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Fireworks should always be handled by someone who is careful and responsible. That is why there are some restrictions or caution when it comes to selling them to kids. Well irony reared its ugly head once again. During the Atlanta Braves home opener against the New York Mets this past Tuesday, fireworks were set off when one them accidentally struck the American Flag, causing it to catch on fire. Apparently (and pretty much obviously), the firework display was a little too close to the flag, which is the reason why the incident occurred.  “Long may our land be bright. With freedom’s holy light”

 

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Not surprisingly, the St. Louis Cardinals are once again the favorites to win the NL Central. They should win it because the Pirates will take a step backward, the Reds and Brewers will only slightly improve, and the Cubs are, well, the Cubs.

So, beyond the division title, how far should Cardinal fans—and the fans of their opponents—expect the Redbirds to go?

Unless the Cardinals solve their power problem at the plate, the Cardinals’ run will end short of a World Series title. True, the starting rotation will terrorize opponents from April to the beginning of October, but in the playoffs the enormous pitching advantage will diminish, especially if they run into the Dodgers again. But even if they get past the NLCS, eventually the lack of power will catch up to Matheny’s crew.

The Cardinals lost their number one power threat in Carlos Beltran and are depending on Matt Adams to duplicate his 17 HRs/319 PAs rate over an entire season. But Adams struggled against better pitching as the playoffs wore on, and it is unlikely he will hit 30+ homers now that pitchers have seen that Adams has little plate discipline. Holliday’s power has diminished, indicating that his late-career power decline has begun. Allen Craig dipped to just thirteen home runs in 2013, yet he should increase that number to around the 20-mark this season, but do not expect more than 25.

None of the Cardinals’ additions will provide very much pop. Jhonny Peralta was added mainly to maintain Pete Kozma’s level of defense while greatly improving on Kozma’s dismal hitting, but the Cardinals are not expecting too many homers. Peter Bourjos replaces the defense-challenged Jon Jay, but his power is negligible.

True, power can mean more than home runs. Holliday, Craig, and Matt Carpenter should pound out more than 100 doubles. But as lines of disparity among the best teams converge, home runs are needed to inflict maximum damage in a given at-bat, generating game-changing instant runs, as the Cardinals discovered in 2011 and 2014 (in and against their favor). In losing Beltran, the Cardinals lost a crucial threat that they never came close to replacing in the off-season. Unless Matt Adams has a breakout year or GM John Mozeliak brings in power by trading one or more of his pitchers during the season, the Cardinals and their fans may celebrate plenty—just not a World Series championship.

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Barry Bonds returned to the San Francisco Giants for a week as a guest instructor during Spring Training.  He was kind and  in a good mood.   The reason he is doing this is so he could return to the game as a coach.   He should not be in the game or in the Hall of Fame because he used Performance Enhancing Drugs to achieve his home run record.   His home run record of 762 is not legitimate due to his use, and his surly behavior toward teammates and the press.     I will never recognized his record and the baseball writers should keep him out of the  Hall of Fame to protect the integrity of the game.   On April 4th  it will be the 40th anniversary of the real record holder surpassing Babe Ruth with home run 715.   That man is Hank Aaron and he is the real home run king.

 

Ahh yes, good ole’ ESPN with another blunder! This time with Barry Bonds and his 762 Home Runs he had in the NBA! Yes I said the NBA, that is according to ESPN anyway!

 

 

 

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Torii Hunter posted a picture on Instagram of him kissing an alligator after teammate Justin Verlander had dared him to do so. Hunter admitted that he “#stillfearit” even after the kiss. It would be funny to see Torii Hunter to go on and have a career year, breaking personal and even MLB records this season! If he does, may Hunter could have a new pregame ritual by kissing an alligator before each game!

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Derek Jeter has publicly announced via Facebook that the 2014 Major League Baseball (MLB) will be his last.

Former New York Yankees Bench Coach Don Zimmer made a statement back in 2009 regarding Derek Jeter “He might go down, when it’s all over, as the all time Yankee.” Perhaps a bold statement to make considering the other of handful of greats who have dawned the navy pinstripes. Names like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gerhig, Joe Dimaggio, Don Mattingly along many other Yankee greats. But when you think about it and put the numbers and accolades together, Don Zimmer is right!

 

After a brief call up in 1995, Derek Jeter has been a mainstay of the New York Yankees since 1996, in which he would be named that year’s “American League Rookie of the Year”. During his time in New York Jeter helped the Yankees to five world series championships and was named the 2000 World Series MVP. Along with his A.L. Rookie of the Year and world series championships and MVP, Jeter has been voted to 13 All-Star Games, is both a 5 time Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award winner, and a recipient of the A.L. Hank Aaron Award twice. Jeter is a also member of the prestigious 3,000 Hit Club (And the only New York Yankee and player to achieve the feat playing on one team) and is currently in the top 10 for the most hits in MLB history (3,316). Jeter also holds team records for most games played and stolen bases, records previously held by Mickey Mantle and Ricky Henderson respectively. To date Jeter has a life time batting average of .312, with 256 Home Runs and 1,261 runs batted in (RBI).

It is easy to see why Derek Jeter will be one of the first names you think of when you hear or discuss some of the New York Yankees all time greats.  Jeter himself stated  “I want to be remembered as someone who had a lot of respect for the game, his teammates and opponents, and I want to be remembered as a winner. But most importantly I want to be remembered as a Yankee”. When the 2014 season comes to a close, there is no denying the historical impact not only on the New York Yankees, but Major League Baseball as a whole that Derek Jeter will have made!

 

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Derek Jeter announced on his Facebook page that the 2014 season will be his last in a New York Yankee uniform.   Jeter has been a 13 time All-Star, 1996 American League Rookie of the Year, 11 years was the Captain of the Yankees, 5 Gold Gloves,  5 time World Series Champion, an All-Star and World Series MVP, and a member of the 3,000 hit club.     Jeter has always performance under in the harsh glare of New York City, plus the pressure of being in the playoffs and World Series.   Jeter is single and had women throwing themselves at him, but he never had a public misstep.  When he retires Jeter will continue his charity work via his Turn 2 Foundation and start-up his business ventures.    He has hinted that he would love to own a team and start a family, plus being able to travel and have a summer vacation.   Expect the Yankees to retire his number 2 after this season or sometime in the near future.

Alex Rodriguez decided to drop his lawsuits against Major League Baseball and the Players Union.  He realized that it was a no win situation.   Plus whatever left of his career could be salvaged, and if he wants to remain in baseball either a broadcaster or involved as a coach.   Rodriguez will serve his suspension for the 2014 season and might return next season. There is one question will the New York Yankees either buy out the remainder of this contract or release him. What about his Hall of Fame status that could be in several jeopardy.  Rodriguez would love to remain in baseball after in his playing career is over either as coach, a broadcaster, or in a front office capacity.  For the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball there is no black cloud of an Alex Rodriguez lawsuit, but instead they can both get ready for the 2014 season.

The Pirates have not done a lot in the off-season, and that hurts after a season that ended 21 years of losing, plus the National League Wild Card berth.   Pitcher A.J Burnett said in an interview after the season said that he was going to resign with the Pirates or retire.   However, there have been reports that the Orioles and the Nationals could sign him.    The Pirates have missed out some free agent pitching such as Bronson Arroyo waiting for Burnett.   They did sign Edison Volquez to help their pitching  staff and dealing with the return of Wandy Rodriguez from an arm injury.

The Pirates have been in talks with free agent first baseman Kendrys Morales, but a price that they want, but they could get other first basement like Mitch Moreland, Ike Davis, and Adam Lind via the trade.    Spring Training is right around the corner and the Pirates could still fill their holes and go after another playoff berth.

Stephen Drew would solve several problems for the Yankees’ infield. Photo courtesy ESPN.com

By now, everyone who follows baseball is well aware of the spending spree the New York Yankees went on this winter to upgrade a roster that finished third in the American League East, and out of the playoffs for just the second time since 1994. While many believe the Yankees’ overall lineup is better and longer 1-9 than it was a season ago, many questions still surround a team that has spent close to half a billion dollars in free agent signings.

With pitchers and catchers reporting in nine days, the Yankees still have several questions to answer not only with their roster heading into spring training, but questions to answer once spring training begins. Today’s entry will ask the questions–and attempt to answer them given the available information.

1. Who will be the 5th starter? The free agent market is still slow-moving for Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, along with several other lower-tier starting pitchers that remain available. Compensatory draft picks are attached to both Jimenez and Santana because each declined their former team’s qualifying offers to remain with their respective clubs for one more season. With the value placed on draft picks, teams are unwilling to part with those picks to sign less than stellar top-tier free agent pitchers. Of the two, Jimenez makes the most sense for the Yankees, as Santana would be a more expensive version of Phil Hughes…a home run machine. If Jimenez’s price comes down, don’t count out the Yankees to swoop in and snag him, draft pick be damned. General manager Brian Cashman says the Yankees are done spending money, but I’m not buying it.

What about their in-house options? I’ve been a fan of Michael Pineda since his rookie season in Seattle. If he comes to camp healthy, at the tender age of 25, he could be the surprise of the season for the Yankees. For whatever reason Pineda falters, then the Yankees have a mixed bag of options to choose from. David Phelps has been up and down throughout his short big league career, and I believe is better situated as a mop-up guy or long reliever. Lefty Vidal Nuno is the one who intrigues me. In a handful of games in 2013, he impressed Joe Girardi with his poise and grittiness for handling the pressure of pitching at the big league level. A groin injury ended Nuno’s season prematurely, and if Pineda isn’t the guy, I would love to see the rotation book-ended by two lefties.

2. Is David Robertson ready to close? That is the question on everyone’s mind as camp opens. Nobody can or is expecting DRob to be Mariano Rivera. But he better be damn close or the boo birds are going to make themselves heard. Hal Steinbrenner stated a couple of weeks ago that he believes Robertson is the best candidate for the job, as does the aforementioned Sandman. Once again, I’m not buying it. Robertson in his first audition as closer back in 2012 imploded, and lost the job to Rafael Soriano. I’m also not convinced that he can stay healthy over the pressure and grind of a 162-game season. Arm and leg issues have plagued Robertson on and off throughout his career, and with the rest of the Yankees’ bullpen in a state of flux, the one dependable piece is Robertson as the lock-down 8th inning bridge to the closer. If Robertson remains the closer, keep an eye on Dellin Betances as the new power arm as a part of the rebuilt bridge to the 9th inning.

So who then would be the closer? Rumors were floating around Monday afternoon that the Yankees have been in contact with Francisco Rodriguez about a minor league contract with an invite to big league camp. K-Rod as well know, has closer experience, but has had some off-field issues plague him from time to time, most notably during his last stint in the Big Apple as the closer for the Mets. He would be a low-cost option that could push Robertson in camp.

A better option yet would be the set up man turned closer Fernando Rodney. He’s proven he can close out games in the AL East, and would provide the Yankees a seasoned closer at the end of the game. The Orioles and Mariners are rumored to be the final suitors for Rodney’s services, but if the Yankees want him, they will sign him.

3. How do you fix the infield? It’s not an easy fix, with 39-year-old Derek Jeter returning from a devastating ankle injury that held him to 17 games in 2013. The departure of Robinson Cano to Seattle, the season-long suspension of Alex Rodriguez, and the slow recovery of first baseman Mark Teixeira has the infield looking like a piece of Swiss cheese.

Kelly Johnson was signed along with Brian Roberts to man second base, with Johnson now projected to open as the hot corner occupant. Brendan Ryan was re-signed to spell Jeter, and as of right now, there is no viable replacement if Tex isn’t ready to go. There are answers, and as unpopular as they might sound, they are legitimate options that need to be considered.

If the Yankees have no faith that A-Rod will be a serviceable third baseman upon his return in 2015, then you have to trade the player with the most value: Brett Gardner. Chase Headley and a B-prospect to San Diego could get the deal done. If it’s strictly taking on more money, Gardner alone could get sent to Milwaukee for proven run producer Aramis Ramirez. In a perfect world, the Yankees could hold on to Gardner, and Mark Reynolds would fail to make the Brewers team out of spring training, and land right back in the Bronx.

For the Yankees, if any of those deals were to happen, Kelly Johnson could shift back over to second base and platoon with the oft-injured Roberts. Or…the Yankees could once again open the wallet, and sign Jeter’s heir in Stephen Drew, play him at second base for one or two seasons, and shift him to shortstop upon Jeter’s impending retirement. This move would not only improve the infield defense, but would provide pop in the lower-third of the lineup.

As for having a backup to Tex at first base, I’m still of the mindset that Kendrys Morales would be the perfect fit in the Bronx. He is a switch-hitting, middle of the lineup presence that would allow Teixeira all the time he needs to recover from wrist surgery, without running the risk of rushing back, and repeating Jeter’s 2013.

Nine days separate the Yankees and the start of spring training. There are questions to be answered, and the answers to those questions aren’t as difficult as many believe them to be.

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Alright so for all of you who do not know Jenny Dell is dating Red Sox third basemen Will Middlebrooks. This is the reason they are pulling Dell from Red Sox Broadcasts.

I mean does the common viewer really care if Dell and Middlebrooks are dating? I know I don’t. I mean good for Will really. I don’t think Dell can be “bias” towards Middlebrooks while he is batting .87 from the plate, kicking ground balls, and tripping base runners in World Series games. But hey that’s just me.

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Tanaka Isn’t The End All And Be All For The Yankees

Pitchers and catchers report in less than a month, and for the New York Yankees, it might be a reprieve from the heavy criticism the team has absorbed for their lack of functional activity in replenishing a less than championship-caliber roster in 2013. We are only days away from Masahiro Tanaka making his decision to either sign with a big league club (he will) or return to Japan and give it another go next season.

We also know who the obvious options are if Tanaka chooses the big leagues from among the Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers, either one of the Chicago clubs, or god forbid, the Boston Red Sox. While none of the so-called big name free agents pitchers are of the #1 type, all three could be serviceable. We’ve also previously discussed some of the under the radar guys who might make an impact, that won’t cost the Yankees draft picks, long term deals, or a ton of cash. Those guys include Jason Hammel, Tommy Hanson and Paul Maholm. Trades have been talked about, including Brett Gardner for Homer Bailey. It all depends on what happens with Tanaka. An article from the N.Y. Post stated that the Yankees’ upper management are divided on how they feel about Tanaka.

While starting pitching is the obvious glaring weakness, this team, simply stated, has more holes than viable options available to fill them. Brian Cashman made initial big splashes during the offseason, but has failed to make the Yankees a championship team once again. The infield is filled with underachievers and retreads, Mark Teixeira is no guarantee for the start of the season, and the bullpen is far from a sure thing with the retirement of Mariano Rivera. I personally, am not sold on David Robertson as the heir apparent.

As for the infield, the design of Kelly Johnson at third for the suspended Alex Rodriguez and the oft-injured Brian Roberts taking over for Robinson Cano, spells disaster. Cashman had his chance to bring back a right-handed power bat to platoon with Johnson in Mark Reynolds, but insulted him by only making a minor league offer. Reynolds signed with the Brewers on a minor league deal as well, probably for an opportunity to play more. The day after Reynolds signed, the Brewers then brought in former Yankee first baseman Lyle Overbay to push Reynolds during spring training. If the world were perfect, Overbay would win the starting job, Milwaukee would cut Reynolds loose, and he would return to the Bronx to start at third base all season, and would thus push Johnson back to second to be in a straight platoon with Roberts.

There are two viable options still out on the market for the back end of the bullpen that the Yankees could sign that have nothing to do with Masahiro Tanaka. Whether the team likes it or not, they are going to go well over the $189 million dollar threshold. Those options are Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney, the Yankees need to sign one of them now. My preference is Balfour. He’s proven himself, and his fiery attitude would play well in the Bronx. The Washington Nationals have interest in Balfour, and could make former closer Drew Storen available if Balfour is signed. Rodney is far too inconsistent to handle the Bronx. I’m of the opinion that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Robertson is one of the premier setup men in all of baseball, and I also question his ability to stay healthy once inserted into the closer’s role. His career ERA from the 9th inning on, is north of 4. No thanks. Sign Balfour, and be done with it.

I’ve mentioned this idea before, and it has been scoffed at. Why wait on Tanaka? There is no guarantee he chooses New York over any of the other possible destinations. Here’s a scenario that I would like you to think about: with the signing of Jacoby Ellsbury, that bumps Brett Gardner to the bottom of the order, and will thus reduce his productivity. The team has never been referred to as the Bronx Burners. Whether Tanaka gets signed or not, trade Brett Gardner to either the Chicago Cubs for Jeff Samardzija or to the Cincinnati Reds for Homer Bailey. From there, you move Alfonso Soriano back out to left field, and you sign free agent first baseman Kendrys Morales. Not only do you add an impact and proven run producer back to the lineup, you provide insurance for the now-injured Teixeira, AND you get a power arm. Having Masahiro Tanaka choose New York then becomes a secondary thought, and you’ve still salvaged your offseason rebuilding plan.

It seems so simple doesn’t it? I grew up in an era of Yankees’ baseball that bought the talent it needed. I’ve always openly questioned why if the Yankees have endless resources, and their farm system is dying on the vine, then why not spend those same resources that would be spent on impact free agents, and pay double or triple whatever is needed to bring in the scouting and drafting personnel from teams such as the Tampa Bay Rays and the St. Louis Cardinals? Nobody wants to bag on Cashman, and their excuse is that because the Yankees have always been at the front of the pack, he never had the chance to draft where the Rays selected for more than a decade. Then tell me how do the Cardinals do it year in and year out? That argument is nonsense to say the least. Cashman has to admit he is not equipped to draft or scout, and has to be smart enough to bring in the people that do. They are out there, an offer of employment is all that is standing between the Yankees having their farm system augment the high-priced talent they put on the big league field.

As one of my former drill sergeants used to say when one of us would screw up, and the entire group would get punished as a result: “Common sense prevails.”

Follow Billy on Twitter @Billy_Brost as well his other work on Yanks Go Yard.

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Rookie Zoilo Almonte Has Added Much-Needed Energy to the Yankees Sagging Lineup

While he is not as celebrated a prospect as his outfield counterpart out in Los Angeles, much like Yasiel Puig, Zoilo Almonte was brought to the big club in New York with the idea of injecting some much needed energy to a lineup that has been devastated by injuries and who needed an offensive boost.

Much like Puig, many within the Yankees organization felt that Almonte performed well enough during spring training to break camp with the big club. Instead, general manager Brian Cashman took on Vernon Wells from the Angels, and Almonte was sent packing to Triple-A Scranton. With the Yankees losing both outfielder Curtis Granderson and first baseman Mark Teixeira a second time to injury, paired with the lackluster performances of the aforementioned Wells and Ichiro Suzuki over the past few weeks, Cashman determined something drastic was in order to re-energize a Yankees’ lineup that has been averaging right at 2.8 runs per game over the past two weeks. Fortunately for New York, their pitching has been just good enough to keep the team competitive, only a handful of games back of division-leading Boston.

Almonte isn’t considered a can’t miss prospect by any means, nor was he made an instant cult figure upon his arrival in the Bronx. He was brought in to fill a void in the outfield. What he displayed over the weekend during the Yankees’ series against division rival Tampa, has launched “Zoilo-mania.” Through his first seven games with the Yankees, Almonte is hitting an eye-popping .625. He also launched his first major league home run, swatted a pair of doubles, scored a pair of runs, and has driven in four. Not bad for a fill-in who isn’t really considered a part of the Yankees’ outfield future.

Being the Yankees fan that I am, I was less than thrilled that Almonte was sent packing at the end of the spring, and was even less impressed with the idea of Vernon Wells coming to the Bronx. Give Wells credit, he played extremely well during the first few weeks of the season. However, he has come crashing back down to Earth without as much as a whimper. Wells did hit a pinch-hit double that gave the Yankees the lead for good Saturday afternoon, but his role should be where it is: as a reserve outfielder at best. What is going to be interesting very soon, will be if Almonte continues to rake, and Ichiro doesn’t, what do the Yankees do with Ichiro once Granderson finally returns from a broken knuckle?

The Yankees have to come to grips with the idea that Granderson is not going to hit 40 home runs this year. I would highly doubt he even approaches the 12-15 home run mark, even if he does come back soon. As for Mr. Suzuki, I’ll be the first to admit that he has had a phenomenal career. The problem is, it can’t continue in New York. He’s in the first of a two-year deal, and if the Yankees really believed in Almonte’s ability, they would be actively shopping both Granderson and Suzuki to teams in dire need of power and a fading star who can put butts in the buckets. Ichiro would be a great fit out in San Francisco given the long term injury to Angel Pagan. With the strong Asian population in the Bay area, it may just rejuvenate Ichiro again as his trade to the Bronx did last summer. A deal such as that would open the lineup to not only get younger and cheaper, but to find out if Zoilo Almonte could be a mainstay in the Yankees’ outfield for the foreseeable future.

Prior to his call-up, Almonte only had six home runs while driving in 36. He was hitting .297 in his first season at Triple-A, a year after blasting 21 bombs while driving in 70 in only 106 games at Double-A Trenton. He’s 24 years old, so there are bound to be some growing pains. While he and Puig have both been lightning rods for their respective clubs, there is much less pressure on Almonte to keep up the pace. We’ve heard Brian Cashman state that his goal is to reduce payroll and to build a solid farm system so that the Yankees aren’t forced to sign high dollar free agents who are more than likely past their prime. The Almonte experience should be a great test of Cashman’s core beliefs.

Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

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It’s time for the Yankees to clean house, including Ichiro Suzuki.

Since 1994, the Yankees have had an amazing run of success, including five World Series titles, seven American League pennants, fourteen division titles, and four Wild Card berths. Sustained success of this magnitude would normally be acceptable to any other franchise, and has certainly been enjoyed by Yankees fans throughout the world. During the majority of this success, George Steinbrenner was at the controls in the ownership box, and since his death, sons Hal and Hank have taken a much different approach to the day-to-day operations of the most successful franchise in professional sports history.

The approach of the new-era Steinbrenner Yankees includes some fiscal responsibility, although the team is still strapped with outlandish contracts with players like Alex Rodriquez and C.C. Sabathia, neither of whom are earning what the team is paying them. As a guy that has been a Yankees diehard since 1981, it seems unnatural to care about payroll, but this isn’t the Yankees’ organization I grew up with and have enjoyed most of my adult life. This is a team that is watching pennies and dimes as if they were the Oakland A’s. Okay, maybe not to that extreme, but Yankees Universe can definitely tell that things have not been business as usual this season. The team is still looking to shed payroll, and find a way to get to the $189 million payroll threshold by the start of next season. Heading into play Sunday, the Bombers are sitting 5 1/2 games out of first place, are struggling to find a way to put runs on the board, and are still faced with injuries to key components across the board. All good things must come to an end, and my gut tells me the sustained success of seeing annual postseason appearances will most likely end with the conclusion of the 2013 season.

No, I didn’t forget the hiccup of the 2008 season, Joe Girardi‘s first as manager, but the 2013 Yankees don’t resemble the ’08 squad in any way other than the uniforms and team name. The Yankees need to be proactive if the payroll goal is the same as it was heading into the season, and with the trading deadline just over a month away, it is time to call this season a loss, move some pieces to free up more cash, perhaps snag a minor leaguer or two, and prepare for a younger, cheaper version. It’s been frustrating to sit back and watch general manager Brian Cashman to bring in washed up veterans try to take up the slack of injured stars, and while it appeared to work well for the first month and a half of the season, these players are now showing while they were castoffs to begin with. This is the perfect time for the team to bring up several of their prospects, throw them into the fire, and see if this next generation of baby Bombers can produce and show promise at the big league level, or if once the payroll situation has been taken care of, a return to business as usual once their luxury tax percentage has been lowered. What we are going to do now is take a look at some of the pieces the Yankees should be looking to move over the next four weeks, as we in Yankeeland prepare for a very long, frustrating summer of non-contention baseball.

1. Ichiro Suzuki: Re-signed to a very affordable two-year deal this past offseason, Ichiro would make a very nice addition to several teams currently chasing a postseason berth. Not the table setter he once was, he may feel rejuvenated by a change in scenery, similar to the one he experienced upon his arrival in the Bronx last summer. A nice fit for Ichiro would be the San Francisco Giants, who are searching for a speedy outfielder.

2. Phil Hughes: A free agent at the end of the season, Hughes has disappointed once again in 2013, and it is obvious he is never going to show the promise of his younger days. The Yankees wouldn’t get much in return, but the San Diego native might be a nice complementary piece for a team such as his hometown Padres.

3. Curtis Granderson: While his return from injury is unclear, teams always clamor for power-hitting outfielders. We’ve seen injured players get dealt before (Carl Crawford to L.A. in ’12), so it is not out of the realm of possibilities. While a healthy Granderson would fetch much more through a trade, perhaps a couple of mid-tier prospects could be in the cards. I’m not sure if the Yankees would receive a top draft pick once he walks away at the end of the season, so it would be in the team’s best interest to be actively shopping him, maybe to a team like Oakland, who would be more than happy to take on a summer rental.

4. Joba Chamberlain: He opened the eyes of everyone in baseball upon his arrival in the Bronx back in 2007, and has been an injury-plagued, controversial figure on the Yankees since. When a guy gets into it with Mariano Rivera, you know it’s time to go. Power arms in the bullpen are always a hot commodity, and teams such as the Dodgers, Pirates, Rangers, and Nationals could prove to be good fits.

5. Hiroki Kuroda: Here is the second biggest chip the Yankees have to deal. Kuroda would be a perfect summer rental, big splash trade piece from an era gone by. He would be great with any of the NL West teams, along with the Pirates, Orioles, Braves, Rangers and A’s. The Yankees could probably get a very nice return in terms of prospects for dealing an aging ace, one even though he has been stellar in the Bronx, doesn’t fit into the future plans of a rebuilding project.

6. Robinson Cano: You didn’t read this wrong, yes, Robinson Cano. Contract talks have been reported to have gone sour over the last few weeks, and if the Yankees are true to their word about keeping costs down and avoiding A-Rod and C.C.-type contracts, they have no choice but to move the All-Star second baseman. What good will a top draft pick do five years from now? Several teams have made it known that they would be interested in Cano if he were to hit the free agent market, so why not pillage a complete farm system of top prospects for Cano now? If he was willing to sign an extension with his new team, the Yankees would really hit the jackpot.

So there you have it. Six guys who should be ex-Yankees by the end of the summer, and as hard as it is to admit it, the Yankees simply don’t have the horses to make a run during the second half of the season. Mark Teixeira is done for the season, Granderson will be a free agent at the end of the year, Ichiro is a shell of his former self, the Kevin Youkilis signing has been a disaster, Andy Pettitte is showing his advanced age with every start he makes, and even the Great Rivera even though his stats are nice, has more cutters making contact than in previous seasons.

This is the perfect opportunity for the Yankees to clean house, and start giving the young guys some at-bats. I would like to see players such as Zoilo Almonte, Gary Sanchez, Melky Mesa, Corban Joseph, and others prove whether or not this group will be the core of a future generation of greatness, or if the Yankees need to completely blow up this roster and start again new.

Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

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Has A-Rod Played For The Last Time?

While the baseball world is abuzz regarding last night’s trade between the Tigers and Rangers, which saw the exchange of second baseman Ian Kinsler for first bagger Prince Fielder, there were plenty of fireworks prior to the announcement of the deal. Yankees third baseman and much maligned slugger Alex Rodriguez imploded, exploded, and possibly ended any chance he had at vindication with an outburst for the ages during his arbitration hearing in New York City yesterday. 
Hearing arbitrator Fredric Horowitz handed down the ruling yesterday that Major League Commissioner Bud Selig would not be compelled to testify, thus setting up a showdown between the ruler of all things baseball and the most controversial figure since Barry Bonds. A-Rod, after hearing Horowitz’s decision, slammed his fist onto a table, uttered a vulgarity at MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfried, kicked a briefcase, and left the hearing. From the hearing, A-Rod made a beeline for the WFAN radio studios to the Mike Francesa Show (which coincidentally is simulcast on the YES Network), and began the offensive towards Major League Baseball.  A-Rod called the process “…restrictive, a farce, and laughable.” He also assured Francesa that he did nothing wrong, and that there is absolutely no evidence against him. 
Rodriguez stated he believed that he should have the opportunity to face his accuser, who handed down the largest PED-related ban in baseball history, 211 games. A-Rod came up just short of calling Selig a straight up coward, and says he will have to regroup and think about whether or not he is going to continue being an active participant in the arbitration process. Whether or not he actively participates, the Players’ Union will continue fighting on behalf of Rodriguez.
Listen to a portion of the A-Rod/Francesa interview by clicking below…

Let me premise the remainder of this piece by stating I believe A-Rod is dirty. I believe he has cheated the game, and is no better than any of the other players who have collectively wiped their butts with the world’s greatest game. The farce is that A-Rod believes he has an argument. But…and there will always be a but…what if he is telling the truth? After reading through several dozen articles on fan sites and blogs, Yankees fans have had enough. I don’t think they even care if he was innocent, they simply want him to go away, and quick making a mockery of the game and the organization. Whether or not I personally like A-Rod, doesn’t really matter. What matters is that if MLB is doing a hatchet job on Rodriguez, that needs to come to light, and those involved need to be banished from the game forever, including Commissioner Bud Selig. I am well aware that the arbitration process is not a court of law, and that legal rules do not necessarily apply to these proceedings. According to multiple reports, Selig has never been the one to testify or handle drug-related cases on MLB’s behalf, so why should the A-Rod hearing be any different? I do think it would’ve gone a long way to showing a zero-tolerance attitude if Selig had shown up, testified today, and basically stuck the “Rafael Palmeiro finger” in A-Rod’s face and said “this and this and this are the reasons why I’m suspending you for 211 games.” With the ruling that Selig now doesn’t have to make an appearance, it puts doubt into the public mind that Selig is completely telling the truth as well.As far as I know, nobody is backing A-Rod willingly. His dream team of attorneys are going to keep fighting the fight, making an argument, but why not? They’re getting paid no matter what. The fans, the Yankees, and the game are the ones who are truly suffering the longer this travesty of a process continues on. A-Rod told Francesa that he was scheduled to testify on Friday–one day after Selig was scheduled to appear. He maintains that he has done “nothing wrong” and he claims he will be vindicated when all is said and done. Sometimes even if you win, you still lose. What if this process continues through the winter and into next spring? Do the Yankees allow him to report to spring training? What if A-Rod loses, and he chooses to take this all the way to the Federal Supreme Court? He has the money to fight it, and unfortunately for MLB, encouraged the contract to allow him to be in a financial position to do so. Here are some things that have bothered me about the whole investigation into Alex Rodriguez, and I do not list these in any particular order:

  • MLB has never clearly stated whether or not A-Rod has recently failed a drug test.
  • Some of MLB’s evidence is based upon medical records that have been supposedly stolen from the Biogenesis clinic in Miami, documents that MLB paid for.
  • MLB only received cooperation from Anthony Bosch after Bosch was facing federal indictment. 
  • Does MLB really want to hang their hat on the story and possibly false evidence from someone whose credibility is non-existent in Bosch?
  • A-Rod after prodding and initially denying having used, came clean and admitted using PEDs shortly after signing his 10-year, $252 million dollar contract with the Texas Rangers, and is adamant that he hasn’t used since. 
  • The fact that there have been stories surface that both the Yankees and MLB have been working together to rid themselves of A-Rod (for MLB, a drug user, for the Yankees, an albatross of a contract that would be voided upon the enforcement of his suspension.)
  • Why Selig handed down a 211-game suspension, when if A-Rod has never failed a drug test since the implementation of the new testing system, when other first-time offenders are only given 50-games?

While I will always believe that A-Rod at some point has to take personal ownership for his mistakes, what if, he is indeed finally telling the truth, and further down the line, the evidence or lack there of, supports his claims? While thousands of fans are sick and tired of A-Rod’s shenanigans and inability to tell the truth, we as Americans all want a fair shake. We all want our stories to be told, and when we are accused of something that could not only tarnish our reputations, but prevent us from earning a living in our selected field, wouldn’t we go to any length to prove our innocence? I don’t necessarily agree with A-Rod and how he has gone about handling this situation, but I will argue with every grain of my being, that he deserves to be heard and that all the evidence against him needs to come to light. I also believe that Selig should have to testify, regardless of what has previously occurred or how other cases have been handled. This is the largest ban in MLB history for PEDs, and this is no ordinary player, this is Alex Rodriguez, the former face of the game. I wrote a piece earlier this summer, going into great detail as to who was truly to blame for the PED problem in MLB besides the players. You can read it by clicking here. You can follow me on Twitter @Billy_Brost, as I write for several other sites besides my own blog. Thanks for the time and the read, and I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s thoughts…

Read more at West Coast Yankees

Curtis Granderson battled an injury-plagued 2013

News is coming to the surface that the New York Yankees have serious interest in bringing back centerfielder Curtis Granderson. What does this mean for the rest of the Yankees’ off-season plans? Simple. It means the Yankees are willing to live with an outfielder that does nothing but go for the short right field porch, will hit anywhere between .240 and .260 at best, won’t run the way he once did, and will continue to regress defensively. Why? The Yankees still have interest in Shin Soo Choo as well as Carlos Beltran. As I’ve discussed in other pieces for Yanks In Exile, the Yankees need to move on from Granderson. Does he honestly believe he is worth more than the $14.5 million dollar qualifying offer that he declined to enter free agency after the season (or lack-thereof) he had in 2013? 
Internal discussions within the Yankees organization have surfaced information stating that the Yankees are prepared to offer Granderson anywhere between a two and four-year deal in the neighborhood of $16-$18 million annually. Huge mistake on the part of the Yankees. While the Yankees return both Alfonso Soriano, who can man both left field and DH, and Brett Gardner in center, the Yankees only true need heading into 2014 is a replacement for Ichiro Suzuki in right. Ichiro will either transition to a fourth outfielder, or general manager Brian Cashman will have to make a deal. We can’t forget about Vernon Wells still being on the roster as well. The Yankees would be better off going with a shorter contract, on a proven run producer, who also has a successful track record in the postseason. Of course I’m speaking of Carlos Beltran. 
If the Yankees want to return to title contention, they need to get away from players such as Granderson, who simply swing and miss far too much to be justify both the money they are being paid, and the home runs they produce. While Granderson has scored more than 100 runs in two of his four seasons in the Bronx, his on-base percentage is less than desirable, posting seasons of .324, .364, .319 and .317. During his last full season of action in 2012, Granderson stuck out 195 times, hitting only .232, and had an OPS+ of 115–down 27 points from the previous season. While he has produced two seasons of 40+ home runs in ’11 and ’12, he also walked less than 90 times in each of those seasons, and stole a total of only 35 bases. 
For the Yankees to even consider a multi-year deal when there is better, younger talent available (Choo, Cruz), I honestly have to question what the Yankees thought process is on the subject. The Yankees need to get back to the “grind it out” mentality at the plate. The last time the Yankees won the World Series (2009), the team on-base percentage was .362. Since Granderson’s arrival, the OBP has dropped dramatically each season since (.350, .343, .337, and .307). Bases on balls as a team have dipped each season as well, going from 663 during the title season of ’09, down to 662, 627, 565, and 466. These numbers cannot solely be placed on Granderson, but are the product of the plate mentality the current hitters on the roster bring to the ball park each day. It seems everyone wants to hit the 5-run homer, rather than just grinding out whatever the opposition will give to them, and passing the baton to the next hitter in the lineup. Runs, walks, on-base percentage–all have been the most glaring factors during all five of the Yankees championship runs going back to 1996. A player like Carlos Beltran will help bring that mentality back to the Bronx, and as any great hitter will tell you, hitting is contagious, and as any hitting coach will also tell you, so are back hitting habits. Granderson has a slew of bad hitting habits, and now is the time for the Yankees to cut the cord, wish the Grandy Man the best of luck in his future endeavors, and move forward with rebuilding a dominant lineup. 
Thanks for the read, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @Billy_Brost

Read more at West Coast Yankees

The newest Yankee, Brian McCann

With today’s announcement that the New York Yankees have inked free agent catcher Brian McCann to a 5-year deal for $85 million dollars, the Bombers have stuck the first blow in what should shape up to be a furious free agent frenzy this off-season. 
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was one of the first to report the news, and also stated that the Colorado Rockies made a late push for McCann. The Yankees and McCann also agreed to a sixth vesting year, which would push the contract to over $100 million dollars. Now that the first domino has fallen in the Bronx, what does this do to Robinson Cano and Jay-Z‘s approach to sitting and waiting on the market? What does this mean for the remainder of the targets the Yankees have in mind to fill out their roster?
Perhaps Cano and his music mogul agent will be rocked back into reality, and begin to realize that Yankees president Randy Levine wasn’t bluffing when he said the Yankees are going to go about business as usual, whether Cano wants to be a part of the fold or not. The Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers were also believed to be involved in discussions with McCann. 
Where do the Yankees go from here? This off-season could perhaps be as crazy as the one prior to their 2009 World Series run where the Yankees signed C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira, who had been deep into negotiations with the Red Sox prior to being swooped away to the Bronx. The Yankees are far from finished, and now that the catching position has been filled, the Yankees can focus on one, possibly two outfielders, starting pitching, the bullpen, and finding a possibly replacement for the departing Cano. 
The next target should be Carlos Beltran, the free agent outfielder who just completed his contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. While some might not like the fact that Beltran is entering his age-37 season in 2014, he brings another professional bat to the Yankees lineup, and unlike his predecessors not named Paul O’Neill, he will perform in October. Beltran possesses a career .333 average in the postseason, with 14 home runs. Other alternatives for the Yankees in the outfield include Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shin Soo Choo. While Ellsbury is often hurt, and Choo can’t hit left-handers, Beltran would come to the Bronx on a shorter deal, is a switch hitter, and won’t cost the Yankees nearly as much as the other options might present. 
Until the Yankees know the outcome of the Alex Rodriguez grievance hearing that just completed on Friday, the Yankees will most likely fill the third base spot with the re-signing of journeyman power bat Mark Reynolds. There has been talk of the Yankees interest in free agent slugger Kendrys Morales to man both DH and first base to provide insurance for Mark Teixeira, who is returning from a serious wrist injury. 
Until the posting storm resolves itself for Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees cannot pursue him as their top pitching target. General manager Brian Cashman might have to up the ante to bring back Hiroki Kuroda on another one-year deal, in the $15-17 million dollar range to fill out the rotation. Even when the posting system gets resolved, there has been talk that Tanaka may remain in Japan for one more season before coming stateside. The rotation could be: Sabathia, Kuroda, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps
Let me be the first to welcome Mr. McCann to the Bronx, as he assumes the mantle of great former Yankees catchers like Dickey, Berra, Munson, and Posada! Thanks for the read, and be sure to follow me on Twitter @Billy_Brost.

Read more at West Coast Yankees

Alex Rodriguez is suing Major League Baseball and the players union trying to get his PED suspension for the 2014 season overturned.  I had a chance to watch some and read the excerpts of Tony Boesch’s interview on 60 Minutes.  Boesch admitted that he injected PEDs in Rodriguez and try to help him beat the drug test.    Boesch’s testimony was done to MLB investigators and was not contradicted by anyone who doing the investigation.   Rodriguez was caught using PEDs and hindering the MLB investigation, plus he was originally suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season and all of  the 2014 season.   Rodriguez appealed the suspension  and continue to play for the New York Yankees for the rest of the season.  However, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz  announced that Rodriguez would have to serve the suspension for the  2014 season.   He found that Rodriguez was using  testosterone, HGH, and IGF-1 in a three-year period.

Rodriguez will lose $25 million dollars in salary from the Yankees and a lot more.   His place in baseball history has been proven to be a total fraud.    His status as a all-time great  and eventual entry into the Hall of Fame will be debated.   However, he will put into the list of PEDs cheaters who may never get into Cooperstown. Despite the suspension Rodriguez will go to Yankees spring training in Tampa, Florida next month.   If he did attend that would turn spring training into a media circus, and would his teammates support him or shun him. Rodriguez is suing his team and that it is self-serving move.  This would make the Bronx Zoo of the late 1970′s a picnic.  Rodriguez loved baseball, but he crave the spotlight and attention more.    Those cravings will be his undoing and costing him the opportunity of being a baseball legend.

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Tomorrow the Baseball Hall of Fame are announcing their latest inductees. Since the new inductees were a part of the steroid era, and there should be a policy regarding on who should be in the Hall of Fame.   Baseball writers,  those who cover the game on radio and television, and other Hall of Famers should really evaluate on who truly deserve to be in the Hall of Fame and who doesn’t.   It bothers me that players who were accused of  steroid use, or were suspended for using PEDs should be in the Hall of Fame.    The process should change because if you let in those who used steroids to achieve records like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens it compromises what the game stands for.   It should stands for those who achieve records by hard work instead of using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs to achieve records that wind up being tainted.

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