Carlos Quentin and Zack Greinke reacted the way competitive people frequently react. They refused to give an inch, and when it was about to get out of hand, neither was willing to walk away. Quentin probably was halfway to the mound before he realized what he was doing. He was angry about being hit and convinced it was intentional.
And Zack Greinke reacted in kind, pretty much daring Quentin to keep coming.
Amid the hang-wringing and sermonizing, the truth is that little that occurred in Thursday’s Dodgers-Padres game was extraordinary. Stuff happens in the heat of battle, and it’s not always pretty.
No punishment, no rule change is going to change the way competitive people deal with one another in stressful situations. In a perfect world, Quentin would have dropped his bat and walked to first base, but sometimes players don’t react the way they would have if they’d had a few minutes to think about it.
It all happened in an instant. Two people going at one another in a close game. Greinke believes the inside portion of home plate belongs to him. Then again, so does Quentin.
In the second or two after Greinke plunked Quentin, something happened. Quentin instinctively took a step toward the mound. Greinke took a step toward him and said something.
If Greinke’s body language had been different, Quentin might have stopped. If someone had gotten between the two, Quentin might have thought better of starting something.
But that’s when all hell broke loose. Afterward, everyone said the stuff players and managers always say in these situations. The Dodgers said Greinke was throwing inside but not trying to hit anyone.
They pointed out that intentionally hitting an opponent in a one-run game in the sixth inning made no sense. But Quentin didn’t have time to go down his checklist of what made sense and what didn’t.
All he knew is that a guy with pinpoint control had hit him, and not for the first time. Quentin will be punished for charging the mound, and he understands that’s part of the deal.
Meanwhile, Greinke is gone indefinitely with a broken collar bone, the first blip on a Dodgers season that was off to a nice start. The Padres and Dodgers will play again next week at Dodger Stadium. Stay tuned.
Let’s go to the tote board. The Angels are:
- 10th in the American League in runs.
- 13th in the American League in ERA.
- Leading the American League in errors.
Mike Scioscia has already called one team meeting, so he has played that card. He shuffled his lineup, moving Mike Trout into the No. 2 hole, so he has played that card, too. If his club doesn’t get something going against the Astros this weekend, things could get really interesting in Anaheim.
When they started 3-6 last season, they had great confidence that their starting pitching would be fine. This season, not so much. It’s not even that Jered Weaver is sidelined a few weeks with a broken left elbow. It’s that he was throwing 85 mph when he was injured and that plenty of scouts wonder if something is wrong with him. C.J. Wilson is winless after two starts that were neither terrible nor really good, either. And the new guys in the rotation—Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas—haven’t exactly inspired confidence. There’s not much help at the upper level of the minor leagues, either.
Likewise, Josh Hamilton is a concern, and not just because he’s hitting .200 with 13 strikeouts in 35 at-bats. He’s so aggressive at the plate that it’s a wonder any team ever throws him a strike. On the other hand, he has carved out a very nice career for himself doing it this way.
To get the Angels turned around, it has to begin with the starting rotation. If those guys are going well—and every last one of them has had success at various points in their careers—then every other problem suddenly seems less significant. In a perfect world, Garrett Richards would use Weaver’s injury to establish himself in the big league rotation. If he does that, and if Weaver is effective upon his return, and if Wilson finally gets things figured out (and he will), the Angels will be fine.
If things don’t happen, it won’t matter how many team meetings they call or how the lineup is shuffled. They’re dealing with waves of bad news at the moment, and they have to persevere. When you take three steps back and look at the roster, it’s easy to believe the Angels will be okay.
Are they better than the A’s? No, they are not. Are they better than the Rangers? No, they are not. But this season isn’t even two weeks old, and if the Angels have to trade for a starting pitcher, they may have to do that. If that means trading Mark Trumbo or a top prospect (first baseman C.J. Cron), they may have to do it.
They’re a win-now organization.
For now, Scioscia’s job will be managing the pressure. Bad teams are nightmarish for teams expected to do well. Even if there were questions about the rotation, the Angels still appeared to have enough to get by. Scioscia has been doing this a long time and is terrific at creating the right environment in the room. At this point, that’s about all he can do.
Chemistry issues? Maybe that won’t be a problem for the Dodgers after all thanks to all that pitching and Carl Crawford.
Not everyone thought the Dodgers were going to have an easy time of it. They wondered how all those strong personalities and huge salaries would fit together. They wondered how Don Mattingly would deal with his lame-duck status. They wondered if expectations might become a smothering burden.
Me being the inquisitive sort and all, I ran these theories by Josh Beckett during Spring Training. Surprisingly, he looked at me like I might not be the smartest guy in the room.
“Winning,” he said.
Okay, good point.
But winning can be connected to clubhouse environment. At least that’s one of the theories by those of us who aren’t actually in the clubhouse when the good stuff takes place.
Beckett’s point was that winning can breed chemistry. Once the Dodgers started playing well, all that other stuff would take care of itself. It’s amazing what a great teammate the guy at the next locker is after he has knocked in three runs.
And if you believed in the Dodgers, that’s where you began.
There was a chance the Dodgers might not have any problem fitting all the new players together because they’re starting rotation had the potential to be baseball’s best. So far, that’s exactly what has happened.
The Dodgers’ rotation has the best ERA in baseball at 1.73. Clayton Kershaw has thrown 16 shutout innings on the board. Zack Greinke didn’t allow one in his lone start. Rookie Hyun-jin Ryu has been as good as advertised. So far, Chad Billingsley right elbow appears sound.
A change of scenery has worked wonders for two veterans—Carl Crawford (.464) and Adrian Gonzalez (.393). Once Matt Kemp starts to hit and Hanley Ramirez is back from the Disabled List, the Dodgers could put something special together.
Braves roll into Nationals Park on Friday for the first round of what might be a long, interesting division race
The 8-1 Braves are a storyteller’s dream. First of all, they’re still a special franchise to those of us who once got our nightly baseball fix from TBS. Ted Turner’s network got the Braves a national following that exists to this day, especially in the South.
Years from now, they’ll be discussing how this baseball team changed a significant chunk of the world. Georgia has joined California, Texas, etc., in producing talent. If you measure it by the square mile, Georgia might be the most productive area of the country. Thanks to Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox and all the others, the Braves made it cool to play baseball in an area which once had just two real sports: fall football and spring football.
So there’s that. There’s also the franchise itself. For about 20 years, the Braves were the smartest, most efficient operation on the planet. In John Schuerholz and Stan Kasten and Bobby Cox, no franchise had a better management team. They led the Braves to 14 consecutive postseason appearances, and along the way, built a great ballpark. Frank Wren was Schuerholz’s understudy for a decade before taking control of the franchise. Schuerholz is still on the job as a sounding board, consultant and general source of wisdom.
Cox is gone, too, replaced by Fredi Gonzalez, who was also a Cox understudy and has many of the same qualities in terms of demeanor and consistency. As for the players, only Brian McCann is left from the 2005 team that extended the postseason streak to 14 years.
Wren remade the Braves over the winter by acquiring B.J. and Justin Upton, joining them with Jason Heyward to give the Braves baseball’s most dynamic outfield. In the wake of Chipper’s retirement, Wren believed the Braves needed a new identity, and so that outfield is where it begins. Justin Upton leads the majors with six home runs.
But the Braves are built around pitching. They’ve got the best ERA in the majors at 1.89. Their bullpen is No. 1 with a 1.65 ERA. Their starters are 6-1 with a 2.01 ERA, trailing the Dodgers in rotation ERA. Kris Medlen and Mike Minor have allowed three earned runs in 25 innings. Paul Maholm, a Trade Deadline pickup last season, hasn’t allowed a run in two starts. Despite losing setup man Jonny Venters to an elbow injury, the Braves don’t have an apparent weakness.
They also have one of the real sweet stories in baseball. That would be backup catcher Evan Gattis, who at 26 is one of those too-good-to-be-true stories. He was 23 years old when he played his first Minor League game after a twisting journey that included battles with drugs and alcohol. He also worked a series of odd jobs, including a stint at Yellowstone National Park.
Actually, Yellowstone is not an odd job. It’s only odd because while it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth, it’s not a place many scouts go looking for talent. Now there’s an idea.
“Hey, you boys want a ride to the game?”
“No thanks, we’re going to wait for Old Faithful to blow.”
Okay, forget it.
McCann’s injury gave him a chance to make the Braves out of Spring Training, and he has delivered one big hit after another. He’s 6-4, 230 pounds, and the ball rockets off his bat. He has played so well that it’ll be interesting to see how Gonzalez divides the playing time when McCann returns.
The Washington Nationals were widely thought to be the only team in baseball without a glaring weakness. The Braves were confident they could hang with the Nationals, and after watching them for nine games, it’s easy to understand why. Which brings us to this weekend at Nationals Park.
It’s a long season, a marathon, etc. The Braves have won six in a row against the Cubs and Marlins. But it’s great fun when contenders play, and the Braves and Nationals will have three games to start the fun. They’ll play 16 more times, including a mid-September series in Washington, so it would be silly to make too much of these opening rounds.
But in a season when so many teams seem capable of winning a championship, it should make for an entertaining weekend of hardball.
First impressions can be misleading. Managers constantly remind us that almost every team is going to have stretches when it looks like the best—or worst—team on earth. We’re constantly reminded that September performances are fool’s gold. April’s can be the same way.
Still, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the Rangers. So much was made of their offseason losses—Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara—that it was easy to overlook how good they still were. Their offense is as good and as deep as any in the game thanks to the additions of Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski.
Second baseman Ian Kinsler has rediscovered his opposite-field swing and seems poised for a tremendous year. The left side of the infield—third baseman Adrian Beltre and shortstop Elvis Andrus—is the best in the game. Manager Ron Washington’s early challenge may be figuring out which of his young center fielders—Craig Gentry or Leonys Martin—to play.
The bullpen was hit so hard by the losses of Adams and Uehara that Daniels signed veteran Derek Lowe with two weeks remaining in Spring Training. But Robbie Ross, Michael Kirkman and Tanner Scheppers all have big-time arms and seem capable of taking care of the innings in front of closer Joe Nathan.
If there’s a worry, it’s the rotation, and if it ends up being a problem, then the Rangers are going nowhere. Even that potential problems seems likely to work itself out. Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando are off to nice starts, and rookie Nick Tepesch was tremendous in his Major League debut on Tuesday in holding the Rays to one run in 7 1/3 innings.
He was a 14th-round draft pick out of the University of Missouri who has climbed steadily through the system. In his debut, he showed off a 92-mph fastball and a nice curveball. He had the Rays off-balance the entire night in throwing 104 pitches.
He suddenly becomes a more important piece to the puzzle with today’s word that Opening Day starter Matt Harrison has been placed on the Disabled List with a back issue. To replace him, the Rangers are going back to their farm system for 24-year-old right-hander Justin Grimm, who made five appearances last season. He won his Major League debut against the Astros on June 16 and had a couple of appearances in the September pennant race.
There could be help on the way. Harrison isn’t expected to be sidelined long-term, and staff ace Colby Lewis could be back from Tommy John surgery in the second half of the season. That’s just a guess since he’s just beginning to throw, and any timetable for his return is in the future. Right-hander Neftali Feliz is also recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the plan is to put him back in the bullpen when he returns.
Daniels has leverage. He constructed the 2013 Rangers without surrendering his top two prospects, Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt. There has been speculation in the media they could be part of a package to acquire Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins. Or they could be used to get a rotation piece.
To sum up: the Rangers are in a good spot. They’re smartly constructed. They have a manager who has the trust of his players. They have a good, solid core of veteran leaderships. And in Beltre, Andrus, Kinsler, etc., they have guys good enough to carry a franchise.
The A’s have better starting pitching at the moment, and in a close division race, it’s smart to pick the team with the best rotation. But it would be a huge mistake to overlook the Rangers. No executive in the game has done better work than Daniels.
Okay, they’ve become a punch line. A-Rod makes more money than all 25 Astros. That one was beaten to death in Spring Training, and ESPN breathlessly recycled it last week. Sports radio’s Nitwit Nation has latched onto it as a theme. Hey, it’s not just these goofballs. Plenty of baseball writers seem pretty darn happy that the Astros are losing. These are the guys who won’t read Moneyball, think Billy Beane is anti-American and believe a ThinkPad is something used to cover a barstool.
And all that’s fine. If they’re right, then they’ll have the last laugh. We’ll all know it, too. In the end, the standings will tell us whether Astros owner Jim Crane and general manager Jeff Luhnow know what they’re doing. That’s the beauty of sports. We don’t have to analyze a quarterly sales report. Only the won-loss record matters.
But it won’t be this season. The Astros aren’t trying to lose games in 2013. But they are attempting to build a franchise. Between now and the end of this season, we’ll have the first indication if their plan is working and how long it’ll take to get the club back to the postseason.
From the moment Crane bought the club 18 months ago, he has been clear that he’s willing to exchange some short-term pain to construct something that will last. In other words, the Astros are doing the right thing. They’re using the Rays and A’s and Rangers and others as their blueprint. They’ve decided that winning 75 games isn’t a lot better than winning 65. Rather than take one single shortcut, they’ve decided to strip their roster down to its barest bones and start over.
They’ve acquired some veterans—Carlos Pena and Rick Ankiel and Chris Carter—to help bridge the gap to the younger guys and also to set the right tone in terms of professionalism, work ethic, etc. They’ve hired a manager, Bo Porter, who is smart, energetic and willing to utilize whatever data his front office provides. He’s busting his tail to win every game, and he believes the Astros are going to end up winning far more of them than most people believe. Would 70-92 be a successful season?
If you’ve lived in Houston the last decade, you’re probably a lot more supportive of this blueprint than fans and experts around the country. All those people see is the $25-million payroll and the 2-6 record and the record-setting strikeout pace. They don’t understand all that happened to get the franchise to this point. They also don’t understand that it makes absolutely no sense to splurge on a free agent when the club still isn’t going to be good enough to make the postseason.
Here’s a little history. Between 1997 and 2005, the Astros made the playoffs six times in a nine-year stretch. They did it with one of the best general managers in the game in Gerry Hunsicker. They did it with a pair of future Hall of Famers—Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio—running the clubhouse.
They did it with a farm system that produced Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge and others. Hunsicker made shrewd trades (Carlos Beltran) and smart free-agent signings (Jeff Kent). When Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte gave the Astros a hometown discount in December 2003, the pieces were in place to win a championship.
The Astros won their first postseason series in 2004 and took the Cardinals to Game 7 of the NLCS. In 2005, they won their first National League championship but were swept out of the playoffs. They couldn’t have known it at the time—they were in contention until the 161st game of the season in 2006—but the franchise was about to fall apart. For one thing, their farm system was in terrible shape, and no franchise, not the Red Sox or Yankees, certainly not the Astros, can be successful without a productive farm system.
They responded to this problem by acquiring old guys, hoping to patchwork the roster for one more run. If an old guy walked down the street, the Astros gave him a shot: Pudge Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Pedro Feliz, Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz, Kaz Matsui, Bill Hall. And the Astros got worse.
By the time Ed Wade was hired as general manager in 2007, the Astros were a mess. His assignment was impossible:
- Rebuild the farm system.
- Lower the payroll.
- Keep the Major League team competitive.
Branch Rickey back from the grave couldn’t have accomplished those three things. Nevertheless, Wade left a nice legacy in getting the minor league system turned around and creating a presence in the Caribbean and the Pacific Rim. Much of the talent the Astros now have in their Minor League system—George Springer, Delino DeShields, Jr., Jonathan Singleton, Ross Seaton, Jarred Cosart—was acquired by Wade. Wade did similar work with the Phillies and was fired before seeing it pay off with five straight division championships. When the Astros become good again, Wade’s players almost certainly will be a factor.
In 15 months on the job, Luhnow has constructed a baseball operation with the hiring of plenty of analysts in addition to scouts, instructors and the like. Now his job is to keep acquiring talent. The Astros have the No. 1 pick in the First-Year Player Draft for the second straight year. They need to get that pick right, but they need the kind of good, deep drafts Luhnow had with the Cardinals.
In the end, that’s the only way to have and sustain success. This season is another step along the way. The Astros badly want to win games, but they also want to their fans to understand the bigger picture and how much fun the years ahead can be. Competitive people hate losing, but the worst thing the Astros could do at this point is not stay the course.
So far, not so much. C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova have an 8.18 ERA. As Joe Girardi said after Nova allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings, anyone can have one bad start. So maybe Sabathia, Kuroda and Nova are getting their bad ones out of the way right here at the beginning of the season.
Yes, things do get magnified in these early days when we’re desperately searching for trends. For the Yankees, there are too many to count. They’ve scored 13 runs in four games. They scored two on Opening Day and have thrown four on the board in every game since. But the Yankees acknowledged they were going to be offensively challenged.
That was going to be the case before Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira went on the Disabled List. The Yankees were hoping to get some offense out of Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and the other veterans they’ve brought in. So far, it hasn’t shifted the bottom line.
But pitching was supposed to save the Bombers. Pitching is why it was difficult to dismiss the Yankees even as the injury list kept growing longer and longer during Spring Training. On Saturday, six of their nine starters were batting .200 or lower. One of the players who was hitting above .200 was Eduardo Nunez, who left the game after being hit on the left arm with a pitch.
The Yankees are hoping he’ll avoid the Disabled List, but their injury list is so long that it borders on ridiculous. Of their $228-million payroll, $91.1 million of it is on the Disabled List.
Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times had a fascinating interview with Evan Longoria in which he offers his perspective on the changes in the Rays clubhouse. He was careful not to criticize either player. As Joe Maddon said, they both had huge roles in making the Rays come to stand for something. But because they were two of the last players from the bad old Rays days, they sometimes say the world differently.
“There was a lot of history with B.J. and Shields and this organization, and I think there were some things that it was tough for them to get beyond. They were really the only ones that were left in here that were here before the Rays were (renamed) in 2008, when we started to be the team that we are now. And I think some of those things kind of stuck around, and as much as you try to instill the new way, some of those things, it was tough to get some of those thoughts out of their head. And so, I think, obviously they were great players, but as far as an over-arching belief in what we try to do here, I think with the new people that we have now, it’s a completely new belief in what we’re trying to do here.”
“Bottom line, we don’t have guys in here anymore that knew how it was. There’s no, ‘It was … It used to be …’ It’s all here and now. And what we’re doing now. And that’s the biggest thing. In this game, we always talk about how important it is to play in the now and be in the moment, so to speak. It’s tough to do that when you’re thinking about the past.”
“It’s kind of like a long-term girlfriend that you’ve gone through a lot of tough times with and you’ve had your good times, but when stuff starts to go bad again then you just only remember the bad times. It’s tough to see the bigger picture, it’s tough to see what’s happening right now.”
It’s interesting hearing his perspective. For a lot of us on the outside, especially those of us who aren’t around the club everyday, the Rays seem to be one of those places where players love being and know they’re lucky. Joe Maddon appears to be the manager that players on other teams would most like to play for. He’s demanding in terms of effort and playing smart, but everything else is simple.
In fact, those are almost the exact words Kelly Johnson used this spring in discussing his first weeks with the Rays. Ben Zobrist said he has looked around enough to know he’s lucky to be playing for the Rays, and that when free agency comes around, he’ll take less money to stay.
It was also interesting to hear Maddon’s perspective on Longoria’s thoughts. He praised Shields and Upton, but he also said he’s privy to only about “10 percent” of the clubhouse chatter because he believes that’s their sanctuary.
I just hope fans in Tampa Bay know how lucky they are to have this club. I hope they understand that the current management team isn’t going to be there forever and that Maddon and Zobrist and David Price and the others aren’t going to be around forever.
This is a franchise that’s easy to root for, with players easy to root for. They’ve remade their image so dramatically that it’s getting harder and harder to remember they were once a laughingstock. No one laughs at them know except maybe when opposing players think of how much fun they’d have playing there.
The Red Sox are a tough team to predict, but it would be wrong to overlook them. Isn’t that what we’re saying about all the AL East teams?
It was interesting hearing how many people thought the Red Sox would finish last in the American League East. I thought Ben Cherington had a terrific off-season even without spending gobs of money or making splashy acquisitions. First, the hiring of John Farrell is going to have a huge impact. He has the trust and respect of his players, and regardless of the reason, that’s something Bobby Valentine never had. He’s organized, smart and probably isn’t one of those guys anyone would want to cross. Farrell especially has the trust of his starting pitchers, and the best way for the Red Sox to take a step forward is to get productive seasons from John Lackey, Jon Lester, etc. Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz also appear to hold Farrell in high regard. So there’s that.
And then there were the player moves. Cherington filled holes and gave the Red Sox a different vibe without making a single huge financial commitment. In Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew, David Ross, Mike Napoli and Ryan Dempster, he got more than good players. He got good teammates and team-first guys. Suddenly, all the pieces seemed to fit in a way they haven’t in the last couple of years. If you wanted to be skeptical, you’d look at those six players and wonder if they could make a dramatic impact on a team. Those are legitimate concerns, but to me, it’s more than that.
Winning teams are these living, breathing things that function together and are at their best when players trust one another and get along with one another. During the Winter Meetings last December, I asked Jack Morris if those of us in the media made too much out of chemistry and teamwork and intangible things.
“I think you don’t make enough of a big deal about it,” he said.
I vividly remember the atmosphere around those Tigers teams he was part of in the ’80s. Sparky Anderson would tell of leaving the clubhouse at midnight and seeing a few players still hanging around, having a beer and talking about the game. I have to think that stuff matters because in tough times, there’s unlikely to be finger-pointing or a lack of trust.
Craig Biggio said when he first came to the big leagues the Astros did exactly the same thing. He’d gather on the outside of the group after games and listen as Nolan Ryan, Danny Darwin and others sat around and told stories and talked about the game. Those have to be great exercises in team building.
The Red Sox probably can’t win without big years from Lackey and Lester. They need Felix Doubront to continue making progress. And there are a dozen little things that have to happen: Joel Hanrahan, Will Middlebrooks, Jacoby Ellsbury. Then again, no one can argue they can’t win. Just because they’ve got some older guys doesn’t mean they still can win. And Jackie Bradley Jr. has provided a burst of energy for an entire organization.
Another reason some people may have been picking the Red Sox last is that the AL East is about as close to being a tossup as any division in baseball. Various people are picking the Rays, Blue Jays and Orioles. Almost no one is picking the Yankees and Red Sox, but there are scenarios, especially for the Red Sox, in which it’s easy to see them making the playoffs. Regardless, it’s the kind of team Red Sox fans will enjoy. They’re consummate professionals. They seem to enjoy one other and love to compete.
Yeah, I know. Boston is a bottom line town, and there’s no way of knowing what the bottom line will be on the Red Sox. But on the morning after the first victory of the season, it’s a lot easier to be optimistic about them.
One of the first things that’s obvious about these new Yankees is that GM Brian Cashman was considering more than talent. He wanted guys willing to accept whatever role Joe Girardi would ask of them. He wanted guys highly regarded around the game, with reputations for working hard and caring about the right things.
I’m going to pause right here and allow Yankee fans to roll their eyes and mutter things I wouldn’t even think of repeating in a nice family-friendly forum like this one. They simply do not care if Yankees help old ladies across the street or work in soup kitchens. The Yankees are about one thing, and that one thing is winning, and that’s why we love ‘em.
In the end, it comes down to talent. Yes, teamwork and all that stuff is important. Regardless of what happens before or after games, winning is about having a bunch of guys committed to one thing and having the talent to make that one thing happen. That’s the thing we don’t know about Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and these other new Yankees.
We just don’t know if they’re still capable of playing at a high level. But with the Yankees already hit hard by free-agent departures and with Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter all on the disabled list, Cashman has been in a scramble mode for a couple of weeks.
Since last season ended, he acquired four players who are likely to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first (Lyle Overbay), DH (Travis Hafner), left field (Vernon Wells) and third base (Kevin Youkilis). He also re-signed Ichiro Suzuki and grabbed Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch off the street.
It’s impossible to know if any of them can still play, but Cashman has hit it big in recent years with the acquisitions of Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez, Andruw Jones, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Ichiro. He clearly has become convinced through the years that a good work ethic and a high degree of professionalism are important. If you take guys who know the game and work hard and you put them around others like them, there’s a better chance of something good happening.
It’ll be fascinating to see how it plays out. Maybe all the guys he acquired—Hafner, Youkilis, Overbay, Wells, etc.—have more yesterdays than tomorrow, but they were all terrific players at one time. The Yankees are going to find out if putting them in pinstripes and putting them behind that pitching staff will be enough to overcome a lot of things.
Is anyone picking the Yankees? Of course not. Don’t be silly. On the other hand, it’s amazing how virtually no one is counting them out. They’ve won too much for that. Also, Granderson and others should be back from the Disabled List at some point. And the Yankees will have the resources—and possibly the Minor League talent depending on how the first half of the season goes—to make a deal.
They’re almost always the center of the baseball universe, and in a strange way, that’s true even now. Maybe it’ll all collapse, and they’ll finish last. On paper, that’s pretty much what it says should happen. On the other hand, maybe those old guys will be energized by their surroundings and put together one final run. After all the Yankees have accomplished through the years, it would be one of the sweetest and most improbable seasons imaginable.