The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Archive for September, 2014

Jeter’s jersey popular to the very end09.30.14

Derek Jeter

It seems Derek Jeter was wildly popular to the very end of his career.

Major League Baseball announced that, based on sales of Majestic jerseys from the MLB.com shop since the All-Star break, Jeter’s jersey was the most popular in baseball through the final months of his career. No other Yankees player cracked the top 20.

Here’s the list:

1. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
2. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Mike Trout, LA Angels of Anaheim
4. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
5. Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers
6. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
7. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
8. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
9. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland Athletics/Boston Red Sox*
10. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
11. Albert Pujols, LA Angels of Anaheim
12. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles
13. Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners
14. Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
15. Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
16. Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
17. Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
18. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs
19. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
20. Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee Brewers

Associated Press photo

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Robertson faces free agency for the first time09.30.14

David RobertsonAfter good outings, after bad outings, after outings even he was likely to forget about in a few days, Dave Robertson would routinely walk into the Yankees clubhouse, make eye contact with a reporter, and point to himself. It was his way of asking whether the beat writers needed to talk to him. He was just making sure, one way or the other, that he wasn’t neglecting that part of the job.

That’s Robertson. He’s observant. He sees the bigger picture. And after nearly a decade in the Yankees organization, he’s most certainly observed the business side of the game. This might his first time as a free agent, but he knows how it works.

So, Dave, are the Yankees your top choice this offseason?

“Yeah, I’m not going to discuss that at all,” he said.

Smart man.

So, manager Joe Girardi, do you want your closer back next season?

“Obviously those are decisions that are made upstairs about the club,” Girardi said. “…I’ve loved having Robby the whole time he’s been here, and he’s done a great job for me. And that’s the hardest part for me in this game — besides the losing — is the relationships that you make with players and the time that you invest, and sometimes they leave, but that’s part of it and sometimes you have to deal with it.”

Girardi gets it too.

Of all the Yankees heading for free agency, Robertson just might be the most interesting case for a fresh contract. Maybe it’s a qualifying offer. Could be a multi-year deal. Or it just might be that some other team – one that doesn’t have Dellin Betances waiting in the wings – will lure him away.

I’m of the opinion that it’s worth bringing Robertson back. Obviously Betances looks like a closer in waiting, but there’s great value in being free to use Betances earlier in the game – maybe to put out a fire in the seventh inning before pitching the eighth – while saving Robertson for the ninth. And with so many young and cheap relievers in place, the Yankees could pay Robertson for the next three years and still have a relatively cheap bullpen.

“I think everyone wondered who was going to replace Mariano Rivera,” Girardi said. “David Robertson did a tremendous job. Did he have a couple of hiccups? Yeah. So did Mo in 2013, so did Mo in 2012, and so did every closer who’s ever taken the field. I’m very fond of Robby and what he’s done here, but Robby’s approaching a situation in his career that a lot of players look forward to getting to getting to – a free agent and you see where you’re at.”

Associated Press photo

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Beltran has bone spur surgery09.30.14

The Yankees just sent the following update on Carlos Beltran. Sounds like his offseason schedule shouldn’t be thrown off by much if it’s thrown off at all.

Earlier today at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Carlos Beltran underwent surgery to remove loose pieces and a bone spur from his right elbow.

The surgery was performed by Yankees Head Team Physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad. Beltran can begin throwing and hitting in approximately six weeks and can begin playing in approximately 12 weeks.

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Hitting the open market09.30.14

Chase Headley

Derek Jeter is not the only player who played his final Yankees game over the weekend. Plenty of key pieces — and complimentary pieces — from the 40-man roster are heading toward free agency. These players are set to hit the open market at the end of the World Series.

Chris Capuano
Left-handed starter
How he got here: A mid-season addition when the Yankees were desperate for starting pitching, the veteran lefty wound up providing some real stability at the back of the rotation.
Bring him back? Probably not. There’s something to be said for a lefty who has experience as both a starter and a reliever, but if Capuano is going to look for a rotation job, the Yankees can’t promise him that. And signing a lefty is probably not a priority. Left-handed relief is one thing the farm system actually seems ready to provide next year.

Stephen Drew
Shortstop
How he got here: A trade deadline acquisition, Drew was brought in as an upgrade at second base. While he played strong defense, his bat was even less potent than Brian Roberts.
Bring him back? Having turned down a qualifying offer, Drew didn’t sign anywhere until mid-season, and he wound up having a brutal year at the plate. He’s a good defender, and the Yankees have an obvious need at shortstop, but at this point he looks like little more than a left-handed Brendan Ryan.

Chase Headley
Third baseman
How he got here: Just after the All-Star break, the Yankees made a move to upgrade at third base and landed switch-hitter Headley. He was a terrific defender and he hit pretty well with a .262/.371/.398 slash line.
Bring him back? The Yankees could certainly use some insurance at the infield corners, and Headley definitely made a good first impression, so he could fit on the right contract. Problem is, he’s not a typical power bat for a corner guy. Rather have Headley’s glove or the bat of, say, a guy like Mark Reynolds?

Hiroki KurodaHiroki Kuroda
Right-handed starter
How he got here: This was Kuroda’s third one-year deal with the Yankees, and he was once again a source of consistency even at 39 years old. Despite being the oldest member of the rotation, Kuroda was the only Yankees starter to stay healthy all season.
Bring him back? Depends on many factors, including whether Kuroda wants to pitch again. This season suggested Kuroda could be a solid No. 3-4 starter again next season, but the Yankees surely want to get younger, and Kuroda won’t help with that effort. If they miss out on other high-end starters, Kuroda wouldn’t be the worst fall-back plan as a one-year place holder.

Brandon McCarthy
Right-handed starter
How he got here: Just before Masahiro Tanaka went down with his elbow injury, the Yankees made strong trade for McCarthy, who was underperforming in Arizona. With the Yankees, he thrived, essentially becoming a kind of staff ace for the second half of the season (or at least until Michael Pineda got back).
Bring him back? In my opinion, absolutely. The Yankees infield defense will surely be better next season, which matches well with McCarthy’s ground ball tendency. Also his personality fits both the clubhouse and the market. The Yankees are going to need to build some rotation depth, and McCarthy might be a good place to start.

Dave Robertson
Closer
How he got here: A draft pick who rose through the system, climbed through the bullpen and wound up replacing Mariano Rivera as the team’s closer. Robertson was an All-Star setup man, and he was terrific in his first season handling the ninth inning. One of the most obvious recent success stories from the farm system.
Bring him back? I’m normally against giving multi-year deals to relief pitchers, but I think I’d make an exception for Robertson. Putting him back in the ninth inning frees Dellin Betances to be a fireman/setup man. And with a lot of cheap bullpen arms in place, the Yankees could pay Robertson for a few years and still have a cheap pen.

Ichiro Suzuki
Right fielder
How he got here: Traded to the Yankees in 2012, Ichiro wound up signing a two-year deal that expired this season. He was supposed to serve almost a fifth outfielder role this season, but he wound up being the regular right fielder when Alfonso Soriano was released and Carlos Beltran got hurt. He hit .284 with very little power.
Bring him back? No. Just not a great fit. The Yankees have some left-handed fourth outfielder types (with the upside to be more than that) in the minor league system. I’ve loved covering Ichiro, and I’d like to see him back if only because he’s interesting, but it’s just not a good fit for the Yankees. Some team should find a spot for him on their bench.

Chris Young
Outfielder
How he got here: Released by the Mets, the Yankees signed him to a minor league deal in late August then gave him a September call-up. The move was laughed at in many circles, but Young wound up being a valuable bat through the final month of the season.
Bring him back? He has right-handed power, and he can run a little bit. That’s not a bad combination for a fourth outfielder on a team with two left-handed outfielders locked into the everyday lineup. Bringing Young back wound depend entirely on the contract. Might be worth a small deal, and he’s certainly worth a look as a non-roster invite.

Associated Press photos

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First things first: Find a general manager09.30.14

Brian CashmanThe Yankees usually hold organizational meetings almost immediately after the season ends, but as general manager Brian Cashman stood in front of the Yankees dugout on Saturday, his immediate schedule was a little unclear.

“We’ve got (Sunday) to play and after that, we’ll go from there,” Cashman said. “I have no meetings scheduled currently.”

No meetings because Cashman has no contract beyond the month of October. Before the Yankees can truly move forward with offseason plans — and there’s clearly work to be done — they’re going to have to officially put someone in charge of rebuilding this team.

“My stuff’s not really resolved, so there have been no discussions just yet,” Cashman said. “That will all wait for another day. I don’t want to talk about game-planning or focus, what should or shouldn’t be looked at. I’ll wait until we all sit down with ownership, they can map out their strategy and who’s going to be a part of that, and we can go from there.”

Right now, there’s really little reason to think Cashman won’t be back. The Yankees front office has generally shown nothing but support for their long-time GM, and Cashman has not indicated that he wants to move on. Should the Yankees make a change? I’m sure there are plenty of strong opinions in favor, and that’s understandable given three hard facts.

1. Back-to-back seasons missing the playoffs.

2. Lack of offensive production from the farm system.

3. Spending nearly a half billion dollars this winter and not getting so much as a wild card.

Those are pretty glaring negatives. I would argue that last season really did feel fluky given all of the long-term injuries to the lineup (the easy counter argument is that this is what you get with an aging roster, which goes back to the lack of production from within the system). I would also argue that the farm system is coming off a strong season and that the Yankees have produced quite a bit of quality pitching (again, easy counter argument is that the team’s expected-to-be-high-end talent has failed to reach a high-end ceiling, and every team stumbles into a productive role player now and then). I would also argue that Cashman did have some real wins this season from taking a shot on Masahiro Tanaka’s talent, to getting some surprising production out of Yangervis Solarte and Chris Capuano, to trading for Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley and Martin Prado (counter argument: finding bit parts and one injured starter wasn’t nearly enough to make the playoffs).

With serious holes to fill, the Yankees first order of business is determining whether Cashman is still the man to run the show.

“I don’t anticipate anything,” Cashman said. “My contract runs through October 31 and I can’t tell you anything past that. When and if decisions get made, you guys will be brought in the loop.”

Associated Press photo

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Gardner named Yankees nominee for Hank Aaron Award09.29.14

Brett Gardner is not going to win the Hank Aaron Award — given to each league’s top offensive performer — but the fact he’s the Yankees nominee is pretty amazing. Granted, his batting average dipped by the end of the year, but he still finished with the highest OPS on the team (among guys who got more than 200 at-bats). Nice year for Gardner. Bad year for the Yankees lineup. Here’s the press release from the league.

Brett GardnerMajor League Baseball and MLB Advanced Media announced that outfielder Brett Gardner was named the New York Yankees’ nominee for the 2014 Hank Aaron Award.

Fans can vote exclusively online at MLB.com and the 30 Club sites. For the fifth straight year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Hank Aaron will join fans in voting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball and has recognized the most outstanding offensive performer in each League since it was established in 1999.

In 148 games, Gardner hit .256 (142-for-555) with 87 runs, 25 doubles, eight triples, 17 home runs and 58 RBI, surpassing his previous career bests in both homers (eight in 2013) and runs batted in (52 in 2013). Each of his 17 home runs was hit out of the leadoff spot, tied for the highest such total in the American League. Gardner was 21-for-26 in stolen base attempts, marking his fifth season with at least 20 steals. He was named the AL “Player of the Week” on August 4, batting .478 (11-for-23) with eight runs, three doubles, five home runs and seven RBI in six games from July 28-August 3.

The Hall of Fame panel led by Aaron includes some of the greatest offensive players of all-time – Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers – who combined for 16,956 hits, 8,844 RBI and 2,109 home runs – have all been personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise to select the best offensive performer in each League.

Through October 5, fans will have the opportunity to select one American League and one National League winner from a list comprising of one finalist per Club. The winners of the 2014 Hank Aaron Award will be announced during the 2014 World Series.

Associated Press photo

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Girardi cites home runs and base running as offensive culprits09.29.14

Yankees Girardi Baseball

The Yankees were 11th in the American League in OPS with runners in scoring position. The four teams below them: Houston, Boston, Tampa Bay and Texas. Those are four of the worst teams in the league.

“There were a lot of nights that it wasn’t necessarily with runners in scoring position, we just didn’t get a lot of hits,” Girardi said. “So, your opportunities were fairly limited. I do believe that driving in runs for a lot of people is a skill. And the reason I say that is it’s more of a mental skill than a physical skill. Understanding what you need to do. Understanding how to relax in the moment. Not trying to do too much.

“And that’s why I think you consistently see a lot of guys, and it’s the same guys, at the top of the chart when it comes to RBIs. They know how to do it. ‘You know what, I’ve got to hit a groundball to second base. That’s all they’re trying to do. Let me get this run home.’ And a lot of times, some players are better at controlling their emotions and understanding what they have to do. So I do believe it is a skill. Now as a club, overall, can you predict one year to the next? No. I think it’s harder when you start taking 13, 14, 20 different hitters. But I think there is an art to it, I do.”

If it’s an art, then were this year’s Yankees simply not good at it?

“You know what, you look at a lot of statistical categories, we’re about middle-of-the-pack everywhere, whether it was batting average or ERA,” Girardi said. “Part of it was we didn’t hit home runs early (in the season) in a ballpark we were supposed to hit home runs. We didn’t hit home runs early, and that was a reason. At times our runners couldn’t score from second on a hit just because they weren’t physically able, and that’s something I think we as a club need to get better at base running. Some of it’s limited because of the speed of some of the guys that we have, but I that’s something tangible we need to get better at.”

Granted, offense is down throughout baseball, but it does seem possible that the Yankees have been affected more than most. Might the Yankees adjust the way they handle defensive shifts in the future?

“We talk about it every time,” Girardi said. “Will it be something we work on in spring training? Yeah, it will be.”

Associated Press photo

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Girardi on coaching staff: “We’re all evaluated on what we do”09.29.14

Brian Roberts, Kevin LongJoe Girardi was asked today whether he expects to have his entire coaching staff back next season. His answer was essential one of uncertainty.

“The one thing that’s done here every year is we’re all evaluated on what we do,” Girardi said. “My coaches work their tail ends off for me, and obviously I have a close relationship with all of them. But it’s what, 20 hours since we played a game or whatever it is, and we haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk about it. I’m sure I’m being evaluated as well, but I can tell you one thing, they worked extremely hard for me. We’ll sit down and talk, and obviously we’ll get a couple days removed here. I’ll sit down and talk to Brian (Cashman). I mean, the players are being evaluated. This happens every year, whether we win or lose. That’s just the nature of New York and it’s the nature of the business. We’re just 20 hours removed from what we did, and I haven’t had a chance to talk to Brian or who I need to talk to.”

Although the Yankees scored the second-most runs in baseball just two years — and although they’ve led the league in runs scored for three of his eight seasons — hitting coach Kevin Long has certainly taken the most heat of anyone on the coaching staff. He’s presided over some terrific offensive seasons, but this year the Yankees scored the third-fewest runs in the American League.

“I don’t see really, anything different (in Long’s work),” Girardi said. “For me, he works tirelessly. He’s always working with the guys on their swings, he’s looking at tape, but as I said, we’re all being evaluated. We’ve missed the playoffs two years in a row. That’s part of being a coach.”

What does Girardi look for in a hitting coach?

“Philosophy, work ethic, preparation, helping the players prepare for the game,” Girardi said. “You can do all those things right and as a team you may not have as much success as you want. That’s part of the game. So that’s why we’re constantly being evaluated as coaches and as players. And as a player you can do all the same work you did as the previous year, and it may not work out the same.”

After missing the playoffs two years in a row, it seems entirely possible there will be some sort of coaching staff shake up. I think it’s always hard to determine how much credit or blame a coach deserves. But I also think the Yankees front office might feel a need to do something in response to two disappointing seasons.

“As I said, we’re going to sit down and evaluate everything, just like we do every year,” Girardi said. “I can remember being here in winning years and we sit down and evaluate what do we need to do to get better. And that will be done shortly I’m sure.”

Associated Press photo

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Girardi on A-Rod: “We expect him to be our third baseman”09.29.14

Alex Rodriguez, Derek JeterSays a lot about the state of the Yankees that much of manager Joe Girardi’s end-of-season press conference focused on a player who didn’t play a single inning this year. For a team loaded with unpredictability, Alex Rodriguez is as significant as anyone.

“We’ve got to see where he’s at,” Girardi said. “That’s the thing that we have to do. I believe he’s going to be 40 next summer, and we’ve got to see where he’s physically at and if he can play the field, how many days he can play the field and how many days he needs to DH. So I don’t think really any of us know about him until we actually get him into games in spring training.”

That can’t be a particularly comfortable feeling for a team that’s also facing significant uncertainty in the rotation (Tanaka’s elbow, Sabathia’s knee, Pineda’s shoulder), in the bullpen (is Robertson coming back), in the heart of the order (Beltran’s elbow, Teixeira’s wrist, McCann’s first half), and all around the infield (who’s playing second, third and short).

Maybe Rodriguez simply fits in already. Another wild card for a team full of them.

“He hasn’t played in a year,” Girardi said. “That’s not easy to do, to sit out a year. I’ve got to see where he’s physically at. I’ve got to see from a playing standpoint where he’s at. Do we expect him to be a player on our team? Absolutely. Do we expect him to play third base? Yes. But in fairness, I think you have to see where he’s at.”

It’s going to take a while to figure out what Rodriguez is capable of doing, and the Yankees surely won’t have an answer until sometime during spring training at the earliest. That means an offseason with Rodriguez on the roster — his suspension official ends after the World Series — and in the projected lineup, but with no real idea of what exactly he’ll be capable of doing.

“I can’t tell you whats going to happen,” Girardi said. “But we expect him to be our third baseman.”

Associated Press photo

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Live blog from Joe Girardi’s press conference09.29.14

Joe Girardi

We’re here in the Yankees press conference room with Joe Girardi addressing the media.

How daunting is the task of filling the roster’s holes?
“I don’t think it’s as big as people think.”

Is Alex Rodriguez the third baseman next year?
“We have to see where he’s at. I think that’s the thing that we have to do.”

On the age of this team
Girardi noted that the Yankees are not likely to use nearly as many players who are well over 35 years old next season (losing Jeter and likely Ichiro and Kuroda). “I think we’ll be younger, and I think guys will be healthier.”

Expect the coaching staff back?
“It’s 20 hours since we played a game, and we haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk about it. I’m sure I’m being evaluated as well. But I can tell you one thing, they worked extremely hard for me.”

Thought about a number of extra runs you needed this season?

“I’ve thrown numbers out in my mind, whether it’s been 40, 50. But it had to be in the right games.”

Added pressure and expectations after missing the playoffs again?
“Your expectations for every team should be to win the World Series when you go into camp.”

On the potential internal distraction of Alex Rodriguez coming back
“I don’t think that will be an issue. Will he have to deal from some angry fans, yeah, but we’ll help him get through that. When’s the last time Alex hasn’t had to deal with that?”

On his own evaluation as a manager
“I don’t really think too long and hard about – and I’ve always said this – about what people say about me. I don’t really worry about that too much. There’s a few people that I have to answer to, but I gave my best effort, I know that, on a day in and day out basis.”

On whether there’s enough offensive talent here
“I really still believe there’s enough talent in that room, when you put all the pieces on the field, to score runs. We didn’t do it this year, I understand that, but I still believe there’s enough talent in that room.”

Concern about conditioning following so many injuries?
“We didn’t have a lot of muscles. We had bones and ligaments. So to me those aren’t really conditioning (injuries).”

On Michael Pineda’s season
“I don’t think you can ever look at any pitcher and say, God, he’s going to have a sub-2.00 ERA this year. Maybe a Clayton Kershaw. Maybe a King Felix. … He was really, really good. Probably better than we thought we were going to get.”

Bat Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner back-to-back?
“I won’t hesitate to do that next year.”

Associated Press photo

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