Wednesday, January 7, 2015

With spring training nearing, A-Rod working hard to get in shape

Not many people seem to believe he can still play, but Yankees infielder Alex Rodriguez is working hard to return to the field. 

Rodriguez has been looking good in his recent workouts, according to a source in contact with The New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand. The 39-year-old, coming off a year-long suspension for steroid use, hasn't started regularly for the Yankees in two seasons, but is expected to be the club's DH on Opening Day. 

"Everything he's doing in Miami, he's trying to do it at game speed," the source told Feinsand. "His bat is getting through the zone quickly."

The Yankees surely can't dislike that observation, as the team hit under .250 last season for the second consecutive year. Indeed, New York's batting average in 2014 reached just .245, a full 20-point drop from where it was in 2012. 

Yet it's somewhat difficult to think how bringing in Rodriguez as an everyday guy would better that stat, especially since the veteran is only impressing right now against college and independant league pitchers. 

“His power is still there,” the source said. “He’s healthy. That’s the biggest thing.”

Rodriguez missed most of 2013 after undergoing hip surgery, so his being in shape is certainly important to the Yankees. They dealt with plenty of injuries last season, including but not limited to ones to Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Carlos Beltran.

The Yankees are hopeful Rodriguez can use that wellness to contribute to their bottom third of the order next year, where the slugger will likely slide in between Didi Gregorius and whoever wins the second base job.

ESPN's Wallace Matthews on why Randy Johnson won't be remembered for his days with the Yankees

ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews is going against those looking at now Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson as a "former Yankee."
Matthews gave his own take on the 51-year-old's short time with the team in an article published Tuesday, not speaking very highly of Johnson's two seasons in pinstripes in it to say the least. He argued in the piece that Johnson's brief stint with the Yankees will be remembered more for how it started and ended "than anything that happened in between," backing up his opinion with his own experiences covering the left-hander.
"My memories of him as a Yankee are murky at best," Matthews wrote. "I think I covered just a handful of his starts as a columnist over two seasons, and I came away with the impression that he didn't like New York, didn't like being a Yankee, didn't like the glare of the spotlight and certainly didn't like the media."
Johnson and the media certainly didn't get off on the best foot when Johnson first arrived in the Big Apple, so that observation doesn't appear misguided.
On the way to a physical to confirm his trade from the Diamondbacks to the Yankees in January of 2005, Johnson shoved a local cameraman shooting footage of him on the street, clearly angry with him when doing so. Johnson would apologize for the event later on, but nonetheless, it would never be forgotten.
Maybe that's part of the reason reporters like Matthews came away with such a bad impression of him, despite his good reputation with other cities.
"I never really got to know him, but what I did know of him, I didn't particularly like," Matthews reflected. "And that is too bad, because guys who covered him in Seattle and Arizona tell me that deep down, he's really a pretty good guy. It's unfortunate that he chose not to show that side of himself during his time here."
Indeed it probably was, but the Yankees can still be grateful he at least had one good year on the field for them. In 2005, Johnson went 17-8 with a 3.79 ERA for New York, the fifth highest win total of his career.
He kept opponents to a mere .243 batting average that season, and solidly recorded a 1.13 WHIP.

Are We There Yet?

I am so glad to be back and writing again. Sometimes forces outside of your control can unexpectedly arise at the most inopportune times. Yet, here I am back to writing about the greatest franchise in sports history. I have been hearing a lot about our offseason, and with all the moves and the Hall of Fame elections yesterday I am so behind on my writings. The Stephen Drew news is semi-new and honestly I had no idea what to think about this move initially. When the season ended there were a few whom I knew would not be back in pinstripes next year. David Robertson, Ichiro, Chris Young, and Stephen Drew were the most prominent on my list.

Yes, I had an inkling that DRob would not return, but the likes of Martin Prado and David Phelps were people who shocked me. I question this young Eovaldi boy and hope he was worth it. I liked the insurance of Prado more than the likes of Drew, but then again I am not Brian Cashman so I do not know where these moves are leading to and how they will pan out. Do I think another trade is on the horizon? I hope so.

I am not a fan of Drew, but I believe in his defense. Cash seems to be trying to mold the Bronx Bombers into the Royals of last year. We have an above average infield defense, a lot of bullpen arms, and some people who can occasionally hit the ball. If healthy we can compete, and we can win the division. Just still not sure what else can be done.

Cole Hamels is not worth it, and I would not want to deal with the Phillies knowing their price tags on their players. Hamels is not worth Judge, Bird, Severino, or anyone of our top prospects. No pitcher on the market is worth these guys. Should we sign Mad Max, no. I do not think throwing money at him is smart. James Shields is a much better option and at a reasonable four year contract I think I would take a chance with him. He would at least be a better clubhouse presence than that of Scherzer.

I know we are not ready, and there is still plenty of time before pitchers and catchers report but the waiting is unbearable. Hopefully more deals are made and maybe we can strike some gold during spring training with some minor league deals. The division is winnable, we just need to stay healthy and be smart; the things I worry about most. Here's to being back and doing what I love; Go Yankees!

The IBWAA Makes Me Proud to be a Member

The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America conducts a Hall of Fame vote just like the Baseball Writers Association of America does. For the most part the consensus is the same with a few key differences, those differences being that Mike Piazza (2013) and Craig Biggio (2014) were elected by the IBWAA before the BBWAA elected them and Barry Larkin was not elected to the IBWAA as of 2015 when he was a member in the BBWAA. Also the IBWAA voted to bump up the number of selections from 10 to 15, which I think will help with the logjam of deserving players.  I have always felt a little bit of prestige and such being a member of the IBWAA but when I opened my email and saw our Hall of Fame tallies it really made me proud to be a member.

For the year 2015 the IBWAA selected five to join the Hall including Randy Johnson (98.24%), Pedro Martinez (95.15%), John Smoltz (82.82%), Jeff Bagwell (81.94%) and Tim Raines (79.30%). Curt Schilling was the first runner up in the vote garnering 65.64% followed by notable players including Roger Clemens (64.76% up from 56.64% in 2014) and Barry Bonds (63.44% up from 57.52% in 2014). 

Hall of Fame Voting is a Joke

Ever since the BALCO fall out, the Mitchell Report, the cleanup of the game of baseball and the Biogenesis fall out the game has been reeling from steroids and allegations. I myself have always been on the side of, eventually anyway, letting in the steroid users and the players under suspicion from the steroid era simply because if you think there are players in the Hall that haven’t used then I think you have to get your head checked. I think it has to be all for one and one for all and you either have to let them all in or keep them all out. If you’ve already let them in, and you have, then you have to let them all in I would think. Anyway I could go on all day, the point of the article is the hypocrisy of the Hall of Fame voting for steroid users and suspicions.

Since 2005 we have had 113 current or former major league players suspended for performance enhancing drugs after there were 103 players that tested positive for steroid use in an anonymous survey back in 2003. Since then 89 players were named in the Mitchell Report and it shows no signs of slowing down after the Biogenesis scandal and such. I’m sure many thought the game was clean the last four to five seasons with offenses down and such and boom, Anthony Bosch throws a monkey wrench into the equation. Nobody knows who is clean and who is not and I don’t think that we ever fully will.

Mike Piazza garnered 62% of the vote for the Hall last season while Jeff Bagwell gathered 54% of the vote after admitting using androstenedione during their playing careers while players like Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds get close to nothing and players like Craig Biggio are still on the outside looking in. When David Ortiz comes up for election Bud Selig may find a way from his couch to get him inducted on the first ballot with 100% of the vote. It’s ridiculous, this is ridiculous and it’s nothing but a huge hypocrisy led by a bunch, not all, of hypocrites. Screw the BBWAA as a whole, although again I do have some respect for many of the writers including one of our own in Mike Axisa, for screwing up the Hall of Fame voting and the prestige behind it.

So go ahead and vote for Tim Raines who snorted cocaine, and admitted to it, DURING GAMES and leave out Bonds. Go ahead and vote for Piazza and Bagwell who admitted to using now BANNED SUBSTANCES but leave out Roger Clemens. Pedro Martinez… that guy is a lock. What a joke. 

Thoughts On Stephen Drew Signing

Last night, as Daniel reported, the Yankees signed Stephen Drew to a 1 year contract. The deal gives Drew a base salary of $5 million, with the ability to make another $1.5 million based on plate appearances ($500,000 for reaching 450, 500, and 550 plate appearances).

My reaction may have been a little over the top, and it was definitely done without giving the signing any thought. The main reason I was upset was because of how excited I was to see the starting lineup have so much youth, meaning it would included either Jose Pirela or Rob Refsnyder, and now it's pretty clear that the kids are out of the starting second base job and Drew is in.

And it's not like Drew had even a "ok" season in 2014, as he hit .162/.237/.299 in 300 plate appearances between Boston and New York. Although, to be fair, his defense was pretty good.

So it was either Pirela/Refsnyder or Drew at 2B. Why not try out a kid with upside, rather a than a player that's had one season at or above replacement level in the last four years? But after reading reactions from others the signing at least makes some sense.

For starters, this move gives the Yankees an option should Didi Gregorius not pan out at shortstop. I mean, it's no given that Gregorius is going to work out, so having somebody like Drew that could take over at shortstop is not a bad thing. Especially when the current backup shortstop is Brendan Ryan.

Speaking of Ryan, there's a chance that his time in pinstripes is just about done. The 40-man roster is currently full, meaning somebody is getting the ax. With Ryan, Gregorius, Drew, Pirela, and Refsnyder around it would make sense for the Yankees to make a cut here.

The signing of Drew also opens up the possibility to throw one of Pirela, who had an incredible season in the Arizona Fall League, or Refnsyder into a deal that could land a big-time starter. Although I don't think that's necessarily true, as Pirela or Refsnyder look to be long-term options at 2B, and dealing away one of them lowers the chances of filling that position from within. I mean, what are the chances both of them pan out, or the Yankees keeping the right one of the two? I'd rather hold onto both options and see.

You also have to keep in mind that the Yankees payroll is well over $200 million, meaning Drew's contract is hardly crippling to them. Should he have another horrible season, while Gregorius and one of Pirela or Refsnyder are doing well, the team could just cut Drew and eat his remaining salary, which at that point may only be a few million dollars (aka "the amount of money found in the couch cushions at Hal Steinbrenner's house").

So let one of Pirela or Refnsyder learn from the Yankee bench out of Spring Training, while the other guy goes to AAA and gets regular playing time and works on his game. By the way, I'd prefer Pirela on the Yankees bench, as he has played every position but pitcher and catcher in the minors.

And who knows? Not long ago Stephen Drew was a good all-around player, at least for a middle infielder, and he could be that guy again since he's now healthy and will have go through Spring Training this time around. And being a left-handed hitter at Yankee Stadium could mean 15-20 home runs are a very good possibility.

Did the Yankees Get Better in 2015?

Did the New York Yankees get better this season, specifically with all the trades that Yankees GM Brian Cashman has been able to pull off? Let's simplify it and see what you think.

- As far as positional players go the Yankees lost Martin Prado, Derek Jeter and Francisco Cervelli while adding Didi Gregorius, Garrett Jones, and one of Robert Refsnyder or Jose Pirela. On paper the positional players seem better to me.

- As far as pitching goes the Yankees lost Hiroki Kuroda, David Phelps and Shane Greene while adding a "healthy" CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi. The Yankees take their biggest hit of the offseason here but that is all forgiven and forgotten with a Max Scherzer signing.

- As far as prospects go the Yankees really have only lost Manny Banuelos and have added Johnny Barbato, Domingo German and Gonzalez Germen. Banuelos was close to my heart but I think he is ultimately replaceable and has been more than replaced by the current crop of Yankees farm hands.

- Finally as far as the bullpen goes the Yankees lost Shawn Kelley and David Robertson while adding Chasen Shreve, David Carpenter, Andrew Miller and Justin Wilson. D Rob was a good closer, many won't dispute that, but the Yankees bullpen is undeniably deeper and have the potential to be better.

TGP Daily Poll: Boston Signs James Shields

The Boston Red Sox need an ace this season after signing and acquiring a slew of #3 starters and Rick Porcello this winter and I think that ace will be James Shields.

Vote in our poll!

Yankees Sign Stephen Drew

I have no words to describe how upset this one year deal worth $5 million makes me. No words whatsoever. 

Were the Yankees in on Ryan Madson?

The Kansas City Royals locked up relief pitcher and former Philadelphia Phillies closer Ryan Madson over the weekend which begs the question, was Brian Cashman involved? Cashman has been seemingly stockpiling bullpen arms for a couple of seasons now and is not above a reclamation project on a minor league deal, see Andrew Bailey, so it makes you wonder if the Royals simply flew under the radar for Madson’s services.

The 34 year old signed a minor league deal with Kansas City with an invitation to spring training even though he has not thrown a pitch in the major leagues since 2011. Madson posted a 4-2 record with a 2.37 ERA and 29 saves with Philadelphia during that season and signed a one year deal with the Cincinnati Reds the following season before undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Madson attempted a comeback with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last season but made just one appearance in A-Ball before hurting his elbow once again. Madson is now in the Royals organization and could likely add to that three headed monster they have over there if healthy which makes me wonder again, was Cashman involved at all or did he drop the ball?

Either way it’s not a huge loss or gain probably but I personally just like having the finances and the ability to stash a reclamation project in the minor leagues so we can have another Jon Lieber every once in a while. Carry on. 

This Day in New York Yankees History 1/7: Yankees Trade the Big Unit

On this day in 2007 Randy Johnson agreed to a two year deal worth $26 million with the Arizona Diamondbacks leaving only a physical and approval by MLB to finalize the trade with the Yankees. The Yankees will receive reliever Luis Vizcaino, minor league right handed pitching prospects Ross Ohlendorf and Steven Jackson, and minor league infielder Alberto Gonzalez.

Also on this day in 2006 former Yankees GM Bob Watson received the Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The honor was given to the first black general manager in baseball history during the Legacy Awards in Kansas City.

Finally on this day in 1920 Babe Ruth reacted to being called "the most selfish and inconsiderate man to ever put on a baseball uniform" by former owner Harry Frazee. Ruth was quoted by the Boston Evening Standard saying "Frazee is not good enough to own any ball club, especially one in Boston."