The release of the MLB.com pitching prospect rankings should have been a good day for the Mets, and their fans, to boast about their pitching depth. But you didn’t have to look any further than the number one spot to be reminded that the Mets are still playing second fiddle to the Washington Nationals.
The Nationals 20-year-old right-hander Lucas Giolito was named the top pitching prospect in all of major league baseball. Noah Syndergaard, 22, of the Mets followed him in the rankings. Both Syndergaard (6’6″ 240) and Giolito (6’6″ 255) have big frames and are known for their power arms. Syndergaard is expected to start the season in Triple-A and could be promoted to the big leagues as soon as 2015. Giolito has never pitched higher than A-ball and is expected to start the year in Double-A. Although their timetables are slightly different, they will undoubtedly be compared to one another upon their arrival to the major league level.
Much has been made of the Mets young pitching. This is supposed to be the year they start to lead the organization back into relevancy and play meaningful games into late September, and then hopefully October. Although I don’t question the potential in the Mets rotation, the Nationals signing of Max Scherzer not only solidified themselves as the team to beat this year, but for years to come.
Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon is likely to be the Mets opening day rotation. I excluded Dillon Gee from this list because all signs point to him being traded in the near future. Minus Colon, this group is as young and talented as there is in the game. Harvey, before undergoing Tommy John Surgery, looked like a premier pitcher in the game. DeGrom was the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year. Wheeler has struggled with his command but showed his potential as a front-line starter in the second half of the season. Niese is a consistent lefty who provides stability. Colon will be the staffs innings eater who GM Sandy Alderson will likely look to trade come the All-Star break. Thus opening up a spot in the rotation for Syndergaard to make his debut sometime this summer.
Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez are projected to be the Nationals opening day rotation. That has the makings to be Atlanta Braves 1990’s good. In the event one of these starters is traded before the season, a more than formidable Tanner Roark will step right in. Giolito might be the top pitching prospect in the game, but the Nationals feel he is a year away. GM Mike Rizzo is well aware of what he has in Giolito and could be the reason why he would be okay with trading one of his soon to be free-agent starters. One hole that remains on the Nationals roster is their bullpen. Don’t be surprised if Giolito, assuming he continues to progress, is promoted to bolster the pen down the stretch. The more likely scenario would be Giolito joining the rotation in 2016 when a spot opens up due to trade or free agency.
There is no shame in having the second-best pitching prospect in baseball. These rankings are nothing more than someones personal opinion. And at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is how these pitchers perform on the major league level. Despite many off-season rumors of teams asking for Syndergaard, the Mets were unwilling to part with him. They clearly view him as a big part of their future. Only time with tell if Syndergaard, along with the rest of the Mets young pitchers, will be able to out-duel the Nationals rotation in the years to come.
Last night I attended Pitch Talks at BB Kings in NYC. For those of you unaware, Pitch Talks is a segmented event of national and local sports writers/personalities to talk baseball. This is the first one of their events I have attended but from what I gather this is a traveling show of sorts with the participants changing based on location. It’s events like this that remind me just how lucky I am to live in the most powerful sports market in the country. We were spoiled with some of the most prominent people in the industry to entertain us with baseball talk, in the middle of January.
Pete Abraham (Boston Globe) played the master of ceremonies role as he moderated all three segments. The night started off talking about the game on a national level with panelist Ken Rosenthal (Fox Sports/MLBN), Buster Olney (ESPN) and Jay Jaffe (Sports Illustrated). Given the timing of the event it was no shock that the Hall of Fame was a focal point of discussion. It was made rather clear that all three have a problem with the voting process and it sounds like changes will be heavily discussed going forward. Whether it be the removal of the character clause, increasing the amount of players you can vote for or the amount of years players can remain on a ballot remain to be seen.
There was no argument that given any unforeseen event Mike Piazza will get elected next year. Rosenthal believes that this will open the flood gates to allow other suspected, but not proven, PED players to be elected going forward. I still want to hold out hope that Piazza is clean, but I understand the point. Jaffe refrained from using too many sabermetrics last night which disappointed me a little as I enjoy watching traditional writers debate new age thinking. I was happy Jaffe was quick to shut down the notion that Pete Rose is no different from the PED guys. As he said, it’s “Apples and oranges” – he broke the golden rule and should never be allowed in.
When it came to Rob Manfred taking over for Bud Selig as the new commissioner, no one felt much would be different. He was groomed for this position under Selig and is suspected to have similar beliefs on how the game should operate. One thing mentioned to keep an eye on was the pace of play. Olney believes that it is only a matter of time until a pitch clock is inserted.
All three of them wanted to see the game market their young stars better and they couldn’t be more right about this. I think the NBA might do this better than other league. They do a great job marketing players in the smaller markets and turn them into household names. Just think Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City) and Anthony Davis (New Orleans). MLB is doing terrific locally but they need to take a page out of the NBA’s playbook and promote their stars on a national level.
Next up was the Mets segment where Olney stuck around and was joined by Matthew Cerrone (MetsBlog) and Adam Rubin (ESPN NY). As a shocker to no one, the Wilpons and the SS position were the hot topics. Olney and Rubin reiterated that the Mets payroll is what it is. There is no reason to believe it will be changing anytime in the near future. It was suggested that the Wilpons long ties with Selig will holdover with Manfred taking the reigns. You could see the genuine disgust in Olney, and Rosenthal in the previous segment, over the lack of Mets payroll and efforts to act like a major market franchise.
Every time Wilmer Flores or Ruben Tejada were so much as mentioned you could hear the snickers in the crowd, I chose just to shake my head. In order to become a real contender they believed the Mets need to pull the trigger on an Ian Desmond type of player. Although I have been hesitant myself to give up our pitching prospects, last night started to sway me. It is all but a given at least half of those prospects will either not pan out or go down due to injury. This where the highly touted minds in that front office need to earn their keep and decide which are the ones the Mets should be willing to part with.
It was mentioned that the feeling around baseball is that the Mets feel they have to win every trade. Of course I understand that to a certain extent, especially when you are in rebuilding mode. But if you are going to sell the fans on the fact that you are trying to win now, you have to take a chance once in a while and give something of value up to fill a void. That is the conundrum the Mets front office currently faces. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that the Mets will be above .500 this year, but no one saw them as anything more than “in the wild card hunt” as the roster currently stands.
The evening finished up with a “Bronx Banter” discussion when Jaffe returned with Sweeny Murti (WFAN) and Tyler Kepner (NY Times) filling out the group nicely. There wasn’t any “core four” talk and it was weird to think of the Yankees no longer having that face of the franchise player. A lot was made about who would take over as the new clubhouse leader. The belief was that it is only a matter of time until Brian McCann becomes that guy. I’ve always heard great things about McCann and that wouldn’t surprise me at all. Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira have spent a good amount of time in NY now and I would really like to see them step into that role as well.
Although no one had any real reason to believe the Yankees will make another big splash, they agreed to never count them out of anything. Given what GM Brian Cashman has done so far this off season, they believe he is relying heavily on his defense and the bullpen. The pen may be in great shape but Murti and Kepner both felt they need one, maybe two, more starters. Jaffe raised an interesting point that he could envision the Yankees making Andrew Miller the closer this season and keep Dillin Betances as the set-up man. His reasoning being that this will keep Betances cost down for another season as set-up men earn far less than closers. It’s hard for me to believe the Yankees would actually operate this way but maybe the times are a changing.
One thing that doesn’t change is AROD finding his way into the discussion. No one believes that the Yankees are ready to simply pay AROD to go away. Not yet at least. Murti stressed the notion that the Yankees received the lowest production out of the DH position in the American League last year. I was pretty shocked by that. He felt that if the Yankees want to maximize AROD’s production then he should be delegated as the teams full-time DH. I think Cashman all but assured us AROD won’t be playing much third base once he resigned Chase Headley.
Although I read/watch these guys do on a daily basis, it was great to see them interact in this type of setting. It’s fun to see their personalities come to life and get genuine emotion out of them. Rosenthal and Olney are two of the most recognizable figures in this industry. It was nice to see them loosen their tie up (bow tie in Rosenthal’s case) and just talk baseball in the bar as so many of us do. Jaffe even brought his beer on stage with him.
I strongly encourage fans to follow each of last nights panelist throughout the year. They get to spend more time at home during the winter but there is no such thing as an off season for any of them. There is sure to be plenty more baseball to talk about on both a local and national level between now and opening day.
35 days till pitchers and catchers report. But who’s counting?
Yesterday we learned that the National Baseball Hall of Fame will be enshrining four players this year. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio will all be making the trip to Cooperstown. There aren’t any surprises in this group, as all four were expected to make the cut.
Despite this being among the largest groups to ever be elected, it can be argued a few others should be joining them. There are clear holes in the HOF voting process and I have some suggestions on how to improve them. They go for both the HOF committee and the writers themselves.
Allow the writers to remove players from the HOF
In fairness to the writers, I know the main fear many seem to have is electing a player into the HOF who is later found to be a known PED user. I understand this fear and feel something needs to be done to put their minds at ease. At the moment there is nothing in place for a player to be removed from the HOF. I believe an amendment (or whatever they would call it) should be asserted which would empower the same group of writers to vote players out under certain circumstances. I’ll leave the discussion as to what those circumstances would be for another time.
I know many would still vote skeptically and rightly so to a degree. But this ultimately should help both sides, as the writers know they have the ability to correct a mistake and a player will not be improperly punished. We already do this with such honors as the Heisman Trophy (think Reggie Bush) in sports, why not the MLB HOF? I know what a high regard the HOF is held in. It is the most prestigious in all of professional sports and this will allow it to remain that way.
Don’t limit votes
A problem many writers complained about this year was the inability to vote for all the players that they wanted to. Because the rules limit voters to no more than 10 players on a ballot some were forced to decide who to leave off. In my opinion, that rule is ridiculous. Either you are a HOF’er or you aren’t. There is no need to have a limit on something like this. I realize the ballots are crowded more than ever before. This is due mostly to inflated recent numbers and questionable past causing many to stay on ballots longer than expected (both problems caused by the steroid era).That shouldn’t be the case forever. But it will for be the foreseeable future.
It forces writers to make decisions that they shouldn’t be asked to make. This unfairly cost players who may be in their final years on a ballot to lose costly votes. Players like Alan Trammel, Edgar Martinez, Tim Raines and Fred McGriff are borderline candidates who are not receiving their proper consideration because writers ballots are already maxed out. Time is quickly running out on them with the new 10-year limit.
In his first season on a ballot Carlos Delgado received less than 5% of the votes. This mean he falls below the requirement to remain on next years ballot. I’m not saying Delgado was a sure-fire HOF player, but his career numbers warranted him much more than one season of consideration. If a writer feels only one players deserves a vote, fine, vote for one player. But if they feel there are 15 players who deserve a vote then there is no reason they shouldn’t be allowed to vote for all 15. It’s hard enough to get 75% of the writers to agree on you, removing a maximum number of votes on ballots will not cheapen the HOF.
This one is for the writers. I have a problem with the way some went about using their votes. I’ll be the first to admit that the steroid era has put so much pressure to vote one way or the other for players in question. This has caused many to take a hard stance on letting these players (Bonds, McGwire, Clemens, Sosa, Piazza, Bagwell, Sheffield etc.) into the HOF. In my opinion, there is no right or wrong answer. The only thing I ask is that you be consistent. If you want to vote a known/suspected PED user into the HOF, that’s your prerogative. But, you shouldn’t be making exceptions and only overlooking the past of some. You must do that with all or none of the players in question.
Bonds and Clemens will continue to be the poster boys for this conversation so long as their names remain on the ballot. Neither gained any real traction this year but that could change as next years class is nowhere near as strong. If you are going to use votes on these two then you should also be casting votes for McGwire, Sosa, Bagwell, Piazza, Sheffield and anyone else that falls under this cloud. Whatever stance you choose to take, at least fully commit to it.
The voting process is far from perfect and my suggestions don’t fix everything. But I do know that they help improve what is currently in place. Baseball has always resisted change, on and off the field, but I believe something will be done in the near future to help correct some of the flaws in the HOF voting process.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman knows he still has work to do this off season. Missing the playoffs once in the Bronx? Okay. Two years in a row? Say your prayers that you still have a job. Three years in a row? Let’s just say no one wants to find out the answer to that question.
For me, I would be most concerned with the starting rotation. The Yankees took another blow with the news of Hiroki Kuroda returning to Japan. Since joining the Yankees in 2011, Kuroda has been their most reliable starter. Just have a look at his three year breakdown with the Yankees:
2012: 16-11 (33 Games started) 219 Innings pitched 3.32 ERA
2013: 11-13 (32 Games started) 201 Innings pitched 3.31 ERA
2014: 11-9 (32 Games started) 199 Innings pitched 3.71 ERA
The Yankees also lost Shane Greene (Traded to the Diamondbacks), and David Phelps (Traded to the Marlins). While neither were expected to play an important part in the Yankees future plans, they both figured to be in the rotation mix at some point throughout the year, due to injury or promotion.
The 2015 Yankee rotation projects to be the following:
- Masahiro Tanaka – The Japanese import quickly established himself as one of the games top starters. Tanaka went 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts. He was well on his way to winning AL Rookie of the Year honors and was going to be in the AL Cy Young award discussion before an elbow issue shut him down. After resting for two months, he was able to return briefly in September to show the Yankees he was good to go for 2015. If healthy, The Yankees have an ace for their staff. Tanaka has avoided the three ugliest words in the game, Tommy John Surgery, for now.
- Michael Pineda - After missing all of 2012 and 2013 to injuries, he looked sharp in his 2014 return. Pineda posted a fantastic 1.89 ERA and looked to be a front-end starter in the makings. However, he was only able to manage 13 starts and 76 innings due to continued health issues and a notorious suspension. Hard to say what the Yankees can rely on getting out of a pine tar less Pineda.
- CC Sabathia - 2013 was ugly but 2014 was just down right forgettable for Sabathia, He was only able to make eight starts and posted a 5.78 ERA before suffering a season ending knee injury. The once ace of the staff is now a huge liability on the Yankees books. With three years remaining (The third being a player vesting option that is likely to be picked up) Cashman has his fingers crossed Sabathia is able to reinvent himself. I have him in the #3 slot but that is based on reputation alone. His recent results barely warrant him a spot in the rotation at all. We’ll give him the benefit of doubt that some of his struggles were injury based, for now.
- Nathan Eovaldi - The trade for the young flame thrower was the most surprising move Cashman has made so far this off season. Eovaldi is among the hardest throwing starters in all of baseball. The Yankees desperately needed to get younger, especially in the rotation, and acquiring the 25-year-old helped solve that problem. This will be pitching coach Larry Rothschilds biggest project. Despite consistently clocking one of the hardest fastballs, he also gave up hits at an alarming rate. The Yankees hope that Rothschild can help fine tune this talent and that they found themselves a diamond in the rough.
- Chris Capuano - In my opinion, the Yankees are in serious trouble if they are relying on a full season of Capuano in the rotation. I do like Capuano for what he is and the price was right to retain him. The 36-year-old lefty made 12 starts with the Yankees after being acquired from the Red Sox last year and posted a 4.25 ERA. I would prefer to see him fill the void left by the Phelps and Greene combination – becoming the teams swing man, spending time in the rotation as needed and the versatile arm in the bullpen.
In house help
Ivan Nova - After undergoing Tommy John Surgery last year, he is expected to be ready sometime in May-June. After posting a strong 2013 campaign, he struggled in 2014 before going down for the season after just four starts. It’s hard to have high expectations for a pitcher returning from surgery but he could provide a mid season boost.
Luis Severino – The 20-year-old has quickly made a name for himself and is now the organizations top-ranked prospect. Severino has a fastball that sits in the mid-high 90’s but will still need a little bit more fine tuning in the minor leagues. Although he won’t be with the Yankees come April, he is worth keeping an eye on throughout the season. It’s only a matter of time before Severino is on the mound in Yankee Stadium.
Max Scherzer – The 2013 AL Cy Young award winner took a chance when he turned down a huge extension from the Tigers last off season. But it appears his gamble is going to payoff, he returned with an equally impressive 2014 season and remains the biggest name in this free agency class. Being the top starter on the market doesn’t come cheap these days. The 30-year-old is said to be seeking a 7-to-8 year deal north of $200 million.
James Shields – He has been the poster boy of reliability for starting pitchers. Since 2007, Shields has made 30+ starts and thrown 200+ innings in each season. Although he hasn’t lived up to the “Big game James” moniker in terms of his October performances, he is exactly what the Yankees are in dire need of. There is no injury history to speak of when it comes to Shields and given the question marks surrounding the rest of the staff, Joe Girardi desperately needs an arm he can count on to take the mound every five days.
Cole Hamels - Unlike Scherzer and Shields, he is not a free agent. But, the Phillies are set to go into full blown rebuilding mode and have put Hamels on the market. It has been reported that the Yankees are one of the teams on Hamels list that he would waive his no trade clause for. Hamels has made 28+ starts in eight straight seasons and posted a career low 2.46 ERA in 2014. The 31-year-old has 4 years and $94 million left on his contract with a fifth year option for another $20 million.
At the end of the day, I think the Yankees need to either sign Shields or try to trade for Hamels. Scherzer might be the sexy move, but that doesn’t make it the right move. He is a power pitcher who is now entering the wrong side of 30. The Yankees don’t have to look any further than within their own rotation (Sabathia) to see how the back end of a contract with that type of pitcher plays out.
Shields provides the type of stability that Kuroda gave these past three years. Although he might not have performed in October last year, he did help anchor a staff into October, something the Yanks haven’t done in two years. Given his age and the way the market seems to be unfolding – a 4-year-deal might be able to land him. Even if they have to overpay it’s better to do that than give out the years. That is something Cashman must deter away from doing.
Hamels would be the most ideal fit. He has proven to be as durable as anyone in the game today. Hamels would combine with Tanaka to make one of, if not the strongest, 1-2 punch in all of the American League. He already has a contract in place that while high, isn’t unreasonable given his production. There won’t be any questions about his ability to pitch in New York given he has already proved himself in Philadelphia, a tough town in its own right. Plus he has succeeded in Citizens Bank Park, a field as hitter friendly as Yankee Stadium. The fact that his contract doesn’t have him locked up too far into his twilight years makes him even more attractive.
I don’t know what the Yankees will do. But I do know there are too many questions surrounding that projected starting rotation for Brian Cashman to sit idle.
On Sunday night, Odell Beckham Jr. made one of the most incredible catches I have ever seen in the Giants loss to the Cowboys. The catch could be found within minutes all over the internet and will be sure to live on in highlight reels for eternity. After watching the play for what felt like the thousandth time, I couldn’t help but feel a similarity to the Endy Chavez catch in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.
It’s not easy for me to think about the 2006 NLCS. Typing this post has brought back all sorts of bad memories. Game 7 was one of those nights where all Mets fans can tell you where they experienced that misery. As for me, I watched at a bar called Reefers in Federal Hill, Baltimore while I was still attending Towson University. I remember it like it was yesterday. With the game tied in the sixth inning Scott Rolen tattooed a ball to deep left field, it appeared that would put an end to the Mets World Series hopes and dreams.
Endy Chavez tracked that ball at full speed all the way back to the warning track, leaped up and slammed his body against the wall while putting his arm out to its full extension. Somehow, someway, Chavez was able to snag it a few feet over the fence. When he landed, he had to take a double-check into his glove, as I think he was in as much disbelief as the rest of us that he had actually made that catch. He then quickly fired it back into the infield and the Mets were able to double Jim Edmonds off of first base for an inning ending double play. It was a surreal moment. There was no way the Mets were going to lose that game.
Then the unthinkable happened. It started with Yadier Molina hitting a two-run home run in the ninth inning off of Aaron Heilman, well out of Chavezs’ reach this time. As if that wasn’t heart breaking enough, the Mets went on to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth for Carlos Beltran. Beltran, had already established himself as a great postseason performer, earning his contract with the Mets after going on a tear just a few Octobers earlier with the Houston Astros. But wouldn’t you know the Mets luck, Beltran went down looking at a 3-2 curveball from rookie Adam Wainwright.
Although Beckham JR’s catch was made in the regular season for a flailing Giants team, it will still be remembered as an all-time great play. Chavez on the other hand, went from making arguably the greatest catch in postseason history, to making the greatest catch that also brings about the greatest amount of heartache to its fan base. I will always remember it as a bittersweet moment in Mets history.
Ultimately both the Giants and Mets lost those respective games. I do have to give the edge to Chavez simply because of the situation in which he made his. But the ultimate goal is always to win the game, after all, these are teams sports. For that reason alone, these will both be known as the greatest catches that never really mattered in NY sports.
Hidden in the news of the Mets yet again introducing new uniforms and hats into the 2015 rotation, whoop-dee-doo, it was announced that Josh Lewin will be returning next year. There were questions surrounding the radio booth last season when the Mets made the move over to 710 WOR, but they made that transition smoothly with the retention of Howie Rose and Lewin.
With everything that has gone wrong with this franchise for the past several years, the broadcasting crew on both SNY and 710 WOR are something the fans can count on. Few broadcasting teams around the game can keep fans tuned in the way the Mets do.
Radio is an overlooked part of broadcasting in the other major sports. But not in baseball. Games are played on a daily basis, fans don’t stop everything they’re doing and arrange their schedules to get in front of their televisions for a game the way many do for football games. That’s the beauty of baseball. The pace of the game and the way a story can unfold is a perfect match for radio. This is why so many of us can stay tuned in by listening in our cars, enjoy the summer weather while we set up a radio or stream on an electronic device just about anywhere we might be where a TV is not. The key to this relationship is the right voice(s) on the other side to keep us entertained. (more…)
This time last year we were all asking ourselves – Is David Robertson capable of taking over for Mariano Rivera? The answer was a resounding yes. Now it’s time for Robertson to cash in on his success.
What amazed me most was just how quietly Robertson accomplished this feat. There is no team in all of professional sports that puts more pressure on their players than the New York Yankees. Yet Robertson didn’t falter when it was his turn to step into the spotlight and put together a successful first season in the closer role.
Robertson earned 39 saves with a 3.08 era in 2014. His walk ratio, which is something that had been a problem earlier in his career, saw a slight rise but has been mostly stable for the past three years now. He also saw a rise in his strikeout ratio, 13.4 per nine innings, a very solid number that you look for in closers.
Earlier this week was the deadline for teams to make their qualifying offers to pending free agents. It was questionable as to what the Yankees were going to do with Robertson. Despite his strong season, the Yankees do have a young Dellin Betances to fall back on. The rookie right-hander took the league by storm and has the makings of becoming a closer one day. But the Yankees decided to make Robertson that 1-year $15.3 million qualifying offer, meaning they might not be ready just yet to thrust Betances into that role. (more…)
Earlier in the week it was announced that the Mets Triple-A hitting coach George Greer had been hired by the St. Louis Cardinals. Greer was named the Cardinals system wide hitting coach. It is well-known that the Mets are in search of a new hitting coach, thus making the timing of this move a bit odd to me.
The Cardinals have been one of the premier franchises in the sport for some time now. They compete for a World Series title year in, year out, leaving many wondering just how do they do it? Very rarely do you see the Cardinals give out long-term deals to overpriced free agents. They let arguable the games best player at the time, Albert Pujols, walk and they didn’t even skip a beat. I credit much of this to their player development and scouting department. An area which the Mets undoubtedly need to improve on.
This is what left me thinking, What exactly are the Cardinals seeing in Greer that the Mets aren’t? If an organization of the Cardinals stature felt he was worth such a position, why wouldn’t the Mets do their best to hold onto him? Greer was rumored to be a potential candidate for the Mets hitting coach, I’ll go ahead and assume he felt he was not going to be offered the position. Aside from that, interim hitting coach Lamar Johnson was told the Mets would not be retaining him as the teams hitting coach, choosing to rather reassign him elsewhere within the organization. These two factors must have played a big part in Greer making the decision to leave so quickly. But at the very least, why wasn’t he offered a similar position within the organization?
I’ll be the first to say that I think the value of a hitting coach is overstated. These are major league baseball players, they already know how to hit and require very little coaching at this level of play. With that being said, even the best of players can develop bad habits and go into a slump. This is where the advice from a hitting coach may come into play. Besides the occasional tweak or words of encouragement to a younger player, I don’t think a hitting coach has the ability to turn around an entire offense simply by his presence.
At the end of the day, this is just a minor league hitting instructor. But this move left me once again questioning the thought process within our front office. Look around the league, unless you are willing to open up your checkbook like the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox, you must rely heavily on your farm system to build from within. Maybe I’m overstating this and Greer is an easily replaceable coach, but I have to doubt that if an organization of the Cardinals caliber was willing to scoop him away.
Last night was one of the more surreal moments I have ever experienced at a sporting event. When I first got my hands on four tickets for Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium, my initial instinct was “I’m going to make a fortune off of these”. Although that may have very well been the case, I couldn’t be happier that I bypassed the financial reward and decided to attend the game with three of my closest friends.
From the moment we stepped foot into the stadium the “De-rek Jet-er” chants had begun, it didn’t take long to realize just how electric this crowd would be all night long. A good portion of Yankee games sellout throughout the season, but you know it’s a special game when everyone is in their seats a half hour before first pitch.
Jeter was given a standing ovation before the game even started, when he accepted a donation on behalf of the Yankees to his charity. Then another when he took the field to warmup. Then another after a scoreboard message played a thank you tribute. Then another when his Gatorade commercial aired. Then another when he took his position on the field. Then another when his Nike commercial aired. Then another when he stepped into the on-deck circle. Then another when he finally stepped into the batter’s box. If you didn’t get the hint by now, there was very little sitting at this game.
It became apparent rather quickly that Jeter would once again relish in the moment. In his first at-bat, he roped a deep line drive to left center field, missing a home run by only a few feet. That left many of us wondering if that would be the highlight from his final game. He hasn’t exactly torn the cover off the baseball this season, would that be his final hit at the stadium?
After the first inning, the game went into cruise control through the 7th inning. The most entertainment came from the Jumbotron. In between innings former players and coaches would share with us their favorite Jeter moments. It was truly remarkable that one man could be in the middle of so many historical moments in this storied franchises history. I applauded for each and every one of these, except for one. When the 2000 World Series highlight reel began, when the Yankees beat my beloved Mets and Jeter was named series MVP, it reminded me of the love/hate relationship I’ve had with Jeter for all these years.
Hate is a strong word, but there were plenty of times when I truly felt this way towards Jeter. I’m 27-years-old, meaning my baseball memories pretty much started alongside Jeter’s career. In that time, I have seen the Mets make the playoffs three times, compared to the Yankees 16, and that’s not even counting the one game regular season playoff against the Mariners in 95’. The Mets have become known for public relation blunders, lack of accountability and most notably, heartbreak. Jeter on the other hand, has stood for the polar opposite.
The man has never made a public relations blunder in his life, even the story of Jeter giving his one night stands a gift baskets of sorts turned positive for the coveted bachelor. It’s hard to walk 5 feet in Yankee Stadium without seeing a “Yeah Jeets!” shirt or a fan shouting the term in endearment. Accountability, fugetaboutit. Despite being second only to Bill Belichick in giving the most boring interviews, he always stands pact at his locker accepting both the praise and blame. You will never hear him throw blame elsewhere, all of it falls on the Captains shoulders. When it comes to heartbreak, Jeter has given the fans very little. He has been a part of 13 division titles, seven American League Championships and won five World Series Championships. Sure this is a team sport, and he isn’t solely responsible for those accomplishments, but he played a damn big part in it.
Needless to say, my feelings towards him have walked a fine line between hate and envy. But back to last night…
Jeter stepped up with the stage set for a big moment in the seventh. With the bases loaded and the game tied the crowd was, you guessed it, on their feet. Although Jeter didn’t come through with a hit, he did put the ball in play forcing an error on a fielder’s choice, allowing the Yankees to take the lead. This might not have felt like a significant play, but I felt summed up a big portion of Jeters career that you won’t find in any stat sheet. He was involved in a game changing play. Sure it wasn’t a home run or a bases clearing double, but he made something happen on a measly weak ground ball. Typical Jeter.
When David Robertson took the mound in the ninth inning to close out the game, the crowd was more than happy for it to end this way. My friends and I might have been the only four people in the stadium rooting for the Orioles to tie it up. Jeter was due up third in the bottom of the ninth, who wouldn’t want to see him bat one more time? After Robertson surrendered the first home run, we cheered, when he gave up the game tying home run….we really cheered. At this point we HAD to be the only non-Oriole fans high-fiving each other. The guys behind us were not amused. One friend quickly stated his ninth inning prediction:
“Single, bunt him over to second, Jeter single to win it”
We kind of laughed this statement off and gave each other the “imagine?” response. Even Jeter can’t be that lucky to have it end like that.
Well, wouldn’t you know it, Jose Pirela started the inning off with a single. Alright, now we’re looking at each other like we might be onto something. Gardner steps up and lays down a perfect sacrifice bunt. At this point, I think the whole crowd was in a state of disbelief that Jeter would be coming to the plate in this situation. It just seemed too good to be true. In true Jeter fashion, he lines a single into right field and drives in Pirela for the winning run. I mean, wow. Words cannot even describe the emotion running through the stadium at that very moment. The same guys that we aggravated an inning earlier by our blown save celebration were now shaking my buddies in disbelief for predicting this exact scenario.
Jeter was mobbed by teammates and the Yankees used their flair for the dramatics – revealing the presence of Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez and Mariano Rivera on the Jumobtron, one-by-one, as they waited to greet Jeter. I would say the crowd gave Jeter one last standing ovation, but the truth is I don’t think we ever stopped standing or applauding from the moment he stepped up at the plate to the time he faded away forever into the dugout.
This was truly a fairytale ending for Jeter, something straight out of Hollywood. You would’ve sworn this game was scripted the way it all unfolded. Jeter might have been the luckiest man on the face of the earth last night, but my friends and I were a close second.
Despite all of the injury problems the Yankees have faced this season, they have continued to keep themselves in the playoff hunt. While general manager Brian Cashman made some nice additions around the trading deadline, he was unable to land that “game changer” type of player.
Although there wasn’t a big name brought in, the Yankees could soon be receiving a jolt from within their own roster. Mashiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, the early season 1-2 punch in the rotation, each received good news this week regarding their rehab. Pineda, completed his first assignment and is scheduled to throw two more before a possible big league return. While Tanaka, threw a baseball for the first time in a month yesterday to positive results. Although his return would be roughly a month away, he could very well prove to be the difference maker they need down the stretch.
Cashman, did a fine job adding the pieces he did with such limited resources. Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy have quickly made an impact, while Martin Prado and Stephen Drew added some much-needed versatility to the roster. But the moves he didn’t make could turn into his finest of them all. The Yankees farm system is already well depleted. Trading for a rental player would have only sent their system back even further than it already is. Waiting on the rehabbing Tanaka and Pineda could prove to be the best decision he makes this year.
If the Yankees are able to stay in contention until the cavalry arrives, high praise will not only be in order for the job Cashman has done, but Joe Girardi as well. Girardi has once again proven himself to be a top-tier manager in the game today. He continues to get production out of his rosters, no matter who is on the disabled list.
Look for the Yankees to make things interesting down the stretch, especially if Tanaka and Pineda return to their earlier form.
In unsurprising news, Jacob deGrom was named the NL Rookie of the month. It was hard to imagine deGrom NOT winning this award after going 4-1 with a 1.39 ERA in July.
Much has been made of the New York Mets pitching depth, and rightly so, but deGrom was a bit of an afterthought heading into the season. Although he was spoken of highly by the front office inner circle, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero were supposed to be the rookies making an impact this year. While those two struggled early on, deGrom rose to the occasion and quickly made his presence known in the majors.
Degrom, is now 6-5 on the year with a 2.77 ERA. Those numbers are great for anyone, let alone a rookie. It isn’t just his raw stats that have impressed, but also his demeanor and mentality on the mound. DeGrom has that “it” factor, one that can’t be fully explained. He attacks a lineup in a fearless manor, challenging hitters at all times. Which is what has drawn the comparisons between Matt Harvey and himself. There repertoires may not be the same, but their desire to compete and win are similar, which has quickly won over this fan base.
When asked about the Rookie of the Year rumblings, deGrom struggled to even name the others in contention.
“I don’t know who they all are,” deGrom said. “I know Hamilton. Who else? I honestly really haven’t been paying attention to it.”
At this point, deGrom may have named the only competition he has. If deGrom isn’t widely known around the league by now, he will be soon.
Despite a depleted starting rotation, and their aging position players dealing with nagging injuries, the Yankees have kept themselves well within reach of playoff baseball. Without any true powerhouse in the AL East, every team has been able to stay in the mix.
Brian Cashman has already been a busy man, making an array of mid-level moves to patch holes on his roster. Chase Headley, was brought in to fill a need at third base, while Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano, are attempting to solidify the rotation. So far-so good, as all three of these players have already made a positive impact. These are the kind of low-risk, high-reward maneuvers that Cashman has been making the last few seasons (Ichiro in 2012 & Alfonso Soriano 2013). Since there additions, each has provided an initial spark into the Yankees, helping them winning 7 of their first 8 games after the all-star break. But, they have lost three straight games since. While these are nice pieces that can undoubtedly help the Yankees down the stretch, they probably aren’t enough to get the job done.
After all, these are the Yankees we’re talking about. With the money Cashman spent this offseason, forget about any of that luxury tax nonsense many convinced us the Yankees were striving to stay below. There is no shortage of star power available at this years trade deadline, it’s more a matter of are you willing to take on one of these contracts? Names such as Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Matt Kemp, Marlon Byrd, Bartolo Colon, Chase Utley, Josh Willingham, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki have all been tied to the Yankees in trade rumors. Many possess large multi-year deals, the type that their respective teams would love to unload, but only few teams would be capable of adding these numbers onto their books. Luckily, the Yankees are one of them.
As I mentioned earlier, no one is running away with the division this year. Baltimore sits atop right now with a 2.5 game lead over Toronto, with the Yankees in third place trailing by 4.5 games. Tampa, who many thought played themselves out of the discussion with their horrendous start, is now the hottest team in baseball. After winning 29 of their last 40 games, the Rays are behind the Yankees by only 2.5 games. Division aside, the Yankees are tied with Seattle in the wild card standings, trailing the Blue Jays and Angels by two games for one of two spots available.
Brian Cashman needs to pull the trigger on one of these impact players, preferably a top of the rotation starter. With C.C. Sabathia finished for the year and Tanaka’s future in question, Joe Girardi desperately needs an anchor in his staff to count on down the stretch. A vintage Yankees “big splash” is exactly what this team needs to become a real contender. Simply put, with two months of the season left to play, October baseball is well within grasp.
Joe Torre, who was famously dubbed “Clueless Joe” by the New York Daily News, was enshrined into the baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. Turns out Torre DID know what he was getting himself into, and may have managed the last great dynasty we will see in baseball.
Many forget just how good of a player Torre was before his managerial career ever began. He was a 9-time all-star, who won the batting title and NL MVP award in 1971, while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite having a great 18-year career, it was as a manager that he really left his mark on the game.
Torre first got his chance to manage in 1977, as he served as a player/coach for the New York Mets in the final year of his career. Torre went on to coach the Mets for the better part of 5 seasons, where he received poor results, due mostly to the lack-luster roster he was given to work with. From there, he went on to coach the Atlanta Braves for three years and the St. Louis Cardinals for six years. There his teams improved, but was still unable to turn any of them into a real contender.
Cue 1996. The Yankees were coming off back-to-back strong seasons, and had a young core in place to build around. George Steinbrenner made a highly questionable move when he hired Torre in to take over at the helm, considering he had winning seasons in only 5 of his 15 years as a manager. Nonetheless, it quickly became apparent that he was indeed the right man for the job. In his 12 seasons with the Yankees, his teams won 10 division titles, 6 pennants and 4 World Series championships. All the while putting up with the daily scrutiny from the NY media and most importantly, Steinbrenner himself. Torres’ tenure with the Yankees will long be remembered as one of the greatest stretches in baseball history.
After moving on to manage the L.A. Dodgers to put an end to his stellar career, Torre finished with 2,326 games won as a manager, good for 5th all-time. Congratulations and welcome to Cooperstown, Joe Torre.
Watch his Hall of Fame speech in its entirety below:
Remember heading into the All-Star break when the Mets seemed poised to take back this town? Yeah, about that. Amazingly, in just the first weekend back, the Yankees and Mets momentum has reversed.
We had the young Mets riding high, winning 8 of 10 to finish off the first half. Newspaper and TV outlets had announced it was time for the Mets to end the Yankees long running reign as kings of New York. Things looked even brighter when the Mets were set to face the lowly Padres to start off the half. After a promising win on Friday night, the Mets offense went silent as they dropped the next two games. It wasn’t just that they lost, it was how they lost. Although the pitching remained strong, the return of an anemic offense reminded us of this teams achilles heal. Daniel Murphy will need to get out of this recent slump, while the revival of Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson and Travis d’Arnaud must continue for the Mets to turn things around.
The Yankees closed out the first half getting bad news, after bad news. Their aging roster continued to get banged up and one after another went down in the starting rotation. C.C. Sabathia had knee surgery to finish his year, Michael Pineda’s return remains in doubt and no one really knows what the future holds for Mashiro Tanaka. With nothing but negativity surrounding the Yankees heading into the break, starting the second half with a sweep of the Reds was exactly what this franchise needed. Despite the lack of depth in the starting rotation, unlikely candidates have stepped up. Hiroki Kuroda is now the “ace” of this staff by default, and he pitched quite well out if the gate. David Phelps had a solid performance and newly acquired Brandon McCarthy showed signs of returning to his old form. Jacoby Ellsbury carried the offense over the weekend and he may need to do so the rest of the way if the Yankees are going to make any sort of a run. So far, so good for the Yankees.
I realize we are only ONE series into the second half, but it’s amazes me just how quickly the mood surrounding each franchise can change. I still believe the Mets have a brighter future ahead of them, but I’m not ready to commit to their reign starting in the second half. Many questions still remain surrounding the Yankees, as I don’t have confidence that they will be able to stay healthy enough to reach the post season. But the AL East lacks a dominant team and the division is there for the taking. A big splash from Brian Cashman at the trade deadline wouldn’t surprise me, as that is what it will take to keep this team afloat. One thing I do know for certain, it’s good to have baseball back in full force.
Much like highly anticipated Super Bowl ads are leaked days in advance now, Nike released their Derek Jeter tribute commercial a day before it’s due to air. The video has quickly gone viral, taking over our social media news feeds, and rightly so.
A star-studded list of celebrities and athletes make cameo’s as they tip their caps, a gesture of respect in baseball circles, to the longtime Yankee captain before he steps in for an at-bat. Spike Lee, Billy Crystal, Joe Torre, Carmelo Anthony, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan are just some of those featured.
Jeter, will start in his 14th, and final, All-Star game tonight. Much like former teammate Mariano Rivera last year, this will undoubtedly become the Jeter show. Dugouts will clear, fans will rise to their feet and broadcasters will go numb as baseball fans across the country show their gratitude for everything he has given to the game. It isn’t just his Hall of Fame credentials, but Jeters’ character that has him among the most respected players of his generation.
Watch the very well done ad below: