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Posts Tagged ‘Buck Showalter’

Bald Vinny has come out with a new limited edition custom shirt for the 2012 playoffs. Ya gotta support the team. Get ‘em right here.

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There can be no doubt that the American League East is easily the best division in baseball. In fact, this year could wind up being historic in terms of division play, as my projections show 4 of the 5 teams capable of winning 90+ games this season – a feat that’s never been accomplished before. Is the talent level in the East really that much better than the rest of the AL? In a word, YES.

Both the Boston Red Sox and Yankees look to be the class of baseball this year. I project both teams to win 105 games this year and finish tied for the division crown. How evenly matched are the two juggernauts? The projections also have them splitting the season series, 9-9. Many prognosticators are giving the edge to the Red Sox this year, based on their starting rotation of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz. While the Yankees rotation is known to be unsettled, relying on a return to form by AJ Burnett, Phil Hughes avoiding regression from his 18-8 2010 season, and a collection of rookies and reclamation projects to fill the 4 & 5 spots, the Sox rotation also has question marks. Can Lackey reclaim his form? Can Beckett come back from an injury plagued season? Will Buchholz ever deliver on his promise? Can Matsuzaka come back from injuries and inconsistency? In short, both teams could have excellent rotations – or horrible ones, once you get past the aces. But offensively, both squads are loaded 1 – 9. The Yankees projected line-up of Derek Jeter, Nick SwisherMark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner may actually be better than the team that led the league in runs scored last season. Boston counters with Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, JD Drew, Marco Scutaro, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Both line-ups are capable of scoring 1,000 runs. The real differentiators between the teams are in the bullpens and on the bench. The Yanks have a slight edge in the bullpen, with the 1 – 1a tandem of Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano. The Sox have a slight edge on the bench.

As for the rest of the division, Tampa Bay suffered some tremendous free-agent losses. Despite that, they come into the season with their only real question being the strength of the bullpen, where the oft-traveled Kyle Farnsworth heads a makeshift relief corps. The additions of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, along with new shortstop Reid Brignac and rookie Desmond Jennings, should actually make the offense better. And Tampa’s rotation remains one of the game’s best, led by David Price. But while good enough to win pretty much any other division in the game, this year’s Rays aren’t in the same class as either New York or Boston.

The same goes for the Orioles, although Baltimore may have the most improved team in the league. The infield was completely remade, as Mark Reynolds, Derek Lee and JJ Hardy join Brian Roberts. The O’s also brought in veteran slugger Vladimir Guerrero and closer Kevin Gregg. Add in what looks to be the league’s best young rotation and proven winner (and old friend) Buck Showalter as manager, and Baltimore is poised to shock people the same way Toronto did last year.

As for the Blue Jays, this team lost too much – and replaced those parts with questionable signings – from last year’s overachieving squad to compete this year. They’ve brought in pitching guru John Farrell to lead the team, but this team will suffer from losing Cito Gastons “let-’em-fly” attitude on offense. Include a rookie catcher, changes at 1st, 3rd and all three OF spots and it will prove to be too much turnover to overcome. One bright spot for the Jays this year could be rookie starter Kyle Drabek, one of the game’s more hyped young pitchers.

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With Lou Piniella’s retirement from baseball this past Sunday, the Chicago Cubs have an opening at manager for the 2011 season. They’re rumored to favor hiring Joe Girardi as the new man for the north side of Chicago. While I think Girardi would be crazy to want that job over a return to the Yankees, I strongly suspect he will. After all, Joe grew up in Chicagoland, went to Northwestern and had two stints as a player with the Cubbies. He knows he’d be venerated for generations if he happened to guide them to their first World Championship in over 100 years.

So, let’s play the game and assume that Girardi is gone after this season. Who should be the next manager for the Yankees? There’s an intriguing list of possibilities. Here are five to ponder:

  1. Willie Randolph: Randolph certainly has a Yankee pedigree. The former captain also served as base coach and bench coach under Joe Torre. All told, Willie owns 6 World Series rings – more than anyone alive, except Yogi Berra. He certainly understands what it takes to win in New York and he understands the type of scrutiny a Yankees manager is under. But he did preside over one of the greatest collapses in major league history (ok, it was the Mets) and hasn’t landed a ML managing job since. Still, he is my number one choice to run the club next year.
  2. Don Mattingly: “Donnie Baseball” has much the same pedigree as Randolph, although not quite as many championship rings. Few players are more beloved in the Bronx, despite the fact that Mattingly’s teams in the 80′s never quite made it to the playoffs. But he’s never managed – at any level – and he might still be bitter after getting yanked around by the Yankee brass before they settled on Girardi.
  3. Joe Torre: I think I just heard a collective gasp go up in the crowd. If George were still running the show, this might be more of a possibility. (Heck, we might be talking about Joe III or Joe IV by this point). There can’t be much doubt that Torre knows how to do the job and I doubt the payday he’ll command this off-season would deter the Yanks. At the same time, bringing him back would be tantamount to the front office admitting they made a mistake in letting him go 3 years ago. And Torre still harbors A LOT of dislike for Brian Cashman.
  4. Dave Miley: Miley is the manager at AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre (I know you were wondering). Although he seems like a long shot – Buck Showalter was the last MiLB manager the Yankees hired, 20 years ago – with the impending youth movement in the Bronx, he might be a good fit. Next year’s roster is likely to have a slew of “Baby Bombers”, perhaps as many as 7 or 8 players with less than 3 years of major league experience. And he has demonstrated the ability to win in the minors, despite constant roster uncertainty, with a career 1991 – 1092 record at AAA. Miley also has three seasons of ML experience, with a really atrocious Reds team in the early 2000′s.
  5. Bobby Valentine: Valentine brings two things the Yankees traditionally crave in a manager – name recognition and a proven ability to win. You also have to think Valentine’s ego would love a shot at managing the Yankees. The biggest obstacle I see to making this work is that ego: Valentine is a control freak. I don’t see Cashman or anyone else in the front office ceding any control over player decisions to him.

Well, there are five names to mull over. There are no shortage of managerial candidates this offseason and I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more before next April. Who do you think should be at the helm next season – Girardi, one of the 5 mentioned here, or someone else?

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Since Buck Showalter has taken over the Baltimore Orioles, they have gone 9-2 over their last 11 games. Before this stretch of games, they owned the worst record in all of baseballl. One has to wonder what changed their luck? I have a feeling George Costanza was involved in this. We all know how things turned out for George while he was working for the Yankees, being traded for Tyler Chicken and all. Back in 1994, Don Mattingly split his pants taking the field, but it looks like George got it right this time around. 

GEORGE: Listen, Buck, I uh…obviously I don’t need to talk to you about the importance of player morale, but uh…I’ve been talking to some of the guys, and some of them – I don’t want to mention any names – but some of them…they’re not too happy with the polyester uniforms.

SHOWALTER: How so?

GEORGE: Well, they get very hot in the polyester. You know, it’s not a natural fibre. I think they would prefer cotton.

SHOWALTER: Cotton, huh?

GEORGE: Yeah. Cotton breathes, you see, it’s much softer. Imagine playing games and your team is five degrees cooler than the other team. Don’t you think that would be an advantage? They’re cooler, they’re more comfortable…they’re happier – they’re gonna play better.

SHOWALTER: You may have something there, George.

GEORGE: Oh – I’ve got something.

SHOWALTER (considering): Hmm. Cotton uniforms.

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