State of the Yankees

Yankees GM Brian Cashman gave his “State of the Yankees” press conference this afternoon and cleared up some hypothetical resolutions for the key Yankee players. There are definitely things that need to be addressed and dealt with for the 2014 season. He made it clear that the Yankees are looking to build another championship team with the full weight of the ownership behind him, much as they were when Cashman was kept on his toes picking up all sorts of players beginning pre-season (like Youkilis and Hafner) to Spring Training (Overbay and Wells) to throughout the season (Reynolds and Ryan) to continually fill yet another vacant spot on the roster and field. Cashman deserves a lot of credit for making it happen on the business end. And he gave a lot of credit to his partner-in-crime (as it were) when it came to taking those pick-ups and turning them into a winning team — manager Joe Girardi.

Now, Girardi’s contract with the Yankees expired the last day of their 2013 season (Sunday), and speculations about his next career path began before Spring Training this year. So today, Cashman addressed the rumors with a swift blow saying he is already in negotiations with Girardi and will speak to Girardi’s agent tomorrow with details. He didn’t give any specifics but did say a “significant offer has been made”. While rumors have him associated with the Cubs as a possibility, due to their recent availability in the manager’s role and it’s where he spent a total of 7 years of his playing career, Cashman’s latest update actually give the Yankees something to hope for. And with a fully healthy team, Girardi may actually be able to produce a winning team again, much in the same way he took a patched-up team this year and got them just a few games short of the Wild Card, something most pre-season “experts” though impossible. (They just don’t know how really amazing this club is.)

Three key players have been a big question mark for the 2014 Yankees — Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Robinson Cano.

Jeter has a player option on his contract, which he is expected to take, and they aren’t trying to find a new spot on the field for him (just shortstop or DH) but instead will look for reliable back-up for him and presumably 3rd base to provide for his full return to health and everyday play.

On Monday, Rodriguez began arbitration to appeal his 211 game suspension for alleged PED use and other contributing factors. Until there are results, the Yankees are moving forward as if he is still on their active 2014 roster. To presume otherwise would be just that — a presumption.

And Cano is technically a free agent. The Yankees have also made “significant offer” to him and his agent. There was a story circulating the other day with number attached, but Cano made it clear that those didn’t come from his camp. Realistically, he is probably searching for numbers closer to what other power-players are making on the Yankees like Rodriguez, Teixeira, and Sabathia. That is the standard for current hot-market prospects in free agency, so if both Cano and the Yankees want to be seen as competitors in the league, something in that neighborhood does make sense.

Other players held the curiosity of reporters and the rumor mills of late…

Hiroki Kuroda is also a free agent now, but there is still some uncertainty as to his desires as where he’d like to focus the last few years of his career. The Yankees seem eager to have him back, but they understand if he wants to return home to Japan for the duration of what is always a short athletic career. Of course, Kuroda could also seek offers from other clubs around the league, but that clearly seems like Option C for a pitcher going into his age 39 year.

There was some concern about CC Sabathia’s seemingly lackluster return this year, but it seems that they are willing to give him some latitude and look forward to seeing what a full Spring and some actual rest (read: no surgery or surgery recovery) during the off-season. I doubt it will bring back the velocity (speed) that we’re used to seeing from Sabathia, but it doesn’t diminish how he can compete. A little alteration to his delivery and he can be right back to the old feared Sabathia every batter knows.

Questions about pitcher Michael Pineda’s seemingly stalled recovery after surgery were met with the usual vague answers about hope for good things in the future from him. Since acquiring him from the Mariner’s in 2012, Pineda hasn’t pitched once in pinstripes at a big league level. There are options, ones they’ll explore during Spring Training — the ideal situation has him falling into a nice slot in the starting rotation, bullpen might be an option for long-term relief, or even an option to the minors to develop some.

Oh, and there’s still baseball going on around the league…

And my predictions are off to a good start. Tonight, the Pirates beat the Reds 6-2 for the NL Wild Card spot. This is the first time in 21 years that Pittsburgh has been a legitimate contender in the postseason. They will face off the 1st place Cardinals on Thursday, but it’s something that will seem like old hat to both teams. For most of the season after the All-Star Break, the Pirates, Cardinals, and Reds were pretty neck-and-neck and because it’s the end of the season, they played each other as division rivals a lot.

Anyway, the one-off Wild Card playoff game is still just in its infancy as far as playoffs go, so the jury’s still out on whether it’s really a great way to decide a legitimate playoff spot. By that, I mean that I haven’t decided whether I like the concept yet. I’m not old school enough where I feel like it should just be the best team in the AL and the best in the NL like it was for so many years. And I realize the Wild Card in and of itself is relatively new, but I get the idea of a 4-team system. So I’m just not sold yet on the 5-team paradigm. And I’ll probably get there when they change it up again.

In the mean time, we wait on contract and legal negotiations from the Yankees to see how things are shaping up in the Bronx for next year. Is is weird that I’m already excited for Spring Training?

Go Yankees!

There’s still a whole lot of baseball left this year…

I guess, for a couple of now-former Yankees, today was the first day of the rest of their lives. The sudden stop at the end of the season must be rather jarring for the players. Sure, they’ve been building up to this, especially after being eliminated from the postseason. But much like that first day after the last day of school, you just don’t know what to do with yourself. There’s no scheduled workout, no batting practice, no special diet to maintain, no equipment maintenance, no press conferences. (Didn’t you have press conferences in school? Sorry if the metaphor didn’t translate.) Just a whole lot of empty time to fill with all the things you put off doing during the season. But even then, that only lasts so long.

This is still going to be a daily blog, even though the Yankees aren’t playing in the postseason. Hey, I love the Yankees, but I’d still go to a baseball game even if they weren’t playing. Why? Because there’s something about a game that translates from the big leagues down to tee-ball, across languages and countries, over a vast socio-economic expanse. Everyone can play baseball; they even have leagues for those with disabilities — because it’s just that kind of game. And no matter what they might try to tell you on certain sports news channels, baseball will always be America’s sport.

So here’s what’s going on in the other part of the MLB world:

Well, the Rays, helmed by the same pitcher that effectively eliminated the Yankees from the postseason, took the lead early against the Rangers and never looked back. They will play the Indians on Wednesday for the official Wild Card spot. Tomorrow, over in the National League, the Pirates face the Reds for their chance at their own Wild Card spot. Then on Thursday and Friday, the Division Series begin for the NL and AL, respectively. The DS are best of 5, and those winners will face each other in the Championship Series beginning late next week in a best of 7 series. Of course, the winners of those will then face each other in the World Series toward the end of the month, another best of 7 series, as usual.

Now, you long-term readers will know I’m not one to make predictions or assumptions, but since the Yankees aren’t in the postseason, I feel a little better, mostly for not showing a bias toward what I still consider the best team of all time. (And there are 26 rings and a pocket watch in the Yankees Museum to back that up. No, seriously, for the first World Series they won, they didn’t get rings, but decorative pocket watches. Fun trivia fact for your friends.)

So here’s my best shot at the MLB bracket game:

  • NL Wild Card — Pirates over Reds
  • AL Wild Card — Indians over Rays
  • NLDS 1 — Pirates over Cardinals in 5
  • NLDS 2 — Braves over Dodgers in 3
  • ALDS 1 — Red Sox over Indians in 3 (I’m going to get in trouble for that one!)
  • ALDS 2 — Tigers over Athletics in 4
  • NLCS — Braves over Pirates in 5
  • ALCS — Tigers over Red Sox in 6
  • World Series — Braves over Tigers in 5

I’ll be updating these after every series is over, so it will be interesting to see how I do. I’ve been about 50-50 in recent years, so you cannot take my guesses as authority. Just one person’s guess in a game that’s anything but predictable. So what’s your prediction? (Take to the comments section below, as I’m curious what my readers have to say.)

Well, we can officially say goodbye to the regular season. With the beginning of October tomorrow, we officially welcome the postseason. Albeit from the comfort of our own couches and armchairs, rather than those good old plastic (or metal or slightly cushioned) chairs with about 50,000 of our dearest friends cheering the team we really wanted to see in October. It is what it is at this point. 2013 may be over for the Yankees, but there’s still a whole lot of baseball to be played.

There’s also so much in the air about the roster and other key roles within the Yankee system, and stories just beginning to brew about changes both individually and as a whole. Stay tuned (is that still a thing?) for all the latest news. And for that, I’ll tease you with vague comments like this, but I won’t begin to presume to know how everything’s going to work out, and you know I won’t go anywhere near anything that smells like rumors or gossip. The truth is far more interesting anyway.

(And even though they are relaxing in their off-season now, I will still close every blog post with my salutation.)

Go Yankees!