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Category Archives: Spring Training 2012

The Mystery of the Chris Stewart Trade & the Francisco Cervelli Demotion

If you didn’t already hear, the Yankees traded RP George Kontos to the Giants for C Chris Stewart and demoted C Francisco Cervelli to AAA Empire State Yankees. Why they did this, I have no idea, but I can guess.

I’m sure this went down because AAA C Austin Romine is hurt, but I think Kontos might have been a tiny bit too much to give up for Stewart, but that’s not my primary concern: what irks me is that Stewart is not a significant upgrade over Cervelli, so why do this at all? I get that Romine’s ongoing back problems are a concern and that him being on the shelf means catcher depth is a bit low right now, but this doesn’t seem like the greatest of moves. I know Stewart spent some time with the Yankees in both 2008 and 2009, but how much does he really know the Yankees pitching staff? Spring training is over, so there is no time left to learn.

I don’t get it. Maybe the idea is that Stewart will be C.C. Sabathia’s personal catcher and Cervelli will help the organization monitor the top pitching prospects at AAA as he knows many of those guys and has caught them before, so he can provide valuable information in Romine’s absence. That’s the only justification I can come up with… unless this is just a depth move and Stewart is out of minor league options. That’s probably more likely.

I’m sure we’ll see Cervelli back with the big club at some point this year and I’m not especially morning his loss (although I will miss the fist pumps), but I’d love to hear someone from the organization explain this move just for clarity’s sake.

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Yankees 2012 Season Prediction

Now that Spring Training is nearly over, this is as good a time as any to guess at what the Yankees will do in 2012.

Given that the roster turnover is minimal and (I’m predicting) for the greater good (starting pitching additions), I’m thinking the Yankees regular season will be similar to that of 2011. So let’s pencil the Yankees in for 95 wins this year.

I’m sure all Yankee fans are please with the way the team strengthened their starting rotation, but I still can’t expect the team to win significantly more games than last year. After all, Ivan Nova, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia pitched better than I expected, so I look for similar performances from better personnel this season.

I’m also hopping for rebounds from Phil Hughes and A-Rod, and I think they’re both capable. It looks like Derek Jeter has figured out how to play with the tools he has left, and I’m hoping A-Rod has too, and so far, it looks like Phil Hughes is healthy and dealing more heat than he was last year. I’d also prefer Nick Swisher get off to a good start, but you can’t have everything – at this point, I’d be pleased if he’d just get into a game. It’s probably not fair to expect Curtis Granderson to light the world on fire again in 2012, but I’m sure he’ll still provide plenty of power, defense and all around speed. Anyway, I thin the team has plenty of offense.

This year, I think the Yankees have the pitching to go deep into the playoffs, and if Andy Pettitte is effective… wow. It’s easy to pick the Yankees to win the World series this year. Sans A.J. Burnett. Nuff said.

Wait, one more thing!

Let’s check in with our friends the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox haven’t made the playoffs since 2009, when they got whacked out quickly in the first round – at home, as I recall. In 2011, the Red Sox has the best offense in baseball and in 2010, they were second best, but they still haven’t won a postseason game since 2008. Besides that, they have something to prove after last year’s disastrous September and new coach Bobby Valentine certainly wants to put his stamp on the team. Speaking of Bobby V, I still don’t get why the Red Sox hired him, unless this signals a change in overall philosophy after the departure of GM Theo Epstein. By that I mean, Bobby Valentine is an old school baseball guy – "Do this because I think it will work" rather than a sabermetric styled Joe Girardi manager who loves his stats and match ups. Maybe after four seasons in a row of coming up with less than a World Series, the Sox want to shake things up, but I think Valentine is not the right guy to do it. Who knows, maybe everything will fall into place for them – they still have their offense intact, and they have two top flight starters atop their rotation and their number three is OK, but I don’t know what to expect out of their 4 and 5 spots. Their bullpen might be OK, but I’ll need to see the results before I believe.

Bottom line, I see the AL East finishing the regular season as follows:

  1. Yankees
  2. Red Sox
  3. Rays
  4. Blue Jays
  5. Orioles

Well, that was easy – now all the Yankees have to do is play 162 games and then win 11 post season games.

Simple.

Vote Cesar Cabral for 25th Roster Spot!

As you probably know, there really is only 1 roster spot up for grabs on the Yankees 25 man roster for the 2012 season, and I suspect it will go to a pitcher – an extra lefty in the pen. In my view, Cesar Cabral is the clear choice. He’s got youth, Ks and velocity on his side, so since all of the options are a gamble anyway, the Yankees might as well go with the one with the most upside.

Because I haven’t had a chance to see these guys pitch much, I recommend you check out TYA’s article, Clay Rapada v. Cesar Cabral by Michael Eder. He’ll give you a better perspective than I could.

Of course, the Yankees could surprise us all and bring an extra position player, but I don’t see that happening.

Baseball is close!

Andy Pettitte Comes Out of Retirement, Red Sox Fans Put Gun In Collective Mouth

The 5th Starter competition in Yankee land just got a lot more complicated with today’s announcement of Andy Pettitte’s return to pinstripes.

I would guess that Freddy Garcia is now trapped in the bullpen until injury or someone’s performance dictates he leaves it, or unless the Yankees outright trade him. Who in the hell knows what this means for Phil Hughes, but I can’t see him being traded – the Yankees have invested too much in him to give up now. If things keep going the way they are now, maybe Ivan Nova and his erratic fastball command start the season in triple A and Garcia moves to the bullpen whenever Pettitte is ready.

But yeah, suck it, Red Sox fans – the Yankees deep rotation just got even deeper. I don’t mean to kick you guys while you’re down, but the string of profanity that must be spewing forth from Red Sox Nation at this moment will hang out in the air over Fenway for some weeks to come.

New MLB Playoff System Makes A Bad Situation Worse

If you haven’t heard already, MLB is increasing the playoff team count from 8 to 10. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea, but the execution if flawed.

(Reuters) – Major League Baseball (MLB) is expanding its postseason format by two teams to 10 in 2012, a decision that establishes a one-game playoff between wild card teams in both the American and National leagues.

I like the idea of having two more teams in the playoffs – why not? The more, the merrier. Well, not ‘more’ as in the NHL’s more, where half the damn league moves on to post season play, but more teams means more fans get to enjoy the MLB season a few weeks longer – or, in this case, 1 day longer.

However, I feel that the previous system is far from perfect. The wildcard has often served as a parachute for elite teams – if a team has a significant lead going into September (see 2011 Yankees), they can coast through the month and still make he playoffs. The Division Series also has problems – a best of five series has, at times, felt too short and flukey for my tastes – seven games is how it’s meant to be.

What I would prefer to see first and foremost is fixing the DS and moving it from a best of 5 to a best of 7. I think the best way to do this is to return to the 150 game schedule of yore (we can sacrifice some of that awful inter-leage play), end the season a little earlier (and therefore avoid playing games in March or November) and really doing the DS right.

If you hadn’t noticed, I don’t love the DS – I think it’s too short – so how do you think I feel after realizing that if the Yankees win a wild card this year, their season will come down to one game. What if it’s Phil Hughes’ turn in the rotation that day? What if it’s C.C. Sabathia’s, but he has an off day? That’s it, then – 162 games down the tubes because one starting pitcher had a bad day. What if it rains that day? How does the schedule accommodate for that? I’m sure there are other pitfalls that will come to light – this has bad news written all over it.

This one game playoff just doesn’t work for me; I’m sure the new one game playoff will make for compelling TV, but it’s not good baseball.

A.J. Burnett traded to Pirates, but who gets 5th Starter job?

"My hair looks like this on purpose."

"See ya!"

By now, you’re aware that A.J. Burnett has been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates due to his extreme suckiness for marginal prospects and salary relief.    But what does that mean for the Yankees?

The first and most obvious result of ditching Burnett is the change this makes to the 5th starter competition.  At this point, I think it’s clear that the rotation shapes up as follows:

  1. C.C. Sabathia
  2. Michael Pineda
  3. Hiroki Kuroda
  4. Ivan Nova

So we’re left with a battle between Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes for the final rotation spot.

In my view, this is a tough decision.  If you choose Garcia, you know about what you’re going to get; 150 innings of average pitching.  With Hughes… well, I he’s kinda got that whole A.J. Burnett thing going for him in terms of being Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  In 2010, Hughes had a great first half but then fell off in the 2nd half.  He’s either completely healthy or injured beyond the point of pitching through pain.  When he’s in the bullpen, he’s great – when he’s a starter, it might be OK and it might be a huge embarrassing failure.

From a win now standpoint, I think you go with Garcia; he’s a known quantity and you know you can put Hughes in the pen (although it’s fairly crowded out there), he’s likely to succeed.  In terms of the Yankees long term success, you probably want to give Phil Hughes the chance to blossom as the starter you always hoped he’d become.  You’ve seen flashes of it, and Garcia is only under contract for 2012 whereas Hughes could be a member of the team for years to come.  This is a tough decision and if I’m the Yankees, I go with Hughes and… I don’t know, have Garcia serve as the long man and emergency starter until someone gets hurt or sucks.  If Nova, Hughes and Pineda are in the rotation, that’s a lot of youth, unknowns and possible injury concerns, so you’re probably going to need another starter at some point for two weeks or so.

The other thing that changes with Burnett leaving the Yankees is the salary relief it provides, which will help the Yankees fill out their bench this year and who knows next year.  At this point, we’re all waiting to see who the Yankees grab as their left handed DH; I still think they’re going with Johnny Damon.

But the point is, the A.J. Burnett saga is finally over, and I love it.  He seems like a good man, but beyond a few glorious moments, I don’t think I’ll miss Burnett’s stay in pinstripes all that much.

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