Archive for October, 2010
Giants make a change for Game 4 • 10.31.10
For a pivotal Game 4, the Giants shook up their lineup by sitting left fielder Pat Burrell. He was the Giants cleanup hitter in Games 1 and 2, but Burrell went 0-for-9 with eight strikeouts through the first three games of the Series.
If the Giants win tonight, they put themselves on the verge of a championship, with three games to get it done. If the Rangers win, they tie the series, with Cliff Lee going tomorrow night in Game 5.
• Before tonight’s game, Joey Votto and Jose Bautista were announced as the winners of the Hank Aaron Award as the best offensive players in each league. Fans voted for the award online, but for the first time in its 12-year history, the award was also voted on a Hall of Fame committee led by Aaron and including Tony Gwynn, Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey, Paul Molitor, Billy Williams and Robin Yount.
• Former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. George W. Bush was the managing general partner of the Rangers from 1989 to 1994.
• Lyle Lovett will sing the National Anthem. A group of combat veterans called 4Troops will sing God Bless America.
• First pitch is scheduled for 8:20 p.m. ET.
Andres Torres CF
Freddy Sanchez 2B
Aubrey Huff DH
Buster Posey C
Cody Ross LF
Juan Uribe 3B
Travis Ishikawa 1B
Edgar Renteria SS
Nate Schierholtz RF
Elvis Andrus SS
Michael Young 3B
Josh Hamilton CF
Vlad Guerrero DH
Nelson Cruz LF
Ian Kinsler 2B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Bengie Molina C
Mitch Moreland 1B
Associated Press photo
Are you ready for some football? • 10.31.10
Yankee Stadium host two college football games in the next two months: Notre Dame vs. Army on Saturday, November 20, and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Thursday, December 30.
The field is beginning to look the part.
Photos from the Yankees
Sabathia falls behind Price and Halladay • 10.31.10
Bad knee and all, CC Sabathia was among the finalists for the American League’s Oustanding Pitcher Award, but the award went to another AL East left-hander.
David Price won the award, voted on by the players association, ahead of Sabathia and Felix Hernandez.
Sabathia also in the running for the Clutch Performer of the Year Award, which went to Roy Halladay. This award is nothing like the Cy Young or MVP. It’s basically something for Pepsi to have its name attached to, and the entire voting is done by fans online.
Halladay won the award with 32 percent of the vote. Here are the full standings:
RHP Roy Halladay, Phillies — 32%
RHP Brian Wilson, Giants — 21%
1B Joey Votto, Reds — 15%
LHP CC Sabathia, Yankees — 13%
1B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers — 11%
RHP Rafael Soriano, Rays — 5%
The award is meant to recognize the player who consistently performed at his best when the game was on the line. The nominees were selected by a special editorial panel from MLB.com. Sabathia has won the award in the past. The past three winners: Alex Rodriguez (2007), Sabathia (2008) and Andre Ethier (2009).
Not such a good fit • 10.31.10
If there’s going to be a list of the year’s best Yankees costumes, there has to be a list of the worst.
as Johnny Damon
The Yankees tried to bring Damon back, but Damon turned them down. Ultimately, the Yankees settled for Johnson, trusting that his uncanny knack for getting on base would fit well ahead of their powerful three and four hitters. It made sense – even in an awful partial season he had a .388 OBP – but Johnson does one other thing uncannily well: He gets hurt. Ultimately, he was absolutely no help.
Chan Ho Park
as Alfredo Aceves
Aceves is a hybrid reliever, the kind who can fit into a crucial late-inning spot when needed, or can give multiple innings of dependable relief, seeting the stage for a potential comeback. The Yankees never had that kind of reliever this season. They thought they found a similar guy in Park, who they picked of the scrap heap at the beginning of spring training. After 27 appearances and 22 earned run, Park was sent packing.
as Javier Vazquez
The Yankees were counting on one thing about Vazquez: Consistency. This time around, they weren’t asking him to lead a rotation, or even to pitch in the top half of the rotation. He was supposed to be a stabilizing force at the back end, something he had proven capable of doing time and time again in his career. Nothing flashy, just reliable starts every fifth day. Vazquez couldn’t do it, and the Yankees were once again left searching for spot starters.
as Dave Robertson
I realize there’s very little evidence that this is true, but I honestly believe Melancon is going to be a good Major League pitcher. I saw too many good things from him in Triple-A to believe he’s always going to struggle this much at this level. But the fact is, he never took that next step – the one Robertson made last year – in New York. I think it will happen in Houston, but it never happened here.
Associated Press photo of Johnson with Derek Jeter
The year’s best Yankees costumes • 10.31.10
Happy Halloween! To celebrate, here’s a list of the best Yankees costumes this season.
Yes, it’s a cheap blog post gimmick, but it kind of works.
as Hideki Matsui
The heart of the Yankees order was missing one of his reliable bats. They had more than enough hitters to fill the bottom third, but someone had to step into that No. 5 hole and produce behind Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. That’s where Cano came in, establishing himself as an option not only in the five hole, but maybe at three or four somewhere down the line.
as Andy Pettitte
Since Pettitte broke onto the scene in the mid-90s, the Yankees have looked for another reliable, homegrown starting pitcher without much luck. Chien-Ming Wang played that role for a while, but injuries took their toll. Now it’s Hughes turn. So far, so good.
as Nick Swisher
Over the winter, it was Swisher who met with Kevin Long to tweak his swing and add a third dimension to his game: He always had patience and power, this season Swisher was able to hit for power as well. Mid-season, Granderson followed suit: He still has the power and speed, but down the stretch he was making more consistent contact and hitting pretty well against lefties.
as Phil Coke
When Damaso Marte was hurt last season, it was Coke who stepped in and gave the Yankees a legitimate left-handed reliever, capable of facing more than one or two batters when necessarily. This year it was Logan, who rejoined the big league bullpen after the all-star break and established himself as a reliable, late-innings relievers.
as Brett Gardner
An underrated part of Nunez’s game is his speed. Granted, he’s not actually as dynamic a runner as Gardner, but he was 5-for-5 on stolen base attempts, and that was after he led Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in steals. Nunez can hit a little bit, he can play three positions, and it turns out he can run.
as Eli Manning
You remember the game, don’t you? Ninth inning. Blowout in Cleveland. Pena was already in the game at shortstop, and there was no sense risking injury to Alex Rodriguez, so Thames stepped in as the late-inning replacement at third. He made a nice backhanded stop, then made one of the worst throws across the diamond any of us has ever seen. “I threw like a quarterback,” he said that day. “I was trying to find Andre Rison on a slant or something.” You might think of it as a bad costume, but the Yankees won that game and the play was hilarious. I thought about making this one the winner!
Associated Press photo of Cano
Another postseason start for Colby Lewis • 10.30.10
Tonight, the Giants get their chance against Colby Lewis. The Yankees had two chances against him, and couldn’t solve him either time.
“We have confidence in all of our starters,” third baseman Michael Young said. “But Colby’s coming off the win that got us to the World Series, and we have a ton of confidence in him.”
With the DH back in play, the Rangers get to use their regular lineup in tonight’s Game 3. It’s not quite a must-win for the Rangers, but it’s very close.
• Nolan Ryan is throwing the ceremonial first pitch.
• Kelly Clarkson is singing the National Anthem, and actress Martha Plimpton is singing God Bless America.
• The actual first pitch is scheduled for 6:57 ET, the earliest World Series start time in more than 20 years.
Associated Press photo
Brandon Laird might have been the breakout star of the Yankees minor league system this year. As a 27th-round pick, he’s never been considered a sure thing, but he’s consistently hit and hit for power. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Laird hit .281 with 25 homers and 102 RBI this season, then the Yankees sent him for more at-bats in the Arizona Fall League.
During my time covering the Yankees minor league system, officials consistently made reference to the idea of a corner utility man. Someone who can fill in at first, third, left and right. It’s pretty much what the Yankees had in Eric Hinske late last season. It’s not especially easy to find, but it’s kind of an ideal bench player.
In theory, it would be a bigger bat than whoever might fill in at second base, shortstop or center field. Those bench spots are generally expected to provide defense and speed (Ramiro Pena this year, Brett Gardner last year). That corner bench player would bring offense, first and foremost.
That’s why Laird is on my radar, and that’s why it caught my eye that he was playing the outfield in the Fall League. Laird is a natural third baseman with experience at first, but giving him outfield reps makes him an attractive Major League option sooner rather than later. Kevin Russo got some Fall League starts in the outfield two years ago, and look at where he got most of his big league time this season.
Laird needs to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this winter, so he’s practically a lock for a spot on the 40-man. He could easily play a role in New York before the end of next season, especially if he keeps hitting and gets comfortable in the outfield.
One move that can wait • 10.30.10
When I made my list of the Yankees offseason priorities, I intentionally left out the need for infield depth. I think it’s a legitimate need, but I think Brian Cashman is on the right track when he suggests the Yankees might not go after that sort of thing during the offseason.
“Sometimes you don’t get all those pieces in place in the winter time,” he said. “And we utilize the summer to do that.”
Yes, the Yankees need to give Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter occasional days off, but even in a year when Rodriguez spent time on the disabled list, Ramiro Pena had only 154 at-bats. Pena or Eduardo Nunez can fill occasional holes in the infield next year, and if the Yankees decide they need more than occasional place-fillers, they can get a guy mid-season.
Bottom line, if the Yankees are going to pay for a guy to get 150 to 200 at-bats, they’re not going after much more than someone like Jerry Hairston Jr., Mike Fontenot or Pedro Feliz, all of whom were traded for low-end prospects the past two seasons.
If the Yankees decide they need more than 150 to 200 at-bats from of their utility guy, that’s not something they’re going to find out until mid-season anyway and there’s no sense spending that money up front if it might not be necessary. Just this year, Cristian Guzman, Miguel Tejada and Jhonny Peralta were traded mid-season. Solid replacements can be found if absolutely necessary.
The Yankees need to be prepared to fill a spot in the infield, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to make move right now. Not all needs are offseason needs.
Associated Press photo of Pena
What’s left for the Yankees? • 10.30.10
One week ago, Brian Cashman said re-signing Joe Girardi would be the “first order of business” this offseason. Now that it’s done, the Yankees can get to work on the rest of the list.
1. Re-sign Derek Jeter
Have to get this one out of the way. It’s going to be a story as long it lingers, and it’s going to get done eventually, might as well do it quickly and move on. Chances are, it’s going to be for more money and more years than Jeter’s age and numbers suggest he’s worth. Thing is, that’s the way it works. Players like Jeter are underpaid when they first get to the big leagues, and they’re overpaid as their careers come to an end. All a team can hope for is to get equal value in the middle. When’s the last time a player a signed a 10-year deal, during which he never seemed overpaid.
2. Solidify the rotation
Obviously, this is where Cliff Lee comes into the picture. Going into the season with CC Sabathia as the No. 1, Phil Hughes as the No. 3 and A.J. Burnett as the No. 4 or 5 is a pretty good start, but it only works if the Yankees get a reliable No. 2 starter.
3. Re-sign Mariano Rivera
Because he’s not The Captain, Rivera’s free agency won’t hang over the Yankees the same way as Jeter’s. But it’s still a deal that needs to get done. It might happen before the Yankees land a starter, but I’d say it ranks third in terms of priorities.
4. Make a decision in the outfield
Brett Gardner showed a lot this season, Nick Swisher took a significant step forward and Curtis Granderson turned a corner in the second half. The Yankees have a good outfield. If they want an insanely good outfield, they could make a push for Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth. If not, they still need to find a fourth outfield who can fill-in at either corner.
5. Gauge the market for Joba Chamberlain
My friend Wally Matthews made a list like this one and included more or less this very same item. It’s not that I believe Chamberlain is finished – he’s still young with a big arm – but he’s heading for arbitration, which means he about to make real money, and it’s clear the Yankees no longer view him as a potential front-line starter. If another team does, he might be more valuable to the Yankees as a trade chip than as an eighth-inning candidate.
6. Find a pitching coach
I don’t see any reason to let any other member of the coaching staff go. I’d love to see the Yankees find a spot for Dave Miley or Butch Wynegar, who have big league experience and have done great things in Triple-A, but it’s hard to find that kind of opening. Instead, they just need to find a pitching coach. If it’s Scott Aldred, great. If it’s someone outside the organization, great. Just fill the spot and tell him to look up A.J. Burnett’s house on MapQuest.
7. Don’t lose Kerry Wood’s phone number
Chances are, Wood is going to find a job pitching the ninth inning for some other team. I’m not even sure it’ll be a bad team. A contender could easily come calling offering at least a shot at the ninth inning, which is something the Yankees can’t offer him (unless No. 3 on this list goes terribly wrong). But, just in case, I’m sure someone in the front office will hold onto Wood’s number. If he’s not available, another late-inning arm would be a good idea.
8. Big bat, small ego
For the time being, the days of a fulltime, Matsui-type DH are over. But the Yankees still need a guy who can fill that spot fairly regularly, and they need him to be OK sitting fairly often as well. If he can play the field in a pinch, all the better. It’s a role Marcus Thames played very well this season. The Yankees need to find another one of those.
9. Make minor assessments
Next season, it’s entirely possible – if not likely — the Yankees will have Ivan Nova, Andrew Brackman, David Phelps, Hector Noesi, D.J. Mitchell, Lance Pendleton, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Jeremy Bleich, Adam Warren and George Kontos jockeying for starts at Double-A or higher. That’s 11 legitimate prospects, and that’s only counting the guys who actually got as high as Double-A this year. Depth is absolutely essential when it comes to pitching, but the Yankees have such a surplus of nearly ready arms that they could prioritize and begin looking for alternatives uses, either in trades or in the bullpen. Does anyone miss Zach McAllister right now?
10. Come up with an Andy Pettitte contingency plan
One way or another, the sooner the better when it comes to Pettitte. If he wants to come back, great. Lock up a one-year deal and consider the middle or bottom half of the rotation complete. If he doesn’t want to come back, at least the Yankees know what they’re up against. Knowing Pettitte, this decision might take a while, and the Yankees need to have a Plan B either in place or in the works.
As an aside, I mentioned that Wally Matthews published a similar to-do list immediately after the ALCS loss. I read it earlier in the week, but intentionally didn’t look back at it until after I’d finished my own. The only thing I remembered about his list was that he suggested trading Chamberlain. Our lists are very similar, mostly because the Yankees offseason needs are pretty straightforward. Frankly, we’ve been talking and writing about most of this stuff since at least the middle of the season.
Also, I came up with this list before Cashman mentioned yesterday that he values a left-handed reliever as a significant priority. I don’t see it as that big of an issue. Cashman does. I’m betting the Yankees will stick with Cashman thoughts on the matter.
Associated Press photos
Let’s start this blog weekend with a lengthy leftover comment from yesterday’s Brian Cashman conference call. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but it’s an interesting look at the evolution of the Yankees team-building philosophy.
“I would like to always get younger and better,” Cashman said. “That’s the double-edged sword. I don’t want to get younger and worse. I want to get younger, but while doing so, remain championship caliber. I think that’s what we’ve been trying to accomplish the last few year. I think we’ve done a good job. At the same time, if we have older players who can still do it for us, I don’t have any problem whatsoever in retaining older players who perform at a high level.
“It’s a combination of things. You’d love to get younger and cheaper and better, but a lot of times that’s not possible. If there are older players who can help us accomplish the team goal of winning, then so be it. We’re not going to be interested in getting players just because of future milestones. It’s about what they can do in that win column. That’s the main reason we’re in this.
“I know when I first started here as an intern and worked my way up, there was a little bit of a belief that the stars put he fannies in the seats. That’s not true. The stars don’t put the fannies in the seats. The teams that win do. You can have some of the biggest names all you want, but if it’s a bad team, people will stop showing up come July. They’ll choose to do other things, whether it’s go to the beach or anything else.
“Ultimately, it’s about winning as many games as possible and trying to make the playoffs. If we have a team that people can come out and see win a lot of games, then people will be interested in showing up and turning this place into the place to be in New York City. And that’s what we want to keep going.”