September 2013

Grading the 2013 Yankees

newyorker.cover2013 – Mo made it a season to remember but if it were not for “number 42″ it would be one I’d love to forget. Here’s how I grade this year’s New York Yankees:

1B Overbay – B: An emergency signing after Teixeira’s WBC wrist injury, I did not expect much from Overbay offensively so the fact that he produced all those big hits was indeed a pleasant surprise. Still, I think Cashman could have done better than this guy.

2B Cano – A: Just the fact that he was one of the few regulars to stay healthy for the full season made him this year’s Yankee MVP. His offense went up a notch as soon Granderson and A-Rod got back and Soriano was acquired to give him some protection. Definitely the best player on a bad Yankee team and still the best second baseman in baseball, but if the reports are true that he wants $300 million for ten years to remain in NY I would not make the deal.

SS Nunez – C: His offense was horrible at the beginning of the year and then after getting hurt, his bat picked up but his defense went down the tubes. He may have finally convinced Yankee brass he’s not the best choice for Jeter’s successor.

3B Youklis-to-A-Rod – F: Horrible move by Cashman to let Chavez walk and then sign Youklis, bad back and all.

C Stewart & Romine – D -: Another horrible decision by Yankee front office to let Russell Martin go to Pittsburgh and try to save a few dollars at one of the most important positions in all of sports. Though I respect and like the guy a lot, Stewart would have trouble hitting .250 in a Little League. Only bright spot was Romine’s growing confidence at the plate as season went on.

OF Wells – C -: Another poor move by Cashman. When deal was announced and Yankee Media Dept stressed how much of Wells’ salary the Angels would be paying for the next two seasons, I knew what it was all about. Another example of Yanks trying to be clever with their bucks instead of doing what they needed to do to fill holes in their lineup. Wells started out strong but quickly fell back to form.

OF Gardner- B: Second most productive player in this year’s lineup but certainly not a guy who can carry the offense for long stretches and the fact that he’s ending this year on the DL once again is an indication he may be too injury prone to depend on long term.

OF Suzuki – C+ – I didn’t want Yanks to sign this guy for two years but it sounded like they had to, to get him back. Whatever, the reason, he is nothing but a good fourth outfielder at this stage of his career and Yanks already have too many of those.

DH Hafner – D – Again an example of Cashman trying to prove how clever he is instead of truly filling holes in his lineup. Yanks could have re-signed Ibanez or grabbed Soriano from the Cubs much earlier.

Soriano – A-, Granderson- C, A-Rod-C, Reynolds-C+, Nix-B

Starting Pitching – C+: Sabathia had worst year of his career; Kuroda, ended up being the no-better-than .500 winning percentage guy he’s been all along; Hughes was unbearable;  Nova and Pettitte ended up being the two best starters down the stretch.

Bullpen – B+: Mo wasn’t perfect but he was better than good. Robertson was too. Logan did well but should not pitch against righties. Claireborn showed promise, Kelley faded after a strong start and Joba may be ruined forever.

Manager – B: Joe Girardi – I was going to give him an A- but his team folded up on him down the stretch. He does deserve a new contract from the Steinbrenner’s though.

What really bothers me is the fact that no Yankee prospects emerged during a season when doing so was absolutely necessary. Not a single young pitcher or position player in the entire organization took advantage of the bountiful opportunities to step up and fill holes at the big league level.

GM – Brian Cashman – D- – The future is here and it sure don’t look pretty and this is the guy most responsible. The deals he didn’t want to make for the two Soriano’s ended up being two of the better deals the Yankees made since they won it all in 2009.

My final observation: Injuries kept Yanks out of postseason this year. Despite a slew of bad front-office moves, if the Yanks had any combination of Jeter, Granderson and Teixeira in their lineup for a full season they would probably have at least sneaked into postseason with a wild card spot. They should have re-signed Russell Martin and Erik Chavez. CC Sabathia’s drop off was a devastating blow to this team’s starting pitching as was Phil Hughes year-long ineptness and Hiroki Kuroda’s late season collapse. Its now too late to trade Hughes or Joba and Yanks won’t end up getting a draft choice for either.

As horrible as this season was for the Yankees, Yankee fans like myself will always remember it as being Mariano Rivera’s final year in pinstripes. It has been a privilege and an honor to watch this guy get the last three outs of so many Yankee victories for all these years. He was the best closer in baseball during his playing days, the very best there ever was and I honestly feel no one will ever come along who will do that very difficult job any better than this guy has done it for my favorite baseball team. So long Mo! I admired the way you performed on the field and the way you lived your life off of it.

September 27 – Happy Birthday Tal Smith

tal.smithTal Smith applied for his first job in baseball in 1960, when he was 27-years-old. He interviewed for an open position in the front office of the Cincinnati Reds with Gabe Paul, who happened to be the team’s GM at the time. Paul did not hire him. He told Smith the reason was he did not know shorthand, but three months later the eager exec-wannabe returned having mastered the skill and an impressed Paul gave him a job. Thus began a long association and friendship between the two men.

Two years later, Paul was hired as GM of the newly formed Houston Colt 45s and again hired Smith to assist him. Though Paul remained in Texas for just a few short months before accepting the GM job in Cleveland, Smith stayed in Houston for over a decade, serving in a variety of front office positions and gaining a level of knowledge and experience that would make him one of the more respected executives in the game.

Before George Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees, he had been very close to purchasing the Indians and during the negotiation process, he had developed a fondness for Gabe Paul. When his offer for the Tribe was refused Steinbrenner called Paul and told him to keep his ears open for news of other big league owners that might want to sell. A few weeks later, Paul called “the Boss” and told him CBS wanted to dump the Yankees.

Though he had been promised the Presidency of the Yankees by Steinbrenner once the deal had been consummated, Paul did not completely trust the new owner. He therefore attempted to staff the Yankee front office with people he could trust and one of the first guys he brought to the Bronx as his de-facto GM in 1973 was Smith. The two men spent the next couple of years engineering a series of trades that brought the Yankees back to postseason play.

I had always thought that the reason Smith left New York to accept the GM’s position with Houston in August of 1975 was that he could not get along with the unpredictable Steinbrenner. As we learned later, Gabe Paul hated working for “the Boss” so I assumed his close friend Smith did as well. But years later, when Steinbrenner passed away, some of the most glowing tributes of him came from none other than Tal Smith. Still working in the Houston front office at the time, he spoke of the Yankee owner’s persistent and unpublicized generosity with all sorts of individuals and causes. The truth probably was that Smith loved the City of Houston, loved the Astros and didn’t at all mind removing himself from a job that had him answering to two egomaniacs in Steinbrenner and Paul.

He would remain associated with the Astros on and off for the next 35 years. He also became a sports industry entrepreneur. In 1981, he formed the Houston-based Tal Smith Enterprises, a firm which specialized in the preparation and presentation of salary arbitration cases. The company has done work for 26 different big league teams.

The only other member of the Yankee family born on this date is this one-time reliever.

September 26 – Happy Birthday Bobby Shantz

One of three pitchers to have played for the Yankees and won the MVP award, southpaw Bobby Shantz was a 24-game winner for the 1952 Philadelphia A’s who thought his career was over the following season when he blew out his left elbow. He suffered through four more pain-filled seasons with the A’s, pitching when he could and gradually regaining arm strength. By the time he was sent to the Yankees as part of a ten-player 1957 pre-season swap, Shantz was ready to resume his career as a starter.

It just so happened that Yankee ace, Whitey Ford, developed his own sore arm in 1957 so when Shantz started that season going 9-1 for New York, he became the toast of the Big Apple. He finished that year with an 11-5 record and led the league with a 2.45 ERA. The diminuitive 5 foot 6 inch Shantz stayed in Pinstripes for the next four seasons, gradually becoming Casey Stengel’s best reliever.

Yankee Universe’s memory of this little southpaw would be a lot brighter if the infield at old Forbes Field had been groomed more professionally. The Yankees had quickly fallen behind in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series, when Bob Turley and Bill Stafford gave up four early runs to the Pirates.  Stengel then put Shantz in the game in the third inning. He pitched shutout ball until Bill Virdon’s eighth inning grounder to short caromed off a stone that shouldn’t have been there, causing it to take a crazy hop into Tony Kubek’s Adam’s apple and turn a sure double play into a rally starting infield single. If Kubek makes that play Shantz’s pitching performance would reside right up there in the pantheon of outstanding moments in Yankee history. Instead, we got a real-life reenactment of David using a stone to kill Goliath and Mazeroski’s bronze statue stands outside of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.

Its also too bad Virdon didn’t hit that ball to Shantz, instead. Bobby was a seven-time Gold Glove winner during his career. Bobby was born on September 26, 1925, in Pottsown, PA. Happy 86th birthday Bobby.

Stengel and his pitching coach, Jim Turner perfected the role of spot starter during their Yankee tenures. They used Johnny Sain, Shantz, Duke Maas, Bob Turley and Jim Coates to near perfection in that dual role and each of them helped New York make it to at least one World Series. By the way, Spud Chandler and Roger Clemens were the other two pitchers who won MVP Awards and also played for the Yankees. Chandler was the only one of the three to win the award as a Yankee.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1957 NYY 11 5 .688 2.45 30 21 6 9 1 5 173.0 157 58 47 15 40 72 1.139
1958 NYY 7 6 .538 3.36 33 13 7 3 0 0 126.0 127 52 47 8 35 80 1.286
1959 NYY 7 3 .700 2.38 33 4 14 2 2 3 94.2 64 33 25 4 33 66 1.025
1960 NYY 5 4 .556 2.79 42 0 21 0 0 11 67.2 57 24 21 5 24 54 1.197
16 Yrs 119 99 .546 3.38 537 171 192 78 15 48 1935.2 1795 817 726 151 643 1072 1.260
KCA (8 yrs) 69 65 .515 3.80 220 124 55 61 11 11 1166.2 1132 535 492 95 424 566 1.334
NYY (4 yrs) 30 18 .625 2.73 138 38 48 14 3 19 461.1 405 167 140 32 132 272 1.164
STL (3 yrs) 12 10 .545 2.51 99 0 61 0 0 15 154.1 114 56 43 15 44 129 1.024
PIT (1 yr) 6 3 .667 3.32 43 6 16 2 1 2 89.1 91 38 33 5 26 61 1.310
PHI (1 yr) 1 1 .500 2.25 14 0 3 0 0 0 32.0 23 10 8 1 6 18 0.906
CHC (1 yr) 0 1 .000 5.56 20 0 9 0 0 1 11.1 15 7 7 2 6 12 1.853
HOU (1 yr) 1 1 .500 1.31 3 3 0 1 0 0 20.2 15 4 3 1 5 14 0.968
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/26/2013.