By Brett Malamud
MLB free agency is upon us. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll preview teams around the Major Leagues, and give you a look at what to expect. We start off with my team, the New York Yankees
The Yankees will not see too many losses this offseason, losing just Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew and Chris Young to free agency. I see all three in different uniforms in 2016.
With Mark Teixiera and Greg Bird (who should and will start the season at AAA) at first base, Didi Gregorius at Shortstop, and Chase Headley at third base (and of course Alex Rodriguez at DH/3B), the Yankees are pretty set at the infield positions. I will say that they need “could use” an improvement at second base. They don’t NEED one. With Jose Pierla traded to the Padres earlier today, I’d look to use the 25 year old Rob Refsnyder at second base as the Yankees look towards the future. Brendan Ryan is going to be 34 years old on opening day, and should stay as a utility infielder. The argument for Ben Zobrist is intriguing but he’s going to turn 35 next year. I’d only take him on a two year deal. Today’s trade of Pierla does open up a spot for him though.
There aren’t really any holes in the outfield either. The Yankees have Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Dustin Ackley, plus Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott locked in the outfield. If I were the Yankees, I don’t think that I’d trade Gardner, as he represents the leader of the clubhouse after Derek Jeter’s retirement. But, it was reported Wednesday morning that Brian Cashman discussed trading Gardner with the Seattle Mariners. It’s not a big surprise as the Yankees look to trim payroll and Gardner has three years at $39.5 million left on his contract. Speaking of the Mariners, an interesting NY Post column on Tuesday questioned whether the Yankees could trade a hefty Ellsbury contract and a prospect northwest to Ellsbury’s hometown team (Although he’s really from Oregon), for the hefty contract of Robinson Cano. Boy, would that change things. I don’t really see that happening because Seattle is in “win-now” mode, but an interesting idea none the less. If the Yankees were to go out and trade Jacoby Ellsbury though, I’d welcome it. The Yankees could however trade one of their outfielders, and make room to sign Justin Upton, who’d be a great addition to the team and would succeed in Yankee Stadium. On the other hand, the team just acquired outfielder Aaron Hicks from the Minnesota Twins, trading away catcher J.R. Murphy. Hicks was a .256 hitter with 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases. Clearly this is an acquisition of a right handed hitter to replace Chris Young. I like the move, as it gives the Yankees a great defensive player in Hicks. Not much to change, but acquiring an outfielder would be ok with me.
The Yankees do need some pitching. Yes, their bullpen is good, but it can always improve. The reports of Brian Cashman being open to trading Andrew Miller are definitely true, because other than Severino, a guy who I really wouldn’t trade for anything, no player is un-tradable. (See side note below)
Side note: One of the things that I’d like you, the readers, to take away is that General Managers have hundreds of discussions with other GM’s over the course of the season. Many of these do not turn into actual trades, and so hearing that a name was discussed doesn’t really mean much. That’s because every name is discussed, whether the GM wants to trade him or not. That’s how Josh Donaldson got traded to the Blue Jays last season. Do you really think that over 17 years, Cashman was never approached to discuss trading Derek Jeter? Of course he was. He just never traded him. So when we hear these names dropped over the next few months, just remember that every name has been discussed.
Ok back to the pitchers market. If Miller is traded, I’d slide Delin Betances into the closer role and go after Cincinnati Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman. Chapman and Betances would make for a deadly combo. But I like the Betances-Miller combo right now so I’m not so quick to trade the closer. Then we get to the starters. Masahiro Tanaka is the ace and he is going to stay. So is Michael Pineda and Luis Severino. Then there’s CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, and Ivan Nova. There is room for improvement and I will immediately look at David Price, and not Zack Greinke. They’ll both go for a lot of money, but what’s the defining factor for me? The draft pick compensation. By signing Greinke, the Yankees would have to forfeit their first round draft pick. With Price, they won’t have to surrender anything because Price was traded mid-season. So if you’re the Yankees, why sit back and wait till next offseason to get a starter? One of the best is right in front of them, so they should definitely get their feet in the door. Jeff Samardzija’s name has been raised in possible Yankee targets. My personal favorite option comes out of our nations capital (and no, I’m not talking about Bryce Harper, who many have already declared a future Yankee in 2019). I’m talking about Stephen Strasburg. Well why would the Nationals get rid of Strasburg, you might ask. Well, the former number one overall pick will become a free agent at the end of the 2016 season. His agent, Scott Borus, has been known to take his players into the open market. Why not test drive Strasburg for a year before making a decision on him and overpaying? Strasburg to the Yankees would be an interesting acquisition and shouldn’t go overlooked. All in all, the Yankees should mostly be looking at pitching for this offseason.
Brett Malamud is an English Rhetoric Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy
By Dan Lagnado
- The returns
Everybody in Mets world knows about the imminent return of Matt Harvey. In fact, he’s progressing very nicely and is scheduled to face hitters for the first time on Thursday. Sandy Alderson said that Harvey’s workload this spring will be 90-95% of what it would be on any other year and he has not ruled out Harvey pitching 200 innings this year. But Harvey is not the only Mets pitcher to be coming back from Tommy John surgery. Closer Bobby Parnell also went under the knife after getting injured on Opening Day of 2014. He is expected to make his return by the end of April, giving the Mets a potentially dominant bullpen with the ability to strike out the world. Harvey and Parnell, two hard throwing pitchers in positions of maximum importance (ace and closer), are ready to help pitch the Mets back into contention.
- Dillon Gee moving to the bullpen
With the return of Harvey as mentioned above, the Mets are faced with a unique problem: too many starting pitchers. With Harvey as the headliner, the Mets have six quality starters (Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee) as well as at least two more waiting in the wings in Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Matz. As a result of this, Gee appears to be headed to the bullpen. This will require an adjustment for the 28-year-old Gee, who has served as a starter for his entire career. It is likely he will serve as a long reliever, so that the Mets can keep him stretched out for when Harvey needs to skip an outing to rest his elbow (or barring any injury to another starter). That said, he will need to be ready to be called upon at a moment’s notice and his adjustment to life in the ‘pen will be noteworthy.
Some people may be surprised I made it this far without mentioning the biggest hole in the lineup in the Mets lineup. Wilmer Flores is currently penciled in as the starter with Ruben Tejada to be the backup. While the situation is extremely likely, neither of these assumptions is set in stone. The team has said that prospect Matt Reynolds will see a good deal of time at shortstop during Spring Training. While Reynolds may not be ready this season (he spent only half a year in Triple-A), the team may feel much more comfortable with the position going forward if he impresses them in spring training. He won’t be starting on Opening Day but Tejada may find himself looking over his shoulder at Reynolds.
- Eric Campbell as a catcher
This is a weird one. Eric Campbell served as a utility infielder/outfielder/bench player for the Mets last season after Josh Satin couldn’t get the job done. He reported to Port St. Lucie this spring with the intention of adding catcher to his increasing positional repertoire. At this point, it isn’t clear whether or not this is for the sole purpose of fulfilling the role of “emergency catcher” or if Campbell is using this to earn more playing time as a potentially regular backup to Travis d’Arnaud. If he does opt to make the positional change more serious, he could open a roster spot for another player. If Campbell serves as backup to d’Arnaud and utility defender, the Mets would not need Anthony Recker and instead could opt to carry a player like Dilson Herrera or Matt den Dekker, who each earned a cup of coffee with the Mets in 2014, but will likely will be left off the Opening Day roster in 2015.
- Left-handed reliever competition
The Mets have expressed interest in trying to carry a second left-handed reliever to complement Josh Edgin. However, with Gee in the bullpen and Parnell returning, they are somewhat short on space. That said, I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson and believe that they find a way to bring two lefties to D.C. for Opening Day. The leading candidate is Sean Gilmartin, the team’s Rule-5 draft pick this offseason. I give him the edge primarily because of his Rule-5 status, which dictates that if he is not on the active roster, he is sent back to the team the Mets took him from. Additionally, he does have experience as a starter, indicating that he can be more than just a simple lefty specialist. Also competing for this job will be Dario Alvarez, who was promoted towards the end of last season but saw only limited time, Jack Leathersich, a prospect who also attended Spring Training last season and Scott Rice, lefty specialist from 2013, who suffered an injury last season in the minors following his demotion. Rice has the most major league experience of the four but there are questions regarding his health and effectiveness.
There you have it. Five important things to watch as the Mets begin the first official workouts of Spring Training 2015. Each will be key for a team that hopes to return to relevance and competitiveness this year. Only time will tell whether the current pieces are enough. Fight through the cold Mets fans, only 42 days until baseball is back.
Dan Lagnado is studying communications, law economics and government at American University. He’s a fan of both the Mets and Jets and has been writing about sports for four years. You can follow him on twitter at @dlag1995
By Jack Allen
Going into the 2014 season, New York Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson expected 90 wins coming from his ball club. As a fan, your mindset is very different. Since 2008 (The last winning season for the Mets) the Mets have struggled. They have made few strides and have had some, but extremely memorable glorious moments. First, the inaugural season at Citi Field in 2009, Johan Santana throwing their first no-hitter, and some great young starting pitching such as Matt Harvey, Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom and Jeremy Hefner.
In 2009 the Mets finished 70-92. In 2010 they finished 79-83, 2011 they finished 77-85, in 2012 they finished 74-88 and the same in 2013. So if you’re a fan you might expect the team to get to .500, maybe clinch a wild card playoff birth. 90 wins might seem like a stretch. On July 2nd, the Mets were sitting at 37-48. Since then they’ve gone 12-7. Putting them at 49-55 giving them a realistic chance for a possible wild card birth. They currently sit 7.0 games back in the wild card to their division rival Atlanta Braves. With plenty of baseball to be played (58 games), the Mets having small margin for error. They turn to Jacob deGrom today to go for the series split in Milwaukee to close out a ten game road trip
Jack Allen is a writer for dabuzzza.com. He is a fan of the New York Mets, New York Islanders, New York Knicks, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Mariners, Queens Park Rangers, and West Virginia Mountaineer football and basketball. His favorite athletes are David Wright, John Tavares, Geno Smith, Allen Iverson and Charlie Austin. He is a very passionate and determined fan. You can follow him on twitter @JackAllen99.
By Dan Lagnado
The Mets have decided that the time is right to begin bringing up their top young pitchers. Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom will start the two Subway Series games at Citi Field. Montero was recalled and Jenrry Mejia pushed to the bullpen when Gonzalez Germen was placed on the DL with a virus. deGrom was supposed to make his debut out of the bullpen but in a surprising twist, the Mets placed Dillon Gee on the disabled list as well, creating an opening for deGrom in the rotation. These decisions are both aggressive and surprising.
In years past, the Mets have lasted into later in the season before calling up their top pitcher. This was the case in both 2012 and 2013 when the team was handling Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler very carefully. In addition to potential innings limits, the delayed call-ups also delayed free agency for the player by a year. With both Montero and deGrom coming up in mid-May it is likely that they will both face arbitration a year early.
These moves, along with the promotions of Wilmer Flores and Eric Campbell show that the Mets want to be competitive this year. This is another stark difference from the past few years. There was no reason to rush Harvey or Wheeler to the bigs because there was nothing to play for. So despite the team’s struggles (though the permanent struggles didn’t set in until later in the year) were not as big of a deal. The Mets have been planning for the future for a long time and the facts are that the future is almost here.
Despite the arrivals of Montero and deGrom, don’t expect to see the biggest gun around Queens just yet. With the arrivals of two young pitchers, the need for arms has been filled. That means Noah Syndergaard is destined for a few more months in Las Vegas. Of course his arrival could be accelerated if an injury occurs, even then it is unlikely as the Mets have both Mejia and Daisuke Matsuzaka who are capable of starting in an emergency.
When Gee and Germen return from the DL, the Mets will have a decision to make. Two players will need to be removed from the roster if to make room for Montero and deGrom. The likely targets will be the struggling veterans in the bullpen: Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth. They earned an extra two weeks in Queens but only time will tell what Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson choose to do.
Dan Lagnado is studying communications, law economics and government at American University. He’s a fan of both the Mets and Jets and has been writing about sports for four years. You can follow him on twitter at @dlag1995
The smell of peanuts and cracker jacks is in the air. After 152 days since the Red Sox walked off the field as champions, baseball is back. Our picks are in for this year’s fall classic. Here they are:
|I’m taking the Yankees over the Dodgers. Both teams have proven this offseason that they want to win now. The Yankees unloaded after missing the playoffs by opening their checkbook and spending close to $500 million. The additions of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Masahiro Tanaka immediately make the Yankees a legitimate threat. But don’t think they’re the only team spending the big bucks. The Dodgers passed the Yankees for the MLB’s highest payroll, ending the Yankees 15 year streak, by spending $235 million this season. All and all I’d say Derek Jeter better start spreading the news that his final season will end with a ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes.|
|As an extremely optimistic Mets fan with nothing but the highest expectations, I’m always going to take my team. So along with my Mets, I’m taking the rival Yankees. The Mets have young talent in there rotation, and a growing lineup. They may make a huge move by the deadline, and Zach Wheeler will suprise people this year. Yankees, because they spent money this offseason and are clearly doing anything to win a year after missing the playoffs|
|In the NL I’ll take the Dodgers and in the AL I’ll take Detroit. Dodgers win a six game series behind Kershaw and Greinke who each win two games|
|Tigers over Cardinals. Lots of solid pitching between the two of them. I think Justin Verlander comes back big this year and comes out as the Tigers’ #1 with Rick Porcello having an awesome year too finishing ahead of Max Scherzer in the pitching rotation. The Cards are going to need Yadier Molina to manage the pitching staff well, but they just don’t have the overall offensive firepower that Detroit does with the addition of Ian Kinsler. Watch out for the Rangers though if they can have someone aside from Yu Darvish step up in their rotation.|
|Red Sox over Dodgers. Only a little bit of bias plays into this one…Both are great teams with amazing young talent. With the recent resurgence of John Lackey, John Lester, a healthy Clay Buchholz, and a young and very talented Xander Bogaerts, the Red Sox will be the 2014 World Series Champions. With the leadership of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Mike Napoli, look for the Sox to make a push for the repeat.|
|Rays vs Dodgers. There’s no explanation for why the Rays are good every year, but the undeniable fact is that they are. However nobody is on the Dodgers level in terms of overall talent. Despite multiple holes including infield depth and major league ready pitchers in the minors, their superstar talent everywhere else will cover that up.|
|Dodgers over Tigers. The Dodgers are armed with a wealth of talent and the largest payroll in history. Anything less than a championship would be a disappointment.|
|Nationals vs Tigers. Nationals win. The Nationals have the best pitching rotation in baseball with the front four being Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Doug Fister. Pitching wins games. Although the Tigers have a great all around team, the team is full of veterans. However, they are definitely a contender for the World Series because of their many stars such as Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, and Max Scherzer. Both teams have unbelievable pitching and hitting, but I have the Nationals taking home the trophy in this one.|
|Dodgers vs Angels, but I’d pick the Angels because Mike Trout is amazing|
We hope everyone enjoys Opening Day and stays locked in to Dabuzzza here and on our twitter page this MLB season. We know we will.
By Christian Pierre-Louis
Welcome back baseball fans!
The 2014 season is upon us and we have all waited patiently for the national pastime to begin once again. The New York Yankees open up spring training today down in Tampa, Florida and for the first time since 2009 there are a number of questions with this team. As you should know at this point, the face of the Yankees, heck, probably the face of baseball for the past two decades, Derek Jeter plans to retire at the end of this upcoming season. Who will replace him is one of the many questions that needs to be examined as the team opens up camp.
The 2013 season was one full of frustration for the team and the legendary shortstop who only played 17 games coming off of a fractured ankle. One thing to look out for is whether or not he can stay healthy in his final season. He has work tirelessly this offseason to heal and gain strength back in his lower body, but at the same time he will be 40 years young this June and he cannot play every day in the field as he used to. The Yankees need to find another option at short just in case the injury bug comes back to bite Jeter. Is that answer Eduardo Nunez? The young infielder hit .260 with three home runs and 28 RBI last season, but he struggled in the field.
Another option the Yankees could go is to sign free agent SS, Stephen Drew. The shortstop is still without a home this season after helping the Red Sox win the World Series last year. Although he batted .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBI, he is great in the field and a good clubhouse guy. Whether or not the Yanks will reach out to him we will soon see.
The losses of many important players from last year’s team will impact this year’s team greatly. Mariano Rivera, who was the greatest security blanket in the history of finishing ballgames, is gone; Andy Pettitte, who was one of the most consistent, reliable Yankee pitchers to begin ballgames, is gone; Robinson Cano, who came up through the system as a teenager and blossomed into one of the most valuable players in the game, is gone. The infield is unresolved and troublesome; as of now Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson are starting at second and third respectively. Roberts used to be one of the best second basemen in the league, but he has spent much of the last five years on the DL. Kelly Johnson is a good defender, but at times his offense is a little suspect. Also, how will Mark Teixera come back? He injured his right wrist during preparations for the World Baseball Classic and was eventually diagnosed with a partially torn tendon sheath. He hit .151 in just 15 games before undergoing season-ending surgery on July 1.
With all that said, still the Yankees could win 95 games in 2014.
The front office has spent half a billion (!!!) dollars this offseason to put a winning product on the field and they expect no less than a championship with this roster even with all the losses stated above.
The outfield is outstanding with the additions of Jacboy Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, also holdovers such as Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano will be key in the success of this team. Beltran is one of the best clutch hitters in this generation and Ellsbury wreaks havoc on the bases. Soriano’s power will be much needed again this season and the combination of Gardner and Ellsbury will add a different dimension to the offense. The outfield defense is now much improved now that two of the fastest players in the league will patrol left and center. Beltran is no slouch in right as he has a rocket from out there and can gun people out. Behind the plate, the Yankees added Brian McCann this offseason and he is a major upgrade for this team. His offensive numbers will be like nothing we have seen in the past few years at that position for the Yanks. His leadership and fire will help the team and the young pitchers on the staff such as, Tanaka, Pineda, and Nova.
Speaking of the pitching, the starting rotation has questions to answer themselves. How will star free agent signee, Masahiro Tanaka, translate to the MLB? Will CC Sabathia return to form? What version of Hiroki Kuroda will we see; the one pre August 15th or after? Well, it all starts with Sabathia, who struggled last season with different injuries and ended the season on the DL. He and Kuroda will have to perform to take the pressure off of Tanaka. Ivan Nova should look to continue his success off of last season and continue to develop into a quality pitcher. Following Nova will be a combination of David Phelps, Adam Warren, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno all fighting for the 5th spot. The best scenario would be for Pineda to get it because he is only a few years removed from being considered one of the best young pitchers in the game.
The bullpen also has questions and has competition between at least a dozen unproven names. David Robertson has been given the role of closer following Rivera. Clearly, fans cannot expect him to duplicate what Mo did, but he can be a quality closer if he limits his walks and locates his pitches. Now, who will replace Robertson as the set-up man? That spot is up for grabs, but as of now it looks like Shawn Kelly will get the opportunity. His stuff is at times electric, but he looked tired by the end of last season, so time will tell. The Yankees also signed Matt Thornton, who before his arm trouble was a great reliever for the White Sox.
The 2014 Yankees team is one of promise, but also one that is full of questions. It will be very interesting how this team unfolds this spring going into the season. All the hype and attention will be on Tanaka and Jeter, but it will be the role players that will define this team and help lead them to a 28th World Series.
Here is a look at the potential team roster on opening day:
Lineup Player POS
1 Jacoby Ellsbury OF
2 Derek Jeter SS
3 Carlos Beltran OF
4 Brian McCann C
5 Alfonso Soriano DH
6 Mark Teixera 1B
7 Kelly Johnson 3B
8 Brian Roberts 2B
9 Brett Gardner OF
Starter Player POS
1 CC Sabathia SP
2 Masahiro Tanaka SP
3 Hiroki Kuroda SP
4 Ivan Nova SP
5 David Phelps SP
6 Michael Pineda SP
David Robertson RP
Shawn Kelley RP
Matt Thornton RP
Bench Hitters (may include/exclude guys not on 25-man roster):
Ichiro Suzuki OF
Brendan Ryan INF
Eduardo Nunez INF
Francisco Cervelli C
Austin Romine C
Christian Pierre-Louis is a journalism major at Seton Hall University. He is a HUGE fan of the, LA Lakers, NY Giants, and NY Yankees. He is also an assistant sports producer at Seton Hall’s radio station WSOU 89.5 FM. You can follow him on twitter at @CPL_78.
I never thought that it would ever come to this. Yesterday I was in disbelief as I read your letter announcing your retirement. Ever since I was a year old, you’ve been in the Yankees lineup. You became my favorite player when I was only two years old and I was able to name all of the Yankees and their numbers (true story). You’ve taught me many, many things over the years. Going back to 1995, your play in Columbus AAA convinced Joe Torre to name you the starting shortstop to open the 1996 season. In typical Jeter fashion, you homered on Opening Day. You became the leadoff hitter and led the Yankees to their first championship in 18 years. You were also a unanimous choice for AL Rookie of the Year. But that wasn’t important to you. You cared more about the championship, and satisfying Mr. Torre and Mr. Steinbrenner. But you weren’t done there. You led the Yankees to a three-peat in 1998, 1999, and 2000 and took home the World Series MVP in 2000. But you didn’t care. You wanted the championship. You were also named an all star 13 times. And while you were thankful for the honor, it wasn’t important to you. You wanted that World Series ring. You taught me to put the team before yourself.
I watched as each hit became more memorable, as you passed hall of famers on the hit list. But no hit will be bigger to me than hit number 2722. It came on September 11, 2009, the eight-year anniversary of the tragic attacks. It drizzled all afternoon and the game was in danger of not being played. I came home from school that day and my dad surprised me with tickets. I was so excited and I ran to my room to put on my Derek Jeter jersey. This could be the night that Derek passes Lou Gehrig to become the Yankees all time-hit leader. But as I hopped in the car, the drizzle became worse and my dad said, “I think we should turn around and go home.” I grew upset. “No!” I replied. “We have to go. If there’s a rain delay, we’ll just walk around the stadium. We have to go! It’s Derek Jeter and he has a chance to make history.” My dad complied and we proceeded to Yankee Stadium. There was a rain delay but we waited it out. You hit the ball down the right field line, and history was made. That is one moment I will never forget and I’m thankful that I was a there to see it in person. That season continued and once again, you led the Yankees to another championship.
I watched on television as you smacked your 3000th hit into the left field bleachers. And after about a minute of celebration, you said, “We have a game to play,” and got back to business. You went five for five that day, including the game-winning hit. That was what you cared about: helping the team. When you got injured in the 2012 playoffs, I cringed and feared that it was the last time I’d see you on a baseball field. I’ve never seen you in that much pain. Even after you dove into the stands against the Red Sox back in 2004, you seemed to be okay and told everyone you would play the next day. But you weren’t on this play. There was a long path to recovery ahead of you and you took it one step at a time. That first pitch you saw this past July, you belted into the right field bleachers. You taught me to never give up and to battle back when the odds are against you.
You are the kind of person who I strive to be each and every day. You are a huge inspiration to me both on and off the field. You will always be my favorite athlete in any sport. And so Derek, as your farewell tour begins, I’m going to leave you with a story. Back in April 2011, my family and I hit the road to look at colleges in upstate New York, as I was going to be applying that Fall. As we visited SUNY Oneonta, we decided to stay in Cooperstown so that we could check out the Hall of Fame. When we walked in, the admissions person greeted us. He convinced us to sign up for a hall of fame membership. He presented us with a catalog of different options for membership cards. We picked the Mickey Mantle one. We talked to admissions person for a few minutes. He asked each of us who our favorite hall of famer was. My dad tells him “Mickey Mantle is my guy.” My brother sister and mother are all asked as well. One at a time they reply: “Mickey Mantle” “Babe Ruth” “Probably Babe Ruth.” Suddenly the man turns to me. “Who is your favorite hall of famer?” I didn’t even have to think about it. With complete confidence in my answer and in the next few years, I knew the man that I’d say. And then I replied. “Derek Jeter.”
I’ll miss you Derek.
Brett Malamud is a Computer Science Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy
By Ben Ozur
As is it wasn’t enough for the Yankees to sign All-Stars Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, they had to go out and get Masahiro Tanaka, a Japanese-born pitcher who was widely considered the best starting pitcher on the free agent pitcher. But, considering he has yet to pitch in the MLB yet, what should they expect out of him? The answer: there’s no real way of knowing.
There’s no denying the dominance that Tanaka presented in the Japanese league. Many people have compared him to Yu Darvish, the runner-up in the AL Cy Young award voting in 2013, in their numbers in the Japanese league and say that this is a good way to prove that he will have similar success in the MLB. What people neglect to acknowledge is that those numbers were also similar to those of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Though he had good numbers in his first few years in the US, he burned out quickly. Many people consider that hefty contract a failure for the Red Sox, but who’s to say that Tanaka won’t be the same for the Yankees?
In fact, if you were to rank the greatest Japanese-born pitchers in MLB history, once you get past Hideo Nomo, the list is really thin. The next few guys are most likely Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma (third in the AL Cy Young voting in 2013), Hiroki Kuroda, and Koji Uehara. The first two of those only have two years of experience, so there’s no way to call them successes quite yet. For the most part, there have been more failures from Japanese-born pitchers coming stateside, namely Matsuzaka, Hideki Irabu, Kei Igawa, Hisanori Takahashi, Ryota Igarashi, and Yoshinori Tateyama. All of these guys were seen as high-ceiling guys, so teams paid them big bucks. None of them really panned out at all.
What about his workload? He pitched in the Japanese league for seven years, collecting an astounding 1315 IP before the age of 25. That’s eerily similar to the beginning of Frank Tanana’s career. In his first six seasons (all of which were before the age of 25), he had 1321 IP. To that point, no one could deny the success Tanana had up to that point, considering his three All-Star appearances and three top-10 Cy Young award finishes. However, he really burned out. From 1979-1993, he had a 100 ERA+ (ERA adjusted for ballparks and league-average offense that year), which is considered league-average. In fact, from 1978-1993, he only had 6 seasons with an ERA+ over 100 (which means he was only above league-average 6 of those 16 seasons). With these two pitchers having very similar early-career successes and heavy workloads, could Tanaka burn out in a similar way that Tanana did?
It’s not a guarantee that Tanaka will be a failure (at least the Yankees hope not). With his dominant split-finger fastball, many people compare him to the early years of Iwakuma and Dan Haren. Those are two very favorable comps. But again, there’s no way of knowing.
Did the Yankees take a risk in signing this guy? Absolutely. The Yankees signed a guy that has not thrown a pitch against MLB hitters. Adding the $20M posting fee, they spent $175M to acquire his services for seven years. This is the exact same contract that the Mariners gave as an extension to Felix Hernandez. At the time of the extension, Hernandez was clearly a proven elite starting pitcher. The same cannot be said for Tanaka.
No one in recent history has dominated the Japanese league the way that Tanaka did (except for Darvish, perhaps). But that doesn’t guarantee success for him here in the United States. We won’t know exactly what to make out of this guy until he debuts with the Yankees.
Ben Ozur is an absolute baseball guru. He is a huge Mets, Jets, Knicks and Islanders fan whose life revolves around fantasy sports.