Archive for October, 2013
Halloween with the Yankees • 10.31.13
Once again, I’m a bit of a dud on Halloween. Loved the holiday as a kid, but I’m afraid I’m not really the dress-up sort now that I’m older. Back when I was living in Scranton, my great friend Rick loved Halloween and played in a band that hosted a Halloween show every year. I used to throw on a cowboy hat — yes, of course I own one — and call that my costume. No concert this year, so no costume.
However, I am thinking about what costumes the Yankees might wear. I believe I did something similar to this last Halloween. The idea is this: What’s the best-case “costume” for some of the key Yankees next season? If the team had its way, what persona would these guys take on in 2014. Here are a few I came up with.
Alex Rodriguez as
The Invisible Man
Out of sight and out of mind, a disappearing act that would save considerable payroll.
Brett Gardner as
Sometimes super speed is enough, as long as you’re willing to use it. Run, Brett, run!
Dave Robertson as
Taught the ways of The Force by an old and wise mentor. Now it’s his turn to protect the galaxy (or, you know, the lead).
Mark Teixeira as
The Six Million Dollar Man
Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. Better, stronger, healthier.
Robinson Cano as
There’s no place like home! There’s no place like home! So why go anywhere else?
Michael Pineda as
Might be covered in bandages, but back from the dead to terrorize the American League.
Eduardo Nunez as
Don’t have to understand how or why success happens, as long as it happens.
Derek Jeter as
Written off. Career believed to be finished. Can’t be reliable at this age. Rivera found a way; Jeter could do the same.
Hal Steinbrenner as
Spend! Spend! Spend!
Associated Press photo
The war of words just won’t end between Alex Rodriguez and Major League Baseball. The two sides went back and forth with competing public statements again today. Here’s the AP:
NEW YORK (AP) — With the World Series over, Alex Rodriguez resumed his criticism of Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig for its investigation that led to a 211-game suspension that the New York Yankees third baseman is trying to overturn.
In addition to a grievance filed by the players’ union, Rodriguez filed a lawsuit against Selig and MLB that accused them of engaging in a “witch hunt.”
“I am deeply troubled by my team’s investigative findings with respect to MLB’s conduct,” Rodriguez said in a statement Thursday. “How can the gross, ongoing misconduct of the MLB investigations division not be relevant to my suspension, when my suspension supposedly results directly from that division’s work?”
MLB suspended Rodriguez on Aug. 5 for violations of its drug agreement and labor contract and was allowed to keep playing pending a determination of the grievance. Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz has heard eight days of hearings, and the next session is Nov. 18.
Speaking last weekend at the World Series, Selig praised MLB’s investigative team, saying “I’m very comfortable with what they did and how they did it.”
“I’ve been in baseball now for 50 years,” he said. “I thought I’d seen everything, but I hadn’t.
Rodriguez waited to respond until after the World Series had ended.
“It is sad that commissioner Selig once again is turning a blind eye, knowing that crimes are being committed under his regime,” the three-time AL MVP said. “I have 100 percent faith in my legal team. To be sure, this fight is necessary to protect me, but it also serves the interests of the next 18-year-old coming into the league, to be sure he doesn’t step into the house of horrors that I am being forced to walk through.”
Rodriguez and MLB have publicly assailed each other for months. MLB accused Rodriguez of “possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years.”
“This latest, sad chapter in Mr. Rodriguez’s tarnished career is yet another example of this player trying to avoid taking responsibility for his poor choices. Given the disappointing acts that Mr. Rodriguez has repeatedly made throughout his career, his expressed concern for young people rings very hollow,” MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred said in a statement.
“Mr. Rodriguez’s use of PEDs was longer and more pervasive than any other player, and when this process is complete, the facts will prove that it is Mr. Rodriguez and his representatives who have engaged in ongoing, gross misconduct.”
Associated Press photo
The Jeter decision • 10.31.13
One more thing that has to happen in the next few days: Derek Jeter has to make a decision regarding the player option in his contract.If he turns it down, he’ll become a free agent. If he accepts, he will be back with the Yankees at $9.5 million for next season.
General expectation seems to be that Jeter will exercise the option and return for another season. He’s 39 years old, coming off a year lost to injury, when he hit only .190 in the few games he managed to play. It’s hardly a good time for Jeter to go testing the market, and a guaranteed contract — even at a significant pay cut — seems like a strong opportunity for Jeter to stay with the Yankees and prove himself, one way or the other. If he comes back and plays well at age 40, then Jeter and the Yankees will have an interesting decision to make next winter. But that’s a discussion for another day.
For now, the interesting scenario is what happens if Jeter turns down the player option?
Six years ago, Brian Cashman walked away from Bernie Williams. Keep in mind that, at the time, Williams was younger than Jeter is today, and that Williams was coming off a season when he hit .281/.332/.436 in 131 games. Williams’ star had clearly faded, but he was still a wildly popular and moderately useful player. However, it made business and baseball sense to walk away, and the Yankees did exactly that.
Now, Jeter is a different animal. More than a wildly popular player, he’s a legitimate icon who finished Top 10 in MVP voting just two years ago. His situation might not be unique, but it’s awfully close. Hard to find a perfect comparison for something like this. I bring up Williams only to ask this:
If Jeter turns down his player option, would it make business and baseball sense for the Yankees to walk away? Would they be willing to do so, making the perfectly valid argument that Jeter had the opportunity to return and chose not to?
At this point, I fully expect Jeter to exercise the option and come back to the Yankees next season. But if he turns it down, this winter of uncertainty will enter truly uncharted territory.
Associated Press photo
Hey, look, it’s another statement from Alex Rodriguez!
“I am deeply troubled by my team’s investigative findings with respect to MLB’s conduct,” Rodriguez said in a statement released through his spokesman.. “How can the gross, ongoing misconduct of the MLB investigations division not be relevant to my suspension, when my suspension supposedly results directly from that division’s work?
“It is sad that Commissioner Selig once again is turning a blind eye, knowing that crimes are being committed under his regime. I have 100% faith in my legal team. To be sure, this fight is necessary to protect me, but it also serves the interests of the next 18-year-old coming into the league, to be sure he doesn’t step into the house of horrors that I am being forced to walk through.”
As Andrew Marchand pointed out, this seems like an odd time for Rodriguez to issue one of these. Apparently the A-Rod camp explained to Marchand that a statement was necessary because Bud Selig said during the World Series that he stands by his investigative team and the investigation into Biogenesis. I guess that makes sense, but I also have to assume, at this point, most people kind of roll their eyes when this sort of statement comes out.
We get it. Rodriguez thinks the investigation is tainted and the league is out to get him; the league things Rodriguez cheated and is trying to cover his tracks any way possible. While we can all appreciate the “house of horrors” reference — Happy Halloween! — at this point, the only statement that’s likely to matter to the public is the one from the arbitrator.
Associated Press photo
LoHud Yankees chat tomorrow at noon • 10.31.13
Now that the World Series is over, let’s talk about the postseason and everything that comes next.
We’ll do a chat here on the blog tomorrow at noon. Seems like a good time to talk about what kept the Yankees out of the postseason this year, and what they need to do to get back there next year. The free agent market opens up in a little less than a week, and we’re only a few days from teams making qualifying offers. We’ll talk about all of that.
Hope you can stop by. Noon. Friday. Chat. See you then.
Winter is coming • 10.31.13
Because I know my audience, I tried to find the most distant and least exciting World Series championship picture available. The one above is the best — worst? — I could do.
So, the Red Sox have won the World Series. It’s their third one in the past 10 years. With that done, it’s time to move on.
Welcome to the real offseason, with the post-Series schedule finally in place. Here are a few of the things happening in the next few days.
Eligible players become free agents
For the Yankees, that means a 13 players who were on the 40-man: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Robinson Cano, Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds, Brendan Ryan, Kevin Youkilis, Curtis Granderson and Travis Hafner. Of those 13, we already know Rivera and Pettitte will certainly not be back.
Last day to make qualifying offers (and players have to come off the 60-day DL)
In the short term, the disabled list thing doesn’t matter much because the Yankees are going to open more than enough roster spots when guys become free agents. As for qualifying offers, the Yankees seem likely to give them to Cano, Granderson and Kuroda. When the season started, it seemed possible Hughes could get one. That now seems extremely unlikely.
Free agents may sign with any team
The exclusive negotiating window closes six days after the World Series, which means the Yankees have less than a week before every other team gets to take a shot at Cano. I suppose there’s a chance negotiations could take off in the next few days, but it seems far more likely that Cano will ultimately test the open market before signing anywhere. Not sure the Yankees have another free agent who they might go after aggressively these next few days.
Next Monday (Nov. 11)
Last day for players to accept qualifying offers
Cano’s not going to accept, we already know that. And it doesn’t seem likely Kuroda will accept, because he probably won’t have much trouble getting a one-year, $14-million deal on the open market. The interesting one is Granderson, who could try to reset his free agent value with this sort of substantial one-year deal. My guess is that Granderson will decline, but there’s at least a chance he’ll accept.
Associated Press photo
World Series Game 6: Cardinals at Red Sox • 10.30.13
Matt Carpenter 2B
Carlos Beltran RF
Matt Holliday LF
Allen Craig DH
Yadier Molina C
Matt Adams 1B
David Freese 3B
Jon Jay CF
Daniel Descalso SS
RHP Michael Wacha (4-0, 1.00 ERA in the postseason)
RED SOX (3-2)
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Jonny Gomes LF
Shane Victorino RF
Xander Bogaerts 3B
Stephen Drew SS
David Ross C
RHP John Lackey (2-1, 3.26 ERA in the postseason)
TIME/TV: 8:07 p.m. ET, FOX
BACK TO BOSTON: If the Red Sox win tonight or tomorrow, it will be the first time since 1918 that the team has clinched a World Series at Fenway Park. The Red Sox past two World Series wins each finished on the road.
BACK IN THE LINEUP: Playing with a DH in an American League park, the Red Sox are able to put Mike Napoli back in the lineup as protection for red-hot David Ortiz. Boston also got Shane Victorino back from a back injury. The Cardinals are able to DH hobbled RBI man Allen Craig, who’s had trouble moving but still managed to play first base in Game 5.
BACK ON THE MOUND: Cardinals rookie starter Michael Wacha is the 17th pitcher in baseball history to win at least four games in a single postseason. He’s allowed just three earned runs through 27 innings in the playoffs. Red Sox veteran starter John Lackey pitched an inning of relief on Sunday, which was his throw day. He won the series-clinching game of the 2002 World Series.
Matsui being honored tonight in New York • 10.30.13
Former Yankees outfielder and World Series MVP Hideki Matsui might miss tonight’s Game 6. The MLB Players Association announced today that Matsui is being honored tonight by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York. Just kind of a reminder of how respected and appreciated Matsui remains in and out of baseball. Here are the details from the MLBPA:
WHAT: The Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York maintains a proud tradition of building alliances that strengthen one of the world’s most committed global partnerships. In recent years, the relationship between the U.S. and Japan has been invaluable in helping both nations to rise above natural disasters and work together toward renewal and revitalization. In 2013, the Chamber celebrates its tradition of forging connections that advance U.S.-Japan business and cultural relationships, as symbolized by the gift of “sakura” — cherry blossoms— presented in 1912 by Japan to the United States.
WHO: Ian Bremmer, President of Eurasia Group will deliver the keynote address. John V. Roos, former United States Ambassador to Japan, and Hideki Matsui, retired professional baseball player, will receive JCCI’s highest honor, the Eagle on the World Award. The late Daniel K. Inouye, United States Senator from Hawaii, will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. JCCI’s 2013 Annual Dinner will be chaired by Toshiya Hasegawa, Co-CEO, Nomura Holding America, Inc., and co-chaired by Alan MacDonald, Vice Chairman of Citibank.
WHERE: New York Hilton Midtown
WHEN: Wednesday, October 30, 2013, 6 p.m. — 9:30 p.m.
MORE: Established in 1932, JCCI is committed to facilitating a better understanding of business and cultural practices between the United States and Japan. Over the past 81 years, the Chamber has served as a catalyst to help bring numerous U.S.-Japan business and cultural partnerships to fruition in the New York metropolitan area. For more information, please visit www.jcciny.org.
Associated Press photo
Yesterday, Major League Baseball filed a petition against Rodriguez’s former public relations guru Michael Sitrick, who the league says is withholding documents that pertain to A-Rod suspension and subsequent appeal hearing. Those documents, the league claims, were leaked to Yahoo! Sports several months ago in an effort to out Ryan Braun and Francisco Cervelli as other players connected to Biogenesis.
The petition has lead to a pair of new public statements, one from Rodriguez’s attorney Joseph Tacopina, and another from Major League Baseball.
Tacopina: “As we have said all along, Alex has never bought any documents related to Biogenesis, and he has repeatedly turned down offers from various individuals who approached him about buying them. Alex unequivocally denies having exposed any players. This is MLB’s desperate cry for help. What happened to the ‘overwhelming mountain’ of evidence against Alex? Having now rested its case against Alex, this effort makes clear to the world that MLB doesn’t have what they said they have. What is perhaps most shocking — and the best evidence of their desperation — is that MLB would do this during the World Series.”
MLB: “We continue to be at a loss to explain how Mr. Tacopina can take the position that his client has done nothing wrong. First, it was Mr. Rodriguez did not use drugs. Now, it is he did not obstruct the investigation. Those statements are simply and demonstrably inaccurate. The action we took yesterday was necessitated by continuing efforts by Mr. Rodriguez’s lawyers to engage in a purposeful coverup.”
So, you know, business as usual.
Associated Press photo
State of the organization: Right field • 10.30.13
The Yankees have two veteran right fielders on the roster, but the team might still go shopping for an everyday alternative. And that shopping will likely begin within a week or so with a qualifying offer to Curtis Granderson.
ICHIRO SUZUKI and VERNON WELLS
Signed through 2014
What the Yankees have under contract is a right field platoon situation that might be better in theory — and in history — than in practice. Ichiro is a left-handed hitter (and possibly a Hall of Famer), and Wells is a right-hander (a three-time all-star and Gold Glove winner), but the Yankees might still be best served looking for an alternative. If this were a tradition platoon, Ichiro would play against right handers. Of course, Ichiro hit .235/.282/.307 against righties this season and actually had much better numbers against lefties (his numbers have traditionally shown very little difference vLHP or vRHP). Ichiro had a pretty good stretch in the middle of the season, but his overall production was underwhelming, which isn’t a good sign for a 40 year old. As for Wells, he hit .269/.318/.379 against left-handers this season. He was terrific in April, and he was a good singles hitter in July and August, but he was a lot like Ichiro with his ultimately disappointing season. As a pure platoon hitter, Wells might actually be a better fit than Ichiro. As a true fourth outfielder, Ichiro — with his speed and defense — might be a better fit than Wells. As for a true everyday right fielder, the Yankees might not have one. And this combination won’t do the trick either if Ichiro and Wells hit like they did last season.
The most readily available replacement just might be a guy who’s going to become a free agent immediately after the World Series comes to an end. Curtis Granderson isn’t under contract for 2014, but the Yankees could — and probably should — make him a qualifying offer, and there seems to be at least some chance he’ll accept. If he does, the Yankees will have their replacement in right field, and a chance to really buy low on short-term upside after Granderson’s injury shortened season. Then again … if Granderson doesn’t take a qualifying offer, the Yankees only ready replacements in right field would probably be Zoilo Almonte and Ronnier Mustelier (and maybe, if he has an unreal spring training, Adonis Garcia). Thing is, Almonte hit just .236/.274/.302 in 106 big league at-bats last season; Mustelier hit just .272/.319/.398 in Triple-A; and Garcia has played 50 games above Double-A. In other words, the alternatives are thin, and Granderson turning down a qualifying offer could send the Yankees shopping.
Tyler Austin left the door wide open for some other organizational outfielder to become the Yankees top right field prospect, but that didn’t happen. Austin Aune had a brutal year after moving to the outfield. Yeicok Calderon struggled with a jump to Low-A. First-round pick Aaron Judge never got on the field. So it’s still Austin, even after hitting just .257/.344/.373 in Double-A this season. It was a disappointing year considering what he did in 2012 — Austin was one of minor league baseball’s best all-around hitters last season — but it’s worth noting that it came in a year when he was dealing with a wrist injury, and most importantly, when he was playing Double-A ball at 21 years old. The Yankees have not given up on Austin. He was legitimately dominant in short-season and rookie ball, then he overpowered Low-A and High-A. Now he has to make that adjustment to the upper levels. This season might very well be a reason to doubt him — or at least a reminder that every low-level standout deserves some amount of doubt — but Austin’s also proven that there’s some legitimate offensive potential in that bat, certainly more potential than the numbers show this season.
STATE OF THE ORGANIZATION
A bounce-back season from Austin would change a lot about the state of right field in the Yankees organization. Even if Granderson were to come back for one more season, the Yankees would still be without a big league right fielder beyond next season, and Austin could emerge as a potential replacement if he were to return to Double-A, thrive at that level, and earn a bump up to Triple-A. Seems possible, but hardly a given. Just like it’s hardly a given that Aune will put things together, or that Judge will be the raw power bat the Yankees are dreaming on. But again, it’s possible. There is right field talent in the organization, even if it wasn’t a particularly good year in right field. Those organizational questions will answer themselves over time. What the Yankees have to answer for themselves is what to do about right field next season. Will they be able to bring back Granderson? Can they find someone on the free agent or trade market? Are they willing to stick with the aging platoon that’s currently in place?
Associated Press photo; headshots of Ichiro, Wells, Granderson, Austin and Mustelier