2013 will rightfully be remembered as Mariano Rivera’s final season. He announced his intent to “hang ’em up” at a press conference during spring training, and has not backed down from those statements. This truly is it for the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history.
So, as the calendar flips to September, all eyes will be on Mo as he and the Yankees try to will their way into the playoffs. It will take a big, and possibly historic run for the team to do so, but no matter how far the Yanks go, we are all experiencing the final weeks of Rivera’s legendary career.
Two players who have been through it all with him are of course Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte. Aside from Andy’s three-year stint with the Houston Astros, the trio have been together for their entire adult lives. Starting out as fresh-faced minor leaguers who became fan-favorite youngsters of the late-90’s dynasty, the “Core Three” are now grizzled, battle-tested veterans in the twilight of their careers.
While Rivera has made it clear that his future in baseball extends no further than this fall, and Jeter seems intent on at least playing one more season, Andy Pettitte appears very uncertain if his days in pinstripes are numbered.
Or, if he wants them to be, that is.
Andy has had quite a frustrating 2013 season. Pettitte picked up right where he left off in 2012 by having a strong start in April until back issues forced him to go on the disabled list and miss two weeks. When he returned, he was not the same pitcher, allowing 38 runs in 68.1 innings in June and July. Many people believed he was done, some suggesting he should be removed from the rotation. He has since rebounded with four straight quality starts, but certainly cost the Yankees and himself a fair share of wins during the dog days of summer.
When he came out of retirement last year, it wasn’t just because he got the “itch” to go back out and play. Pettitte has always been a competitor and his sole focus is winning. Had he not been effective in 2012, it’s likely he wouldn’t have come back. But, thanks to his injury-shortened season and glimpses of ace-like performances, Andy decided to give it another go this year.
Even though he has rebounded, he still isn’t the same. He runs out of gas very quickly once he hits 85 pitches, and has gotten extremely lucky with players popping up or completely whiffing on easily hittable breaking pitches left up in the zone. Yet, (and though it has almost become a cliche) it is true that 85 quality pitches from Pettitte is better than what they’ve gotten out of Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, and even Hiroki Kuroda as of late.
Still, Andy will turn 42 years old next June, and he is one awkward delivery away from another injury. He is that fragile. Does he really want to return next year, knowing he will be extremely limited as far as the leash he is given in each start? And, to ask the even bigger question – is it worth it? The Yankees are no where near World Series contention, even if they do make it to October or come into next season with a somewhat formidable team. And surely all that is on Pettitte’s agenda at this point is winning it all. He has come back, he has pitched well for the most part, and certainly has assessed any regrets he had about retiring back in 2011.
That’s why I just can’t see any reason for Andy to want to pitch in 2014, and right now I don’t think he will. He has a had a long, successful Major League career, and his comeback has been better than I think any of us expected. But at some point, every player eventually comes to the realization that it is time to walk away. Andy thought he had after the 2010 season, but I think this winter he truly will “hang ’em up” for good.
So, while we all relish each time Mariano Rivera jogs in from the bullpen to “Enter Sandman”, we should also take pleasure in watching the final starts that ol’ number 46 makes this season. Because like Mo, he is almost certainly in his final weeks with the New York Yankees.
All right, let’s play a quick game. Raise your hand if on May 1st you thought this team was going to be in a position to take the second Wild Card spot in September with a lineup that didn’t have Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson or Mark Teixeira. Be honest, because from Twitter from May-July there were some pessimistic tweets about them.
It is September 1st. The Yankees are 3.5 games back for the second Wild Card spot entering play today and they have 27 games remaining. The Tampa Bay Rays have been fading recently, going 3-7 in their last ten games, playing the first Wild Card spot team the Oakland Athletics. The Yankees in their last 10 games are 7-3. The team the Yankees need to keep below them in the Wild Card, the Baltimore Orioles are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Yes, the Yankees have been playing with the cards that have been dealt to them but it’s easier now, considering the Yankees have some power in the lineup.
Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter have returned. The Yankees have traded for Alfonso Soriano. They claimed Mark Reynolds off waivers. The world (and the season) no longer falls on Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki‘s shoulders. They are now a small (but important) part of a large puzzle. The rotation has been getting quality work from Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte. Hiroki Kuroda is expected to turn it around after a dismal August, which could be because of fatigue. The bullpen has been flawless this year (well, majority of the bullpen). The Yankees pieces are all clicking together at the right time and if they keep playing the way they are playing, they have a legitimate chance to knock Tampa Bay out of the second spot and claim it for themselves.
Two weeks ago, the Yankees chances seemed slim. They had to hop over three teams to even get behind the Rays. Going into September…the Yankees hope to pass the Rays and get into postseason contention and prove all the naysayers wrong. This team could be good enough to get into the playoffs, but how far could they possibly go?
Yankees need this game. If not, they’ll get swept by the Rays and the Yankees playoff chances will diminsh. Here’s your lineup:
Ivan Nova RHP
Some Notes and Transactions:
— Derek Jeter has the day-off today. If all goes well, he’ll meet the Yankees in Toronto tomorrow for the series vs. the Blue Jays.
— Lyle Overbay feels well enough to play today. He sat out the last two games with a stomach virus. Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells were joking about him.
Cano to Overbay: “You’re getting your color back,”
Wells to Cano: “Whatever color he had,”
— Yesterday I was having a conversation with someone on Twitter about Mark Reynolds possibly being a fit at 3B next year if A-Rod is suspended. Well, it looks like today the Yankees are going to try it out and see for themselves.
LHP CC Sabathia
Some Notes and Transactions:
— Brett Gardner‘s X-Ray results came back earlier today and they were clean. Gardner is just having the day off vs. the left hander Price.
— Derek Jeter will have one more rehab start tonight and then will join the Yankees in Toronto. I’ll be covering Derek Jeter’s rehab start so follow me on Twitter @dfiregirl4 for Jeter updates.
It’s not a secret that Derek Jeter is the Captain of the New York Yankees. His presence in the clubhouse, how he keeps his composure after tough losses and how he has that mentality that if it’s not broken, he can play is what makes him one of the greatest Yankees alive. When reporters go to the clubhouse, they anticipate going to see what wisdom Derek Jeter has for them today. What knowledge he’s going to instill in their brain, what sarcastic humor he has up his sleeve. The Yankees are a gigantic ship and Derek Jeter is their Captain.
But when Derek Jeter was constantly out of the lineup this season, the team started to look lost and confused, losing games constantly and feeling as if there was no hope for their play-off dreams. I remember discussing Derek Jeter’s injuries and the Yankees troubles with my mother one day, and the words that came out of her mouth had me thinking long and hard for the next couple of months:
“The Yankees ship can’t go anywhere if it doesn’t have a captain to steer them.”
The Yankees looked as if they were giving up, as if all was hopeless for the team. They still weren’t doing their best on the field and they became defeated–until the media decided to speak to the normally quiet Brett Gardner. For the last couple of seasons, Gardner was just one of the guys in the clubhouse. He was quiet, he never had much to say and he continued to try to keep his starting job in left field. But after a tough loss, something sparked Gardner to talk to the media, about what Derek Jeter had taught him.
“One thing I’ve really learned from Jeet over the years. He’s not here right now, but he’s been so good at turning the page. Doesn’t matter if you are 0-for-5 or 5-or-5, or if we win or lose, we’ve got a game tomorrow. As soon as we walk out here tonight, we’ve got to focus on getting ready to play tomorrow.”
Ever since Brett Gardner uttered those words, I never looked at him the same again. Before that night, he was one of the guys just trying to get on base like he normally does in order to help the team win. But that night, he became someone–a leader. The times that he was quiet, he would spend it observing Derek Jeter, what Derek Jeter would do, what Derek Jeter would say, how Derek Jeter would handle a situation. Gardner would observe everything and in the end, it seemed like he was the one to learn the most from the Captain. From that moment on, Gardner became a huge catalyst on the team, driving in runs, getting on base, giving up his body for the game of baseball, playing hard and gritty as he always does, all to make sure that his team would reach victory.
He took it upon himself to create a new walk-off tradition after A.J Burnett took his pies to Pittsburgh. He thought of Gatorade. He would pour Gatorade on players that hit a walk-off. It became a hit with the crowd and soon, he was the one being doused in his own walk-off creation after saving the Yankees from two extra losses this past weekend. Joe Girardi would quip that Gardner enjoyed the walk-off tradition more than anyone on the team, and that when the time came, he should be a football coach just to take baths in Gatorade after a victory.
Gardner was even talking to the media more, the media wanting insight on what happened each night, his thoughts on a particular player. Typical Gardner would nod politely, give his opinion as professionally as possible and still find some ways to bring the win around the team, even if he was the one that hit a game winning base-hit or saved a play in the outfield. With Gardner it was all about the team, something he learned from Derek Jeter. He would sign things for kids, he was more active around the team, he showed he was the heart and hustle, hence winning the 2013 Heart and Hustle Award. He proved he had love for the game and it wasn’t about the money. He enjoys being out there and it’s evident every time that he goes to the plate.
When he messes up and gets tossed from a game, he goes back the next day to apologize to the umpire for what he believes was his irrational behavior. When he doesn’t make a catch that he thought he could make, he vows to his teammates and to himself that he’ll get the next one. When the chips are down and things look impossible for the Yankees, Gardner steps up.
Joe Girardi took a notice to Brett Gardner’s leadership behavior and frankly, he has been impressed by the young spunky outfielder.
“Gardy is fiery, and I think his personality comes out. It’s been great having him all year. As I said, we really missed him last year – what he’s capable of doing. His personality has definitely come out this year. It’s good.”
When Jeter returns from the disabled list, the job of Captain will once again be his, but us Yankees fans can never forget to thank Brett Gardner for being the one to step up and keeping other teams from sinking our battleship.
Well, it’s finally here. It’s July 31st, otherwise known as the non-waiver trading deadline, and in a matter of hours the Yankees will have either added another bat, or decided to ride out the remainder of the season with the guys they have.
Coming off a stinging loss by way of a walk-off single by Dodgers’ second baseman Mark Ellis, the team now stands at 55-51. Slowly sinking closer to the mediocre .500 mark, the Yanks have now fully embodied the club we all expected them to be when the season opened – a power-less, atrocious offense coupled with good, but not great pitching.
Sitting 8.5 games out of first place in the A.L. East and somehow just 3.5 games out of the Wild Card race, the Yanks are by no means “done”.
Brian Cashman Ownership brought back Alfonso Soriano, Jeter has returned, and Curtis Granderson is finishing up his rehab assignment, so the lineup will certainly be given a boost by having those guys back.
Meanwhile on the pitching front, (aside from CC and when Hughes starts at the Stadium) things have been improving. Pettitte is finding his groove again, Nova is pitching even better than in his breakout 2011 season, and Kuroda continues to be a dark horse in the A.L. Cy Young race. The bullpen continues to impress with the likes of Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan, D-Rob, and of course Mo, so there is nothing to really be concerned about there.
This is stating the obvious, but for the first time in years, the lineup is the overwhelming achilles heel to this season. Even with Sabathia’s treacherous season and Hughes’ long-ball woes, this current pitching staff coupled with any Yankees lineup from the past decade would easily win 90+ games.
But that’s the thing – this isn’t any Yankees lineup from the past decade. It’s 2013’s.
There’s no Sheffield, no Bernie, no Giambi, no Abreu, no Matsui, no Posada, no Swisher, no Teixeira, no A-Rod…must I keep going? Even with Sori, Jeet, and Grandy, they would need a Giancarlo Stanton-caliber bat added to the mix to really make them a threatening team. With the way Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and Boston are all playing, even if there are signs of improvement from the players currently on the roster, I can’t imagine it being enough in the end.
As mentioned, the Yankees are either going to make a move, or they won’t. Stanton is not on the block, nor does the team have the caliber of prospects needed to make a deal even if he was. The best hitter that could be on the move is Hunter Pence, followed by Michael Young, Nate Schierholtz, and [depending on Schierholtz] David DeJesus. Pence is adamant about staying with San Francisco, Young prefers Boston than the Bronx, and the Yankees have too many outfielders to realistically take on a Schierholtz or DeJesus.
Like I said, even if any of those guys were to be fitted for pinstripes in the next few hours, it wouldn’t make much of a difference when comparing this “Bombers” lineup to that of the Orioles, Red Sox, or even the Rays. Power is not the tell-all, be-all factor of a team, but all three clubs have, and can out-slug the Yanks, even in their own bandbox known as the new Yankee Stadium.
It would be great to see the team rally around Mariano Rivera’s final season and go out and make a valiant playoff push, but I just don’t see it happening. At it’s worse the pitching has been steadily above-average, but at it’s best the lineup is nothing close to deserving of a spot in October.
Maybe I’m being harsh, and perhaps this club as constructed could have been better in another season with less competition. But the fact remains that the Yankees picked the worst year possible to let so many core guys (Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, and Raul Ibanez) leave via free agency, and just hope that the oldest team in baseball would have one last magical run in them.
Clearly they don’t, and no matter what happens by 4 o’clock PM today, the Yanks should begin making plans to go golfing come this fall. It’s unfortunate, but we can’t act like we didn’t see this coming.
There are some things in sports that you just cannot explain. I usually try to back up any opinion I have with facts, stats and reasons. I very much try to stay away from overblown narratives and clichés. However, Derek Jeter is just a different case. There are intangibles that he brings to the table that just cannot be quantified in numbers and he proved it again on Sunday.
“He’s a movie, is what he is,” Joe Girardi told John Harper of the New York Daily News. “When you think about his 3,000th hit, how he did that, and what he did today:
“We hadn’t hit a home run since the All-Star break, we hadn’t hit a right-handed home run in months. For him to come out and do that in his first AB… he’s a movie.”
Girardi captured the moment perfectly in that quote. We have seen this many times from Jeter before, as his list of dramatic moments runs very deep. His 2000 World Series MVP vs. the Mets, his amazing backhanded flip to nail Jeremy Giambi at the plate in the 2001 ALDS, his dramatic game-winning home run of Byung-Hyun Kim in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, his amazing dive into the stands in 2004 against Boston and his 3,000th hit being a home run against David Price top the list. Sunday’s first inning home run against Matt Moore can now be added to that impressive list.
The Yankees have been desperate for any kind of spark all season. This season has been as listless as any season in recent memory. There has been no buzz around Yankee Stadium or the Yankees all season.
Jeter changed all of that Sunday. In front of a packed house to honor another great Yankee Hideki Matsui, he hit the first pitch he saw over the right field fence with his patented Jeterian swing. It was more than just a first inning solo home run. It was the first time all season that I felt like I was watching the Yankees again. Even when the Yankees were doing well with a bunch of no-name players it still didn’t feel right. Something was missing.
After Jeter broke his ankle in the playoffs vs. Detroit, re-aggravated that injury in spring training, and hurt his quad in just his first game back, obviously one had to wonder whether we would see these moments again from Jeter. Of course, this is not the first time Jeter has been counted out in his career, and he has always had an answer.
Jeter and Alfonso Soriano could have sparked a season altering win on Sunday. If the Yankees miraculously make the playoffs this year everybody will be looking back on Sunday as the turning point. Unfortunately, it was just one game, and the Yankees still have many issues.
Obviously, the horrid Yankees offense has been a problem all year. The Yankees will be counting on Jeter, Soriano, Curtis Granderson and maybe another trade deadline acquisition to change that. If those potential four new additions can stay in the lineup and be productive the Yankees might actually have a decent offense. However, the starting pitching that was always supposed to be a given is not that anymore.
CC Sabathia is stuck in the worst stretch in his career, as he had a 5.11 ERA in June and a 6.60 ERA in July. If that doesn’t change the Yankees aren’t going anywhere. Phil Hughes cannot pitch at Yankees Stadium (6.02 home ERA). Also, Andy Pettitte has started to show his age this year. So, that leaves Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova as the only two reliable starters right now. That isn’t enough with this offense.
There is no reason that the Yankees should make the playoffs this year. If Jeter can lead the charge and take this team to the postseason it would be one of the greatest accomplishments of his illustrious career. The odds are stacked against him, but that is just the way Jeter likes it. With Jeter back in the fold, a movie that started out as bleak as the 2013 Yankees season now has a glimmer of hope for a happy ending.
We will find out a lot about the Yankees very quickly as they begin the second half of the season tonight in Boston.
They currently sit six games back of Boston in the AL East and three back in the AL wild card race. The first 10 games for the Yankees after the All-Star break have the potential to be a disaster. They play three at the first place Red Sox, four in Arlington against a very talented Texas team and three at home against red hot Tampa Bay.
If I were Brian Cashman I would have desperately been working the phones trying to get an impact bat over the All-Star break because if he waits until after this 10 game stretch it might be too late.
Here are five things to watch over the Yankees second half of the season:
1. What happens at the trade deadline?
The Yankees have recently been linked to Chase Headley and Asrdubal Cabrera and both would be huge gets for the Yankees. Unfortunately, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com wrote that Padres have little interest in dealing Headley despite his down year.
Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain will be continued to be shopped by the Yankees, and it will be interesting to see what happens with them. I do believe that Hughes will be moved because the starting pitching market is very thin, and the Yankees can sell teams on his home/road splits this year. Although, Joel Sherman of the New York Post, wrote that the Yankees would be o.k. with keeping Hughes and offering him a qualifying offer this winter.
As I mentioned earlier, I believe that the time for Cashman to try to strike is right now with this brutal 10 game stretch upcoming. I would be looking for players who are under team control for a few years. I would not be giving up big prospects for rentals this year, since I believe that the Yankees are more than one bat away from being championship contenders this season.
2. Will Ivan Nova’s progression continue?
Nova’s development will probably be the number one thing I will be watching for over the second half. He has looked terrific over his last two starts, as he has 17 strikeouts to only three walks. Nova has always had the talent and if he can finally put it together it will be huge for the future for the Yankees, who have had a tough time developing their own starting pitchers.
What is fascinating about Nova is how he has completely transformed himself as a pitcher from his solid rookie season in which he went 16-4. He only averaged 92.6 MPH and he only was not a strikeout pitcher (5.33 K/9) in that rookie season. He had success because he was able to keep the ball on the ground with his sinker (52.7 GB%), but most thought that he would not have long term success unless he was able to get more strikeouts.
Nova added a slider to his repertoire in 2012 to try to remedy this issue. He threw it 14% of the time and he raised his K/9 to 8.08, but he also allowed a lot of hard contact (16.6% HR/FB%) because he missed location to often with his fastball and that new slider. Also, Nova’s GB% went down to 45.2%.
This year, Nova has mostly scrapped the slider, as he has only thrown it 3.4% of the time compared to 33.5% for his curve ball. Over his last two starts, Nova has thrown 66 curves, 43 of them have been for strikes and 17 of them have induced whiffs. When you combine that dominant curve with a fastball that has been in the 94-97 MPH range, you have a pitcher that has the potential for greatness. His GB% is back up to 51.4% this year, so hitters are really having a hard time getting good contact on his hard sinker.
3. How much will Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez contribute?
The first question with them is how much will they play? Rodriguez hit a home run for Triple-A Scranton last night and appears set to rejoin the Yankees in Texas on Monday. We should find out more about Jeter’s status today. If Jeter and Rodriguez can stay on the field it will be pretty much impossible for them to not be upgrades, as Yankee shortstops have a slash line of .214/.271/.268/.539 with a 46 wRC+ and Yankee third basemen have a slash line of .218/.281/.293/.574 with a 57 wRC+. They should also add some much needed excitement and buzz to the team as well.
4. What is the plan for Michael Pineda?
At Triple-A Scranton last night, Pineda threw 4.2 scoreless innings and struck out eight. He was dominant in the first three innings before throwing a lot of pitches over the fourth and fifth innings. Right now, with Nova pitching well and Hughes still in New York, the Yankees do not have room for Pineda in their rotation. If there is an injury, or Hughes is traded, than Pineda can slide right in. The Yankees should try to get Pineda to New York as quickly as possible to get more information on what they can expect out of him next year.
If the Yankees continue with their $189 million plan they will need cheap starting pitchers, and Pineda can be one of them. It would be good for him to get as much experience as he can this year and it will be very interesting to see what he looks like if he does come up to the big league club.
5. Can CC Sabathia turn it around?
Sabathia had an uncharacteristically average first half, as he was only 9-8 with a 4.07 ERA. His average fastball velocity has only been 90.6 MPH, although it has been better later in the season. Sabathia has not fully adjusted to pitching with his loss of velocity yet and when he has missed location with his fastball he has gotten hit hard. Sabathia has also had a bit of hard luck this season, as his 3.53 xFIP is very solid. His slider and changeup are still great pitches, and Sabathia has still been an innings eating machine, which is still an under appreciated aspect of his game. I still believe that he is capable of pitching like the Sabathia of old and hopefully we see that in the second half of the season.
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.
The last verse of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” can perfectly be applied to the current state of baseball’s most championed franchise, the New York Yankees.
Yes, the team has continued to make the playoffs and be perennial contenders, but things haven’t been the same and the times surely began to change when the “dynasty” era of Yankees baseball came to a crashing end on July 13th, 2010.
This of course was when George Steinbrenner passed away due to a massive heart attack at the age of 80. His death came just two days after long-time public address announcer Bob Sheppard, known as “The Voice of God”, passed on as well at the ripe old age of 99. Two seemingly immortal figures of the organization were gone in a flash.
Admittedly, both legendary men had disappeared from the public years prior. Due to deteriorating health, Sheppard could no longer muster the strength needed to do his job, as he announced his last game in person on September 5th, 2007. He would later officially retire in November of 2009.
The Boss, on the other hand, made the decision himself to step down as the day-to-day operator of the team. On November 20th, 2008, his sons Hal and Hank Steinbrenner officially became the co-owners of the Yankees, with Hal becoming the managing general partner as well.
George had faith in them, so everyone else did too. And Hal gave no reason to think otherwise when he went out and signed CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixiera all to huge free agent contracts during his first winter as the owner of his dad’s most prized possession. Spending in excess of $400 million, the phrase “like father, like son” held true when he put the Yankees in a position win the World Series in 2009.
Which they did on November 4th, 2009, with George Steinbrenner watching from his home in Tampa, Florida. The Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in six games to capture, what seemed like, an elusive 27th championship since losing the 2001 Fall Classic to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Sitting high up in the grandstands that night, I can recall, “Boss, this is for you!” displayed across the Yankee Stadium jumbo-tron. And it was true – the Yanks had won this for George. They sensed his morality and Hal wanted to ensure that if his dad’s life was coming to an end, one of his last memories could be watching his Yankees win the World Series, as George once said that breathing is the only thing better than winning.
So, when The Boss did pass on eight months later, the Bombers were the defending champions and in first place, which was probably the only way he could envision leaving the earth.
And it was that day, as I said, when times really started to change. The Yankees lost control of the AL East and settled for the Wild Card in 2010, losing in the ALCS to the Texas Rangers. Of course, the Yankees had far worse seasons under The Boss’ reign, but you really felt his absence, especially in the following offseason. The Yanks attempted to sign lefty ace Cliff Lee to a contract similar to the one Sabathia received, yet they couldn’t quite close the deal as Lee went back to the Phillies.
Once Cliff spurned the Yankees, the team didn’t know what to do, and most probably were looking back on some foolish moves made once The Boss stepped down as the team’s owner. On December 9th, 2009, the Yankees traded two of their most highly touted prospects, Austin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, in a three-team deal to get Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson. New York had decided to sacrifice its future for immediate success, something that George had been turned away from doing for years.
Now, there is no denying that The Boss had looked into, and nearly pulled the trigger on, trading the Core Four and other players such as Bernie Williams and Robinson Cano early in each of their respective careers. But when George felt the need to upgrade the team for a particular season, there were guys like Buck Showalter and Gene “Stick” Michael to convince him to hold onto the future stars.
Buck was, of course, fired by George after 1995, and Stick left his position as vice president of the team in 2002. It can be argued that with their departures, went the genius scouting of the Yanks that they had lacked for decades, and once again are in need of. As mentioned, with the Granderson trade, the Yankees mindlessly dealt top prospects for what will turn out to be a three-year rental of a potent, yet strike-out prone outfield bat. Meanwhile, Jackson has become one of the best lead-off men in the game with the Tigers, and Kennedy was an N.L. Cy Young candidate in 2011 with Arizona.
That trade, along with the one for Javier Vazquez weeks later, are moves that wouldn’t have happened if The Boss and his “cabinet”, if you will, were still here. They had the guts to stand up to George and tell him he was wrong, and he had the trust in his advisors to realize that and pull back or prevent any franchise-altering moves to go down. In the three years since he died, there’s already been a slew of those types of trades, and not for the better. Don’t even remind me of the Montero-Pineda deal, which, while we can’t judge quite yet, certainly hasn’t benefited the Yankees at all.
At the same time, while trading away and failing to develop solid prospects, the Yankees haven’t dipped back into the free agent market for any impactful players either. This has left them to piecemeal together their roster over the past few years, signing players off the scrap-heap and simply getting lucky that they actually perform well. The Yanks ran out of such luck towards the end of 2011, resulting in a disappointing ALDS loss, and in 2012 Derek Jeter broke his ankle and the team was subsequently swept out of the ALCS.
While consistently making it into October is universally considered a successful streak of seasons, every year since George Steinbrenner died, it just feels like the franchise is pushing itself farther and farther away from a championship. Although 2013 can perhaps be considered a fluke season considering all the injuries, the Yankees are in a dire situation for the future. Their top prospects are either just drafted or still in the lower levels of the minor league system, and their lone star is Robinson Cano, who is an impending free agent. Their headlining talent of the past such as Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia, are all either injured, aging, and past their primes, or perhaps a combination of all three. Relying on them to be key contributors at this point is downright foolish, and won’t garner the results the team may hope for as far as October appearances are concerned.
A reluctancy to spend, coupled with an ignorance to focus on developing the farm system, the Yankees have little to offer their fans that would make them, first of all, return to Yankee Stadium and turn their TVs back on to the YES Network. And second, sense a 28th world championship soon to be won.
You may blame it on the scouting. You may blame it on the front office. Heck, you may blame it on the baseball gods giving the Yankees hell for the first time in decades. But the fact remains that since The Boss passed away three years ago today, things haven’t, and probably never will be the same.
As Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez continue their minor league rehab assignments it has becoming increasingly clear how desperate the Yankees are for them to return. The Yankees lost their third straight game yesterday and they only scored one run in each of the three losses.
After four hits only netted them one run against James Shields, the Yankees only got two hit’s the rest of the game. That is how things have gone for the Yankees lately, as they have only one home run over their last 74 innings. Nobody knows what Jeter and Rodriguez will be when they get to the Bronx, but they for sure cannot make things any worse.
Jeter seems set to return for the weekend series against the Twins, while it seems like Rodriguez’s rehab will take a little longer. Rodriguez still has a possible MLB suspension looming for his involvement in the Biogenesis case, but he would likely appeal if that occurred and would be able to continue playing until the appeal is heard.
Obviously Jeter and Rodriguez are big improvements over Eduardo Nunez, Alberto Gonzalez and Luis Cruz. That goes without saying. Yankees third basemen this year have a slash line of .220/.282/.368/.650 with a .289 wOBA and 58 wRC+ and Yankees shortstops have a slash line of .215/.272/.320/.592 with a .245 wOBA and 47 wRC+. That is beyond hideous.
Jeter and Rodriguez as diminished players should be easily able to top those numbers. I would be more concerned about Rodriguez’s hip than Jeter’s ankle because the hip is more of a chronic issue,. Once Jeter’s broken ankle is healed then it’s healed. Obviously, staying on the field will be the biggest key to both Jeter and Rodriguez contributing down the stretch of the season.
Rodriguez’s decline last season was overstated, as his .342 w/OBA and 114 wRC+ both ranked 8th among MLB third basemen. So, he still produced like a top 10 MLB third baseman just last season. Sure, his power numbers were down, but he still had a pretty good season last year and the Yankees would be absolutely thrilled if he were able to put them up again.
Jeter is unlikely to repeat his stellar season from last year, when his slash line was .316/.362/.429/.791 and he posted a .347 wOBA. However, as previously stated, Jeter as a diminished player is a big upgrade over the garbage the Yankees have been throwing out at shortstop this year. Also, the intangibles and leadership that he brings to the table should only help as well.
One thing that Jeter and Rodriguez will bring to this Yankees season is buzz, energy and excitement, which the Yankees have been lacking all season with their egregious offense. Perhaps that energy will light a spark under the current players and the Yankees could go on a run. Maybe Jeter and Rodriguez being fresh will help them catch lightning in a bottle down the stretch of the season. Nobody knows how Jeter and Rodriguez will perform, but everybody knows that the current players at shortstop and third base are certainly not the answers.
Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis began their rehab assigment in Double A Trenton this morning and it could not come at a better time for the Yankees. When the Yankees were playing great baseball behind great pitching and newcomers like Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, and Lyle Overbay getting the job done, many Yankees fans were saying how they did not want veterans like Mark Texiera, Kevin Youkilis, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez to come back. That was an insane notion then and it is proving true right now.
The Yankees are now 6-7 in their last 13 games and have scored four or fewer runs in nine of those 13 games, including less than two runs in five of those games. The Yankees have averaged a pitiful 3.7 runs per game in May. You can only ask your starters to pitch great under those circumstances for so long and expect your bullpen to hold every one run lead you give them. Obviously, over the last two games David Robertson and Mariano Rivera each blew a game, but those losses were on the offense for only scoring a combined two runs in those games.
The middle of the order for the Yankees struggling has been the main reason for their terrible offensive output in May. Robinson Cano is only hitting .247/.311/.464/.775 in May and the Yankees need him to carry them like he did in April. Cano is hitting .328/.403/.672/1.075 with 11 home runs in Yankee wins and .235/.261/.341/.603 with two home runs in Yankee losses. That tells you all you need to know. Cano has not gotten much support in May either, as Vernon Wells (.229/.260/.375/.635 in May) and Travis Hafner (.190/.309/.328/.636 in May) have cooled off considerably. When you combine those players not playing well with the black holes the Yankees have at catcher, shortstop and right field, you are not going to score many runs.
It is obvious that Teixeira and Youkilis are needed. However, as Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues points out, they are coming back at postions where the Yankees have gotten good production. Lyle Overbay and David Adams have held up very well at first and third base. Texiera and Youkilis will be upgrades over them, but their real issues are at shortstop, catcher, and the outfield.
However, they will not be getting reinforcements at those positions anytime soon. Curtis Granderson will be inactive for at least four weeks and will probably take about two more weeks to rehab. Derek Jeter is nowhere near returning and Francisco Cervelli just got the pins out of his hand and has not started to rehab yet. The Yankees made their own bed at these positions in the offseason, as they willing let Russell Martin and Nick Swisher go and did not adequately replace them. Also, they did nothing to upgrade at utility infielder when they knew Jeter was an injury question mark.
The Yankees have a tough roster conundrum with Teixeira and Youkilis coming back. The Yankees are short on outfielders and it will be hard to carry Overbay and Hafner, since between them both they can only play one position. Ivan Nova will probably be the pitcher out of the bullpen sent to Triple A, but who goes with him is the question. The options are to send Brennan Boesch or Adams to Triple A or DFA Overbay. Sending Adams down would be the easy call, since you can always bring him back up, but he would be the best option as a DH against righties at the moment. Boesch is easily the worst player out of the three, but if you send him down than Jayson Nix is your fourth outfielder. You can probably get by like that for a little while, but long term having Nix as your fourth outfielder will not work. That is why Overbay may not be on this team for much longer.
This is not meant to discredit Overbay at all, as he has filled in better than anybody could have hoped for, but people need to pump the brakes on him a little bit. He is only hitting .251/.295/.468/.763, which is not great for a first baseman. Teixeira at his worst does much better than that. Overbay has been a great clutch player for the Yankees this season, but you cannot rely on that to continue. Good “clutch” hitting is more statistical randomness than anything sustainable because it is not really a skill.
For people who say Teixeira isn’t clutch he hit .390/.466/.932/1.398 in late and close games last year, .289/.360./.578/938 in high leverage situations and .285/.370/.646/1.016 in innings 7-9, so that is just a narrative and a fallacy that he doesn’t get any big hits. Unfortunately, if Teixeira starts out slow he will hear about it, but that is just silliness, as Overbay is nowhere near the player Teixeira is and there is a reason he was released by Boston three days before the end of spring training. Once Teixeira proves he is healthy there is not really room for Overbay on the team anymore. Obviously, that is not fair to him, but unfortunately it’s the business and the reality of the situation. Overbay would be a great option to pinch hit late in games for the catcher, shortstop or Ichiro, but again can you really afford to have Nix as your fourth outfielder for six weeks?
I am really excited to get Teixeira and Youkilis back. It has been frustrating watching bad hitters take bad at bats lately. Unfortunately, like I said before you will still have three terrible hitters batting seventh, eighth and ninth but at least the middle of the order will be more intimidating. People telling themselves that the Yankees are better off without the veterans hopefullt have seen over the last few weeks why they are dead wrong. What do you guys think should happen when Teixeira and Youkilis come back? What would your roster moves be?
Ever since 1989, John Sterling has been in the broadcast booth calling Yankees games through thick and thin. He’s entertaining, he’s interesting and one of the few radio announcers I can turn to when it’s time to mute a FOX game. One of the reasons that I enjoy listening to Sterling is for his inventive and interesting home-run calls. His home-run calls are one of those staples that are needed to be memorized by every Yankees fan. Over the years, he has created home-run calls that cannot be forgotten. Remember Bernie William’s famous home-run call “Bern Baby Bern” or Tino Martinez‘s “Bam-Tino?” Yep, that was John Sterling’s entertaining mind. When a new Yankee hits a home-run, fans turn and ask “What’s John Sterling’s home-run call for this player?” Well, being the John Sterling radio fanatic that I am, I compiled a list of some of our favorite New York Yankees home-run calls for the players on the current team. (that includes our new Yankees brethren as well).
Brett Gardner: Brett Gardner has two home-run calls, depending of the mood that John Sterling is. Personally, I love hearing them both since Gardner rarely hits HR’s. The first one is fun to say because he went yard, yet the second one is a pun on his last name ‘Gardner’ which is an actual word.
1) “Gardy goes Yardy!”
2) “Gardner plants one in the (left or right) field seats!”
Ichiro Suzuki: Ichiro’s home-run call. I felt like John Sterling could have been more inventive with Ichiro’s home-run call, but it is what it is.
“Ichiro, the Yankees rising son, says sayonara.”
Curtis Granderson: The second home-run call is one of my favorites. The first one is a pun on his last name, but the second one you get to sing! Every time Granderson goes to bat, I find myself singing it. I can’t wait to start singing it when Granderson comes back from the DL.
1) “Isn’t he something sort of Grand-ish?”
2) “Oh, the Grandyman Can! Oh, the Grandyman can!”
Derek Jeter: Derek Jeter is the captain of the Yankees, so his home-run call is rather fitting.
Mark Teixeira: Mark Teixeria is another one of those Yankees that has two home run calls. I actually enjoy the first one more since it’s a pun on getting a text message. (And I like to look at my smartphone and ask why haven’t I got a ‘Tex’ Message yet when he goes to the plate).
1) “Mark sends a Tex Message to the (left or right) field seats!
2) “You’re on the Mark, Teixeira”
Alex Rodriguez: Everyone knows A-Rod’s HR call. It’s not a secret.
“An A-Bomb for A-Rod.”
Robinson Cano: If I were John Sterling, I would trademark this home-run call. It’s became a very popular saying among Yankees fans.
“Robbie Cano, Don’t Ya Know!”
Francisco Cervelli: I personally am a sucker for this home-run call. It simply reminds me of food.
“Cisco the Kid Cerv’s one up!”
Travis Hafner: All right, I love John Sterling and all but…this call was L-A-M-E! It lacks the magic. Did Sterling figure that he wasn’t going to be a Yankee past this season and gave him a home-run call that was sad yet lame?
1) “The Pronx Bomber.”
2) “A Hafner Homer.”
Vernon Wells: So Vernon Wells has two HR calls that are slightly better than Travis Hafner’s. Wells’s walk-up song may be awesome…but his HR call is something that’s almost cringe-worthy.
1) “The Bronx is Vernon.”
2) “Wells rings the bells.”
Kevin Youkilis: So all of my favorite things in life has to have carbon copies of something? My favorite T.V show has carbon copies of the original characters and Kevin Youkilis’s HR call is a carbon copy of Alex Rodriguez’s.
“A Nuke for Youk.”
Yeah, that was really inventive.
Yep, we may love them and we may hate them but the John Sterling HR calls are iconic to the Yankees. When a new Yankee hits a home-run, you never know what call John Sterling could come up with.
When the baseball season starts, fans usually go to the ball park in order to take in nine innings of glorious baseball. As much as I enjoy going to the ball park to hear the crack of the bat, the fans cheering loudly and the food, I usually love going to the ball park in order to listen to the walk-up music of the Yankees. Music is one of my biggest passions, and to me the Yankees have done more than play great baseball over the years; they’ve also introduced me to new music and have filled up my iTunes with songs that I listen to on a consistent basis. Since Opening Day for the Yankees is tomorrow, I went on the Yankees website, found the list to some of the Yankees walk-up songs and took a listen to them, introducing myself to the different types of music that our players listen to.
1. Brennan Boesch: Brennan Boesch didn’t waste any time in choosing his songs for the 2013 season as he went and chose two songs for his walk-up music. The first song was “Sail” by Awolnation. When I first took a listen to the song, I found it intimidating in a good way. It’s not as intimidating as Evan Longoria‘s walk-up song (which is arguably one of the best walk-up songs in the Major Leagues), but it makes you think that something big is coming. The second song that Boesch chose was “We’ll Be Fine” by Drake. This is one of those songs that has you nodding your head while Boesch comes to the plate. Boesch hasn’t played a real game for the Yankees yet, but if I must applaud him on one thing, it’s his good taste in music.
2. Brett Gardner: I have to admit that before I started watching Gardner play baseball, I did not listen to country music; at all. But in 2011, Gardner had “Dirt Road Anthem” by Jason Aldean as one of his walk-up songs and ever since then, half my iTunes is consumed with country music. This year, Gardner went with “Hell On Wheels” by Brantely Gilbert which is another great country song. Now, let’s hope that Gardner’s 2013 season is as dynamite as his walk-up song choice.
3. Chris Stewart: Chris Stewart is close to having one of the best walk-up songs on the Yankees if he only played the first twenty seconds of the song over the P.A. Stewart’s song choice is “Forsaken” by Skillet and if there’s one thing I must say, is that the guitar riffs were amazing. I wouldn’t normally listen to music like this, but after today now I would. Now, all he has to do is play on a consistent basis so I could heart this song over and over at the ball park. I wouldn’t mind paying money for that.
4. Curtis Granderson: We all remember the famous video where Curtis Granderson was picking his at-bat music and then almost cried when he chose “Friday.” Well, maybe all those hours of going through his laptop did the Grandy Man some good. His walk-up song (when he comes back) is none other than “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See (Instrumental)” by Busta Rhymes. Not too fond of the lyrics, but I do love the beat, so a smart move by Granderson in just using the instrumental.
5. David Robertson: We all know that David Robertson is an Alabama boy. He was born in Tuscaloosa and he is constantly helping his hometown with High Socks For Hope. So it doesn’t surprise me that his walk-up song is the awesome “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s actually a good thing I know about this now because I made a deadly mistake in asking my Twitter followers last season what D-Rob’s walk-up song was. Let’s just say they weren’t too happy with me during the game when they found out I seriously didn’t know. Well, I know now and it’s an awesome song. I’m looking forward to the 8th inning where I could sit back and listen to the tune that introduces us to the Yankees favorite set-up man.
6. Derek Jeter: The Captain won’t be there on Opening Day for us to hear his walk-up music but he made sure that he chose a song. I’m not too fond of rap music but, “Otis” by Jay-Z and Kanye West was a decent choice by Jeter. It would be nice to hear it at Yankee Stadium when The Captain returns, but in the meantime I guess the closest we can hear this song is on Youtube (and on iTunes if you have it already).
7. Hiroki Kuroda: Hiroki Kuroda has some great taste in music! Kuroda’s walk-up music is “The Whip” by Locksley and when I heard it for the first time, I heard some influence of ‘The Beatles’ in the chorus of the song. It’s nice that Kuroda was able to take us back to the good music–without actually taking us all the way back to the 1960’s.
8. Ivan Nova: Ah, is there nothing better than listening to some awesome Spanish music at Yankee Stadium? That’s what Ivan Nova introduced to the fans when he made his walk-up choice “Marta La Reina” by Antony Santos. This is one of those songs where you can’t help but get up from your seat and start dancing. According to the Yankees website, I don’t think it’s available for purchase but they have the song on Youtube where you can hear it over and over and over. It’s actually a great song to hear on a Sunday morning (with your headphones on).
9. Mariano Rivera: Mariano Rivera’s song choice is as fitting as his role on the Yankees. When the Yankees have a lead and they go to the 9th inning, Mariano Rivera comes in the game and puts it to bed, dubbing him “The Sandman.” Rivera’s song choice is the best song choice by far on the Yankees with “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. The guitar riffs in the song are simply amazing and when Yankees fans hear it, they can’t help but get excited, knowing that the greatest closer of all time is coming in to make the opposing team’s offense go to sleep. Yankees fans better soak in all of “Enter Sandman” that they can this season, since Rivera plans on retiring at the end of the season. I know I’ll soak up every moment.
10. Mark Teixeira: If there’s anyone that we can count on to take us back to when rap music was at it’s best, it’s Mark Teixeira. His song choice “It’s Tricky” by Run D.M.C is a great way to pay a homage to rap at it’s finest. Of course, we expect nothing less of Teixeira since he has been famously known of using classics from the Twisted Sisters in the past. But Teixeira didn’t stop there. His second song choice was “This Town” by O.A.R. which is one of my favorite songs. Teixeira hit a home run with his song choices and I can’t wait until he gets back on the field so we can hear it blaring from the P.A speakers.
11. Phil Hughes: Phil Hughes’s walk-up song is pretty vague. There’s no artist next to his song choice “Tomorrowland” so I did a search on Youtube and it sounds more like Hughes is ready for summer in a club than ready to play baseball. If this is his song, I’m not too fond of the techno-beat, but I can see it getting fans excited.
12. Robinson Cano: Robinson Cano simply outdid everyone when it came to choosing songs. He didn’t choose two songs, he went the extra mile and chose three! His first song was “El Que No Aguante La Presion” by Secreto El Biberon which is a great song choice. It reminds me of summer like Hughes’s song choice, but Cano’s song reminds me more of running through fire hydrants that have water coming out of them than the club. Cano’s second song choice was “Me Kitee” by Black Point. Again, it reminded me of summer. Cano’s last song was “Te Prendo” by Chimbala. As far as Spanish songs go, all three of Cano’s song choices hit it out of the ball park. Simply great. If his goal was to get Yankees fans on their feet while he comes to bat, he succeeded.
13. Vernon Wells: I’m not a fan of rap music, but if you choose a song with Dr. Dre and Eminem, then you are in my good graces for the entire season. And that’s exactly what Vernon Wells did by choosing “Forgot About Dre” by Dr. Dre & Eminem. The beat is fantastic and this was when rap was still at it is greatest. It’s great that someone chose a throwback song, and now I will await his arrival to the plate just to hear this awesome song.
The Yankees choosing their own walk-up music is a way for them to connect to their fans. It shows fans what kind of music their idols like and in their own way, they introduce you to music you may have never heard of before. The Yankees are always winners in the fans eyes, but they’ve become more than. They’re role models with impeccable taste in music. So the next time you go to the ball park, open your ears when your favorite Yankee goes to the plate. You just might have a new favorite song that you’ll want as soon as you get home.
Turning 39 years old this June, Derek Jeter has re-iterated over the past few years that age is simply just a number to him and the rest of his veteran teammates.
Of course, most baseball minds have thought otherwise, saying as they have in prior offseasons that this upcoming season will be the season the old guard finally breaks down and prevents the Yankees from making the playoffs.
“I’ve heard it before,” Jeter told the New York Post in response to the skepticism. “Regardless of how old anyone is, it’s our job to come here and be ready to play and help us compete. We’ve been able to do that pretty successfully over the years. Our plans don’t change.”
It’s definitely great to hear The Captain having that mindset, and he’s right. With the old age and doubt at its highest, the Yanks have won consecutive division titles and made two ALCS appearances in three years. Mind you, the reason there was even a chance for a pennant last October was thanks to a 40-year old carrying the team on his back in the late innings – Raul Ibanez.
So whether it’s the experience factor, fate, plain luck, or some other reason, time nor age has phased this Yankees team. They have remained just as big a threat to win the World Series as they were when Robinson Cano was a teenager in the late nineties.
Without saying its a problem, however, the oldest guys on the roster must do the un-expected once again to keep the Yanks at the top of the American League’s totem pole.
That may have been stating the obvious, but the team is definitely centered around a group of extraordinary, extra-old veterans who somehow have kept up with the rest of MLB over the past decade. Jeter (38), Andy Pettitte (40), Hiroki Kuroda (38), Ichiro Suzuki (39), and Mariano Rivera (43) are absolutely essential parts of this year’s ball-club. As I said, it’s not too often players their age are still in the game, let alone performing at a high level.
Now is it fair to doubt them, with all they’ve done in each of their careers? No. But people will, and have some reason to do so. To think that these players can lead the team through a six-month season and still have it in them to keep it up [hopefully] in October is a lot to ask. It’s not impossible, but I wouldn’t consider it the most likely scenario.
I refuse to say this will be the year the Yankees’ age finally catches up to them, as each year in thinking that they surprise me and win the division. They are not too old to compete, but we’ve seen in the past few seasons the team dominating in the regular season, and just running out of gas come October. Things could change between now and September, but a realistic take on the 2013 Yankees is that they have the talent to return to the postseason. But their efforts to win in the postseason may again derail their quest for a 28th title.