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Since the Pirates were clobbering the Atlanta Braves 10-1 I turned it to the MLB Network to watch the end of the Yankees vs. Orioles game at Yankee Stadium.   This was Derek Jeter last game there and you could not scripted any better.     Jeter hit gave the Yankees a 5 to 2 lead, but the Orioles tied it going into the last of the 9th inning.     Jose Pirela had a single and was pinch ran by Antoan Richardson then Brett Gardner bunted the runner over to second.    Then Jeter on the first pitch got a base hit to score Richardson and won the game for the Yankees 6 to 5.    Then the whole team greeted him, and then he walked the field for a couple of moments.      Then he hugged his former teammates Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez and his former manager Joe Torre. The Orioles stayed in the dugout  clapping and showing respect.   He did post game interviews with Suzyn Waldman of the Yankees Radio Network, Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated/MLB Network, and Meredith Marakovits of the YES Network, and then took a final victory lap around Yankee Stadium before going into the clubhouse.   His whole career had many great moments, but tonight’s game maybe have been Derek Jeter’s finest hour.

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Next year’s MLB All-Star Game will be at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park.    Pete Rose who still banned for life for betting on the game in 1989 could be a part of the festivities.   The all time hit king and Reds legend was allowed at Turner Field for Game 1 of the 1999 World Series for the ceremony for the MLB All Time Team.   Baseball won’t allow him to be in any Major League or Minor League ballpark, but when they can make money there is no problem of Rose being there.   This is pure hypocrisy, and Rose should have  second chance to get back into baseball and the Hall of Fame.    With Rob Manfred as the new Commissioner starting in January 2015, one of his priorities is to give consideration of reinstating Rose from his lifetime ban.   Cincinnati Reds and baseball fans should have the chance to cheer Charlie Hustle at the All-Star Game, and hopefully at Cooperstown in the near future.

Tonight, Gregory Polanco will make his major league debut for the Pirates versus the Chicago Cubs.  He will bat second and play right field.   They wanted him to work on some things down in Triple A Indianapolis, and he dominated down there.    Now he will take on major league pitching and there will be comparison to Los Angeles Dodgers sensation Yasiel Puig.  There will be some growing pains at first, but he will become a star with the Pirates.   I will have a chance to see him next Thursday afternoon against the Cincinnati Reds and will have a first hand look at him.   The super 2 and the financial cost made the fans wait until now to see him play in the major leagues.   Starting this evening we will see if Gregory Polanco is worth the wait this year.

My March 28th article, “Cardinal Sin,” predicted that the St. Louis Cardinals’ fatal flaw would be their lack of power. I’m astonished how well my prediction has played out so far. A quick recap: I asserted that the Redbirds would win the division but fall short of the World Series because they lacked the crucial playoff element of consistent home run threats lining up at the plate.

St. Louis will soon overtake the Brewers who started the season on a pace that there was no way they could maintain. And true to form, Milwaukee fell back to Earth just as the Cardinals have started to get it going. Yes, there will be another division championship in the best baseball town in the world.

But through 50 games going into tonight’s game with the Yankees, the Cardinals have 26 home runs as a team. Only eight Cardinals have actually hit a home run. Jhonny Peralta, who will not maintain the home run pace he’s currently on, leads the clubhouse with nine.

The Cardinals were counting on both Matt Adams and Allen Craig to be much more productive power-wise, but Adams has just three home runs in 185 ABs. Craig and Matt Holliday have combined for six in 376 ABs (1 HR per 60+ ABs!).

The front office in St. Louis has been cautious to bring up prospect Oscar Taveras, who has been lighting it up in AAA Memphis—which is fine. The Cardinals can win this division without him. But GM John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny should know that Taveras will need to face plenty of big league pitching to get ready for the postseason. So, it’s not a matter of if they will bring Taveras up this season but when.

Amazingly, though, the Cardinals have tried to sell the Taveras situation as a dilemma, claiming that bringing up Taveras means demoting another player. Do they mean the horrific Jon Jay? The even-worse-Peter Bourjos? Or Kolten Wong? Shane Robinson? If your top prospect cannot out perform these perennial utility players, then he’s probably not your top prospect. But Taveras’s numbers don’t lie. It seems the organization is being patient, Cardinal fans hope, when they know they can be–rather than myopic.

Nevertheless, Taveras alone won’t be enough. Adams, Craig, and Holliday must find their power strokes or the Cardinals will have to deal one of their coveted pitchers in order to bring in some pop to a lineup that’s simply been getting by on the magnificent performances of Adam Wainwright and the consistency of Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, and Lance Lynn. If Joe Kelly returns later in the season from the DL, the rotation will be that much better.

When the Cardinals won the World Series in 2011, they caught lightning in a bottle with David Freese’s stunning power display, but still needed an improbable Game 6 win and seven games to finish off the Rangers. In 2014,  if the Cardinal “power” hitters go yard less than 2% of the time (the rate at which they are performing), they simply cannot win the World Series.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are 17-25 and 8.5 games behind the 1st place Milwaukee Brewers going into to tonight’s game versus the Baltimore Orioles..   The problems are in inconsistent pitching staff, and bad bullpen hurting with the closer Jason Grilli on the disabled list with a strained left oblique.   However, the biggest news is when are the Pirates going to call up outfield phenom Gregory Polanco.  He is tearing up at Triple A Indianapolis, and the question is why isn’t he called up to the big leagues.    The Super 2 provision would start-up his major league service time and his road to free agency.  They are concerns that the Pirates are going to call him up later on the season.  Polanco turned down the Pirates attempt to sign him to a long-term contract.   He wants to prove his worth in the major leagues.   The Pirates are needing Polanco to get back into the National League Central race, and it has to start real soon.

 

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”

 

Original Source:  http://deadspin.com/the-braves-set-the-american-flag-on-fire-at-their-home-1561423700?utm_campaign=socialflow_deadspin_twitter&utm_source=deadspin_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

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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.

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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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