Monday, January 31, 2011

Posada shares his thoughts about shifting role, we translate

Is anybody else convinced that Jorge Posada is not-so on board with this full-time DH thing?

Po's been the Yankees' resident lovable curmudgeon for 15 years. He's not exactly the personality type that embraces change. And nothing good can come from change when you're a 39-year-old catcher.

I wouldn't be surprised if Clint Eastwood modeled his character in Gran Torino after the salty Yankees veteran. Walt Kowalski was a gruff, stubborn old man who wouldn't hesitate to shoot you with a rifle if you messed with him or his car. The same probably applies to Posada and his catching position.

(That ringing you hear is Jesus Montero calling Brian Cashman to make sure he's staying in the minors in 2011.)

Posada spoke about the shift to DH for the first time on Sunday night at a Bernie Williams event where I presume the former center fielder busted out some soccer mom-approved guitar licks.

God love him, Po tried so hard to be the good soldier during his brief media chat, but what he said definitely didn't sound like what he meant. Luckily, River & Sunset has the gift for decoding jock speak.

All initial quotes come via the Daily News.

What Georgie said:

“I can’t complain. I always like to catch, I’m used to catching, but if they want me to DH to help out the team, you have to do that. It is what it is. I look forward to everything I do. I try to help out the team, and if that’s going to help out the team and that’s what they want, I’m OK with it.”

What Georgie meant:

"I can't complain. Literally, I can't complain. I'm a 39-year-old professional baseball player. Have you noticed what GMs think of guys my age now? We're dinosaurs staring down a fiery meteor. I'm used to catching, because I'm a man, and men don't DH. Jose Canseco is a DH. Jorge Posada is a man. I'm not OK with it."

What Georgie said:

“I’ll catch. I’ll catch. I’ll catch this year. I’ll DH and then they’re going to want me to catch one of those days. I’m keeping an open mind. I would love to catch. I’m training like I always do, and if I have to catch, I’ll catch.”

What Georgie meant:

"I'll catch. I'll catch. I'll catch this year. If I have to do Girardi's laundry, cook his lunch, pay his orthodontist bill, I'll do it. I'll do anything, you hear me? I'm keeping an open mind, and by "open mind", I mean a closed mind. I'm training like I always do, but that's mostly because I have to stay cut up for Laura, my insanely hot wife. I'll catch. I'll catch. I'll catch. I'll catch. I'll catch."

What Georgie said:

“Derek’s a shortstop and Derek’s not going to move to another position. He hasn’t even started playing this year and you’re talking about four years from now. You can’t see the future.”

What Georgie meant:

"Have you seen Jeter's new house? They're calling it Jetropolis. Well, no they're not, but I am. The place is insane. You can mark my words: If he invites me, I'll never leave. I'll show up with Laura and the kids and we'll just bunker down like Cousin Eddie from the Vacation movies. The place is so big he won't even know we're there. ... (deep sigh) ... But seriously, I don't want to be the DH."

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

YES please: Cone to make return, Tino to kill a guy with trident

One of the aspects of Yankees fandom that I'd like to delve into more in 2011 is the media coverage of the team, particularly on the television end.

Don't worry, I'm not going to turn into a crusty old curmudgeon like Phil Mushnick, yelling at Al Leiter to stop leaving bags of poop on my front porch. At least not yet.

The telecast is the filter by which most fans not attending the games experience the Yankees, and seeing how I enjoy making inappropriate inferences about both Ken Singleton's hairline and Kim Jones' personal life, I think it's time to bring these thoughts to a public forum.

Today, we'll take a look at some recent news out of the YES broadcast booth.

We learned from Joel Sherman on Tuesday that David Cone has either agreed or is in talks to return to YES for 25 games this season. Cone, if you recall, provided smart and candid analysis for the network from 2008-09. Perhaps too smart and candid it turned out, as his exit was tied to organizational discontent with opinions deemed to be too negative at times.

Let's try to glance over the disconcerting nature of that reality for a second, and instead celebrate the dual good news of Yankee brass coming to its senses as well as Cone's return likely coming at the expense of his overmatched replacement, Tino Martinez.

As a Donnie Baseball disciple, Tino will always hold an undeserved black place in my heart. But just to be clear here, said darkened valve has nothing to do with my satisfaction about his presumed ouster. That's actually more on account of Martinez having the on-camera savvy of Brick from Anchorman. "I don't know what we're yelling about!"

Anyway, I'm excited that Cone will be back. I quite like Michael Kay as play-by-play man, but Singleton is a bit dry and John Flaherty can be annoying with the incessant references to his middling playing career. Hey Flash, no offense, but you weren't Carlton Fisk.

Lastly, say this for Cone: Not many guys can have a "Sex scandals" sub-section in their Wikipedia profile and still come off as an affable and decent human being. Not bad, Coney. Not bad at all.

If you have thoughts on the YES guys or even the 400-year-old invincible behemoth of the transistor radio they call John Sterling, please share your feelings in the comment section or at

Stray observations...

  • I'm not sure if the Yankees have thought this far ahead, but putting the beefy Bartolo Colon on the same team as fellow trans-fat enthusiast Andruw Jones probably isn't the best idea. This would be like asking a recovering coke addict to live in the studio with Oasis during the recording of Be Here Now. You're just begging for a relapse.
  • I'm starting to wonder if Brian Cashman is in the midst of some kind of WWF heel turn. First, he takes a few cheap shots at Derek Jeter during the shortstop's contract negotiations. Then he gets all passive-aggressive to the media regarding management at the Rafael Soriano press conference. Now he's tweaking the captain again, unnecessarily speculating the battle plan for booting Jeter from shortstop at a WFAN breakfast event. If this ends with Cashman super-kicking Hal Steinbrenner through the barber shop window I'm going to be very excited.
  • Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez are teammates again, having signed on with the Rays to entertain the dozens of die-hards in attendance at Tropicana Field in 2011. I was surprised the Yankees didn't take a closer look at Ramirez, until I remembered a) he's an aging doofus of a human and b) he might make Marcus Thames look like Ichiro in the outfield.
  • Some baseball people apparently still believe Andy Pettitte will pitch for the Yankees this season. "Why would he be working out if he's not playing?" I'm conflicted since I already purchased my official Mark Prior jersey.
  • Derek Jeter was reportedly working out in a batting cage on Wednesday. This may be the least newsworthy item of information you will ever come across.
  • Well, besides this. I'm telling you, Hank is going to bring down the Yankees. I'm thinking it will be a power-of-attorney type snafu, like how Paulie lost Stallone's fortune in Rocky V. Man, that movie sucked.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ranking the Most Important Yankees From 1 to 20

Though I seem to get into periodic Twitter fights with the man over the Jets and Patriots, I quite admire Peter Abraham, the former Yankees beat writer for The Journal News who now covers the Red Sox for The Boston Globe.

In honor of PeteAbe and the superlative work he did over at the LoHud Blog and continues to do at Extra Bases, today I'm going to steal borrow one of his gimmicks and give you my list of the 20 most important Yankees in the organization today.

To qualify for the list, the individual must currently cash a paycheck with a New York Yankees insignia on the upper left-hand corner. Are you sure you don't want to be part of this club, Andy Pettitte? Anyway, onto the list and please have your say in the comments section.

1. Hal Steinbrenner: George is gone, but Hal is here, and it should be fascinating to see how he involves himself in the organization as the clear-cut central figure atop the food chain. Channeling his old man, Hal overruled Brian Cashman to bring Rafael Soriano to the Bronx. Was the move an isolated incident or a sign of The Boss 2.0?

2. Robinson Cano: The Core Four looks like it's about to become the decidedly less catchy Core Three, and Cano represents the bridge between the futures past and future. Still only 28, Cano is coming off an MVP-caliber season and figures to be in the middle of Yankee lineups for years to come.

3. Alex Rodriguez: Like Cano, A-Rod will serve as a bridge between the team's past and future, but unlike Cano, Rodriguez will do this on the wrong side of his prime. He is signed through 2017 (thanks Hank), and at 35, he showed signs of decline the past two seasons. His performance in 2011 should be a strong indicator of just how much of an albatross his massive contract will end up being.

4. Derek Jeter: The contract re-up seemed to loom over him for years, and now that it's done — however unpleasantly — the captain can go about the business of cementing his legacy in pinstripes. His value as a player is a question mark at this point — 36-year-old shortstops aren't known to be game-changers — but his role as ambassador and face of the franchise cannot be understated. Like DiMaggio before him, the end of one career will begin another as The Ultimate Yankee™.

5. Brian Cashman: The Soriano drama certainly adds intrigue to Cashman's narrative, especially as he enters the final year of his contract. The general manager since 1998, Cashman threatened to walk away from the team in 2006 when management interfered with how he built the team. Is another ultimatum on its way?

6. Mariano Rivera: The G.O.A.T. turned 41 in November, but he remains the one constant in a sea of continual change for the Yankees. Trevor Hoffman's retirement leaves Rivera just 42 saves away from the all-time record. If he chooses, he could join Jeter as an ambassador for the team after retirement. I'm just not sure if he's ever going to retire.

7. Mark Teixeira: Battling some nagging injuries, Teixeira put together one of the most unimpressive 108-RBI seasons in history then followed that up with another awful postseason that was cut short by a hamstring tear in the ALCS. Like Cano, he's a star player in the midst of his prime. The Yankees will rely on him heavily as they transition at other positions.

8. CC Sabathia: While Teixeira has left Yankees fans exasperated at times in his two years with the team, the same cannot be said for Carsten Charles, who has been as good as advertised in New York. He won 21 games last season, and could have won three more if his bullpen didn't let him down. With the back of the rotation shaping up as a patch-work mess, he will be relied on more than ever in 2011.

9. Phil Hughes: He won 18 games last year, but Hughes' first full season in the rotation felt strangely hollow if you watched him on a start-by-start basis. Like Sabathia, he'll be counted on heavily in a rotation loaded with question marks. At just 24, the best is hopefully yet to come.

10. Jesus Montero: The prize of the Yankees' farm system and ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the league by Baseball America in 2010, Montero was nearly traded away at last year's deadline for Cliff Lee. The catcher will begin the season in Trenton or Scranton, and could earn a promotion to the Bronx if he builds on the second half in Double-A last season. The signing of Russell Martin hints that the Yankees will be patient with their young stud.

11. Joe Girardi: He enters his fourth-season as Yankees manager coming off a postseason where some questionable decision-making put him in the cross hairs of the fan base. That doesn't matter much though when you have the complete backing of the front office, which seems to be the case here. He may not win any personality contests, but personality contests don't exist, so he's all cool on that front as well.

12. A.J. Burnett: He had one of the worst seasons by a starter in Yankees history last year, but when you're in the middle of a five-year, $82 million contract, there's not much a team can do other than gut it out. Burnett has become an afterthought at this point, but he value remains substantial. His fortune in 2011 may mirror the team's.

13. Rafael Soriano: The Yankees gave Soriano closer money to be their setup man, an unorthodox move to say the least. Purported character issues combined with high expectations make you wonder how he'll handle the Bronx. If he thrives, he is Rivera's heir apparent in the ninth inning.

14. Brett Gardner: A GM's dream, Gardner is a low-salary, homegrown player who fills very specific needs for the lineup. Gardner came closer to realizing his potential as a evolutionary Brett Butler in 2010, batting .277 with 47 steals and a .383 on-base percentage. His growth was a primary reason the Yankees didn't chase Carl Crawford this winter.

15. Larry Rothschild: Brought in to replace the terminated Dave Eiland, Rothschild has a big job ahead of him. At the top of that list will be resurrecting the Passion of the Burnett. Cultivating Hughes and getting the most out of projected back-end starters Sergio Mitre and Ivan Nova will be key as well. I hope Larry gets his sleep in the offseason.

16. Randy Levine: A loyal Boss foot soldier, Levine has been president of the Yankees since 2000. His opinion counts, and he seems to have the ear of Hal Steinbrenner. If Hal decides to take a more hands-on role in day-to-day operations, Levine's power will increase as well.

17. Curtis Granderson: Granderson's first Yankee season was a disappointment, but it's not unusual for a marquee player to struggle in his first year in New York (Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez can attest). At 30, he's a candidate for a big bounce back season in 2011.

18. Joba Chamberlain: You can make the argument he doesn't deserve to be on this list, but the one-time golden boy will get one last shot to save his Yankee career in 2011. Will the signing of Soriano signal the death knell of his confidence, or will he use the slight as a motivating force to reclaim his career? I'm as sick of him as you are, but it remains one of the season's juiciest subplots.

19. Damon Oppenheimer/Mark Newman: Oppenheimer, the scouting director, and Newman, the senior vice president of baseball operations, are the brains behind the Yankees' draft and farm strategies. As the Yankees slowly overturn a roster loaded with aging veterans, their decision-making will play a huge role in the franchise's future.

20. Hank Steinbrenner: Though he spends more time at the family's horse farm in Ocala, Fla., these days, Hank is co-chairman of the team with his brother Hal, meaning he has the power to effect the team greatly if given the opportunity. It scares me just typing that.

What are your thoughts? Did I miss anybody? Would love to hear your opinions.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jones, Prior signings make sense for Yankees beyond nostalgia purposes

OK, stop me if you've heard this one...

"So the Yankees signed Mark Prior and Andruw Jones? That would be amazing ... if it was 2004!"

Ugh. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a variation of that joke posted on Twitter this week, I would probably have, easily, $24.

I mean, I get it. I know the fact that the Yankees signed both men during this offseason left the door wide open for this sort of commentary, but come on people. With the AFC title game coming up, can't we cook up some good Ben Roethlisberger-is-a-female-terrorist jokes instead?

I'm not against bad jokes. I love bad jokes. This blog may best be explained as one bad joke. But it's the repetition of this particular bad joke that has me close to a Randy Quaid-level public meltdown.

Prior, of course, was signed back in December to a minor league contract. The Yankees aren't exactly out on a limb here. It's unlikely the right-hander will ever regain the electric stuff that made him a sensation at Wrigley Field, but at just 30, he's young enough where you can justify giving him a shot to resurrect his career.

God knows the Yankees need all the options they can get the way the bottom of their rotation is shaping up. Did you know they have a dude named Sergio in line for 32 starts? It's a known fact that dudes named Sergio are good at only two things: 1) Chasing down tail and 2) Playing extended saxophone solos. Notice quality starts weren't included there.

Jones, meanwhile, is another low-risk/decent reward acquisition. What needs to be understood here is that Brian Cashman—I assume Cashman made this move, but who knows at this point—doesn't expect Jones to hit 51 homers and play Gold Glove center field in the Bronx. Andruw Jones doesn't have to be Andruw Jones anymore -- he just needs to be a defensively-superior version of Marcus Thames.

After you recalibrate the expectations, the move makes a lot more sense.

Now, it's entirely possible Jones shows up in Tampa with the build of Rex Ryan. You cannot discount Andruw Jones' hunger for life, and when I say "hunger for life", I really just mean hunger. Dodgers fans can attest to this...the man had to be airlifted out of Joe Torre's clubhouse three years ago.

But if Jones decides to show discipline and do the twilight of his career right, he can serve an important role in New York while also giving himself a shot to get back on the Hall of Fame radar.

It's easy to forget now, but Jones was a historically good player before the bottom mysteriously dropped out in 2008. As Jon Heyman pointed out on Twitter, Jones is one of only four players to win 10 Gold Gloves and hit 400 homers, joining Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt. That's a fraternity of two jerks and a guy who bawled like a little girl during his retirement press conference, but it's an impressive fraternity nonetheless.

At-bats may seem hard to come by for Jones now, but a fourth outfielder always ends up getting his fair share of PT. Look at Thames, a roster afterthought last spring who ended up appearing in 82 games for the Yankees in 2010.

In closing, Prior and Jones won't decide the Yankees' fate the way a Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, or A.J. Burnett probably will. But they're veterans with a track record. If they can stay upright -- for Prior that means out of the trainer's room and for Jones out of the fridge -- they can be key contributors at a low cost.

And that's why Brian Cashman made these moves. Assuming, of course, Mr. Cashman is still on the grid. Blink twice if you're in danger, Brian.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Joba's Last Stand? Chamberlain entering make-or-break season

The narrative of Joba Chamberlain has shifted so often the past four years that it's easy to forget where it left off from one season to the next.

He's gone from phenom reliever (2007), to promising starter (2008), to struggling starter (2009), to mediocre reliever (2010).

Rafael Soriano's arrival in town tells us the Yankees worry the downward trending isn't temporary. Chamberlain's evolution from vaunted farm product to JAG (Just Another Guy) status is undoubtedly one of the organization's bigger disappointments in recent memory.

There are several conspiracy theories as to how this came to be. A popular explanation is that he was fouled up by the choppy and ill-conceived "Joba Rules." There's a camp that says he never fully recovered from a shoulder injury suffered in August 2008. Others question his self-discipline -- Chamberlain was downgraded from 'husky' to 'doughy' in 2010. Some believe he was nothing more than hype to begin with.

Whatever it is, it doesn't appear Joe Girardi has much use for him at this point. Think back to Game 4 of the ALCS, when the manager left a warmed and ready Joba in the bullpen, sticking with A.J. Burnett to face Bengie Molina with a one-run lead and two on in the sixth inning.

I hate to bring this stuff up to you guys, because you know what happened next: Molina belted the first pitch he saw from Burnett into the seats in left and that was that. The Yankees were toast.

Girardi's decision told you everything you needed to know about where he stood on Chamberlain. The right-hander did eventually enter the game, but only after the outcome was decided. I wrote that night that I thought we had witnessed Joba's final game in pinstripes.

Chamberlain could very well use a change in environment, a fresh start where he can hit the reset button and try this thing again. But given his salary, it's unlikely the Yankees will give up on him just yet.

We learned Tuesday that the Yankees and Chamberlain avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.4 million deal. Chamberlain -- once considered the future ace of the franchise -- will make just $200K more than Boone Logan this season. Ouch.

It's possible that the Yankees may deal Chamberlain for the starting pitching help they so desperately need. But his value is at a low point right now, making a trade for a reputable starter unlikely.

If the Yankees do keep him, there is reason to be hopeful. For the first time in his career, Chamberlain will enter a season without much in the way of expectations. No one views him as a front-end starter anymore. With Soriano's arrival, no one sees him as Mariano Rivera's successor, either.

Maybe being buried in the mix a bit is exactly what he needs at this point in his career. It may not be following the script the Yankees envisioned when he exploded on the scene four years ago, but at least he'll have the opportunity to re-write his story.

The Joba Redemption perhaps?

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thoughts on NY-Boston rivalry, Soriano's temper, and Cashman's future

I'll start today's post with a question. In light of the Jets' River & Sunset-approved upset victory over the Patriots on Sunday, has the New York sports scene wrested back control of the rivalry with its Boston counterpart?

The 2004 Series That Shall Not Be Named was a searing victory for Beantown, a comeback momentous enough that it seemed as if it might change the balance of power between the two cities forever.

The Sox went on to win the World Series that season, then did it again three years later. Additional championships by the Patriots and Celtics kept Boston riding high.

But the pendulum started to swing in New York's favor in 2008, when the Giants knocked off the previously unbeaten Pats in Super Bowl XLII. The Yankees got their swagger back by ending a nine-year title drought in 2009, and now you have the Jets, who took out the heavily favored Pats in their building on Sunday and are on the precipice of their first Super Bowl appearance in 42 years.

What does this all mean? Um, nothing I guess. But if you're a dorky sports fan like me, this is the stupid stuff you obsess over.

Speaking of obsessing, I'm sort of obsessed with finding out what type of reported "character issues" worried the Yankees before they plowed ahead with the Rafael Soriano signing? Was it cheating-on-his-fiance-while-on-the-road kind of character issue or a killed-a-man-with-his-bare-hands-in-the-Dominican-Republic kind of character issue?

Actually, Bill Madden shined some light on the issue in the Daily News on Saturday. It's mildly worrisome. I'll let Bill explain:

Despite his league-leading 45 saves and 1.73 ERA, Soriano was hated by almost everyone in Tampa Bay last year. His periodic hissy-fits over being brought into games in non-save situations, or being asked to pitch more than one inning wore thin on Rays manager Joe Maddon. The final straw was the last game of the season -- Game 5 of the ALDS versus Texas -- when Maddon asked Soriano to pitch the ninth inning with the Rays trailing, 3-1. After throwing a tantrum in the bullpen in front of all his fellow relievers, Soriano trudged into the game and promptly gave up a single to Nelson Cruz and a game-breaking homer to Ian Kinsler.

Ladies in gentlemen, your successor to Mariano Rivera as New York Yankees closer!

Of course, the big picture issue with the Soriano signing -- which, for the record, I had been on board with for a month -- is if it actually tells us anything about a not-so-subtle shift in internal structure of the Yankees.

If the reports are true that this was an executive Hal decision, and that the signing went over Cashman's head (the GM previously told the media he would not give up the No. 1 draft pick it would take to land Soriano or another Type-A free agent), that's a major shift in the narrative of New York's front office.

If you recall, when Cashman agreed to stay with the Yankees following the 2005 season, it came with the assurance that he had final say on all personal moves and that the Tampa vs. New York factions that had splintered the organization would die off.

One move doesn't necessarily mean that Cashman has lost absolute say in how the Yankees are built, but it has to be disconcerting for him as he enters the final year of his contract.

If the Yankees fail to make the playoffs this season, would the Steinbrenners use the failure as a launching point to put a hand-picked general manager in place? Remember, Cashman was George's boy. Could Hal be toying with the idea of a fresh start? It's unlikely, but if Cashman continues to be overridden on player moves, he may walk out by choice.

Keep an eye on this one. It may end up being one of the juiciest subplots of the upcoming season.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pettitte's probable departure shines light on Yankees' curious offseason

If you know where to find the panic button Yankees fans, feel free to press it now.

(Go ahead. Don't be shy. Tilt back the head of that Kevin Maas bust. There it is, in all its resplendent fury. Push it. Good job.)

Your team is officially in serious trouble. I know many believed that was already the case when Cliff Lee chose to sign with the Phillies, but that was premature doom-and-gloom. Lee's cold shoulder was merely a pothole in the Yankees' offseason — something with the potential to do serious damage, but only if other more sinister forces came into play.

The news on Andy Pettitte certainly qualifies as that sinister force. It's like the Yankees hitting the Lee pothole, running down a litter of kittens on the side of the road, then swerving into a black hole of death (also known as third place in the American League East).

The New York Daily News reported on Wednesday night that Pettitte will not begin the 2011 season, and could be ready to call it a career. Buster Olney tweeted that Pettitte starting the season wasn't an option in the first place, since the left-hander hasn't been training.

Not locking down Lee was one thing, but the departure of Pettitte creates a FUBAR scenario on River Avenue. Not even the most optimistic fan can avoid the reality staring them in the face now: The Yankees don't have the horses to contend.

The current rotations of the Red Sox and Yankees (the squeamish may want to look away):

BOS ------------ NYY

Lester ----------- Sabathia
Beckett ----------Hughes
Lackey ---------- Burnett
Buchholz --------Nova
Dice-K -----------Mitreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

(Sorry, I passed out like an 1850s debutante after typing that last name.)

As you can see, we're not looking at a level playing field here. Expect the Yankees to make a push for a Jeremy Bonderman-type to slot into the back end, but as things stand, we have a serious gap in talent. Even the sure-things aren't so sure: Sabathia is coming off knee surgery, Hughes' 18 wins concealed frustrating inconsistency, and Burnett, well, you know all about Burnett.

The only thing going for the Yankees is the weakening of another of the AL East's superpowers. If the Bombers took two steps back, the Rays have taken four. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays were frisky last year, and appear poised to take the next step.

The Yankees' best bet? Hope Toronto and Tampa Bay fizzle and that the Red Sox encounter the same type of injury issues that enveloped them in 2010. But how often does something like that happen in back-to-back years?

With Lee and (presumably) Pettitte out of the picture, a strategy for the Yankees seems to be coming together:

  • Sign Bonderman or Bonderman-type and bump Mitre or Nova out of rotation
  • Sign Andruw Jones/Johnny Damon/Marcus Thames as fourth outfielder
  • Head to camp
  • Open season with flawed team and hope, hope, hope Red Sox don't lap you by June 1
  • If still in running for playoff spot by July, attempt to fortify rotation with blockbuster trade
Not a strategy that inspires the most confidence, is it? It sure seems like the Yankees are hedging their bets. Man, when's the last time you remember that happening?

The 2008 season is now remembered as a "transition year," but that only came in retrospect. The 2011 season seems destined to receive that tag before the team arrives in Tampa.

All of that would be OK if other aspects of the team's offseason didn't stand in such sharp contrast to a "transition" route. The Yankees' two splashiest moves—re-signing their 36-year-old shortstop and 41-year-old closer—were also classic win-now maneuvers.

By retaining their warhorses and not making any additional improvements (sorry, Larry Rothchild for Dave Eiland doesn't count), the whole thing smacks of a team operating as a business model rather than a franchise committed to winning.

Did they not give Lee the seventh guaranteed year because he was 32 and was deemed too much of a risk? Or did they hold back because with Jeter and Mo in the fold, they were going to get their four million fans in the Bronx anyway? In Yankee Universe, is winning beginning to take a back seat to the bottom line? These are real questions that must be asked in the post-Boss world.

The Steinbrenner Doctrine famously stated that every year that ended without a championship was considered a failure. The curious strategy of this offseason makes you wonder if that's really still the case.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Party like it's 1996: Yankees taking hard look at Andruw Jones

If you asked me three years ago where Andruw Jones would be in 2011, I would rattle off a thousand different answers before settling on "A Major League baseball field."

Literally. One thousand different answers. Gas station attendant. Universal Studios tour guide. Dave & Buster's skee ball maintenance man. Grifter. Anything but a big-league ballplayer.

It was three years ago that I last saw him play in person. I was at Dodger Stadium, sitting in the upper deck for an early May matchup between the Dodgers and Astros.

I lived through Carl Pavano. I survived Kenny Rogers. I battled through Danny Tartabull. And I can tell you, I've never seen a fanbase emit vitriol toward a home player that came close to the way Dodgers fans went after Jones.

Maybe it was his close ties to the NL-rival Braves. Maybe it was all those violent gangbangers in the Dodger Stadium crowd. Maybe it was his physical appearance (Jones was visibly overweight, sporting an XXXL-baggy uniform to hide a physique that had gone from John Basedow to Jonah Hill).

Ultimately, it was probably a combination of all those the collective realization that their team had dropped $36 million on a flabby has-been who seemed intent on setting the record for most three-pitch strikeouts. It was that bad.

Jones lost his starting job shortly thereafter, in route to batting an almost unthinkable .158 for the season. Rather than own up to his failures, Jones hit out (at least he hit something), complaining that Dodgers fans "never gave him a chance." After attempting to trade him for a Super Nintendo and bag of beef jerky, Los Angeles admitted defeat the following January, releasing Jones with a year to go on his misbegotten contract.

That's the Andruw Jones I remember. But that's not the way most Yankees fans recall the pride of Curacao.

The majority of Yankee fans hear Jones' name and think back to 1996, when a then 19-year-old rail-thin unknown stole the show in Game 1 of the World Series. He homered twice that game, unseating Mickey Mantle as the youngest player to go deep in the Fall Classic. It was a coming out party for Jones, a night that set the stage for a decade of superstar-level production.

At 33, we know Jones will never be the All-Star he once was with Atlanta. And we can only hope for his sake that he left behind his demons (and KFC Double Down fetish) in Los Angeles.

What you're probably going to get at this point is something in between. That may be good enough for Brian Cashman and the Yankees, who are reportedly interested in bringing Jones aboard as the fourth outfielder.

Jones would essentially fill the role vacated by the deposed Marcus Thames. He'd start against lefties and serve as a pinch-hitter in close-and-late situations. Although Jones isn't half the defensive player he once was—he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves in center field while with the Braves—he's still light years ahead of Thames, who plays the corner outfield positions like a Kardashian sister.

Still, I wonder how Jones would do in New York. It's clear the Dodgers fans got to him—though in fairness, those fans would've gotten to a T-1000 the way they carried on. Still, you have to wonder if he has the mindset to survive a slump in the Bronx.

Then again, Jones is only being asked to fill a part-time role. If he struggles, they'll simply replace him. But you wonder if taking a risk on a fading player is a better idea than simply retaining Thames, who thrived in the role last year.

The Yankees no doubt liked what Thames did with the bat, but they seem to be on the hunt for a more well-rounded player. The question is whether Jones actually fits that mold at this stage in his career.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Damon hoping to write a different ending to his Yankee career

It seems like yesterday that Johnny Damon was the special guest host for WWE's Monday Night Raw, dressed like a Creed roadie and saying things like, "Hey John Cena, that's a real home run of an idea."

It was actually last Dec. 21, and Damon was one of the more sought-after entities on the free-agent market. Fresh off a starring role in a Yankees World Series victory and coming off his 12th straight 140+ game, 90+ run season, the world was Damon's oyster.

What a difference a year makes.

After a (predictable) flop of a season in Detroit, Damon is back on the market looking for work. We've heard whispers all winter that Damon wants back in pinstripes. On Wednesday, Damon's agent, Scott Boras, reiterated the point.

"As Johnny has said he is more than willing to return to New York," Boras told

As incredibly difficult as it may be to believe, Damon, 37, has a legitimate shot to reach 3,000 hits. At 2,571 — and again, let's take a moment to let that soak in — Damon is perhaps three representative seasons away from punching his ticket to Cooperstown.

(That sound you heard was Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmiero and Pete Rose simultaneously slapping their palms against their foreheads.)

It's telling that Damon continues to have interest in the Yankees. If he were to return, it's unlikely he'd receive enough playing time to make a run at 3,000.

Perhaps playing in New York, a place he enjoys and feels comfortable in, is more important to him than reaching the milestone. More likely is the reality that the market for Damon isn't strong—or worse yet, doesn't exist at all — and the veteran is now just hoping to find a soft, familiar landing place as opposed to a non-guaranteed spring invite to some also-ran's camp.

Had Damon been in the same position six or seven years ago, he'd probably have a slew of three-year deals to choose from by now. Back in the PED days, team's didn't think twice about handing over fat checks to established players on the wrong side of 35. Back then, those boys were just getting warmed up!

It's a different story now, as Damon can attest.

The bummer of it all is that Damon should never have left in the first place. His skill-set was almost mathematically calibrated for the new Stadium and he was the perfect No. 2 hitter in that Yankee lineup. Watching him go to Detroit was like watching your buddy head over to the cute brunette at the bar with food stuck between his front teeth. You knew it wasn't going to end well, but you were powerless to stop it.

Now Damon is back, humbled, and perhaps hoping for a do-over on one very bad decision. Re-signing Damon may not make a whole lot of sense for the Yankees at this time, but don't under-estimate the soft spot for everybody's favorite reformed caveman.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.

Monday, January 3, 2011

When Homers Strike: NESN Writer's Heady Take on Red Sox In '11

Being of Generation Y—loosely defined as the segment of the population who saw Jenny McCarthy's botox-ravaged face on New Year's Eve and wondered where the last 15 years went—I've become quite internet savvy.

That means I can filter out much of what doesn't interest me and gravitate toward content that sits on my Mount Rushmore of internet usage: Fantasy sports/real sports/attractive women/Wikipedia. There's nothing I need on a computer screen that doesn't fit one of those four categories.

But the system isn't perfect. Every so often, information manages to slip in through the grid. That's what happened this morning when I happened upon on an article by senior editor Eric Ortiz titled: "2011 Red Sox Will Challenge 1927 Yankees for Title of Greatest Team in Major League History".

To steal borrow a gimmick from the late Fire Joe Morgan, I'll provide commentary on the piece, which can be found in bold. You probably would've been able to deduce this on your own.

Let's do this.


The Red Sox have won 100 or more games three times in their 110-year existence.

Eric Ortiz starts us off with hard facts, as if to lull the audience into a safe feeling that everything he's about to state should be accepted as common knowledge.

They will make it four in 2011.

See what I mean? For a second, I thought it already happened. Eric Ortiz people. The guy's got a plan.

But this team has the potential to accomplish something even bigger than winning 100 games.

Cure cancer? Find Natalee Hollaway? Host an eating contest between Mo Vaughn and Rich Garces?

The last time the Red Sox reached the 100-win mark was 1946, when they went 104-50-2 and lost the World Series to the Cardinals in seven games.

Prior to that, the Red Sox posted 101 wins in 1915 and 105 in 1912. Both seasons ended with World Series titles.

Again with the facts!!!

Will the duck boats be rolling through the streets of Boston again next fall?

Actually Eric, duck boats will be rolling through the streets of Boston next fall regardless of the team's fortunes. It's a lucrative tourist industry for the city. The link's right here!

Bookmakers like the Red Sox’s chances. Current odds put them at 9-2 to win the 2011 World Series. Only the Phillies, at 7-2, are bigger favorites, with the Yankees not far behind at 5-1 shots.

Wait, so bookmakers don't like the Red Sox's chances. They actually like the Phillies' chances. Right?

Championships, of course, aren’t won in January.

But you said...

But championship teams are built during the offseason, and Theo Epstein has put together a roster that would make Branch Rickey proud.

If this is a reference to Mike Cameron, I'm calling racism.

Look at the starting lineup.

Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Carl Crawford, LF
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
J.D. Drew, RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie, SS

Speed. Power. Plate discipline. This lineup has it all. Good luck finding a hole from 1 to 7.

Okay, wish me luck. Ellsbury is coming off an injury-plagued season in which he was misdiagnosed by the team's medical staff as the front office openly questioned his desire to be on the field; Pedroia's brother is a pederast (unwarranted dig); Crawford will be dealing with real expectations for the first time, playing in a ballpark that doesn't suit his skill-set; Gonzalez has played his entire career in a indifferent market that never judged him for a bad April; Youkilis does poorly with women (unwarranted dig No. 2, moving on); Ortiz is 35, on the verge of complete physical breakdown, and "magically" regained his bat speed last summer when it started to look like he wasn't going to get paid; J.D. Drew ... c'mon Eric, really?

Saltalamacchia is a bit of a wild card, but the 25-year-old could be ready for a breakout season.

Also, Andy Stankiewicz could come out of retirement, relegate Derek Jeter to the bench, and hit 74 homers.

And whoever is the starting shortstop — Scutaro or Lowrie — gives the Red Sox one of the toughest No. 9 hitters in the game.

Besides a potent offensive attack, the Red Sox will boast airtight defense, perhaps the best of any team in baseball.

Hmmmm...this all sounds familiar...

Turn to the bench, and manager Terry Francona has plenty of options.

Mike Cameron, OF

One injury away from literally exploding on the field.

Darnell McDonald, OF

May have to sneak into camp like Willy 'Mays' Hayes in Major League.

Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie, INF

Just to recap, we're being told that these two players represent the best No. 9 hitter in the league and an amazing bench component.

Jason Varitek, C

Actually passed away sometime during the 2006 season. Eric is likely referring to the Jason Varitek statue on Yawkey Way.

Youth, experience and versatility will ride the pine like lions waiting to hunt.

So wait, are they going to chase down opponents and eat them alive? Should the bench technically be called a pride? And if so, shouldn't deaf-90s big leaguer Curtis Pride be involved?

Depth won’t be a problem, especially with players like Ryan Kalish, Lars Anderson and Josh Reddick on the farm.

Rule of thumb: Unless he's the drummer for Metallica, don't count on a guy named Lars for anything.

In 2010, the Red Sox scored 818 runs (second-most in the majors), or 5.1 per game. They hit 211 home runs (second in MLB) and posted a .790 OPS (tops in MLB). The offense, with even more weapons now, could demolish those numbers.

I suppose I should jump in here and mention that the Yankees were first in runs with 859.

Yet one run is all it might take to win a game on some days with the starting staff the Red Sox have assembled.

Jon Lester, LHP
Josh Beckett, RHP
John Lackey, RHP
Clay Buchholz, RHP
Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP

Lester is a Cy Young winner waiting to happen.

Ladies and gentlemen, a genuine point! (round of applause)

Beckett will notch more than six victories.

Yes, perhaps even seven!

Lackey should be better equipped to avoid the one-bad-inning syndrome.

This probably could have used further explanation.

Buchholz has become a force.

Not to mention he can get you a steal of a deal on laptops!

And Dice-K might be the best No. 5 starter ever.


The Japanese right-hander is the only pitcher in the rotation who’s never been an All-Star, but this could be the year he ends that streak.

Yes, but most likely this will be another year where he misses extended time with an injury, needs 110 pitches to complete various five inning-starts, and appears to completely disengage from the world around him. In other words, book that flight to the Midsummer Classic!

Every Red Sox starting pitcher has something to prove. While the Phillies might be the popular choice as the best rotation in baseball, don’t be surprised if people are singing a different tune come October.

I know where you're going with this ... Sweeeeet Carolinnnne ... bap BAP BAP!!!

When Red Sox starters have to hand the ball to the bullpen this season, Boston fans won’t have to have to cover their eyes and pray. The weak link in 2010 could be one of the best relief corps in the business.

Tim Wakefield, RHP
Scott Atchison/Matt Albers, RHP
Hideki Okajima, LHP
Dan Wheeler, RHP
Bobby Jenks, RHP
Daniel Bard, RHP
Jonathan Papelbon, RHP

Okajima is the only known left-handed quantity.

He also hasn't gotten anybody out in three years.

But youngster Felix Doubront has talent and should see some action. Rich Hill, Lenny DiNardo and Andrew Miller also could contribute.

Eric's right. No need to cover your eyes and pray anymore! Lenny DiNardo is on the case!

The right-handers in the mix all bring experience and different styles to the fire. Need long relief? Call on Wakefield to disrupt hitters’ timing.

Or to give you advice on acquiring an AARP card.

Need a middle-inning specialist to get key outs? Wheeler knows how to do the job, and Atchison proved serviceable last season. Albers could be a diamond in the rough. Want heat? Jenks and Bard throw seeds.

I wish I could make a make a bet along the lines of, "When will Bobby Jenks blow a two-run eighth-inning lead at Fenway, then go on a postgame rant blasting the fans for not supporting him and calling out the manager for using him incorrectly?" Is May 1 a safe bet? April 15?

Want to turn out the lights? Papelbon is pitching for a contract, so trust he will be ready to show he’s far from washed up.

Yeah, forget that his numbers have been trending downward for two years and that his team pursued Mariano Rivera to replace him in the offseason. There's no way the completely sane and rational Pap could let those things affect him!

Reliability and consistency -- foreign concepts to Boston’s bullpen last season -- will be common words associated with this group.

Every day should feel like Christmas for Curt Young, the new Red Sox pitching coach.

Which is weird, because he's Jewish.

The former A’s pitching coach didn’t have anything close to the horses he has now, and Oakland’s staff posted a 3.56 ERA last season, the best in the American League and fourth-best in the majors. Imagine what he can do with a Grade A collection of arms.

Hear that Trevor Cahill, Dallas Braden, and Gio Gonazelz? You're nothing without Curt Young! You should just retire now! Better yet, you should become Curt Young's cabana boys!

The Red Sox were slated to win about 95 games last year. They won 89 despite injuries to Pedroia (a former MVP) and Youkilis (a possible future MVP). Add them back, along with the new players and a healthy Ellsbury, and 100 wins doesn’t just appear plausible. It seems downright inevitable.

This is how imagine Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock would write if he were a Red Sox fan.

So does a date with history.

The 2001 Mariners won 116 regular-season games to set the American League record for most wins in a single season and tie the 1906 Cubs for the major league record (though the North Siders accomplished the feat in 152 games). Both those teams failed to win the World Series. The Cubs lost to the White Sox in six games in the Fall Classic. The Mariners didn’t even make it that far, falling to the Yankees in five games in the ALCS.

The Red Sox have no intention of suffering a similar fate.

Though he's probably right, this is an assumption.

The way they are constructed, they could surpass the 116-win mark, but nothing less than a World Series title will make Boston happy.

I agree on the second part. This first part I was skeptical about until I remembered Lenny DiNardo was involved.

The 2011 Red Sox possess all the pieces to have a season for the ages. If everything falls into place and the breaks go their way, they could do more than set records and become champions.

I mean, if everything falls into place and the breaks go their way, they could go 173-0. Why not shoot for the stars at this point, Eric?

They could do more than take their place on Immortality Peak and end up being mentioned in the same sentence as legendary clubs of the past: the 1929 A’s, the epic Yankees teams of the ‘30s, the 1970 Orioles, the 1976 Reds.

OK, where the fuck is Immortality Peak and how can I get there? Also, it seemed kind of weird that the 1998 Yankees and their 125 wins aren't mentioned here, but then I realized that they played in the '30s so Eric did mention them. But then I realized that the 1998 Yankees played in 1998, so he actually completely ignored them. Glad I figured that out.

The 2011 Red Sox could accomplish a feat that has never been done. They could unseat the 1927 Yankees as the greatest major league team of all time.

That would be something to celebrate.

Just like this story.

Dan Hanzus writes three columns a week on his New York Yankees site, River & Sunset. He can be reached at He understands that Eric Ortiz is likely a decent guy, and he means no malice. He thanks Mike Idle (@mpidle) for bringing this to his attention. Follow Dan on Twitter @danhanzus.