The State of the Yankees

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Joe Girardi had his annual beginning-of-spring-training news conference yesterday. Marc Carig of the Star Ledger was there. The highlights:

  • Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson are the top
    candidates for the second slot in the order. I’d probably just plug Johnson and his uber-OBP into that slot, but I assume that Girardi is at least a minor devotee to the “you can’t clog the basepaths” school of thought. My guess is that Granderson is there against right-handers and Johnson there against lefties.
  • Girardi said he’s not going to go crazy pitting Hughes against Joba from the beginning of camp. Rather, he’s going to let them ease into things. Ultimately he wants to make his choice for the fifth starter’s slot decided by March 25th, but if it isn’t it isn’t.  I get the feeling that absent one of them simply throwing bullets in an unprecedented fashion, each of them are going to see some time starting this season. Whatever the case, I’m having a hard time getting excited about this competition. I want Joba to get a clear shot because I think he has more upside, but they’re both good pitchers and these things have a way of sorting themselves out.
  • Granderson and Gardner will both get looks in center and left and Girardi may shift Granderson back and forth during the season.  Based on how many “Granderson is open to playing left field” stories we’ve seen in the last week, however, one gets the sense that the decision has already been made. Girardi says it may turn on who can play left better. Which the cynical side of me sees as a way of saying that Granderson “won” the LF job instead of saying he was moved off of CF. Not that Granderson seems like the kind of guy whose ego needed tended or anything.
  • Girardi is not concerned about the team growing complacent after winning the World Championship.  I realize no one ever knows what goes on in someone’s head, but can anyone point to a team that truly did grow complacent after winning a championship?  These guys are all pros and work hard. Winning a championship is really, really difficult. Things happen. “Complacency” always strikes me as a post-hoc rationalization for why a team fails to repeat. OK, maybe the 1979 Pirates if you count doing mountains of cocaine “complacency” but we’re in a very different era now. Everyone’s in camp more than a week before they have to be. Most guys work their tails off.
  • Girardi is happy that Alex Rodriguez can just focus on baseball and be a leader now. What a difference a year makes. Remember when people were saying that the Yankees would be better off with Colby Rasmus Cody Ransom [whoever] at third as opposed to “A-Fraud?” In other news, absent a 200 point dip in team batting average, I think Mark McGwire will be OK pretty soon.
  • Carig also did something cool: he asked Giradi questions people suggested to him on Twitter.  Sadly, he did not ask the one I suggested to him, which was asking Girardi if he thinks that the 1961-63 Yankees’ success was due to Ralph Houk being at the helm. Marc said I’d have to ask him that one myself when I get down to Tampa in March.

How much ya gimme?

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.