Filed under: MLB | Tags: Cliff Lee, MLB, New York Mets, Off-season, Phillies, Red Sox, Sports, Yankees, Zack Greinke
While the ice thaws off cars around the country, our hearts begin to warm to the idea of baseball. America’s pastime, hardball, the dog days of summer, it’s right upon us now. And despite a strong football following here at The Sports Blast, we often revert back to our love for the game of baseball.
But no preseason, season preview, or upcoming discussion is dictated without first reviewing what has become a holiday season for baseball fans; the off-season. Despite all of its dreariness, March is great for round-table discussions and early predictions. Don’t worry. we’ll get to that. But it’d just feel wrong jumping headfirst into 2011, without looking at what allowed this upcoming season to take its early shape. Without further adieu, we provide you with the best, and the worst, of this past MLB off-season.
1. The Philadelphia Phillies signing Cliff Lee.
It came to many as a surprise when Philadelphia Phillies agree to deal with Cliff Lee scrolled across ESPN’s bottomline. Lee was sure to take the infamous “Yankee Money” and make New York the favorite to win another World Series. So when Philadelphia performed the MLB’s biggest heist of the off-season, expectations skyrocketed inside and outside of Phillies Nation. And why wouldn’t they? The Phillies created a monster, a monster which they hope to use on their path to another World Series. Arguably the best starting rotation of all-time, certainly this year, the Phillies add Cliff Lee into a mix which included Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. All 4 former aces of their staff, making this off-season move the best of the year.
2. The Boston Red Sox signing Carl Crawford, trading for Adrian Gonzalez.
While injuries ravaged Boston last season, lack of a power hitter and a game changer became serious concerns for Red Sox brass. With every question comes a presumable answer, which the Red Sox provided throughout the off-season. They injected life not only into the franchise, but into the fanbase, which displayed a serious disinterest last season with major drops in TV ratings. Crawford provides a proven playmaker, capable of doing everything you ask out of a baseball player and doing it exceptionally well. Gonzalez brings the Epstein regime a proven power hitter in the middle of the order, something they haven’t had since Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz fizzled out. With the addition of 2 superstars, the Red Sox figure to play deep into the heart of October.
3. Milwaukee Brewers trading for Zack Greinke.
The Brewers needed to shake things up, and they needed to do it fast. Prince Fielder is entering the final year of his contract and is not expected to be retained by Milwaukee following the season. Knowing this, Brewers GM Doug Melvin acted throughout the off-season on a seemingly win-now, deal with consequences later mindset. On paper, it worked. The Brewers bolstered their one weak spot, starting pitching, adding Shaun Marcum and a former Cy Young award winner in Zack Greinke. The Brewers now throw out 2 bonafide studs in Greinke and Gallardo, and figure to play a huge role in the NL Central this year.
4. Cincinnati Reds stabilizing their future with youth.
The off-season is often remembered for big name signings and franchise altering decisions. What often flies under the radar is the deals teams make within the confines of their walls. Example A is the Cincinnati Reds, who agreed to extensions with poster boys Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. After already winning the Central last year, the Reds locked up the prime youth they had in the lineup, surely hoping to extend this era of Reds baseball rejuvenation. Votto and Bruce join players like Edinson Volquez, Jonny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, and Mike Leake as youngsters who will make a huge impact this year for the Reds.
1. Jayson Werth’s Gigantic Contract
7 years, 126 million dollars, all for a player who before last season had never hit above .273 in a starting role. The same player who saw his defensive skill set decline across the board last season, and often hit in a lineup packed with tough outs. Werth now moves to Washington, where he is expected to carry the burden of being the number one power bat. Werth is a fine player, it’s impossible to disregard his power numbers. But is he a player worth 126 million dollars over 7 years? It’d be tough to prove that this contract was well thought out.
2. Rafael Soriano’s addition to the New York Yankees
The Yankees offered Soriano 35 million dollars to become their #1 set-up man. The only problem, is that the contract has opt-out options for Soriano after his first and 2nd years, possible making it a 1 year deal worth roughly 11 million. What raises even more eyebrows is that Brian Cashman was against the signing in the first place, which leads me to believe there may be some communication issues in Yankees management. If Soriano succumbs to the injury bug(which has haunted him in the past), the Yanks will be left with Joba Chamberlain as their set up man, which can’t be a stress relieving idea. Was this a well planned deal, or an impulse reaction after losing Kerry Wood and facing criticism of allowing the Red Sox to “win” the off-season?
3. The Angels
Year in and year out, the Angels are the team who outwardly states that they plan to make a splash in the off-season. Seemingly year in and year out, the Angels are also the team to get spurned at the 11th hour and walk away with nothing. Or, in this off-seasons case, they walked away with Vernon Wells gargantuan contract but not much improvement overall. Their infield is still weak with the bat outside of Kendry Morales, the back end of the rotation a question. A team which was once the annual winner of the A.L West could now easily play not 2nd, but 3rd fiddle this year.
4. The Mets Owners
Even though the situation continues to unfold itself, it’s tough to look at the Wilpons right now and think they are doing the right thing. Multiple loans from the MLB later, the Mets have still been unable to find a minority owner and are now ridden in depth. They head into the season with poor pitching, little enthusiasm, and face another 70 win season.
You can follow Mark Chiarelli at http://www.twitter.com/Mark_Chiarelli.
Filed under: MLB | Tags: Baseball, Brian, Cashman, New York, Off-season, Sports, Yankees
Being a New York Yankee envelops a different meaning, a meaning which is regarded as being much more prestigious than just “another MLB employee.” A Yankee is synonymous with 2 things; Winning, and star-power.
So when the 2010-2011 MLB Off-Season began, many thought it was a shoe-in that New York would yet again make the largest of splashes while pursuing another World Series title. After all, there was “Yankee Money” on the table. Surely the likes of Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford could not pass up a chance to sport the pinstripes, right?
I’ll spare you the poetic story telling. Arch nemesis Boston put a stranglehold on the Yankees, pocketing not one but two all-stars in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Cliff Lee spurned that infamous “Yankee Money” and returned to Philadelphia.
The Yankees(as of 1/28) have made one acquisition of substance, dumping a boatload of cash into Rafael Soriano’s dump truck in an attempt to buckle down the bullpen. 35 million dollars later, New York had their man. Not to be outdone, the Yanks also added a former Cy Young winner, a Cy Young finalist, and a Silver Slugger winner who owns 10 gold gloves and 5 all-star berths.
How could Yankees fans not be enthralled with the likes of Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior, and Andruw Jones?
But the interesting aspect of the off-season is that the real issue, besides the questionable player personnel decisions, is the antics of GM Brian Cashman.
Sure, from a talent standpoint the off-season didn’t go as planned. A reason for concern? Of course. But a team which features one of the best offenses in baseball, C.C Sabathia, and a solid back end of the bullpen can still compete admirably.
Pundits alike agree on that point, one man who perhaps does not, is the aforementioned Cashman.
For the majority of his career in New York, Cashman was able to stay hidden in the wake of an iconic manager and larger than live owner. The New York Post would send the Yankees a thank you card in the mail every Christmas, graciously thanking Mr. Steinbrenner and others for the carousel of headlines which they produced. But Joe Torre aged, his stay perhaps too long, Steinbrenner struggled with health issues in the waning stages of his career, fading into the background before passing over the summer. With the figure-heads around him disappearing, Cashman quickly became the media’s new brain to pick as they desperately looked to generate even the most far fetched of rumors.
Cashman, for the most part, stood his ground up until this winter.
He uncharacteristically spoke out on multiple occasions, leaving me perplexed, asking just a simple “What are you doing?”
When not scaling buildings or celebrity bar tending, Cashman was often bluntly answering questions for the media in the oddest of fashions. Whether he’s simply fed up in New York, or Rex Ryan is rubbing off on everybody, Cashman has left his critics with so much ammo they may start to saturate.
Trouble was presumably on the horizon when Cashman went public with the Derek Jeter contract negotiations, questionably stating, “We’ve encouraged him to test the market and see if there’s something he would prefer other than this. If he can, fine. That’s the way it works.” Listen, we know you’re under rule of the Steinbrenner’s and negotiations are as much a poker game as they are a contract debate, but there is a line you don’t cross. Telling the captain as well as the face of your franchise to go elsewhere if he doesn’t like what you have on the table is, well, crossing that line. I can imagine that Hank&Hal were none to pleased with Brian throughout these negotiations, siding with the perturbed Yankee Universe.
To make matters worse, Cashman was not done. When introducing the only off-season acquisition worth more than a blurb(Rafael Soriano), Cashman said he “didn’t recommend the deal” and was outwardly opposed to the signing of Soriano. Not only was this odd, seeing as he’s the General Manager, but he did so with Soriano sitting right next to him.
Talk about awkward.
What really sparked the obligatory firestorm in New York was not the struggle to re-sign Derek Jeter, or the disapproval of newcomer Soriano. Rather, it was the statements Cashman made just days ago. Cashman delivered a copius amount of “hit” one-liners, including “We’re one starter away from being a World Series contender,” “I’d be surprised if he plays SS for all 4 years. I see him moving to the out-field,”(when discussing Derek Jeter) and the ultimate head scratcher, “Red Sox. But we have better bullpen.”(When asked who was better)
Now what Cashman said was nothing that surprised non-Yankee fans. Derek Jeter is becoming a liability at shortstop. Tell a New York fan this and they’ll most likely flip you the bird, but it’s becoming fact of the matter. His range is declining and I’d be hard pressed to tell you he has 4 years left at that position. It’s also common knowledge at this point that the Yankees are one starter short, especially if Andy Pettitte does not pull a Brett Favre.
The problem, is that Cashman made these statements knowing Yankee Universe would respond with cries for mutiny. In a rivalry as heated as Boston and New York, don’t ever admit as a Yankee that you aren’t as good as Boston. You just don’t do it. Even if it’s true, it’s something you leave within your inner circle. The same could be said with the Derek Jeter comments. Did you not learn your lesson the first time around? When attempting to play hardball with Jeter, Yankee fans across the country cry foul.
Surely their own general manager wouldn’t defame “The Captain” enough to suggest a position switch!
It’s bad enough Cashman let down the fan base with a deflating off-season. Overpaying for a middle reliever and bringing in 3 players who are so far past their prime Allen Iverson’s ears perked up is not anything to “write home about.” That is exactly what makes his ill timed comments so much worse. It’s the proverbial lighting a match and throwing it on gasoline effect.
An air of uncertainty was already hovering around this New York Yankees ball club. Early playoff departure and a maligned back end of the rotation is a justifiable cause for concern. It becomes even more a cause for concern now that Cashman has done a less than ample job to fix these problems. Tack on ill conceived statemtnt after ill conceived statement and you have yourself a recipe for disaster, Brian Cashman.
Hopefully he’s learned from his last batch of verbal mixed signals, and will allow the off-season to fade into obscurity.
On its own.
- Mark Chiarelli
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Baseball, Cliff Lee, New York, Phillies, Sports, Yankees
It was essentially a done deal.
Ask any Yankee fan about Cliff Lee two weeks ago and they’ll tell you he’s a lock to sign in New York. Ask our own Brandon Dowling, who up until last night was fairly adamant Lee would going to don the pinstripes as well.
And then the bottom fell out.
The writing was on the wall, it was just a matter of how hard you were willing to squint. Brian Cashman was very up front with what he was willing to do. He “tried” to play hardball, then gave in to Lee’s demands over a week ago. If Cliff Lee had truly wanted to play the next 7 years of his career as a Yankee the offer was there. As the days passed by it became more and more apparent that neither side was very affectionate about the other. Throw in that Lee’s wife harbors no ill will towards Yankees fans and the deal was basically final.
No pun intended of course.
So where do the Yankees go now? The best pitcher available just disregarded a contract 2 years longer with much more guaranteed money, instead opting for a 5 year $120 million deal which will land him in the confines of Citizens Bank Park, a park he knows well enough to love.
Has this ever happened before?
Ok, a bit of an over exaggeration. But for the first time in what seems like a decade, a star has turned down “Yankee Money”, opting instead to pitch for a team he feels more comfortable with. As shocking as it seems many believe it has happened twice. Remember that Carl Crawford guy? Just two weeks ago the Yankees were considered to be making a hard push on Crawford. Turns out, he never even took the time to meet with them.
Couple that with this being what many consider another failed off-season for Brian Cashman, and there’s a feeling of despair in Yankee Universe right now. Flashback to last year when we saw Brian Cashman trade away Austin Jackson for Curtis Granderson, sign Nick Johnson and Javier Vasquez, and let Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon walk. A year later, the DH position is still open, the starting rotation lacks depth, and Austin Jackson looking like the surefire talent he was predicted to be.
This year, multiple free agent options presented themselves in front of the Yankees. Unfortunately for the Empire, none chose New York as the final destination. This could be a testament to the stubborn nature of the Yankees, or the fact New York is not the desire it once may be. The notion that Brian Cashman has essentially “lost” two straight off-seasons should be very concerning to those of the New York Yankees.
But hey, who needs Cliff Lee when you can sign the likes of Mark Prior!
Kidding aside, New York is fortunate enough to have the rotation and offensive star power to surive without Cliff Lee. When we look back on this deal in 5 years, it may be Brian Cashman laughing, $170 million later.
But for now we must work with what is in front of us, and I’m not completely sure the Yankees like that picture.