We start a series with the Yankees tonight. They are 8-6, sitting in 2nd place, 2.5 behind the Red Sox, 2.0 ahead of us. This from a team riddled with old Blue Jays. Its hard to take.
Anyway, I sent off a few questions to Steven Goldman (a heck of a nice guy, it's hard to believe he's a Yankees fan), from SB Nation's Pinstriped Bible.
What's the status on Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez? Do you expect to see them playing the infield together ever again? Who has their jobs and how are they doing?
You know, if you had asked me 48 hours ago, I would have said, "Of course we will." Now, with Jeter's latest injury, I'm not so sure. As I wrote yesterday,I'm not sure sure Jeter will be able to play shortstop on anything like a regular basis anymore, whenever he finally does come back. It's not that the additional ankle fracture is totally unexpected, but just that in the whole history of baseball, only a few players were considered acceptable defensive shortstops at Jeter's age. Now take that player and start deducting range points for the injury, and the fact that when you're that age things you break don't always come back with the same flexibility as they had before (I know -- I suffered a mild fracture of my right ankle in a fall when I was about 32, and it took a year for it to feel right) and you have something other than an adequate defender at shortstop -- and there is a good argument that Jeter hadn't been that in a long time.
As for A-Rod, he has been cleared to run -- slowly -- on a treadmill. It's going to be awhile before we have any sense of what he has left, and some of these Biogenesis chickens might have come home to roost by then.
I have to ask how our old friends Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Jayson Nix and Ben Francisco are doing?
Wells has really surprised me in his willingness to take a walk to this point. He's already taken eight free passes, or 50 percent of last year's total. Still, it's early, and his last few games have been quiet (he's 2-for-15 since his last home run) so it's tempting to say that it's too early to call this a comeback. He's certainly been saying all the right thing about hitting to all fields, but I'm skeptical.
Overbay is the same old story -- nice moves around the bag, not much hitting. With injuries to Eduardo Nunez, we've seen more Nix than can possibly be helpful. Defensive versatility is obviously helpful, but Laynce got all the hitting genes in the family. Ben Francisco just hasn't been able to get into the lineup much. He's clearly the last man on Joe Girardi's bench, which is appropriate.
Is Mariano Rivera the same as he's always been after the injury?
It seems that way. The velocity seems to be roughly where it was when he left off, but in his case it's most about movement and command than raw stuff, and so far he's shown both. That's quite a relief because the one thing worse than Rivera retiring is the thought of watching him get beat up.
How confident are you that the Yankees will re-sign Robinson Cano? How much will he get?
I'm not very good at the guess-the-salary game, but consider that both Cano and Chase Utley currently make about $15 million. Given the way starting-pitcher salaries have been climbing of late, I would be surprised if he wasn't able to push that closer to $20 million. I think it pretty likely the Yankees will sign him. I don't think that's necessarily the greatest idea in that second basemen seem to fall off pretty hard in their 30s, so as good as Cano has been, the back end may cost more money than it's worth. The problem with the Yankees is they don't really have a good way to pick up the slack if they have a more run-of-the-mill middle infielder at the keystone.
One of the question marks this spring was the catcher position. Who has it, how they doing and can we run on him?
After last night's two catcher-interference calls (how often do you see that twice in one game?) on Francisco Cervelli, I'd say don't run, just swing late and he'll reach out and grab the bat. Right now, no one has the position. Joe Girardi is very insistent that it's too soon to call Cervelli or Chris Stewart the starter, and he's going to deploy them on a day-to-day basis. At .294/.415/.500, Cervelli has hit quite well so far, but that's only going to last so long. The Yankees have had only five stolen base attempts against them so far, which is odd given neither of these guys is exactly Ivan Rodriguez. They've only caught one of those five, so it seems like running might be worth a try.
You guys picked up my least favourite player of all time, Kevin Youkilis, how is he doing?
Quite well at .315/.383/.500. He's been a more aggressive hitter than in the past, with a walk percentage less than half of his typical rate. So, no Greek God of Walks here, just a guy who is trying to put the ball in play and has had some luck with it. I don't think we've seen the real Youkilis yet.
Anything else Jays fans should know about the Yankees?
There are a lot of potential "lasts" with the Yankees this year. Obviously, this is one of your last chances to see Mariano Rivera. It may also be one of your last to see Andy Pettitte, whose career doesn't rise to quite the same level, although when one combines his regular- and post-season work he certainly is historically significant. Hell, the way they're going, you might also be getting your last looks at Ichiro Suzuki and Lyle Overbay. There's one for the memory book -- the last Lyle Overbay. Amen.
Thanks Steven. And honestly, I'd be quite happy is we don't see Rivera this series.