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Posts Tagged ‘Joe Mauer’

As good as the AL East is, the opposite may be true of the AL Central. I don’t project any of the five teams to win 90 games – and two could lose more than 100. This is a division that is loaded with teams filled with mediocre talent. In fact, the most interesting team to watch may be the Royals, if only because they may actually have days where they start 9 rookies.

The best of the worst is, once again, the Minnesota Twins. Projected to win the Central by three games, they’ll win based on sound fundamental play, two star players (Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer) and because they’ll be able to bottom feed on 36 games with two of the worst teams since the St. Louis Browns. The starting rotation is suspect, featuring the injury prone tandem of Francisco Liriano and Carl “Strained Buttocks” Pavano. The strongest element of last year’s division winning team, the bullpen, was wracked by free-agent defections – meaning this year’s pen relies on the much-traveled Matt Capps and a not-quite-healthy Joe Nathan. In fact, injury carry-overs from last year could get the Twins out of the gate slowly, as nobody is quite sure if Morneau is sufficiently recovered from last season’s concussion to play first full time yet. If they do start slowly, the crown my well fall to Chicago.

The White Sox made quite a splash this off-season, re-signing Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski and landing Adam Dunn as their new DH. Unfortunately, they would have been better off looking for a starting 3rd baseman and a couple of outfielders, because the current line-up may be one of baseball’s worst group of defenders we’ve seen in a while. Which is a shame, because the Pale Hose have the makings of an outstanding pitching staff – perhaps the best in baseball. If Jake Peavy returns to form after his pectoral tear, they’ll have 6 quality starters and a bullpen that features a bevy of quality (if not nationally known) arms. But the offense will once again be a classic three-outcome type, as typified by Dunn: walk, strike-out or homer. Don’t expect much in the way of sustained rallies or guys flying around the bases at US Cellular Field.

The Tigers look destined for a distant third place finish. The best thing going for this team is that they’re managed by future Hall-of-Famer Jim Leyland. But the star player, Miguel Cabrera, is turning into baseball’s version of Charlie Sheen. Actually, Detroit’s middle of the order could feature some good players, with the addition of Victor Martinez joining Magglio Ordonez. The rest of the supporting cast, though, is supect, featuring such luminaries as Brandon Inge. The back of the bullpen could be solid, if Joaquin Benoit can prove last year wasn’t a fluke, Joel Zumaya can stay healthy and Jose Valverde can stop his decline. But both the starting rotation and middle relief corps are a mess. Aside from Justin Verlander, the Tigers are relying on converted relievers, reclamation projects and prayers.

The youth movement is in full swing in Kansas City. After their farm system was ranked #1 by Baseball America, they might as well give the kids a shot – nothing else has worked for the past 20 years. Yes, they traded away Zack Greinke and made a couple of curious signings in old friend Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francouer. But KC’s real aim this year is to see if youngsters Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Kila Ka’aihue and Eric Hosmer are ready for prime time.

Bringing up the rear is the Cleveland Indians. Once again, the Tribe is looking more like “The Mistake by the Lake” instead of a major-league team. They do have a bona-fide star in Shin-Soo Choo and a star in the making in catcher Carlos Santana. But otherwise, Cleveland is hoping Grady Sizemore shows enough that he can become a viable trade chip. I’m pretty sure Cleveland fans have to be wondering what they’ve done to deserve the Cavaliers, Browns, and this abomination of a baseball team.

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On Wednesday, the real season begins: the postseason, that is. The Bombers will travel to Minneapolis to take on the Twins; first pitch is scheduled for 8:07 ET.

I realize many of you are still wondering what happened over the weekend, when the Yanks managed to lose the division (in what may be the craziest final weekend in memory) and haven’t had a chance yet to really focus on the task at hand. Most of you are probably still trying to figure out what a “Twins” might be.

The Twins finished the regular season 94-68 and won the AL Central by a very comfortable 6 games over the White Sox. Once again, Ron Gardenhire‘s crew of unknowns and cast-off’s won the division, even though most prognosticators had them pegged for no better than third place at the start of the year. During the season, the Yankees won the season series, 4-2, but these aren’t the same Twins that faced the Yankees in May. Here’s a quick breakdown on the team that will face off the with the Bombers.

Rotation:

Just like their better known opponents, the Twins face a conundrum regarding their starting rotation. Without a doubt, Francisco Liriano (14-10, 1.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) will get the ball in game 1, but after that it’s a crapshoot. Will game 2 go to Carl Pavano (17-11, 3.75 ERA, 1.20 WHIP), Brian Duensing (10-3, 2.62 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) or Scott Baker (12-9, 4.49 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)? The smart money is on Pavano for several reasons: one, he pitched much better at home than on the road this year and two, the last thing Gardenhire seems likely to want is to pitch Pavano in the first game at Yankee Stadium. That makes Baker the probable starter in game 3 – if Duensing can’t get two starts, his best value to the Twins is as the ace left out of the pen. The big question for the Twins, like the Yanks, is do they go with a 3- or 4-man rotation? If they opt for a four man staff, expect game 4 to go to Kevin Slowey (13-6, 4.45 ERA, 1.29 WHIP). In short, this is a righty-heavy staff facing a Yankee line-up that mauls right-handers (.796 team OPS and 118 OPS+). The Twins bullpen looks to get plenty of work in games not started by Liriano. Edge: Yankees

Bullpen:

The Twins are pretty formidable if they have a lead going into the 8th inning, with the duo of set up man Jon Rauch (3-1, 21 SV, 1.30 WHIP) and closer Matt Capps (2-0, 16 SV, 1.18 WHIP). Capps was acquired in a deadline deal with the Senators, where he posted 26 SV and a 1.30 WHIP; the 42 combined saves are the principle reason the Twins made the move. Duensing was effective out of the pen before finding himself in the rotation, posting a 1.80 ERA and holding lefty-hitters to a .162 average. The Twins also figure to lean heavily on Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier, with Jose Merias being the other left-handed option in the ‘pen. Overall, the pen is the strength of this Twins team. Then again, it was the strength of last year’s team, too. Edge: Twins

Offense:

The Twins lost Justin Morneau mid-way through the season and with him gone, the Twins lost both their starting first baseman and premier power threat. As a team, they only have four players who reached double figures in home runs and nobody hit more than 25. Despite that, they still scored 781 runs – good for fifth in the American League. This is a team that gets by on creating rallies from doubles and smart baserunning. Yankee catchers look to catch a breather, as the Twins were last in steals and attempted steals this season, averaging one attempt every two games. The attack is anchored by reigning MVP C Joe Mauer (.327, 9 HR, 75 RBI), back-from-the-dead DH Jim Thome (.283, 25, 59) and always steady RF Jason Kubel (.249, 21, 92). Perhaps their most intriguing player is LF Delmon Young. After years of waiting for Young to turn his talent into a solid season, this seems to have been his breakout year (.298, 21, 112) – even if nobody outside of the Twin Cities noticed. The question surrounding Young is, will he continue to produce in the postseason or revert to his more pedestrian career numbers (career OPS .704)? Edge: Yankees

Defense:

Defensively, the Twins are once again a solid – if unspectacular – team. They ranked 2nd in the AL in fielding percentage, but overall, they’re range is not exceptional. In other words, they make the plays on the balls they get to – they just don’t get to as many balls as you would expect from a top-flight defense. This is a team that needs to play sound fundamentals – because they lack the ability to overcome errors with the great play (and the pitching staff, other than Liriano, lacks the ability to pick up their teammates with a strikeout). Edge: Yankees

Manager:

Gardenhire is consistently recognized as one of the game’s best managers, and with good reason. Every season, he brings a small market, mid-budget team that project to somewhere around 85 wins, figures out a way to win an extra 5-10 games a year and delvers Minnesota to the post-season. Once they get there, the Twins tend to get sent back home. But it’s not the manager’s fault. Edge: Twins

Other notes:

The Twins are opening their first post-season at Target Field, which figures to be not really cold for Wednesday’s opener (forecast: 63 degrees at first pitch). The Twins learned their new park pretty quickly. Mauer may complain about the stadium robbing home runs with its dimensions, but the Twins were still 53-28 at home. The +12 differential between home and away wins is the largest spread for any of the eight playoff teams.

Projection:

Once again, the Twins make the playoffs – and once again, they exit early with their hearts broken. On paper, they seem to match up well with the Yankees, and if this were a nine game series, the added depth in their rotation would probably be their greatest asset. But this is a five game series and the off days mean the Yanks don’t need to entrust a start to either AJ Burnett or Javier Vazquez. The Yankees superior front three and line-up depth should make this one Yankees in 4.

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Yesterday, I posted this about Curtis Granderson‘s ineffectiveness hitting against left-handed pitching. One of the potential solutions I tossed out there was trading for Jayson Werth, who is rumored to be on the trading block.

Lo and behold, today Buster Olney tweeted that the Phillies are aggressively marketing Werth and looking for a starting pitcher who they can slot in as their #2 or #3 guy. Buster may work for that other Evil Empire (ESPN), but his rumor reports are usually accurate. This sets up two potentially block-buster deals, if the Yanks are willing to swing for the fences. This particularly holds true as Werth has long been mentioned to be on the Yankees off-season short list of potential free agent signings.

The key to the whole thing is, in my opinion, the other probable free agent that is supposedly a foregone conclusion to sign with the team this coming off season. You know – a certain left handed starter currently wearing the Seattle Mariners colors – Cliff Lee. Here’s how I see it potentially playing out:

The Mariners are reputed to be looking for a young catcher with a major-league ready bat, which is why the dominant trade rumor has centered on the Twins and their prospect Wilson Ramos. (Ramos is blocked by Joe Mauer). However, the Yanks have two pretty good catching prospects, one of whom is considered to be a potential 25 HR/100 RBI type hitter in Jesus Montero. The other is Austin Romine, whose offensive skills aren’t as good as Montero but is much better defensively. I know this is sacrilege among most Yankees fans, but I’d much rather see Romine become Jorge Posada’s heir, but regardless, either of them makes an interesting component to pry Lee from the Mariners. (more…)

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Joe Mauer signed an 8-year, $184M extension with the Minnesota Twins yesterday. Many Yankee fans seem disappointed, as they felt the front office was going to after him to fill the void that Posada leaves. The fact of the matter is, the Yankees have the most catching depth in their system in all of baseball and don’t need him. There is no doubt that Mauer would be good for New York, but it wasn’t necessary that they get him. Jesus Montero, Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez have bright futures. Jorge Posada still has pop in his bat, and he isn’t ready to retire just yet.

Mauer has spent his entire career (six seasons) with the Twins, and he’s become a franchise player over there. He’s a hometown kid, which makes him a fan favorite with the fans. Jeter is on a whole other level in New York, but you can kind of compare the two. He’s spent his entire career with one team, and that’s where he wants to play. Why would you seperate them? It just doesn’t make sense.

This signing is good for baseball. You don’t want these franchise players moving around to other teams, because the fans lose interest. I’m glad Mauer is staying with the Twins. He belongs in Minnesota.

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Matt Holliday just signed with the cardinals for a 7yr/ $120 million deal. That brings up the question..what’s next for Albert Pujols?

Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune wrote a column about the Yankees leaving room in their lineup for the best player in the game today, Albert Pujols. He says that the DH spot is staying open because the club may want to sign Pujols, or possibly trade for him. Rogers thinks they will go after Pujols for the 2011 or 2012 season, when he becomes a free agent.

Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez and Ryan Howard are all within two years of free agency. Mauer wants to stay with the Twins. But can they afford him? With Holliday in the mix for years, can the Cardinals sign Pujols to a mega deal? The idea that the  Cardinals, Twins, Brewers, Padres and Phillies will sign their stars to contracts is just not going to happen. It’s the business of baseball. Rogers put it best by saying, “However, history suggests that, in the end, the rich get richer.”

Derek Jeter’s contract is up after the 2010 season. The Yankees will negotiate a deal with Derek to keep him in pinstripes for the remainder of his career. He will pretty much get whatever he asks for. Mariano Rivera’s contract is up after the 2010 season as well. Mariano claimed that he wanted to play five more years after he won the World Series. Who knows if he means it. And then there is Jorge Posada. He will have one more year left on his contract in the 2011 season, and who knows what position he will fill on the team. The Yankees whole roster will be filled with the highest paid players in the game. With the Yankees plans of lowering their payroll, are they going to want to do all this? This is still Albert Pujols, and you can’t pass up on him because he’s the best there is. Nobody thought they would ever see A-Rod in pinstripes, but a pickup basketball game by Aaron Boone made it happen.

ESPN’s Buster Olney feels that because the Yankees are invested in Teixeira and A-Rod over the next decade, something dramatic would have to happen in order for Pujols to land in the Bronx.

Can you imagine the heart of the Yankees lineup being: Mark Teixiera, Alex Rodriguez, and Albert Pujols. I’ve compared other lineups to Murderers Row, but that truly would be. This is the Yankees we are talking about, the home of the rich and the famous. They get who they want, when they want it. Money talks in this game we call baseball. The Yankees are more likely to go out and get Joe Mauer then Albert Pujols, but a guy can dream…

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According to Ken Davidoff, the Yankees and Nick Johnson are wrapping up a one-year deal for about $5.5 million. Pending a physical.

It’s nice to have him back. It’s always nice to have a player with one of the highest OBP (.426) in all of Major League Baseball. Only Joe Mauer (.444) and Albert Pujols (.443) rank ahead of him.

Is this the end of Johnny Damon’s tenure with the Yankees? Will they get both of them? We’ll have to wait and see.

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As expected, Joe Mauer nearly unanimously won the American League Most Valuable Player with Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter second and third. Mauer tallied 387 votes, Mark Teixeira came in second with 225 and Derek Jeter pulled in a respectable 193 votes. Other Yankees receiving votes were Alex Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera, CC Sabathia, and Robinson Cano.

This is the third time Derek Jeter has come within the top 3 of MVP voting in his career. Previously he came in second in 2006 to Justin Morneau and in 1998 he came in 3rd behind Juan Gonzalez and Nomar Garciaparra. Overall, Jeter has received votes for MVP 11 times in his career and making the top 10 five times.

For Mark Teixeira, this is the fourth time he has received votes for MVP honors. The closest he has come before was 2005 when he finished seventh in voting to the eventual winner in Alex Rodriguez.

Even though I had a feeling Mauer was going to run away with the MVP, I still held out a little hope for the ‘underdogs’ on the Yankees. There’s always next year, right?

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 Here is some of the latest news surrounding Yankees Universe, and I thought I would catch up on some of the things I missed.

Peter Abraham says that maybe it’s time to reward Girardi for the great job he did managing the team this year. I say no. Win the World Series…and then you can have a reward. This is New York. We expect to make the playoffs.

A fourth-grader in Syracuse, NY was told to turn his Yankee shirt inside out by his teacher. He showed up to class this week with a Yankee t-shirt at Van Buren Elementary School, and his teacher told him to go to the bathroom and turn it inside out. He did what he said, and was later told to wear it that way until school let out. At first, the kid thought his teacher was joking, but he seriously meant it. The teacher is a big Red Sox fan, but that’s just wrong. The kid should be allowed to wear whatever he wants.

The idea that the Yankees are going Mauer frustrates me.  Not because I don’t like Mauer, but I would like to see the young catching prospects come up through the system. I know you can’t ever bank on a prospect, but Jesus Montero isn’t just any normal player. The guy is unbelievable.

I like Mauer as much as the next guy, but I rather have Montero be the heir apparent to Posada. Montero has something that people call “light tower power”. He is preparing to be the Yankees catcher as of now. His bat is major league ready..but his defense isn’t. Montero hasn’t turned 20 years old yet and he’s with the Trenton Thunder. His numbers this past season: .337AVG 17HR 70RBI .389OBP .562SLG .951OPS. Jesus can’t be moved to first base because the Yanks already locked Teixeira up for 8 years.

The fact of the matter is that Jorge Posada still has a productive bat and I’m in no rush to push him out the door. People always complain about his catching, but they blow it way out of proportion. His bat makes up for those mistakes. We will have to wait and see what happens.

FanGraphs breaks down Alex Rodriguez in the postseason. We all know that he has struggled mightily in big spots, but that can change. The ’09 Postseason could be his October.

The idea that Joba is back and better than ever… Joba definitely made an improvement in his last start, but let’s not get crazy here. He wasn’t dominant, but pitched much better than his previous starts. Chad Gaudin has been as good, if not better in his last few starts.

The Yankees achieved a new homerun record at Yankee Stadium. A-Rod’s Homer on Friday was the 127th longball hit at the stadium this season. Their previous high of 126 was achieved at the old Yankee Stadium in both ’04 and ’05.

SportsPro Magazine ranked the world’s 200 most valuable sports properties, and the Yankees ranked 12th on that list. This isn’t just the U.S., so it just shows how big the Bronx Bombers are in the world of sports. As you can see, the Yankees are estimated to be worth $1.19 Billion. They rank ahead of the Olympic Games, PGA, both NY football teams, and the entire National Hockey League. You can thank George Steinbrenner for all of that. (more…)

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      Peter Gammons talks about Joe Mauer in his latest blog entry. He brings up the point that Mauer’s contract will be up after the 2010 season. He says if they don’t get an extension completed then there will be a big competition between the Yanks & Sox. This could certainly happen. The Red Sox don’t really have a catcher at the moment, as Varitek is still deciding on whether or not he will return. The Sox made an offer: The deal includes $5 million for this season with a $5 million team option or $3 million player option for 2010. On the other hand, the Yankees have Jorge Posada..who is signed through 2011. Posada won’t be able to play behind the plate at 39 years of age, so they will be able to move him.

     There is a lot of time until his contract is up, so there is a chance he won’t even hit the market. Only time will tell. This brings up a question though…what happens with Jesus Montero & Austin Romine?

Memo to Twins CEO Jim Pohlad: Get Joe Mauer’s contract extension completed, because he will be the next great Yankees-Red Sox war if he hits the free-agent market in November 2010.

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AWARD-WINNING NYC RETURN FOR MUSSINA  /  The Joba Debate

Andy Pettitte never wanted to pitch for anyone but the New York Yankees

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