Tuesday, November 18, 2014

YANKEES TARGET: ASDRUBAL CABRERA


With hitting being the precious commodity this offseason, the Yankees will be looking at many options for upgrades. One name that is sure to be near the top of the list of candidates is Asdrubal Cabrera. He has 8 years of major league experience playing mostly shortstop and some second base. At 28 years of age, he could be a very good addition.


One of the biggest drop-offs from the prior season was the middle-infield part of the order. With the departure of Robinson Cano and the diminished hitting of Derek Jeter, we easily lost over 100 points in batting average across both the second base and shortstop positions, and the replacements are still not clear for 2015. When you look at the talent pool, there are one or two good stars, and then you are resorting to guys at the tail end of their careers.


Cabrera is a legitimate major league hitter who can play both middle infield positions and can hit from both sides of the plate. When you look at the Yankees’ options, that says a lot. Over the course of his career, he has a slash line of .268/.330/.409, though his batting average has tailed off the last couple of years. Still, he has maintained about a .700 OPS over the same period. Again, he is 28 years old, so there is no reason to believe that his best days aren’t in front of him.


His glove is good, with a fielding percentage at about even with the league average for shortstops and above the league average for second basemen. He has played shortstop for the majority of his career, though when he was traded to the Nationals last year, he was immediately converted into a second baseman. He played second earlier in his career, with good success in the field.


This makes him a versatile option. The only question will be which position is he willing to play, and where would the Yankees want him. I think he adds more value at second, just based on other available options at short. The price tag would also be better. He would sign at about half the asking price of Hanley Ramirez. Whatever the details are, Asdrubal Cabrera should be a name high on the wall in the Yankees war room.

Originally posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue.

Monday, November 17, 2014

THE TOP 12 MOMENTS IN YANKEES HISTORY: PART 2


The Yankees are often referred to as the most storied sports franchise in history. They are definitely the most well-known and the one with the longest history of success. There are many moments in its history that defined the organization, flashpoints that many of us – both young and old – remember with fondness and excitement.


We decided that it would be worth taking a stroll down memory lane, and pick out some of the greatest moments in Yankees history. One thing is for sure – you are going to think we missed a few. That is one of the problems with going through such an exercise with such a wildly successful team – there are too many great moments. So, this is our view of the 12 greatest moments in Yankees history. We presented 12-7 to you in our last segment, and here is the top six.

6. Derek Jeter’s Last Game at Yankee Stadium


How can we not include this in our top 12? Is there anyone else in recent memory who had more flair for the dramatic than Derek Jeter did? He has been the iconic rally starter, the one guy you want at the plate when the game was on the line. He is sixth on the all-time list and leads the franchise in total hits with 3465. He has been in the middle of practically every major comeback the Yankees ever needed. Okay, I might be exaggerating a little. Nevertheless, it was only fitting that his last at-bat at Yankees Stadium with the game tied in the bottom of the ninth and a man on second. Seriously, did you think he WOULDN’T get a hit? It was an epic moment to cap off an epic career.

5. Chris Chambliss’ Walkoff Home Run, 1976 A.L. Championship


It was the first time the Yankees had made the playoffs in a dozen years. It was a back-and-forth battle for the entire 5-game series with the Royals. Just when the Yankees seemed to be on the brink of winning, George Brett hit a 3-run home run to tie it in the eighth. Chris Chambliss was on fire for the series, coming to the plate in the bottom of the ninth batting a solid .500. If it was me, I would have pitched around a .500 hitter. Instead, he got a fastball just over belt-high, and the rest is history.

4. The Thurman Munson Memorial Game


If you were a Yankee fan in 1979, there are two dates you will never forget. August 2 was the day we lost our Captain, Thurman Munson, to a tragic plane accident. The other was August 6, the day the Yankees buried the Captain, and went out and won one of the most dramatic games that I can remember. My memory of the game was that the announcers kept going back to stories about Munson. By the 6th inning, the Yankees were down 4-0 against the eventual American League Champion Baltimore Orioles, who had a tremendous team. In the bottom of the 7th, Bobby Murcer hit a 3-run home run on a line drive over the right field wall to bring the Yankees within one. Then, in heroic fashion, Murcer came up again in the bottom of the ninth to hit a walk off base hit and win the game. We didn’t win any championships that year, but this was a game that was deeply emotional for the Yankees and for the fans.

3. The 2001 World Series Walk-off Wins


A walk-off hit is always great. A walk-off hit in the World Series is epic. A walk-off hit in the World Series on consecutive nights is historic. The 2001 Yankees may not have been the greatest team in franchise history, but they were scrappy and they knew how to claw for a win. After dropping the first two in Arizona, they won the third game 2-1 in a hard-fought battle. Game 4 had the Diamondbacks up 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs when Tino Martinez hit a home run to tie it. In the bottom of the 10th, Mr. November – Derek Jeter – hit a homer over the right field wall to send the Stadium into hysteria and the Series into a 2-2 tie. The very next night, with the Yankees down 2-0 with 2 outs in the ninth, Scott Brosius hit a shot over the left field wall that sent the game into extras. In the 12th inning, with Chuck Knoblauch on second, Alfonso Soriano hit a base hit to right field to bring in the winning run.

2. The Night Louisiana Lightning Struck


Ron Guidry was having a tremendous season, and at that point in the season, he was 10-0. Looking for his 11th consecutive win, they were playing the California Angels. I remember this game quite well, as it was on a weekend and my dad let me stay up late to watch it with him. The Yankees jumped out to an early lead, but it was not the score that mattered. Batter after batter, Guidry was striking them out at a record pace. Every strikeout put up a new graphic with the strikeout count. When he passed the franchise record (it was 13 prior to the game), then the march began toward the MLB record. It was 19 at the time, and three pitchers had reached that pinnacle (Nolan RyanSteve Carlton, and Tom Seaver). He almost reached it, and even though there was a small sense of disappointment, we still follow the tradition established that night - standing up and cheering whenever one of our guys gets two strikes on a batter.

1. The Purchase of Babe Ruth’s Contract


Babe Ruth was the greatest hitter who ever lived, and who can argue that his joining the Yankees was probably the biggest contributor to the Yankees’ legacy. Following the 1919 season, the Red Sox owner ran into some financial pressure, and sold Ruth’s contract to the Yankees for $100,000. Aside from the Curse of the Bambino, this set off a chain of events that would establish the Yankees legacy of winning for decades later. Ruth’s manager in Boston was a man named Ed Barrow, who was quite bitter at losing Ruth. A year later, he joined the Yankees as the general manager, rejoining the phenom that he helped convert from pitcher to hitter. He quickly bought out contracts of strong players, brought them to the Yankees, and started the streak of World Series wins in the 1920’s. Barrow also brought over a man named Paul Krichell, who served as a coach and talent scout under him. Many consider Paul Krichell to be the greatest baseball scout who ever lived. His discoveries include Lou GehrigTony LazzeriPhil Rizzuto, and Whitey Ford. When you think about the Yankees’ dominance from the 20’s through the early 60’s, a large part of it came from this.

So there you have it. I am sure there are some moments or accomplishments that you think should have been on the list. I will not argue with you – the Yankees make it tough to narrow down this kind of list. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane!

If you just stumbled onto us and didn't see part 1 yet, be sure to read: THE TOP 12 MOMENTS IN YANKEES HISTORY: PART 1.


Originally posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

THE TOP 12 MOMENTS IN YANKEES HISTORY: PART 1


The Yankees are often referred to as the most storied sports franchise in history. They are definitely the most well-known and the one with the longest history of success. There are many moments in its history that defined the organization, flashpoints that many of us – both young and old – remember with fondness and excitement.


We decided that it would be worth taking a stroll down memory lane, and pick out some of the greatest moments in Yankees history. One thing is for sure – you are going to think we missed a few. That is one of the problems with going through such an exercise with such a wildly successful team – there are too many great moments. So this is our view of the 12 greatest moments in Yankees history. We will present 12-7 to you here, and our next segment will have the top six.

12. David Cone, 1996 World Series, Game 3, 6th Inning



Let’s set the stage. The Yankees have made it to the World Series for the first time in 15 years, looking for their first win in a generation. They have not yet established their dominance or their playoff swagger. The Braves dominated games 1 and 2 at Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees could ill afford to go down 3-0. After taking a 2-0 lead, the Braves started to rally in the sixth. David Cone walks the pitcher to lead off the inning, and after a hit and another walk, power-hitting Fred McGriff walks to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. Joe Torre quickly sprints to the mound, puts up his hands, looks Cone in the eye, and famously asks, “Can you get him?” Cone responds in the affirmative, and proceeds to induce McGriff to pop out and retire the side after allowing only a single run. It was the first time the Yankees showed the ability to shut the Braves down, and it turned the tide. It would be the first of a World Series record 14 consecutive game win streak, which stands to this day. It would also be the first of four World Series Championships in five years, which would re-establish the Yankees as the dominant team in baseball.

11. The 1927 Home Run Race



When we hear home run race, we think of 1961 or 1998. The first real race to set the single-season home run record actually took place in 1927, and the combatants were the Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Ruth held the record at 59. Less than a decade removed from the dead ball era, that number was gargantuan, and these two were aiming for the 60’s. These two Yankees were going at it into September. On the morning of September 4, Ruth had 44 and Gehrig had 43 homers. Sixty was in sight, and these two were neck and neck. Inexplicably, Gehrig ran out of gas and would only hit 4 more through the end of the season. Ruth went on a tear, hitting 16 in his last 26 games, 3 of those games being multi-homer games for him. These two would anchor Murderer’s Row, and go on to win three World Series’ in the next 6 years.

10. Don Larsen’s Perfect Game



On October 8, 1956, the Yankees were locked in a 2-2 tie for the World Series against their archrivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers had beaten them the year before in seven games, and this was a must-win. Don Larsen went out and threw the only perfect game in World Series history. From a historical perspective, having a record like that just adds luster to an already brilliant history. It also clearly had an impact on the Dodgers, who prior to that game averaged six runs per game. They would only score one more run for the rest of that Series.

9. The 1961 Home Run Race



Anytime it appears that someone might break a record, especially regarding home runs, some kind of frenzy kicks in and that’s all people talk about. That was certainly the case in 1961, when the M&M boys – Mickey Mantle and the reigning AL MVP Roger Maris – went on a chase to break Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. The movie 61* documents it well, yet it is still hard to believe all the drama that surrounded that year. Between the debate over the validity of the new record because of length of the season, and the loss in perspective when some Yankee fans turned on Maris, it is hard to believe that Maris was able to maintain focus and break the record on the last game of the regular season. Ruth’s record stood for 34 years and Maris stood for 37, solidifying in a symbolic way the Yankees’ hitting dominance through the decades.

8. Bucky Dent’s Homer



The 1978 season was a storybook season, filled with heroics and epic battles that took them from deep valleys to high mountaintops. The climax clearly took place on a sunny Monday afternoon in Fenway, on the tie-breaking 163rd game. This was against the hated Boston Red Sox, with whom a bench-clearing brawl or two were not out of the question. When the game started, I was still in school, and I got home in time to see the Yankees trailing by two. I was able to watch one of the most glorious home runs of that Yankees generation – a 3-run home run over the Green Monster by Bucky Dent that put the Yankees on top and catapulted them to their 22nd World Series Championship.

7. Joe DiMaggio’s 56-Game Hitting Streak



If you ask me what one modern record of baseball will never be broken, I would have to say Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak. Since the 1920’s, only two people have ever even reached 40 – Joe DiMaggio and Pete Rose. Today, if you reach 30, it makes big news, and you are only just over the halfway mark to the record. It is a testament to how good of a hitter Joltin’ Joe really was. Between May 15 and July 16, DiMaggio kept hitting them and they couldn’t keep him off the bases. As the story goes, he had several hard hit balls on July 17, but none of them got him a hit. He did reach base on a walk, which allowed him to extend his on-base streak to 73 games. If he had gotten a hit on July 17, it would have been a 73-game hitting streak. A 73-game hitting streak??? Unreal!

There you have it - the first half of the list. Stay tuned for the top 6 - it's going to be amazing!


Originally posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue.

Friday, November 7, 2014

WHY STEPHEN DREW IS A BAD PLAN


With the retirement of Derek Jeter, the Yankees are naturally looking for a shortstop. In fact, they are trying to figure out their plans for both middle infield positions. Because Stephen Drew was the de facto shortstop/second baseman last year, you might be tempted to think that this is your Plan A. If so, you should re-think that.


Maybe it was the dreadful lineup the Yankees played day after day that made him look worse than he was. That would have been hard to do. He hit .162 on the season, and .150 for the Yankees. Eight hitters actually had higher slugging percentages than he had OPS (.536). The only thing that was worse than watching him take an at-bat was watching him take an at-bat with runners on. His batting average fell about 10 points with runners on vs. with no one on. With men in scoring position and 2 outs, his average dropped to .118. That is as close as you are going to get to “automatic out” while still playing at the major league level.


His one redeeming quality might be his glove. His defense is not bad, albeit he is better at shortstop. The Yankees tried to use him at second, but his fielding percentage was below the league average there. At shortstop, his career numbers are just above the league average, making him a defensive asset. Nevertheless, he is no Omar Vizquel. By that, I mean a shortstop who hits below average, but his play in the field is good enough that it is net positive and that he’s helping the team. Stephen has not helped his team since 2010 in Arizona, when he hit .278, had an OPS just over .800, and hit double-digits in home runs.


Drew is still 32, and maybe he can find his way back to hitting decently. There are a bunch of baseball people who believe he is young enough to regain his stroke. With the market for shortstops being as tight as it is, the Yankees may find him appealing as the “best available”. If the Yankees bite, they may end up regretting it. If we sign him and he continues to hit on the interstate, we may begin asking ourselves “Couldn’t we just promote some minor leaguer, which costs a lot less and has a lot more upside potential???”  I’m just saying.


Originally posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

YANKEES TARGET: NELSON CRUZ


The Yankees need to improve in many ways, most of them related to hitting. When looking at the hitting talent out there in free agency, Nelson Cruz’ name is very near the top of the list. The Baltimore Orioles acquired Cruz at a bargain-basement price of $8M for 1 year, and had a monster season with 40 home runs and 108 RBI. He is exactly the kind of right-handed power the Yankees lineup needs.


When looking over the last several years of Cruz’ hitting, he is the picture of consistency. He has not missed any significant time due to injury since 2011, and at the age of 34, he is still young enough to provide the Yankees consistent playing time that they desperately needed from their stars. Over the last four years, his slash line looks like .265/.323/.500 with an OPS of .823 – a serious power threat. His numbers in the postseason are even more impressive, having a career OPS of 1.016. He can play the corner outfield positions and can slot in to the DH spot as needed.


What could be the most promising aspect of his coming to the Bronx would be the fire he brings. I clearly remember, as some of you do, the 2011 postseason when the Yankees fell to the Rangers in six games. In that series, he hit .350 and went deep twice. He was the one guy that the Yankees did not want to challenge, where five of his seven hits were for extra bases. He scored six times, and drove in 5. He was a force to be reckoned with. If the Yankees can work out the deal, this is one guy that can be immediate benefits.


Originally posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

HOW DO YOU FIND THE DRIVE TO WIN?


If you have been a Yankees fan for any length of time, you know the mission of the New York Yankees every single year: win the World Series. It is what drives the team to spend money, acquire top-notch talent, and makes the fan base argue about whom the Yankees should go after first – Max Scherzer or James Shields. We all operate on the assumption that the team with the best players wins the World Series. Do you still really believe that assumption?


The Kansas City Royals have gotten everyone’s attention, primarily because they should not be in the World Series to begin with. Let’s review. They are below the league average in runs per game, OPS, and Fielding Percentage. They are the only team in the American League to fail to hit 100 home runs. They were 4th in ERA, but they beat the teams who came in second (Oakland) and third (Baltimore) to get to the World Series. You might be able to argue that pitching at least gets you to the stage, but it is clearly not enough. Other teams have dominant pitching, and you need a complete team to even get to the postseason, let alone win the Series.


Here is some food for thought. Maybe it is not just about the talent and potential of the members of the roster. Maybe it is the ability to translate that into wins at crunch time. Maybe what they say is true – the baseball is a game of wits, and that those with the mental fortitude to keep pushing until they win are the ones that end up on top. Remember, the Royals came back from being down late and down in extras to win the wildcard elimination game. They won the first 2 games of their ALDS in extra innings, and the first 2 games of the ALCS in the 9th or later, grinding until they pulled out the win.


I don’t want to focus too much on Kansas City, since they don’t have the perennial winning legacy that would legitimize them as the example to follow. Not yet, anyway. But there are some people, players, and teams that just have that mental focus and drive that we haven’t seen on the Yankees in some time. Guys like Terry Francona, who took the Red Sox from the annual tradition of frustrating loss to a legacy that made the Red Sox a feared team year after year. As much as we hate what they did, you have to admire a manager that can keep a team in focus when they’re down 3-0 in a best of 7 and come back to win. When he left the team, they completely collapsed, and he brought the Indians back into contention. Why don’t we have any Terry Francona’s on our team? The last dynasty – in the late 1990’s – had an expectation to win every last game, and they went out and played all nine inning of all 162 games, plus the postseason.


I will leave you with this thought. A week from now, the World Series will be over, everyone will be analyzing how the winning team got it done, and we will all be talking about which players to go after for our team. Some players will leave, others will join, and we will all be pissed off and elated at various points of the winter when it all goes down. The question is, how do you know who is going to bring the fire to the team, the drive to win no matter what the circumstances? Will the front office and management be able to discern between the stars and the duds? Sure, they will be pouring over the stats, the dollars and contract lengths, but I hope someone is watching out for the players and coaches who can find the guys that can carry a team. If you’re like me, you would like to bring back the days of fighting for every baserunner, every run, every win.

Originally posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SILENCE ON A HITTING COACH COULD MEAN TINO


Yankees Universe is still waiting on the front office’s decision on the hitting coach decision. After the Boston Red Sox grabbed Chili Davis off the market, and second thoughts on Dave Magadan, the pool of candidates has grown wide open. When the Yankees first let Kevin Long go, rumors swirled, and Tino Martinez was near the top of the list. Bob Klapisch reported, days after the Long firing, the Tino was not in consideration. Now that plans A and B have gone up in smoke, who knows?


Having had some experience at the position with the Florida Marlins, and the love fest this past season with the Yankees and his new plaque in Monument Park, Tino seems like a good fit. There is good reason to give him serious consideration. He has a long history of hitting well with the Yankees, and with keeping players accountable.


While we do not condone everything he did that caused his exit from the Marlins organization, it would be good to see some fire in the Yankees clubhouse. His record of accountability is well-known, chewing fellow players out for not running hard down the baseline or not going all out in the field. After the 2014 season, I think we are all a little tired of seeing the hitters lacking drive. Tino's personality may be the perfect fit.


Expect the Yankees to make an announcement in the next few days, and we will see how the new coaches shape up. If the Yankees are smart, Tino should at least get a call back.

Originally posted on Bleeding Yankee Blue