1996. Andrew Eugene has logged more than a full season of innings in playoff action; 263 to be exact, with a 173/72 K/BB ratio and 3.83 ERA. Andy won’t go down as the most dominant pitcher to grace the big stage, but you can count on him to give you his best. Even when he doesn’t have everything working the man will battle and give his team a chance to win the game. He’ll be battling fellow southpaw Wei-Yin Chen, who has stumbled a bit down the stretch, ending the season with 192.2 IP and a 4.02 ERA, 105 ERA+ and 1.261 WHIP.
Qustions have been raised about wether or not Pettitte will return in 2013, as his year had been cut short by an unfortunate line drive that fractured his ankle and cost him nearly three months of the regular season. Andy went on to say: “I know the competition and the desire to compete is still there, and I don’t feel like I kind of got that itch out from the 70 innings or so that I threw this year. I was expecting to do a little more work than that. But we’ll see. We’ll see how this goes, and then i’ll factor everything probably in”. At this point in the year however, focus is in one place, and that’s on his next start. Tonight Andy will be going for his 20th win in the post season, an MLB record.
One month ago, many people including myself were incredibly worried about the Yankees potentially missing the playoffs. The Bombers’ huge ten game lead in the division had dwindled down to one, as the Baltimore Orioles played their best baseball in 15 years. Not only that, but the Yankees themselves were playing absolutely terrible baseball, and many were calling for Joe Girardi’s head.
But by re-gaining some important sidelined players and taking advantage of an easy schedule to end the year, the Yankees came together and wound up making the playoffs and could clinch the A.L. East tonight with a win over the Red Sox. The calendar has now flipped to October, and this postseason is shaping up to be an uphill battle for baseball’s winning-est franchise.
As displayed in September, this Yankees team is not one to be taken lightly, and very easily could the club come together on all aspects and make a fierce run for their 28th world championship. For that to happen, the team will need to play as one unit, consistently producing by way of clutch pitching AND hitting – something we haven’t seen from the Yankees on a nightly basis really all year.
And ironically every time the playoffs roll around, the Yankees go about it saying, “it’s just another game on the schedule”. Yet for the past few years, they’ve played their worst baseball in October. Last year they couldn’t buy a run with men on base; and in 2010 their pitching (besides Andy Pettitte) tanked against Texas in the ALCS. Besides the glorious season of 2009, you can trace every Yankee playoff loss in the past 10 years to a lack of either clutch hitting/pitching, or both in the same series. Don’t even get me started about Jaret Wright or Chien-Ming Wang.
I’m not saying the Yankees lie about their approach to the postseason, but clearly something changes in them over the course of the days following Game 162 and Game 1 of the ALDS. They just aren’t the same Bombers we see throughout the summer.
Maybe this year though, that would be a good thing. No, a great thing.
I’m not saying it’s as simple as the law of averages, but the Yankees really haven’t been the consistent, overpowering force in the American League they normally are each regular season. Sure, they wound up on top of the division again, and you bet they were right there in the standings for the best record in Major League Baseball. But more often than not there was uncertainty and inconsistent play by New York. They’d sweep a series versus a pennant chaser, then lose 2 of 3 to a non-contender. The injuries piled up as well, largely the reason why the Yankees faltered in mid-August and nearly lost a grip on control of their playoff destiny.
Now, the Yankees are a much healthier and complete team then they were. Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira have returned and (for the most part) really haven’t skipped a beat. Not only that, but the past couple weeks the Yankees played some of their best baseball, getting hits with runners in scoring position that aren’t also known as “home runs”. Sure, they still heavily rely on the long ball, but guys who can’t crush a fastball 400 feet every night are learning to be better situational hitters, and looking to rather move a runner to third then trying to score him on one swing of a bat. As I mentioned, hitting with RISP has been the Yankees’ Achilles heel for most of this season and certainly a prime reason for their first-round exit last year. Hitting well now should have some level of a positive impact on how the Yankees swing the lumber as the playoffs begin in a couple days.
Not forgotten is also the pitching staff this year, which has had some streaks of success and streaks of utter failures. As mentioned earlier, the rotation is now re-stocked with the clutch southpaw Andy Pettitte returning from the freak injury he suffered in late June. He’s come back and shown no signs of slowing down, and is absolutely essential to any World Series run the Yankees want to make this year. If he didn’t come back from retirement, the Yankees may not have been back in the postseason.
The other pitchers who haven’t been gone as long – CC, Kuroda, and Hughes, all had solid seasons, Kuroda especially. From May on, he arguably was the ace over a hobbled and inconsistent Sabathia, posting a 3.34 ERA (as of the morning of October 3rd) with 15 wins. Hughes, as I tabbed him the Yankees “Comeback Player of the Year”, looked like his 2010 self here in 2012, hovering around a 4 ERA but putting in a number of quality/dominant outings. More importantly, CC has clearly re-gained his health and strength, as he finished the season with three outstanding starts following an up and down second half of the year.
Say what you want about them, but the Yankees’ bullpen still has many quality relievers who have postseason experience. That’s not something you can say about the Orioles and A’s, of course. It’ll certainly be bittersweet when instead of the Sandman entering, we have Rafael Soriano jogging out to some mamba music in the 9th inning. But he still did a fantastic job as the first successor to the great Mariano Rivera. Sori has been mostly automatic all year for New York, but of course, nothing is certain with closers in the postseason, so all we can do is hope Girardi doesn’t over-use him and he stays fresh enough to produce just as well as he did in the regular season.
The supporting cast, as I like to call them, also had good years, and should be able to transition into the fall. Set-up man David Robertson pitched to a tune of a 2.67 ERA, once again shutting down hitters and building the bridge to Rafi’s entrance in the 9th. Joba Chamberlain has emerged as the Yankees’ 7th inning man, returning back to pumping his 96 mph fastball and getting outs when needed. He’s nowhere near the superstar status he nearly achieved when he first burst onto the scene in 2007, but he’s definitely already had his share of moments in the playoffs and should be able to be relied upon to help the Yankees in those close game situations.
You’d figure the Yankees’ top flight starters of CC, Kuroda, and Andy should be able to get the Yankees to the 6th inning at the very least, but if not, you still have other options out of the ‘pen. Boone Logan, Cody Eppley, and David Phelps can all too contribute to the Yankees’ quest for another world championship.
All in all, this Yankees team is absolutely good enough to win it all. When they are firing on all cylinders, they are a very hard team to beat. The problem is, normally they aren’t. Stranger things have happened in the playoffs before, but the Yankees are going to have to do some quick soul searching and quick rebounding to try and play as a complete team and get those 11 more wins needed, for #28.