Archive for January, 2012
Yankees announce several front office moves • 01.31.12
News broke earlier today about the Yankees hiring former Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. Later in the day, the Yankees went ahead and made that signing official, along with several other non-player moves. Here’s the announcement.
The New York Yankees today announced the hiring of Jim Hendry as Special Assignment Scout. The Yankees have also named Steve Donohue as Major League Head Athletic Trainer and Mark Littlefield as Major League Assistant Athletic Trainer. Additional promotions to the baseball operations department include naming Jean Afterman Senior Vice President/Assistant General Manager, Billy Eppler Assistant General Manager and Will Kuntz Manager, Pro Scouting.
Hendry spent the previous 17 seasons with the Chicago Cubs organization, the last nine-and-a-half years as Vice President/General Manager. The Cubs made the postseason three times in his tenure (2003, ’07 and ’08), making him the first general manager in franchise history to accomplish the feat. He began his time with the Cubs as the Director of Player Development in November 1994, before taking over as the club’s scouting director prior to the 1996 season. He assumed the role of Director of Player Development and Scouting in October 1998 and then became assistant general manager from August 2000 until his promotion to GM two years later.
Prior to his time with the Cubs, Hendry worked for three seasons with the Florida Marlins in roles as a scout, minor league manager and Special Assistant to General Manager Dave Dombrowski. He served as the head baseball coach at Creighton University from mid-1984 through 1991, earning Baseball America’s “National Coach of the Year” Award in 1991 after leading the team to a third-place finish in the NCAA College World Series.
Afterman enters her 11th season as the Yankees’ Assistant General Manager and first as a Senior Vice President. She became only the third female to hold the position of Assistant General Manager when she was hired by the Yankees prior to the 2002 season, and is the only female to currently hold such a title. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and the University of San Francisco School of Law, Afterman was recently named one of 2010’s “Women of the Year” by Women in Sports and Events (WISE) as well as a “2010 Power Woman” by New York Moves magazine.
Eppler assumes the role of Assistant General Manager under Brian Cashman as he enters his eighth season with the Yankees organization. He joined the Yankees as Assistant Director of Baseball Operations in November 2004 and has also served as Director of Professional Scouting (2006-09) and Senior Director of Professional Personnel (2010-11). He began his career in professional baseball in January 2000 as an Area Scout (Southern California) for the Colorado Rockies and served as Area Scouting Supervisor before being promoted to Assistant Director of Pro Scouting and Player Development in February 2003. A native of San Diego, Calif., Eppler earned a finance degree, with honors, in 1998 from the University of Connecticut where he also played baseball until a labrum tear prior to his senior year.
Donohue takes over the Head Athletic Trainer position in 2012 following the retirement of his longtime partner and mentor Gene Monahan. The upcoming season will mark Donohue’s 34th in professional baseball – all with the Yankees franchise. He had served the previous 26 seasons working directly under Monahan, sharing the honor of “Best Athletic Trainers” in Major League Baseball in 2010 by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainer Society (PBATS) and “Athletic Training Staff of the Year” from Major League Baseball in 1990. A Bronxville, N.Y., native and graduate of the University of Louisville, he began his athletic training career in 1979 with the Yankees’ Double-A West Haven affiliate.
Littlefield, who joined the Yankees organization in 1991, enters his 22nd season with the club. He served as the minor league head athletic trainer in each of the last 18 seasons, also overseeing all Major League rehab assignments.
Kuntz has been named Manager, Pro Scouting after serving as a Pro Scouting Assistant for the Yankees since October 2006. He began with the organization as a Baseball Operations summer intern from 2003-05 before joining the organization full-time as a Baseball Operations assistant in June 2006.
Berra will receive the Munson Legend Award, given to the Yankees icon in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the 1962 championship.
Teixeira is one of four players receiving “Thurmans,” awarded based on success on the field and through philanthropic work off the field.
Here are some more details.
Who: The honorees – Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra (Legend Award); Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira; Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey; Basketball Hall of Famer/ St. John’s and Warriors guard Chris Mullin; Georgetown/NBA star center Dikembe Mutombo (all accept Thurman Munson Awards); Mets infielder Daniel Murphy (inaugural Thurman Rising Star Award); Robert Tillis, Chief Executive Officer, Imperial Bag and Paper Co., Inc., (Corporate Hero); Thurman’s widow Diana Munson.
What: The 32nd annual Thurman Munson Awards Dinner to benefit AHRC New York City Foundation
Where: Grand Hyatt Hotel, 42nd Street, New York City
When: Tuesday night, January 31, 2012
Associated Press photo
Talking about the future with Mason Williams • 01.31.12
At a table near the back of a White Plains diner isn’t exactly the place you expect to find the future center fielder of the New York Yankees, but that’s exactly where I met Mason Williams. And there are plenty of people who truly believe he’s moving closer and closer to filling one of baseball’s most storied positions.
Make no mistake about it, Williams is still very young, with a very long way to go, and it’s ridiculous to put too much hope and expectation into a kid like that. But for a 20-year-old with considerable prospect hype, Williams made a terrific first impression as a guy who doesn’t expect anything to come too quickly or too easily. He seemed comfortable — confident but still humble — as he looked ahead to this season and all that comes next.
There are definitely things I’m trying to improve on, but also I’m definitely trying to build from last year. I don’t want to try to get complacent or anything like that. I feel like I definitely have a lot to work on, but last year definitely helps me with my confidence a little more, saying that I have the ability to go out there and play, do what I can do and stay within yourself.
Are there specific parts of your game that you need to improve, or do you think that you’ve just got to get older and better and add some experience?
I have to be smarter with the game. I have to learn the little things. There are definitely things I want to work on, but right now, where I am right now today, I just feel like I have to be smarter about the game.
You look at that Staten Island team you were with last year, you had some legitimate guys throughout the lineup, and the same could be true in Charleston this year. Do you guys notice the young core of players building in the lower levels? Do you start thinking about all of you staying together?
Yes. Absolutely. I remember after we won the championship last year, we were in the locker room showering up after the game and I was talking to Cito (Culver). I was like, man, I know we can do this next year in Charleston. If we have the same team, the same players there’s no one that can beat us out there. I just feel like our confidence is there. Earlier in Staten Island, we actually had the record with maybe 14 or 15 wins in a row. I feel like that set us up for success the rest of the season, having that confidence, basically playing almost all the teams that we play and beating them all, knowing there wasn’t another team in there that was better than us.
Do you start thinking about bringing that core to Tampa, and then Trenton and all the way to New York?
I think about it, yeah, but as of right now, we’re all in early spring training. Spring training is about to come up, and we’re all here. Ever since I’ve been drafted, I’ve been playing with the same group of guys, so I feel like our camaraderie between the eight or nine of the young ones I was drafted with, they’re great. I’ve been with them in instructs, spring training, early spring training, extended spring training, in the Dominican. Everywhere I’ve gone, they’ve been with me.
You see the Core Four and what that meant in New York. Do you start to see the impact of keeping a core group of players together throughout?
It’s like I said, not really growing up, but growing up as a Yankee with them. We’ve been together, and it’s all we know, and it’s all I know being with my guys. I want to be with them at all times and play with them as much as I can, because I feel comfortable with them.
The Yankees have Slade Heathcott, and they have Ravel Santana coming up behind you. There’s legitimate center field talent all around you. What does that do for you? It’s that a challenge? Motivation?
Absolutely. I guess you could say we’re fighting for a spot. It’s definitely motivation. I go in there everyday thinking, no one’s better than me. Try to have confidence every day, and let’s try to get better every single day and learn something every single day and see where it takes me.
How much do you pay attention to these prospect lists?
Not really. I’ll hear about it, but I’ll never go online or wherever they go to look it up. If I hear about it, it’s good to know that I’m up there, but I’ve still got to play the game. I’ve still got to do the little things right.
It’s got to be reassuring, because I have to think that when you’re in Staten Island or doing this early spring training work, you feel like you’re kind of out there, a long way from anything, with nobody paying attention.
It is, but like I said, I’ve still got a long way in my eyes. I still feel like there’s a lot to learn. I have a lot to still get developed. I feel like a lot of us young guys do, so I’m trying to take baby steps right now and work every day and try to see where it takes me.
What are you doing at this point in the offseason?
We’re doing early spring training for five weeks, Monday through Friday. It’s basically the same stuff we do in spring training, but no games in the afternoons. It’s definitely a spring training environment right now.
You’re heading for full-season ball for the first time, playing 140 games or whatever it’s going to be. Does that feel like another challenge?
Last year I was in extended spring training and then I went to Staten Island. I actually played in, I think, 134 games last year so, to my eyes, that’s almost a full season, and I didn’t really get fatigued later in the season and in the playoffs like I thought I would. I thought maybe my bat would feel heavier and whatnot, but I actually felt real good in the playoffs. I wasn’t fatigued. I think the playoffs is where I excelled more than in the season. I felt good.
Photo from my good friend Mike Ashmore
A few mid-day notes • 01.31.12
Just a few relatively minor things to put on your radar, if they aren’t there already.
• Joel Sherman reported last night that the Yankees have signed former Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen to a minor league deal. It’s little more than a depth move right now, but Delcarmen is just now reaching 30 years old, and he put together a couple of pretty good seasons out of the Boston bullpen. There’s no risk here, just a mildly familiar name invited to big league camp.
• Word out of Chicago is that the Yankees have hired former Cubs GM Jim Hendry to serve as a special assistant. Bruce Levine says it’s a multi-year deal. Obviously the move brings back memories of Kevin Towers serving a similar assistant role two years ago. Maybe Hendry will also stick around for a year and then take a middle-of-the-pack NL West team to the playoffs.
• In the middle of this story out of Toronto is what seems to be an educated guess that the Blue Jays were talking about a trade for Michael Pineda before the Yankees acquired the young right-hander. Apparently the Mariners wanted Brett Lawrie.
Looking back with no regrets • 01.31.12
There’s no way to spin it: A.J. Burnett’s contract is a problem. He’s spent the past two seasons struggling to keep pace as anything other than a high-dollar innings eater, and although the potential for dominance exists — and shows itself from time to time — his 5.20 ERA since 2010 paints a pretty accurate picture of his overall impact. That’s two years of sub-par performance, with two more years remaining.
Would the Yankees like a do-over? Of course they would, but looking back forces us to consider two things: Burnett’s outstanding performance in Game 2 of the 2009 World Series, and the possibility of each alternative. As Brock pointed out in this morning’s Pinch Hitter post, passing on Burnett might very well have opened the door to Derek Lowe or John Lackey in pinstripes. Let’s not pretend Burnett is the only highly paid pitcher struggling to live up to his contract these days.
Otherwise, the Yankees have little reason to regret either of those other two free agent deals from 2008. CC Sabathia’s deal has been an unquestionable plus, and Mark Teixeira has remained productive even through back-to-back down seasons. There’s obviously some cause for concern there — he hasn’t been the same all-around hitter the Yankees were expecting — but if the past two years were Teixeira’s low point, the Yankees will surely be pleased with that deal in the end.
In reality, the least regrettable part of that wild winter of 2008 wasn’t Teixeira, and it wasn’t even Sabathia.
Before making any of those signings, the Yankees bought low on Nick Swisher, making one of the most lopsided trades of the Brian Cashman era. With Swisher coming off a down year, the Yankees traded away three forgettable players: Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez. Betemit has remained a solid but easily replaceable player, while Marquez and Nunez have barely tasted the big leagues.
Swisher, on the other hand, has hit .267/.368/.486 with 81 home runs and 256 RBI since coming to the Yankees. Given some of the corner outfield alternatives, Swisher’s contract has been reasonably affordable without much long-term risk.
Even if you’re not a big Swisher fan — if you don’t like the over-the-top personality or the lower-than-you-might-expect batting average — it’s hard to argue that the trade was anything but a massive win for the Yankees. It’s an overlooked part of an overwhelming winter.
Associated Press photo
Pinch hitting: Brock Cohen • 01.31.12
Next up in our Pinch Hitters series is Brock Cohen, a native of Schenectady, New York who now lives and works in the San Fernando Valley where he teaches high school English and humanities. “Even though I’ve recently earned my M.A. in Humanities, write for the Huffington Post, and have been featured on L.A.’s NPR affiliate for my work in education,” Brock wrote, “My proudest achievement to date is converting my then-girlfriend (and now wife) Katie to Yankee fandom during the summer of 2009.”
For his guest post, Brock looked back to the Yankees massive offseason splash of 2008 and wondered: If they could do it again, would they do it the same?
In November of 2008, Yankees fans received arguably their biggest gift since 2003. It had been in 2003 that Rangers G.M. John Hart was kind enough to hand over two-time MVP Alex Rodriguez and $61 million to the Bombers for the dynamic but slightly overvalued Alfonso Soriano and B-prospect Joaquin Arias.
Like in 2003, the gift of 2008 centered on an influx of talent, and like in 2003, the exchange would disproportionately favor the Yankees.
But unlike the heist of ’03, the hot stove of 2008 was a time that many had already forecasted as a rare opportunity to re-tool the still talent-laden, yet flawed, roster on the fly. When the offseason finally arrived, four expiring contracts, totaling over $62 million in annual salary, flew off the books, and the Yankees’ front office went to work.
Brian Cashman and Co. courted lefty ace CC Sabathia for over a month before signing him in late-December. Still needing a righty-workhorse to step in for the retiring Mike Mussina, the Yanks signed mercurial fireballer A.J. Burnett. With the departure of the fading Jason Giambi and his $120-million contract, Cashman went into full stealth mode, plucking All-Star first-baseman Mark Teixeira from the clutches of Red Sox Nation – thus rescuing the switch-hitting slugger from a half-decade-or-more nightmare of patchy beards; crushed, sweat-stained cap brims; and a kaleidoscope of alternative jerseys.
In one offseason, the Yankees had replaced gold-plated aging veterans Bobby Abreu, Carl Pavano, Mussina, and Giambi with a bona fide ace, a talented power arm, and one of the game’s elite first basemen. In filling areas of dire need with stars at their athletic peak, the exchange instantly made the Yankees a better team. In addition, the average age of the incoming player in the 2008 “exchange” was seven years younger. Who needed Channukah?
It was a huge bounty, but there were risks. Sabathia was coming off a season in which he was simply abused, amassing 253 innings. Teixeira came with yet another Giambi-esque deal that would eliminate the possibility of coveted prospect Jesus Montero moving to first base. Even worse, Burnett was a walking code-orange alert, an unsettling throwback to the early-2000s operational model of decadent hole plugging.
And yet, in those cold, dark days of February, 2009, my concerns were massaged away by gauzy visions of CC going nine strong on Opening Day, of an airborne Tex effortlessly snatching a would-be game-winning laser off the bat of an incredulous David Ortiz, and even of a sneering Burnett blazing fastballs past a bailing, flailing Kevin Youkilis. All the money and years would be well worth it because, at some point, there would be rings involved.
Cut to January of 2012 and the benefit of hindsight. As we now know, the Yankees won their 27th ring the following November, taking it to the Phillies in the 2009 Fall Classic. It was the Bombers’ first championship since 2000, and it’s doubtful they could have won it without both Sabathia’s and Teixeira’s monster contributions.
The problem now is that all three players seem to be showing signs of regression. Teixeira’s OPS+ has dropped from 141 in 2009, to 124 in ’10, to 117 last season. Burnett’s ERA+ has also plummeted over the past three seasons while his profanity-laced, flop-sweat-soaked meltdowns have become almost routine. When things continued to unravel for A.J. in 2011, he became the most expensive late-season mop-up man in the history of the Majors. As for Sabathia, the big lefty displayed clear signs of fatigue in the latter part of the season, pitching to a 3.44 ERA in the second half, versus 2.72 pre-All-Star break. CC was still great in 2011, but he has more mileage on his arm over the past five seasons than any other pitcher in the game.
But a look at the big picture tells us that the acquisitions of both Sabathia and Teixeira were worth the extravagant cost and future roster inflexibility. Both played critical roles in the Yanks’ quest for their 27th championship, and their inevitable decline should be perceived as the cost of doing business. And while there were alternatives at the time (waiting for Montero to develop, trading the farm for Cliff Lee, signing Ryan Dempster, Derek Lowe, or Ty Wigginton), it’s questionable that pursuing any of those options would have ultimately lead to a ring.
It’s easy now to speculate that Cashman would continue to stand firmly behind his Tex and CC acquisitions but would leap at the chance for an A.J. do-over. Except here’s the thing: What would have been the ripple effects of Burnett’s absence this whole time? Derek Lowe and his replacement-level sinker in the A.L. East? John Lackey glowering at Derek Jeter after a fumbled grounder? Oliver Perez putting up a two-inning, eleven-walk performance at Fenway?
Even in retrospect, maybe – just maybe – it was the right move to go with all three.
Associated Press photos
MLB announces game times for upcoming season • 01.30.12
This afternoon, Major League Baseball sent out a master schedule with updated game times for the upcoming season.
As you might expect, the Yankees open with quite a few day games. Their season opener in Tampa is a day game (3:10 start on April 6) and their last game of that opening series is also a day game (1:40 on April 8). After three night games in Baltimore, the Yankees open at home with back-to-back day games (1:05 starts on April 13 and 14) before playing their first 8:05, ESPN game on Sunday the 15th.
Head over the Yankees official site to see a full list of game times. As far as I can tell, it’s all pretty standard. A few mid-week day games mixed in, but not many surprises. Of course the Yankees play an 8:05 game Sunday night game in Boston on the night before the all-star break — no early break there — but there are quite a few day games on getaway days, which is nice.
The time for the September 22 game against Oakland is listed as TBD on both the Yankees schedule and the league’s master schedule. Not sure why. The season ends with three straight night games — Monday through Wednesday — in Boston.
Dana Cavalea was all alone behind the front desk. No receptionist. No assistant. Just the Yankees strength and conditioning coordinator waiting to shake hands with anyone who walked through the front door.
Cavalea opened ML Strength in downtown White Plains as a kind of offseason project, a chance to further utilize his big league expertise. The gym itself has a green turf floor dotted with high-end equipment. In the back are a massage table and training room. It’s a small taste of the things Cavalea prioritizes in training athletes, from A-Rod to high schoolers.
Before making a few pre-spring training visits to a handful of Yankees, Cavalea sat behind that front desk and talked about his gym, his athletes and his approach to training big league players.
For me, the training methods that we’re using are consistent. It’s human specific. I’m really focused on movement and helping people understand their bodies and why they have pain, and why they have discomfort, and get them past that without medication.
So I imagine a lot of this is teaching people to workout the right way?
It’s kind of like going back to saying, “Form, form, form.” You heard it back in the day – form first. Well, a lot of that kind of went out the window, and now we’re focusing more on that again. We’ve got to focus on form before we worry about getting strong. If you clean up the body, then we’re able to move in the right direction toward better health and fitness and lifestyle.
Do you have professional athletes come in doing a workout wrong, or at this point do they pretty much know what they’re doing?
You know what, there are a lot of professional guys you see, and their bodies just adapt to some negative movements that they have. And that’s why you see guys with chronic breakdowns and chronic pain. You find out what the root cause of that is, and then you start to work backwards. Sometimes it’s going back to do the same progressions you would do with a 9 year old kid on this pro athlete. It’s working backward to work forward, cleaning up what’s wrong with them neurally in order to move forward.
Part of their body will be moving the wrong way?
Yeah. Sometimes their bodies will adapt. Their shoulders get frozen and they don’t move as well. What we try to do is address all of that, get their shoulder functioning. Kids are great because their whole body works. That’s why they move (so easily), but now with all the video games and sitting down (some of that movement goes away). The same thing transfers over to pro athletes. The whole goal is to keep their bodies moving unrestricted and keep strength in areas that matter most.
What should your players be doing right now? They’re into some baseball specific stuff at this point, aren’t they?
The goal right now is for these guys to be focusing a lot on conditioning, get their conditioning levels up. Focus on anything that might be in the way of their range of motion. Anything we’ve dealt with over the past season, we’ll focus on those limiting factors.
Do you talk to players regularly through the winter about nagging issues?
Yeah. You’d like to hear from guys more in the offseason. Sometimes you play phone tag with them. I always just try to ask them when I try to swing around once a week (making phone calls), “How are you doing? Is everything OK? Are you all good?” (They’ll answer), “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” “OK, great.” That’s pretty much the extent of it, and if anything comes up, we try to take action on it the best we can. Our guys are pretty smart about knowing their bodies, because at the end of the day, their bodies are their career.
Alex Rodriguez had the knee last year. He’s had the hip in the past. Do you do specific things with him that are focused on those areas.
With him the goal is to reestablish range of motion in the right side and make sure the body parts are moving the way they’re supposed to be. If they’re not moving with an adequate range of motion, extra stress is created and puts extra stress and torque on that knee and that hip. Certain musculatures, as a result of surgery, shut down and we want to be click it back on.
Where is he with that?
He’s great, man. Our guys are doing very well.
The biggest thing you try to do is adjust how much they’re doing. Limit the amount that they do because you don’t want to wear them down, wear their body parts down. Their bodies are adapted. Strength is there. The power, for the most part (is there). It’s about keeping oil in their joints, making sure that they’re staying ready to go.
We’ve heard quite a bit about Phil Hughes’ offseason training. What is it exactly he’s been doing this winter?
Phil’s been great. He’s a big kid, but he’s working really hard. He’s trying to come back and let people know that he’s put the time and the effort in to make some changes for himself. (His training this winter) is very similar to what I do, kind of a whole body training program where we’re focused on measuring him out, finding out what his restrictions are, and then attacking those restrictions through programs. It’s strength. It’s conditioning. It’s nutrition. It’s injury pre-hab, what we call injury prevention. All of those things.
Do you start working with a guy like Joba Chamberlain coming back from Tommy John surgery, or is that more medical at this point?
(Head trainer) Steve Donohue will probably start working with him, but at the end of the day it’s a team-based approach.
With a guy like CC Sabathia… We’ve both seen a lot of big pitchers, guys who carry a lot of weight but can really throw. When CC puts weight on during the season, does that affect his strength at all?
I don’t really think so. He’s a big guy. His structure holds a lot of weight. Obviously, for his own health, you’d like to see him get a little bit leaner, but he’s one of our hardest working guys. He works hard. He takes pride in his work. It’s not that there’s a lack of conditioning. He wants to be in on every drill. He’s committed to making himself better. Sometimes you are what you are. He’s a big guy, and he’s always going to be a big guy.
Speaking of players who are what they are, Dave Robertson is the opposite of CC. He’s not a very big guy, but we see a big fastball out of him. Where do you see that sort of strength in him?
He’s very strong, and his body’s like a big rubber band. He creates a lot of torque and can really slingshot that ball.
Which Yankee is in the best shape right now?
Man, I haven’t seen them, so I can’t really say. Russell Martin is in pretty good shape. He works really hard, but we have a special group. They all work hard. There’s nobody really that doesn’t work.
Anybody’s who’s raw strength stands out to you?
Sergio Mitre was one of those guys.
He’s strong. Big time. Very big. He’s a horse, just strong.
I expected you to say Mark Teixeira or someone like that.
Tex is strong also, very strong. We’re talking about a very small part of the population, so their strength and their power and their bodies are different from everybody else. That’s why they are where they are.
I assume Brett Gardner is the fastest guy you have. Is there anybody who’s close to that?
(Eduardo) Nunez is up there too. He can fly also.
Other than Sergio, is there someone who would surprise people off the street when he’s in the weight room?
Jeter. Very strong. He’s a strong guy, that’s how he generates his power. It’s pretty cool to work with these guys and see what they bring every day. They’re a special group and they work every hard. I can only tip my cap, because asking them to be consistent for nine months is a feat within itself. They all do a really good job. I think Joe Girardi set the tone, and (Brian) Cashman demanding that out of them. I’m a soldier. I just follow orders.
Photos from ML Strength
According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees are in “serious talks” with veteran Bill Hall, a right-handed hitter with experience at second base, third base, shortstop and all three outfield positions.
Hall had a disappointing 2011, hitting just .211/.261/.314 with the Giants and Astros, but he works out in the offseason with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, and would presumably take a relatively small deal for a chance to prove himself again. Hall’s taken some heat in the past for disappointing seasons after signing lucrative contracts, but it’s hard to imagine him getting a significant deal coming off last season.
In the past, Hall’s shown pretty good power for such a versatile player. He would obviously be little more than a role player in the Bronx. By most accounts, he’s a tremendously good guy and a great clubhouse presence.
Timing is everything • 01.30.12
In the winter of 2008, the Yankees had huge money coming off the books. They also had a free agent market that included two premier players — one a pitcher, the other a hitter — who were still in their late 20s with compelling big league track records that included terrific stretch runs the previous season.
Opportunity presented itself, and the Yankees pounced, committing much of their payroll and their future to CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. With significant pitching concerns, they also committed five years and $82.5 million to A.J. Burnett.
For so many reasons, the timing was right for a splash, and the Yankees made a big one.
This morning’s Pinch Hitter, Brendan, sees timing a little differently this winter. It’s not so much about what’s available. It’s about what’s soon to be gone. The possibility of losing the game’s greatest closer has Brendan thinking about a different window of opportunity: The opportunity to win another championship while the ninth inning is in familiar, safe hands.
It’s a perfectly fair point. Teams have to strike when they have a chance, and certainly Mariano Rivera has been a key to the past five Yankees championships. It makes sense to chase another title while he’s still around.
Thing is, the Yankees have to — whether they want to or not — begin to consider a life without Mo. They’ve lost Andy Pettitte. They’ve lost Jorge Posada. Some point soon, they’ll lose Rivera, and eventually Derek Jeter.
And you know what the expectation will be when Rivera and Jeter retire? A championship, same as it’s always been.
Timing is everything, and certainly the Yankees owe it to themselves to go after a championship while they still have Rivera in the ninth inning. But the Yankees also owe it to themselves to envision a championship team that’s led by Robinson Cano, Dave Robertson and Michael Pineda. This is a big-picture team, and like or not, the big picture includes a finite future for the game’s greatest relief pitcher.
The Yankees have to be prepared today to win a championship with Rivera, and they have be prepared tomorrow to win one without him.
Associated Press photo