Category Archives: baseball’s young talent

RULE 5 IS GOOD, BUT……….

At the Winter Meetings following the World Series, major league teams must decide on the 40 players they want to protect in a special draft that is commonly referred to as the Rule Five Draft.

The rule is basically a good idea as it prevents teamsimages (25) from stockpiling players in their farm systems and it gives hope to minor league players who may be languishing behind a all star major leaguer playing the same position. Depending on age when they signed, players become eligible after three or four years

Historically, players such as Roberto Clemente (above) who as we know turned into the steal of the Century for the Pirates, R A Dickey (left),download (9) Dan Uggla, and Jose Bautista (below) revitalized their careers after being taken in this draft. Last year, the Rangers caught lightning in a bottle when they selected images (26)Delino Deshields who became the Texas Rookie Of The Year. For major league teams, the price of a selection is a mere $50,000…….but there’s a catch……
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YANKEES – SIT TIGHT AND WAIT IT OUT

If there is one thing the 2015 season demonstrated, it’s that younger (read athletically) constructed teams were the ones who played well into October. In essence, speed kills. Whether you’re talkingimages-1 about a fast ball consistently in the 95-97 mph range (Mets starters) or quick thinking and athleticism on the base paths, or swift and reliable ball tracking in the outfield (Royals on both counts)  – all winning teams (add the Cubs, Astros, and Pirates too) have speed as a common thread between them. Continue reading

POST SEASON AWARDS – 50% AIN’T BAD

 Dallas Keutchel (check), Bryce Harper (incorrect), Jake Arietta (incorrect), and Jeff Donaldson (check). That’s how it went in the Cy Young and MVP Awards for me. 
Noticing that both of my incorrect picks were unanimous winners certainly is something to give me pause. Maybe it’s time to hop on the Bryce Harper bandwagon……who knows. What I do know though is that Paul Goldschmidt is wallowing away in the Arizona desert and no one seems to recognize him. Or, maybe Bryce Harper is just that good.

Rookie Of The Year honors…….not really a big deal when you consider that such household names as Tom Tresh, Curt Blefary, John Castino, Pat Listach, and Marty Cordova also were awarded this honor. It’s nice, but prove it twice. Continue reading

GET IT WHILE YOU CAN – OR NOT?

 We can all recall the decision of the Washington Nationals to shut Stephen Strasburg down prior to their Playoff appearance a couple of seasons ago – and we all know the ensuing history whereby the Nationals are still waiting for a return visit. The reason XXX C01 ANDREWS 25 S ALfor their decision was that he was coming back from “Tommy John” surgery performed by the pioneering Dr. James Andrews (left) and they wanted to protect him from another injury.

Unfolding now is a similar dilemma faced by the New York Mets as we await the start of the World Series on Tuesday. Except in this, we have not just one but four tender and spectacularly young arms in play, images-23with two of them (Harvey and Matz) in the rebound year of  their surgeries. Adding to the drama are the events surrounding Matt Harvey and his agent Scott Boras late in the season when both nearly tore the team apart when they declared a 180 innings limit for “The Brat”. Luckily, Doc Gooden and others stepped in to reason with Harvey and the fiasco fizzled out.

Nevertheless, all four of the Mets starting pitchers are approaching or have already surpassed their highestimages-33 inning totals in their brief career. In fact, in Harvey’s case, if he indeed starts game one (probable but not yetimages-38 written in stone), and if the Series is extended beyond four or five games, he will have pitched the most innings ever for a player coming back from surgery, and this includes Tommy John himself. 

As it was for the Nationals, this almost certainly is a lose-lose proposition for the Mets. Because if they play it safe by shutting down one or possibly even more of these young studs and lose the Series, they’ll have all winter to answer to that decision. On the other hand, if they win the Series and one or more of them suffers a career threatening injury, they’ll have all winter to answer to that decision. 

I’m of the mind that they (and in particular Dan Warthen, their underrated pitching coach) should look closely at their mechanics and body language when they are throwing. If one or more of them “looks” different now from the way they looked in July, then that should be a red flag demonstrating possible strain that could lead to injury. In this regard, Jacob DeGrom deserves a close look as he’s seemed a bit “off” in his last two starts, even though in both he was able to grind it out and secure two wins. As with Strasburg, this must be a management decision since all of them are too young to know their own bodies yet. Plus, they’re all bulldogs with a competitive edge and they’ll never shut themselves down voluntarily.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the Mets have two proven and stable starters on call in the ageless Bartolo Colon (left) images-51and Jonathan Niese who bounced back nicely in his last few starts when there was serious discussion about him even being on the Playoff roster. But in the end, it should be a “feel” decision made by the Mets and it should be done individually and not collectively. The Nationals were wrong when they shut Strasburg down even before the Playoffs began. To their credit, the Mets didn’t do that even when they could have when Harvey gave them the chance to. They hung in there and so did Harvey. Now, it’s game on! Continue reading

CENTER STAGE TODAY – THE CUBS AND WRIGLEY FIELD

With no disrespect to the New York Mets and what promises to be an electric Citi Field,  the centerj of the baseball universe today has to be Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs. Opened in 1914, this venue (along with Fenway Park and the old Yankee Stadium) stands as a Mecca for baseball fans – including myself in 2009 – across America. Even today, after the “lights came on” few years ago, a Friday afternoon game at Wrigley is reason to leave work early and bask in the bleachers Sun on Addison Street.

For Cubs fans, today is also a day to bask in the setting sun of a 96 game winning season (the third best in baseball) and to welcome home a team that carries with them a hope and a prayer that this just might be the season when all doubts spanning numerous decades are cast aside – and a long awaited Championship comes to the Southside of Chicago.

Excitement and drama of this kind draws itself from a long history that dates back to 1876 when the Cubs became an original franchise of the National League. Interestingly, they were known in those days as the Chicago White Stockings (not to be confused with the White Sox), not taking the name of the Cubs until 1902. And yes, the last World Series won by the Cubs was in 1945 – a drought long enough to span the years of the team’s oldest fans.

But today, all that changes or it at least moves to the back of everyone’s mind as Jake Arietta takes the ball  to face the St. Louis Cardinals, a team much different from the Cubs. For while the Cubs field a team stacked with very young home grown talent, the Cardinals present a team of veterans who have a storied history behind them with the second most Championships (only the Yankees have more) to face the hottest pitcher in baseball today. 

It doesn’t get better than this. The steel beams erected more than a century ago will be rocking and shaking at Wrigley today. You couldn’t tell a better baseball story than the the one being played out in Chicago this afternoon.

 

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GIRARDI’S EPITAPH MISSES THE MARK

New York Yankees manager Joe Girard’s press conference yesterday included a look forward to 2016 as well as a glance backward at ” what happened”. Most telling were his largely defensive comments explaining how he tried to give his aging lineup enough rest so they could limp to the finish line. Left unsaid, probably because he’s a true professional, is the question he must have been asking himself all season……..”Why do I even have to deal with this?”

The New York Yankees are old. Even Brett Gardner (left) who is considered “young” by team standards will be 33 next August. Along with Jacob Ellsbury, (below) he appeared to lose his legs down the stretch and both weighed heavily in the Yankee’s decline and inability to catch the Blue Jays. More telling, Ellsbury was sat by Girardi against Houston in favor of Chris Young. He may regret that decision now but it is indicative of the decisions Girardi had to cope with all year.

Even more baffling was Girardi’s insistence that the Yankees are good to go for next year. Again, he is not the type to put any of his players in harm’s way. But he could have deferred the question to Brian Cashman who will be weighing in soon and it is likely that he will have a entirely different take on next year’s roster. More importantly, ownership is likely to take notice of the continuing decline of TV ratings on YES. Even fans like myself found my way to SNY and the youthful and energetic Mets more often than not.  We’ve seen this cast before and watching Alex Rodriguez go 1-4 with three strikeouts and a home run is getting downright boring. And I sense that a good portion of the fan base agrees.

Some tough decisions need to be made quickly. CC Sabathia is one of them. As difficult as it would be (in light of his personal problems now), he needs to be cut loose and his salary eaten. Same with Teixeria who is a injury waiting to happen all year, every year. The kids the Yankees have need to be in the forefront of the lineup and in full view of the fans and media. Greg Bird, Luis Severino, Michael (above) Pineda (if he can stay healthy and grow up – pine tar?) and Rob Refsnyder are budding stars. Don’t let them wait for a spot to clear in the lineup when a aging “regular” goes down with injury. And for God sakes, do not sign David Price or any other veteran over the age of 26. 

In truth, the Yankees are no longer fun to watch. That needs to change………and while I’m thinking about it…….maybe a change at the helm needs to be made too.images-8 $$$ is always the big factor though and a year of Girardi’s contract would need to be eaten. We know what George would have done regardless of the cost. His son Hal moves to center stage now………it’s been six long years since the Yankees posted a Championship in 2009. The Boss would never have stood for that…..no way….no how.

 

“I COULDN’T GIVE UP THOSE KIDS………”

In the early days of July and before the trading frenzy began, I posted a column titled The Yankees Should Stand Pat. It argued that there was no reason to part with the young and promising talent in the farm system………for the sake of buying temporary talent (think David Price) or by adding a marquee name or two just to appease the fan base.

We all know how it played out. The Yankees did just that while Toronto’ s GM (left)  images-39“loaded up” adding Price as a rental and the oft  injured Troy Tulowiski. We also know (now) that a 7.5 game lead by the Yankees is now extinguished and the Blue Jays hold a tenuous lead in the East.

But just yesterday, Hal Steinbrenner – the principal owner of the Yankees images-25– offered a resounding defense of the Yankees decision to play for and with the future declaring “I didn’t want to give those kids up”.  Yankee fans along with baseball fans know that statement is BIG. And almost simultaneously, a report comes out rating the Yankees  #10 in all of baseball’s farm systems.

Recent call up Greg Bird goes 0 for 5 in his debut. Think that’ll continue?images-36……….not so says Luis Severino (left) (another sparkling farm system call up)……….Severino simply says he’s “The best”. Soon to follow will be Aaron Judge, a power hitter made for Yankee Stadium, Gary Sanchez – a major league ready hitter and catcher who may have to wait for Brian McCann to decompose at a early age due to a physically demanding position as well as a log  jam at DH that is further blurred by the arrival of Bird.

And so, for once the Yankees can truly be called a team of the future. Make no mistake about it though……..they will always have a marquee player or two- or three. They are the Yankees and they do play in New York. And when the time is right, you’ll see them actively engaged in the free agent and trade markets. So don’t be surprised if you see the likes of Bryce Harper, Matt Harvey, Mike Trout playing for this storied franchise in the future.

As for this year, (well) let’s just see how it plays out. I’ve said before…..the Yankees have a team with chemistry and proven experienced (though aging) talent while the Blue Jays have a buzz saw lineup. And down the stretch they come…….

A BUMPER CROP OF TALENT – BASEBALL IS BLESSED!

It’s hard to recall a time in recent baseball history when so many young and very talented players burst on the scene carrying promise of not only a great future for themselves but for baseball as well.

This bumper crop is evenly composed of both position players and pitchers. They are spread evenly across leagues and teams. In the NFL,images-23 images-16they would all be tagged as “Franchise Players”. Mike Trout (right) and Bryce Harper (upper left) look like  reincarnations of Mickey Mantle while Felix Hernandez (right)images-18 and Jose Fernandez (left) recall memories of Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez years before they entered the Baseball Hall Of Fame.

Add to that quartet  relative newcomers like Dallas Keutchel (lower left) images-20of young and forward marching Houston Astrosimages-31 plus Giancarlo Stanton (right)  and you have the makings of some very exciting baseball for many years to come.

But hold on there……..not so fast. Before we anoint them into the Baseball Hall Of Fame, we need to remember – the Hall is based solely on number (historically)……300 wins, 500 home runs, 3000 hits……..etc.

And with these young exciting players, there are two caveats to recognize and they’re both reasons why we might only see one or two actually make the Hall Of Fame.

The first caveat is simple mathematics. Each player is destined to make a minimum of a quarter of a billion dollars over their career. images-32Some will earn even more. So, the question becomes how long will they need or want to play before they retire and move on to other things? Will the fire continue to burn for twenty years as it did for someone like Derek Jeter (remember – it takes 15 years at 200 hits per to reach 3000 – and for pitchers averaging 15 wins over 15 seasons only nets 275 career wins). So, it’s a long road ahead for these perennial All Stars.

The second caveat is even more looming. Because we need to add to each the “if he stays healthy” clause to each of their careers. Look at the list…….images-29how many have been afflicted with injuries even to this point in their brief time on the field. Will a perennially injured All Star like Troy Tulowiski have the numbers to qualify for the Hall? Coupled with that are the ever conscious owners and GM’ who seek to protect their investments by holding them back (the Mets and Matt Harvey?) until a bevy of doctors say “Go!………

So, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with these young phenoms as their careers play out. Will they have the stamina and desire to play long enough to put up the numbers the Hall has traditionally required……..