Game 6’s main story is all about the Chris Stewart ejection in the 2nd inning. Replays do say he was safe at first matching Stewart’s opinion, but apparently a slight argument today earned Stewart a toss from the loss in Tampa. A tight and quick game all the way to the end, the only run a solo home run by the Blue Jays’ replacement 3rd baseman Andy LaRoche in the 7th inning. Starting pitcher David Phelps was in fine form, throwing 3 scoreless innings, displaying his potential for that 5th rotation spot, something he may earn easily if Phil Hughes’ back doesn’t improve in time.
Game 7 in Kissimmee was all about the 6th inning. The Yankees (via Matt Diaz) singled their way into the lead when Melky Mesa slammed a 3-run left field homer, and with that, they took the lead 5-1. Yankee fans sighed in relief, a win was finally in sight. And then the Astros stepped into the box. Loading the bases, relief pitcher Shane Greene walked in a run, allowed a superb grand slam out to center field by Astros’ Brandon Laird, and an RBI double. At the end of the 6th inning the score was 7-5 Astros. A final ditch effort for the Yankees in the 8th had an Adonis Garcia single score Tyler Austin, finalizing the score at 7-6 Astros. With all that drama mid-game, Francisco Cervelli’s excellent catching display was sorely overlooked, throwing two on-target outs, catching the runners attempting to steal 2nd base.
A double loss today drops New York to the very bottom of the Grapefruit League (the teams who Spring in Florida), now with a record of 1 win-6 losses, a .143 average. All of the supposed “good teams” this year are still wallowing at the bottom of their respective leagues — Washington and the Yankees in Florida, and Texas and LA Angels (both 0-5 in the Cactus League, Arizona).
The two games couldn’t have been more different. But something that was the same was the display from those who will land in the minor leagues this season and those non-roster invitees who are trying to win a job. In the Toronto game, we saw an outfield collision, though they made the out, between Slade Heathcott and Ronnier Musteller. No injuries, but gentlemen, this is why you “call it”. In the Houston game’s now famed 6th inning, it was a “minors” game (with the exception of Eduardo Nunez) — with a Hit by Pitch, reach on a fielding error, force out, single, home run, and 5 total RBIs.
What most people don’t realize is that Spring Training is not really about the stars of the team, the regular roster, and contract players. Spring is about the guys you won’t see on national broadcasts or in Yankee Stadium this year. It’s about what the next generation of Yankees are doing and when they’ll be ready to compete on the level of Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Derek Jeter. For some, that day may never come. For others, it may be this April (finding a spot in replacement for an injured player) or September (when the rosters swell to 40). For others, we may be seeing their names whispered about for a few years before they burst on the scene in their rookie year.
And from where I sit, the Yankees have a plethora of outfield options (Tyler Austin, Slade Heathcott, Matt Diaz, and Juan Rivera will probably lead the AA Tampa Yankees and/or the AAA SWB Railriders this season in hits and defense), some infield potential (Walter Ibarra and Luke Murton at the corner bases immediately come to mind), and behind the plate is already some tough competition to watch in the minor league (with Bobby Wilson and Gary Sanchez). The farm system seems to be in place to produce some really good players in the next few years. As the Yankees age out and retire or perhaps move on with big contracts (with teams that haven’t maxed out their salary cap for a decade), the team is in desperate need of some home-grown talent. And I think they have it here.
If the Spring teaches us anything, it’s whether there is a future to continue a dynasty or even to create a new one. So long live the Yankee dynasty. This year, it’ll be 110 years and counting.