Yesterday the Yankees and Mets each had a starter return to their respective rotations. Masahiro Tanaka, the ace of the Yankees staff, made his much-anticipated return to the mound. While Dillon Gee, who has become more commonly known as the odd man out, returned to the Mets.
Tanaka: 7 IP 3 H 1 ER 9 SO
Much has been made of Tanaka’s health since a small tear of his UCL in his right elbow was discovered last season. Rather than undergoing Tommy John Surgery, Tanaka chose rest and rehab. While some rolled their eyes at his decision, he was able to return to form late in 2014. However, it took less than a month into the 2015 season for another setback to occur. Although the two aren’t believed to be related issues, Tanaka spent the past month on the DL with a right elbow strain. Leaving many to wonder whether or not Tanaka made the right decision to forego surgery and was putting off the inevitable.
In the four starts Tanaka made before hitting the DL he did not look like the Cy Young candidate from last season. His fastball was sitting in the high 80’s as he was clearly holding himself back on the mound. I’m not sure what exactly happened in the month since his last start, but Tanaka seemed to have returned to form yesterday. His fastball was clocked as high as 96 MPH along the way to dominating the Seattle Mariners. With the AL East up for grabs, if Tanaka can stay healthy, and that’s a big if, the Yankees 1-2 punch with Michael Pineda and himself anchoring the rotation could make the Yankees the team to be within the division.
Gee: 4 IP 8 H 7 R 4 ER 1 SO
It’s been an interesting start, to say the least, for Gee’s season. Here’s a little rundown on his year to date:
- After being considered an expendable arm, he was openly shopped around the entire offseason
- Reluctantly awarded a spot in the rotation when Zack Wheeler underwent Tommy John Surgery in spring training.
- Then forced into a battle, for that same spot, with emerging young arms Rafael Montero, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard for most of March.
- After suffering an injury that landed him on the 15-day DL, he was then replaced by Syndergaard in the rotation.
- Syndergaard seized his opportunity and excelled in his first few starts, causing the Mets front office to overly extend Gee’s minor league rehab assignment to buy Syndergaard more time at the major league level.
- Gee was recalled as part of the Mets plan for implementing a six man rotation, that will last for the foreseeable future, in an effort to limit the workload on the young arms.
There is a buzz that has surrounded most of this Mets rotation throughout the season. When Matt Harvey takes the mound, it’s an event in NYC. Jacob DeGrom, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, is as cool as they come and he’s picked up right where he left off. Syndergaard, who has lived up to his “Thor”nickname, strikes fear into batters with his 6’6” 240 lb presence on the hill to go along with his fastball that flirts with 100 MPH at times. Even Bartolo Colon, who leads the staff in wins, has become must watch TV for the pure entertainment value (especially at the plate) he provides.
Then there’s Gee. When he’s listed as the probable starter, the game really has no feel to it. He gives fans a kind of “blah” feeling when he takes the mound. Sure he will keep the Mets in the game, for the most part, but he doesn’t provide any extra excitement that entices you to tune in. Yesterday didn’t help his cause in arguing against that point. He struggled in his return to get through his four innings of work. “It wasn’t as bad as it looked” said manager Terry Collins. I’m not sure which game you were watching, Terry, but yes, yes it was. With Steven Matz patiently awaiting a phone call, Gee is on a short leash to turn things around if he wants to hold onto his spot in the rotation.
At the end of the day, it was only the first start back for Tanaka and Gee. But each fan base was left with completely different emotions by their end results. Yankee fans were given hope that maybe they can put a strangle hold on the AL East, with no team differentiating themselves so far, if Tanaka can stay healthy and returns to form. While Mets fans were left scratching their heads as to why Gee is still hanging around.
We’re only 16 games into the season and the buzz surrounding this weekend is that usually reserved for September/October baseball. The Rangers, Islanders and Nets might be in the playoffs – but the subway series is the talk of the town.
When the schedule was first released I was disappointed to see the first part of the subway series would be taking place in April. I felt it was too early in the year and would be lacking any real excitement during this normally dull period in the season. Luckily I could not have been more wrong. We might not have kicked the cold weather just yet in New York but both of these teams are red-hot.
The Mets (13-3) come into this series as the hottest team in baseball – riding an 11-game winning streak. Their hot start has already given the Mets a 4.5 game lead in the NL East. Despite players dropping like flies due to injury (and suspension) the team has maintained this football like mentality as “next man up” seems to be their mantra. Terry Collins has his ball club playing with a type of grit and resilience that hasn’t been seen in Queens in years. The fan base has responded in a big way to this early success. Attendance is soaring and Citi Field, dare I say it, is beginning to rock like Shea. Maybe not quite on that level, but it’s a noticeable atmosphere change. Every night a different player seems steps up and comes through with a key walk, sacrifice fly, strong start, clutch hit or defensive web gem on the way to a win. It has been a complete team effort early on for the Metsies.
Friday: Michael Pineda (2-0, 5.00 ERA) vs Jacob DeGrom (2-0, 0.93 ERA) 7:05 p.m. WPIX/YES/MLB Network
Saturday: CC Sabathia (0-3, 4.35 ERA) vs Matt Harvey (3-0, 3.50 ERA) 4:05 p.m. SNY/YES/Fox Sports 1
Sunday: Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 3.12) vs Jonathon Niese (2-0, 1.50 ERA) 8:05 p.m. ESPN
After getting off to a 3-6 start it appeared the Yankees (9-7) were in an early season tailspin. Things quickly turned around as the Yanks have since won 6 of their last 7 and now sit tied for first place in the AL East. There were questions swirling around some of this teams veteran players and what, if any, they had left in the tank. Mark Teixeira and A-ROD have been a blast from the past as each are producing at a high level. Chris Young, who was viewed as the team’s fourth or fifth outfield option, is among the hottest hitters in the game and has forced manager Joe Girardi’s hand for more playing time. The tag team of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller has been as good as advertised in the back-end of the bullpen. In just a week the Yankees have changed their outlook from bleak to optimistic in what appears to be a wide open AL East.
In years past this has been a no-win situation for the Yankees. They have long been the kings of this city and would never gain any real advantage from taking a series from the Mets. Even when the Mets have won this series in recent years it has garnered no real significance. Sure, it’s nice to beat the Yankees but no one really cares when you’re playing meaningless games by the middle of August.
This year feels different. The Mets, and their fans, have been quite vocal in pronouncing 2015 as the year they take New York back. This is the first time that I can ever remember the Yankees coming into the subway series with a little chip on their shoulder. I have a REALLY hard time saying any team with a payroll well north of $200 million is ever an underdog, but it sure feels that way. For the Mets, if they really want to surpass the Yankees as the toast of the town – it starts by sending a message this weekend.
Yesterday I received the type of news that you know will one day come, but refuse to accept it will actually happen – my grandfather, or pop-pop as I knew him, had passed away. I found myself thinking about the times we had spent together, as I’m sure many of you have done yourself after losing a loved one, and baseball kept coming to mind.
If you couldn’t tell by the fact that you’re reading this on a blog dedicated to the game – I love baseball, and my grandfather had something to do with that. I am admittedly a die-hard Mets fan. A major reason, and possibly the sole reason, I still follow the Yankees so closely and decided to make a NY baseball blog is because of my grandparents (mother’s side). I might be writing this due to the recent passing of my grandfather, but my grandmother, who passed away about eight years ago herself, had just as much to do with my love for the game. They were the biggest Yankees fans I’ve ever met. I know, everyone says that about their grandparents when it comes to the Yankees, but I truly mean that statement.
Growing up when I would visit their home it wasn’t uncommon to walk in and see a Yankees game on the TV. In fact, it was weird to not see one on the TV. I’m not just talking a game that was being played in the midst of a current season. I’m talking about in January a Yankees game would be on the TV. You have to remember this is before the YES network was shoving Yankees greatest games down our throats. No, they would be watching one of their many VHS tapes (remember those things?) of recorded games. There was always a pile stacked up on the floor next to the TV ready to be popped into the VCR to relive their favorite moments in Yankees history at any time.
My grandfather drove a paper route in NYC for a living. He would deliver newspapers and magazines to the proper distributors before they hit the newsstands in the morning. This must have contributed to his encyclopedia-like knowledge of sports and pop culture. He loved the tabloids and to his dying day would read several newspapers on a daily basis. Baseball cards were still abundant at many of his stops in those days. I’m not sure if he actually bought all of these cards out-of-pocket or if he had a bartering system of sorts but he began giving me more packs than you can even imagine at a very young age. I still have every baseball card he has ever given me carefully packed away in my closet and tucked under my bed. I’m sure a good 95% of those are worth nothing more than the paper they are printed on, but no matter how much space they occupy I can’t ever see myself parting with them.
I have a feeling there are still packs tucked away in his house that he probably never got around to giving me from his working days. That was always kind of our thing. Everyone has something they connect over and ours was baseball. When my grandmother passed away he began spending increased time at my parents’ house, as my mother became his caretaker of sorts. Even as his health began to deteriorate and his memory began to go – he always wanted to talk sports and most notably baseball with me. Those facts and memories seemed to never falter from his brain. He would walk in the door, and speed walk his way through the house against my mother’s wishes, to find me in the living room before pronouncing something along with the lines of “YOU SEE THAT GAME LAST NIGHT?” I have to admit, there were times I dreaded him coming over the day after a tough Mets’ loss. But I know he wasn’t trying to rub salt in the wound. He just really wanted to talk about the game with me. Looking back on it now I already wish I didn’t take those moments for granted so many times.
When it comes to my grandmother, I don’t even know where to begin. She was the strongest willed woman I’ve ever seen. Typical Italian in that she never shied away from letting her feelings be known or engage in an argument just for the sake of arguing. And she was good at it. I don’t think it was possible for her to walk away from a conversation before getting her two cents in. But for all that she always had this help others first mentality. Everything revolved around what she could do to help you before herself. That is something that I felt summarized her character more than anything else and will always be my lasting memory of her. I hope to have half the heart she had when it comes to looking after my family and friends.
She loved baseball every bit as much as my grandfather. The two of them were frequent listeners to the sports radio station WFAN. Their favorite program was the Mike and the Mad Dog show. My grandmother enjoyed it so much that she actually took the time to call in “Grace from Lindenhurst you’re on the air,” as Mike Francesa would say. How many of your grandmothers cared enough about sports to call into a talk radio show? I’m going to go out on a limb and say not many.
The two of them visited the baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown when I was still very young. They brought me back this custom wooden bat with my name, hometown and birthday engraved on it. For years it was displayed hanging on my bedroom wall. As I got older it became my thinking bat. When I lay in my room that bat somehow always finds its way into my hands. No matter what’s on my mind, or what I have going on in my life, that bat seems to always help get me through it.
I was the first grandchild they were able to sit in the stands and watch play baseball. As I got older I was lucky enough to be a part of a successful high school team. We had a very exciting two-year run and I know how much they enjoyed following along and coming to the games when they were able to. I grew accustomed to having my parents in the crowd and didn’t think twice about seeing them. But when I spotted my grandparents I would genuinely become nervous. I’m still not really sure why. I guess because I didn’t see them there as often and wanted to make sure I left the best impression I could on them in those limited opportunities. I like to think I did a pretty good job of that. On my team’s way to winning the Long Island Championship, I was named the county playoffs MVP. As much as that award meant to me on a personal level, I know how much pride that brought them both.
Last year on the final day of the baseball season my family and I took my grandfather to Citi Field. He had always told me stories about going to games at the Polo Grounds and Ebbets Field. I felt that it was important that he see firsthand the modern-day stadium that was built-in those ballparks remembrance. It didn’t matter that the Yankees weren’t playing. He didn’t care about that. Just being at the game with us and seeing the stadium in person meant the world to him. Later that night he broke down in tears to my mother about how much he enjoyed the day and what it meant to him for us to take him there. The thought alone makes me water up. I take solace in knowing I was with him for his final baseball game.
My grandmother always kept up with modern technology and frequently used AIM (AOL Instant Messenger), yes my grandmother, and would always put up the same away message. All these years later I still have it ingrained in my mind – “When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.” With opening day upon us, I’m sure both of you are smiling ear to ear, along with the rest of us. Pop-pop is already complaining about a Joe Girardi pitching change. That’s if he’s able to get a word in over my grandmother.
R.I.P., I love and miss you both.
New York City might be big enough for two professional baseball teams, but only one franchise, and in most cases one player, will control the back pages. Last season that man was Derek Jeter. Now that his farewell tour has ended, I wasn’t sure if it ever would, there are two men who will fill that void. Matt Harvey and Alex Rodriguez are poised for a back page battle in their 2015 returns. But as was the case in ‘Highlander’ – there can be only one.
In 2013, Harvey took the league, and city, by storm. You could find him featured in ESPN Magazine: The Body Issue, participating in skits for ‘The Tonight Show’, on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Us Weekly (featuring his breakup with super model Annie V) and sitting courtside at Knicks/Rangers games. Oh, then there was the fact the he started the 2013 All-Star game at Citi Field. Almost forgot about his on the field dominance. Simply put, he was everywhere.
Unfortunately, Harvey’s rise to stardom was derailed by a season-ending elbow injury that led to Tommy John Surgery. Even while he missed the entire 2014 season recovering he grabbed more attention than his active teammates. Now, much of that has to do with the lackluster season the Mets put together. Nonetheless, Harvey has become a walking headline. Every interview, comment, appearance or tweet he made has become back page news.
Harvey’s combination of talent and brash have him on the cusp of taking the throne as King of NY. All eyes will be on him this spring as he returns to the mound.
Then there’s A-ROD. He is one of, if not the, most captivating figure in sports. Given where he stands in today’s media landscape, it’s easy to forget that A-ROD was once one of the most popular players in the game. That was long before he donned the pinstripes. As a young phenomenon he was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career and was on pace to break every record in the book. He earned the largest contract in professional sports history (he would later receive a second deal to top that). His little black book is filled with a “who’s who” of women in Hollywood. Then steroids came into the picture. Accusations occurred, denials were initially made and then apologies were ultimately issued.
A-ROD went on to become a World Series hero and all was forgiven. Or was it? Accusations of PED once again began to occur. A lot of them. Denials were once again made. Then a suspension was handed down. A big one (The largest in baseball history). And once again, an apology was issued. This time in the form of a handwritten note.
Here’s an excerpt:
“I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point. I understand why and that’s on me. It was gracious of the Yankees to offer me the use of Yankee Stadium for this apology but I decided the next time I am in Yankee Stadium, I should be in pinstripes doing my job.”
People love to see the mighty crumble. As bad as that may sound, it’s true. Think about every featured story on the news, magazine covers or website homepages. More times than not you won’t be seeing any feel good stories. It’s almost always regarding someones downfall. Hence why these A-ROD scandals have been so widely reported. Sure, his story has become kind of repetitive. He’s almost like watching a rerun on TV. You’ve already seen the episode. But you enjoyed it so much the first time around that you decided to watch it again. Sound familiar?
I don’t care how many monuments the Yankees give out this season. A-ROD is the only Yankee story people care about.
The media aren’t the only ones excited for A-ROD’s return. Earlier this week Harvey himself said “If he is that dedicated and wants to come back then more power to him for going up to the organization like that, it shows a lot,” Harvey told the NY Post. “It will be exciting to see what he can do.”
No one epitomized a baseball player better than Derek Jeter. But I found myself becoming bored with him during those dog days of summer last season. I craved that polarizing figure. Someone who has a bit of a flair to him. I missed Matt Harvey. And at times, I can’t believe I’m saying this, I missed A-ROD..
Both The Mets and Yankees are projected to be in the playoff hunt this year, but neither are considered favorites. It’s been a while since these two were on roughly an even playing field. While winning is crucial in NY, it is considered almost equally as important to win those back pages. A-ROD, for both his on and (mostly) off the field actions, could be the Yankees only hope in this battle. While Matt Harvey will try to solidify himself as the new face of baseball in NY.
Last night I attended Pitch Talks at BB Kings in NYC. For those of you unaware, Pitch Talks is a segmented event of national and local sports writers/personalities to talk baseball. This is the first one of their events I have attended but from what I gather this is a traveling show of sorts with the participants changing based on location. It’s events like this that remind me just how lucky I am to live in the most powerful sports market in the country. We were spoiled with some of the most prominent people in the industry to entertain us with baseball talk, in the middle of January.
Pete Abraham (Boston Globe) played the master of ceremonies role as he moderated all three segments. The night started off talking about the game on a national level with panelist Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports/MLBN), Buster Olney (ESPN) and Jay Jaffe (Sports Illustrated). Given the timing of the event it was no shock that the Hall of Fame was a focal point of discussion. It was made rather clear that all three have a problem with the voting process and it sounds like changes will be heavily discussed going forward. Whether it be the removal of the character clause, increasing the amount of players you can vote for or the amount of years players can remain on a ballot remain to be seen.
There was no argument that given any unforeseen event Mike Piazza will get elected next year. Rosenthal believes that this will open the flood gates to allow other suspected, but not proven, PED players to be elected going forward. I still want to hold out hope that Piazza is clean, but I understand the point. Jaffe refrained from using too many sabermetrics last night which disappointed me a little as I enjoy watching traditional writers debate new age thinking. I was happy Jaffe was quick to shut down the notion that Pete Rose is no different from the PED guys. As he said, it’s “Apples and oranges” – he broke the golden rule and should never be allowed in.
When it came to Rob Manfred taking over for Bud Selig as the new commissioner, no one felt much would be different. He was groomed for this position under Selig and is suspected to have similar beliefs on how the game should operate. One thing mentioned to keep an eye on was the pace of play. Olney believes that it is only a matter of time until a pitch clock is inserted.
All three of them wanted to see the game market their young stars better and they couldn’t be more right about this. I think the NBA might do this better than other league. They do a great job marketing players in the smaller markets and turn them into household names. Just think Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City) and Anthony Davis (New Orleans). MLB is doing terrific locally but they need to take a page out of the NBA’s playbook and promote their stars on a national level.
Next up was the Mets segment where Olney stuck around and was joined by Matthew Cerrone (MetsBlog) and Adam Rubin (ESPN NY). As a shocker to no one, the Wilpons and the SS position were the hot topics. Olney and Rubin reiterated that the Mets payroll is what it is. There is no reason to believe it will be changing anytime in the near future. It was suggested that the Wilpons long ties with Selig will holdover with Manfred taking the reigns. You could see the genuine disgust in Olney, and Rosenthal in the previous segment, over the lack of Mets payroll and efforts to act like a major market franchise.
Every time Wilmer Flores or Ruben Tejada were so much as mentioned you could hear the snickers in the crowd, I chose just to shake my head. In order to become a real contender they believed the Mets need to pull the trigger on an Ian Desmond type of player. Although I have been hesitant myself to give up our pitching prospects, last night started to sway me. It is all but a given at least half of those prospects will either not pan out or go down due to injury. This where the highly touted minds in that front office need to earn their keep and decide which are the ones the Mets should be willing to part with.
It was mentioned that the feeling around baseball is that the Mets feel they have to win every trade. Of course I understand that to a certain extent, especially when you are in rebuilding mode. But if you are going to sell the fans on the fact that you are trying to win now, you have to take a chance once in a while and give something of value up to fill a void. That is the conundrum the Mets front office currently faces. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that the Mets will be above .500 this year, but no one saw them as anything more than “in the wild card hunt” as the roster currently stands.
The evening finished up with a “Bronx Banter” discussion when Jaffe returned with Sweeny Murti (WFAN) and Tyler Kepner (NY Times) filling out the group nicely. There wasn’t any “core four” talk and it was weird to think of the Yankees no longer having that face of the franchise player. A lot was made about who would take over as the new clubhouse leader. The belief was that it is only a matter of time until Brian McCann becomes that guy. I’ve always heard great things about McCann and that wouldn’t surprise me at all. Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira have spent a good amount of time in NY now and I would really like to see them step into that role as well.
Although no one had any real reason to believe the Yankees will make another big splash, they agreed to never count them out of anything. Given what GM Brian Cashman has done so far this off season, they believe he is relying heavily on his defense and the bullpen. The pen may be in great shape but Murti and Kepner both felt they need one, maybe two, more starters. Jaffe raised an interesting point that he could envision the Yankees making Andrew Miller the closer this season and keep Dillin Betances as the set-up man. His reasoning being that this will keep Betances cost down for another season as set-up men earn far less than closers. It’s hard for me to believe the Yankees would actually operate this way but maybe the times are a changing.
One thing that doesn’t change is AROD finding his way into the discussion. No one believes that the Yankees are ready to simply pay AROD to go away. Not yet at least. Murti stressed the notion that the Yankees received the lowest production out of the DH position in the American League last year. I was pretty shocked by that. He felt that if the Yankees want to maximize AROD’s production then he should be delegated as the teams full-time DH. I think Cashman all but assured us AROD won’t be playing much third base once he resigned Chase Headley.
Although I read/watch these guys do on a daily basis, it was great to see them interact in this type of setting. It’s fun to see their personalities come to life and get genuine emotion out of them. Rosenthal and Olney are two of the most recognizable figures in this industry. It was nice to see them loosen their tie up (bow tie in Rosenthal’s case) and just talk baseball in the bar as so many of us do. Jaffe even brought his beer on stage with him.
I strongly encourage fans to follow each of last nights panelist throughout the year. They get to spend more time at home during the winter but there is no such thing as an off season for any of them. There is sure to be plenty more baseball to talk about on both a local and national level between now and opening day.
35 days till pitchers and catchers report. But who’s counting?
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman knows he still has work to do this off season. Missing the playoffs once in the Bronx? Okay. Two years in a row? Say your prayers that you still have a job. Three years in a row? Let’s just say no one wants to find out the answer to that question.
For me, I would be most concerned with the starting rotation. The Yankees took another blow with the news of Hiroki Kuroda returning to Japan. Since joining the Yankees in 2011, Kuroda has been their most reliable starter. Just have a look at his three year breakdown with the Yankees:
2012: 16-11 (33 Games started) 219 Innings pitched 3.32 ERA
2013: 11-13 (32 Games started) 201 Innings pitched 3.31 ERA
2014: 11-9 (32 Games started) 199 Innings pitched 3.71 ERA
The Yankees also lost Shane Greene (Traded to the Diamondbacks), and David Phelps (Traded to the Marlins). While neither were expected to play an important part in the Yankees future plans, they both figured to be in the rotation mix at some point throughout the year, due to injury or promotion.
The 2015 Yankee rotation projects to be the following:
- Masahiro Tanaka – The Japanese import quickly established himself as one of the games top starters. Tanaka went 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts. He was well on his way to winning AL Rookie of the Year honors and was going to be in the AL Cy Young award discussion before an elbow issue shut him down. After resting for two months, he was able to return briefly in September to show the Yankees he was good to go for 2015. If healthy, The Yankees have an ace for their staff. Tanaka has avoided the three ugliest words in the game, Tommy John Surgery, for now.
- Michael Pineda – After missing all of 2012 and 2013 to injuries, he looked sharp in his 2014 return. Pineda posted a fantastic 1.89 ERA and looked to be a front-end starter in the makings. However, he was only able to manage 13 starts and 76 innings due to continued health issues and a notorious suspension. Hard to say what the Yankees can rely on getting out of a pine tar less Pineda.
- CC Sabathia – 2013 was ugly but 2014 was just down right forgettable for Sabathia, He was only able to make eight starts and posted a 5.78 ERA before suffering a season ending knee injury. The once ace of the staff is now a huge liability on the Yankees books. With three years remaining (The third being a player vesting option that is likely to be picked up) Cashman has his fingers crossed Sabathia is able to reinvent himself. I have him in the #3 slot but that is based on reputation alone. His recent results barely warrant him a spot in the rotation at all. We’ll give him the benefit of doubt that some of his struggles were injury based, for now.
- Nathan Eovaldi – The trade for the young flame thrower was the most surprising move Cashman has made so far this off season. Eovaldi is among the hardest throwing starters in all of baseball. The Yankees desperately needed to get younger, especially in the rotation, and acquiring the 25-year-old helped solve that problem. This will be pitching coach Larry Rothschilds biggest project. Despite consistently clocking one of the hardest fastballs, he also gave up hits at an alarming rate. The Yankees hope that Rothschild can help fine tune this talent and that they found themselves a diamond in the rough.
- Chris Capuano – In my opinion, the Yankees are in serious trouble if they are relying on a full season of Capuano in the rotation. I do like Capuano for what he is and the price was right to retain him. The 36-year-old lefty made 12 starts with the Yankees after being acquired from the Red Sox last year and posted a 4.25 ERA. I would prefer to see him fill the void left by the Phelps and Greene combination – becoming the teams swing man, spending time in the rotation as needed and the versatile arm in the bullpen.
In house help
Ivan Nova – After undergoing Tommy John Surgery last year, he is expected to be ready sometime in May-June. After posting a strong 2013 campaign, he struggled in 2014 before going down for the season after just four starts. It’s hard to have high expectations for a pitcher returning from surgery but he could provide a mid season boost.
Luis Severino – The 20-year-old has quickly made a name for himself and is now the organizations top-ranked prospect. Severino has a fastball that sits in the mid-high 90’s but will still need a little bit more fine tuning in the minor leagues. Although he won’t be with the Yankees come April, he is worth keeping an eye on throughout the season. It’s only a matter of time before Severino is on the mound in Yankee Stadium.
Max Scherzer – The 2013 AL Cy Young award winner took a chance when he turned down a huge extension from the Tigers last off season. But it appears his gamble is going to payoff, he returned with an equally impressive 2014 season and remains the biggest name in this free agency class. Being the top starter on the market doesn’t come cheap these days. The 30-year-old is said to be seeking a 7-to-8 year deal north of $200 million.
James Shields – He has been the poster boy of reliability for starting pitchers. Since 2007, Shields has made 30+ starts and thrown 200+ innings in each season. Although he hasn’t lived up to the “Big game James” moniker in terms of his October performances, he is exactly what the Yankees are in dire need of. There is no injury history to speak of when it comes to Shields and given the question marks surrounding the rest of the staff, Joe Girardi desperately needs an arm he can count on to take the mound every five days.
Cole Hamels – Unlike Scherzer and Shields, he is not a free agent. But, the Phillies are set to go into full blown rebuilding mode and have put Hamels on the market. It has been reported that the Yankees are one of the teams on Hamels list that he would waive his no trade clause for. Hamels has made 28+ starts in eight straight seasons and posted a career low 2.46 ERA in 2014. The 31-year-old has 4 years and $94 million left on his contract with a fifth year option for another $20 million.
At the end of the day, I think the Yankees need to either sign Shields or try to trade for Hamels. Scherzer might be the sexy move, but that doesn’t make it the right move. He is a power pitcher who is now entering the wrong side of 30. The Yankees don’t have to look any further than within their own rotation (Sabathia) to see how the back end of a contract with that type of pitcher plays out.
Shields provides the type of stability that Kuroda gave these past three years. Although he might not have performed in October last year, he did help anchor a staff into October, something the Yanks haven’t done in two years. Given his age and the way the market seems to be unfolding – a 4-year-deal might be able to land him. Even if they have to overpay it’s better to do that than give out the years. That is something Cashman must deter away from doing.
Hamels would be the most ideal fit. He has proven to be as durable as anyone in the game today. Hamels would combine with Tanaka to make one of, if not the strongest, 1-2 punch in all of the American League. He already has a contract in place that while high, isn’t unreasonable given his production. There won’t be any questions about his ability to pitch in New York given he has already proved himself in Philadelphia, a tough town in its own right. Plus he has succeeded in Citizens Bank Park, a field as hitter friendly as Yankee Stadium. The fact that his contract doesn’t have him locked up too far into his twilight years makes him even more attractive.
I don’t know what the Yankees will do. But I do know there are too many questions surrounding that projected starting rotation for Brian Cashman to sit idle.
This time last year we were all asking ourselves – Is David Robertson capable of taking over for Mariano Rivera? The answer was a resounding yes. Now it’s time for Robertson to cash in on his success.
What amazed me most was just how quietly Robertson accomplished this feat. There is no team in all of professional sports that puts more pressure on their players than the New York Yankees. Yet Robertson didn’t falter when it was his turn to step into the spotlight and put together a successful first season in the closer role.
Robertson earned 39 saves with a 3.08 era in 2014. His walk ratio, which is something that had been a problem earlier in his career, saw a slight rise but has been mostly stable for the past three years now. He also saw a rise in his strikeout ratio, 13.4 per nine innings, a very solid number that you look for in closers.
Earlier this week was the deadline for teams to make their qualifying offers to pending free agents. It was questionable as to what the Yankees were going to do with Robertson. Despite his strong season, the Yankees do have a young Dellin Betances to fall back on. The rookie right-hander took the league by storm and has the makings of becoming a closer one day. But the Yankees decided to make Robertson that 1-year $15.3 million qualifying offer, meaning they might not be ready just yet to thrust Betances into that role. Continue reading
From the moment we stepped foot into the stadium the “Der-ek Jet-er” chants had begun; it didn’t take long to realize just how electric this crowd would be all night long. A good portion of Yankee games sellout throughout the season, but you know it’s a special game when everyone is in their seats a half hour before first pitch.
Jeter was given a standing ovation before the game even started when he accepted a donation on behalf of the Yankees to his charity. Then another when he took the field to warmup. Then another after a scoreboard message played a thank you tribute. Then another when his farewell Gatorade commercial aired. Then another when he took his position on the field. Then another when his farewell Nike commercial aired. Then another when he came out onto the on-deck circle. Then another when he finally stepped into the batter’s box. If you didn’t get the hint by now, there was very little sitting at this game.
It became apparent rather quickly that Jeter would once again relish in the moment. In his first at-bat, he roped a deep line drive to left center field, missing a home run by a mere few feet. That left many of us wondering if that would be the highlight of his final game. Jeter hasn’t exactly torn the cover off the baseball this season, would that be his final hit at the stadium?
After the first inning, the game went into cruise control through the seventh. The most entertainment came from the Jumbotron. In between innings former players and coaches would share with their favorite Jeter moments. It was truly remarkable that one man could be in the middle of so many memorable moments in this storied franchise’s history. I applauded for each and every one of these, except for one. When the 2000 World Series highlight reel began, when the Yankees beat my beloved Mets and Jeter was named series MVP, it reminded me of the love/hate relationship I’ve had with Jeter for all these years.
Hate is a strong word, but there were plenty of times when I truly felt hatred towards Jeter. I’m 27-years-old, meaning my baseball memories pretty much started alongside Jeter’s career. In that time, I have seen the Mets make the playoffs all of three times, compared to the Yankees 17. The Mets have become known for public relation blunders, lack of accountability and most notably, heartbreak. Jeter, on the other hand, has stood for the polar opposite.
The man has never made slipped up in the public eye before. Even when a story broke of Jeter giving one night stands a parting gift basketball it was somehow spun in a positive light for the coveted bachelor. It’s hard to walk five feet in Yankee Stadium without seeing a “Yeah Jeets!” shirt or a fan shouting the term of endearment. When it came to accountability? Fuhgeddaboudit. Despite being second only to Bill Belichick in giving the most vanilla interviews, he always stands pact at his locker accepting both the praise and blame following each and every game. You will never hear him throw blame elsewhere; all of it falls on the Captain’s shoulders.
When it comes to heartbreak, Jeter has given the fans very little. He has been a part of 13 division titles, seven American League Championships and won five World Series titles. Sure this is a team sport, and he isn’t solely responsible for those accomplishments, but he played a damn big part in each and every one of them.
Needless to say, my feelings towards him have walked a fine line between hate and envy. I digress, back to last night…
Jeter stepped up with the stage set for a big moment in the seventh. With the bases loaded and the game tied the crowd was, you guessed it, on their feet. Although Jeter didn’t come through with a hit, he did put the ball in play forcing an error on a fielder’s choice, allowing the Yankees to take the lead. This might not have felt like a significant play, but I felt summed up a big portion of Jeter’s career that you won’t find on any stat sheet. He was involved in a game-changing moment. Sure it wasn’t a home run or bases clearing double, but he made something happen on a measly weak ground ball that could prove to be the game-winner. Typical Jeter.
When David Robertson took the mound in the ninth to close out the game, the crowd was more than happy for it to end this way. My friends and I might have been the only four people in the stadium rooting for the Orioles to tie it up. Jeter was due up third in the bottom of the ninth, who wouldn’t want to see him bat one more time? After Robertson surrendered the first home run, we cheered, when he gave up the game-tying home run….we really cheered. At this point, we HAD to be the only non-Oriole fans high-fiving each other. The guys behind us were not amused. One friend quickly stated his bottom of the ninth prediction:
“Single, bunt him over to second, Jeter single to win it.”
We kind of laughed this statement off and gave each other the “imagine?” look in response. Even Jeter can’t be that lucky to have it end like that.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, Jose Pirela started the inning off with a single. Alright, now we’re looking at each other like we might be onto something. Gardner steps up and lays down a perfect sacrifice bunt. At this point, I think the whole crowd was in a state of disbelief that Jeter would be coming to the plate in this situation. It just seemed too good to be true. In true Jeter fashion, he lined a single into right field and drove in Pirela for the winning run.
I mean, wow. Words cannot even begin to describe the emotion running through the stadium at that very moment. The same guys that we aggravated an inning earlier by our blown save celebration were now shaking my buddies in disbelief for predicting this exact scenario.
Jeter was mobbed by teammates and the Yankees used their flair for the dramatics – revealing the presence of Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez and Mariano Rivera on the Jumbotron, one-by-one, as they waited to greet Jeter. I would say the crowd gave Jeter one last standing ovation, but the truth is I don’t think the fans ever stopped standing or applauding from the moment they arrived.
This went on well after the on-field celebration ended as No. 2 faded away into the dugout, forever.
It was truly a fairytale ending for Jeter, something straight out of Hollywood. You would’ve sworn this game was scripted the way it all unfolded. Jeter might have been the luckiest man on the face of the earth last night, but my friends and I were a close second.
Despite all of the injury problems the Yankees have faced this season, they have continued to keep themselves in the playoff hunt. While general manager Brian Cashman made some nice additions around the trading deadline, he was unable to land that “game changer” type of player.
Although there wasn’t a big name brought in, the Yankees could soon be receiving a jolt from within their own roster. Mashiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, the early season 1-2 punch in the rotation, each received good news this week regarding their rehab. Pineda, completed his first assignment and is scheduled to throw two more before a possible big league return. While Tanaka, threw a baseball for the first time in a month yesterday to positive results. Although his return would be roughly a month away, he could very well prove to be the difference maker they need down the stretch.
Cashman, did a fine job adding the pieces he did with such limited resources. Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy have quickly made an impact, while Martin Prado and Stephen Drew added some much-needed versatility to the roster. But the moves he didn’t make could turn into his finest of them all. The Yankees farm system is already well depleted. Trading for a rental player would have only sent their system back even further than it already is. Waiting on the rehabbing Tanaka and Pineda could prove to be the best decision he makes this year.
If the Yankees are able to stay in contention until the cavalry arrives, high praise will not only be in order for the job Cashman has done, but Joe Girardi as well. Girardi has once again proven himself to be a top-tier manager in the game today. He continues to get production out of his rosters, no matter who is on the disabled list.
Look for the Yankees to make things interesting down the stretch, especially if Tanaka and Pineda return to their earlier form.
Despite a depleted starting rotation, and their aging position players dealing with nagging injuries, the Yankees have kept themselves well within reach of playoff baseball. Without any true powerhouse in the AL East, every team has been able to stay in the mix.
Brian Cashman has already been a busy man, making an array of mid-level moves to patch holes on his roster. Chase Headley, was brought in to fill a need at third base, while Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano, are attempting to solidify the rotation. So far-so good, as all three of these players have already made a positive impact. These are the kind of low-risk, high-reward maneuvers that Cashman has been making the last few seasons (Ichiro in 2012 & Alfonso Soriano 2013). Since there additions, each has provided an initial spark into the Yankees, helping them winning 7 of their first 8 games after the all-star break. But, they have lost three straight games since. While these are nice pieces that can undoubtedly help the Yankees down the stretch, they probably aren’t enough to get the job done.
After all, these are the Yankees we’re talking about. With the money Cashman spent this offseason, forget about any of that luxury tax nonsense many convinced us the Yankees were striving to stay below. There is no shortage of star power available at this years trade deadline, it’s more a matter of are you willing to take on one of these contracts? Names such as Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Matt Kemp, Marlon Byrd, Bartolo Colon, Chase Utley, Josh Willingham, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki have all been tied to the Yankees in trade rumors. Many possess large multi-year deals, the type that their respective teams would love to unload, but only few teams would be capable of adding these numbers onto their books. Luckily, the Yankees are one of them.
As I mentioned earlier, no one is running away with the division this year. Baltimore sits atop right now with a 2.5 game lead over Toronto, with the Yankees in third place trailing by 4.5 games. Tampa, who many thought played themselves out of the discussion with their horrendous start, is now the hottest team in baseball. After winning 29 of their last 40 games, the Rays are behind the Yankees by only 2.5 games. Division aside, the Yankees are tied with Seattle in the wild card standings, trailing the Blue Jays and Angels by two games for one of two spots available.
Brian Cashman needs to pull the trigger on one of these impact players, preferably a top of the rotation starter. With C.C. Sabathia finished for the year and Tanaka’s future in question, Joe Girardi desperately needs an anchor in his staff to count on down the stretch. A vintage Yankees “big splash” is exactly what this team needs to become a real contender. Simply put, with two months of the season left to play, October baseball is well within grasp.
Joe Torre, who was famously dubbed “Clueless Joe” by the New York Daily News, was enshrined into the baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. Turns out Torre DID know what he was getting himself into, and may have managed the last great dynasty we will see in baseball.
Many forget just how good of a player Torre was before his managerial career ever began. He was a 9-time all-star, who won the batting title and NL MVP award in 1971, while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite having a great 18-year career, it was as a manager that he really left his mark on the game.
Torre first got his chance to manage in 1977, as he served as a player/coach for the New York Mets in the final year of his career. Torre went on to coach the Mets for the better part of 5 seasons, where he received poor results, due mostly to the lack-luster roster he was given to work with. From there, he went on to coach the Atlanta Braves for three years and the St. Louis Cardinals for six years. There his teams improved, but was still unable to turn any of them into a real contender.
Cue 1996. The Yankees were coming off back-to-back strong seasons, and had a young core in place to build around. George Steinbrenner made a highly questionable move when he hired Torre in to take over at the helm, considering he had winning seasons in only 5 of his 15 years as a manager. Nonetheless, it quickly became apparent that he was indeed the right man for the job. In his 12 seasons with the Yankees, his teams won 10 division titles, 6 pennants and 4 World Series championships. All the while putting up with the daily scrutiny from the NY media and most importantly, Steinbrenner himself. Torres’ tenure with the Yankees will long be remembered as one of the greatest stretches in baseball history.
After moving on to manage the L.A. Dodgers to put an end to his stellar career, Torre finished with 2,326 games won as a manager, good for 5th all-time. Congratulations and welcome to Cooperstown, Joe Torre.
Watch his Hall of Fame speech in its entirety below:
Remember heading into the All-Star break when the Mets seemed poised to take back this town? Yeah, about that. Amazingly, in just the first weekend back, the Yankees and Mets momentum has reversed.
We had the young Mets riding high, winning 8 of 10 to finish off the first half. Newspaper and TV outlets had announced it was time for the Mets to end the Yankees long running reign as kings of New York. Things looked even brighter when the Mets were set to face the lowly Padres to start off the half. After a promising win on Friday night, the Mets offense went silent as they dropped the next two games. It wasn’t just that they lost, it was how they lost. Although the pitching remained strong, the return of an anemic offense reminded us of this teams achilles heal. Daniel Murphy will need to get out of this recent slump, while the revival of Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud must continue for the Mets to turn things around.
The Yankees closed out the first half getting bad news, after bad news. Their aging roster continued to get banged up and one after another went down in the starting rotation. C.C. Sabathia had knee surgery to finish his year, Michael Pineda’s return remains in doubt and no one really knows what the future holds for Mashiro Tanaka. With nothing but negativity surrounding the Yankees heading into the break, starting the second half with a sweep of the Reds was exactly what this franchise needed. Despite the lack of depth in the starting rotation, unlikely candidates have stepped up. Hiroki Kuroda is now the “ace” of this staff by default, and he pitched quite well out if the gate. David Phelps had a solid performance and newly acquired Brandon McCarthy showed signs of returning to his old form. Jacoby Ellsbury carried the offense over the weekend and he may need to do so the rest of the way if the Yankees are going to make any sort of a run. So far, so good for the Yankees.
I realize we are only ONE series into the second half, but it’s amazes me just how quickly the mood surrounding each franchise can change. I still believe the Mets have a brighter future ahead of them, but I’m not ready to commit to their reign starting in the second half. Many questions still remain surrounding the Yankees, as I don’t have confidence that they will be able to stay healthy enough to reach the post season. But the AL East lacks a dominant team and the division is there for the taking. A big splash from Brian Cashman at the trade deadline wouldn’t surprise me, as that is what it will take to keep this team afloat. One thing I do know for certain, it’s good to have baseball back in full force.
Much like highly anticipated Super Bowl ads are leaked days in advance now, Nike released their Derek Jeter tribute commercial a day before it’s due to air. The video has quickly gone viral, taking over our social media news feeds, and rightly so.
A star-studded list of celebrities and athletes make cameo’s as they tip their caps, a gesture of respect in baseball circles, to the longtime Yankee captain before he steps in for an at-bat. Spike Lee, Billy Crystal, Joe Torre, Carmelo Anthony, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan are just some of those featured.
Jeter, will start in his 14th, and final, All-Star game tonight. Much like former teammate Mariano Rivera last year, this will undoubtedly become the Jeter show. Dugouts will clear, fans will rise to their feet and broadcasters will go numb as baseball fans across the country show their gratitude for everything he has given to the game. It isn’t just his Hall of Fame credentials, but Jeters’ character that has him among the most respected players of his generation.
Watch the very well done ad below:
Tonight, Yankees rookie Chase Whitley was lit up for 8 ER in just 3.1 IP against the Toronto Blue Jays. This was easily the worst outing in Whitley’s young career, as he has been a pleasant surprise in the rotation up to this point. The question remains though, just what do the Yankees have in Whitley?
The 25-year-old came into this game with a 3-0 record and a 2.56 ERA. With Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia on the shelf, Whitley has been a saving grace for the Yankees. Although Whitley was undefeated in his first 7 starts, he has only pitched more than 5 innings twice, and has never thrown more than 100 pitches in a game. I realize he’s young and probably on an inning/pitch count, but that isn’t too reassuring for me. It’s hard to count on a pitcher who can’t get through more than 5 innings in a start. With the Yankees rotation as thin as it is, it will be difficult having to use your bullpen for an extended period of time every fifth game.
More than anything else, Whitley just ran into a very good offensive team tonight who was seeing him for the second time around. But that is also what would alarm me the most. Is Whitley going to turn into one of those guys who the league quickly figures out? Or will he be able to make the adjustments as quickly as the batters will to him?
I know I’m only talking about 8 starts here, so I won’t get too carried away with any forgone conclusions about what Whitley will ultimately become. But if I were Brian Cashman, I wouldn’t be trigger shy when it comes to adding another starter. The name of the game is pitching, and I’m not sure you should be counting on Chase Whitley to be one of the starters you count on to help get you into the postseason. Best case scenario, Whitley slides into the fifth starter spot where he can eat up innings and keep the Yankees in ball games.
The Mets and Yankees fan bases were filled with two different emotions Friday night, as we given two exciting, yet opposite, endings within a half an hour of each other.
First, we have the Mets. After winning two straight games, the Mets looked to continue to build momentum and put together a winning streak. Once again, the offense struggled to score runs as they trailed 3-0 heading into the latter innings of the game. The Mets offense were able to muster together a few runs to cut the lead to one heading into the ninth inning.
Kirk Niuewenhuis led the inning off with a pitch hit double over Giancarlo Stantons head in right field. After Ruben Tejada laid down a sacrifice bunt, the Mets now had a runner on third base with one out and Chris Young stepping to the plate. Young, merely had to hit a fly ball into the outfield to tie this game up and keep the Mets alive. Although that doesn’t sound like it is asking too much, Young has been struggling to even make contact most of this season. But, he was able to get the ball in the air to left field, which at first glance appeared to be enough to get the run in.
Earlier in the game, the Mets challenged the arm of left fielder Marcell Ozuna when David Wright was gunned down at the plate. It was a risky move, as Wright didn’t have much of a chance to score, but the Mets have to take their chances when they come. As Ozuna began to circle under this fly ball, you began to realize it was not as hit as deep as initially thought. Ozuna took a full running start as he caught the ball and fired a strike to home plate, deja vu, Nieunwenhuis was out a the plate to end the ball game.
He didn’t just throw him out, he was dead upon arrival. In the words of Charlie Brown, good grief. The Mets continue to find new ways to lose…
Then we have the Yankees. Unlike the Mets, who failed to complete their 9th inning comeback, the Yankees were able to finish the job. With the score 3-1 in the ninth, the Orioles sent out newly appointed closer Zack Britton. Britton, has been very effective in his new role, until last night. Brett Gardner was able to start things off with a lead off single. But he would be followed up by a Derek Jeter Strikeout and Jacoby Ellsbury fly out to quickly make it two outs with a runner on first. Mark Teixeiria stepped up next and was able to work a walk to keep the inning alive. Brian McCann, who has been struggling with the bat, hit a double to cut the lead to one run as Gardner scored.
It was now Carlos Beltran’s turn up at the plate. Beltran, is playing through elbow issues and is stuck mostly at the DH position since returning from the DL. You have to give Beltran credit, he could have easily taken the surgery route and missed most of, if not all, of the season. But he has toughed it out and gotten himself back into a lineup that desperately needs him. Beltran, batting right-handed against the left-hander, gave one a ride over the left field wall for a walk-off win.
The Yankees are in the middle of an important part of their schedule. This stretch includes games mostly against divisional opponents who sit atop the AL East, making this win all the more important. This game should help the Yankees confidence and leave the Orioles down on themselves for letting one slip away. Let’s see if there will be an after effect as these two finish off their weekend series.