Results tagged ‘ George Steinbrenner ’

Yankees’ Frugal Ways Can Be Traced To 2007 DUI

On Feb. 15, 2007, the course of history for the New York Yankees took a huge turn and the current state of the team begs the question: What if it did not happen?

Though the Yankees were still be operated ostensibly by managing general partner George Steinbrenner, the actual day-to-day operations were being run by Steinbrenner’s son-in-law, Steve Swindal, who was named the successor to Steinbrenner in June 2005.

Swindal was chosen over Steinbrenner’s two sons, Hal and Hank, because Steinbrenner felt more comfortable with Swindal’s leadership and his vast baseball knowledge.

However, while the Yankees were in the midst of spring training in 2007, Swindal’s vehicle unfortunately cut off in traffic a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office cruiser driven by a female deputy. A chase ensued in which Swindal’s vehicle was clocked at 61 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone before he was stopped by St. Petersburg police.

Swindal declined to take a Breathalyzer test but failed a field sobriety test and was charged with driving while under the influence.

Swindal’s wife, Jennifer, later that year filed for divorce from her husband and Swindal’s stake as a general partner and chairman of the Yankees’ parent company was bought back by the Steinbrenner family in November of that year. Hal was shifted into Swindal’s role with the club and the history of this franchise was forever changed.

The Yankees were known in the Wild West days of early free agency as the major-league team with the largest saddlebags. Under George Steinbrenner’s regime from when he purchased the team in 1973 through November 2007 the Yankees tossed around millions like pennies in a fountain to lure the free agents they coveted.

In some cases, the elder Steinbrenner would be so ruthless in negotiations with free agents he would even increase a bid that already was more than any rival team was offering – actually bidding against himself.

Of course, that led to such signings as Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage and Dave Winfield. Between free agent signings and some shrewd trades the Yankees won a pair of World Series in 1978 and 1979 and Steinbrenner and the Yankees were being cursed all around baseball for “buying their way” to prosperity.

Though Steinbrenner’s money did re-establish the Yankees in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Yankees actually failed to make the playoffs from 1982 through 1994. A combination of some poor signings and trades doomed the Yankees until their minor-league system began turning out a solid of corps of young stars such as Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.

Those players along with the acquisition of Paul O’Neill and the signings of pitchers such as Jimmy Key, David Wells and David Cone pushed the Yankees into an amazing run in which they won four world championships from 1996 through 2000.

Since then the team has only failed to make the playoffs in one season – 2008. They won their 27th world title in 2009 after dipping heavy into the free-agent market in signing pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira.

But in 2003, Major League Baseball instituted its first luxury tax, which was supposed to operate alongside revenue sharing to allow small-market teams to draw money from teams who were over a threshold payroll limit, which was set at $178 million in 2011. All teams shared the remaining revenue.

Only four teams have ever exceeded the established luxury tax limit: the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Los Angeles Angels and the Detroit Tigers. However, only the Yankees and Red Sox have ever exceeded it twice and the Yankees have paid in 95 percent of all the luxury tax since its inception.

When Hal Steinbrenner took control of the team he decided that the Yankees’ philosophy of paying top dollar and ignoring the luxury tax would have to come to an end.

In 2014, the payroll threshold will be increased to $189 million. By a complicated formula set up by the teams, there would be refunded revenue sharing streams for teams who remain under the luxury tax threshold. That gives the Yankees an added incentive to cut payroll below $189 million in 2014.

Not only will the team save money by trimming payroll; they would receive a considerable sum of refunded revenues as well. This explains why the Steinbrenner family informed general manager Brian Cashman that he will have to pass on high-priced free agents and he will have to pass on trading for players with huge long-term contracts.

So Yankee fans have watched a stream of free agents like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jose Reyes, Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes sign with other teams instead of with the Yankees. The Yankees are already on the hook for long-term deals to Alex Rodriguez, Sabathia and Teixeira.

Those three contracts alone are worth $73,875,000 plus player benefits worth an additional $10.8 million, which will also count against the $189 million.

That leaves a remainder of a little less than $105,000,000 to pay the remainder of the team’s 40-man roster in 2014.

That is why the Yankees have let Nick Swisher and Russell Martin go this offseason and it is likely that Curtis Granderson will follow them out the door sometime within the next year.

The team will also have another group of expiring contracts such as one of Robinson Cano. Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are working this season under one-year contracts.

The question is will the Yankees make an effort to offer Cano a lucrative multiyear contract to remain a Yankee? Can they afford to do it? What will they do with Jeter, who is a significantly aging commodity at shortstop?

Some Yankee fans were quick to point out that if Rodriguez is found to have taken performance enhancing drugs past the 2003 date he previously claimed that the Yankees could easily just void his contract and dump him. But that may be a pipe dream.

First, Major League Baseball must have proof that he did it and then mete out a 50-game suspension. But Rodriguez can appeal the procedure and delay its effect. He also could have the suspension tossed out.

The Yankees would find it very difficult to find relevant clauses in his contract to escape from the $114,000,000 they owe Rodriguez through the 2017 season. The Players’ Association and his agent would certainly fight it and that could lead to a prolonged court battle with no guarantee the Yankees could win.

In addition, should the Yankees lose they would still have to pay Rodriguez and play him. He may not be in any mood to produce much for them either. He gets paid no matter how bad he is. So any thought of voiding his contract is going to have to be very carefully weighed.

The long-term effect of what has been an austerity program the Yankees have been under since the 2009 season ended is that the balance of power in baseball is widening out to teams who have lots of money to spend under the current salary threshold like the Tigers, the Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Texas Rangers.

These are the teams that have been active in the free-agent market and teams like the Toronto Blue Jays have benefitted from what was a talent fire-sale by the New York Mets and the Miami Marlins.

The Red Sox traded most of their high-priced players like Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez away last season to the Dodgers to restock their 2013 roster while keeping well below the looming $189 million limit.

That is why the Yankees’ prospects for the 2013 season are not as bright as they might have been under the old George Steinbrenner regime or the short-lived rule of Swindal.

Would old George or Swindal have allowed the Yankees to wither on the vine for the past three seasons and basically pinch pennies and risk the team missing the playoffs in 2013?

Hal Steinbrenner has already stated quite clearly that he expects the 2013 club to remain a top-quality team within the confines placed upon Cashman and the team’s scouts. The result is the current Yankee roster is full of 40-year-olds like Rivera and Pettitte and players in their late 30s such as Rodriguez, Jeter, Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and the newly signed DH Travis Hafner.

Cashman spent a lot of time and effort stocking the minor-league system with talented young players over the past five years and Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and Brett Gardner have provided some support to an aging corps of veterans.

However, the two best minor-league prospects the Yankees have produced in that time, Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero, were both packaged in trades. Jackson was sent out in three-player swap between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tigers that yielded Granderson for the Yankees. Montero was sent along with two other players to the Seattle Mariners in return for right-handed pitchers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.

While Jackson is thriving with the defending American League champions, Granderson has provided the Yankees with two consecutive seasons of 40-plus home runs and a lot of strikeouts. And though Montero has proven to be lackluster on defense as a catcher, his power in Yankee Stadium will be missed in a season in which the Yankees are choosing between singles-hitting catchers Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart.

In addition, both Pineda, 25, and Campos, 20, suffered injuries and had their 2012 seasons cut short. Pineda is recovering from right shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and he could miss a portion of the 2013 season and may not be 100 percent until the 2014 season. Campos was shut down with a right elbow injury that did not require surgery.

The Yankees have a number of very good prospects within their minor-league system, including a catcher who hits as well as Montero and has better defensive skills in Gary Sanchez, 20. They also have a pair of good-looking outfielders in Mason Williams and Tyler Austin and an up-and-coming star reliever in Mark Montgomery.

But the question is will the Yankees allow these players to develop long enough to make the roster or will they package and ship them out as they have done with Jackson and Montero?

The problem with young players – most especially pitchers – as they develop in the minors is that they need to be promoted to learn at the major-league level. Too often the Yankees pull a player back and ship them back to the minors when they initially fail.

The Yankees did that with Hughes and right-handed pitcher Ian Kennedy in 2008. They both got off to shaky starts (a combined 0-7 record) and the Yankees believed they could not afford to keep them on the roster.

Anyone want to guess what the records of Tom Glavine and John Smoltz were in their first full season with the Atlanta Braves?

Glavine was 7-17 with a 4.56 ERA in 1988 and Smoltz was 2-7 with a 5.48 ERA in 12 starts the same season.

If Glavine and Smoltz were with the Yankees in 1988 they would have been sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for another season and their major-league development would have been stilted. In 1989, Glavine was 14-8 with a 3.68 and Smoltz was 12-11 with a 2.94 ERA.

The point is that players have to learn at the major-league level and when you are constantly shipping them back out they will never learn how to succeed in the major leagues. A good case in point is when the Yankees elected to ship right-hander Ivan Nova back to Scranton in the middle of the 2011 season despite the fact he ended up the season with a 16-4 record.

The Yankees are pretty rough on their prospects. If they are not ready to contribute on Day One they get sent back down. Sometimes players in the late 20s like Colin Curtis find themselves drifting in the Yankees’ system but never even given the chance to play in the majors much.

Then there are the Monteros and Jacksons who succeed just enough in the minors to be traded. Then there are the Kennedys, who are traded and ended up going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA for the Diamondbacks in 2011. So the Yankees show patience with players like Curtis, who never made it in the majors, and a lack of patience with players like Kennedy, who succeeds with another team.

If the Yankees are to adhere to this stringent luxury tax threshold in 2014 they are going to have to stop making the mistake of trading their great prospects away or, at the least, if they are going to trade them they better get something of real value back for it. They also could benefit by being a bit more patient with their young players when they call them up.

The Montero-Pineda deal is but one example of those mistakes. Cashman can’t afford to do that much going forward.

The Yankees are going to need good young athletes and skilled pitchers coming out of their system on a regular basis to retool this franchise through the end of the decade. It will certainly lower payroll, make the team better-suited for healthy runs at championships and may prove – ultimately – that Hal Steinbrenner had the right approach.

Otherwise, there will be hell to pay and old George will be have cigar smoke coming out of his ears as he rolls around in his grave. If a ghost could ever fire a son, old George will figure out a way to get that done.

 

Get Real, Yankee Fans, Pineda Is Not Ken Phelps

Remember George Steinbrenner ‘s appearance on the “Seinfeld” episode where George’s father lights into him for trading Jay Buhner to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Ken Phelps?

For the last 24 hours the ghost of that ill-fated Buhner-for-Phelps trade has cast a pall around the reported most recent Yankees-Mariners swap of mega-prospect Jesus Montero for pitcher Michael Pineda. Yankee fans are unclear how the Yankees would think that trading their best young hitter for a young right-hander with a history of arm trouble and inconsistent mechanics helps the Yankees in the long run.

They are looking at the so-called “Big Picture,” You know that is the vast uncharted future when Robinson Cano is on a downward slide and Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are living a life of luxury in retirement. Yankee fans saw Montero as the centerpiece of the Yankees’ 2018 world championship team, hitting .330 with 42 home runs and driving in 130 runs batting fourth in pinstripes.

But mean, old general manager Brian Cashman took that comforting pipe dream away by dealing Montero for a pitcher who could blow out his arm in a bar fight tomorrow. (Yep, a Yankee fan never forgets what could have been with Brien Taylor.)

Nevermind that Montero’s career could come to an end with the next horrific home-plate collision. Yankee fans want to vent so let them vent.

But when have the Yankees ever looked way out to 2018?

I do not think they were thinking of 2018 when they made this trade. I think they were looking at 2012.

That is the Yankee tradition after all. You lose in the playoffs and fall short of your goal in 2011 so you immediately look to improving your team in 2012. That is Cashman’s job.

Cashman, along with Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and any scout in baseball will tell you that the magical 97 wins the Yankees got out of a rotation that included 38-year-old Bartolo Colon and 35-year-old Freddy Garcia was seen as a miracle that could not be duplicated.

The fact remains that besides CC Sabathia and his annual flirtation with 20 wins and a Cy Young Award there is not much to distinguish the Yankees’ rotation. That, keep in mind, is aware that Phil Hughes did win 18 games in 2010 and rookie Ivan Nova was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA last season.

What troubled the Yankees’ front office is that the Tampa Bay Rays made the playoffs in 2011 with a popgun offense and very good rotation of young pitchers behind James Shields, including lefty David Price, Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson and the rookie lefty who blanked the Rangers in the playoffs, Matt Moore.

Despite the fact that the Yankees spent most of Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers down one run and their vaunted offense could not produce it, the Yankees felt they had to bolster the starting staff without adding much to their $200 million payroll.

That is a tough task because free agents like C.J. Wilson, Mark Buerhle and Yu Darvish were so tempting. Trade offers for Gio Gonzalez, Jair Jurrgens, John Danks and Matt Garza held promise but proved, in the end, to be pretty pricey. Heck, even the new president of the Cubs, Theo Epstein, thought Garza was worth Montero and left-hander Manny Banuelos and right-hander Dellin Betances!

Epstein may think of himself as the Lord’s holy gift to baseball but mere mortals like Cashman know the First Commandment of the National Pastime: Though shall not deal the best lambs in the stable for a .500 pitcher who is no better than a No. 3 in your rotation.

So give Cashman credit for not allowing Epstein to pull the wool over his eyes. Baaaaaad!!!!

With this trade, however, Cashman has acquired a pitcher who is 22 years old. (OK, he turns 23 on Wednesday if you want to get technical.)

When the Yankees traded for Phelps during the 1988 season he was 34 years old and Buhner was almost exactly 10 years his junior. Of course, history will show that Phelps would hit a whopping 13 home runs for the Yankees from the middle of the 1988 season to the middle of the 1989 season when he was traded away in disgrace to the Oakland Athletics.

Meanwhile, Buhner – beginning in 1991 – started a series of 10 seasons with the Mariners in which in eight of them he hit 21 or more home runs. In fact, from 1995 through 1997, Buhner had three seasons in which he hit 40, 44 and 40 home runs for the Mariners. He ended up with  310 major-league dingers, a total of three came when he was wearing pinstripes.

Now you can understand why Frank Constanza (played by actor Jerry Stiller) was so angry with George in that hilarious “Seinfeld” episode.

It may be why so many Yankee fans might be angry now. It is the ghost of Jay Buhner rearing his ugly head. (Check out Buhner’s baseball card. He was ugly.)

But Pineda is not Ken Phelps. Far from it.

There were times last season that scouts would have told you that Pineda looked better than Felix Hernandez himself. Pineda was rolling through lineups looking like a 6-foot-7, 260-pound Gulliver against a helpless band Lilliputians with matchsticks for bats.

In his first 11 starts he was 6-2 with a 2.30 ERA and 73 K’s in 70 1/3 innings and batters were hitting a woeful .190 off him and he had a WHIP of 1.00. That was pitching for arguably the weakest offense in baseball in the Mariners.

Granted, in his next six starts, Pineda came back to Earth some. He was 2-3 with 3.10 ERA. But he was chosen to represent the American League in the 2011 All-Star Game and he had earned it.

What many rookie pitchers have to contend with is how to continue to pitch well as the innings mount and your team continues to play poorly. The Mariners were simply awful as they ditched the second half in order to play their young prospects over their overpriced veterans like Chone Figgins.

Pineda won only one game the rest of the season. Of course, that game was against the Rays on July 30. But he ended the season 1-5 in his last 11 starts with an ERA of 5.71. The Mariners, seeing that Pineda was a valuable commodity, did not pitch him much in the month of September to protect his arm.

He finished 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 171 innings. Batters hit .211 off him and his WHIP was an amazing 1.10. He was right behind Hellickson as the second-best rookie pitcher in baseball in 2011.

But his second-half slide and the fact that Pineda had to be shut down by the Mariners back in 2009 due forearm and elbow stiffness has Yankee fans concerned about this trade. It is true that while a position player can fashion a long career despite injuries, a starting pitcher can be wrecked for an entire career with a severe elbow or shoulder injury.

But, Pineda seems as if he is a reasonable risk at this point because, Yankee fans, Betances at 6-foot-8 and age 23 is in the same boat as Pineda. The only difference is that Betances has already experienced elbow problems and had surgery to repair the damage. So if you are crying because the Pineda was acquired then, in that same breath, you must have to demand that Cashman get rid of Betances immediately because he is another elbow injury waiting to happen.

I guess the foot is in the other shoe, now, Yankee fans!

All I am saying is that perhaps it is better to allow the careers of Pineda and Montero to play out about five years before we say the Mariners have won this trade. After all, it took Buhner until 1991, three long seasons after the trade, to become the player the Yankees wished they had back.

Pineda will begin the 2012 season as the Yankees’ No. 2 starter behind the equally tall Sabathia. That is about as an imposing pair of starters a team can face to open a series. The Yankees can follow that up with Nova, who was the third best rookie pitcher in 2011 and Hughes, who did win 18 games for the Yankees when he was healthy.

And for good measure, Cashman added 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to the mix and Kuroda was 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA for a very mediocre Dodgers team in 2011.

That is not a bad starting five. It figures to better than the Sabathia, Nova, Colon, Garcia and A.J. Burnett quintet with which the Yankees won 97 games last season. Speaking of Burnett and Garcia, neither figures to make the rotation unless there are a few injuries in the spring.

Burnett figures to be on his way out of town if the Yankees can find a buyer for him and Garcia looks to be simply insurance for the injury-plagued Hughes and the other four starters.

So losing Montero for a significantly better rotation does not seem so bad.

His offense will be missed, for sure. I had no doubt that as a designated hitter and part-time catcher Montero could easily hit 30 home runs and drive in 75 or more runs in 2011. But the Yankees have been either number one or number two in runs scored the past three seasons without Montero. It seems they can manage to make it four in 2012 without Montero.

Also remember this important point. The Yankees got younger in their rotation and still have Banuelos, Betances, Adam Warren, David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell at the Triple-A level. Oh, and reports indicate this 6-foot-4 right-hander Jose Campos thrown into the Montero deal, at age 19, is an excellent pitching prospect with a live arm and great control. They also still have the defensively proficient Austin Romine bidding to be the backup to catcher Russell Martin this spring.

And, lo and behold, the Yankees’ No. 1 catching prospect Gary Sanchez turned 19 in December and he is considered to be every bit as good as Montero as a hitter and he is a defensive gem as well. He was ranked as the third-best catching prospect in 2011. Montero was No. 1.

So while you are crying about what Montero will do for Seattle, Sanchez is getting closer to an arrival date in 2014 and he may be very much the ultimate catcher for which Yankee fans have been waiting. Montero with his defensive deficiencies may eventually be the DH or first baseman for which the Mariners have been waiting.

So dry your eyes and let’s wait to see how Pineda develops before we get too emotional. Somewhere Ken Phelps is thinking you are all acting like idiots.

 

Yankees’ Actions Show Desire To Stand Pat In 2012

With the clock finally having run out on the Yankees in their effort to sign Japanese infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima it is now becoming obvious the the team will enter the 2012 season with virtually their entire roster from 2011 back.

The Yankees seemed shocked when their $2.5 million bid for Nakajima was the winning bid and they dealt with the 29-year-old Seibu Lions star as if he were just going to be paid as a backup infielder, which is, of course, what he was going to be.

But Nakajima was not happy with that offer and the 5 p.m. deadline came and went without a contract. As a result, the Yankees keep their $2.5 million posting and Nakajima returns to play out his contract with Seibu in Japan.

The Yankees, meanwhile, are now free to make an offer to bring back backup first and third baseman Eric Chavez, who hit .263 with two home runs and 26 RBIs in 58 games with the Yankees last season. Chavez, who has been hampered by injuries for the past five seasons, missed just over two months of the 2011 season due to a fractured bone in his left foot.

But the Yankees can use Chavez, 34, and his left-handed bat as a backup to Alex Rodriguez at third base, to Mark Teixeira at first base and as possible designated hitter or a power bat off the bench.

If Chavez does re-sign with the Yankees he will join outfielder Andrew Jones, infielder Eduardo Nunez and catcher Francisco Cervelli as the same members of the Yankees’ 2011 bench. However, Cervelli would have to win the backup catching job he has held for the past two seasons from rookie Austin Romine in spring training.

The only change in the Yankees’ 13 position players appears to be rookie Jesus Montero, who figures to be the primary DH and third catcher, replacing longtime veteran Jorge Posada.

The Yankees also re-signed Freddy Garcia to a contract this winter, which means the Yankees rotation of CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and Garcia figures to return in 2012. Of course, the Yankees are in pursuit of one additional starting pitcher that would allow the team to perhaps unload Burnett and the two years and $33 million owed on his contract.

The Yankees have avoided getting into a bidding war for free-agent pitchers C.J. Wilson and Mark Buerhle and they only made a token bid for Japanese star Yu Darvish. They also have balked at trades for pitchers such as John Danks, Gio Gonzalez, Jair Jurrgens and Matt Garza because teams have asked for top prospects such as Montero, pitchers Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances and outfielder Mason Williams in return.

The Yankees have had discussions with Scott Boras, the agent for right-hander Edwin Jackson, who was 12-9 with a 3.79 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 32 games (31 starts) for the world-champion St. Louis Cardinals last season. However, the Yankees are not likely to pay the $15 million to $17 million per season over four years that Boras is seeking for the 28-year-old right-hander.

The Yankees are looking to bring Jackson’s price down some or they may take a pass on him as well. General manager Brian Cashman said he would like to avoid making a long-term commitment to a pitcher like he did with Burnett, a pitcher who may end up being a mistake in the long run.

The Yankees also might have interest in free-agent left-hander Hiroki Kuroda.

The bullpen, with Rafael Soriano opting to stay with the Yankees, also will return pretty much the same nucleus from last season. Soriano and David Robertson will set up the legend of all closers in Mariano Rivera in 2012. Left-hander Boone Logan and right-hander Corey Wade also are back.

Joba Chamberlain is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and he hopes to be ready when spring training begins. However, the Yankees intend to bring the 26-year-old right-hander along slowly and he may not see action until July.

So that means the Yankees will be looking for two pitchers for the bullpen. One likely will be a left-hander to replace Logan as the lefty specialist. The Yankees signed for former Red Sox lefty Hideki Okajima to a minor-league contract. He will compete this spring with Cesar Cabral, who the Royals sent to the Yankees for cash considerations after they selected him from the Red Sox in the Rule 5 draft in December.

The other spot could go to Hector Noesi, who filled that role for portions of last season. But the Yankees have said they consider him a starter and they do not want to use him a long man in 2012 if they can help it.

But, here again, the stand-pat nature of the Yankees may be reaffirmed. The Yankees also have said they would not mind having 38-year-old right-hander Bartolo Colon back as a long man out of the bullpen. Colon was 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA but actually pitched much better than the his record indicated.

Colon was actually 8-6 with a 3.31 on Aug. 11 before going 0-4 with four no-decisions and an ERA of 4.93 down the stretch. He was not even placed on the team’s postseason roster for the American League Division Series. The Yankees believe Colon is better suited as a long man and spot starter and they would offer him a contract to return to the team only in that role because they no longer think he can make 33 starts at his age.

Should the Yankees re-sign Colon that means the only change in the pen could be Okajima or Cabral as a second left-hander replacing right-hander Luis Ayala, who was allowed to become a free agent after going 2-2 with a 2.09 ERA last season.

I can’t recall a season in which the Yankees had less turnover on their roster. It is very odd, indeed, for a team that has prided itself in having the winning tradition, the facilities and the cash to get just about any player they could want in the George Steinbrenner era.

However, Hal and Hank Steinbrenner are at the helm of the ship now and they seem to have a tighter lid on the cash flow. Cashman has been forced to do more with less since the Yankees made their huge splash in 2009 with the free-agent signings of Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira, which led to their 27th world championship that October.

Of course, the team did win 97 games in 2o11 and had the best record in the American League. They did it without significant contributions from Rodriguez, Chamberlain and Hughes and off years from players like Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher.

Perhaps the addition of the powerful bat of Montero, a second lefty in the bullpen and healthy seasons from A-Rod, Joba and Hughes will be enough to carry the Yankees to another A.L. East title and the playoffs. The concern then turns to how well the starting pitchers stack up heading into the playoffs.

Do not forget that there are a few very good pitchers who will be free agents in 2013 and teams might be looking to unload them before the July 31 trade deadline. One is right-hander Matt Cain of the Giants and another is lefty Cole Hamels of the Phillies. Cashman has the patience and the dearth of young prospects to pull off a deal to bolster the staff at any point this season.

So maybe this lack of turnover is not such a bad thing. The team stays strong without adding much in the way of payroll and remains flexible enough to pull off some deals to make a push in the playoffs.

I see nothing wrong with that. Some of the best deals are the ones you don’t make.

 

Face Reality, A-Rod, CC Are Yankees’ Pujols, Lee

You are a Yankee fan and you are not happy now.

The reason: General manager Brian Cashman has not made a major splash with a big free-agent signing or a blockbuster trade.

To Yankee fans standing pat is like surrendering to teams like the Marlins and Angels, who tossed around cash this week as if it was only Monopoly money. Some fans are yearning for the days when George Steinbrenner would go after free agents he wanted with the ruthlessness of a pit-bull, never letting go.

However, Hal and Hank Steinbrenner seem to be a lot more pragmatic about spending too much for negligible return. They were willing to spend $150 million for Cliff Lee but they were not going to spend close to $80 million for C.J. Wilson or about $60 million for Mark Buerhle.

There are a lot of reasons the Yankees sat idly by while some teams played “Let’s Make a Deal.”

But perhaps the biggest reason is the Yankees have already lavished their riches on their “Pujols” and their “Lee.” Those are the 10-year, $275 million deal the Yankees committed to Alex Rodriguez in 2007 and the $186 million the team is paying CC Sabathia to be the ace the staff through at least the 2016 season.

Those two contracts are largely why the Yankees are the only team in the major leagues who are subject to the luxury tax. The Steinbrenner family would like for the team to remain competitive and successful while Cashman tries to reduce the annual payroll below the $178 million level where the tax kicks in. or, at the very least, the Steinbrenners would like it to remain steady and not push higher.

That is the reason Christmas ornaments like Pujols, Wilson, Buerhle, Jose Reyes and Prince Fielder will be dangling on other teams’ trees this December.

So Yankee fans will have to realize that a team that won 97 games last season is still an excellent one even if adds no one of significance this winter. Rodriguez will just have to be our Pujols and Sabathia will just have to pitch like Lee in 2012 to make Yankee fans forget that this free-agent shopping spree was just too pricey for a team already above the $200 million mark in annual payroll.

Rodriguez is the biggest key to the Yankees’ success in 2012. You just have to face the fact that Rodriguez is being paid the most because he is expected to be the best player in pinstripes, period.

Last season, he was anything but that. Oh, he showed a lot of promise in the spring when he showed up lighter and quicker in the field. He also had a spring that portended a monster 2011 season. But, as the previous three seasons proved, Rodriguez was beset by a series of injuries that kept him off the field for 63 games and a shadow of what he was in the other 99.

Rodriguez, 36, hit .276 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs. If this is the level of performance the Yankees will get from Rodriguez in 2012 they are doomed to fail. Oh, they are talented enough to make the playoffs. But they will not go very far or do very well in the playoffs without what was the most feared hitter in the American League when he is healthy.

But balky shoulders, unsteady knees and painful thumbs can reduce a great player to just a pretty good one real quick. That is what happened to Rodriguez in 2011 and why he needs to arrive in Tampa in Florida fit and ready to go to war to restore his reputation as that most feared hitter.

 

To steal a Reggie Jackson line, A-Rod “stirs the drink.” His health will determine if that drink is a classy Manhattan or just another slow gin fizzle.

 

There is no doubt that Rodriguez is on a slight decline. He has not played in more than 138 games since the 2007 season. From 2004 through 2007, Rodriguez averaged 43 home runs and 128 RBIs. From 2008 through 2010 he has averaged 32 home runs and 109 RBIs. In 2009, Rodriguez barely reached 30 home runs and 100 RBIs on the final day against the Rays but he was healthy at the right time to lead the Yankees through the playoffs and into the World Series as the Yankees won their 27th championship.

So the point is that Rodriguez can average 32 home runs and 109 RBIs and be in decline and still lead the Yankees into a World Series. He just has to be healthy when the playoffs begin. That was not the case last season and the Yankees paid dearly for it in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. They only trailed by a run but it may as well have been 10 runs the way the offense just seemed to sputter with runners in scoring position.

With a healthy and “locked in” A-Rod would the result have been the same? I doubt it.

For all the talk of Robinson Cano and how he has become the best hitter and best player on the Yankees, it is still Rodriguez who can turn a game with his bat that can strike fear into opposing pitchers, managers and teams. Besides the fact is that his ability to hit makes Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner better.

To steal a Reggie Jackson line, A-Rod “stirs the drink.”

His health will determine if that drink is a classy Manhattan or just another slow gin fizzle.

The same can be said of Sabathia. He is, after all, the unquestioned ace.

When he is really dealing he is among the best pitchers in baseball. He is 59-23 in his 101 starts in pinstripes. The Yankees have reached the postseason in the past three seasons largely because of his work in the regular season.

But the past two seasons, his work in the postseason has been not worthy of the status of the one of the best pitchers in baseball. In the past two postseasons he is 2-0 but his ERA in his six appearances (five starts) is 5.84. That stands in stark contrast to his 3-1 record and 1.98 ERA in the 2009 postseason.

In the 2010 playoffs, Sabathia pitched with an injured left knee that required offseason surgery. Sabathia rehabbed the knee and showed up at spring training in February 30 pounds lighter. It helped him get off to unusually quick start and by the All-Star break Sabathia was on the top of his game.

He was 13-4 with a 2.72 ERA at the break. He finished the season 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA. So in his last 12 starts, Sabathia was a very ordinary 6-4 with a 3.66 ERA before imploding the playoffs. Why?

Much of that was was blamed on Sabathia’s noticeable and significant weight gain down the stretch. The heavier he got the worse he pitched.

But the Yankees chose not to allow Sabathia to opt out of his contract and leave via free agency. Considering the things Sabathia has done for the Yankees it was a very wise decision. After all, Wilson. Buerhle, Edwin Jackson, Roy Oswalt and Hiroki Kuroda were not going to replace Sabathia.

In order to find another ace like Sabathia would have cost the Yankees prize prospects like Jesus Monetro, Eduardo Nunez, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos. So getting a younger pitcher like Felix Hernandez would have pretty much raped the impressive farm system Cashman has gradually rebuilt the past five years.

So Sabathia will remain a Yankee through at least 2016 (the Yankees have an option for 2017) and the Yankees do not have to bid on overpriced free agents or trade their great young prospects. Sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

Now the Yankees just have to make sure Sabathia stays off the Cap’n Crunch cereal he loves and eats a lot more salad throughout the 2012 season. At age 31, Sabathia is going to have to realize that to extend his career he is going to have to take care of that large frame going forward.

The Yankees could easily add a starting pitcher or two to their roster to improve the rotation. I fully expect Cashman to continue to his efforts to do just that this winter. But the real key to this staff is making sure Sabathia is able to hit the 2012 playoffs in shape and healthy enough to be the ace he is supposed to be.

Without that, and the health of A-Rod, the whole journey to the 2012 playoffs will be just as wasted as the effort in 2011 was.

Like I said Yankee fans, A-Rod and CC are our free agent pickups and we will live or die in 2012 with them.

Granderson Drives In 5 As Yanks Dump Rays For ‘Boss’

GAME 150
YANKEES 8, RAYS 6

Brian Cashman made a trade at the 2009 Winter Meetings of which late owner George M. Steinbrenner would have been extremely proud.
He acquired from the Detroit Tigers a center-fielder with speed and power in Curtis Granderson.
On a Monday night when the Yankees chose to honor their late owner with a posthumous plaque in legendary Monument Park in center-field at Yankee Stadium, Granderson slammed two home runs and drove in five runs to lead the New York Yankees to a crucial pennant-drive victory over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays.
Somewhere “The Boss” is drawing on his trademark cigar and smiling down at his beloved Yankees.
Granderson’s magical evening began with two outs and Francisco Cervelli on first on a single. Rays starter Matt Garza (14-9) fell behind Granderson 2-0 and was forced to throw a fastball. Granderson waited for it and jumped all over it, depositing the ball against the back wall of the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center to put the Yankees up 2-0.
The Yankees built the lead to 4-0 in the fifth inning against Garza by sending eight men to the plate. Granderson drew a walk on four straight pitches to load the bases with nobody out. After Mark Teixeira struck out, Alex Rodriguez lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score a run. After an intentional walk to Robinson Cano to re-load the bases, Nick Swisher drew a walk to drive in another run.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, for the second week in a row starter Ivan Nova could not hold onto a lead against the Rays. Last week, Nova — with the help of Boone Logan — blew a 6-0 lead in the fifth inning at Tropicana Field. On this night, Nova — with a lot of help from an ineffective Logan and Chad Gaudin — coughed up four runs as 10 Rays came to the plate in the sixth inning.
Gaudin surrendered the lead by walking B.J. Upton on a 3-1 pitch with the bases loaded.
The Yankees then went back to work on Garza in the sixth inning when Brett Gardner reached first on an infield single and Cervelli got him to third by executing a perfect hit-and-run play. As Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett hustled to second base to take a potential throw to nab Gardner stealing second, Cervelli laced a 2-1 fastball from Garza through the vacated hole at short and into left-field, allowing Gardner to reach third.
Derek Jeter followed with a tie-breaking single to center to score Gardner as Cervelli hustled into third.
Granderson came to the plate but Rays manager Joe Maddon decided he would not face Garza again. Curiously, right-hander Grant Balfour was brought in to face the left-handed-hitting Granderson. Apparently Maddon did not realize that left-hander Randy Choate had not been warming up when he made the pitching change.
Oops!
Granderson made Maddon and Balfour pay for the mistake when he launched a high 2-1 fastball down the right-field line and the ball hooked right into the right-field foul pole.
The 4-0 Yankee lead that quickly became a 4-4 tie was now back to 8-4 Yankee lead, thanks to Granderson and his career-high five RBIs.
Though the Yankees bullpen struggled a bit in the seventh and ninth innings, with the Rays scoring runs single runs off David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, the Yankees were able to hang on and win the game with the potential Rays’ lead run at the plate.
Rivera, who had given up an RBI single to Evan Longoria in the ninth and hit Dan Johnson on a 3-2 pitch with two outs, managed to retire Matt Joyce on a routine grounder to Teixeira to pick up his 32nd save of the season and the 558th of his career.
Granderson’s two home runs now give him 21 on the season and 11 of them have come in the 37 games following the retooling of his swing by Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long.
Though he did not deserve it, Chad Gaudin (1-4) was credited with the victory. The star of the bullpen on Monday night was actually another Cashman acquisition: Kerry Wood.
Wood, who has a 0.39 ERA in his 21 appearances for New York since being acquired from the Indians at the trade deadline, came on to pitch out of a jam with a run in and Carl Crawford at second with two out in the seventh. 
Wood walked Dan Johnson on a 3-2 pitch but retired Joyce on a high fly to right that drove Swisher to the base of the warning track. Yankee fans among the 47,737 in attendance who were holding their breath gladly exhaled as the ball nestled in Swisher’s glove.
Wood pitched an easy 10-pitch and perfect eighth inning to hand an 8-5 lead to Rivera.
With the victory the Yankees improved their major-league best record to 91-59 and they increased their lead on the Rays to 1 1/2 games.
The series now has three games left between the titans of the East and somewhere “The Boss” is watching every pitch.
PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Granderson’s 2-for-3 night also included two walks and a stolen base. In September, Granderson is batting .290 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. Thought to be pretty much of a bust when he was hitting .225 on July 7, Granderson is showing Yankee fans why he hit 30 home runs for the Tigers last season.
  • Swisher returned to right-field for the first time since re-injuring his left knee and came through with a perfect night on the plate. He was 2-for-2 with an RBI on one of his two walks of the night.
  • Jeter drove in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth and he added a ground-rule double and scored in the fifth. He was 2-for-5 and extended his hitting streak to nine games. In those nine games, Jeter is 12-for-40 (.300) and has scored eight runs.
  • Cervelli was the unsung hero of the night.
    He was 3-for-4 with three runs scored in the No. 9 spot and he reached base every trip the plate. His hit-and-run single also spelled the downfall of Garza and the Rays.
NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Teixeira was 0-for-5, including a strikeout with the bases loaded. Since getting hit on the right toe on a pitch by Oakland’s Vin Mazzaro on Aug. 31, Teixeira is hitting .194 with no home runs and six RBIs.
  • The bullpen has been a strength for the Yankees since the All-Star break but Logan, Gaudin, Robertson and Rivera combined to give up three runs on six hits and a pair of inexcusable walks by Logan and Gaudin over two innings.
  • In his last five outings, Rivera has given up four runs on seven hits and two walks and he has hit two batters over 4 1/3 innings. He also has blown two saves in September for the first time in his career.
  • Logan’s and Gaudin’s poor work also may mean that Rivera might not be able to pitch in Tuesday’s game. Wood has also pitched on two consecutive days and he has not appeared in three straight games since coming to the Yankees.
BOMBER BANTER

The ceremony for Steinbrenner brought back former Yankees manager Joe Torre and former hitting coach and All-Star first baseman Don Mattingly. Commissioner Bud Selig also was on hand as the team and the Steinbrenner family unveiled a massive seven-foot wide, five-foot high plaque on the center back wall of Monument Park. Jeter said of the plaque, “It is big. Probably the way ‘The Boss’ would have wanted it. It is the biggest one out there.”  . . .  Torre, who is stepping down as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and turning the reins over to Mattingly next season, also was able to meet with Cashman. Torre’s book “The Yankee Years” written with Tom Verducci offended Cashman and the two men have not seen each other since Torre turned down an incentive-laden one-year deal with the Yankees after the 2007 season. Both men said the chance to talk was good.  . . .  Commissioner Selig said that he thinks Steinbrenner belongs in the Hall of Fame based on his contributions to the Yankees and the game of baseball.
BRIEF COMMENT

Because of baseball’s blackout of local teams on the road, Central Florida Yankee fans are forced to watch Fox Sports broadcasters Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy, who cover the Rays. Make that shill, cheerlead and umpire for the Rays. Kennedy showed his true colors in the bottom of the sixth inning when Cervelli decided to try to take third on the RBI single by Jeter. It was a close play with Longoria tagging Cervelli just after Cervelli’s left hand hit the bag. 
Kennedy saw an initial replay and claimed Longoria had tagged Cervelli on the elbow before Cervelli’s hand hit the bag. He repeated it over and over again as other replays were shown. Well, during the pitching change that brought in Balfour, viewers were shown a more definitive replay that clearly showed Cervelli’s hand touching the base before the tag was made. Kennedy then covers up his incompetent bias by saying it was a “bang-bang play.” 
Kennedy is a buffoon and always will be, but his failure to give third-base umpire Andy Fletcher credit for making the right call after all that ranting is beyond me.
It also struck me as funny when Kennedy decided to give Balfour a little pitching advice on what to give Granderson. “Balfour needs to stay up on Granderson. Granderson can handle the low fastball like he did with Garza. Balfour has to pitch him up to pop him up.” One pitch later, Granderson hit a high fastball to right for his second home run.
Kennedy, upon seeing the replay showing the ball was indeed up as he suggested, said, “That was in the middle of the plate. If that pitch were in it would have jammed him.”
Nice try at the CYA, Kevin, but you still are a buffoon. We now know why FOX Sports fired you from your national gig. You are better off trying to fool the rubes in St. Petersburg that you really know what you are talking about.
He also said the Yankees were better off with Swisher batting second and Granderson batting lower in the order. Granderson drove in five runs in the second spot and Swisher was 2-for-2 in the No. 6 spot. Kennedy, your lack of baseball acumen is the main reason you are no longer managing in the bigs. I have no clue why you are still employed as an “analyst.”
ON DECK

The Yankees go into the second game of the four-game series with the Rays knowing they will remain in first place whether they win or lose. 
The Yankees will start right-hander Phil Hughes (16-8, 4.31 ERA). Hughes is coming off a tough loss to the Rays. Despite pitching a solid 6 2/3 innings, Hughes was victimized by a pair of two-run home runs to journeyman DH Dan Johnson. He is 2-3 with 4.55 ERA in his career against the Rays.
The Rays will counter with right-hander James Shields (13-12, 4.86 ERA). Shields allowed one run on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings last Wednesday against the Yankees. But he was credited with a no-decision. He is 3-7 with a 4.69 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast on MY9.

Yanks Honor Steinbrenner, Sheppard With Walk-Off Win

GAME 89
YANKEES 5, RAYS 4

The New York Yankees paid tribute to their longtme public address announcer Bob Sheppard and their iconic owner of 37 years George Steinbrenner on Friday night.
The somber Yankee Stadium ceremony with roses, videos and speeches then gave way to a game that echoed a game played 31 years ago after Thurman Munson had died.
The Yankees, who never led the game until the end, received a game-tying solo home run from Nick Swisher in the eighth inning. Then Swisher won the game in walk-off fashion in the ninth inning with a single to right to score Curtis Granderson from second as the Yankees honored two legendary greats with a 5-4 victory over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays.
Much like Friday, the game on Aug. 6, 1979 against the Baltimore Orioles the score ended up 5-4 on a two-run single by Bobby Murcer, who also homered earlier in that game.
Swisher, like his other Yankee teammates, stepped to the plate with two out and two on in the ninth inning sporting a simple GMS patch for Steinbrenner over the interlocking NY over his heart and a microphone patch on his left sleeve to honor Bob Sheppard. 
Granderson had led off the ninth with a single to right off Rays reliever Randy Choate and he advanced to second on pinch-hitter Ramiro Pena’s sacrifice bunt. Choate walked Brett Gardner and Rays manager replaced Choate with Dan Wheeler.
Wheeler struck out Derek Jeter and Maddon then replaced Wheeler with right-hander Lance Cormier. Swisher worked the count to 2-1 before lacing a single to right. Right-fielder Gabe Kapler’s throw home actually beat Granderson but the ball skipped past catcher Kelly Shoppach and Granderson slid into home with the winning run, much to the delight of the 47,524 fans in attendance.
Mariano Rivera (3-1) pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up the win.
The victory extended the Yankees’ lead on the Rays to three games in the American League East. The Red Sox, by virtue of their second straight loss to the Texas Rangers, fell 6 1/2 games back.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • Swisher’s night was magical. He singled to drive in the Yankees’ first run in the third inning. His 16th home run of the season in the eighth inning off Joaquin Benoit tied the game 4-4 and then his game-winner capped off a 3-for-5 night with three RBIs. Swisher raised his average to .303 on the season.
  • Robinson Cano brought the Yankees to within one run in the sixth inning with a solo home run off Rays starter James Shields for his 17th home run of the season. 
  • Jorge Posada followed Cano with a solo shot of his own to tie the score at 3-3. It was the 10th home run of the season for Posada and his first since June 16 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
  • David Robertson started his second half off with a bang. He came on in the eighth inning and faced three batters and struck out all three. Robertson entered the second half with a 5.46 ERA but he has had 19 scoreless outings in his last 22 appearances dating back to May 7 when his ERA was 13.50.
THE NEGATIVES

  • This was not a good night for CC Sabathia. Struggling most of the night with command of his fastball, Sabathia gave up eights hits and four walks in seven innings. But he did limit the damage to four runs (three earned) and the Rays scored only two runs off Sabathia when they loaded the bases with no outs in both the fifth and seventh innings.
  • It was an emotional night for Jeter, who delivered a moving speech about Sheppard and Steinbrenner before the game. It showed at the plate, too. Jeter was 0-for-5 and his slump in July continues. He is hitting .178 for the month and his season average fell to .270. That is the lowest his average has been since May 22.
  • Swisher had a great night at the plate but in the field it was not so stellar. He overran and then dropped a fly ball off the bat of Kelly Shoppach for a two-base error to begin the sixth inning.  He also threw a ball badly off-line attempting to nail B.J. Upton taking third on a single by Carl Crawford in the seventh inning.
DIAMOND NOTES

The Yankees recalled first baseman/DH Juan Miranda from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday and optioned infielder Kevin Russo back to Scranton. Miranda was the DH in Friday’s game and was 0-for-3.  This is Miranda’s second promotion to the club. In18 games, Miranda hit .217 with two home runs and seven RBIs. Russo hit .188 with four RBIs in 29 games with the Yankees.  
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees will have another emotional day on Saturday as they conduct their annual Old-Timers Day at the stadium.
They will go for the series win of the three-game weekend series with A.J. Burnett (7-7, 4.75 E
RA) on the mound. Burnett is coming off two starts in which he is 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA after suffering through a winless June. In his only start against the Rays this season he lost on May 19, giving up six runs in 6 2/3 innings. In his career against the Rays Burnett is 12-5 with a 2.98 ERA.
Burnett will be opposed by fellow right-hander Jeff Niemann (7-2, 2.77 ERA). Niemann is 1-0 with a 3.06 ERA in his last three starts. He is 1-0 with a 2.93 ERA against the Yankees. He has not faced the Yankees this season.
Game-time will be 4:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports.

For Better Or Worse, Steinbrenner Brought Life To Yankees

My first George Steinbrenner memory is when he bought the New York Yankees.
Steinbrenner struck me as a young and brash owner who would be more “hands-on” than the CBS group that ran them into the ground.
I just did not realize how much hands-on he would be. The Billy Martin hiring in 1976 and the turbulence of that 1977 season with Reggie, Munson, Martin and Stenbrenner feuding through the press up until the Yankees had won their first championship since 1962.
They repeated in 1978, beating the Dodgers again. But the managerial merry-go-round had just begun. Martin in, Martin out, Martin in, Martin out.
Lemon, Howser, Berra Green, Showalter, etc. It just never stopped. 
Free agents came and good prospects were traded away.
There is no doubt that the same drive that Steinbrenner instilled in the club in the good years (1977-1978) also fueled the dark period of 1979-1994.
People always gave me a hard time because I loved the Yankees. They said I loved the Yankees simply because they were the best team. I was a front-runner, they said. But I would tell them that my love of the Yankees began with Mickey Mantle.
I also rooted for them from 1963 to 1976, despite the fact they did not win a championship. I also rooted for them from 1979 through 1995 even though they did not win a championship. So I would tell them: How could be a front-runner when I was a Yankee fan through the two longest championship droughts in their history?
That is the Steinbrenner legacy too. Not just the championships he won and the tradition he helped restore to the Yankees. He also was part of those long droughts, too. I seethed with anger when the Yankees traded away Doug Drabek for Rick Rhoden. I felt the same way when Jose Rijo was dealt to Oakland for Tim Belcher.
Fans are still scratching their heads over the Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps trade.
That was largely the reason why the Yankees were so bad from 1982 to 1994. But the real revelation of the Steinbrenner era came in 1995. The team suddenly was allowing minor league stars like Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada to develop and grow within the organization.
For some reason those players were not traded as the their predecessors were — usually for aging veterans with little left in the tank. The Yankees also realized that free-agent pitchers like Jimmy Key, David Cone, David Wells and Roger Clemens could help.
Though the New York media ripped him before he ever managed a game, Joe Torre was hired the manager of this new core of young and talented players. A deal was struck to send Roberto Kelly to the Reds for Paul O’Neill and the core had their fiery leader.
From 1996 until the present day, the Yankees have won the American East in every season except 2008. The Yankees have remained competitive and made the playoffs in every year except 2008.
They won four championships in five seasons from 1996 through 2000. Torre was the toast of New York back then.
But when the team started losing playoff series to the Angels and Indians and the World Series to the Marlins and Diamondbacks the fans who never knew the long years of drought turned on him. Eventually the front office did, too.
Though I still think letting Torre go was a mistake, I understand the reason why it had to happen. Now Joe Girardi has the reins and he has won No. 27. The team has a new collection of talented stars like Teixeira and Sabathia and young stars like Cano.
But there also remains Jeter and Rivera and Posada and Pettitte. The bridge from the past to the future. Young stars like Phil Hughes and Brett Gardner joined the team from the minor-league system. Will they be the core of the next great team 10 years from now?
Then there is the new stadium and its grandeur and grace borrowed from the Old Lady across the street. While Ruth gives way to Jeter and Ford gives way to Pettitte, there is George Steinbrenner.
For good or for bad, the Yankees grew from the moment Steinbrenner bought them to now. The fan base, the TV network, the cache’ of the Yankee brand is all due to him. His vision is now complete and his legacy has passed on to sons Hal and Hank.
So the Steinbrenner family is expected now to carry on that tradition. That same drive that forced Steinbrenner to take the reins in 1973 will live on with every decision they make. 
The one time I was able to see George in person came at an exhibition game in West Palm Beach in 1980. He was walking from his box out of the stadium and fans were pouring towards him begging for autographs. Smiling broadly, Steinbrenner basked in all the adoration proudly.
Knowing that he takes his rest today with 27 banners for the Yankees and seven to his credit, he knows that his team is in great hands. I am just hoping that George does not get too riled in heaven and he tries to fire Moses.
I would think he would have a problem selling that one to the media in heaven.
We love you, George. Thank you for giving us our Yankees back!

Matsui, Yankees Thump Phillies For 27th Crown

WORLD SERIES GAME 6
YANKEES 7, PHILLIES 3


It took nine seasons, 177 games and nine innings on Wednesday night for the New York Yankees to become the world champions of baseball again.
The Cadillac of all baseball franchises collected their 27th World Series trophy in front of a sellout crowd of 50,035 in the Bronx to put an exclamation point on a season characterized by gutty starting pitching, a potent offense, an experienced bench and a dominant bullpen.
All four elements were on display in Game 6 as Hideki Matsui drove in a World Series record-tying six runs in what could be his last game in pinstripes and Andy Pettitte pitched a solid 5 1/3 innings on three days rest as the Yankees defeated the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies 7-3.
The World Series victory brought a successful curtain down on the team’s inaugural season in their new $1.5 billion ballpark and justified a massive $423.5 million investment in free agents CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira.
Matsui, who did not start three of the first five games because designated hitters do not bat in National League ballparks, powered the Yankees offense starting with a two-run home run in second inning off 38-year-old Yankee nemesis Pedro Martinez (0-2) to break the seal on the Game 6 scoring.
After a walk to Alex Rodriguez to open the frame, Matsui battled Martinez through seven pitches and a full count before ripping a fastball high down the rightfield line and into the bleachers for a 2-0 Yankees’ lead, a lead they would never give up.
As if on cue, Yankee partisans broke out the “Whose your Daddy” cheer to serenade the most-hated pitcher in Yankees’ history.
Matsui added a bases-loaded two-run single in the third inning off Martinez to make it 4-1. 
In his five at-bats in the World Series off the former Dominican dandy, Matsui had a walk, two singles and two home runs and five RBIs. Whose your “poppa-san,” indeed.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was ready for Matsui in the fifth inning. With two on and one out, he summoned rookie lefty J.A. Happ from the bullpen. But Matsui proved he was just as ready for Happ when he greeted him a two-run double high off the wall in right-center that scored Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, putting the Yankees up 7-1.
Pettitte (2-0) took over the game from there. Though he did not dominate the Phillies and his command was somewhat off (five walks), Pettitte pitched into the sixth inning and gave up only four hits and three runs in winning his 18th postseason game, the most in major-league history.
Pettitte, who was not re-signed by the Yankees as a free agent until late in the winter, also won all of the three series-clinching games for the Yankees in this postseason and ended up with a record of 4-0 and 3.52 ERA in five starts.
Matsui, who has only worn Yankees pinstripes since he made his stateside pilgrimage from Japan in 2003, was appropriately named the World Series Most Valuable Player for going 8-for-12 (.667) with three home runs and eight RBIs.
Matsui, nicknamed “Godzilla” in his native Japan, became the first Japanese player to ever be named a World Series MVP.
After his Game 6 performance that put away the Phillies for good, one writer said Philadelphia must now know how Tokyo felt like when the fictional monster Godzilla destroyed it.
The Phillies had rested their Game 6 hopes on some momentum from having won Game 5 at home and on the surgically repaired right shoulder of Martinez. However, Martinez did not show any of the velocity he showed in Game 2 and struggled with his command early.
He left after four innings, giving up four runs on three hits, two walks and a hit batsman. In two games against the Yankees — both of the losses — Martinez was tagged for 10 hits, four walks and seven runs in nine innings.
Chad Durbin took over for El Pedro to start the fifth and promptly gave up a double to Derek Jeter. After a sacrifice bunt to move Jeter to third by Jerry Hairston, who entered the game after Johnny Damon pulled a calf muscle scoring a run in the third, Teixeira singled to score Jeter. Durbin then walked Alex Rodriguez and Manuel summoned Happ and Matsui zapped Happ and much of the sap left in the “Fighting Phillies” bats.
Though a tiring Pettitte was tagged in the sixth inning by a Ryan Howard two-run homer, the Yankees’ bullpen shut down the Phillies the rest of the way.
Joba Chamberlain got the Yankees out of the sixth and veteran lefty Damaso Marte got Chamberlain out of a two-on, two-out jam in the seventh by striking out Chase Utley, who would not add to his World Series record-tying home run total of five.
Marte, who recorded all eight outs he was asked to get in this World Series, also fanned Howard swinging to open the eighth inning for his fifth strikeout of the Fall Classic. The Yankee fans in the crowd, who had booed Marte much of the regular season, stood and cheered as he left the mound.
Manager Joe Girardi, who joins Billy Martin and Ralph Houk as the third former Yankees player to also win a championship as a manager, then went to the all-time leader in postseason saves, Mariano Rivera, to get the final four outs.
Though Rivera gave a two-out double to Raul Ibanez in the eighth and a one-out walk to Carlos Ruiz in the ninth, he shut out the Phillies to complete 5 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball in the series with two saves. 
Rivera lowered his career World Series ERA to 0.99.
With Ruiz at first and two outs, Rivera battled Shane Victorino through nine pitches and a 3-2 count. On his 10th offering, Victorino swung at Rivera’s characteristically deadly inside cutter and rolled an easy grounder to Robinson Cano at second.
Cano carefully got in front of the ball and watched it as it bounced into his glove. He turned and flipped the ball to Teixeira at first to beat Victorino and the Yankees players, coaches and fans erupted in a thunderous roar as the Yankees, the best team in the American League this season, had beaten the Phillies, the best team in the National League this season.
Now the Yankees have laid claim to the crown as the best team in baseball for 2009.
Though it never gets old for veterans like Jorge Posada, Jeter, Pettitte and Rivera, who won four rings with the Yankees from 1996-2000, it was particularly a special victory for players like Matsui, Damon, Cano and A-Rod, who have waited a long time to win their first title with the Yankees.
Not to mention the feelings of the free agent stars Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira and first-year Yankees like Nick Swisher, Phil Coke, Alfredo Aceves, David Robertson, Phil Hughes and Hairston. A total of 17 members of the Yankees’ World Series roster won their first championship.
But the proudest Yankee of all of them is Mr. George M. Steinbrenner, the longtime managing general partner, principal owner and chief financier of Yankees resurgence back to prominence after he bought the team in 1973.
In the 36 years since then, the Yankees have now won 12 pennants and seven world championships. The Yankees dedicated this 27th title to the man who rebuilt the Yankee Empire and gave this 2009 team its new home in the Bronx.
Knowing Steinbrenner and his sons Hank and Hal,
the victory is sweet but the drive to win the 2010 world championship begins today. Anything less in the Bronx is a failure.
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