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Jimmy Fallon aired a great segment with former Yankee, Robinson Cano tonight. Yankees fans strolled through Bryant Park and booed a cardboard cutout of Robbie. Little did they know, the former New York star was standing right behind it. Let the ass-kissing begin.

One Fan: “I’m gonna boo the shit out of him…….BOOOOOOO, YOU SUCK!!!”…(Robinson walks out)….”How ya doin’ Robbie? Welcome back to New York!”

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Masahiro Tanaka dons the cover of Sports Illustrated’s 2014 Baseball Preview. The cover story: “In Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees buy a ready-made ace.” Tom Verducci gives you a closer look at the Yankees new superstar, and goes into detail over what Tanaka’s transition to America has been like. SI issued three additional regional covers with Mike Trout, Robinson Cano and Yadier Molina.

Photo Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

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Robinson Cano is no longer a Yankee. After nine seasons with the Yankees, Cano compiled 204 home runs, a .304 career batting average, and 5 all-star appearances. Let’s not forget about that world series ring he acquired back in 2009. Now, he’s decided to take his talents to Seattle, where he can fall into “nobody cares what I do” land.

Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes:

“#Mariners and Cano agree. $240 million/10 years. Physical next monday in Seattle”

 

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Hal and Hank Steinbrenner (Hal is on the left)

The Daily News reported this morning that the Steinbrenner family may have the Yankees up for sale.

“Rumors are flying in Major League Baseball and New York banking circles that the family that has owned Major League Baseball’s premiere franchise since Cleveland shipbuilder George Steinbrenner purchased the club for $8.8 million in 1973 is exploring the possibility of selling the Yankees.”

Later this morning, the Yanks issued a flat denial. Via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com:

“‘I just learned of the Daily News story. It is pure fiction,’ (Hal) Steinbrenner said in a statement. ‘The Yankees are not for sale. I expect that the Yankees will be in my family for many years to come.'”

Is this a case of the Daily News, forever locked in a back-page battle with the New York Post, creating a story to spur readership? Or are the Yankees actually on the block? If this were any other tabloid, my gut would be to dismiss the story outright. But this one has Bill Madden in the byline, and over the years I’ve come to respect Mr. Madden’s ability to unearth behind-the-scenes information. So…

The answer may not lie in the perceived value of the Yankees franchise, currently reported to be around $3 billion. Instead, it might be better to examine the current ownership group for any signs they may want out of the baseball business. The two principles, Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, are near polar opposites in terms of their personalities. Hank is much more the fan and fiery competitor. Like George, he also has something of a mercurial temperament – this is the son who lambasted the NL for not having the DH, called out Derek Jeter for building a mansion in Tampa, and stoked the Yankee – Red Sox rivalry by memorably deriding “Red Sox Nation.” Hank even looks more like his father than his brother. Hal, on the other hand, is far more concerned with the bottom line. Hal once referred to himself as a “finance geek.” While it should be obvious to anyone that while he may have been one, I can’t ever picture the bombastic George referring to himself that way.

There is also the fact that Hal is beginning to realize that while Hank was probably overzealous in giving Alex Rodriguez a ten year, $260 million extension going into his age 33 season, his preferred method of building from within isn’t exactly as easy as Gene Michael made it look in the 1990’s. None of the top prospects he anticipated being part of the team’s core by now – Phil Hughes, Jesus Montero, Eduardo Nunez, Dellin Betances, Austin Romine, Ian Kennedy and Manny Banuelos – has been able to establish themselves as major leaguers. Of that list, only Hughes is a regular contributor; Montero and Kennedy are now elsewhere, Nunez is back in the minors and Betances, Romine and Banuelos have been plagued by inconsistency and injury while in the high minors. He understands that the Yankee fan base won’t stand for losing. In order to keep the seats filled at Yankee Stadium (and ad revenue on the YES Network peaking), he needs a winning product on the field. At the same time, Hal has made it a goal to have payroll below the anticipated $189 million luxury-tax threshold by the 2014 season – a season in which the Yankees already have $75 million in salary committed to four players and will likely be well over $100 million if they decide to resign any combination of Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Ivan Nova, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin.

While I find it hard to believe that Hank would be willing to part ways with the Yankees, it isn’t hard to see Hal wanting to leave the circus and go home to heading Steinbrenner Properties. If this season’s on-the-field troubles continue, I suspect Hal may begin earnestly looking for a way out. He’ll be pressured to do something that really doesn’t work well in the New York market: find inexpensive talent to replace popular (and productive) players jettisoned for contract reasons. He got to preview the way a frugal owner gets treated in the situation when negotiating Derek Jeter’s contract last year. Imagine him playing hardball over money with Cano and Granderson, two popular players entering their prime and the resulting back page fallout from that.

The big question is whether the rest of the family trusts Hank to run the financial side of the team and keep his temper in check. Those of us old enough to remember George Steinbrenner from the 1980’s shudder a bit at the thought of Hank reprising that role. Still, if Hal actually does want out (that $3 billion price tag is awfully enticing to a “numbers guy”), I can see the family giving Hank first shot at forming a new ownership group. It would certainly be interesting, in an All My Children kind of way.

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As I’m writing this, the Yankees are in first place, 2 ½ games ahead of the hated Red Sox.

Stop to think about that for a second. Despite all of the injuries and preseason prognostications calling Boston the greatest team since the ’27 Yanks, It’s the Yankees who have the best record in the league. So much for predicting baseball, eh?

So how did we get here? And what about the next 84 games – can they keep it up?

CC and the 7 Dwarves

The starting rotation, if unspectacular, has been steady. That CC Sabathia  (10-4, 3.25 ERA) would turn in a typical ace-like season was not in much doubt. But when Phil Hughes broke camp without a fastball or command, an already shaky rotation seemed destined for trouble. Instead, AJ Burnett (8-6, 4.05) has seemingly put last season’s demons on hold, Freddy Garcia (7-6, 3.28) keeps junkballing his way to wins, Ivan Nova (7-4,4.26) has gotten progressively better as the season has moved into the summer and Bartolo Colon (5-3, 3.10) found the fountain of youth. Even journeyman Brian Gordon has turned in a couple of credible starts. With Hughes and Colon due back from the disabled list within the next week, the Yanks still may not have a “name” #2 guy, but the team won’t suffer from a lack of credible rotation options in the second half.

Mo and the other 7 Dwarves

At the beginning of the year, the bullpen was supposed to be the best in baseball. And it started out that way. But Pedro Feliciano was injured before camp even opened. Then Rafael Soriano (1-1, 5.40) followed up an erratic first month by hurting his elbow. Joba Chamberlain (2-0, 2.83) needed Tommy John surgery. Suddenly, a lock-down bullpen had holes everywhere except closer, where the ageless Mariano Rivera (1-1, 1.72, 21 SV) remains incomparable. Stepping into the breach has been Houdini’s reincarnation, David Robertson (1-0, 1.11) and a bunch of guys that barely earned a mention in the media guide: Hector Noesi, Luis Ayala, Buddy Carlysle, Lance Pendleton, Cory Wade, Jeff Marquez, Kevin Whelan, Amauri Sanit. Even the much-maligned Boone Logan has managed to become effective lately. Here, too, reinforcements are on the way, as Soriano looks to be ready by mid-July. And just to add to the laugh factor, yesterday the Yankees re-acquired Sergio Mitre.

The EVIL Home Run

Call it a sign of baseball experts not being as expert as they thought. A common refrain is that the Yankees hit too many home runs. Maybe I’m thin-skinned, but I take it to mean that the Yankees “cheat” because they do what they do best: hit home runs. They lead the majors in homers (115), runs scored (416) and OPS (.793). If the rest of baseball is jealous simply because the Yankees sport an offense that means they’re never out of a game, let them eat (AJ) pie. Oh, and for all of those NL “small ball” types: the Yanks are third in steals, with 71.

What probably scares the bejeezus out of the rest of baseball is that as good as the offense has been, it hasn’t really clicked on all cylinders yet – even though it’s beginning to heat up. While Curtis Granderson (.276, 21, 56, along with a ML leading 70 runs) is having an MVP type year and Mark Teixeira leads the majors with 24 homers, Nick Swisher (.250, 10, 43) and Jorge Posada (.240, 9, 27) have just started to hit over the past couple of weeks. Derek Jeter (.260, 2, 20) was playing old before his injury and Alex Rodriguez (.299, 13, 51) still hasn’t recovered his power stroke. Robbie Cano (.289, 14, 49) is hitting 30 points under last season.

The Manager

I’ve never been a fan of Joe Girardi. I probably never will be. But I have to give credit where it’s due and this season, Girardi deserves mention for Manager of the Year. He has stumbled a couple of times, but for the most part he has managed to string together enough oddball pieces to keep this team playing better than the sum of its parts.

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Walking down memory lane: The Yankees and Red Sox meet tonight in sport’s most heated rivalry. Sometimes, things get a little overheated…

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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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The 2011 Yankees work out during Spring Training

It’s that time of year. Spring training games are underway and baseball fans everywhere are having heated discussions about who will finish where. It’s kind of silly, really. As any Yankee fan can tell you, “You can’t predict baseball.” Still, we make the effort – never mind that mid-season injuries, trades and call-ups always alter the picture. Add in the players who have break-out years (seriously, who thought Jose Bautista would slug 54 homers in 2010?) or unexpectedly terrible ones (think Carlos Lee), and predicting anything this time of year becomes an exercise in futility. But it is a fun exercise, so here I go.

I’ll start by posting the expected finish of team, including record. How did I come to this? I ran 100 season simulations, based on a program I originally wrote for picking football games. Of course, this assumes I’ve correctly guessed every team’s roster on Opening Day and that nobody suffers a significant injury. It’s worked well for me in picking the NFL (as those of you who followed my picks on Twitter last year probably know), but this is the first time I’ve ever tried it in baseball. By the way, the division names double as links, you can hit them to get to a more in-depth prognostication.

AL East

  1. New York Yankees,     105-57    0 GB
  2. Boston Red Sox,     105-57    0 GB
  3. Tampa Bay Rays    95-67    10 GB
  4. Baltimore Orioles    94-68    11 GB
  5. Toronto Blue Jays    67-95    38 GB

AL Central

  1. Minnesota Twins    87-75    0 GB
  2. Chicago White Sox    84-78     3 GB
  3. Detroit Tigers        71-91    16 GB
  4. Kansas City Royals    55-97    32 GB
  5. Cleveland Indians    45-107    42 GB

AL West

  1. Oakland A’s        97-95     0 GB
  2. Texas Rangers        85-77    12 GB
  3. Anaheim Angels    83-79    14 GB
  4. Seattle Mariners    64-98    33 GB

Yes, the AL East is that good. And yes, Cleveland is that bad.

Season’s biggest surprise: The Oriole starting rotation. I know, you probably think I lost my mind. But the O’s may have the best stable of young arms in the league, with Jake Arrieta (25), Brian Matusz (24), Brad Bergesen (25) and Chris Tillman(23). Add in a resurgent Justin Duchscherer and the steady Jeremy Guthrie, and that’s a lot of promise.

Season’s biggest bust: Texas. They’re really going to miss not re-signing Cliff Lee. Not to mention the whole Michael Young saga is a great case study in how to blow up team chemistry.

MVP candidate: Robinson Cano. If you thought last year was special, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

CY Young Candidate: Since this award seems given to somebody from a losing team lately, I’ll stay with the trend. Here’s a vote for Joakim Soria.

As always, I look forward to your feedback. And…PLAY BALL!!!

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I’m proud to announce that the 2011 Maple Street Press Yankees Annual is only a few weeks away from hitting the newsstands. MSP is taking pre-orders now if you want it hot off the press.

Edited by Cecilia Tan, with articles written by several writers, including: Joe McDonald, Howard Megdal, E.J. Fagan and yours truly.  I’ve written a piece on Yankees pitching prospect Dellin Betances entitled “The Pride of Brooklyn.” I would just like to thank Cecilia Tan for giving me this opportunity to contribute to the annual.

What else is in the magazine?

  • Pitch-level scouting reports revealing the strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies of every key player
  • The good, the bad, and the ugly: Breaking down the Yankees rotation
  • Robinson Cano: Was his MVP-caliber season a fluke or is he barely getting started?
  • The Yankees lineup is filled with greats, but who will eventually get the Hall call?
  • The top 10 hitting and pitching prospects, and who is set to arrive in The Bronx first
  • Lefty? Righty? Both. An interview with ambidextrous hurler Pat Venditte
  • Bombers Dozen: The Yankees MVPs from Ruth to A-Rod
  • 27 Places every Yankees fan should see before they die

Price: $12.99, Publication Date: March 2011, Pages: 128  (more…)

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Part 1 of 2


The principle topic of discussion in Yankeeland for the past week has been, how much should Derek Jeter make on his next contract? The debate has raged on since Sunday, when details began leaking of the Yankees $45 million, 3 year offer and Casey Close’s “bafflement.” Yesterday, I saw a bunch of tweets about Jeter asking for 6 years and $150 million. I don’t know where those rumors started, but I also saw a bunch from Close stating those figures were “rubbish.” I’m also hearing that the $15 million average salary offered to Jeter represents a number perhaps twice his true market value, which sounds like so much rubbish to me. But before I start tossing around opinions, I thought I would do a little research into the matter.

The central questions to all of this tug-and-pull remains what, exactly, is Jeter’s worth to the open market and what is his worth to the Yankees? I think pretty much everyone with a little common sense understands that Jeter is for more valuable to the Yankees than to any other team and for the Yankees to pay him based strictly on what he is worth to, say, the Giants is ridiculous. And Jeter would be just as ridiculous to expect the same type of money from the Giants as he would from the Yankees. Harvey Araton of the NY Times has a good article today in which none other than Brian Cashman compares Jeter to Lou Gehrig. Like Gehrig, Jeter is a for more valuable commodity to the Yankees than to any other team.

So what is Jeter’s worth?

To start, I looked at what a typical major league team pays for players of Jeter’s caliber. By using WAR, we can determine how much a player is paid based on how many wins he is better than a typical replacement:

2011

2011

Rk Player

WAR

Salary

$/WAR

1 Albert Pujols

42.6

$ 16,000,000.00 $ 1,877,934.27
2 Joe Mauer

33.8

$ 23,000,000.00 $ 3,402,366.86
3 Chase Utley

30.8

$ 15,000,000.00 $ 2,435,064.94
4 Hanley Ramirez

29.1

$ 11,000,000.00 $ 1,890,034.36
5 Alex Rodriguez

26.3

$ 31,000,000.00 $ 5,893,536.12
6 Mark Teixeira

26.2

$ 22,500,000.00 $ 4,293,893.13
7 Miguel Cabrera

24.9

$ 20,000,000.00 $ 4,016,064.26
8 David Wright

24.8

$ 14,000,000.00 $ 2,822,580.65
9 Chipper Jones

24.1

$ 13,000,000.00 $ 2,697,095.44
10 Kevin Youkilis

23.2

$ 12,000,000.00 $ 2,586,206.90
11 Adrian Gonzalez

22.9

$ 5,500,000.00 $ 1,200,873.36
12 Robinson Cano

22.1

$ 10,000,000.00 $ 2,262,443.44
13 Derek Jeter

21.4

$ –
14 Justin Morneau

19.8

$ 14,000,000.00 $ 3,535,353.54
15 Jose Reyes

19.4

$ 11,000,000.00 $ 2,835,051.55
ML Average –> $ 2,945,945.95

First up, Derek Jeter is the 13th most productive player in all of MLB since 2006. I think that lost in all of the acrimony and discussion of how bad Jeter was last year is that simple fact – only 12 players in MLB have been more productive than Derek Jeter. That’s pretty amazing, if you consider that more than 600 individuals have donned a major league uniform over that time. (I went back 5 seasons, so as to get a representative sample). You’ll also notice that even with some horrendously underpaid performers (Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez) in the top 15, the average compensation per win in 2011 is nearly $3 million. Using that figure as a yardstick, fair compensation for Jeter – based solely on performance – would be his WAR dollar value of $12,608,648.65. If you were to pay him based on WAR dollar value of players at similar ages/careers, then the number drops slightly to $12,096,338.26 – or, to put it another way, teams realize players of Jeter’s age probably won’t continue to produce like they did when they were 30 and the average “age discount” is roughly $510,000. Also, you can see that there are four Yankees in the top fifteen: besides Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano. Their average compensation per win in 2011 is $4,149,976.76 – if Jeter were paid on the Yankee scale, then his value would be $17,761,818.37.

All of a sudden, that $15 million figure offered by Cashman doesn’t represent a number that far from Jeter’s value based on performance. Best case for Cashman, they’re offering Jeter a $3 million bonus. Worst case, the offer represents shortchanging Jeter by about $2.5 million. Based strictly on performance, the two sides probably could come to a pretty quick accommodation. But the principle sticking point in this negotiation is that Jeter is worth far more to the Yankees than to any of the other 31 teams in baseball. Jeter knows it. Cashman knows it. The obvious problem is coming to an agreement on just how much value Jeter represents to the Yankees vs. other teams. Or, to put it in Cashman’s own words, how much this century’s Gehrig is worth to the Yankees.

There really isn’t any way to statistically analyze that number. Since the Yankees are not a public corporation, we don’t have access to their financials, nor do we have access for their revenue projections for the next 5 years. But we can make an educated guess.

And I’ll discuss that tomorrow.

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The Basball Writers Association has spoken. In their opinion, Robbie Cano is only the third most valuable player in the American League.

I’m still trying to decipher why Robbie only finished third – and a distant third, at that. Hamilton (.359, 32, 100) and Cabrera (.328, 38,126) both had great individual seasons. But apparently, the BBWAA forgot the meaning of “valuable.”

Otherwise, how does a player whose team finished 13 games out of first place finish second?

How does a player who missed almost the entire month of September finish first?

And how does Jose Bautista, whose team finished in fourth, get a first-place vote but Robbie Cano doesn’t get any?

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