Saturday, October 20, 2012

What a difference a week makes

I kept a very close eye on this year’s American League Championship Series, hoping for some more good baseball. I got that, but only from one of the teams.

As the dust cleared yesterday, I looked back with a more critical eye at the Yankee’s series with Baltimore. I still feel that they were clearly the better team, but you could see the fingerprints of the coming nearly complete offensive collapse they suffered against the Tigers. I feel their experience in the post season is what got them past the Orioles, nothing more.

Losing Jeter certainly had a deflating effect on the team, and they looked pretty listless after that first, very exciting game. I also wonder why he seemed to just abandon the team and go home. He’s their captain, for pity’s sake! Anyone know if there’s a league rule that says he can’t be in the dugout? If not the dugout, then he should have been right behind it in the first row of seats.

Now, of course, we see all the finger pointing from fans and pundits alike. This is a team that lead baseball’s toughest division for most of the season, had the most home runs, at the top of the league in runs scored, etc., etc. What happened to them is pretty well the whole team went into a slump at the most inopportune time. How else would you explain Cano seeming to forget everything he knows about swinging the bat? This guy is a good ballplayer. I could go up and down the bench and pretty well say the same thing.

So what does New York need for next season to be successful? Obviously, another great starting pitcher. I don’t think they should be counting on Pettitte for too much. Great pitcher, sure, but his shelf life is about used up. Once the pitching staff is all healthy again, it should be pretty formidable and won’t require too much past another starter.

They probably would do well to look for another basher for their outfield. Swisher obviously will be on the move to another team. Other than him, they have some good people out there. Getting Suzuki (anyone else feel sorry for him?) was an inspired move and Granderson should find his swing by the time spring training opens next year. Ibanez is not an answer and Gardner should also come around.

Behind the plate, I just don’t think Martin has what it takes. He’s a reasonable receiver with some pop in his bat, but he just can’t seem to hit for average. A better knowledge of the strike zone and cutting down on his swing would certainly help. He doesn’t have to hit a home run every at bat. Maybe Suzuki should coach him a bit. I think they could find someone better than Stewart to back him up, and I don’t think they’d have to pay too much.

As I said, Cano will find his swing again, count on it. Jeter might be better to have at DH now that he’s had problems with his ankle. Over the past few seasons, he’s lost a couple of steps, and the only reason his age hasn’t shown a lot is that he positions himself so well. At DH, though, he’d be awesome. They might be better to look for someone a step above Nunez. Keep him as a backup, but the Yanks might be able to go after a marquee-type free-agent.

Which brings us to third base.

Earlier in the year, we had a discussion here about those huge multi-year contracts that teams tend to hand out to the very best players. The Angels and Tigers did it last off-season signing Pujols and Fielder, and they’re eventually going to be feeling the very same pain the Yankees are experiencing with Alex Rodriguez. I heard it said several times during the ALCS that A-Rod is an “old thirty-seven”. He had trouble with the fastball all season. He’s fragile and, well, he just ain’t worth the money. It would be one thing if he was losing it in the field but could still hit. The other way around definitely does not work.

I have no idea how the Yanks get out of this conundrum. I doubt very much that they could move him, unless part of the offer is to pick up at least half his salary, probably more. He certainly doesn’t sound like someone who’s willing to see the handwriting on the wall and retire gracefully. From what I heard, especially post game last night, he sounds like a man who wants to come back to the Yankees next season. With his no-trade clause, he will probably be there.

Or the Yankees, for the good of the team, could do something really jaw-dropping and release him.

Think it might happen?

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