Category Archives: Managers and Coaches

2015 Yankees: Image, Identity problems?

So the last of the Core Four (+ Bernie) is now gone. After farewell tours for Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, the focus won’t be on an individual player, but on the team’s performance.

Or will it?

The past two years, the focus was on two of the most respected players in baseball, and two future certain first-ballot Hall-of-Famers. The farewell vibe was good.

Two players who spent their whole career with one team. Who were leaders on and off the field. Jeter, in particular, was not only the face of the Yankees, but the face of baseball.

The Yanks may have an image problem in 2015. For who now becomes the face of the Yankees? Oh yeah, someone who is returning from a full-year suspension because of steroid abuse.

A-Rod. No Yankee in 2015 will have as much Yankee “tenure” as A-Rod.

Barry Larkin on ESPN mentioned about the lack of cohesivity with the Yanks. It’s one thing to go and sign different players each year to fill in positions. But it’s like trying to find the right piece to complete a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes the pieces don’t mesh.

With the core four and Bernie, you had cohesiveness. The extra pieces (Tino, O’Neill) fit in perfectly. But the Core Four and Bernie came up through the system. They played many years for the same team. They were leaders.

It is hard to find leaders among mercenaries. When your big names all came from other teams, who is the leader? CC, Teix, Ellsbury, McCann, Beltran, A-Rod, Prado …. all brought in from elsewhere. Some, like Ellsbury, Tanaka and McCann, are too new to be leaders, and especially in the case of Tanaka, there is the language/cultural barrier.

Larkin mentioned the need for the Yanks to build from within. This may take years. There is no homegrown product, like a Mattingly, a Core Four (+ Bernie), who is a leader on this team right now. The closest thing to that would be the Yankees’ best player (according to WAR, Wins Above Replacement) of 2014—Brett Gardner.

No offense to Gardner, but do you consider him the face of and leader of the Yankees?

So who is the leader of the 2015 Yankees? Is it a guy who was suspended for all of 2014 and, let’s remember, only played in 44 games in 2013 because of his second hip surgery? A guy (A-Rod) who sued his very own union and in extension, the players themselves? His own teammates?

Here is a problem for next year’s team. The image of the Yanks will be A-Rod, and it won’t be a nice image. There will be attempts to celebrate certain accomplishments that A-Rod is looking to achieve in 2015. After all, he is just six homers from tying the great Willie Mays on the all-time list. He is 61 hits away from 3000. He is 39 RBI from 2000 and 81 runs scored from 2000.

But how “celebrated” will those achievements be? After all, they are tainted.

Is that what the “highlights” of 2015 will be? Celebrating tainted “accomplishments”?

After all, 2013 and 2014 didn’t bring much in the way of accomplishments other than the farewell tours of Mo and Derek. 85 and 84 win seasons. In both seasons, their Pythagorean records stated that they should have finished below .500 in both years. They weren’t exactly a pretty team to watch in both years, especially offensively. Often, they were flat out boring on the offensive side.

Without many true Yankees, or many who have been with the team say, longer than 2009, who becomes the leader? The face of the team?

It may very well be that it may have to be not a player, but the manager.

It may be that Joe has to be even tougher than usual. More the guy who ripped some players on Thursday. How that will play in a clubhouse of aging veterans, many with very few Yankees ties and who are, for lack of a better word, mercenaries, we won’t know. It may not go over well.

So there may be no identity or true leadership, and the face and image of the 2015 Yankees may be A-Rod.

I don’t know about you, but it’s not something I’m looking forward to.

The Yanks need to develop another Core Four + Bernie. It’s way beyond time to fix that farm system and bring up players who know and behave the Yankee way (all they have to do is follow the steps of Jeter and Mo, for example) and become leaders. It’s unfair to expect the on-the-field excellence of Jeter, Mo, Posada, Pettitte and Bernie, but the Yankees need a new image and new leader—from within. Someone who comes up through the system. Someone who becomes a star and is a true leader. Someone who becomes the face of the franchise with a good image.

Someone like Jeter and the rest of the Core Four + Bernie.

Who will it be? How long will it take?

As for now, the thought of A-Rod being the image and face of the Yankees, and maybe their “leader” doesn’t excite me in the least.

What about you?

 

Game 150. Yanks lose, 6-1.

Michael Pineda has an ERA of 2.15.

He also has a W-L record of 3-5, since the Yanks don’t hit for him. Tuesday night was no exception as the Yanks lost 6-1 to the Rays.

Pineda went 5 1/3, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 walks and 5 K. He left losing 2-1.

The bullpen didn’t keep the Yanks in the game after Pineda left.

Josh Outman 2/3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 walks and 0 K. Overall ERA 2.86.

Esmiel Rogers 1/3 IP, 3 R, 2 H, 1 walk, 0 K. Overall ERA 5.31.

Rich Hill 2 batters, 2 hits. 0 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 0 walks or K. Overall ERA 3.86.

David Phelps 2/3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 walk and 0 K. 4.35.

David Huff 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 walks and 0 K. Overall ERA 3.54.

Things got a bit heated when Derek Jeter was HBP and David Phelps threw a pitch inside in retaliation. The Rays have hit a couple batters in recent Rays/Yanks games recently, including Jeter last week as well as the pitch that hit Headley in the chin. Phelps, Girardi and coach Tony Pena were ejected.

Jeter’s 0-for string reached 26. His batting average is down to .249, a 29 point drop since August 2nd.

Earlier in the day, the Yanks lost their hottest hitter, Martin Prado, for the season due to an emergency appendectomy.

Masahiro Tanaka will test out his arm (and that hopefully-recovering torn ligament in his elbow) with a start on Sunday.

The only Yanks run in the game came on an rbi single by Ichiro in the second. They were 1 for 10 with RISP.

One other sad note: The Yanks are dead last in the AL in runs scored.

With the loss, the Yanks remain in 3rd place in the AL East (Baltimore clinched the division last evening) at 76-74, and there is a chance they may finish without a winning record for the first time since 1992. They are six out of the final playoff spot with just 12 games remaining and would have to jump four teams.

Game 148. Robertson can’t hold lead, Yanks lose 3-2.

David Robertson threw 35 pitches on Friday in one of the doubleheader games. He threw 11 Saturday in saving that game. He was brought in yesterday to save a 2-1 Yankees lead in the 9th.

You just knew what was going to happen. Robertson had nothing, gave up two runs and the Yanks lost 3-2.

On the ESPN telecast, the announcers basically said that to them, it appeared that the Yanks were basically saying “you are a free agent, we aren’t going to re-sign you, so we’ll just run you into the ground.”

Seriously, there was no one else Girardi could have brought in to get three outs? Robertson for a third straight day?

Martin Prado homered in the second, his 12th overall HR of the year, to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead. Baltimore tied it in the sixth.

Brian McCann put the Yanks up 2-1 in the top of the 9th with his 20th HR of the year.

But then Robertson gave up doubles to Nelson Cruz, Steve Pearce to tie it (and see my recent post “You were saying” about Pearce, a one-time Yankee), and after a fly out, a double to Kelly Johnson (remember him? Yup, that Kelly Johnson from the Yanks earlier this year) to win it.

Kuroda went 7, 1 R, 6 H, 0 walks and 5 K. 3.81. Too bad the Yanks, like usual for this year, didn’t give any run support to a starter who pitched well.

Betances 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 walks and 2 K. 1.35. His 2 K tied Mariano Rivera’s record of 130 K in a season by a Yankees’ reliever. It looks more and more like he will be the closer next year and the Yanks will let Robertson leave via free agency and take the money saved to shore up other needs. This year’s first-round draft pick, Jacob Lindgren, may wind up being the set-up man. We’ll see what happens this winter.

Robertson 1/3 IP, 2 R, 3 H, 0 walks and 0 k. He falls to 2-5, 2.93.

The Yanks fall to 76-72. They remain in third place, 12 1/2 behind first-place Baltimore in the AL East with 14 to go. They are one game behind second-place Toronto. The Orioles’ magic # for eliminating the Yanks from the division title is down to two. As far as that final playoff spot is concerned, the Yanks are five out with 14 to go and would have to jump over four teams to get there.

The Yanks finished 85-77 last year. They would need to go 9-5 in their last 14 games just to meet that mark this year. That’s what has been disappointing. They had a lot of injuries last year (Jeter and Teix both missed most of the year), and with the free agent signings of Beltran, McCann, Ellsbury and Tanaka, you thought the record would be better, or at least the same—not worse. Yes, there have been injuries this year, but still, it’s been disappointing.

Derek Jeter went 0 for 4. He is now 0 for his last 24 and down to .250 (actually, .249534, which is rounded up to .250). He did hit a couple of balls well last night, but no luck. His OPS+ is down to 70 and he’s hitting .172 since August 2nd. It makes you wish the season, and his career, were over already.

It’s not like you want Jeter’s career to be over, and yes, you’d like for a miracle to happen and for the Yanks to make the playoffs (isn’t happening) but you just don’t want Jeter to go on to the end like this. Another point fell off the lifetime batting average. He started this year at .312, and it’s down to .309.

There are 14 games to go, and how many Jeter plays in we don’t know. You’d hate to see him below .250 or even .240. You’d hate to see another point drop off that lifetime batting average.

You hope he has one or two multi-hit games left in him.

But does he?

You were saying?

In 2012, a certain NY beat writer arrogantly dismissed me when I mentioned that the Yanks should call up Steve Pearce, who that year in AAA hit .318-11-30 in 53 games for AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. At the time I advocated for his call up, the Yanks had some injuries/slumping players, I forget which. It was probably a combination of the two.

Now this reporter usually dismisses minor leaguers. I don’t know why he doesn’t like to give them chances. After all, he was a rookie in his job at one time. Someone had to give HIM a chance at one time. Often, he has no clue who is doing well in the minors or at what level. He’d rather bring in a washed up veteran than give a kid a chance.

I remember Suzyn Waldman once urging the Yanks to bring a 45-year-old David Wells out of retirement rather than bring up and see what a promising minor league prospect had. Really? You couldn’t give a youngster a chance to establish himself but want to bring a faded, retired veteran out of retirement? But then, we remember her going way over the top when the Yanks brought Roger Clemens out of retirement in 2007.

For all the praise heaped on the Core Five (and yes, I include Bernie Williams along with the “Core Four” of Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte and Posada), someone had to give them that first chance. Now, a quintet that that coming along at about the same time (Bernie came up four years before the others) doesn’t happen but once in a generation, and the Yanks’ minor league talent isn’t as deep as it was 20-25 years ago with those players, but people, especially youngsters, need chances.

But I digress. In 2012, Pearce played for three different major league teams at the age of 29. He wasn’t a prospect, but someone who bounced back and forth from the majors to the minors for Pittsburgh from 2007-2011. In that timeframe he hit .232-9-52 in 185 games. His OPS+ was 79. Nothing to write home about.

In 2012, for three teams (Balt/Hou/NYY) Pearce hit .239-4-26 in 61 games. OPS+ 92. He was 4 for 25, 1 HR, 4 RBI for the Yankees in 12 games. Nothing to write home about, and probably a good cause for the one reporter’s arrogant dismissal.

But sometimes all it takes is a player to get a chance and to be used right and managed correctly, which is what I hoped the Yanks could do with Pearce in 2012.

In 2013, Pearce only played in 44 games with Baltimore, but put up an OPS+ of 114. Solid. .261-4-13.

This year, the 1B/OF has an OPS+ of an excellent 146. .284-16-39 as a platoon player. Now, Pearce is a righty batter and LF at Camden Yards is as much of a short porch—-with a short wall—as RF is at Yankee Stadium. After all, it’s just 364 to LCF there (most places have it 370-390, and Yankee Stadium has a 399). That short LCF may have helped Pearce.

But look at those numbers. Pearce could have fit right into this Yankees team as a legitimate 1B backup to Teixeira (rather than using the players the Yanks HAVE used this year there). He also could have been a legitimate righty-hitting backup to Gardner and platoon partner for the power-challenged Ichiro in RF.

In 2013-2014 combined, Pearce has hit .278-20-52 in 136 games, 425 at bats. The OPS+ is a superb 136.

Take a look at those numbers. You think they wouldn’t fit in well with these offensively challenged Yankees?

Sometimes, all it takes is an opportunity, and a manager who gives you that opportunity. Someone who knows your strengths and weaknesses, and who maximizes those strengths and minimizes those weaknesses by platooning you —playing you and sitting you at the appropriate times. It appears Buck has done that with Pearce down in Baltimore.

We have no idea whether Pearce’s recent success will continue. After all, he is 31 now. But his 2013 and 2014 seasons have me doing a few things.

One is to shake my head and wonder what might have been. Could Girardi have utilized Pearce as Buck has? His numbers match anything any current Yankee has done this year. As I wrote above, he would have been a fine fit on this team as a backup 1B/sometimes DH/RF platoon/backup OF.

Besides shaking my head, there is also the satisfaction of having the last laugh.

Sometimes, all one needs is a chance.

Game 135. Another painful loss, 4-3.

The Yanks had a 3-0 lead entering the bottom of the sixth in Toronto. Brandon McCarthy was working on a two-hit shutout.

Then the game slipped away. McCarthy got two outs but then gave up back-to-back HRs to Melky Cabrera and Juan Bautista to make it 3-2. He then got out of the inning.

Instead of pulling him, manager Joe Girardi left him in for the seventh. Mistake. Edwin Encarnacion homered to tie the game and McCarthy walked the next batter. Dellin Betances got two strikeouts, but in the interim, the runner stole second. Betances then gave up a single which turned out to be the game-winning hit before getting another strikeout to finish the inning.

Toronto won 4-3. The loss puts the Yanks 9 back of Baltimore in the division with just 27 games to play. Worse yet, it knocks the 70-65 Yanks 3 1/2 games out of the last wild card spot and now to get there they would need to pass three teams—Cleveland, Seattle and Detroit.

Brett Gardner led off the game with a HR (16). The Yanks got a run in the fourth on a Cervelli single and another in the fifth when Gardner (who missed the cycle by just a single) tripled and scored on a throwing error.

McCarthy went 6+, 4 R, 5 H (but 3 were HR), 2 walks and 4 K. He falls to 8-14, 4.19 overall, 5-4, 2.80 as a Yankee.

Betances 2 IP, 0 R, 2 h, 0 walks and 4 K. 1.46.

The Yanks are off today.

Derek Jeter got hit #3445 of his career, but has been slumping lately. 16 for his last 85.

The Yanks did make a minor move, acquiring pitcher Chaz Roe.

Games 126-128. Yanks sweep Chisox.

Maybe I should go away for the weekend more often.

For while I was away, the Yanks swept the White Sox to run their winning streak to four.

I won’t have time to go into detail about each game, so here is a very brief recap.

Friday the Yanks won 4-3. Martin Prado had a 2-run HR and a walkoff hit in the bottom of the 9th. David Robertson got the win.

Saturday the Yanks won 5-3. Prado had a 2-run double and Carlos Beltran homered, his 15th of the season and #373 of his career. Win for Kuroda.

Saturday was the day ex-mgr. Joe Torre got a plaque in Monument Park and his #6 retired.

Yesterday (Sunday) the Yanks won 7-4 in 10 innings on a 3-run, walk-off, PH HR (15) by Brian McCann. David Huff with the win.

The Yanks are 67-61, 2nd place in the AL East, six behind Baltimore. They are 3 1/2 out of the final wild card spot.

They have a makeup game in KC tonight before heading to Detroit. Tonight is the second of a tough five-game stretch in which they faced Sale yesterday, Shields today and then Porcello, Verlander and Scherzer (I think that is the order, that they miss Price while in Detroit, but I am not sure. Anyway a tough stretch.)

Derek Jeter’s hit count stands at 3439.

Game 125. Yanks blank Houston, 3-0.

Brandon McCarthy pitched a CG shutout at the Astros Thursday afternoon and the Yanks beat Houston 3-0.

McCarthy upped his record to 8-12, 4.01. He is 5-2, 1.90 as a Yankee.

9 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 0 walks and 8 K.

The Yanks are in a virtual tie for 2nd in the AL East, 9 back of Baltimore. They are 4 out of the last wild card spot.

The Yanks got all their runs in the second. Teixeira singled, Prado doubled, and Headley doubled in two. After a groundout advanced Headley to third, Headley scored on a SF by Ichiro.

Derek Jeter upped his career hit total to 3438.

I’ll be heading away for the weekend and will have to briefly recap Friday-Sat-Sun games together on Monday.

Just a reminder that Joe Torre’s #6 gets retired on Saturday.