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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Which loss could potentially hinder the Bombers more?

As all Yankee fans, if not all baseball fans, know that legends Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are free agents. And even losing one of them could hurt the morale of the club. Both have been key cogs into guiding the Yankees to five World Series championships, seven American League Championships, and making the playoffs in all but one season since 1996. Now, there is a very slim chance, if not a zero percent chance, that one of these players departs. But I am wondering, which loss would be more devastating to the franchise?
                Derek Jeter has been the starting shortstop since opening day in 1996. He has also been captain of the team since 2003. Jeter has been the face of the greatest franchise in sports for some time now and his loss would be huge.  Not to mention, he has the most hits in the history of the organization with 2926. That’s more then legends Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Reggie Jackson ever had in a Yankee uniform.
                 He has made so many clutch plays on the field including the “Mr. November” homerun against the Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series. Also he made “The Flip Play” against Jeremy Giambi and the Oakland A’s the same year. Another that comes to mind is where he dove into the stands to catch a popup against the Red Sox in 2004, one of the most dramatic regular season games in the history of the Yankees. There are so many other spectacular things Jeter has done for this organization the past 15 years that can’t be topped.
                But say he was to leave. The Yankees could replace him with either current backup infielders Ramiro Pena or Eduardo Nunez, both sparkling with the glove, but weak with the bat. They could go in the free agent market and sign veteran Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera has been on a number of winning teams, but it obviously wouldn’t feel the same. Or maybe they could make a blockbuster trade with the Marlins and land Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez did have some hustling issues last year in the middle of the year, but he cleaned it up as the season went along. That would be something the Yankees would have to monitor. But remember, Robinson Cano had issues similar to Ramirez in 2008, and he’s been more than exceptional since then.
                Jeter has also been huge for the Yankees in the postseason, batting .309, including .321 in the World Series, belting 20 homers, 57 RBI and stealing 17 bases against the best pitching in the game. But I think two statistics that are completely overlooked is his runs scored and on base percentage. Jeter has scored 107 runs, while having an on base percentage of .377 in 147 games, 15 less games then the regular season, in which you face far inferior pitching. Those two stats are very important because he bats either first or second in the order and his job is to get on base and score runs to help the team. Jeter would be a monumental loss if he left. But, would it be even a more of a gut wrenching loss then if Mariano Rivera left?
                Like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera has been an icon for this franchise since ’96. Now, Rivera wasn’t a closer when they won the World Series in 1996, but he was a key member. He setup John Wetteland, who left the team after the ’96 campaign thus Rivera’s reign as closer began.
                Since 1997 Mariano Rivera has saved 554 games, and he has saved 559 games total. That’s an American League record and second all time behind Trevor Hoffman, who looks like he’ll hang up the cleats. Hoffman has 601 saves so it will take two more productive years until Rivera captures the crown, and who wouldn’t want to see it be accomplished in a Yankee uniform?
                Mariano Rivera is pretty much undoubtedly the greatest closer ever. Yes Hoffman has more saves, but he is nowhere near what Rivera has accomplished in the postseason. Also, nearly all of Hoffman’s saves have been converted as a San Diego Padre, which means he’s playing in the inferior National League. Rivera, on the other hand, has done it in the grueling AL East against the toughest opponents. For example, Rivera has a career 2.23 ERA. But, he has had an ERA less than two in 10 of his 14 full seasons, absolutely remarkable.
                The main reason why Mariano Rivera is so great is because of his postseason numbers. He has a career 0.71 ERA in 94 postseason appearances. He has also compiled the same amount of saves as the number on the back of his jersey, 42, with just a small handful of blown saves. Another remarkable stat is his 0.766 WHIP. (Walks plus hits divided by innings pitched; essentially it’s a stat that determines how many base runners a pitcher allows per inning.) Plus, in 1999 Rivera won the World Series MVP against the Atlanta Braves and the 2003 ALCS MVP against the hated Boston Red Sox. He’s been his best in the biggest games.
                If the Yankees were to somehow let Mariano Rivera leave via free agency, or him simply just calling it quits, he turns 41 on November 29th, it would be a monumental loss. He has arguably been the most valuable player during his tenure. Now the Yankees have an abundance of options to turn to if Rivera and/or the Yankees were to do the unthinkable. They could easily turn to Joba Chamberlain or David Robertson to close games, even though they have had shaky careers in a lesser role. The Yankees could resign Kerry Wood as closer. Although that may sound like a good backup plan it really isn’t. Remember when Wood was the closer for the Cleveland Indians? Well he struggled a lot. Or they could do what the typical Yankees do by signing the best guy available. That would be Rafael Soriano. Yes Soriano has dominated as a closer with the Braves and most recently, the Rays. But, it’s a whole new ballgame when closing out games in the biggest city, with the toughest media, and with the most storied franchise in sports. Even a blip on the radar in his first appearance in Yankee Stadium could be followed by a showering of boos throughout the big ball park in the Bronx. It would defiantly be very big shoes to fill.
                Well, we’ve gone through the importance of the two biggest names on the Yankees. And I think we have our answer. At least I do. Although most Yankee fans may not agree with me, but I think Mariano Rivera would be a bigger loss then Jeter. Now, I’m not saying it’s a landslide when comparing the players, I’m just saying it’s a bigger hole to fill. Everyone always says the hardest outs to get are the final three, and that’s what Mariano Rivera specializes in. No one does it better. Yes Rafael Soriano is a great closer. But I’d sure trust an aging Mariano Rivera then anyone else in their prime. With Jeter, it would be a huge loss, not only for the fans but in the locker-room. He’s been the captain of the team. But, times have changed. I think Robinson Cano is slowly gaining the so called “face of the franchise.” status. If either player were to leave it would be a crushing blow either way, but Rivera’s would be worse.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An off season checklist for Brian Cashman

One the eve of Thanksgiving it has been over a month since the then defending champion New York Yankees have been dethroned by the upstart Texas Rangers. And the main culprit was Texas Ranger starting pitcher Cliff Lee. Lee dominated the New York Yankees in the ALCS, earning the game three win by shutting down the Bronx Bombers, or bummers, to two hits and eight scoreless innings of work. And Yankee GM Brian Cashman has to be thinking, “if we can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em.”  With that I have set up a checklist of tasks Brian Cashman must accomplish to win number 28.
                Number One: Re-sign manager Joe Girardi: Yes Yankee fans, I can’t stand Girardi just as much as you do. But, he has led this team to a World Series Championship, two ALCS’, two postseason appearances, all in three years of work. He has also been able to manage the number of egos in the Yankee locker room. We won’t go down the laundry list of who we’re talking about, but I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now. Status: Check
                Number Two: Find a new pitching coach: Following the pitching debacle that was the Yankees in the 2010 ALCS, GM Brian Cashman cut ties with pitching coach Dave Eiland. Although Cashman denied that the 2010 ALCS pitching performance was the sole reason why Eiland is no longer a Yankee may be true. In the middle of the season Eiland left the team due to “personal reasons.” We never found out if those “personal reasons” were due to a conflict between Eiland and Joe Girardi, or someone else, or if they were really something that happened to his family. We’ll never know what exactly happened, but we know that the Yankees need another pitching coach. And recently they have found their guy. Former Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild was elected by Cashman. Now, one encouraging fact that Yankees fans can look up to is that Rothschild’s Cubs from the beginning of his tenure, 2002-2010, led the major leagues in team strikeouts by his pitchers. That’s a good sign to look forward to as he tries to straighten out pitchers A.J Burnett and Joba Chamberlain. Status: Check  
                Number Three: Re-sign shortstop Derek Jeter. I know this may be a sticky situation right now, but it should resolve. Recently Brian Cashman offered the Derek Jeter camp a three year- 45 million dollar deal. That is a far cry from his previous 10 year- 180 million dollar pact he signed following the 2000 season, in which Jeter won the All Star game MVP and the World Series MVP against the rival Mets. But that is the past, this is the present. Jeter, who is coming of a career worst season batting .270 and making the most outs in the major leagues, is slowing down dramatically. Even though Jeter received his fifth gold glove, his defense has dropped a lot. Jeter committed only six errors, by far the fewest in the American League and fewest in his career, but his range has fallen off a cliff. His UZR, a sabermetric statistic determining his range defensively, is the worst among shortstops. Later, Derek Jeter’s agent fired back calling the three year-45 million dollar deal “baffling.” Then Brian Cashman responded by telling Jeter’s agent that if he doesn’t like the offer he received he can test the open market for something else. Now, I don’t think Jeter will end up somewhere else. All I know is that this is a messy situation that has reached the hierarchy of the front office and may not get resolved until Spring Training. Status: Unchecked, for a while.
                Number Four: Re-sign closer Mariano Rivera: Ho-hum the greatest closer in the history of the game had another great season, and he’s in his 40’s. According to reports Mo wants a two year deal, but the Yankees are offering him a one year pact. I don’t think this really matters. This guy still gets big outs in the most crucial moments of the game. Expect Mariano to post a sub two ERA with a one year contract or two years. Although he is not signed don’t expect the negotiations to get sticky like Derek Jeter’s. Status: Unchecked, for now.   
                Number Five: Convince starting pitcher Andy Pettitte to pitch “one more year:” Yes we’ve gone through this a number of years in a row now, but like those years the Yankees need Andy Pettitte to win a world championship. Pettitte still has enough in the tank. He made the AL All Star team, but suffered a groin injury that kept him out of action until the middle of September. But he still pitched well in the postseason-getting a win in game two of the ALDS against the Twins, and losing game two to the Texas Rangers. In that game versus Texas in the ALCS, Pettitte was matched up against Cliff Lee and he earned the tough luck loss giving up two first inning runs in seven innings of work. It will be a one year deal, and it will probably be worth 10-15 million a year. Status: Unchecked
                Number Six: Sign Cliff Lee: This is another must for the Yankees. Lee has owned the Yankees for the past few years and has been his best against them in the biggest games. Lee pitched a complete game, one run win for the Phillies in the 2009 World Series. He also won game five of that series as well. And as mentioned before, he dominated the Yankees in the 2010 ALCS, pitching eight scoreless innings. He has also dominated the Yankees a number of times, in a number of different uniforms, in the regular season pitching with Cleveland, Seattle, and the Rangers. There have been some grumblings that the Yankees have offered him a six year -140 million dollar deal, but Lee reportedly wants a seven year deal. If the Yankees would sign Lee to a seven year deal it would carry until he is 40. I believe they should sign him to just a four year deal worth 25 million a year. I have a feeling this can turn into an A.J Burnett situation, four years too many, but the deal needs to get done to win number 28. Status: Unchecked
                Number Seven: Build a stable bridge to Mariano Rivera: Now what I mean by this is that the Yankees need to sign a setup man for Mo Rivera, because current Yankee relievers Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson have failed a number of times. They may be able to resign standout reliever Kerry Wood. Wood, who came over from Cleveland right on the July 31st trade deadline, was like striking gold. Wood pitched to an under 1 ERA and built a stable bridge to Mo by getting a lot of key punch outs of the AL’s best bats. But, because of this, Wood may want to sign with someone else to become a closer. The Yankees are willing to pay him closer money and he would still love to setup Rivera for the right price, of course. If the Yankees can’t sign Wood they could sign former Tampa Bay Ray reliever Grant Balfour. Status: Unchecked
                Number Eight: Convince catcher Jorge Posada to be a full time DH: This may be pretty tough but this has to be done. Posada is on the final year of his contract, and probably the final year of his great career. But he has logged a lot of mileage behind the plate. At age 39 Posada’s defensive skills have dropped considerably of late, and there is younger competition in his rearview mirror. Most notably 20 year old Jesus Montero and Austin Romine. Montero is said to have a major league ready bat, but lacks some skills behind the dish, even though he has improved over the last year. Romine on the other hand, has great skills behind the plate, but like current backup catcher Francisco Cervelli, doesn’t have the major league ready bat. This may be tough to convince Posada to do but ego’s aside it must be done. It’s best for the team. Status: Maybe, maybe not...
                Number Nine: Sign a lefty reliever: Although this may not be a necessity this could be something that guides the Yankees to a World Series victory. Yes the Yankees have Boone Logan, but he showed us in the ALCS that he can crumble at any moment. Ask Josh Hamilton. And yes the Yankees also have Damaso Marte, but he has shown he can also implode. Also, Marte will be on the shelf up until after the All Star break and may even miss up to the entire season. I don’t think the Yankees should cross their fingers and hope he’ll comeback. Luckily, there is an abundance of lefty relief help. The list is headlined by Pedro Feliciano and Scott Downs, both Type A free agents. Instead of giving up two first round draft choices for a situational lefty they should just play it safe by signing former Yankee Randy Choate. Status: Unchecked.
                Number Ten: Improve the bench: Marcus Thames was a nice find last year. But he is free agent and nobody knows where he will end up. My gut feeling is he will end up with the Yankees on a one year deal. The Yankees should be fine at the backup infield spot with Eduardo Nunez and Ramiro Pena. Also they should be good at backup catcher with Cervelli or Montero/ Romine. But I think the Yankees should re-sign Melky Cabrera. I think he’s a good fourth outfielder with a clutch bat with a good glove and a rocket arm. Plus he’s a good clubhouse presence that would be reunited with his best friend Robinson Cano. Status: Unchecked   
                There you have it. If you are reading this Brian Cashman you now have a guide to getting through this offseason in one piece in just ten steps, some easy and some not, but all possible. And hopefully for Yankee fans like me, those moves will get done, and then the Yankees will be on their way to winning number 28.

Robbie Cano robbed of MVP honor

On Tuesday November 23rd, two days before thanksgiving, the American League MVP (Most Valuable Player) was announced to the public. And the winner, Josh Hamilton, has a lot to be thankful for.
As a Yankee fan you can say all you want about me being a homer, but I believe I have a legit case in this argument. New York Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano was in the lineup day in and day out. He only missed two games this year, both due to manager Joe Girardi giving him a breather. In spring training before the start of the 2010 campaign, Girardi rewarded the second sacker by moving up to the number five spot in the lineup. And Cano defiantly proved his skipper right. Cano hit more than 20 homers, 100 RBI, and a .320 average, earning his first silver slugger and gold glove award-and making his case that he, not Dustin Pedroia or Chase Utley, is the best second basemen in the sport.
I think the biggest reason why Robinson Cano deserves the most valuable player is because what everyone else did around him, esspecially in front of him. You will see that Cano didn’t have a lot to work with once he came up. You look at the leadoff hitter, Derek Jeter. Jeter had a nightmare of a season batting a career low .270, Jeter also made the most outs in the game. Next, you look at the number three spot in Mark Teixeira. Big Tex struggled mightily until late May, and he floundered in September and into October with a number of injuries. Next you look at Alex Rodriguez. A-rod, like Jeter, had a nightmare of a season missing significant time in the middle of the year-I'll elaborate on that in a bit. Rodriguez also struggled to get on base batting .270, a career low just like his partner on the left side of the diamond.
                In the middle of the season, mostly August, Alex Rodriguez missed three weeks due to injury. And when that injury occurred Girardi immediately moved Cano to the cleanup spot. Girardi could have very easily moved Mark Teixeira to the fourth spot and had moved center fielder Curtis Granderson to the two spot, and had right fielder Nick Swisher bat third-thus leaving Cano in the five spot. But he didn’t, because Joe Girardi knows Robinson's value. When Cano was filling in for Rodriguez he mashed the ball to all fields, even better then he was before. He hit clutch hit after clutch hit. And he continued to shine defensively earning his first of many gold gloves.
Yes Texas Ranger outfielder Josh Hamilton had great numbers. He won the batting title, and hit more then 30 homers and hit an even 100 RBI, but this isn’t the most outstanding award. It’s the most VALUBLE player award. Hamilton only played two games in the month of September. He missed the most important month of the year. Also, according to the Elias Sports Bureau there has not been an MVP award handed out to a player that has played less then 10 games in the month of September. That’s significant because baseball is full of traditionalists. Plus Hamilton had great hitters, who had great seasons hitting in front and behind him. That includes infielders Elvis Andrews and Michael Young, outfielder Nelson Cruz, and Designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero.

Not to mention, Robinson Cano didn’t come up in second, he finished third and he didn’t even receive one first place vote! The runner up for the award was Detroit Tiger’s first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Yes Cabrera had a great season with the bat, but he is a sub-par defensive first baseman. Also, the Tigers came nowhere near the playoffs. Thus Miguel Cabrera’s value isn’t that great at all. Thats the same with  fourth place finisher Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays. Yes Bautista clubbed more than 50 homeruns and played a very good right field, but his team finished fourth in the AL East. When you talk about MVP, in my opinion one of the most important categories is how your team did record wise, because essentially that shows how much value you have to your team.
For example, if you take Miguel Cabrera and Jose Bautista off their respective clubs those teams would still be way short of the postseason. If you were to take Hamilton off the Rangers and Robinson Cano off the Yankees, the Texas Rangers may have a shot at making the postseason. Texas plays in a weaker division. The Yankees, on the other hand, played in the brutal AL East. Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto, who can hit really well as a club are pretty good teams. Even the Baltimore Orioles, who got hot once former Yankee manager Buck Showalter ran the show, can give the Yankees fits. Texas has to face the pathetic Seattle Mariners who have zero pitching after Felix Hernandez, and zero hitting after Ichiro. They also face the Oakland A’s who can’t hit their way out of a paper bag. And the Angels who have a weak starting rotation, and once Kendry Morales went down so did the rest of their lineup.
I personally believe that Robinson Cano, not Derek Jeter, not Alex Rodriguez, or Mark Teixeira, or pitchers CC Sabathia or Mariano Rivera, but Cano is the face of the New York Yankees. This guy has come a long way. He batted .270 in 2008. He also got benched for not playing at 100% effort. He even struggled in the 2009 postseason. But he has earned every award he has received. And he would have defiantly earned the MVP. It’s a shame that the so called "experts" whiffed on such an honorable award.