Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:09 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:47 pm
The Pirates, spurned by free agents Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt this winter, need pitching. The Yankees, bastion for tabloid headlines run amok, need less chaos and fewer knuckleheads.
Call the deal sending A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh a win-win for both clubs.
Talks for this trade have been so interminable that they've made Best Picture Oscar nominee Tree of Life seem rapid-fire. But the deal finally is moving from the on-deck circle to completion: Colleague Jon Heyman reports that the Pirates have agreed to pay $13 million of the remaining $33 million on Burnett's deal, and that two low-level minor-leaguers will move from Pittsburgh to New York: right-hander Diego Moreno, 25, and outfielder Exicardo Cayones, 20.
Only losers in this trade are the New York tabloids ("After Yankees ace flops, here comes joker" read one classic headline as Burnett followed CC Sabathia in the playoffs against the Tigers last October).
It wasn't official, but Burnett's departure papers from the Yanks' rotation were punched on that dramatic Friday evening last month when general manager Brian Cashman deftly moved to acquire Michael Pineda from Seattle and sign free agent Hiroki Kuroda. The moves were stellar and stealth, immediately adding depth and talent that has been lacking from Joe Girardi's rotation for at least the past couple of years.
That wasn't supposed to be the case with Burnett, who donated his arm to the Bronx cause (and, apparently, his brain to science) when he signed the six-year $82.5 million deal before the 2009 season. For that, the Yankees got 34 victories from him over three seasons, and a clutch (and pivotal) Game 2 win in the 2009 World Series against Philadelphia.
But more often than not, it was the Land of 1,000 Headaches with A.J. as the Yankees spend inordinate amounts of time over the past two seasons trying to fix him like a broken-down sports car on the side of the road. Who knows how many man-hours pitching coach Larry Rothschild invested in him alone last season? And just think how much quality time Rothschild now will have available for Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and others.
And for his part there's a good chance that, away from the New York spotlight and howling masses, Burnett can put some of the pieces back together again and help the Pirates. For one thing, he won't be freaking out about whether yet another potent AL East lineup will bash his brains in every fifth day. Facing St. Louis without Albert Pujols, Milwaukee without Prince Fielder and the Astros without anybody in the NL Central might be just what the shrink, er, doctor ordered.
Look, Burnett is a nice guy, a well-meaning guy and a hard-worker. But there historically has been a disconnect between his million-dollar arm and his brain. He was great at times, but always inconsistent, in Florida. He was at his best in Toronto when he was trying to emulate Roy Halladay and Doc's incredible work habits. He's a classic second-fiddle guy, needing to play Robin to someone else's Batman, even he's had the arm of Superman.
Pittsburgh, which has now suffered losing seasons dating back to Pie Traynor (or something like that), happily showed some signs of bounceback last year, especially early. At the All-Star break, the Bucs were in the thick of the NL Central race. But a pitching staff that owned a 3.17 ERA on July 25 fell apart thereafter. Not enough stamina or talent to last. No staying power.
Manager Clint Hurdle has some pieces in James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton. GM Neal Huntington acquired Erik Bedard over the winter, which is worth a shot. Problem for the Pirates is, in their current state, their most folks' 10th or 11th choice on the free agent market. Jackson signed with the Nationals. Oswalt remains unsigned, scouring high and low for another landing spot.
Which is why focusing on a trade, and Burnett specifically, maybe isn't the first choice for the contenders out there but is the perfect move right now for Huntington. As maddeningly inconsistent as he's been, Burnett did throw 190 1/3 innings for the Yanks last summer, 186 2/3 before that and 207 innings in 2009.
Pittsburgh can use that. And Burnett can use a low-key place -- at least, a place lower key than Yankee Stadium -- as he reaches out to recapture lost glory for a team doing the same.
Here's hoping he does. Pittsburgh can really use it. And, from Burnett, the Yankees no longer need it.
Posted on: January 13, 2012 9:40 pm
Their winter hibernation just ended. And just like that, the New York Yankees made themselves into AL East favorites.
Adding Michael Pineda from Seattle has all the earmarks of acquiring a young CC Sabathia or, ahem, Felix Hernandez -- the ace the Mariners wouldn't trade.
Adding Hiroki Kuroda on a one-year, $10 million deal adds the kind of rotation depth they could only dream of last summer -- and, presumably, a right-hander with more staying power than Bartolo Colon had.
"Wow," one scout said Friday night. "They've been laying in the weeds. They hadn't done anything."
Though the Yankees gave up a consensus future star in young slugger-to-be Jesus Montero, exactly the kind of young bat the Mariners need and a great move for them, Pineda and Kuroda join CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and maybe even Freddy Garcia in giving the Yankees the talent, depth and clout their rotation needs to take them deep into October.
Just a few days after meeting with the representatives for free agent Edwin Jackson, the Yankees became the talk of the industry on what had been a slow Friday night with their stealth move for Pineda, who, at 22, already is within sight of becoming an ace.
"He's got that kind of stuff," a scout who spent part of last summer focusing on AL West clubs said Friday night. "If you wanted to be conservative, he's a No. 2. He's got velocity, he came up with a slider that got better and better last year and he throws strikes. When he gives up a home run or a hard-hit ball, it does not chase him out of the strike zone.
"He's got that rare combination of stuff and control. He's young, he's not afraid, he's big, he's still growing and he's got makeup. He's a prize.
"And the Yankees will have, what, five years of control over him? He's the kind of guy you build around. Holy cow."
The Mariners were worried about rushing him too quickly last summer when they installed him into their rotation coming out of spring training. He pretty much immediately showed them, no sweat.
By season's end, over 28 starts, he struck out 173 hitters while walking just 55 over 171 innings. His average fastball was clocked at 94.7 m.p.h., according to FanGraphs.
What's notable about that? The fastballs of only three other AL starters checked in higher: Texas' Alexi Ogando, Detroit's Justin Verlander and Tampa Bay's David Price.
Kuroda? He turns 37 next month. But he gave the Dodgers 202 innings in 2011, going 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA. He's a competitor with fierce pride.
"Solid No. 3," the scout said. "He throws strikes, he's got good stuff, a crisp fastball that's deceptive and he throws harder than people think. He's at 90 to 94 with sink down in the zone, a crisp breaking ball and a good split.
"He's got out pitches. I'd love to have Kuroda."
Now the Yankees do. And Pineda. And Sabathia and Nova and Hughes and Burnett. ...
And as they search for a hitter, for now, they've still got 6-8 right-hander Dellin Betances and lefty Manny Banuelos, who opened many eyes last spring.
"Hanging onto Betances and Banuelos [and with Pineda on board], they've got three young-gun studs who should pitch for them for a long time," the scout said. "And Nova's not that old and Hughes isn't that old.
"They've got the makings of a young, under-control staff."
Yeah, sure, why not? On a night on which the Yankees proved they're not sleeping through the winter, why not add to their opponents' misery just a little bit more?
Posted on: November 14, 2011 4:08 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 4:28 pm
Turns out, bankruptcy was a minor little inconvenience on the road to forever between the Dodgers and Matt Kemp: The two have agreed to an eight-year, $160 million contract extension pending the outfielder passing a physical examination, CBSSports.com has confirmed.
Talk about a serious commitment. Only six men in baseball history had reached the $160-million mark: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez.
For those with a sense of humor ... or a sense of irony ... Kemp's deal is for the same numbers -- years and dollars -- that Ramirez received from Boston before the 2001 season.
In becoming the face of the Dodgers for years to come and en route to serious MVP consideration, Kemp first had to blow past comeback player of the year.
It was barely more than a year ago when Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti delivered harsh criticism of Kemp's defense and focus.
But after the disappointment of 2010 came a sensational 2011 in which Kemp batted .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBI. He led the league in homers, RBIs, runs (115) and total bases (353), and he swiped 40 bases.
And in one more bit of irony, the man who now will remain in Hollywood will stay in part because he went a little less Hollywood last summer. Those close to Kemp do not think it is a coincidence that he took his game to a different level after his high-profile romance with Rihanna blew up.
"I think he has less distractions in his life -- from my perspective," third baseman Casey Blake, one of Kemp's closest friends on the 2011 team, told me late last summer. "This game, some guys can do it with a million things going on. But this game is tough enough by itself.
"It's a hard game, and it seems like you're always dealing with a lot of thoughts of failure. The more you can lessen those thoughts, the better. The fact that he doesn't have some of those distractions anymore. ..."
Blake told me he thought Kemp had made a conscious effort to simplify things in his life, and it worked.
"I think he was embarrassed by a lot of things," Blake said, referring to Kemp's 2010 season in which he batted just .249 with a .310 on-base percentage, 28 homers and 89 RBIs. "And he made up his mind he was going to get serious about it."
The off-field stuff, the Rihanna romance, "I think they all directly related," Blake said.
Blake could tell Kemp was more focused in 2011 from the first day of spring training.
"He showed it in his attitude and in his play," Blake said. "How he went about it, from day one.
"He's respecting the game a lot more this year. He has an understanding that to be a complete player, you can't take a day off -- whether it's on the bases, on defense, anywhere."
Today, that respect is coming right back at Kemp to the tune of $160 million ... and a trust the Dodgers are placing in him that maybe you can't even hang a price tag on.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:42 pm
On Tuesday, they held a conference call with Brian Cashman, fresh off of signing a thee-year deal to remain as the club's general manager.
"I don't anticipate a bat being of need at all," Cashman said on the call Tuesday afternoon.
As for what the Yankees will focus on, here's a hint:
"Pitching, pitching, pitching," Cashman said.
Offense, the GM said, is "not a problem with this club at all, despite what happened with Detroit." The Yankees ranked second in the American League in both runs scored and on-base percentage and third in slugging percentage this summer and, despite Tigers pitching shutting the Yankees down earlier this month, Cashman said he thinks New York has enough sticks to contend again in 2012.
While he maintains that "that doesn't mean I'm not open-minded, realistically, offense is not something we're focusing on." Improving the depth in both the rotation and the bullpen? Now you're talking.
With Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and a post-surgery Joba Chamberlain on the horizon, Cashman called the New York bullpen "one of the strongest in the game." He would like to add another lefty to team with Boone Logan, if possible.
All of this is why Cashman's time the past few days was monopolized by making sure that Sabathia did not become a free agent.
"We all know what CC brings to the table," Cashman said. "Pitching in front of the rotation, he he's created a great atmosphere in the clubhouse, he's one of our team leaders, he's influential in the community ... regarding all aspects of what you want the team to be, he's a major, major piece.
"You're comfortable every time he takes the ball."
His continued presence also allows the Yankees to approach free agency differently this winter because they can play from a position of relative strength.
"Securing CC allows us to be very open-minded and conservative in our approach," Cashman said. "We're in position now to take out time, explore and digest, pursue things at our own pace and not be over-reacting because we're vulnerable."
Some other Cashman thoughts heading into the winter:
-- On Alex Rodriguez's health: "I don't have any health concerns with Alex." Cashman said time will heal his sprained thumb, and it already has helped his surgically repaired knee.
-- On the club's interest in Jorge Posada: "He's been one of the best catchers in Yankees history, he's a borderline Hall of Famer and he's a free agent. That's something we'll have discussions on in the short term. It's not something I'm prepared to talk to you about today. He's been part of a lot of special moments here. He's created a lot of special moments."
-- On whether he feels more in control as GM with a three-year deal: "I don't think it's healthy to feel like you're in control. ... If you feel like you're in control, you've probably very vulnerable to some severe disappointments coming down the line."
-- He called catcher Russell Martin "Thurman Munson-like" in what he meant to the 2011 Yankees both on the field and in the clubhouse. Will that translate into a multi-year contract for the former Dodger, whom the Yankees control for one more year? Cashman said the Yankees right now enjoy the flexibility to go one more year with Martin, or "more than one if we find common ground."
-- He said the club will not consider moving A.J. Burnett to the bullpen. "If he is with us, without a doubt he is in the rotation," Cashman said. Cryptic? Maybe. The GM said "it would be hard to replace his innings. But I'm open-minded if anybody wants to approach us on anybody on the roster who does not have a no-trade clause. The worst that can happen is I say no. I'm open to creatively listening to anything anybody has to offer."
-- The biggest thing, Cashman said, is, like always, he has to improve the club's talent. He noted that the club "did not play to the best of our ability" against Detroit, and "part of that was under our control and part of that is what the Tigers put forth." With 97 wins, the Yankees were one of the best teams in baseball, Cashman said, "but October is a lot different. That's not an excuse. October is a lot different from April to September. You saw it with the crowning of the world championship team in St. Louis. They finished in the money the last day of the season, and then they ran the table. ... Is there a way to make it better? I'd like to think so. That's my job. I don't think all of our answers are in the clubhouse. Not at all. But I think some of the answers are in our clubhouse."
Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:34 pm
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Posted on: October 3, 2011 11:53 pm
DETROIT -- Now comes the scariest sentence of the summer for the Yankees: Their season depends on A.J. Burnett.
Hide the women and children. Stock up on the Tums. Get a good night's sleep. As this high-octane series sprints toward Game 4, the Yankees have no room left for mistakes because they probably made their biggest in getting a 5-4 Yankee clipping in Game 3 here Monday.
That mistake? Failing to take advantage of two unexpected windfalls against Tigers ace Justin Verlander:
A two-run first inning that momentarily knocked Verlander and the Tigers off-balanced was given back by CC Sabathia in Detroit's two-run third.
Then, Verlander was absolutely sensational from the second through the sixth innings, the Yankees clawed back from 4-2 to tie the game at 4-4 in the seventh. And set-up man Rafael Soriano immediately gave it up when Delmon Young crushed a one-out fastball in the bottom of the seventh to make it 5-4.
It wasn't quite the classic battle between Verlander and Sabathia that most of us expected. Sabathia was wobbly from the beginning, walking three Tigers in the first, another in the second and one more in the third. But the Yankees turned three double plays behind him in those three innings to atone for his sins.
Verlander, after that two-run first, savagely mowed through the Yankees over the next five innings. He hit 100 m.p.h. several times. He sent curve balls that bent like bananas. He threw changeups somewhere in between. He was sensational during this time. He fanned four consecutive Yankees during the fourth and fifth, then stretched it to seven in a nine-batter stretch through the seventh.
With two out in the seventh, Jorge Posada stunned him by fighting back from 0 and 2 to walk. Then Verlander drilled Russell Martin with a 100 m.p.h. fastball in the ribs. Ouch.
What undoubtedly stung Verlander just as much, Brett Gardner lashed a 100 m.p.h. heater for a game-tying double after that.
Before the Tigers could fully digest that, Young was depositing a Soriano pitch over the right-field fence -- and the Tigers were depositing the Yankees to the brink of elimination.
With Burnett headed to the mound to start Game 4 Tuesday night.
Posted on: September 30, 2011 6:33 pm
The Los Angeles Angels of Desperationville didn't fire a general manager on Friday, they canned an executive secretary.
Everybody knows that owner Arte Moreno and manager Mike Scioscia -- and Moreno and Scioscia alone -- run the Angels.
Somebody's gotta phone the agents and other general managers, take notes, collect information and make sure Moreno and Scioscia have enough of it to make their decisions.
That man was Reagins, a nice guy who was both badly overmatched and uncomfortable in the gig from Day One.
Now, somebody else will take the notes, make the calls and bring the information to Moreno and Scioscia so they can gather the information they need to take the Angels wherever they go from here.
And where that is is anybody's guess right now.
The Angels did not make the playoffs in 2011 -- or, in 2010, for that matter -- because the Texas Rangers are a better and smarter organization right now that has whipped them both on the field and in the executive offices.
The only reason the Angels remained competitive this summer was because of the boost young players like Mark Trumbo, Tyler Chatwood, Peter Bourjos and, yes, late in the season, Mike Trout provided.
And the man responsible for drafting them, Eddie Bane, was fired as the scouting director after last season.
Fact is, under Moreno, the Angels have become more adept at firings the past couple of years than postseasons.
They fired longtime trainer Ned Bergert last winter after 36 years in the organization. They canned Bane. A major league scout named Dale Sutherland who had been in the organization for 19 years. They've callously laid off longtime media relations employees in recent years who worked incredibly long hours and had devoted their lives to the cause.
They can call Reagins' departure a resignation if they want. But when the second paragraph of the news release contains a statement from Moreno saying, "Though we finished 2011 with a winning record, we remained short of our objective in winning a championship. In moving forward, we felt a change was needed", that's a firing.
Moreno got years of great publicity after the first thing he did as owner was lower stadium beer prices, but his ownership clearly is at a crossroads right now. Though he talks the talk of winning championships, he's consistently failed in the free agent market over the past several winters: Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre, among others.
Bottom line, the Angels' actions jibe with their words less and less frequently. The organization has become soulless, and disingenuous.
Reagins certainly wasn't the cause of this, only a symptom. He clearly was carrying out others' orders as a GM, while the real stuff was going on behind the curtain.
The Angels can hire another GM. But until they change the process, until that GM isn't just a puppet on a string, the gap between the Rangers and Angels is going to continue to grow.
Posted on: September 2, 2011 1:31 pm
Of hurricanes, Orioles and White Sox ... which really aren't all that different, when you think about it:
FROM: Nick D.
Re.: Last-place Orioles remain stuck in familiar late-season rut
I started to read this article and then I stopped. ... Stop writing articles giving me hope for my woefully bad O's. I read these every year and every year they're the foundation holding up the AL East. Stop. Please. You people keep opening the same wound.
Next time I'll bring the cotton balls and hydrogen peroxide.
Re.: Weekend Buzz: Rain postponements taking toll on 2011 - then comes Irene
The fact that fans who purchased tickets to Saturday's games at Fenway Park had to wait out those delays is absurd. The greed of the organization is the reason. They did not want to have to cancel the games and reschedule, or God forbid they would have to offer refunds or tickets to an alternate game. To try to play those games through the hurricane was absurd. It is frustrating to read your articles because none of this is mentioned and you show an unreasonable bias to the Yankees. If it was the Yankees organization that did this, you would be the first one criticizing them.
The Red Sox were so greedy they let fans into Fenway for free following the rain delay in Game 2 Saturday.Appalling, wasn't it? It's called trying to make sure the games get played when there is precious little time left in the season to reschedule them, mister.
There is no reason to have rainouts anymore. If a small-market team like Seattle can have a retractable roof stadium, why haven't the BIG GUNS protected game revenues with new Stadiums, including retracting covers. Hellloooo Yankees!
Put a retractable roof on Yankee Stadium, the ghost of Babe Ruth will rip his plaque out of Monument Park and install it somewhere in Montana.
FROM: J D
Hey, Miller ... More Yankee bashing, huh? Shocking. And you're not right. Like Joe Girardi said, a lot of other games in baseball and other sports changed their schedules to be amenable to Hurricane Irene. They still could have played an actual DH, not split, and honored Flanagan -- which the Yankees did the night before in very good form, btw, before their game with the A's. Or they could have played a game on Saturday in the early morning before the storm hit. It's all about the fact of the O's not wanting to lose a gate in one of the rare times they would actually make some money with the Yankees in town. Now, the Yankees will have to use up one of their rare September off days to play a game in Baltimore after finishing up a three-game series with the aforementioned O's the very next day, and with a long West Coast road trip looming. ... And way not to mention the Red Sox's unwavering interest in getting both games in no matter what the weather to improve their standings and keep a September off day.
You lost credibility with the sentence "And you're not right." Because, fact is, I'm almost always right. Including on this topic.
FROM: Jack L.
Re.: Up-and-down White Sox look to final month to save season
I'm a lifelong, die-hard White Sox fan who literally follows the team hour by hour, not just day by day. You did a very nice job of summing this season up. The only difference between being a gawker checking out a freeway wreck in the other direction and watching the White Sox play this year is that the freeway wreck is at least somewhat interesting, even if you can't really see much of it. IMHO, Kenny Williams is clearly the guy that needs to go. Trader Kenny completely lost his touch with the first stinker of a Nick Swisher trade and has just made one bad move after another ever since save for unloading Edwin Jackson prior to the trade deadline.
At least don't follow the White Sox minute by minute. Think how miserable you'd be then.
Fire Kenny Williams, he sucks as a GM. It's been his signings that brought the White Sox four of the worst contracts in White Sox history. Let's not forget the Manny Ramirez deal last year as well after letting Jim Thome slip away. The Sox paid Ramirez multiple times what Thome was paid all year for one month of services. If not for Zambrano's and Soriano's contracts on the North Side, Williams would really be exposed for the horrible GM he has been. I think the players enjoy playing for Ozzie Guillen, and he has gotten a lot out his players considering the start the Sox have had in the last two years.
According to my Love Letters readers' poll, Williams' approval rating drastically trail those of Guillen.
FROM: Mike M.
Love your work. Love it if you could do a story about the Angels owner (Arte Moreno) vs. Scott Boras and include why Boras has that ground level box behind home plate at Anaheim Stadium. Boras looks like an idiot standing in the TV background of most pitches while he talks on his cell or works his laptop. As a Mariner fan I laugh thinking what Angels fans think about seeing him all the time.
It's a simple, economical issue: Boras' company purchases that ground-level suite with old-fashioned greenbacks. But while you may laugh, think of all the advertising that TV time translates into for hundreds of players who might be watching in other cities and contemplating what Boras could do for them.
Re.: Weekend Buzz: Yanks getting stronger down the stretch
Scott, while I respect your opinion, how has the Yankees pitching been woeful? Their ERA is better than Detroit, Boston, and Texas's, their bullpen ERA is the best in baseball, and outside of A.J. Burnett, no one on that staff has been woeful outside of Phil Hughes before his injury. Right now, Ivan Nova and Hughes are pitching as well as anyone, CC Sabathia is an ace, and between Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, the Yankees have a respectable four starter for the playoffs. It just makes no sense why people are so quick to discredit the Yankees pitching without looking up the numbers.
If you read the column, and not just the headline and sub-head, you'd have your answer: I was EXAGGERATING, teasing Yankees' fans for being so quick to panic.
Likes: LA Marathon founder Bill Burke making a $1.2 billion bid for the Dodgers. It's funded in part by Chinese investors, and wow, think how much fun we all could have with THAT. Great take by Harold Meyerson in Friday's LA Times on the op-ed page: "There's no need to rehash the McCourts' destruction of one of American sports' most fabled and successful franchises. At this point, anyone who takes the team off their hands would be a better owner, right? Could there really be a more problematic proprietor? And then, along comes China." ... Absolutely loved Thursday's A-1 headline in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "Obama jobs speech up against Packers opener." ... Good job, Falcons of Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central High, getting on the board with a 12-6 win over New Boston Huron on Thursday after a tough opening week loss.
Dislikes: Sports Illustrated's rare regional covers. I know, business is business. But I'm old school and I don't like not having a particular cover.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"What's keeping you, keep pouring drinks
"For all these palookas, hey you know what I thinks
"That we toast to the old days and DiMaggio too
"And old Drysdale and Mantle, Whitey Ford and to you"
-- Tom Waits, A Sight For Sore Eyes