In the interest of shaking things up a little on our respective blogs, Kim Jones and I decided to trade e-mails over the course of a few days and publish what came out of it. She and I talk baseball all the time while we’re standing around the clubhouse. It makes sense to turn it into content.
The first half of the discussion will be here. The second half will be on her blog, Keeping Up With The Jones later on today.
Kim, as you know, is in her fifth season as the pre-game and post-game reporter for YES and really knows her stuff when it comes to the Yankees. What you may not know is that she covered the NFL for The Star-Ledger for four seasons. She also used to cover Penn State football.
Here is our chat:
Pete: OK, Kimberly, let’s get this started right. Do you think the Yankees are getting back in the playoffs this season? I think they’ll win the division myself, edging Boston out in September.
Kim: Pete, I agree that it will be Yankees and Red Sox running 1-2 in the division and both making the playoffs. (I loved the Rays a year ago but it’s hard to fathom how their pitching will hold up this season.) After the way they’ve played since Alex’s return, I would think the Yankees win the division and the Red Sox the wild card. But it could finish the other way around. Like it really matters.
Making the playoffs has become the expectation for the Yankees. But, after last season, how much credit would you give Girardi for changing his approach, loosening up a bit and establishing better communication with his players?
Pete: I think Girardi deserves a lot of credit. We’ve come a long way from the guy who was pounding his fist on the desk in Toronto last September insisting he had not lied about Mariano Rivera’s condition when clearly he had. In his dealings with the players and the media Girardi has been much more forthright. Beyond that, I think he has tried to get to know people as individuals better than he did last season. It was a rough transition last season but starting in spring training, Girardi worked to improve the lines of communications. I think it has helped how they have played on the field.
In that same vein, how do you think CC, A.J. and Nick Swisher have changed the clubhouse? You seem to like interviewing all of them.
Kim: I think winning changes any clubhouse or locker room. Players would do handstands while conducting postgame interviews if it contributed to a winning environment. So, as long as the Yankees win, every player on the roster will probably embrace the whipped cream pies, the passing along of the championship belt, the Swish-hawk and everything it brings.
That said, CC seems to be the consummate teammate; the other players and coaches love him. AJ and Swisher appear to enjoy interacting with the media and their enthusiasm can be contagious in the clubhouse and on the field. (And, yes, I understand that fans don’t care how players treat the media.) But, in the end, it all goes back to performing and results not Ready Whip and haircuts.
All right, Pete, let’s get to it: We have disagreed on whether Joba would be better as a starter or reliever for the 2009 team. But, given that Wang continues to struggle — and mightily — there is no option to move him to the bullpen. There’s just not enough depth right now among the Yankees young pitchers to go deeper than Hughes in options for the rotation.
So, I’m not necessarily conceding the point, but right now the Yankees need Joba as a starter. And preferably the starter that pitched in Cleveland.
Pete: Where is Mike Francesa when we need him? JOBA CHAMBERLAIN IS A STARTING PITCHER! I respect your view on this, Kim, because you’ve spoken to so many people about it and formed an intelligent assessment. I respectfully disagree, mainly because I think a top-notch starter is more value to building a championship team than a top-notch reliever. It is sort of a moot point because they need Joba in the rotation given there is no reasonable choice to replace him as Phil Hughes could be needed to sub for Chien-Ming Wang. I think the toughest thing any team has to do is weigh what is needed now as to what is needed down the road. If I was Andy Pettitte, I would want Joba following me in games. But if I’m Brian Cashman, I want to develop him into a front-line starter I can build a team around.
Now let’s deal with this issue: Do you think they’ll get anything out of Brian Bruney this season?
See the rest of our chat on Kim’s blog later on today.