Just about everything this side of eating breakfast will be some notable “last” for Derek Jeter this season. Today is his last home opener. Which occasioned a press conference about it all, of course. Indeed, he won’t have the last of his press conferences until sometime in the mid-2020s by my calculations. You can see the whole presser here.
The highlight: Jeter said Yankees fans are the greatest in the world. He quickly followed that by saying that, in claiming Yankee fan superiority, he means no disrespect to any other teams’ fans.
Which, as usual, is a pathetic example of the controversy-courting Jeter looking to stir the pot by saying audacious things. It’s the single biggest reason he’s been so darn unpopular throughout his career. Also:
- Jeter said he’d try to enjoy his farewell season and farewell tour, but he doesn’t know how he’s going to balance it all given that his priority each day is the game. Getting ready to play every day, which takes a lot more work than, say, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera had to deal with when they had their last season.
- He mentioned that the expectation that the Yankees had to win every year started after 1996, and noted that in 1996 the Yankees “may have snuck up on some people.”
That’s a rare and candid acknowledgment from a Yankee. Since the mid-90s there has been a pretty strong drumbeat that such expectations have always existed in Yankees-land. Those of us who remember the 80s and the early 90s know better. Those older, who remember the late 60s through the mid-70s know better too. When they weren’t winning in those periods, there wasn’t some national “how can the Yankees not be winning?!” thing in the air. They were treated just like any other team. One that has good stretches and bad stretches and life goes on. Perhaps the expectations lasted during the DiMaggio-Mantle years, and they certainly have existed for the past 15-17 years or so, but it hasn’t always been the case. And if the Yankees were ever to experience another decade in the wilderness, the expectations would adjust downward once again.
Anyway: happy home opener, Captain.
The Orioles and closer Zach Britton avoided an arbitration hearing, agreeing to a $6.75 million salary for the 2016 season, Jon Heyman reports. The club has now handled all of its remaining arbitration cases and won’t have to go to a hearing with any players.
Britton, in his second of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $7.9 million while the Orioles countered at $5.6 million. $6.75 million is exactly the midpoint between the two submitted figures.
The 28-year-old lefty saved 36 games in 40 chances last season for the O’s while putting up a 1.92 ERA with a 79/14 K/BB ratio over 65 2/3 innings.
Tacking onto Friday’s report that the Blue Jays will attempt to sign Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to multi-year deals, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the club will try to do the same with third baseman and defending American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports notes that Donaldson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for February 15, so the two sides will have 10 days to hammer out a contract.
Donaldson, 30, is entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility. After earning $4.3 million last season, Donaldson filed for $11.8 million and the Blue Jays countered at $11.35 million. The $450,000 difference isn’t much compared to some of the other disparities among arbitration-eligible players and their respective clubs. Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, for example, had a gap of $6.5 million.
This past season, Donaldson let the league in runs scored and RBI with 122 and 123, respectively, while batting .297.371/.568 with 41 home runs and 41 doubles. He earned 23 of 30 first place votes in AL MVP balloting, with runner-up Mike Trout of the Angels grabbing the other seven votes.
Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.
Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.
Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.
Ever since Alex Anthopoulos resigned as Blue Jays’ GM and Mark Shapiro took over as team president, a distinct air of frugality has set in over Rogers Centre. The go-for-broke attitude that fueled Toronto’s fantastic second half last year was repudiated and long-term, sustainable building has seemed to be the order of the day.
But the Jays aren’t going to go crazy with that: ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Blue Jays plan to have long-term extension talks with the agents of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during spring training. This, combined with the still-remaining possibility that they can avoid arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson and hammer out a long-term deal could mean some serious spending by the Jays before Opening Day.
Or this could just be talk from the front office designed to buoy the spirits of fans. Locking up all three of them to long-term deals may be hella expensive and may not be possible. It’s also the case that, given their ages — Bautista is 35 and Encarnacion is 33 — it may not be advisable to lock the both up. As always, it depends on the terms and how generous Rogers Communications plans on being with the Jays’ budget.
But the chatter is now out there and expectations are poised to be set.