Wednesday, January 22, 2014

An Embarassment of Riches Is Sometimes Just Embarassing

It's hard being a Yankees fan sometimes.  Yeah, yeah, my wallet is too small for my $50's and my diamond shoes are too tight.  I get it.  Fans of other teams would love to have these "problems".  But seriously -- you can only hear "Ah, you bought the pennant" so many times, especially when it's true.

The latest news is another mega-millions signing: Japanese superstar Masahiro Tanaka has taken the money thrown at him by the Yankees.  And while it sounds good -- I think Tanaka will be a lot closer to Yu Darvish than Kei Igawa -- it's no slam dunk.  And for $155 million, you should be paying for slam dunk.

Isolated, the Tanaka deal is fine.  The McCann signing, while for too much money and too many years, filled a void.  It was S.O.P. Yankees: have a problem, throw some money at it.  Yes, McCann will be a very expensive and under-producing DH by the time his deal is up, but I can live with it for now.  But after McCann, the Yankees off-season took a bizarre turn.

The mystifying move to bring in Jacoby Ellsbury haunts me still and casts a pall over the 2014 Yankees.  "Overpaid" doesn't even begin to describe the ridiculous contract handed out to a player with one good season who can barely keep himself on the field.  Add to the fact that the Yankees already had a crowded outfield and it makes even less sense.  And of course, the equal and opposite reaction that sent Robinson Cano to Seattle made the deal even that much more maddening.

Signing the aging Carlos Beltran was a desperate grab to patch the gaping hole in the lineup left by Cano.  Another "too long for too much" contract for a player on the decline, sheer payroll overkill for sheepish fans of the Pinstripes. 

And now Tanaka.  The 2014 Yankees will bear little resemblance to the team that represented New York in 2013.  Based on their 2013 record, that's not a bad thing.  How the Yankees got there, though, well, that's another story.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bye-bye, So Long, Farewell

Steriods?  Who, me?
At long last, baseball fans got what they wanted: Alex Rodriguez is no more.  After an arbitrator ruled that A-Rod's original 211-game suspension was being "shortened" to 162 games, it all but spelled the end of Rodriguez's career in Major League Baseball.  Having missed most of the 2013 season with a hip injury, by the time the 2014 season has ended, A-Rod will have played all of 44 games in 2 years.  At age 39, with two surgically-repaired hips, it hardly bodes well for a comeback in 2015.

However, I think there is a chance, albeit a small one, that A-Rod can play in the majors again.  The scenario itself is actually plausible -- the hiccup is that it requires Rodriguez to actually accept baseball's punishment and move on.  (So far, that doesn't seem likely.)

But let's assume that A-Rod exhausts all his legal avenues prior to Spring Training and finally faces the reality that he will not be playing baseball for the Yankees or anyone else in the major leagues in 2014.  What's a shamed superstar to do?  Hop on a trans-pacific flight and sign up to play in the Japanese league.  

That lets Rodriguez show us if there's anything left in the tank.  Prove to us that a clean A-Rod is still a viable player.  Granted, the competition in Japan isn't quite major-league caliber, but it will be easy to see if he's still a man among boys, or simply an aging, over-matched veteran seeking one more season in the sun.  If he plays well, a return to MLB wouldn't be far-fetched.

Well, sure, A-Rod still has a contract with the Yankees.  But don't you think it's worth $30 or $40 million to the Yankees to buy out his existing deal and make him go away?  With that cash in hand, it makes it easier for A-Rod to accept a lesser offer from some other MLB team.  And it's not like the other convicted drug offenders haven't been welcomed back in the fold following their suspensions.  Maybe the Marlins, in desperate need of a drawing card, bring down South Florida's own for a homecoming?  Maybe it's the A's, looking for a potential bargain and a short-term solution for some offense? 

While we're all glad to see Alex Rodriguez go, part of that glee has to do with the whole sideshow that always accompanies him.  Perhaps a year away in a foreign land, with nothing to focus on except baseball, will change him.  Perhaps not.  But it's a scenario that I'd like to see play out by the time 2015 rolls around.