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New York Yankees

Can Kobe Bryant’s exit echo Derek Jeter’s?

As his latest and greatest of his opposite field singles dribbled into the hands of Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis on Thursday night, Derek Jeter rounded first base as his neck snapped to his left. He stared with rapt attention as pinch runner Antoan Richardson raced home and barely beat out Markakis’s laser throw from 250 feet out. Jeter had singled home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, ending his career at Yankee Stadium with a walk-off, opposite field single in the clutch. No, there was nothing really on the line here except for a meaningless late September win. However, one of the greatest competitors in the history of North American professional sports left the stage on his own two feet as a walk-off winner with a hit that exemplified his entire career.
 
Now, let’s pay no nevermind to the fact that Jeter played both Saturday and Sunday in Boston, though his last at-bat yesterday was an infield single. What the Yankees shortstop will always be remembered for is surely his grand finale at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. As the latest major market sports star retires after a glittering career, it brings into clear focus the same exact scene we could be seeing two years from now when our own Kobe Bryant hangs up his sneakers for good.
 
(More at SS&R)

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Trade Analysis: Masahiro Tanaka to the New York Yankees

New York Yankees get: SP Masahiro Tanaka on a seven year, $155 million dollar deal
 
The long Masahiro Tanaka courtship ended today, with the Bronx Bombers coming away with his services. New York pried him away from his Japan League club with, what else? The biggest free agent contract ever given to a right-handed pitcher (also the allure of the New York Yankees most likely had something to do with it). The Bombers were just one of the big market teams vying for this unproven hurlers services, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox also submitting bids, along with smaller market teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Rockets getting in the scrum.
 
At the end of the entire process, the money and years seemed too enticing for Tanaka and his group to turn down, especially given that he can opt-out of his contract after the fourth year, making him a free agent yet again at the prime age of 29. Still, this is a massive pact for ANY player, let alone one that has never thrown a regular season pitch in MLB. I sent out an e-mail to fellow MAMBINO founder BockerKnocker to get his take on the signing.
 
BockerKnocker: Overall, I’m pretty happy with the deal.
 
From a business standpoint, it obviously would have been nicer to get under $189 million (the luxury tax threshold), especially since we don’t have to pay A-Fraud’s cap number now. But as a fan, I like that we offered Tanaka the most money, since most of our grumblings in the recent past had to do with killing the competitiveness of the team just to save on taxes. This shows that it’s not just about the taxes. We are at least under the presumption that spending will be smart but not cheap. (Key word is presumption, since Ellsbury and Beltran were clearly overpayments). Is he worth more than 22 milly a year? Probably not, even if he’s considered a top-of-the-line guy. But our pitching needed this boost, and we weren’t going to find a Kershaw anywhere else in the near future.… Read more...

Trade Analysis: Jacoby Ellsbury to the New York Yankees

(Last night, Jacoby Ellsbury was signed to a massive, 7-year, $153 million dollar deal to play for the New York Yankees. Living in NYC, I have more than my fair share of Pinstripe Fan friends, none of which were overly thrilled with the proceedings. Here are my thoughts, as well as MAMBINO contributor El Miz, whose words were culled from no less than half a dozen e-mails)
 
KOBEshigawa: I’m confounded by this signing. Still, I’m trying to find reason in the seemingly unreasonable.
 
Ellsbury’s still a great defensive outfielder and often capable of being spectacular. He’s the lead-off hitter that Brett Gardner might not ever be (though he’s shown flashes at times) and certainly won’t ever blossom as while as a Yankee. Ellsbury is still an elite base stealer (52 for 56 this season), though truthfully I can’t say whether he’s more of a skillful base stealer or just a burner–I haven’t seen him play enough. Still, he might be one of these intellectual runners that still swipes 20+ bags into his late thirties, a la Kenny Lofton or Rickey Henderson. Again, if I were to watch him more, I could probably have a better informed decision.
 
With the bat, it looks like he’ll never be a 20-30 homer guy after that one extremely fluky year, but it’s clear to me that as long as his speed stays with him (at least for another two or three years), he can still be a 30 double threat. He’s got a fairly solid batting eye, doesn’t strike out a ton and generally seems to be a hard worker. On top of everything else, his injury history has been largely contact injuries: broken ribs that were exacerbated by playing while still injured (due to a bad misdiagnosis) in 2010 and a dislocated shoulder after a collision on a slide in 2012
 
The world is of course comparing this deal to Carl Crawford’s record contract with the Red Sox that is both similar in size (7 years, $142 million) and potential for disaster. I’m not sure I buy it completely. For his entire career, it’s obvious that Crawford’s game was contingent on his athleticism. He was a fast runner, but never an efficient base stealer; he was a pretty good hitter, but it was probably because of his speed that he hit over 100 triples in Tampa; he had a good batting eye, but never a spectacular one. Ellsbury, unlike Crawford, is a better baseball player. Crawford was a better athlete. Big difference. Ellsbury will age better into his deal, I presume, than his counterpart has.
 
That being said…… Read more...

Kobe Bryant and Derek Jeter: Mirroring one another from beginning to end

The story has been the same for years: if Kobe Bryant nails a game winning shot or Derek Jeter gets a walk-off RBI, the sports world at large shudders in disappointment. Two of the greats in their respective games, reviled by a vocal majority but loved by a passionate fan base of millions, are also two of the easiest players to root against. At this point, there’s really no debate as to whether either man is a Hall of Famer–those honors were cemented years ago. What’s left are simply more records to topple and fellow legends to surpass. They play for the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Yankees, the two lumbering giants in their respective sports. For years, I’ve been saying that there should hardly ever be a case in which the Lakers and Yankees fan bases should be rooting against one another–in so many ways they’re two sides of the same golden coin. Championships are the expected standard and anything short of those lofty heights is considered a monumental failure season upon season. Superstars and sporting luminaries dot the periphery of both franchises, with Bryant and Jeter being just the latest in an endless line of dozens. The Lakers and Yankees operate on very much the same level, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, so it should be to the surprise of no one that the two latest and greatest of their stars mirror one another to great lengths.
 
The parallels run deep between Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant and New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, so much so that I’m amazed more isn’t made of their remarkably parallel careers.
 
After a cup of coffee during the 1995 season, Jeter started his first full year with the Yankees in 1996, just two months before Kobe Bryant was selected 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft and subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. There’s little doubt that Kobe’s rookie year was a smashing success; though he failed to finish in the top-5 of Rookie of the Year voting (outpaced by winner Allen Iverson and then by such names as Antoine Walker, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury and Kerry Kittles. For real.), he did garner a place on the All-Rookie Second Team, as well as play a supporting role on a Lakers squad that went to the second round of the playoffs. Bryant did all of this, mind you, as an 18 year-old. What were you doing at that age? Graduating high school? Kobe was throwing down 22 points on the Portland Trailblazers in the first round.
 
Even as Bryant had a solid rookie campaign, Jeter went on to have one of the greatest rookie campaigns in league history. After throwing down a .314 average and seizing the Rookie of the Year award, the fresh faced shortstop led the Yankees in the postseason with a remarkable 22 hits in just 15 games. The Bombers would win their first championship in 18 years that October, thanks in no small part to their rookie sensation. Derek Jeter was just 22 years old.
 
On the hardwood, Kobe’s wait for his first chip was only four seasons, but for him, it felt like an eternity. By the time the 1999-2000 season rolled around, Bryant had met three painful postseason exits despite being part of an extremely talented Lakers team built around world beater Shaquille O’Neal. As hard as it is to believe, Kobe had come up empty in his first postseason–quite literally. The Black Mamba-to-be had airballed four times in an elimination game against the eventual Western Conference champion Utah Jazz in 1997. A year later, the Lakers made it all the way to the C… Read more...

Bronx Tales: With Derek Jeter down, what’s next for the Yankees?

KOBEsh: Derek Jeter out until at least after the All-Star break, if not longer. Vin, where do the Bombers go from here?
 
Vin: Not much of the following will actually answer your question as posed. This is for two reasons, one simple and one so complex even I can’t fully understand it.
 
The simple reason is that it’s not a very hard question to answer. The Captain was supposed to be back by Opening Day. Then he was estimated to be back by sometime in early to mid April. Then people began to accept that he wouldn’t be back until May. Now all we know is the vague and terrifying “sometime after the All-Star break.” But the “next step” for the Yanks never changed with these shifting timetables: Eduardo Nunez needs to fill in for Jeter as the everyday shortstop, just as he did when Jeter went on the DL close to the pinnacle of his 3,000 hit chase in 2011. The Yanks don’t have any other options really, either in house or elsewhere, besides Jayson Nix (and he’ll only get a chance if Nunez proves too error prone with the glove, which I’m less worried about because he’s been solid so far this year).
 
Nunez has always shown potential with the glove, just not consistency, so it’s not as if he can’t do it. And it seems that being at the same position everyday and knowing he will be there indefinitely is helping him to relax. Bottom line: quality major league shortstops are rare. The Yankees are fortunate to have Nunez, who’s struggled at the plate so far this year but whose track record leads one to believe he can produce as an average major league SS, as the next step.
 
The complex reason is that my usual flourish of wordiness above aside, I don’t really care what the Yankees next step is without Jeter. That was the thing I was worried about second most when I got the news Jeter was going back to see his ankle specialist on Thursday, but in a way that the thing you worry about second most when your house burns down is not having a suit for work the next day.
 
The thing I was preoccupied with is what this means for Derek Jeter’s career going forward.… Read more...

Bronx Tales: A-Rod digging himself deeper

Let’s get straight to it. From NYtimes.com:
 

Former employees of a now-shuttered South Florida anti-aging clinic and others who had ties to it have told Major League Baseball that the Yankees’Alex Rodriguez arranged to purchase documents from the clinic to keep them out of the hands of baseball officials, according to two people briefed on the matter.

 
Vin. My man. Thoughts?
 

  1. This is so predictable and pathetic. In fact, I predicted the unnamed player referenced in espn.com’s original article this morning was A-Rod in an email titled “A-Rod is a piece of trash”. Not that that makes me Nostradamus.
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Bronx Tales: Are the surprising contributors here to stay?

KOBEsh: Just a handful of games into the season, the Yankees are doing just about as well can be expected considering all the injuries that sent NY into scramble mode: hovering around .500. But also just like we suspected, the Yanks have had a difficult time scoring runs, topping 4 for the first time on Sunday in a 7-0 explosion against the Tigers.
 
However, there’s been some surprising developments: the two Yanks hit leaders do not include 2B Robinson Cano or OF Brett Gardner. They’re DH Travis Hafner and OF Vernon Wells.
 
Vin, have you seen anything in their ABs to suggest that this might be a sustainable model? Can they keep the boat afloat while Granderson, TeIxeIra and Jeter get back?
 
Vin: As you say, before Robinson Cano’s big game (3/4, 2 HR, 4 R) in the Yanks’ 11-6 pounding of the Tribe yesterday, the young season’s few offensive highlights more or less belonged to Kevin Y (still refusing to type out Youkilis over and over and will not use his Boston given nickname), Money Earnin’ Vernon, Travis Hafner, Francisco Cervelli, and even Lyle Overbay who had a big 2 out hit in the Yanks’ first win.  Cano got off to a rough start, Ichiro has been silent, Gardner hasn’t hit and is 0/2 is stolen base opportunities and Nunez hasn’t done much.
 
Is this a sustainable model?  No. Eventually the guys who the Yanks are depending on will need to start contributing because they can’t expect all those other guys to keep shouldering the load.  As Cano showed yesterday, he’s not someone they need to be concerned with. Hopefully Ichiro picks it up and starts looking more like 2013 Yankee Ichiro than 2012-2013 Mariner Ichiro.  Gardner doesn’t have a long track record, but I expect him to start getting on base more frequently and swiping some bags.  Nunez should still provide pop from time to time.… Read more...

AL East Preview: 5 Team Toss-Up

If the Tampa Bay Rays won the division, would you be surprised? With reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price towing the line, TB does what they’ve done every year since 2008: reload, relock and fire all over again. Starting pitchers Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Roberto “Don’t Call Me Fausto….Wait, I Made Up a Fake Name and I Chose Fausto?” Hernandez do what Matt Garza, James Shields, Wade Davis, and a half dozen others have done before them–step up, fill the new free agent void and dominate. The offense cobbles together enough runs with 3B Evan Longoria providing the middle order pop and OF Desmond Jennings and OF Wil Myers enjoying breakout seasons. The bullpen is put together with spit and dental floss (again), but somehow, pitching coach Jim Hoey and King Emperor manager Joe Maddon make it work. The Rays win their fourth playoff berth in six seasons, and their third division title.
 
If the Boston Red Sox won the division, would you be surprised? After a winter expunging the locker room sewage that took down a 90-win 2011 season, the Sox ride a resurgent Jon Lester, Clay Bucholz, Ryan Dempster and John Lackey to the AL East crown, in spite of a offense that’s slightly above average, at best. The reason for it being even above par? OF Jacoby Ellsbury and 2B Dustin Pedroia look like a MVP candidates again, rookie outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is the ROY and 3B Wil Middlebrooks enjoys a fully healthy season. Yes, the Red Sox miss DH David Ortiz, OF Shane Victorino and 1B Mike Napoli for large chunks of time to the DL (at their age, is it unexpected?), but the younger performers are able to keep them afloat. Despite the baggage of 2011 and 2012, Boston remembers they’re not too far removed from a 90+ win season, September collapse aside. They’re not heads and shoulders better than the other teams, but good enough to survive the gauntlet of the AL East.… Read more...

Bronx Tales: Vernon Wells, Savior? Probably Not.

KOBEsh: My girlfriend’s favorite non-Yankee player of the last two decades is Vernon Wells.
 
She’s not nearly as excited about this as she would have been 10 years ago.
 
Gentlemen, this trade has been universally panned, stating both the financial ramifications of the deal, as well as the fact that Vernon Wells just isn’t very good. Of course, we still don’t know what the Yankees are getting in return, nor do we know exactly what the monetary distribution All that being said, let’s riff on this. Mizzy?
 
El Miz: It’s funny to me all of this analysis without knowing the CBA metrics. To me, that is the only way to analyze this trade. If the Yankees get a tax credit and basically get a player for the 25 man roster for free in 2014, this is a good move. I’ll reserve judgment since NY could still bring up OF Melky Mesa, have him for the league minimum and use the difference (prob 1.7M) elsewhere.
 
That all being said, if the Yankees are paying wells $6.5 m in 2014, no joke Cashman should be fired because that’s god awful.
 
Vin: Miz texted me yesterday “want to guess how much Angels are going to pay NYY for Wells’ deal?”. At the time I was in a long car ride and had no access to any info on the trade other than getting a text. Not knowing what his AAV was or how much money was left on the deal overall, I texted back that the Yanks would be crazy to pay anything more than $3 for 2013. At the time, I was just assuming that he only had one year left and only a year left on his deal–after all, taking on even a dollar of his deal for 2014 after the way NYY executed the last offseason would be malpractice.
 
Obviously since then I have pretty much followed your guys’ thoughts; at one point (when we thought it was $6.5M for two years) it looked like either this deal was either a) forced on Cashman by a now panicking Randy Levine and Hal Steinbrenner combo and the GM should quit before making it or b) Cashman should be fired on the spot for pulling off an illogical deal. Thank God the latter didn’t turn out to be the case.… Read more...

Bronx Tales: Can the Yankees survive a season without Teixeira? What do they do now?

KOBEsh: The news came out a couple days ago that Mark TeIxeIra’s injury could be much more severe than originally thought–like “season ending” more severe. With an injury as complex as his, there’s no reason to suspect that he’ll be able to get in more than 300 at-bats..and that might be on the optimistic side.
 
That being said, can the Yankees survive with Eduardo Nunez, Juan Rivera and Dan “Only Good on the Last Day of the Season” Johnson getting anywhere between 300 and 500 at-bats? Or maybe more?
 
Moreover, do the Yankees have to make a trade now? What type of players would they be targeting? Or are they going to look more towards a free agent signing in the Scott Rolen, Derrek Lee, Carlos Lee mold?… Read more...