Results tagged ‘ Mickey Mantle ’

Cano Inching Closer To Re-Signing With Yankees

When Robinson Cano fired combative player agent Scott Boras to become the first sports client for recording artist Jay-Z and his new agency, Yankee fans figured it was a given that a loyal Yankee fan like Jay-Z would steer his client to the Yankees without any problem.

Well, it has not quite been that way so far.

Cano, 31, and the Yankees still remain very far apart in negotiations on a new contract for the All-Star second baseman.

Representatives for Cano kind of stunned the Yankees and the baseball world as a whole by seeking a 10-year contract in excess of $300 million. Many observers claim that Cano’s agents are marketing him as a baseball version of Michael Jordan and it is hard to see the analogy.

Cano is a talented player with great appeal but his jersey and other gear is not even selling among the top 20 players in the sport. He even trails fellow second baseman Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox.

However, Yankee fans, reality and circumstances may be settling in at Camp Cano now.

Cano’s representatives, Brodie Van Wagenen and Juan Perez of CAA Baseball, met with Yankees president Randy Levine on Tuesday and Cano has reportedly lowered his contract demands. However, the two sides remain far apart. After all, the Yankees were offering seven years at $160 million.

But the fact that Cano’s people are lowering his demands shows there is some wiggle room in the talks. More talks are planned and we could see the Yankees raise their offer a bit.

The Yankees were extremely fortunate to gain an upper hand in the negotiations when two prime teams Cano could have coaxed into a bidding war for his services solved their second base problems early.

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed 27-year-old Cuban star Alexander Guerrero to fill their big need at the position. That was strike one on Cano.

Then this week the Detroit Tigers dealt first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in return for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Strike two.

That has given Yankees general manager Brian Cashman just the kind of leverage he needed to lower Cano’s very lucrative demands. Now it appears common sense will prevail and the two sides can work something out because their is one very salient fact about all this: The Yankees can’t afford to lose Cano.

Cano is simply the best player the Yankees have and on the heels of a disastrous injury-marred 2013 campaign the Yankees don’t want their franchise player to leave.

The Yankees are playing it like they are cool with it. I’m sure the rumor the Yankees were talking with free agent Omar Infante had all the hallmarks of Cashman behind the scenes fanning the flames.

But even he knows that Infante is not even a blip on the radar compared to what Cano can do for a team. But, hey, if it works, it works for Cashman.

Infante, 31, hit a robust .318 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs for the Tigers last season. Cano, on the other hand, batted .314 with 27 home runs and drove in 107 runs and should have won a Gold Glove after just committing six errors last season. (Pedroia dives and flops around like a dying carp while Cano glides to everything and the voters think Pedroia is better. Geesh!)

Cano’s growth as a player has been immense. He came up as a colt in 2005 but he is now a bona fide thoroughbred.

He is a career .309 hitter with 204 home runs and 822 RBIs. He is four-time All-Star, he has won two Gold Gloves and five Silver Slugger awards and he is simply the best second baseman in baseball today. You don’t replace that with Infante.

Last season, the Yankees lost a huge chunk of its power when players such as Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez left as free agents. Then the team lost most of its remaining power with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter rehabbing from offseason surgeries and Curtis Gramderson and Mark Teixeira sustaining injuries before the season even started.

The one constant the Yankees could count on all season long was Cano. Despite the fact teams pitched around him all season, Cano delivered.

The other hallmark of Cano’s career has also been his durability.

Since 2007, Cano has not played in less than 159 games in any season. Last season, he answered the bell for 160.

The only knock on Cano has been that label of “lazy” that dogged his early career and cost him a few more Gold Gloves because he made everything seem so dang easy. He has mostly beaten that rap in the field but it still dogs him as a base-runner.

Cano has a habit of coasting to first on grounders and he has been embarrassed by getting thrown out at second base on balls he thought were going out of the park. But all his positives far outweigh that negative. The sum of the parts adds up to the greatest second baseman in Yankees history.

And should Cano remain in pinstripes, he could certainly make a case for himself up against the likes of Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Babe Ruth. He and Jeter have formed the best double-play combination in Yankees history.

There is no telling what Cano will do if he remains a Yankee.

The only question remains is will he?

There is no doubt Infante remains the only viable fallback position should Cano leave.

After all, the Yankees have some players who play the position but none of them hold a match, much less a candle, to Cano.

The Yankees dealt right-hander Ben Paullus to the San Diego Padres for second baseman Dean Anna on Nov. 20. Anna, 27, was a Triple-A All-Star at Tucson in 2013 and batted .331 with nine home runs and 73 RBIs. Another big plus in his favor is that he bats left-handed.

The word on Anna is that he is solid fielder. In fact, he also played 60 games at shortstop and seven at third base. His versatility seems to make him a player worth watching this spring. But he is not likely going to be the heir apparent to Cano if he leaves. The Yankees are not fools.

Anna is going to compete for a backup infield spot, period. He will get some stiff competition from holdover Jayson Nix.

The Yankees have not given up on David Adams but they certainly were disappointed with what he produced when he was pressed into service as a third baseman in 2014.

Adams, 26, has primarily been a second baseman in the minor leagues and he will get a shot at both second and third this spring. But after hitting .193 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 43 games with the Yankees in 2013, he will be on a very short leash if he does not produce this spring.

Meanwhile, after a very strong 2012 season, 25-year-old Corban Joseph slipped mightily in 2013 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He hit .239 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 47 games. With the acquisition of Anna, Adams and Joseph are quickly dropping off the radar as prospects if they were at all.

At lower levels the Yankees have hot-hitting Jose Pirela, 24, who batted .272 in 124 games at Double-A Trenton and 21-year-old speedster Angelo Gumbs, who hit .213 in 91 games at two stops at the A level last season. Though Gumbs is pretty raw with the bat the Yankees love his potential.

But all talk surrounding second base with the Yankees begins and ends with Cano. Yankee fans would just love to hear that Cano has re-signed with the team. It is hard to imagine 2014 without him.

The signs, though, are pointing toward the Yankees retaining him. The question just remains at what price. It is looking at this point that it will be the Yankees price and Cano will just have to settle on a more realistic number.

Then he can start racking up more big numbers with his bat.

 

Pettitte Wins Again As Yanks Take Target Practice

GAME 153

YANKEES 6, TWINS 3

Whenever manager Ron Gardenhire sees Andy Pettitte scheduled to pitch against his Twins he must cringe. After all, Pettitte last lost to the Twins in 2001 in a complete game he lost to Brad Radke 2-1.

Monday was no different for Pettitte and the Yankees took a little target practice at the outfield seats at Target Field.

In his second game back after coming off the disabled list, Pettitte threw six shutout innings and four Yankees hit home runs as New York extended its lead in the American League East by defeating Minnesota in front of paid crowd of 33,720.

Pettitte (5-3) scattered seven hits, walked one and struck out three batters to extend his record his against the Twins to 10-0 with a 2.53 ERA in his last 12 starts against them dating back to the 2009 season.

Meanwhile, the Yankee offense staked him to a first-inning lead against rookie right-hander Liam Hendriks (1-8) when Derek Jeter drew a leadoff walk and Ichiro Suzuki doubled to to right field.

One out later, Robinson Cano scored Jeter with an infield grounder and Nick Swisher followed with a two-run blast into the second deck in right-center, his 23rd home run of the season and the first of the four-homer deluge the Yankees put on the Twins. It was the most home runs the Twins have given up in a game all season.

With one out in the fourth inning, Curtis Granderson took Hendriks deep for his 40th home run of the season, becoming the only player in the major leagues who has has hit 40 or more home runs the past two seasons. He also is the fifth Yankee player to hit 40 or more home runs in back-to-back seasons, joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi.

Raul Ibanez led off the seventh inning with a tape=measure blast down the right-field line and into the third deck of the stadium for his 18th home run of the season and his third in his past three games.

One-out later, Eric Chavez lined an opposite-field shot just out of the reach of left-fielder Josh Willingham for his 14th home run of the season and Hendriks’ evening was mercifully ended with him trailing 6-0.

Hendriks was tagged for eight hits, he walked one batter and he fanned four in 6 1/3 innings.

Though Petitte was far from perfect – he had only two 1-2-3 innings – he managed to get out of trouble on ground balls, a strikeout and with a great defensive play by Granderson.

Pettitte gave up a pair of singles to Denard Span and Ben Revere to start the first inning and he walked Willingham with one out o load the bases. But he escaped any damage by striking out Justin Morneau looking and getting Ryan Doumit to bounce into a forceout.

Span and Mauer singled and were on first and third with one out in the third but Pettitte induced Willingham to hit into an inning-ending double play.

In the fourth, Doumit hit a one-out double to center and with two out Jamey Carroll singled up the middle. Granderson charged the ball in shallow center and fired it on one-hop home to catcher Russell Martin, who tagged Doumit on the left shoulder before he could reach home plate.

The Twins ruined the shutout in the eighth when rookie Pedro Florimon hit his first major-league home run off reliever Cory Wade.

They added two runs in the ninth after left-hander Justin Thomas gave up a one-out single to Morneau and walked Doumit. David Robertson came in to strike out Trevor Plouffe but pinch-hitter Chris Parmalee cracked a triple off the wall in center to score both runners.

Robertson then ended the contest by getting Florimon to ground out to Cano at second.

The Yankees have now won 26 of their last 33 games against the Twins and, combined with the Baltimore Orioles’ split of a doubleheader with the Toronto Blue Jays, they now have a 1 1/2-game lead in the division with eight games left to play.

The Yankees season record is now 89-64. The Twins fell to 64-90.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In his two starts since coming off the disabled list with a fractured fibula, Pettitte is 2-0 and he has held the opposition scoreless over 11 innings, giving up 11 hits and three walks while striking out six. Pettitte will have one more start before the playoffs and he would be in line to start either a tie-breaker game or the wild-card playoff game, if necessary.
  • Jeter’s singled in the ninth inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. He is 30-for-81 (.370) with a home run and 11 RBIs in those 16 contests. Suzuki’s double in the first extended his hitting streak to seven games. Over than span, Suzuki is 16-for-30 (.533) with two home runs, four doubles and five RBIs. With Jeter and Suzuki at the top of the order the Yankees have been rolling.
  • After looking absolutely lost at the plate for most of the past month, Ibanez looks to be coming out of his long slump with a flourish. In the past three games, Ibanez is 7-for-12 (.583) with three home runs and five RBIs.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I could quibble about the Yankees giving up three runs late but Wade and Thomas are two pitchers who will not be on the team’s playoff roster. Manager Joe Girardi was hoping to rest Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan and Robertson, but he was forced to bring in Robertson in the ninth. That was the only real negative.

BOMBER BANTER

Mark Teixiera took batting practice, fielded ground balls and ran the bases at half-speed at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, FL, on Monday as he tries to recover from a Grade 1 strain of his left calf. Though general manager Brian Cashman targeted Thursday for Teixeira’s return, Girardi expressed concern about playing Teixeira on the artificial surface at Rogers Centre in Toronto.  . . .  Veteran right-handed reliever David Aardsma was with the team on Monday and he could be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. Aardsma, 30, has not pitched not pitched in the major leagues since he was with the Seattle Mariners in 2010. He underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2011 and he was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in February. Aardsma recorded 31 saves for the Mariners in 2010 after saving 38 games with a 2.53 ERA in 2009.  . . .  Chavez was highly critical of the current members of his former Oakland Athletics club and their antics over the weekend. Chavez was not happy with the way the team was celebrating in the visitor’s dugout after they hit three home runs to take a 9-5 lead in the 13th inning of Saturday’s game. Chavez called the display immature and unprofessional. The Yankees, however, had the last laugh by scoring four runs in the bottom of the 13th before scoring the winning run in the 14th on a bases-loaded error.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game series in Minneapolis with the Twins on Tuesday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (16-12) will start for the Yankees. Hughes earned his third straight victory, despite giving up four runs in five innings against the Blue Jays in his last start. Hughes is 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA lifetime against the Twins, including a victory against them on April 19 in which he gave up two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Twins will counter with right-hander Esmerling Vasquez (0-2, 6.75 ERA). Vasquez, 28, has failed to turn in quality start in any of his four outings this season, including his last start against the Cleveland Indians. He has never faced the Yankees.

Game-time will be 8:10 EDT and the game will be telecast locally by MY9.

 

Ichiro Drives In 5 As Yankees Clip Blue Jays’ Wings

GAME 112

YANKEES 10, BLUE JAYS 3

When the New York Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners they were just expecting some great outfield defense and some singles and some steals at the bottom of the batting order. It is now beginning to look like they have a top-flight RBI man instead.

Suzuki drove in five runs to lead a late-inning seven-run assault on Toronto pitching as New York put away a badly depleted Blue Jay team on Friday at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Suzuki gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead in the second inning by driving in a run beating out a potential double-play grounder. He added a two-run single in the eighth inning and a bases-loaded two-run double in the ninth inning. Suzuki, who had only 28 RBis when he was obtained on July 23, has driven in 11 runs in his last 11 games and nine and his last four games with the Yankees.

Meanwhile, veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (6-5) pitched six solid innings to pick up his second straight victory. Garcia gave up two runs on four hits and struck four against a Blue Jays team missing Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia and Adam Lind.

The Yankees built an early lead on Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero in second inning after Robinson Cano led off the frame with a single and Romero walked Andruw Jones.

Jayson Nix attempted to bunt the next pitch and it rolled just out in front of home plate. But Blue Jays catcher Jeff Mathis threw the ball past third baseman Omar Vizquel and into left-field to allow Cano to score and Jones to advance to third. Suzuki followed with a grounder that forced Nix at second but Suzuki beat the relay to first and Jones scored.

The Yankees added a run in the following inning on a leadoff single by Nick Swisher and a one-out RBI single by Cano.

Romero ( 8-9) then shut down the Yankees over the next four innings on just one hit. He left having given up four hits and three walks and struck out two over seven innings.

Kelly Johnson proved to be Garcia’s big nemesis. He struck with one-out solo home run in the bottom of the second inning to halve the Yankees’ lead at 2-1. Two innings later, he followed a bunt single by Yunel Escobar and a lined single by David Cooper with a double down the right-field line that scored Escobar to make it 3-2.

But Garcia ended the threat by striking out Vizquel and inducing Mathis to tap back to the mound.

The game stayed 3-2 until Steve Delabar’s first offering in the eighth inning in relief of Romero was tagged by Mark Teixeira for his 22nd home run of the season.

With two out, Nix and Russell Martin each dunked in a pair of bloop hits and Suzuki followed with an RBI single up the middle to break the game open at 6-2.

The Yankees added four runs in the ninth off rookie reliever David Carpenter and Brad Lincoln. Suzuki culminated the scoring with base-loaded liner that Rajai Davis lost in the lights and it was scored a double.

With the victory the Yankees have now won three games in a row and are 66-46 on the season. They remain 5 1/2 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The reeling Blue Jays have lost four in a row and are in last place in the division with a record of 53-59.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Suzuki has had at least one hit in 16 of the 17 games he has played with the Yankees. The five-RBI night tied a career high and it was the third time in Suzuki’s career he achieved the feat. But it was the first time since the 2004 season. He also started his first game in center-field since the 2008 season and he has now started in all three outfield position since coming to the Yankees. He was acquired to provide speed, defense and a consistent bat at the bottom of the order and he has done all three very well.
  • Teixeira’s home run was the second straight game in which he has delivered a home run in the eighth inning on the road. Teixeira and Eric Chaez combined to hit back-to-back solo home runs to turn a 3-2 Yankee deficit on Thursday into a 4-3 victory over the Tigers. It was the first time two Yankees had hit consecutive home runs in the eighth inning or later to win a game on the road since Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle did it during the 1955 season. Teixeira extended his team-leading RBI total to 76.
  • Garcia is never going to be confused with Felix Hernandez or Justin Verlander, but he put in another solid effort to win his second straight start. In his eight starts since replacing Andy Pettitte in the rotation, Garcia is 4-3 with a 3.83 ERA. The 35-year-old right-hander has been valuable as a placeholder for Pettitte.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I can’t think of much to complain about. Garcia pitched well and the offense has scored 31 runs and notched double-digits in hits over the team’s last four games. Perhaps they can put that stretch of nine losses over 12 games behind them now.

BOMBER BANTER

It is possible that left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano could be added to the Yankees’ expanded roster in September. Feliciano has not pitched since the 2010 season with the New York Mets because he underwent surgery for  torn rotator cuff. On Friday, Feliciano made his second rehab appearance for the Yankees’ rookie Gulf Coast League. Feliciano was signed to a two-year $8 million deal prior to the 2011 season but he has not pitched a single game for the Yankees. He is 22-19 with a 3.31 ERA over 459 appearances over his eight-season career.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend road series with Blue Jays on Saturday.

Ivan Nova (10-6, 4.81 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Nova has a lot to prove after giving up seven runs on 11 hits on Monday against the Tigers. He is 0-3 with a 8.36 ERA in his last five starts. Nova is 2-1 with a 3.75 ERA against the Blue Jays in his career.

The Blue Jays will counter with left-hander Aaron Laffey (3-2, 4.39 ERA), who pitched briefly for the Yankees last season. Laffey gave up four runs on six hits in his last start, a victory over the Oakland Athletics. He is 0-1 with an 11.74 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

Game-time will be 1:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Ibanez Joins List Of Possible Yankee DH Targets

With the end of the holidays and the beginning of the new year, the Yankees got busy after sitting out a good portion of the offseason bidding and dealing. Here are some bits and pieces of information and some analysis on what it all means:

THE DH ‘RAUL’

Apparently former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez is on the New York Yankees’ short list of players they might want to sign to take over as the team’s designated hitter, the New York Post reported.

Ibanez, 39, was allowed to walk as a free agent by the Phiilies after a 2011 season in which he hit a career-low .245 but still managed to hit 20 home runs and drive in 84 runs in 144 games. Ibanez is career .280 hitter with 252 home runs and 1,054 RBIs in 16 major-league seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals and the Phillies.

The right-handed-hitting Ibanez was an All-Star selection in 2009 with the National League-champion Phillies.

With the four-player trade that sent Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for pitchers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos, the Yankees seem to have an obvious opening for a primary DH in their 2011 lineup. Jorge Posada held the role at the start of the 2011 season.

With one possible candidate, Carlos Pena, re-signed as free agent by the Tampa Bay Rays, it appears the Yankees are looking at free agents including Ibanez and former Yankees Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.

Damon, 38, played last season with the Rays and wanted to return to the team. However, the signing of Pena likely means the Rays are not interested in keeping Damon after he hit .261 with 16 home runs, 73 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 150 games in 2011.

Matsui, 37, played last season with Oakland and hit a career-low .251 with 12 home runs and 72 RBIs in 141 games. The Athletics, who are retooling with younger players, seem to be uninterested in bringing Matsui back for a second season as the team’s DH.

The Yankees have not commented publicly about Ibanez, Damon or Matsui. They have said they are interested in looking at 29-year-old former Mexican League star Jorge Vazquez this spring as a potential DH.

Vazquez, who can play either first or third base, hit .262 with 32 home runs and 93 RBIs in only 118 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season. The right-handed slugger is not consider to be a very good defender but the Yankees have been impressed with his hitting potential.

At this point, it comes down to payroll economics. If the Yankees feel a pressing need to have a professional hitter at the DH spot and they are willing to shell out about $5 million to $8 million to get one of the three free agents, they will certainly do it. But if they feel they can’t afford it, Vazquez will get a shot this spring.

Odds are the Yankees are definitely looking outside the organization. That is why Ibanez’s name surfaced. So look for a free-agent signing real soon to fill the role.

OKIE DOKEY, HIROKI

The Yankees officially announced the signing of right-handed starter Hiroki Kuroda this week.

The former Dodger signed a one-year deal worth a reported $10 million. He left the Dodgers as a free agent after going 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA in 2011. In his five seasons with the Dodgers, the 37-year-old Kuroda was 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA in 115 major-league games, all with the Dodgers.

Kuroda will join Pineda in a revamped Yankee rotation for 2012. With CC Sabathia the unquestioned ace, Pineda figures to open the season as the team’s No. 2 starter and Kuroda likely will be the No. 3 starter. Ivan Nova, 25, after a sparkling 16-7 record and a 3.70 ERA as a rookie, figures to have a starting job locked up also.

That leaves Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia and A.J. Burnett to battle it out this spring for the final starting spot.

The signing of Kuroda was a fallback position by the Yankees’ front office. Both general manager Brian Cashman and managing general partner Hank Steinbrenner felt the price of top free-agent pitchers like C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson, Mark Buerhle and Japanese import Yu Darvish was too high.

They also felt the asking price in trade for starters such as John Danks, Jair Jurrgens, Matt Garza and Gio Gonzalez was also too pricey.

As it is, Cashman needed Steinbrenner’s assent to pay Kuroda the $10 million he was seeking. That is one reason why the Yankees do not wish to overpay for a DH and add much more money to the payroll.

Kuroda, like a number of other National League pitchers who have been signed or acquired by the Yankees, will be under the microscope when he faces much tougher hitters in the American League, and those particularly in the East.

Pitchers such as Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez and, even to some degree, Randy Johnson have found it difficult to put up good numbers in the A.L. Kuroda, however, is in a somewhat better position than some of those previous pitchers because the Yankees have one of the deepest and best bullpens in baseball heading into the 2012 season.

Kuroda could have his ERA jump a run and he still could win 15 games for the Yankees in 2012.

PRAISE JESUS

The Montero-Pineda trade was made official this week when Montero passed his physical with the Mariners.

There has still been a major flood of angry comments from Yankee fans who are upset the Yankees traded a 21-year-old catcher who looked to be the best power prospect the Yankees have had in their minor-league system since Mickey Mantle was promoted to the major leagues in 1951.

Yankee fans also have pointed out that Pineda faded badly in the second half of 2011 and he has had a history of elbow problems stemming from a very violent follow-through in his motion. That does not bode well for the 23-year-old right-hander’s long-term prospects.

However, just about every analysis of the trade by experienced sports writers such as Peter Gammons and Ken Rosenthal have praised Cashman for making the deal.

What do they know that Yankee fans don’t?

For one reason, Montero’s work behind the plate is in question and will remain in question throughout his development in the major leagues. Though he has made vast progress, the Yankees were concerned they could NOT compete with teams that run a lot like the Rays and the Los Angeles Angels with Montero behind the plate.

They also saw a move to right-field or first base as impossible. Montero would really struggle in the outfield and Mark Teixeira is entrenched at first base and simply is the best-fielding first baseman in the game.

So Montero’s long-term future would have to have been as a DH and part-time catcher. That would limit his impact because manager Joe Girardi would still have Russell Martin as a starter with either Francisco Cervelli and rookie Austin Romine backing him up. Plus, Girardi would have to give veterans like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher some time off at DH during the season.

Also figure that 19-year-old catcher Gary Sanchez is considered the No. 4 catching prospect in baseball. The Yankees and scouts see him as the whole package behind the plate. He is excellent on defense and he has the ability to become a very good major-league hitter. He won’t hit for the prodigious power Montero might. But he will hit for average and power, scouts say.

So the Yankees felt with Montero’s defensive liabilities and the limited nature as a DH and part-time catcher, they could use Montero’s high value to get a pitcher, who not only figures to improve on his 9-10 record and 3.74 ERA in his rookie season, but could eventually become the ace of the staff in a few years.

Pineda projects as a potential No. 1 starter now. With he and Sabathia at the top of the rotation they figure to dominate any three-game series in which they pitch. If you are talking a potential playoff series the possibilities are even better. That is why the Yankees chose to make the deal.

They gave up a potential superstar but they may have got one in return also. What’s done is done. So let’s wait to evaluate the trade five years from now.

JONES REDUX

The Yankees also made it official this week they have re-signed Andruw Jones to a one-year contract for  a reported $2 million plus $1.4 million in incentives.

Jones, 34, batted .247 with 13 home runs and 33 RBIs in 77 games for the Yankees last season. Jones appeared as a DH, outfielder and pinch-hitter, but his calling card was his ability to hit left-handers. He hit lefties to the tune of .286.

Jones can play both corner outfield spots, DH and pinch hit. Because Brett Gardner struggled against left-handers last season, Jones could also be used to replace Gardner against some left-handers next season.

The Yankees have also managed to sign most of their arbitration eligible players in the past weeks including Gardner, Martin, David Robertson and Boone Logan.

The result is the Yankees have managed to improve the team while at the same time being able to hold the line on spending, which Steinbrenner is determined to do.

The Yankees would seem to only looking to add a bench infielder and a DH to the team before spring training.

Eric Chavez, who played first and third base for the Yankees last season is still available to be re-signed if the Yankees wish. We have already discussed the potential free agents available to DH.

ADIOS, JORGE!

Jorge Posada also made it official this week that he was retiring after all 17 seasons with the Yankees.

Posada, 40, thought about offers from other teams such as the Rays and the Mets, but ultimately chose to end his career as a Yankee.

Now the discussion starts as to whether he has the credentials to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame. The fact that he is the only catcher among the group of catchers already in the Hall except the great Yogi Berra, who has either more home runs, RBIs or a better batting average than all of them gives him some standing.

In addition, he has four World Series rings and he was one of the best hitting catchers of his generation.

It will be close, but Jorge stands in Yankee history among legendary catchers such as Berra, Bill Dickey and Thurman Munson. So he has a good chance of having his No. 20 retired by the Yankees at some point.

That would be a fitting tribute to a man who was a leader among the best Yankee teams in a generation. Thank you, Jorge!

 


Yankees’ Bid For Garza Is Going, Going, Gone!

For those fans expecting Matt Garza to be modeling Yankee pinstripes in 2012, your dream is not likely to come true.

The Yankees did have an interest in the 28-year-old Chicago Cubs right-hander. But the team’s president of baseball operations Theo Epstein must have been smoking some of that fraternity stash of his lately. His asking price for Garza, who is 52-54 with a 3.83 ERA in his career, is two of the Yankees’ top three prospects.

Yes sir! Epstein and the Cubs want slugging catcher Jesus Montero and either left-hander Manny Banuelos or right-hander Dellin Betances, according to a report by Jack Curry of the YES Network.

Needless to say, Yankee general manager Brian Cashman nearly choked on his Nathan’s hotdog when he heard that request. Although the Yankees would love to obtain Garza to bolster their starting rotation, the asking price for a pitcher who was just 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA in 2011 would seem to be excessively steep.

The Cubs might as well go all the way and offer back-up outfielder Reed Johnson even up for Curtis Granderson. Or how about catcher Geovany Soto for Robinson Cano? You can criticize Epstein for a lot of things but you have to give him credit for having cojones.

This overpricing of pitching has been a trend this winter and it is one of the reasons why Cashman has had to decline big-money offers to overpriced free agents such as C.J. Wilson and Mark Buerhle. The Rangers paid $51 million just for the right to negotiate a deal with Japan’s best pitcher, Yu Darvish.

Teams like the Padres and Athletics have exacted a cartload of prospects for pitchers such as Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez. The Cubs are trying to do the same with Garza.

But the Yankees have apparently bowed out of the sweepstakes, leaving the Blue Jays and Tigers as the players left interested in Garza unless the Cubs begin to start lowering their demands.

This is is exactly what I was predicting in my last post when I stated that Cashman should proceed with caution in talks for Garza and not succumb to desperation at the expense of the building blocks to the Yankees’ future. You have to know when to fold your hand and leave the table.

Cashman, it appears, has done just that.

Montero, 22, is simply the best power-hitting prospect the Yankees have developed since they promoted Mickey Mantle in 1951. The jury may be out on his skills to be a creditable defensive catcher but scouts have compared his ability to hit to players such as Mike Piazza and Manny Ramirez. You do not trade players with this much upside.

Banuelos, 20, is the best left-hander and the best pitching prospect in the Yankees’ organization and Betances, 23, is the second-best pitching prospect. Neither of the two have had an opportunity to show the Yankees what they can do at the major-league level. Both rose from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season. Both project as potential top-of-the-rotation starters. The Yankees have no other starters in their farm system with that capability.

So why trade any of the three for Garza, who only is two seasons away from free agency and is likely to earn $20 million over the next two seasons in arbitration? Garza is essentially a .500 pitcher. He is not more than a No. 3 starter. If Garza was a flavor of ice cream he would be vanilla. Plain vanilla.

You don’t trade your best prospects for vanilla. You tell Epstein, “Fudge you!”

Which is exactly what Cashman has done.

ACTION JACKSON

With any potential deal for Gaza apparently gone, the Yankees are now looking at free-agent right-hander Edwin Jackson, according to CBSSports.com.

Jackson, 28, was 12-9 with a 3.73 ERA and 148 strikeouts for the world-champion St. Louis Cardinals last season. He reportedly is looking for a contract in the $15 million to $17 million range for 2012. The Yankees might be unwilling to go that high on the veteran right-hander, who is 60-60 a 4.86 ERA and 801 strikeouts in his career.

The Yankees are apparently trying to find a middle ground that Jackson and his agent could accept. The Yankees see Jackson as a potential reliable and durable No. 3 starter.

The Yankees already have five potential starters in CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia. They also have six potential young starters in Hector Noesi, D.J. Mitchell, Adam Warren, David Phelps, Betances and Banuelos.

But they have made no secret of the fact the would love to unload troubled right-hander Burnett and his $33 million salary paid over the next two seasons. The Yankees have reportedly offered to pay up to $7 million of that contract but have received no takers so far for Burnett.

The signing of Jackson would allow the Yankees to continue to develop their prize minor-league prospects and renew their efforts to unload Burnett.

SAYONARA

It is looking as if the Yankees will not be signing Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima to a contract by the Friday deadline, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

A source told the Ledger that the talks have been “slow” and the Yankees are unlikely to complete a deal for Nakajima, 29, by the 30-day deadline called for in the posting process. The Yankees wish to pay Nakajima as a backup infielder and Nakajima has been paid as a starter in Japan. So both sides are not close to a deal.

The Yankees posted a $2 million bid for Nakajima in early December and won the right to negotiate a contract. If the two sides can’t agree on a contract Nakajima’s team in Japan, the Seibu Lions, will return the $2 million to the Yankees and Nakajima will remain with the Lions.

The Yankees looked at Nakajima, who hit .297 with 16 home runs and 100 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 144 games with Seibu in 2011, as a potential backup infielder at second, third and shortstop. The negotiations for Nakajima precluded the Yankees from making a deal to re-sign 34-year-old veteran Eric Chavez.

However, if the Nakajima talks fail the Yankees could, if they wish, can contact Chavez’s agent to get the 34-year-old corner infielder back for the 2012 season. Chavez hit .263 with two home runs and 26 RBIs in 58 games with the Yankees in 2011. He missed two months of the season with a fractured bone in his left foot.

STAY TUNED!

 

Posada Unleashes Torrent Of Anger On Poor Rays


“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

                                                                 – Dylan Thomas

GAME 118

YANKEES 9, RAYS 2

For Jorge Posada, the 2011 season has been a season-long battle with Father Time and trying to staunch the obvious erosion of his once considerable skills.

But on Saturday, after five games of watching his teammates from the bench without a defined role anymore, Posada got a chance to start at designated hitter and he ended up with three hits including a grand slam home run and six RBIs as New York crushed Tampa Bay in front of a national TV audience.

Posada, who will turn 40 on Wednesday and who is in the final year of what likely will be his last contract with the Yankees, was removed from his left-hand-hitting DH role last Sunday in favor of Eric Chavez. Posada, a switch-hitter, had been removed as the right-hand-hitting DH in May for Andruw Jones because he is hitting .102 against left-handers this season.

But a highly motivated Posada showed manager Joe Girardi and a crowd of 47,804 at Yankee Stadium that he may not quite be done yet.

In the second inning of a scoreless game, Posada came to the plate to a standing ovation with the bases loaded and one out against Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson. He stepped in with only one hit in his last 13 at-bats. He smashed a 1-0 fastball into right-field for a single to drive in Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano. That hit gave the Yankees a lead they never relinquished throughout the contest.

The Yankees erupted for five runs in the fifth and chased Hellickson from the game.

Curtis Granderson started it off with a leadoff home run, his 33rd of the season, which ties him with Jose Bautista of Toronto for the major-league lead. After one out, Cano doubled to the wall in right to end the day for Hellickson (10-8).

Nick Swisher and Chavez drew walks from right-hand reliever Brandon Gomes. That brought Posada up with the bases loaded and one out for the second time in the game.

The veteran looked for and got a 2-0 fastball from Gomes and he launched it into bleachers in right-center for his 10th career grand slam, which passed Yankee legends Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle for fifth on the all-time Yankee list. The fans in the stadium stood on their feet and erupted with thunderous applause until Posada came out of the Yankee dugout for a curtain call.

Meanwhile, on the mound, a teammate who also did not have a clear long-term role with the team, was pitching to become a part of the Yankees’ five-man rotation. Phil Hughes entered the game 2-4 with a 7.11 ERA but was 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in his last two starts. He needed to pitch well or he would lose the spot to A.J. Burnett, who is winless in his last seven starts and has an ERA of 6.00 over that stretch.

Hughes (3-4) pitched brilliantly over the first five innings and he ended up giving up two runs on four hits and one walk and he struck six batters in six innings. He gave up a solo home run to Desmond Jennings and Johnny Damon followed with a triple. Damon scored an out later on a infield ground ball to Teixeira off the bat of Ben Zobrist.

It would be pretty hard to banish Hughes to the bullpen with a 2.00 ERA over his last three starts and 13 strikeouts over 18 innings. But Burnett has only made one relief appearance since 2008 while Hughes was the setup man for Mariano Rivera in the second half of 2009 when the Yankees went on to win their 27th world championship.

However, Freddy Garcia may have accidently solved the problem for now. The Yankees announced that Garcia will not make his scheduled start on Sunday against the Rays because of a cut he has on a finger on his right hand that he sustained earlier in the week in a kitchen mishap. The cut is deep, Girardi said, it affects Garcia’s grip on his split-finger fastball. He will miss at least one start.

With the Yankees’ victory they improved their season ledger to 72-45 and they are a game behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. More importantly, the Rays’ loss drops them 8 1/2 games in back of the Yankees in the wild-card chase. The Rays are 64-55.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Posada was 3-for-5 with two singles, a home run, a run scored and six RBIs. Posada is a career .326 hitter with the bases loaded and he improved that with his two big hits today. Posada refused to criticize Girardi for his decision to replace him as the team’s DH against right-handers last Sunday. Posada said it was his poor hitting that placed him into the situation that he was in. After hitting .382 in June, Posada slumped to hit .217 in July and he was hitting .167 in August until Saturday’s game. Posada likely will get another start at DH on Sunday against Rays right-hander James Shields.
  • Granderson’s magical season continues. Granderson has now hit five homers in his last five games. With his home run in his third at-bat on Saturday, he had homered five times in his last 19 at-bats. He is tied for first in the majors in home runs with 33, he is first in the majors in RBIs with 94 and he is first in the majors by a margin of 23 runs in runs scored with 106. He has scored seven runs and driven in eight in his last fives games.
  • Hughes pitched probably his best game since coming off the disabled list in July. He gave up a two-out double to B.J. Upton in the second inning and a leadoff single to Evan Longoria in the fourth over his first five innings and walked just one batter. The most important thing is that his six strikeouts showed he had good velocity on his fastball and he was able to locate it for strikes. Hughes actually has enough time, should he stay in the rotation, to establish himself as the Yankees’ No. 2 starter behind CC Sabathia.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Posada and Hughes did well even though their roles going forward are really up in the air. Jeter made a sloppy error in the first inning but he erased it with a double play on the next batter. So there were no real major negatives today.

BOMBER BANTER

To celebrate Jeter’s reaching the 3,000-hit plateau, the Yankees honored him before the game with a 225-pound crystal and stainless steel sculpture of Jeter doffing his cap with the number 3,000 below. It was commissioned by Sabathia and Posada and it was inscribed “To our captain, leader and friend, congratulations on your achievement, from your teammates.”  Jeter also received gifts from Yankee management as his parents and his sister looked on.  . . .  Alex Rodriguez was 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in his second rehab game in Tampa, FL. Rodriguez started at DH for the second straight night. He homered on the first pitch in his first at-bat on Friday. Rodriguez hopes to play a few games in the field with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday and Wednesday before returning to the Yankees next week for their series against the Twins in Minneapolis. Rodriguez has been on the 15-day disabled list since mid-July after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.  . . .  The Yankees signed former Yankee reliever Scott Proctor to a minor-league contract and assigned him to Scranton. Proctor, 34, had a 6.44 ERa in 31 appearances with the Braves when he was released on Wednesday.

ON DECK

The Yankees can win the rubber game of the three-game home weekend series with the Rays with a victory on Sunday.

But if you are planning to attend this game, bring your rabbits feet, St. Christopher medals and four-leaf clovers.

To replace Freddy Garcia as the starter, the Yankees have named Burnett (8-9, 4.60 ERA) as the starter. Burnett was pitching one-run baseball into the seventh inning against the Angels on Tuesday but he unraveled and ended up losing yet another start in August. He ended up giving up four runs on seven hits in six innings. Burnett has not won a game in August since he became a Yankee in 2009. He is 12-8 with a 3.45 ERA lifetime against the Rays.

The Rays will start right-hander James Shields (11-9, 2.90 ERA). Shields is coming off his major-league-leading eighth complete game of the season in his victory over Kansas City on Tuesday. Shields is 1-2 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts against the Yankees this season. He is 4-10 with a 4.25 ERA in his career against the Bombers.

Game-time will be at 1:05 p.m. and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.

 

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!

McGwire’s Actions Final Indignity to Roger Maris

It is ironic that in all the controversy stirred by Mark McGwire this week that the legacy of Roger Maris has to suffer yet another indignity.
Even the most casual baseball fan will know that Babe Ruth’s record for home runs in a season of 60 came under assault in 1961 by Mickey Mantle and a shy 27-year-old kid from Hibbing, MN named Maris.
But Maris was never really allowed to have the record by himself. Commissioner Ford Frick, who was a ghost writer for Ruth declared that if Mantle or Maris failed to hit 60 or more home runs within the 154 games Ruth set the record, it would have to carry a special designation.
The designation later became an asterisk. It hung around Maris’ neck like an albatross.
Mantle was injured late in the 1961 season and was unable to continue the race with his teammate and roommate Maris. Maris, in fact, failed to hit his 61st home run until after 154 games. So he never really was accorded the honor of being baseball’s single-season home run king.
Considering that many Yankee fans revered Ruth and many more thought it should be Mantle and not Maris to break the record, the 1961 season became more of a nightmare to Maris than a blessing. He couldn’t sleep, the press hounded him and his hair began falling out in clumps.
People were actually openly rooting against him and many were glad with the commissioner’s edict had prevented Ruth’s record to be eclipsed because of the new 182-game schedule. 
Many forget that Maris was the American League Most Valuable Player in 1960 and he was just as deserving as anyone to break the record. In fact, who is to say who deserves to break a record or not?
Ruth’s record had stood since 1927. The asterisk remained until 1991. Maris died on Dec. 14, 1985 never knowing that he would actually be recognized as baseball’s home run king. But the dropping of the asterisk did little to embellish his image as the king.
Ruth’s shadow followed him throughout his injury-filled career. He never liked the asterisk but said it was for history to judge who the legitimate home run record-holder was.
Then along comes McGwire, who was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1987 and, who along with Jose Canseco, led the Oakland Athletics to a world championship in 1989. In McGwire’s first nine seasons, his single-season high for home runs was the 49 he had hit as a rookie.
His single-season high other those 49 home runs in 1987 was the 42 he had hit in 1992.
Then came the 1996 season with the St. Louis Cardinals when he hit 52. Then came the 1997 season when he hit 57. Then came the famous 1998 season when he 70. In 1999 he belted 65.
Hmm! Ruth’s record stood since 1927 when Maris broke it in 1961 and here was McGwire having two consecutive seasons of 70 and 65 home runs. 
Meanwhile, Sammy Sosa of the Cubs hit 66 in 1998 and 63 in 1999. He also hit 64 in 2001. Hmm! He had three seasons where he hit more than Ruth and Maris.
In 2001, Barry Bonds established a new major-league record with 73 home runs.
You seeing a pattern here?
From 1998 to 2001 three major-league players had passed Ruth and Maris a total of six times. Though there were whispers around baseball that something was not right, baseball accepted these feats because the game was gaining in popularity. Baseball had no steroid testing policy nor was it being contemplated.
It was not until the BALCO revelations and baseball began to crack down much too late on steroids that McGwire, Sosa and Bonds were swept up into the scandal. The damage the Steroid Era has inflicted upon baseball is immeasurable. 
Stains will never be washed away.
Now, 11 years later McGwire apologizes and admits the obvious: He did use steroids. What does he want us to do? Cry for him? Forgive him? Put him in the Hall of Fame?
This to me is the final indignity to Maris. As far as we know, Maris hit his home runs the right way. No steroids and every one was legitimate. We can’t say the same for McGwire. Sosa and Bonds.
They cheated. They cheated not only us. They cheated the game. Most of all they cheated Ruth and Maris. 
If I was the commissioner or a person with more backbone than Bud Selig, I would erase the home run marks of McGwire, Sosa and Bonds and restore Maris as the recognized home run king along with Ruth’s mark of 60 as second best.
I would reinstate Henry Aaron as the overall record-holder for career home runs and expunge the totals Bonds amassed.
Without doing this, the game is forever tainted by these criminals. Steroids continue to cloud the game. Even if an Albert Pujols were to break a record in this atmosphere, it surely will come with the accusation he is taking performance enhancing substances to do it. With McGwire as his hitting coach no less.
It is like McGwire and his fellow cheats have forever stained the game. Ruined it. Ruined its most hallowed records.
And it is not as if McGwire did not realize what he was doing at the time. When he broke Maris’ mark, the Maris family was on hand to watch and cheer the event. How hypocritical can you be? You accepted these accolades from this proud family knowing that you cheated to do it.
You may as well of pulled a gun on them and took their wallets while you were at, Mark.
You and your fellow cheats are scum and just as much a scourge to baseball as Pete Rose is. And like him, none of you deserve to even enter the doors of the Hall of Fame, much less be enshrined.
I will never forgive Mark McGwire and I hope he rots in his own private hell when he dies. Selig should not allow him near a uniform or the field as a coach. He should be banned just like Rose.
Maybe the Roger Maris did not deserve to break Babe Ruth’s record but he still has more class than McGwire ever had. I truly do feel sorry for Roger today. More than ever.
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