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New York Yankees: Some Good Advice to GM Brian Cashman

All those who are New York Yankee fans remember the frustration we felt with the stupid Joba Rules a couple of years ago.

For those who may not remember, the Yankee brass, led by general manager Brian Cashman, decided they were going to limit the number of innings Joba Chamberlain would pitch as a starter.

Joba had been a starting pitcher in college and for his entire minor-league career. When he was brought up in 2007, he was used exclusively in the bullpen. But the plan was to have him return to his starting role.

But not really. Or at least not completely. Because Cashman thought Joba was too young to start and go long in 30-plus games as a starter.

So they fiddled around with him, limiting his pitch counts and his innings, and there is at least some credible argument they screwed him up because of it.

Joba injured his shoulder slightly and lost a great deal of velocity on his fastball, which he never seemed to regain as a starter.

In 2010 Joba once more competed for a starter’s role but lost the job at the end of spring training to Phil Hughes. Joba went to the pen, where he has been ever since.

So Hughes, who had come up to the Yanks as a starter way back in 2007, was in the rotation. Or was he?

See, Cashman thought Hughes was too young to be turned loose in an unlimited way as a starter. So there were modified rules for Hughes last season.

Now Hughes is hurt, and there is talk it is a circulatory problem affecting his pitching arm.

Can young pitchers go out and throw 200-plus innings per season before they are 24 or 25 years old? Let’s check, shall we?

For purposes of this analysis, I looked at stats to determine whether well-known pitchers were able to pitch at least 900 innings by the season they were 25 years old.

Going way back in history, I looked at some Hall of Fame pitchers who are icons of the game.

Cy Young won 511 games in the major leagues, and by the time he was 25 he had thrown 1,023 innings. He would finish his 22-year career with 7,356 innings pitched.

But Young didn’t start in the major leagues until he was 23. He threw only 147 innings his first year at age 23, something Cashman would probably approve of.

But Young threw 423 innings when he was just 24 and 453 innings when he was 25. Don’t think Cash would approve.

Walter “Big Train” Johnson is another Hall of Famer and by the time he was 25 he had thrown 2,069 innings. Yeah, you read that right—2,069 innings by age 25. What about that, Brian Cashman?

Christy Mathewson had pitched 1,990 innings by the time he was 25. He would finish his glorious career of 17 seasons with 4,788 innings pitched, or an average of 274 innings over a 162-game season.

Kid Nichols, another Hall of Famer, had thrown 2,524 innings by the season in which he was 25. He would go on to throw over 5,000 innings in his 15-year career.

Okay, all those guys are from the dead ball era at the turn of the century. What about pitchers in the modern era?

Bob Feller was pitching in the big leagues when he was 18, and by the time he was 22 he had thrown 1,446 innings. It would be unbelievable how many Feller would have thrown by age 25 if he had not given three years of his career to serve in World War II.

Robin Roberts threw 1,321 innings by age 25.

Don Drysdale threw 1,628 innings by the time he was 25.

Tom Seaver had thrown 1,092 innings through the season in which he turned 25.

Don Sutton threw 1,217 innings by the same age.

Coming to the present, how are pitchers of the past 20 years and right down to current pitchers faring with this much work?

Roger Clemens had thrown 1,030 innings through the season in which he turned 25, and of course he would go on to win more than 300 games and have more than 3,000 strikeouts.

Pedro Martinez had thrown just over 900 by age 25.

Jon Garland had thrown over 1,000 by that age.

Carlos Zambrano had 975 by age 25.

Mark Buehrle had accumulated 986 innings by then.

Matt Cain of the Giants had tossed in 1,093.

CC Sabathia had thrown 1,163 innings, including the season in which he turned 25.

And King Felix Hernandez, always on Yankee fans’ trade radar, had thrown 1,155 innings before he was 25 years old.

There are a couple of young pitchers to consider here as well.

Clayton Kershaw is just 23 years of age, but he is throwing 197 innings over an average 162-game season. At that rate he would have 1,182 innings in the books by the time he is 25.

Trevor Cahill, also just 23, averages 206 innings over the statistical 162-game stretch. At that pass he would have thrown 1,030 in the year he is 25.

By protecting his young pitchers, Cashman has seen Hughes throw only 378 innings to date. With the current questions about his health, we cannot know at this point whether he will ever pitch another inning in the major leagues.

What would have happened if they had allowed Joba and Hughes to go out and start 30 games when they were 21 or 22 years old?

We will never know.

The argument is that using young pitchers in this way creates a grave risk that they will break down before they reach their full athletic maturity and the prime of their careers.

There are examples of pitchers who have broken down after heavy early workloads. But it is impossible to know whether they would have broken down if they had been spared as Joba and Phil were.

Cashman completely ruled out Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances being given a chance to make the major-league roster this season. They were sent to Double A Trenton.

Both Banuelos and Betances were impressive in spring training, when the Yankees seemed desperate for starters. But they were never given a chance to make the Yankee team.

If the Killer B’s had been in a different system, say San Francisco or Oakland, they might both have been given a legitimate chance of sticking with the big team in the spring.

Every team has a system, a working theory on player development.

Other teams develop great young pitchers like Felix Hernandez, Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw or Trevor Cahill, and they are throwing 200-plus innings at age 21 or 22.

One has to wonder why the Yankees can’t do the same thing.

At least part of the reason is that Brian Cashman and other Yankee brass believe too much in limiting innings and pitch counts.

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Hall of Famers at War: Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller and Hank Greenberg

Those of us who are baseball fans generally know statistics for the greatest players of the game.

But sometimes we fail to consider how some of the greatest had altered statistics because they served their country during times of war.

Let’s consider four Hall of Fame Players whose numbers could have been so much greater.

Ted Williams is generally regarded as the greatest hitter ever to play baseball.

Williams finished his career with a lifetime average of .344. He had 521 home runs and 2654 hits.

But what many fans of today fail to realize is that Ted Williams missed almost five full seasons because of military duty in World War II and the Korean War.

Williams was trained as a pilot but saw no combat duty during WWII.  But when he returned to active duty during the Korean War, he flew combat missions. He played only 6 games in 1952 and only 37 games in 1953.

During his first military service Williams went in when he was 24 years old. After the Korean Conflict, he was still only 34 when he got out. So he was missing during the prime of his career.

Proof of this is that in 1954 when he played his first full year after the war, he hit .345 and had 29 homers.

In a 162 game average season, Ted had 188 hits and 37 home runs for his career. Let’s apply those numbers to the years he lost to military service.

If one could give Ted back the five years he served our country, he would have had 940 more hits and 185 more home runs. He would have finished his career with 3594 hits and 706 home runs.

In addition to the statistical bashing Williams took, he also suffered financially by serving his country. Controversy involving his initial draft status in 1942 cost him a major commercial contract with Quaker Oats.

He also lost his salary for three years in WWII after he had made $30,000 in 1942 playing for the Red Sox.  By the time he went to Korea he was earning a reported $100,000 per year.

The player of his era to whom Ted Williams was most frequently compared was Joe Dimaggio.  Dimaggio lost time to service in WWII as well. He served the same three years from 1943-1945 as Ted Williams.

Dimaggio was assigned as a physical education instructor and served in California and on the east coast. He never saw combat.

Dimaggio had a relatively short career of only 13 seasons primarily because of the three seasons he missed during the war.

For his career, Joe D hit .325 and finished his career with 2214 hits and 361 home runs.

Over an average of 162 games Joe averaged 207 hits per year and 34 home runs.

So if you gave him back the three years he was in the Army, Joe would have finished with 2835 hits and 463 dingers.

More realistically, Dimag would probably have hit more home runs and garnered more hits in the three years he was gone, because he was also in his prime. In 1943, the first year he lost, he would have been 28 years old.

Dimaggio also lost financially.  According to Baseball Almanac, Dimaggio made $43,750 in 1942 and 1946 when he returned. So he lost $131,250 during the War.

Bob Feller was one of the greatest pitchers ever to climb up a major league mound.  Feller lost virtually four full seasons during WWII. He came back to pitch in nine games in 1945 but he won 26 games his first full season back in 1946.

Feller enlisted in the Navy and saw combat as a Gun Captain aboard the USS Alabama.

When Feller went to military service he was only 23 years old. In the previous three seasons he had won 24, 27 and 25 games respectively.

For his 18 season career Feller won 266 games while losing 162.  He had 2581 strikeouts for his career.

If we could give him back the almost four years he lost he would have at least 63 more wins and 609 more strikeouts. But that is based on his 162 game average.

If you take his averages for the three years immediately before his service he would have won 96 more games and had 963 more strikeouts. 

Using these numbers Bob would have finished his career with 362 wins and 3544 strikeouts.

According to Baseball Almanac, Feller lost $160,000 during WWII.

Hank Greenberg earned his Hall of Fame credentials as a first baseman for the Detroit Tigers.

Greenberg was actually drafted in 1940 and was able to play only 19 games for the Tigers in 1941. He missed the next three full seasons and most of 1945 due to his military service.

Hank served in the Pacific Theater spotting bombing locations for B-29s.

Greenberg’s stats for the Hall of Fame saw him finish with a .313 career batting average and he averaged 187 hits per year for his career. His final numbers included 1628 hits and 331 home runs.

But his military service probably cost him at least 150 home runs and 750 hits.  Hank Greenberg would probably have finished with 480 home runs or more and 2400 hits if he had not served during WWII.

Based on salary figures from Baseball Almanac, Greenberg lost about $220,000 in the four years he served our country.

And Hank served in the military when he was older than the other players mentioned here. When he began the 1946 season he was 35 years old and his best years had been lost.



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New York Yankees Must Move Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter Now!

Last night’s game was the last straw for the New York Yankees!

Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter have proven finally and forever that they should not be at the top of the order for the Yankees.

Gardner struck out three times in the game against the Baltimore Orioles, stranding runners in critical situations and proving that he is just not ready to hit leadoff on a major league roster.

Garnder finished the game with a batting average of .150 and an on-base percentage of .227. No major league team should have a player with those kinds of numbers at the top of the order.

Derek Jeter is no better hitting second. 

Jeter finished the night 1-for-5 with a .233 BA and a .306 OBP.  This old man has now proven he can no longer play at the major league level.

There are several solutions to these problems. If manager Joe Girardi insists on keeping these two worthless players in the lineup, he has to drop them to the bottom of the order.

So who will replace them at the top?

Obviously Curtis Granderson should lead off and Nick Swisher should hit in the two hole.

Wait a minute. Let’s look at Grandy and Swishy’s numbers.

Granderson was 2-for-4 last night but is still only hitting .194 with an OBP of just .275.  Maybe he is not the perfect leadoff hitter either.

Swisher drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning. But he ended the night hitting only .211 for the season with an OBP of .298.

So maybe Granderson and Swisher aren’t the perfect match for the top spots in the order.

Who else is there?

I know! Alex Rodriguez is hitting .412 with an OBP of .512. So obviously he should be leading off.

And Robinson Cano is hitting .328 with an OBP of .340, so he should hit second behind ARod.

Move Gardner and Jeter to the bottom of the order if they stay in the lineup.

Hit Russell Martin third. After all, he has a .289 average right now, 64 points higher than Mark Teixeira.

Hit Jorge Posada cleanup. He is only hitting .189, but of his seven hits, five have been home runs. His power makes him the perfect cleanup guy.

Granderson is not suited for leadoff as we have seen. But he would be perfect taking Cano’s place in the five hole since he has so much power from the left side.

Even though he hasn’t shown much lately but sac flies followed by cream pies, let Swisher hit sixth.

Teixeira is terrible, but he might be able to fill the seven hole followed by Jeter and Gardner.

I would only give this new lineup through the weekend to succeed.

If there are not major improvements by Sunday, I would make the following additional changes.

ARod moves to shortstop and Jeter is benched.

Eric Chavez takes over at third base permanently because he is hitting .444 and will then bat cleanup.

Gardner is given his outright release from baseball and Andruw Jones is installed as the left fielder with a five-year extension on his contract. He is hitting .400 and still has enough speed that he could be the leadoff hitter if ARod does not work out there.

Phil Hughes can obviously not pitch. But he still has a good enough arm to be the next Rick Ankiel. So put him in center field and trade Granderson.

After all, Yankee fans are too devoted and too worthy of a good product to put up with a team that is only 7-4 after 11 games and is in first place by only one game.

Changes have to be made.

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NY Yankees: Brian Cashman Shouldn’t Think of Trading Jesus Montero for Starter

In today’s New York Daily News, John Harper wrote that Jesus Montero’s hot start in Triple-A may give Brian Cashman a better opportunity to trade for a top-of-the-line starting pitcher.

I think someone should shoot Cashman right in the head if he even thinks of trading Montero for a starter.

And then go shoot Harper for suggesting it.

Last summer, as the Yankees desperately tried to trade for the Mariner’s Cliff Lee, reports surfaced that Cashman was willing to include Montero in the deal, but that the young shortstop Eduardo Nunez would not be included.

Let’s analyze that for just a minute.

The Yankees were in need of starting pitching. Lee was the best prospect out there. Any team in a pennant race should have wanted him.

At that point though, Cashman would have been renting Lee for a little over two months in the regular season and for the playoffs.

There was no certainty Lee would stay with the Yankees for 2011. All the proof you need for that is when Lee went back to the Phillies for less money, even after Cashman opened Scrooge McDuck’s bank vaults in January.

To rent Lee for less than half a season though, the Yankees were willing to give up their top prospect in Montero, but not Nunez.

Analyze a little more.

The Yankee shortstop last July was a fella named Derek Jeter. He was in his “walk” year. (Like he was really going to walk!)

Theoretically (quantum physics kinda theory here), Jeter would be gone, and the Yanks would be out of a shortstop come November.

So, Cashman would have had to keep Nunez in case Jeter did indeed walk away from New York.

Montero has been touted by everyone who has seen him as a can’t-miss,major-league hitter. He has hit superbly at every level of the minor leagues.

He is hitting .448 through the few games the Scranton Yankees have played in Triple-A so far this season.

Harper thinks that is just grand because the better Montero hits in Scranton, the better chances Cashman has of landing a starting pitcher.

Just how valuable does Harper think a front-line starter will be? Or how valuable does Cashman think one would be?

Valuable enough to give up Montero?  In the humble opinion of this writer, that is stupid.

The Yankees had question marks with their starting pitching in 2009 and still won the World Series.

The Yankees had serious problems with their starting staff in 2010 and still made it to the ALCS.

Another example, in 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays went to the World Series with no starters winning more than 14 games.

Montero can be a major league catcher. He showed that early in Spring Training this year when everyone was raving about his defense. He fell off about half way through camp, both defensively and with the stick.

But this kid is only 21 years old. He could be the answer for the Yankees behind the plate for the next 15 years. How often will the team have an opportunity to have a catcher who can tear it up with the bat for 15 years?


That is how often.

Jorge Posada has been a great offensive asset. On the other side of the ball, he has been a less-than-average defensive catcher, causing problems to the point that some big-name pitchers did not want to throw to him.

Can Montero possibly be any worse behind the plate than Posada was for more than a dozen  years? 

The answer is no.

Cashman wanted to protect a shortstop last summer who has proven nothing, while dangling a stud catcher who is going to be a star in the major leagues.

I repeat, if Montero continues to tear it up at Triple-A and Harper convinces Cashman to trade him for an arm, please, somebody shoot them both right in the head.

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Buck Showalter Needs to Shut Up About Derek Jeter Bailing Out on Inside Pitches

Buck Showalter has made a fool out of himself.

He was quoted as talking about yelling at Derek Jeter in a game last season for bailing out on inside pitches. He said his team could not believe he was yelling at Derek Jeter.

There is a good reason Jete bails on inside pitches.

In the history of baseball, Derek Jeter is 19th all-time in being hit by pitches. Among current players he is tied for fourth on the list with his teammate, Alex Rodriguez. Each has been hit 152 times.

Only Jason Kendall, Carlos Delgado and Jason Giambi have been hit more times than Jeter among players still active on a major-league roster.

The all-time HBP leader is Old Ee-Yah, Hughie Jennings, who last actually played in 1902. Jennings was hit a record 287 times. The only player of the modern era who was close to the record was Craig Biggio, who almost surpassed Ee-Yah, being hit 285 times.

Everyone in baseball knows Jeter likes the ball out over the plate and that he is an expert at driving the ball to right field.

He is also known for striding into the ball—at least he was in the past. He is now working on an alteration to his setup at the plate that will reduce his movement toward home plate and get his front foot down faster.

So pitchers have thrown up and in to Jeter. Of course he bails on close pitches. He has been hit in the hands a number of times and has missed some play from injuries that occurred this way.

One incident that drew a great deal of publicity and much criticism of Jeter occurred last season, when he feigned being hit and was awarded first base after a high and tight pitch came too close.

Jeter was chastised as being a poor sport, and efforts were made unsuccessfully to tarnish his iconic image because of his acting.

But nothing came of the criticism of the pitch that didn’t hit Jeter, and nothing will come of Showalter’s theatrics, which are much more ridiculous than what Jeter did.

Every player in the big leagues would have done exactly as Jeter did on that play if given the chance. They are playing a competitive sport, looking for every edge they can. If you can get on first base, that is the goal.

But Showalter’s comments are way out of line, and he needs to just shut up and sit down.

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New York Yankee Rotation: How Important Will 4th and 5th Starters Be?

A great deal of attention has been paid this spring to the open slots in the New York Yankees’ pitching rotation.

The failure to sign Cliff Lee as a free agent and the retirement of Andy Pettitte are thought by some to leave glaring holes in the Yankee ranks.

The Yankees have three established pitchers at the top of the rotation in C. C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett. 

Sabathia is the ace, a pitcher who can be counted on to go out every fifth day and pitch spectacularly most of the time.  He finished with 21 wins last year against only seven losses.

Hughes, though still young, is durable and dependable.  He notched 18 wins in his first full season as a starter in 2010.

Burnett is always a concern as he is Forest Gump’s proverbial “box of chocolates.”  You never know what you’re gonna get.

After those three, the competition has been wide open for the other two starting jobs.  Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have all been given a chance to start in the back end of the rotation.

And some young kids named Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances have had Yankee fans salivating with the idea that these baby arms might be just what the Bombers need.

It might be a good idea to analyze just how important the fourth and fifth starter positions are in baseball, and to the Yankees in particular.

This analysis includes a look at all major league teams in 2010.  The Top Three starters on each team were excluded, and the remaining pitchers who made a significant number of starts for each team were considered in terms of wins and losses.

In the American League, the pitchers who saw regular work at the back end of rotations garnered 261 wins against 291 losses.  That is a winning percentage of .473.  If that were the winning percentage for a team over a 162 game season, that team would win just short of 77 games.

In the National League, back end guys got 277 wins against 334 losses.  The winning percentage is .453 which would translate to 73 wins if the percentage held for the entire staff.

Okay, that doesn’t necessarily mean very much, because you are including the pitching staffs of the Pirates and Mariners and all the other ne’er-do-wells.

So, let us analyze the playoff teams.

The Giants won the World Series, of course.  Through their regular season, the back end of their rotation had 23 wins and 20 losses.  That is a winning percentage of .535 or 87 wins if it were true of their entire staff.

The Rangers lost in the World Series.  Their back end had 25 wins and 20 losses for a winning percentage of .555 or 90 wins if applied as though the entire staff performed at this rate.

The Yankees lost to the Rangers but had a better record in the 4-5 slots in the rotation.  Javy Vazquez and Andy Pettitte combined for a record of 21-13 which is a .617 percentage which is better than the staff as a whole and would have meant 100 wins.

The Rays won the AL East and had a back end record of 24-18 or .571 percentage worth 92 wins if the staff average had been the same.

The Twins had a 23-18 average almost identical to the Rays in percentage and projected wins.

Let’s get back to the NL.

The Braves had a much worse performance at 14-18 for a percentage of just .437 which would have given them only 70 wins if the other pitchers had not been much better.

The Phillies were 25-16 for a .609 percentage or 98 wins.

The Reds were 15-14, and so they were just barely over .500 which would have been 84 wins.

For a little bit of fun, and to give Yankee fans a look at what the fourth and fifth starters have meant to the Yankee teams from 1996 through 2009, let’s look at the World Series champs for that period and how well their back end of the rotation did.

In 2009, Joba Chamberlain started 32 games and was 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA.  Sergio Mitre started nine games and went 3-3 with a 6.79 ERA.  Chien-Ming Wang started nine games and was 1-6 with a 9.64 ERA.  Chad Gaudin started six games and was 2-0 with a 3.43 ERA.

So for the most recent Yankee champions, the back end of the rotation was 15-15. 

In 2000, David Cone, Denny Neagle and Ramiro Mendoza filled out the back of the rotation for the Bombers.  They combined for a record of just 18-25.

In 1999 Roger Clemens and Hideki Irabu started 62 games and combined for a 25-17 record.  No one would think of Clemens as a fourth or fifth starter, but he had fewer starts that year than any other regular.

In 1998 Irabu and Orlando El Duque Hernandez started 47 games and had a combined record of 25-13 on perhaps the greatest team in major league history. 

In 1996 David Cone, Dwight Gooden and Ramiro Mendoza were a combined 22-14.

So, what does the analysis show?

To this writer, who did the research, there is no conclusion. 

The results are really all over the board.

Last year, some good teams had better winning percentages with the back end than with their top starters.  In the Yankees case, that is primarily because AJ Burnett was so horrible. 

No one who is a Yankee fan would want Javy Vazquez back.  It was Andy Pettitte who had the great winning percentage that elevated the Yankees’ starters last season.

In some winning seasons, Yankee 4-5 starters have been very good.  In other years, they are less than mediocre.  The same is true for other teams.

Ivan Nova has looked very good this spring, including a no-hitter over the Orioles for six innings on Wednesday.  Garcia, Colon and Mitre have certainly shown they are all at least serviceable.

But for the Yankees to win, they cannot depend on any of these guys.  If Sabathia and Hughes don’t match or come close to last year’s numbers, there has to be a pick up somewhere. 

Perhaps Burnett gets his head on straight and shows what a guy with great stuff can really do.

Perhaps, Jeter, A-Rod and Tex all bounce back to have years far superior to last season, and the offense makes up for weakness in the starting rotation.

Perhaps, the bullpen, with the addition of Soriano and Feliciano and the maturation of Robertson, reduces the pressure on starters to win.

At least for now, although it is intriguing, the fourth and fifth starters don’t necessarily mean very much to a major league team.


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New York Yankees Fans Should Be Really Worried About Next Season

The last coals have just about burned out in the Hot Stove for this winter.

The New York Yankees made no significant trades or free agent signings.

As a result, Yankee fans should be very concerned about the upcoming season.

To begin with, Brian Cashman and the rest of the Yankee brass put all their eggs in one basket and nothing hatched.  It is well documented that the primary gameplan was to sign Cliff Lee and they failed. The only good thing that can be said about Lee is that he left the American League.

There were not many good options for front line pitchers after Lee.  But Cashman failed to sign anybody.

The only addition to the Yankee starting rotation for 2011 is that Javier Vazquez is gone, hopefully for good.  If there was ever a time to speak of addition by subtraction, this is the time. But of course, we all thought Vazquez was gone for good after the 2004 season only to see Cashman trade for him last winter.

Andy Pettitte has not re-signed and Cashman has said the Yankees are resigned to losing him to retirement. That is a major loss for the team.

The Yankees could have signed Carl Crawford. But Cashman was so intent on Lee that he did not attempt to sign Crawford until he was gone to the arch-rival Red Sox.   Now Yankee pitching will have to face him in 19 games that will be even more important than when he was playing in Tampa Bay.

The Yankees might have signed Jayson Werth. But again, he was allowed to go somewhere else without much attention being given to him. Again, as with Lee, at least he didn’t sign with an AL club where he could haunt the Yankees repeatedly.

Cashman said he was very well satisfied with Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher in the the outfield. Puzzling is the best way I can analyze this. When you could have added Crawford or Werth for just money, you are satisfied with Gardner, Granderson and Swisher?

Do Gardner, Granderson and Swisher really embue anyone with great confidence in the Yankee outfield? Not this observer.

The Yankees have the greatest infield in the game and perhaps in the history of the game. All four players have Gold Gloves and all are among the most productive offensive players at their position. 

However, there are reasons for concern even among this glorious quartet. 

To begin, Mark Teixeira, was oft-injured last season and one now must at least wonder if he is less durable than once thought. 

And his propensity to start slowly has become a real problem. Games won in April and May count the same as games won in September.  Tex has done very little early in the last two seasons to help the Yanks win in the early months.

Robinson Cano is one of the truly great stars of the game, both offensively and defensively.  But after one of the hottest starts in memory, Robbie saw a reduction in production every month of the season. He filled the five spot in the order magnificently.

But is there any room for improvement?  Can he continue to perform at the level he showed last year?  Questions that can only be answered over time.

Derek Jeter is a year older. So is A-Rod. Realistically, anyone who thinks on this subject objectively has to expect some reduction in performance from these two great players. 

Will Jeter hit .270 again? No. He will hit much better in 2011.  But will he hit .320 again? Doubtful.  And his defense will not continue to be as good as it has been.

A-Rod shows signs of wear as well. When you see him run the bases you understand that the hip or something is still bothering him.  Or perhaps it is more accurate to say he is limited by the injury.  His power numbers were down to some extent. And he is not as good in the field as he used to be.

Jorge Posada will be the full-time DH, and he does not like it. I don’t care that the media says Cashman met with Jorge and everything is fine. Posada was surly with limited time behind the plate last year. 

He will be worse than Walter Matthau in Grumpy Old Men in 2011.  He will be poison to the team next year. Posada has also been injured frequently over the past three years and he will enter 2011 at age 39.  He will not be what the Yankees want as a DH.

Everyone should be happy with CC Sabathia heading up your starting rotation. CC just came off knee surgery. There is no reason to believe he won’t make a full recovery.

But CC has carried a load of innings over the past several years as no other pitcher has.  There have been many concerns expressed that at some point it has to catch up with him. Was the tear in his meniscus only the first indication that wear and tear is catching up.

Phil Hughes was great in 2010. He is young, healthy and has been over protected against too much work. But to expect him to repeat his 2010 performance is expecting a lot. If he has 18 wins, that will be fantastic. Don’t expect any more from Phil.

There are not enough psychiatrists in New York City to fix AJ Burnett. Talk of Dave Eiland working with AJ after Eiland’s return to the team are meaningless now since Eiland was fired.  No one knows what new pitching coach Larry Rothschild will do.

But AJ’s problem is not with his arm or his slot or his mechanics. AJ Burnett’s problem is between his ears. Don’t expect anything any different out of Burnett in 2011 than what you saw in 2010.

Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre and a handful of lesser knowns are the most likely choices to join CC, AJ and Phil in the rotation. There is nothing to give us Yankee fans much hope here.

The brass will have to rebuild the bench. Gone are Lance Berkman and Marcus Thames. Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez are still Yankee hands, but don’t expect too much.

Signing Johnny Damon is ridiculous and only slightly less ridiculous than signing Manny Ramirez. Neither one of those signing is going to happen.  Nor should they.

Another major cause for worry is that the Yankees signed Russell Martin to whom the Dodgers gave an outright release.  What that says is that Jesus Montero is not ready to catch in the bigs. If Martin is the answer, somebody is asking the wrong question.

One final area which has already caused problems for the Yankees in 2010 and will resonate for years to come arose in this offseason.

The Yankees treated Derek Jeter shabbily. Yes, they ended up signing Jete to a contract that pays more than he is worth on the field and recognizes his past accomplishments and intangible contributions to the franchise.

But the method used to arrive at the contract and the impact on Jeter will hurt the Yankees for years to come.

If you could get Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford to talk about it, I would bet that they would mention how Cashman and the Steinbrenners and Randy Levine treated Jeter during the contract negotiations.

“It’s going to get messy…” “Shop it around….” 

Can’t you just imagine Cliff Lee sitting at dinner with his beautiful wife and asking:  “If they treated Derek Jeter like that, how are they going to treat us?”

The Yankees have a great many problems.

There are a lot of reasons for Yankee fans to worry about 2011 and seasons to come.

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Who Made Out The New York Yankees Schedule? Jerry Lewis?

For the second year in a row the New York Yankees began the season on the road.

Okay, maybe that is no big deal. They had a three game set in Boston over a four day period.

Then, after another day off, they went to Tampa for a three game set against the Rays.

They had another day off before coming home for six games against the Angels and Rangers.

A travel day found them on their way to the West Coast where they played three against the A’s and then three more against the Angels in Anaheim.

After finishing the set in California, they had another travel day before playing three against the Orioles in Camden yards.

The Bombers finally got home after an eleven day road swing to play three against the White Sox over the weekend. They conclude the homestand beginning tonight with three games against Baltimore.

But then they have another day off before heading out on another road trip, this one seven games in a row with three in Boston and four in Detroit.

By the time that road trip is over the Yankees will have played 22 games on the road and only 12 at home.  By the end of May they will have had 28 road games as against 22 at home.

On May 17 and 18 Boston will play two games in the Bronx. By that time the Yankees will have played six games in Fenway.

Obviously the schedules are made out in the Commissioner’s office. One would think that if you open on the road one year, you would get to start at home the next. But not so for the Yanks.

This year the schedule is so skewed early in the season that it certainly does not seem far to the New York team.

Of course the good news is that so far the Yanks have won all but one series and are now 16-8. Eventually the schedule has to balance out. At least I guess they are going to let the Yankees play 81 games at home this year. I haven’t actually counted.

But when the schedule begins to balance out, more games at home should allow the Yankees to take advantage of home field.

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Brian Cashman: How Are Your Offseason Acquisitions Working Out For You?

All New York Yankee fans have gotten used to general manager Brian Cashman going through offseasons in which he makes everybody happy.

That was the case following the 2008 season, when Cashman opened the Steinbrenner safe and signed CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. The result was a World Series title.

All Yankee fans have gotten used to Cashman going through offseasons in which he leaves us wondering what in the hell he was thinking,

So, here we are 24 games into the 2010 season, but right now it looks as though Cashman’s moves after the 2009 season will be in the latter category.

Cashman made a whopper of a trade that had all of baseball buzzing when he dealt one-time first round draft pick and starting pitcher, Ian Kennedy, reliever Phil Coke, and Yankee stud prospect, Austin Jackson, in a three-team transaction that brought Curtis Granderson to New York.

Over the weekend, Granderson strained his left groin going from first to third against the White Sox, and will be on the disabled list for an undetermined amount of time. That may be the most productive thing Granderson has done since the first week of the season.

Granderson started out in his New York Yankee uniform looking great, as the former Detroit Tigers center fielder homered in his first at-bat on Opening Night in Boston. But a week after that, he flamed out and has really been struggling.

He had played in all 23 games until getting hurt on Saturday, but was hitting only .225 with an on-base percentage of only .311. He was brought over with the expectations that he would hit 40 home runs in Yankee pinstripes. After all, he hit 30 for the Tigers last year.

So far, however, Granderson has hit two homers, and is on pace to hit about 12 to 15 home runs this year.

But then he was going to be able to also use his great speed, right? Well, he has stolen four bases thus far, which will put him at about 25 for the year.

Oh, and by the way, one of the guys who went in the trade, Jackson, is the Tigers’ new center fielder.

Jackson has started 25 games, is hitting leadoff, and finished the weekend hitting .367 with an OPS of .893, and an OPS above 140.

Another pawn in the trade, Coke, has been great out of the Tiger pen. Coke has won three games, and has an ERA of 1.93 in 14 appearances.

Okay, so far it’s a transaction that has not worked out the way Cashman and Yankee fans would have wanted.

On to Cashman’s second offseason deal, in which the Yankees signed free agent Nick Johnson with the intention that he would take Hideki Matsui’s place as the Yankee DH, but would be inserted in former outfiedler Johnny Damon’s No. 2 slot behind Derek Jeter in the lineup.

The thought was that Johnson’s skill at getting on base would make him the perfect two-hole hitter.

Thus far, Johnson has missed a couple of games with nicks (no pun intended). But it would have been better if he could have really been hurt, and joined Granderson on the DL.

Johnson finished the game today going 1-5, and is now hitting a dynamic .141. At first, he was making up for his weak bat with a lot of walks. But now it is so bad his OBP is down to .368.

Some Yankee hopefuls also thought Johnson’s upper cut swing was tailor made for the jet stream out to right field in the new Yankee Stadium. Johnson has one (1) home run in 64 at bats.

Sort of makes you wish Cashman had talked a little longer with Damon’s agent since Johnny is hitting .344 with an OBP of .439 for the Tigers.

Or maybe Cashman could have asked Matsui if he would like to remain in NYC. Matsui’s sore knees have only allowed him to play in 25 games this season, but he is hitting .272 with four home runs and 13 RBI, which calculate out to about 32 dingers and 104 RBI for the Angels’ player this season.

Finally, Cashman gave away Melky Cabrera in order to bring Javier Vazquez back to New York, where his last appearance before 2010 was watching Damon send a grand slam deep into the night, as Boston came back from 0-3 in the 2004 ALCS to beat the Yankees en route to their first World Series title in 86 years.

But let’s allow bygones be bygones. Let’s not hold Damon’s grand slam against Javy. Let’s not even hold his total second-half collapse in 2004 against him.

After all, there is plenty to hold against him just by what he has done this year in his return to the Bronx.

Vazquez has started five games, which is four too many. He is 1-3, but absolutely should be 1-4. His ERA is 9.78. NINE, FRICKING, SEVEN, EIGHT!

On Saturday, Vazquez started against the Chicago Pale Hose, a team Ozzie Guillen cannot figure out, and he is their manager.

Chicago is pretty bad, and is especially weak on offense. But they sure got well in a hurry against Vazquez.

Vazquez was allowed to come out for the fourth inning, but no one is quite sure why. Because when Vazquez left the home dugout for the top of the fourth, his team still had a chance.

After all, he had only given up three runs in the first three innings. But he would change that. He faced four hitters in the fourth, and got none of them out. And he gave up two more runs in the fourth before Yankees manager Joe Girardi mercifully lifted him.

Vazquez threw 83 pitches, which was about 75 too many. If Girardi had taken him out in the first inning before Paul Konerko hit his home run, Vazquez could have been considered for a “hold.” (Obviously, I’m joking here.)

He gave up seven hits and five earned runs in three innings.

And believe it or not, he did not even get the loss. He should have but that ignominious stat went to David Robertson, who only gave up one hit, but two runs in relief.

The problem for Robertson, and the saving grace for Vazquez, is that they pitch for a team that just fights every at bat. The Yankees came back from four runs down to go ahead in the game, thus saving Vazquez the loss.

Cashman’s 2008 offseason was incredible.

I just wish we did not have to believe what he did this past offseason, because it will take us a long time to forget Granderson, Johnson, and Vazquez, and how they tried as hard as they could to screw up the effort to repeat as world champs.

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Brett Gardner Update: May 2, 2010

Brett Gardner is finally where Joe Girardi has wanted him.

Gardner started in center field for the New York Yankees as they won big today against the Chicago White Sox. He went 2-4 at the plate and scored two more runs.

Gardner started in center because Curtis Granderson has gone on the disabled list with a Grade Two strain of his left groin.

Considering how well Gardner has been playing and how really badly Granderson has been, the groin strain is good luck all the way around.

Anyone who reads my pieces on BR regularly knows that I have been no fan of Brett Gardner. In fact, over the winter I went out of my way to make fun of him through satiric pieces designed to point out that he had proved nothing as a major leaguer and, in fact, not much as a minor leaguer either.

But now Gardner is proving a great deal.

Through 73 at-bats in 2010, Gardner is now hitting .342 with an on-base percentage of .415. He has also stolen 11 bases in the Yankees first 24 games. And he has now scored 18 runs.

Gardner also hit a home run today, his first of the year. Gardner will never be a home run hitter, but he is making a believer out of this old cynic to the point that he really is a major league ball player.

Until now Girardi was inclined to use Gardner in a left-field platoon with Marcus Thames. Thames has been tearing up left-handed pitching. Not that Gardner would not also hit lefties, but Girardi had been using the platoon.

Gardner is now going to get a chance every day. He will play center and hit against every kind of pitcher the American League has.

And the indications right now are that no one is going to miss Granderson.

Yankee fans may still miss Austin Jackson, who is hitting .367 in Detroit. But we won’t miss Granderson, whether he is gone a month as Girardi predicted or the rest of the season.

We won’t miss Granderson. At least not if Gardner continues to prove this old man wrong.

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