Seeing A-Rod through different sets of eyes • 11.06.14
The latest Alex Rodriguez revelation comes with a lot of angles, a lot of questions, and a lot of opinions. Frankly, it’s kind of a depressing topic of discussion — there’s just so much disappointment involved — but this is the reality of the game, and this is the reality of one of the sport’s most recognizable figures. In my mind, it’s worth looking at it through different sets of eyes. I’ve given my take. Here are some links to others.
• Buster Olney suggests the Yankees should take Wednesday’s report as a sort of final straw, one last bit of evidence that Rodriguez has gone too far in his efforts to deceive baseball in general and the Yankees in particular. Olney writes that now, more than ever, the Yankees have reason to enforce a conduct clause as a way out of a bad contract. “That validity of the conduct clauses has never really been challenged; nobody knows for sure whether they are at all enforceable,” Olney writes. “Could any team have a better opportunity to test-drive a conduct clause?”
• As only he can, Mike Vaccaro writes that this is only the latest chapter in an long line of Rodriguez embarrassments. “This should make you feel … something, no?” Vaccaro says. “Shock, horror, outrage, even pity if you are a forgiving type. But do you really feel any of that? Can you?”
• Ken Davidoff takes a more practical look at the situation with a list of five questions that have popped up in the wake of the latest Rodriguez revelation. His basic analysis is that not much seems likely to change given this new bit of information: “This was embarrassing for A-Rod, given how strongly he had denied the allegations, but it’s not like MLB can seize this documentation right now and do something with it.”
• One thing Ian O’Connor doesn’t want to hear is an apology. I tend to agree. I’d love to see and hear Rodriguez come clean to the public, but at this point, saying he’s sorry would be just another lie. “We know that he is not sorry he used performance-enhancing drugs, again,” O’Connor writes, “and that he is only sorry he got caught using performance-enhancing drugs. Again.”
• If you’re among those who expect nothing to change in the wake of the latest A-Rod news? Well then, Mark Feinsand has you covered, because the reality is that Rodriguez is still working out, still preparing for a comeback, and still seems a near lock to be in the Yankees lineup on Opening Day. “If anything, this is just making him more determined,” Feinsand heard from a source who saw Rodriguez working out in Miami last weekend. “He just wants to prove everybody wrong.”
• One bonus of working at a Gannett paper is that I have full access to my USA Today colleague Bob Nightengale, who wrote a strong column about the ongoing Rodriguez drama. No need for a link on this one. Below is Nightengale’s take on the situation. It’s a good read, full of the familiar anger and lingering questions that hang over all of this.
The man is done.
The New York Yankees don’t want him back.
Major League Baseball never wants to see him again.
And what fan wants to pay money to watch a deteriorating athlete who has been on the field for only two months since 2012, coming off two hip surgeries and one drug suspension, about to turn 40, and who may never have played a game clean his adult life?
Yet, as much as want to hide from Rodriguez, we can’t stop hearing or talking about the man who betrayed anyone who believed in him.
He has been reinstated back into baseball for all of one week, and he’s capturing the headlines as if Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe are back walking along Broadway together.
One day, we find out that he paid his cousin $900,000 in hush money, the next, we get the low-down that he spilled his guts last January about his used of banned substances to Drug Enforcement Agency officials.
When does it mercifully stop?
The Yankees can’t legally stop him from turning their spring training camp into a circus act, unless they’re willing to pay him $61 million to go away.
And Rodriguez may be filthy rich — earning in excess of $350 million over his career — but he’s not turning his back on that.
So Rodriguez will show up to Tampa in February to collect his money. The Yankees will play him in spring training as much as humanely possible, and treat him as inhumanely as possible, forcing him to take the longest bus rides across Florida.
And the moment he breaks down, the Yankees will have him undergo every test known to mankind, and declare that he’s physically unable to play.
The Yankees get their insurance money. Rodriguez gets the remainder of his contract. And everyone goes home happy.
See ya at the old-timers’ game, buddy.
Or maybe the charade ends before we get to spring training.
Major League Baseball officials had no comment on the Miami Herald report that revealed detailed testimony from Rodriguez’s Jan. 29 hearing with DEA officials. Rodriguez, according to the report, admitted to paying and using performance-enhancing drugs, even shooting up in the bathroom of a nightclub.
There’s no reality show that can match this saga. Where else can you pay $12,000 a month for drugs, $200,000 to suppress the evidence, and promise your cousin that he can be a millionaire if he keeps his mouth shut?
There’s a better chance of the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros playing in the 2015 World Series than Rodriguez being punished again by MLB. After all, there wasn’t one shred of evidence uncovered in the Miami Herald report that MLB’s investigators weren’t aware of, having paid for documents themselves.
Yet, sitting in front of DEA officials in a conference room, with the promise of immunity if he told the truth, and the authority to send Rodriguez to prison if he lied, Rodriguez sure told a different story than the one he’s been telling us the last two years.
There was no more talk of director Tony Bosch being some whack job just to save himself from prison. Matter of fact, Rodriguez even praised him for telling him how to beat drug tests.
Now that he was being honest, maybe MLB wasn’t on a witch hunt to personally hurt him, making sure that no more home-run records were broken.
OK, so maybe the Yankees really weren’t in cahoots with MLB to spare them from paying the rest of his contract.
Yes, it was evil to leak stories that Yankee doctors intentionally misdiagnosed his original hip injury, and then were instructed by Yankee president Randy Levine to foul up his next one to assure that he could never play again.
And, he was lying to everyone’s face when he said the only PED use during his career happened during those wild days with the chemical-happy Texas Rangers.
So much for that knock-down, drag-out fight that Rodriguez promised would clear his name.
Rodriguez now admits that he sought any drug, no matter the cost, in a desperate attempt to reclaim his status as the best damn player in the game.
He not only would be healthier and stronger than anyone in the game, Bosch told him, it would help with his sleep, weight, eyesight, even hair growth. If the effects lasted more than four hours, hey, no reason to call your doctor.
Bosch was his doctor.
Yuri Sucart, his cousin, was the middle man. And everyone in the game sure got used.
The Yankees, who had no comment on the report, did issue a press release saying that spring-training opens Feb. 20 for pitchers and catchers. All position players report Feb. 25.
There’s one other important date no one mentioned.
It’s Feb. 9, the day Sucart’s trial is scheduled to begin in Miami. He has pleaded not guilty to seven federal felony charges. Rodriguez, according to prosecutors, will be called in to testify.
Rodriguez is going to have to tell the truth. This time, we’ll all be able to hear.
Associated Press photos
For months and months, Alex Rodriguez managed to stay quiet. No more picking fights with the front office. No more reckless interviews on the radio. No more bombshell reports in newspapers and magazines. He was suspended, and he mostly disappeared. Out of sight, and — as much as possible — out of mind.
When his name popped up again on Wednesday, once again linked to that Biogenesis clinic of mistakes and regret, there seemed to be two popular reactions:
1. False outrage. Pretending that Rodriguez’s admission somehow made his steroid use more real. Now the Yankees have to get rid of him! An overreaction given what we already knew. Yesterday’s news was only scandalous if you believed Rodriguez’s previous denials. If you were among the vast majority who thought he was lying all along, then Wednesday’s report was little more than further confirmation.
2. False indifference. Pretending that this story is old and tired and shouldn’t be written or reported any longer. No one cares about A-Rod anymore! Way too far on the other end of the spectrum. Just because Wednesday’s report didn’t change much, that didn’t mean it wasn’t news. It was another bit of information in one of the most important baseball stories of the past two decades. Of course it mattered.
Logically, we all know he cheated. We know he jumped into the seedy world of performance enhancing drugs. We know he wasn’t alone in doing so. We know he tried to cover his tracks. And we know he’s been suspended a full year for doing so. His legacy is forever tainted because of his decisions, and it’s hard for any new bit of information to significantly alter that situation. To a large part, what’s done is done.
Emotionally, we also know that this story still matters. We’re talking about one of all-time greats, a guy who was once on track to break records and become the greatest all-around player of his generation. He could have been the face of baseball, but he’s instead become the face of the Steroid Era. The story is bigger than one player or one team. There is historic significance to every detail.
The story will never go away, even if it never really changes, and the only person who can even remotely take control of it at this point is Rodriguez himself.
As long as bits and pieces continue to trickle into the media, we’re going to keep having days like yesterday (and there are some really good investigative journalists out there who are going to find this stuff, because that’s what they do). The story is going to keep popping up from time to time, and Rodriguez is going to be the distraction he surely doesn’t want to be.
Best thing Rodriguez could do at this point is acknowledge it. Publicly. Rip off the Band-Aid. Expose all the scars. Not in an effort to clear his name (we’re way past that), and not in an attempt to get into Cooperstown (that’s never going to happen). Coming clean — and then playing clean, no matter what the results — would be all about Rodriguez playing these final three years of his contract with some shred of dignity.
If there are no more secrets to expose, no more details to come to light, then maybe we can finally move forward without pretending this is nothing or acting as if it’s everything.
Associated Press photo
A few notes and links from this surprisingly busy Wednesday…
• Not that there was any reason to doubt today’s Miami Herald report, but attorney Frank Quintero Jr., who represents one of the other men charged in the federal Biogenesis investigation, confirmed to The Associated Press that the Herald story is true. “I can for your report confirm that the report by the Herald is accurate as to what Rodriguez said,” Quintero said in an email to the AP. “I don’t have a dog in this fight. My client has no involvement with ANY major league players concerning the use of banned substances.” Quintero Jr. represents Lazaro Collazo, the former University of Miami pitching coach.
• According to the team’s transactions page, the Yankees have outrighted Antoan Richardson to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. That means he’s cleared waivers and is off the 40-man roster. I assume that also means he’s allowed to elect free agency, which he surely will. Richardson signed as a minor league free agent last winter, having not played in the big leagues since 2011. He was a September call-up who went five-for-five in stolen base attempts (though he also made some early base-running blunders) and hit .313/.353/.313. If Richardson has a spot in Yankees history, it’s surely the fact he scored the winning run in Derek Jeter’s final Yankee Stadium at-bat. Given the Yankees upper-level outfield depth, there’s really no obvious role for Richardson next season.
• Former Yankees left-hander Brad Halsey died in a climbing accident on Friday. His agency, O’Connell Sports, announced Halsey’s death in a tweet: “We are sorry to hear of the passing of longtime client, Brad Halsey. Our thoughts & prayers are with his family during this difficult time.” Halsey was just 33 years old. He was an eighth-round pick in 2002 and made seven starts for the Yankees in 2004. He went on to pitch in Arizona and Oakland. After a stint in independent ball, Halsey returned to the Yankees minor league system in 2011 to pitch for a while with Double-A Trenton.
• From Baseball America’s latest round of minor league transactions, the Yankees have re-signed right-hander Andury Acevedo. A former infielder in the Pirates system, the 24-year-old’s had a bunch of strikeouts and a bunch of walks since joining the Yankees and moving to the mound. He was 23 in short-season ball most of the year, so he’s been old for his level (understandable given the role switch). Probably not a guy worth having on the radar, but you never know. One other recognizable name from the latest minor league transactions: reliever Kevin Whelan — who came over in the 2006 Gary Sheffield trade and made two big league appearances with the Yankees in 2011 — has signed with the Athletics. Whelan got back to the big leagues for one game with the Tigers this season. He pretty consistently strikes out a ton of guys in Triple-A.
Associated Press photo of Richardson
It seems important to point out what exactly we learned about Alex Rodriguez today.
We learned that after firing off yet another public denial, Rodriguez stepped behind closed doors in late January and admitted everything. The drugs. The money. The process. All of it. Rodriguez told federal investigators that Biogensis was real, he was a client, and the whole seedy thing happened while A-Rod was strutting in and out of the Yankees clubhouse.
What we did not learn from today’s Miami Herald is that Rodriguez used performance enhancing drugs during his time with the Yankees. We knew that already. Found out about it nearly two years ago when the Biogenesis scandal broke. Confirmed it through a full year of investigations and leaks and bold statements from every corner.
Rodriguez was suspended this season because he used performance enhancing drugs from 2010 to 2012. The fact he admitted it doesn’t change it.
By sitting out all of the 2014 season, Rodriguez paid his penalty. He lost a bunch of money, he might have lost his ability to be a productive major-league player, and he certainly lost his credibility.
None of us believed his lies in the first place, so coming clean is a good thing. We’ve seen that over and over again with Jason Giambi or Andy Pettitte or Mark McGwire, all of whom earned some measure of acceptance and forgiveness by admitting their mistakes. We saw it again last winter when Jhonny Peralta owned up to his own Biogenesis connection and was quickly rewarded with a four-year, $53-million deal with the Cardinals.
Rodriguez decided a while back that he was going to lie and he was going to cheat. In order to keep the plan going, he had to do more lying and more cheating. As things started to unravel and the situation grew desperate – more lying, more cheating.
It’s a familiar cycle. We don’t have to condone it to understand it.
Shocked this morning to discover that Rodriguez was shooting testosterone into his gut? Appalled that he had a remarkably simple method for avoiding detection? Aghast that he was paying his cousin to make transactions on his behalf?
Come on. The details are sordid and make for juicy reading, but it surely takes more than that to surprise us at this point.
Rodriguez’s admission is mostly just another bit of embarrassment for a player who’s gone through plenty of it these past two years. According to the Herald, Rodriguez’s testimony came just 18 days after he his 2014 suspension was announced. That means it came less than three weeks after Rodriguez released a bold public denial in which he called the suspension an “injustice,” said the investigation was “corrupt,” and claimed to be fighting for the rights of all players.
“(The) deck has been stacked against me from day one,” Rodriguez said.
That much was true. The deck was stacked against him. And Rodriguez did the stacking, one lie on top of another.
But, again, we already knew that, and baseball’s already punished him for that. Rodriguez has caused plenty of damage to his legacy, to his team, and to his sport. Telling the truth is perhaps the least damaging thing he’s done.
Associated Press photos
Election day in the Yankees clubhouse • 11.04.14
It’s election day, so let’s have some fun with that!
I’m not going to say that I hope you all voted today. I’ll say instead that I hope you got yourself educated on the issues, really looked into the candidates and the possibilities, and then voted. That’s the way to take the responsibility seriously.
This blog post is one way to not take it seriously.
Remember being a senior in high school and voting on class personalities? If not, I’m sure you at least understand the reference. It’s not like voting for a senator or voting for an amendment. It’s done with a sense of having a good time, and that’s what this blog post is about. Here are a few suggestions for the leading candidates for various class superlatives on the current Yankees roster.
Most Likely to Succeed – Jacoby Ellsbury
With good reason, we focus a lot on the uncertainty of the Yankees current roster (and we’re going to focus on it again in a few sentences), but it’s interesting to do the opposite. What’s the most reliable piece heading into next season? I’d argue it’s Ellsbury, who more or less lived up to expectation in his first season with the Yankees. Factoring in track record, injury concerns, age, and everything else, I’d say Ellsbury is as reliable as it gets for next season.
Least Certain to Succeed – Masahiro Tanaka
Not least likely to succeed, just least certain. There can be no doubt about Tanaka’s talent – the first half of his rookie year proved his stuff can be plenty effective against major league hitters – but we also know that his elbow ligament was slightly torn last season. We know he can succeed, just can’t be certain he’ll have a successful 2015.
Class President – CC Sabathia
It will probably be several years before we see another Yankees captain, and the current roster really has no one quite like Derek Jeter in terms of clear clubhouse leadership. Recognizing that reality — acknowledging there’s no natural fit for team captain — who carries all those qualities you think of in a Class President? I think Sabathia fits best. He’s most certainly respected, he’s incredibly well liked, and he’s been around almost as long as anyone in the room.
Class Clown – Brendan Ryan
This is not intended as a joke about Ryan’s talent or impact. This is intended literally to point out that he’s a bit of a goofball. In a clubhouse full of veterans, where the word stoic is far more applicable than silly, Ryan is a breath of fresh air. He was in good spirits despite rarely playing last season, and there were days he literally went bounding through the locker room laughing like a little kid. As long as it doesn’t cross the line from amusing to annoying, I tend to think a clubhouse needs a guy like that.
Teacher’s Pet – Martin Prado
Honestly, I’m kind of guessing here, but doesn’t Prado seem like exactly the kind of guy a manager could fall in love with? Willing and able to play anywhere in the field. Willing and able to hit basically anywhere in the lineup. Willing (and sometimes able) to play hurt. Does all of that with a real sense of professionalism. With good reason, I could see Prado becoming a Joe Girardi favorite.
Greatest Overachiever – Brett Gardner
Walk-on in college. Labeled a fourth outfielder throughout the minor leagues. Relegated to platoon playing time when he got to the big leagues. Even Gardner’s believers seemed to always acknowledge that he might not actually become an everyday guy, yet this season he landed a multi-year deal and led the Yankees in WAR (according to Baseball Reference; FanGraphs had him second). That’s defying expectation in a big way.
Greatest Underachiever – Brian McCann
At this point, I’m just piling on against a player who I still believe could be a really nice hitter next season (he was awfully good in September). But, the thing with McCann’s disappointing season is that it can’t be blamed on injury or age. Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian Roberts and Alfonso Soriano had some excuses in place. McCann never really had one — and to his credit, he never made one — for his disappointing year.
Most Anticipated – Michael Pineda
If we’re looking ahead to next year, then Rob Refsnyder might fit in this spot. If we’re looking beyond next year, then maybe Luis Severino or Aaron Judge. If we’re looking back to last year, then it’s surely Tanaka. But as a combination — last season, next season, and beyond — the anticipation of Pineda is difficult to overlook. The Yankees waited years to finally get him on the field, and they still haven’t seen what he can do in a full season.
Mr. Nice Guy – Adam Warren
Here’s the thing: If Adam reads this and sees a “Mr. Nice Guy” category, he’ll know that he’s going to win it. So will every one of his teammates. It’s not that there are a bunch of jerks in that room — Francisco Cervelli? Incredibly nice guy. Zelous Wheeler? Impossible to dislike. CC Sabathia? Ivan Nova? Brett Gardner? All invited to any dinner I’m attending. — but Warren’s a really, genuinely, nice guy. I don’t know how else to describe him. By the way, Chase Whitley might have been the choice here, but he’s made fun of Missouri football too many times. Total jerk, that guy.
Least Popular – Alex Rodriguez
I know, I know, this one is too easy. But who else fits this description, and what other distinction best fits this player? Rodriguez has gone beyond a lightning rod. At this point, he’s simply a cautionary tale about bad contracts, and performance enhancing drugs, and poor public relations decisions. Rodriguez will probably be booed a lot next year, but if he hits, I bet he’ll be cheered again.
Life of the Party – Dellin Betances
Not in the usual sense. Betances isn’t the life of the party because he’s an over-the-top personality (he’s actually pretty subdued for the most part). He’s the life of the party because he was surely the best thing about last season, and he’s one of the absolute bright spots heading into next season. If you want to look at the roster and find an undeniably good thing, a young success story like Betances — who’s not tied to a bad contract, who’s still in his 20s, who came up through the minor league system, who still has an exciting future — is about as good as it gets for the Yankees right now. The life of the party brings excitement when things get dull, and that’s certainly what Betances is doing.
Associated Press photos
Here’s The Associated Press with the story…
MIAMI (AP) — The former owner of a South Florida anti-aging clinic pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of illegally providing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes including high-profile Major League Baseball players, most notably New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.
Anthony Bosch, former owner of the Biogenesis of America clinic in Coral Gables, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute testosterone before U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles. Bosch, who called himself “Dr. T,” faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence but is likely to get far less because of cooperation with prosecutors and with MLB’s investigation into player drug use.
Defense attorney Guy Lewis said Bosch, 51, provided key information to MLB investigators that led to suspensions of 14 players, including the record season-long suspension handed to Rodriguez for this past year. Bosch also met numerous times with federal prosecutors and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, Lewis said.
“He was faithful in terms of appearing each and every time he was requested to,” Lewis said. “Each and every time he appeared, answered questions and was available.”
Rodriguez has denied taking illegal substances while with the Yankees but did admit to doing so earlier in his career with the Texas Rangers. He remains on the Yankees’ roster for next season.
MLB previously sued Bosch and his clinic but withdrew the lawsuit in February. The league had accused Bosch and others with conspiring to violate player contracts by providing them with banned substances.
In a plea agreement, Bosch admitted to providing testosterone to baseball players, from professionals to high school athletes. Six other people are charged in the case, and Bosch has agreed to testify against them if they go to trial.
“We are quite satisfied with what he promised he would do,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael “Pat” Sullivan.
Earlier this month, Gayles revoked Bosch’s $100,000 bail because he twice tested positive after his August arrest for cocaine use and had missed appointments at drug treatment programs. On Thursday, Gayles agreed to release Bosch on bail with several new conditions, including a requirement that Bosch attended a 24-hour inpatient drug treatment program.
Prosecutors did not object, and Lewis said Bosch needs the treatment badly.
“You have before you an individual who does need counseling. We recognize that. He’s begging for it,” Lewis said.
When Bosch is not in the treatment program, he will remain on house arrest with electronic monitoring, Gayles said. Sentencing for Bosch is set for Dec. 18.
Associated Press photo
For your consideration: Chase Headley • 10.15.14
Here’s what Brian Cashman said on the day the Yankees traded for Chase Headley:
“Next year is next year. Right now I just kind of frame is as what it is. He’s got an expiring contract that runs through the end of the year. It’s a rental in terms of the acquisition cost, and that’s how we approached it. We’ve taken on some money. We got some money to offset some of the remaining balance of his contract, and they’ve got some players that they can hold onto as they move forward and try to support their future. I can’t predict 2015 and what our needs will or won’t be. That’s not what this is all about. We’re all really focused on the remaining push in 2014 and trying to push through with what we’ve got.”
Truth be told, I can’t imagine that Cashman has any better idea today what his third base needs will or won’t be next season. Alex Rodriguez is still a total wild card, working out in California with no proof of how well he can play baseball in 2015 and beyond. What Cashman does have, though, is a better sense of what Headley is capable of doing and how well he’s able to handle the New York market.
During his two-plus months with the Yankees, Headley showed himself to be an awfully good fielder, and while he’s certainly not a true power hitter, he came through in big situations and got on base at an impressive rate. He’s most certainly a useful player, and he seems to have found a way to manage the lower-back issue that bothered him in San Diego.
“I feel like I played like me,” Headley said. “Even the month or so before I got traded, I felt like I started play like me, as a player. I feel like (if) I play like me, that’s a good player, and that’s going to be attractive to clubs. I’m glad that I was able to finish out the way that I did, and hopefully things will work out good.”
Going forward, is Headley still a strong fit for the Yankees?
The third base situation is well understood. Best-case scenario is that Rodriguez’s year off has left him healthy and strong, physically able to play third base regularly while contributing to the middle of the order. Worst-case scenario is that a year off, coupled with the recent injuries, has left Rodriguez unable to play the field and unable to be much of a run producer. The Yankees aren’t likely to know which is closer to the truth until spring training, and even then health and durability concerns must linger.
Signing Headley would give the Yankees a quality backup plan at third base. But Headley’s also in position to be paid like an everyday player, so it’s more likely he would lock the Yankees into a plan to use Rodriguez regularly at designated hitter while trusting Carlos Beltran to regularly handle right field. Headley is not the only player who could play that role — Pablo Sandoval is a free agent this winter as are any number of utility types — but Headley brings a comfortable blend of familiarity and experience. He was a useful rental, which makes him a more attractive target.
“I don’t know if they’re going to be interested,” Headley said. “They do have a player under contract. We’ll kinda see how that shakes out. If they do show interest, then there would be mutual interest. But that would be something we’d want to talk about, and see what the role would look like, coming into (next season). Not something that I’d be scared of, but something I’d like to have clarity on, and I’m sure the organization would as well.”
Associated Press photos
Just a few quick notes and some leftovers from today’s Brian Cashman conference call:
• Anything Kevin Long could have or should have done differently with this offense? “I think he tried everything in his power,” Cashman said. “By his own assessment, I know when I talked to Kevin today he told me, he was like, ‘Cash, I wouldn’t do anything different, because I tried everything.’ I think Kevin can sleep at night knowing he tried every tool in the toolbox. I know that he publicly stated late in the year that he did everything and tried everything. It wasn’t sufficient, but the effort was sufficient. The results just weren’t.”
• On whether Mick Kelleher was to blame for the Yankees defensive problems in the first half: “That was more personnel-related,” Cashman said. “When we lost players like Cano, for instance, who was an exceptional defender, to free agency; or when we lost Alex to a suspension, for instance. We had Derek Jeter coming back, as well as Mark Teixeira, from injury. Those players possessed a certain amount of ability, and I think Mick addressed that to the best of his abilities. As we were able to acquire better defenders as the season went on and they presented themselves, we obviously improved our team defense. I would not hold Mick Kelleher responsible for any defensive deficiencies. That was personnel related.”
• Interesting comment about the decision to get rid of Kelleher: “There are some individuals, I think, as we move forward, (who) will bring more for the global perspective of the coaching staff.”
• The latest on Alex Rodriguez’s offseason workouts: “Matt Krause, our strength coach, just visited with him yesterday in Miami to continue the process that I talked to you all about in Boston at Fenway Park at the end of the season,” Cashman said. “That we’re going to be reconnecting with Alex, all of our staff. Alex reached out and said, ‘Hey, let’s start proactively doing that.’ That’s what Alex is about. He’s proactive and trying to put himself in the best position to be successful and hit the ground running when he gets reactivated.”
• On whether the Yankees want to bring back Dave Robertson or let Dellin Betances transition into the closer role: “What happens as we move forward with (Robertson) and the qualifying offer is yet to be determined,” Cashman said. “But we thank David, and we’re proud of what he’s done here and how he’s handled himself here. The final decision that has to be made here first and foremost is yet to be made. Because of that I don’t think it’s really fair to speculate on alternatives in house. It’s obviously a tough role, and if you’ve never done it, I’d answer that question the same way I answered it maybe to David’s anguish last year, all winter, where I would not assume that anybody could do that. It’s just not that type of role that you could guarantee someone can easily transition to.”
• Any other coaching changes coming? “These are the moves we’re making,” Cashman said. “And any other moves that we choose to make or want to pursue, obviously we’ll reveal them. If we choose to make any other changes we’ll let you know, otherwise everything is status quo until then.”
Associated Press photo
During today’s conference call to discuss his new three-year contract, Brian Cashman made it clear that he’s approaching this offseason with the assumption that he needs someone other than Alex Rodriguez to play third base.
That might mean a free agent addition, might mean a trade acquisition, and it might mean a decision to trust either Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela to handle second base so that Martin Prado can shift over to third.
“I don’t think it’s safe to assume that (Rodriguez) can play third base,” Cashman said. “Obviously Alex has been a third baseman in years gone by. He missed obviously a full year. With his age and missing a full year, (the Yankees saw) how it affected Derek (Jeter), how it affected Mark Teixeira, for instance. You have some perspective. This is a very difficult game. Alex is up for that challenge, there’s no doubt about it, but I think that with Martin Prado here to provide flexibility, as well as potential acquisitions whether it’s free agents or maybe trades that present themselves over time, I think from the chair that I sit in, I think it’s safer to assume that might not be something that he can handle the whole year.”
So Rodriguez could be the third baseman, but it’s safer for the Yankees to proceed as if he might have to be a designated hitter (one who might be able to help out at first base from time to time).
“I’m open to pursuing third base options is what I’m saying,” Girardi said. “Alex can help us as an everyday third baseman, he can help us in a DH role, and I know Joe Girardi conveyed to me that he talked to him recently about getting some work at first base. … I’m just airing that I’m open to all options, and that could be from our own roster where we have two guys like a Refsnyder or a Pirela could be competing from our system for that everyday job at second, and maybe that pushes Prado over to third. It could be some free agent candidates, like some we have here like a Chase Headley that we could pursue. It could be other options.”
Associated Press photo
State of the organization: Third base • 10.09.14
Well, we were going to get here eventually. Might as well deal with it on a random Thursday in early October. The state of the Yankees organization at third base is a strange mix of embarrassing uncertainty in the big leagues and optimistic potential in the minors. The Yankees have a first-round pick waiting in the wings to replace a 10-year contract that stands out as one of the worst in all of sports.
Signed through 2017
Nope, you didn’t read that wrong. Rodriguez turns 40 in July, he’s hardly played in the past two years, and he’s signed for three more seasons. That’s the lingering mess of a 2008 contract that’s been nothing but trouble. Amazingly, Rodriguez’s previous record contract had actually been a fairly good one. In 2007 he won his third MVP award in five seasons. He was paid a boatload of money, but he was as productive as anyone this side of Barry Bonds. Then he opted out, negotiated a new deal, and things went downhill quickly. From a .965 OPS in 2008 to a .771 OPS in an injury-shortened 2013, Rodriguez’s production has declined each year of his current deal. And last year he was suspended for a full season because of his Biogensis ties (you probably heard about that). Now the Yankees say they’re expecting Rodriguez to play third base again next season, but there’s obviously a solid chance someone else has that job pretty soon.
On the verge
No sense pretending there’s someone in the Yankees system who’s truly “on the verge” of taking over the third-base job. Jose Pirela has played third base in the past, but he didn’t play a single inning at the position this year. Rob Segedin is the system’s most advanced third base prospect, but he’s had injury problems and hit just .143 in limited Triple-A at-bats this year. Zelous Wheeler is a third baseman by trade, but he’s also a DFA candidate. Adonis Garcia and Tyler Austin have some third base experience, but they’re primarily corner outfielders. Instead, the most ready alternatives are either Martin Prado (assuming either Pirela or Rob Refsnyder is ready to play second base) or a free agent, and the most notable free agent is Headley, who made a strong impression during his two-plus months with the Yankees. Given the uncertainty of Rodriguez and the injuries to Mark Teixeira, the Yankees surely need someone capable of playing the infield corners. If it’s not Headley, it’s got to be someone. Prado could do it, but that’s going to require someone else who can play second.
In two of the past four drafts, the Yankees took a third baseman with their top pick. They took Dante Bichette Jr. out of high school back in 2011. Two years later, they took Jagielo out of Notre Dame. Despite a bounce-back season from Bichette, it still seems that Jagielo has to be considered the system’s top third-base prospect. He struck out a lot this season — 93 times in 85 games with High-A Tampa — but he also might have led the league in home runs had he not missed time with an injury. He instead ranked fifth with 16 homers. Only one player in the league had more than 19. “Jagielo hit home runs in college,” Mark Newman said. “He probably hit more and exhibited more power than we had anticipated, but we thought he had power.” While I would give Jagielo the nod as the system’s top third base prospect, Bichette had a nice year after back-to-back disappointing seasons. He wasn’t nearly as good after a late promotion to Double-A, but he did enough to get back on the map. If he can rediscover some of the power numbers he showed during his strong half season in 2011, Bichette could really make a push next year.
Deeper in the system
Two top draft picks headline the third base position in the Yankees minor league system, but two young players signed out of the Dominican Republic had nice years in the lower levels. Andujar in particular stands out as an interesting and legitimate prospect. Playing full-season ball for the first time, Andujar got off to a slow start with Low-A Charleston — a brutal month of May left him with a .212/.267/.335 slash line at the All-Star break, but he rebounded in a big way by hitting .319/.367/.456 in the second half. Still just 19 years old, Andujar’s a kid with a long way to go, but he put up good numbers in rookie ball last year, and this season’s second half was another step forward. Coming up behind Andujar, a 21-year-old named Allen Valerio hit .292/.404/.472 in his first season in the U.S., but he was pretty old for rookie ball.
An outfielder in the infield
While the Yankees don’t have a full-time third base prospect who’s knocking on the door to the big leagues, they do have Tyler Austin who’s likely to land on the 40-man roster this offseason and should open next season in Triple-A. Converted to right field back in 2012, Austin really hasn’t played much third base lately, but he’s played the position in the past and he got a little bit of time at third last season. After a strong second half and an assignment back to the Arizona Fall League, Austin should be one of the top prospects on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barer roster next season. If he hits, the Yankees might have to find a way to give Austin an opportunity in New York, and third base could be a way to do that either as a regular or part-time player at the position. A right-handed corner utility man would fit pretty well with this roster, and Austin could be that type of player if the Yankees still trust him in the infield.
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