The Evil Empire… rises like the Phoenix from the ashes of last place to head the AL East… is it suitable? Is it really going to be the year of the return of the Yankees to meaningful games in October? Also some Red Sox and Cardinals talk and what the heck is wrong with Corey Kluber? And shorten the season?
The MLBRT crew discusses it all… here and now.
1) The NY Yankees appear to be better than most MLB prognosticators thought they would be so far in the 2015 season. Of course, it’s only about less than 20% of the season gone by and anything can still happen but if they continue to either lead the AL East, or at least be in serious contention to lead the East, as the season goes past July and into the second half and some of their starters still stink… most notably Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia and Stephen Drew… should they bite the bullet and release them; eat their salaries and bring in other players who could provide more value to the team in a stretch run?
Archie: Really my concerns with the Yankees is very, very limited. Given the fact they were not expected to win anything this year I personally think they should just ride it out and look maybe towards trading for young talent when the calls start coming in before the trade deadline from other teams looking for help. I can see where they might trade Chris Young just to capture some young talent.
Earl: While the Yankees have the financial flexibility to dump salary, I doubt they’ll do so. The Yankees have gotten off to a better than expected start because the division has gotten off to such a poor one. Boston has underachieved, and so have Baltimore and Toronto. I have to think one of those three teams eventually makes a move or two to try and push their way back to the front of the division. So, while I do applaud the Yankees for their start, I am highly doubtful they will win the AL East. I don’t think they have the assets needed to make the right deal around the trade deadline to keep up this pace.
Joe: First, as a point of information, since this question was posed by the editor of this column… me… Carlos Beltran has raised his average about 30 or so points. This just goes to show you just never know when a player will take off on a hot streak.
Now… if Beltran was to keep on this pace and get his average up around .270 with some homers then it would then be advisable to keep him on the team. However, I am dubious about his ability to do that.
The other two players in this question Sabathia and Drew? Sabathia, I fear, is just about done as a decant pitcher. And, Drew should never had been signed as a free agent in the offseason. Both players are hurting the team more than helping the team.
Right now the Yanks are carrying 6 position players in their every day lineup whose batting averages are between about .250 and about .175. Three of those players are ARod (DH), Brain McCann (catcher) and Mark Teixeira (1B)… those guys aren’t going anywhere and besides all three are at least productive with some power and RBIs.
Of the other players… Chase Headley (3B) and Didi Gregorious (SS) aren’t anywhere because they frankly have no one better they can put in their places and their defense is very acceptable.
So, yes, if the Yanks are in a pennant race in the second half then they need to do whatever they can to improve the team offensively.. without sacrificing promising young talent… even if it means cutting some players and eating some contracts.
And one additional comment… I have been a big supporter of Brian Cashman as the GM of the Yankees. however this is a make it or break year for him if I am Hal Steinbrenner. The Yankees need to see some significant improvement or maybe its just time for a change at GM.
Steve: No, because I think players like Beltran, Sabathia, and Drew can bring more to the table with veteran leadership, that really could be a huge factor, especially if the Yankees can make a post season run. Sabathia still poses a threat as a dominant pitcher, and, Beltran can always be a threat in the post-season.
If I am the Yankees, you at least wait until the end of this season. But ,you cannot let these guys go unless you can get some serious value in return for a trade.
2) So, what’s wrong with Corey Kluber? (And, I thought of this question before ESPN did… dad gum it!)
Archie: Go back and review the RT from 3/19. I stated then that I thought Kluber was “fortunate” to win CY last season and again mainly due to the number of games his team put in the Win column for him.
I have seen it many times where a young pitcher has a career season and then starts slow the next season. His first three outings this season he really was not that bad. He only gave up 6 earned runs in 21.2 innings of work. I will take that from my starters any day. However, the team lost all three. And then his last three starts have all come against teams playing good ball in KC and Toronto.
Personally, I do not believe him to be a perennial CY contender, but, I do believe he is better than his current record would indicate and he will settle in.
Earl: Well I have the perspective of typing these words a day after Kluber’s best game of the season, but I think I’ll just chalk it up his struggles to this point as just a slow start to the season. While I don’t think he’s a perennial CY Young kind of guy, I do think he’s better than what he has shown early this season and that performance against the Cardinals is what he needed to bounce back into form.
Will he be a complete wash out from here on out? I doubt it, but, I also think he won’t be the ace of the staff either. He is a #3 pitcher at best who sometimes can sparkle. And, that’s it.
Steve: I’m going to take some heat here with some Cleveland fans. But, the fact of the matter is, he just was not that good of a pitcher. He had a career year last season, and, just squeaked out the CY Young award, though I think Felix Hernandez was the better pitcher. He is kind of like RA Dickey in a way, he has a mediocre career, one dominant year, then just falls off.
The question is can he recover from this? He needs to work on his mechanics, but yes, he is young enough, not like Dickey to rebound.
3) Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says shortening the regular season is becoming a popular topic as players and owners prepare to negotiate a new labor deal. The current labor agreement between owners and players expires after the 2016 season.
Manfred said reducing the number of games in a season would have economic and competitive ramifications, but the idea of giving players more off days is receiving more attention than ever.
The word is a 154 game schedule will be seriously on the table in the next round of discussions for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
How do you view this? Good, bad or indifferent?
Archie: My first thought is this; IF and only IF we are NOT watching WS games in November, which is ridiculous. That would be my only argument for cutting out 8 games. In the future record books would again be debatable because of, “Well So- and-So played when the season was 162 games and not 154 so it’s not fair!”
As an example let’s say a player is healthy enough to play 162 games in a season. The only player that comes to mind that was good at that was Cal Ripken Jr., So, let’s see what his final numbers would have been had he played in a 154 game era. First off he would have had to extend his streak another season plus. In a 154 game format over the course of his streak, he would have come up 128 games short of his current record. He still would have broken Gehrig’s record but he would have needed a couple more season to finish where he ended up. And, then, when you start the whole Homerun in a season record and hits per season, strikeouts per season….yada yada yada.
I really do not see a reason to change just to be changing. Let me ask you this, “Will all the players currently on long term multi-million dollar contracts willing to nullify the current $$ amounts, to take less?” Or do they all want to be Grandfathered in their current contract and let the players that negotiate new contracts be the only ones worried about less money?
Earl: Personally I think 162 games is fine, but they do need to either start the season or end it a tad earlier. Something about postseason baseball flirting with the month of November never felt right about me. While I might be too frigid in the northeast to do it, why not start the season the end of March?
And then require single admission Sunday double headers and reintroduce Ladies Day.
Steve: I am not particularly a big fan to shorten the season,. I mean, what is 8 games in a 162 game season? I mean think about it, Selig added another game to the post season a few years ago, he even added a whole new series to the mix back in 1995.
So, no, they don’t need to shorten the season, they get three months or so off if not more if your team is bad. I wish I could only work 162 days a year, get paid millions, and take a three month vacation.
4) Prior to the beginning of the 2015 season many pundits predicted that the Red Sox would contend for a playoff spot due to their revamped offensive lineup. However, many of those folks did say the Red Sox weak spot was their pitching. And, as of this weekend they are flirting with last place in the AL East due mostly to their pitching which in a word is… horrible.
Their team ERA is almost 5 runs per game… worst in the AL; teams are hitting .266 against them… 13th in the AL and they have given up almost 100 walks for 12th in the AL.
The front office responded to these facts by firing Juan Nieves, the pitching coach. Considering the fact it was a foregone conclusion that the Sox’ pitching was “shaky” going into the season is this firing even remotely justified in your opinion?
Archie: Hero to Zero. That is what every Coach in MLB runs the risk of. They know it going into every season. The Braves hire and fire Hitting Coaches at every turn while keeping Roger McDowell firmly in place as the pitching coach after replacing Leo Mazzone. The Braves are solid when it comes to keeping Pitching Coaches in place for long tenures. However, other teams are not. Mazzone only lasted a few years with the Orioles. The Red Sox will be on their 6th pitching coach in the last five seasons if my information is correct. There is always a scapegoat in every clubhouse when shit does not work. For the Red Stockings it is their pitching Coach.
Joe: Red Sox senior vice president and assistant GM Mike Hazen insists he has seen signs of progress over the last 10 games. Starters have gone six innings or more in seven of their last 10 starts and while the ERA over that same period is a terrible 4.92, if Joe Kelly’s 11 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings is dropped then the ERA is a kind of respectable 3.96.
In fact, Hazen says the Sox offense is part of the problem right now because in that same 10-game stretch, the team has scored just an average of 2.6 runs a game, and, has been held to two runs or fewer six times.
So, why did the Red Sox fire the pitching coach again? I mean considering the pitching staff is comprised of mostly #3 starters or worse I think the pitching coach was doing an acceptable job.
I guess they needed sacrificial lamb.
Steve: It’s still early, I think the Red Sox will be there in September when it goes down to the wire. The Yankees are over achieving right now, and, surpassing expectations. The Rays are even looking pretty good. While, the three teams who were supposed to be in a race for the division are struggling.
If, we are still wondering about this in say, July? Then we may have to revisit the issue. Right now, I attribute it to early season woes.
5) Right now the Cardinals are the best team in baseball with about a .750 won/lost percentage. And, arguably, since they have the 2nd most championship in the history of the game one of the best teams ever in MLB history.
Why do they seem to be at the top of the competitive ladder in MLB year in and year out?
Archie: To answer this question I will first begin with the accolades I feel they deserve. Management for that team is first class. As with the Yankees and Dodgers, the Cardinals management is baseball savvy in that they know how to put a team together. Unlike the Yankees and Dodgers, they can do it without breaking the bank. Along with that they have a knack for knowing when letting players come and go. I, along with thousands, felt they screwed up by letting Pujols leave. However, they have not missed a beat in his absence. Management has always seemed to have that right guy at the helm of their club in the dugout as well. Tony La Russa was one of the best ever. Matheny seems to have bought into La Russa’s baseball mindset and the team has not missed a beat after La Russa retired. And, if anyone does NOT remember, who were the managers prior to those two? Torre and Herzog; again great baseball guys at the helm.
Now I will get into variables NOT controlled by the Cardinals that seem to always seem to help them to post-season. Let’s start with the Cubbies and Pirates.
Since 1970, the Cardinals have an above .500 winning percentage against every team in the NL Central division. In comparison during that same era, the Pirates have losing records to all those teams, except the Cubs. And, speaking of the Cubs, they have losing records to ALL of the NL Central teams during that time span, including the Astros. So, to say that the Cardinals win by winning the NL Central games goes without saying. But, also, the other teams in that division do not challenge them very often, so, the Cardinals get to the playoffs quite regularly.
The Cincinnati Reds have a winning record against every team in the NL as well EXCEPT for their play against the Cardinals. So basically, the Cardinals only have to worry about beating the Reds year in and year out.
Earl: Got to be the steadiness of the front office. Those guys know how to build a team. That’s why the Cardinals are the definition of consistency. They don’t chase the huge names, and they know when to let some guys walk like they did Albert Pujols a few years back. The Cardinals front office really have the right approach.
Joe: They simply have decent front office and on filed people right on from the top of the major league level through their minor league people plus they scout real damn well. And, they don’t over pay to do any of it unlike teams like the Yankees, Red Sox and the Dodgers. And, some how they just seem to find pitching where no one else seems able.
Steve: It is very simple, they have a front office who knows how to win. They know what kind of players to bring in to compete. They always have some home grown talent on their roster, and, have some great coaches to develop them. The Cardinals, know how to play baseball, in its traditional form. They can hit, field, run, score, simply put they play fundamentals, and, that is how they are coached. Matheny is not the best manager in baseball, but, he knows how to manage a lineup, playing nine guys who work well together.
That is how the Cardinals win games.
In honor of Yogi Berra’s 90th birthday…
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