Sunday, February 23, 2014

Yankees Get Gardner To Stay Awhile

Brett Gardner could have tested the free agent waters next year, but instead chose to stick around a little longer in New York. The Yankees and Gardner agreed to a four year contract extension worth $52MM on Sunday.

The Yankees went out of their comfort zone - they normally don't extend players that are already under contract - to get Gardner at a reasonable price.  GM Brian Cashman explained why.
"It's a demonstration from our end. We don't typically do this, but it shows the level of confidence, belief and trust in the type of person and player he is, and we're excited to know he's going to be part of this thing going forward."1
While Cashman may be saying all the right things about Gardner, the terms of the contract also make the left fielder a viable trade chip in the future should any of the touted outfield prospects (Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, and Tyler Austin) pan out.  But Gardner wants to stay right where he is.
"I don't want to be anywhere else," Gardner told reporters. "There's no better place to play baseball than in New York. I've never been anywhere else. I got drafted here almost nine years ago, and I love it here. I love everybody in the organization, the coaching staff and all my teammates, and this is where I want to be."1
While I don't necessarily agree with the length of the deal, it was a smart move by the Yankees, especially considering how much money they have tied up going forward in Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Masahiro Tanaka. By getting Gardner at a mere $12.5MM per year (there's a $12.5MM option in 2019 with a $2MM buyout), the Yankees will have more money to work with when players like Mark Teixeira come off the books.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Roberts Handed Second Base

I wouldn't be surprised if Brian Cashman held a lucky rabbit's foot, wore a four leaf clover around his neck, and said a novena or Hail Mary or two when Brian Roberts put ink to paper and signed his contract with the New York Yankees.

With Kelly Johnson also in camp, manager Joe Girardi announced that Roberts would be his starting second baseman when the team heads north (actually west to play the Houston Astros) to start the regular season. Roberts isn't expected to replace the production that the Yankees will miss from Robinson Cano, but they hope Roberts and others can collectively make up some of that ground.

A once quick-as-a-rabbit youngster, Roberts joins a team of older, injured players. Well, most of them were injured last year anyway. For Roberts it's been a myriad of injuries over the last several years.

Roberts suffered an abdominal strain in 2010 that kept him out  of the lineup from April to July and limited him to 59 games. (He also suffered from a herniated disc in his back during Spring Training in 2010.)

In May of 2011, Roberts hit the back of his head sliding into first base and suffered a serious concussion. He missed the rest of the 2011 season and didn't return to the Majors until June, 2012.  But he wasn't active for long.

Roberts hurt his groin in early July and was placed back on the DL. At the end of the month he opted for season ending hip surgery. During the off-season he also had surgery to repair a sports hernia. He played in 17 games, the lowest number of his career and the same number his new double play partner, Derek Jeter, played in his own injury plagued 2013 season.

In April, 2013 Roberts made another trip to the DL after he ruptured a tendon in a portion of hamstring behind his right knee and underwent surgery. It kept him out of an Orioles uniform until June 30. His 77 games played was the most action he saw over a four year stretch of injuries and surgeries, but his production was far below his norm. (.249/.312/.392 slash line)

The Yankees hope to see a glimpse of the former first round pick (50th overall out of U. of South Carolina in 1999). Roberts was a two-time All-Star who combined some pop with speed (90 stolen bases 2007-2008) and was often a Yankees killer. A typical season for Roberts saw 13 home runs, 64 RBI, 36 steals, 45 doubles, and 99 runs scored. 

In attempt to keep him healthy, Girardi may very well put the reins on Roberts when it comes to stolen base attempts and it will be interesting to see where he bats in the lineup with a pair of lead off men - Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner - already in the lineup.

The Yankees and Roberts don't care where he bats as long as he can stay healthy and productive.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Jeter To Retire After 2014 Season

Yankees fans are still reeling from the retirements after least season of five time World Series champions Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Now comes word that Derek Jeter will join them on the sidelines after this coming season. The Yankees' captain made the announcement on his Facebook page with a a lengthy letter.

I hightly doubt there will be a good-bye tour like Rivera's, but I'm sure Jeter will get big receptions and some gifts when the Yankees play on the road this season. Perhaps there will be a retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium on the final day of the regular season, though I personally think Jeter would hate to do it, unless Rivera's day had a big influence on him.

Appreciate the 2014 season for it truly is the end of an era.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A-Rod Drops Suit Against MLB and MLBPA

Possibly sensing the loss of dollars in the long run, Alex Rodriguez dropped his suit against Major League Baseball and the players' assocation (MLBPA) on Friday.  Rodriguez had sounded tired of fighting and resigned when he spoke with media in Mexico back on January 16.
“I think that the year 2014 could be a big favor that [Major League Baseball has] done for me because I’ve been playing for 20 years without a timeout,” he said. “I think 2014 is a good year to rest mentally and physically and prepare for the future and begin a new chapter in my life.”
In response, his lawyers were quick to say that A-Rod would still be going forward with his appeal, but this afternoon's action flies in the face of that. MLB released the following statement.
"We have been informed that Alex Rodriguez has reached the prudent decision to end all of the litigation related to the Biogenesis matter. We believe that Mr. Rodriguez's actions show his desire to return the focus to the play of our great game on the field and to all of the positive attributes and actions of his fellow Major League Players. We share that desire."
A-Rod's lawyer Joseph Tacopina confirmed the suit was dropped.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ralph Kiner, 91

Growing up in the Metropolitan area in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, two of the most legendary baseball players could  be seen and/or heard on New York Yankees and New York Mets broadcasts. Both had Hall of Fame baseball careers and both could have had their picture next to the word character in the dictionary.

Sadly, Mets' announcer Ralph Kiner joined Yankees player and announcer Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto today in God's ballpark today. He was 91 years of age. Kiner was one of the top sluggers of his era, but most people will remember him for his work on New York Mets games and his post-game show, "Kiner's Korner".

The Alhambra (CA) High School graduate signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1941. After a little more than two years in the minor leagues, Kiner served as a Navy pilot during World War II. He flew reconnaissance missions in the South Pacific looking for enemy submarines and ships and left active duty in December, 1945.

One year later the 23-year old was in the Major Leagues with the Pirates and became their primary left fielder. Though he led the National League in strikeouts (109), the rookie topped the NL with 23 home runs and also drove in 81 runs. Then he went on a tremendous seven year tear that included a six year streak in which he led the National League in home runs (seven years straight overall). He topped the half-century mark twice and eclipsed 40 home runs three times.

From 1947-1949, Kiner averaged 125 RBI and 48 home runs. He finished in the top 10 in the NL MVP voting five straight seasons, and led the league in OPS ('47, '49, '51)  and walks ('49, '51, '52) on three occasions. Unfortunately, the Pirates finished at or near the bottom of the NL in each of Kiner's best seasons.

About a quarter of the way into the 1953 season, he, Joe Garagiola and two others were dealt to the Chicago Cubs for six players and $150,000. Kiner adapted to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field and hit 28 home runs in 117 games the rest of the season as a Cubbie. (In addition to the seven he hit with Pittsburgh.)

Despite an OPS over .800 the next two seasons with the Cubs and Cleveland Indians, the 32-year old Kiner retired from baseball after 10 big league seasons. He never got the chance to play in the post-season, but the 7-time All-Star was selected by the Veterans Committee for induction in the baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.

After one year in the Chicago White Sox broadcast booth, Kiner joined the Mets crew and became a legend. He was a regular member of the Mets broadcast team until 2006, when at the age of 84, he reduced his schedule.  While across town, Rizzuto had his "Holy Cow!", Kiner's trademark was his frequent malaprops.. He would often combine and scramble players name. One Father's Day he wished everyone a Happy Birthday. While fans of opponents criticized him, it made him more beloved among Mets fans

Kiner suffered from Bell's Palsy, a stroke like illness, in 1998 that left him with slurred speech. But the fan favorite carried on and continued to make cameo appearances after the 2006 season. The Mets honored him with a day at Shea Stadium in 2007.

Kiner was married four times and is survived by his five children and 12 grand children. My condolences go out to his family and friends.

1 - NY Daily News