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Long Explains Why Yankees Weren’t The Bronx Bombers In 2014 — September 30, 2014

Long Explains Why Yankees Weren’t The Bronx Bombers In 2014

Embattled Hitting Coach: Struggles Weren’t Because Of A Lack Of Effort By Anyone

kevin-long-with-a-rod

By Sweeny Murti

When Joe Girardi was asked Monday if his coaching staff would be back next year, he said only that they worked very hard and that he has a good relationship with all his coaches and that those decisions would be coming further down the road.

Could hitting coach Kevin Long take the fall for the Yankees’ worst offensive season in more than 20 years?

I sat down with Long last weekend in Boston and got some answers about what went wrong with the 2014 Yankees and specifically his role:

In the simplest terms, what happened this year?

Kevin Long:  “Well, we didn’t score enough runs. The consistency of coming out on an offensive basis, giving yourself a chance to win, I didn’t feel like we did the job we needed to do.  And you can’t just point to one individual, it’s a collective group.  Me being in charge of the offense I take as much blame as anybody.  And it’s hard to swallow. At the end of the day it’s a tough pill.

“For as much time and effort as I know I’ve put into it and the guys have put into it, you can’t blame effort and you can’t blame the work we’ve put into it. But at the end of the day you’ve got to find ways to get it done and we just did not do that.”

Is there anything that you think was a main factor why it just didn’t click for guys who’ve done it in the past?

Kevin Long:  “You know, when you think about the middle of the order, several people were in the middle of our order. Those are guys that you need production from. And if you don’t have production from the middle of your order it’s going to be tough in this league to compete every single day.

“The bottom of the order guys, do you expect them to do big things? I would think most people would say no.  The top of the order has to get on and has to give those guys a chance and I feel like for the most part they did.

“Now are there some reasons why those guys (in the middle of the order) didn’t perform? I would say yes.  I would say physically Carlos Beltran battled all year. And I give him a lot of credit, because a lot of people would have quit and they would have said ‘You know I’m just going to go get my (elbow) surgery, I’m a shell of what I should be.’

“Mark Teixeira coming back, you know, he would tell you he battled as well, didn’t have that snap in his wrist that allows him to be the hitter that he wants to be.

“Brian McCann — I give him a lot of credit because he did figure it out.  You know he ends up with (23 HR and 75 RBI). At one point you thought that would have been out of distance, that there’s no way he could have done that.  His at-bats got better as the year went on, there’s a positive there. I think if Beltran gets back, he’s going to have surgery as soon as the season’s over, that’s going to help.  And I think Tex will be better.  So there is something to look at and say this could and will get better as we go along.

“Also another thing I think we should talk about is we’ve got to be better on the bases.  I can’t tell you how many times we ran ourselves out of innings, or we didn’t do little things we need to do.  And in today’s game where runs are so hard to come by you have to be more efficient in those areas. Moving runners will be more of a premium, getting guys in will be more of a premium.  Hitting with runners in scoring position we were probably in the middle of the pack [finished with .253 BA with RISP, 8th in AL, 14th in MLB], but again if you don’t have speed out there or don’t have a good secondary (lead) it’s going to be tough to score runners.

“There are a lot of factors. Obviously when it doesn’t go well you can point to a million different things.  And in this case I think you can point to a lot of things.”

We talked about this two years ago where you said you weren’t going to become the Bronx Bunters, but the way the offense is trending now, do you have to start thinking about doing more things differently?

Kevin Long:  “No we’re not constructed like that.  (GM Brian Cashman) doesn’t get a whole lot of speed guys.  He goes out and gets guys that can hit the ball out of the park. I don’t think hitting the ball out of the park was as much of an issue as the other things.  We had about 150 home runs [147 to be exact].  At one point it didn’t even look like we’d get close to that.  We did hit some home runs and we did some things (in the second half), but it’s more about the little things.  Executing and not missing a pitch when you need to.  And I’m going to go to baserunning again — we have to better there, we have to better with men in scoring position.

“Getting guys over from second base (to third base with nobody out) I looked at our clip the other day, it was really, really good. And getting guys in, I think league average is 55 percent or something, and I think we’re a little bit above that.  Some of those little things we did do well.

“As far as bunting, Joe’s going to pick his times to bunt and it’s not going to be a Beltran or a Teixeira or a McCann. It’s going to be bottom of the order guys or some guys at the top of the order.  He’ll pick his spots, but I don’t think we need to do more bunting.  Should we work on bunting maybe a little more? Maybe.  But I did see numerous times our guys were willing to bunt against the shift.  And I’m talking about some of our big guys.  I saw Beltran do it twice, McCann did it probably 10 times on the year, I’ve seen Headley try a few times.  I’ve seen a lot of guys at least try to combat that shift.”

I want to get back to the shift, but you talked about runners in scoring position. Averages are down all over, they’ve been up higher before. Is that an approach, is it luck, is it the health of the guys in the middle of the order you were talking about earlier? Is there anything that you can say why this team didn’t drive in as many runs as it should have with runners in scoring position?

Kevin Long: “Luck is a big part of it.  Some bleeders will work, any blooper will work, an infield hit will work.  There are so many things that can keep an inning going or get runners in.  A lot of it is luck.  You can look at the Cardinals.  They were incredible last year (.330 BA with RISP in 2013, down to .254 in 2014).  They go one year and you tell me they did something that drastically different that they weren’t able to come through in those situations?  Same hitting coach [John Mabry], same pretty much everybody in place.  They lost Beltran.  You can’t tell me he’s going to make almost a 100-point difference.  So that leads me to believe, yes there is some luck involved.  And whether it’s a big sample of a full year or what have you, there are just some years where everything clicks and falls into place.”

The shift — you guys do it more defensively, and other teams do it to you more than I’ve seen in the past.  It’s definitely a reason some of your batting averages are down.  But what can you do about it and did you do enough about it this year?

Kevin Long: “I think what you do is you start attacking that in spring training.  And how do you do that?  You just set up a back field and work on hitting ground balls the other way.  Plain and simple.  Just a ground ball and hitting it the other way.  Do guys practice that very often? Not really.

“The power hitters, the shift guys … I think more guys are going to have to work on it, and will work on it.”

Is it that easy to just say “hit the ball the other way?”

Kevin Long: “If you work on it and you get a feel for it, I believe it is.  (Derek Jeter) always says to me, and he’s right, ‘I wish they’d do that to me, I’d get a hit every single time.’  I don’t know about every single time, that’s his confidence coming into play, but yes, you can manipulate the barrel of the bat and create angles that allow you to get some extra hits.  And you know what?  You do it four or five times, that’s all it takes, and they are going to start honoring your swing a little bit more and know that you’ll do that.”

So where is your role in all this? I hear from fans all the time, “They don’t hit against the shift, it’s the hitting coach’s fault.”  At the end of the day it’s the guy in the batter’s box, but what is your role in getting these guys to understand it and execute it?

Kevin Long: “Yeah, you just start attacking it.  Obviously the way baseball is now with the amount of shifts … again, you just attack it.  You set up the field — and I’ll be a part of this — you set up the field, get everybody out there and work on hitting the ball the other way.  And not in the air, because that’s not going to work.  It’s more hitting it on the ground the other way.  So we’ll attack it and at least make it available to them.  And the more you practice it, the more that you go, ‘Oh I can do that. I should be able to do that at any time.’”

So when it doesn’t happen — is it your message not getting through or is the hitter just not able to execute?

Kevin Long: “I don’t know that it’s not my message getting through, because we all talk about it.  It’s very open conversation in the dugout, with the players, with me … so you just continue to harp on it, continue to stay on it.  And then we’ve got to a find way.  When we’re in batting practice there’s nobody that jumps in the cage or in BP that starts yanking the ball and hitting it out of the park.  They all start where? Hitting the ball the other way.  So they’re all capable of it.  They’ve got to commit to it a little bit.  They’ve got to say I’m going to take this hit right here.”

I’ve talked to you about this before — the role of hitting coach is not the same as the offensive coordinator in football.  You’re not drawing up plays and when they’re unsuccessful in scoring it’s directly the result of what you’ve drawn up.  There are a lot of different ways to do what you do and how you impact hitters.  Did you ever think this year because the team wasn’t scoring runs that your job was in danger?

Kevin Long: “I don’t think that way.  I never have, I never will.  I truly believe that I’m one of the best hitting coaches in the game.  Why would I say that? I’ve been doing this long enough and I’ve heard from enough players out there that have been other places.  And I ask them if there’s something else I need to do, I will graciously do it.  And if I need to attack some different areas or find some deficiencies that I need to get better at, then let’s do it.  You’re always trying to get better.  You’re always trying to give the player the best avenue to succeed.  Some years are going to be tougher than others, some days will be tougher than others, some weeks.  This has just been a rough couple years actually (chuckles).  Last year the players that we had weren’t the top caliber players.  This year we had some names in there but I don’t know if they were right (physically).

“So no excuses, I’ll take full responsibility and blame, but I’ll continue to work as hard as I’ve ever worked.  I’m going to continue to do whatever I can to help our organization, our players, and at the end of the day I can go to sleep at night knowing that I gave everything I had to this organization, to the fans, to the players, to everybody involved.

“And you know what?  At some point I won’t be the Yankees hitting coach and they’re going to understand that this guy Kevin Long really did give us everything he could.  And you know what? We blasted him and maybe gave him a harder time than maybe he deserved.  But when your offense struggles or you’re not scoring runs, I get it.  I understand.  If you want to attack me, attack me.  Come after me and give me as much grief as you want to give me.  But I can tell you this:  it’s not from not being involved in the offense or with the players and trying to make them as consistent as I can make them on a daily basis.”

The Yankees Free Agents to Be —

The Yankees Free Agents to Be

By Domenic Lanza

As of Sunday evening, the Yankees season was over, yet several weeks of baseball remain on the slate. Free agency will not begin until November, and so the Yankees are in a holding pattern, left to reorganize cupboard until holiday shopping season officially commences. While the front office waits to touch base with players currently occupying other uniforms, they will have to determine the best course of action for those players that ended the season in pinstripes – players with whom the Yankees will have an exclusive negotiating period after the World Series ends.

The following are the players that are eligible to head for greener pastures this off-season – an asterisk denotes that the player is eligible for a qualifying offer.

The name that jumps out here is, of course, Heath Bell. Remember when the Yankees signed the Heath Bell Experience in June and released him a scant eleven days later? I sure don’t. And I also don’t think that he should count as a Yankees free agent, given the fact that he has been unemployed since June 24 … but, I digress.

The names that actually jump out, in terms of players that have yet to ride off into the sunset, are Hiroki Kuroda and David Robertson. Kuroda has been the team’s most consistent starter for the last three seasons, yet he is perpetually on the verge of calling it a career. Robertson has been one of the best relievers in baseball since 2010, but the market for relievers is sketchy at best, and Dellin Betances looms as a ready-made replacement. I would tender both the QO and worry about the rest later, but a $15 MM one-year deal for a reliever may be too much for the still budget-conscious Yankees.

Drew, Headley, McCarthy, and, to a lesser extent, Young feel like players that could play an important role on the 2015 Yankees. You could imagine Drew on a one-year pillow contract, Headley on a deal deflated by back to back to back average-ish seasons, McCarthy on a short-term deal that recognizes his volatility, and Young as a platoon outfielder, right? Of course, the market remains unpredictable, and fewer skilled players hit free agency every season.

It is still too early to begin prognosticating on the particulars – especially when we are sure to be spending a great deal of time doing so as we approach the feeding frenzy that is free agency, and then dive headfirst into hot stove season. And yet here I am, having already done so for 400-plus words.

What say you?

Postseason notes: No guarantees for Long — September 29, 2014

Postseason notes: No guarantees for Long

By Wallace Matthews

NEW YORK — Joe Girardi touched on a wide variety of topics in a 36-minute press conference at Yankee Stadium on Monday. But one of the most eagerly-anticipated questions got no definitive answer.

Namely, will all of Girardi’s coaches return for 2015? And in particular, will hitting coach Kevin Long, the object of Yankee fan wrath this season for the club’s anemic offense, be back on the bench?

[+] EnlargeKevin Long

Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty ImagesWill hitting coach Kevin Long return to Joe Girardi’s staff in 2015.

“The one thing that’s done here every year is we’re all evaluated on what we do,” Girardi said. “That will be done shortly, I’m sure. But it’s what, 20 hours since we played a game or whatever it is? We haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk about it. I’m sure I’m being evaluated as well.”

Girardi said he had “a close relationship” with all his coaches, but couldn’t guarantee that all of them will be back. Asked specifically about Long, Girardi praised his work ethic and said he saw no difference in Long’s approach to his job this year, when the Yankees scored just 633 runs, or in 2009, when the scored 915 runs and won the World Series.

“For me, he works tirelessly,” Girardi said. “He’s always working with the guys on their swings, he’s looking at tape, but as I said, we’re all being evaluated. We’ve missed the playoffs two years in a row. That’s part of being a coach.”

Girardi gave his best: Asked for a self-evaluation after the Yankees’ second straight year of missing the postseason, Girardi said, “Well, we didn’t get to where we want, so I’ve always shouldered the responsibility. The bottom line is we didn’t get to where we want. And for that I’m very disappointed. So I don’t really think too long and hard about what people say about me. I gave my best effort, I know that, on a day-in-and-day-out basis. That’s all I can do. And if that’s not good enough … well, I accept that.”

Girardi just completed the first of a four-year, $16 million contract.

Offense will be better in 2015: So says Girardi, although he said that just about every day of the season as the Yankees fell further and further into the abyss.

“I really still believe that there’s enough talent in that room, when you put all the pieces on the field, to score runs. I do,” Girardi said. “We didn’t do it enough this year. I understand that. But still believe there’s enough talent in that room, and time is going to tell. We’re going to have 150 days to think about it and then we’re going to have about 45 days to get ready and then we’re at it. And we’re going to find out.”

New faces coming?: Girardi said he expects the Yankees will add at least one free agent in the offseason. “I’m sure there will be some pieces added,” he said. “I can’t tell you exactly what, but I don’t remember the last time the Yankees haven’t added a piece during the offseason.”

Girardi offered the opinion that the Yankees infield would be the area most likely to be improved, while adding his favorite mantra, “You can never have too much pitching.”

Hammerin’ Brett: Brett Gardner is the Yankees’ nominee for the 2014 Hank Aaron Award, presented to the outstanding offensive player in each league. Gardner hit .256 with a career-high 17 homers, 58 RBI and a .749 OPS.

Josh is out, man: The Yankees announced they outrighted LHP Josh Outman to AAA Scranton.

Yankees’ embattled hitting coach expects to be back —

Yankees’ embattled hitting coach expects to be back

By Dan Martin

Kevin Long, Derek Jeter

Yankees Hitting Coach Kevin Long (left) expects to return next season.

BOSTON — Despite the lineup’s woes throughout the year, Yankees hitting coachKevin Long expects to keep his job after signing a contract after last season.

“Why wouldn’t I be back?” Long said after a rare offensive outburst in Sunday’s 9-5 win over the Red Sox in the season finale at Fenway Park. “I’m just going to prepare like I always do.”

And that includes working with Alex Rodriguez, who will return in 2015 after serving a season-long PED suspension.

“I’ve already talked to him,” Long said. “He’s gonna be part of this team. We’ve talked about how he’s doing and where he’s at. Nothing about hitting. I’m sure we’ll get to that shortly.”

General manager Brian Cashman said on Saturday that he has also been in contact with the third baseman. It will likely be up to Long to help Rodriguez produce again.

“That’s the goal,” Long said. “That’s what we’re going to work toward.”

It’s not entirely surprising the Yankees are looking to Rodriguez to help, since the offense this season never clicked, with off years from Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Derek Jeter and a terrible start by Brian McCann.

“It was disappointing,” Long said of the forgettable season. “We tried a lot of different things, but it didn’t work out.”

The DAY has arrived! — September 28, 2014

The DAY has arrived!

By Johnny Yankee

th

When the 2014 season started, we all knew that it would be Derek Jeter’s
last season, since he had announced it. Checking the Baseball Schedule, we
also knew that Set. 28, 2014 would be his last game ever and that it would
take place in Boston, of all places.

We had hopes that it would not be, that he would somehow play in the post season,
thus at Yankee Stadium, where we could enjoy his play, his presence, a bit longer.
No one expected for us to be through after the 162nd game of the season, that it
would come down to this afternoon, but sadly it has! He will not play shortstop,
as he has decided not to, but out of re2pect for the Bostonian fans and all of
his fans, he will be the DH. At least we will have the opportunity to see him come
to the plate another 4 times, if he decides to play the whole game.

The fans at Fenway will call his name, cheer him, have lumps in their throats,
goose bumps, tears, because more than a player who has been there at Boston to
try and beat their Red Sox, one who has given them fits throughout their confrontations,
they know that this is not just another Yankee player retiring. They know baseball
quite well and they know that this guy, this man named Derek Jeter, has been the
face of Baseball for the last 20 years. THAT, has got to be re2pected, even by
Red Sox fans.

So today, Iphones, cameras, Androids, whatever means that exist today to capture
his picture, will be activated. They will want to have a Yankee player’s photo
so that one day they can tell their children, grandchildren, that despite having
hated the Yankees and all that it means or has meant for over 100 years, there
was one guy that as much as they may have wanted to hate, they could not, for this man while
playing for the Enemy, was special, was truly a class act, on and off the field.
If he re2ected them, why then would they not re2pect him both as a man, and as a
player?

I am sure that if he was to get the winning hit this afternoon as he did Thursday
night at YS, the fans will not mind. I honestly feel that he will get a standing
ovation by all there present, for they know that they will have watched a special
player, in a special moment, for the last time. They will know that not even his
Yankee fans back at home had the privilege of having watched him live for the last
time. I guess that the ones who wrote the schedule did not envisioned this when they
did. Nevertheless, the Sox fans will have the last look at Derek Jeter. They will
savor it to the last out….

The A-bsentee! — September 27, 2014

The A-bsentee!

By Johnny Yankee

No, he wasn’t there and he should not have been! While many other ex-Yankee
players were at the Stadium for that last game of Derek Jeter ever at YS, he was
not there, he was absent and rightfully so. He had no business being there, and
it’s sad because it’s really a tale of two players, two stars, one going up and the
other going down.

I remember when both were coming up. There were three shortstops in the Majors
who besides Ripken, were way better than any other shortstops in the game. Cal
was already weaving his illustrious career, on his way to becoming one of the greatest
players at his position, at any position. Jeter and Alex, along with Garciaparra of
the Red Sox, were the three players that were being discussed as the best at their
positions, with many pointing to A-Rod as the best. He was putting up numbers like
not too many people in the game had ever put. Some even felt uncomfortable at
even comparing the young Jeter with him, even less Nomar. This guy Alex Rodriguez,
A-Rod, was simply head and shoulders above them and above any other player
then. He had natural born skills, could do it all!

Despite all of this, somehow Mr. A-Rod felt envy of Derek. Jeter was playing in
the City where Alex was born, he was receiving all of the glamor, was Prince of
N.Y.C. He had it all, even if Alex had more given talent. In time, as destiny would
have it, he ended being a Yankee and out of respect for a man he had learn to
respect even if he was superior in skills, he gave way for the Captain to play his
position while he moved to third. Yet, something happened on the way to the
forum, as the movie says. He Alex, took the wrong turn, went down instead of up.
That for a guy who didn’t need any of that illegal stuff to be the best, but he
decided to enhance even more his career and wound up paying for his transgression.

Alex became a disgrace not only to himself, but to his teammates. His legacy is no
longer real, it’s no longer looked at as clean. It is corrupted, damaged beyond repair,
his HOF entry no longer a sure thing, unless a new generation of Scribes many
years from now see it as if nothing happened and vote him in. Sad indeed.

With his shame and disgrace, how could he make his way into YS on Thursday Night
and be part of those honoring Mr. Jeter, his opposite? How could he be there and
see how much a whole City, a whole Nation loves this man who played the game
right, the cards, without cheating? How could he stand to be there and see all of the
celebrating going on and realize that he too, could have had something similar,
even if it would never, ever, be like Jeter’s, for no one can ever emulate that, as true
love has no rivals and Jeter received back much of the love and respect he gave us
and the game of Baseball.

Yes, he did right in staying wherever he was that night. I am sure that wherever he
was he was watching. His ego hurt, his jealousy at a high peak, and yet he must
have somehow realized that it was alright to honor him as he was being honored.
He must have realized that he made a grave error, a big mistake, and that he took
the wrong road and certainly not the road that Derek Jeter took. I don’t remember too
many people taking that road, except maybe for Mariano, another special Yankee,
another special human being. I just wonder what future Yankee will follow Jeter’s
road and find in him someone to emulate. For sure, no one wants to follow the road
that other fake took….

Thursday’s other farewell: Hiroki Kuroda likely making final start in pinstripes — September 25, 2014

Thursday’s other farewell: Hiroki Kuroda likely making final start in pinstripes

By Michael Axisa

Hiroki-Kuroda

Later tonight, Derek Jeter will play his final home game at Yankee Stadium. We’ve known this was coming for months now but I still can’t believe it. I grew up watching Jeter’s career from start to finish and I’m finding it impossible to imagine a world in which he isn’t the shortstop of the Yankees. I’m certain tonight will be memorable regardless of the weather forecast. Everything Jeter does is memorable.

Tonight’s game will also feature another, much less celebrated farewell. Hiroki Kuroda is set to make what will likely be the final start of his Yankees career and possibly his MLB career. He has flirted with retirement in each of the last two offseasons and he’s already started doing it again this year. Sure, there is a chance he could return, but the feeling all season has been that the Yankees will move on from Kuroda now that he’s approaching 40 and his effectiveness is staring to wane.

It’s fitting Kuroda’s final start will be (understandably) overshadowed by Jeter’s farewell tonight. Just about everything he’s done in pinstripes has been overshadowed. The day the Yankees signed him was the also day the day they shipped Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Michael Pineda. When Kuroda re-signed with the team after that season, it was overshadowed by Andy Pettitte announcing he wanted to return for one more year. When he re-signed again this offseason, it was the same day Robinson Cano bolted for Seattle and Carlos Beltran became a Yankee.

Getting overshadowed is what Kuroda does, but the fact is he has been the team’s best and most reliable pitcher since first putting on pinstripes. There were always starters getting more attention — CC Sabathia in 2012, Ivan Nova in 2013, Masahiro Tanaka and Pineda in 2014 — but Kuroda was the stalwart in Joe Girardi‘s rotation. He missed one start in three years with the Yankees, and that was when they shut him down after being eliminated last September and sent out a spot starter in Game 162.

Kuroda was remarkable consistent these last three seasons — 2012-14 WHIP: 1.16, 1.16, 1.17; 2012-14 FIP: 3.86, 3.56, 3.58; 2012-14 K/BB: 3.27, 3.49, 3.91 — and he was truly one of the best pitchers in baseball, even with his late-season fades in 2012 and 2013. Here is where he ranks among his peers since joining New York (min. 300 IP, 131 qualifiers):

Innings Starts ERA ERA+ FIP WHIP K/BB bWAR fWAR
Kuroda 612 96 3.46 117 3.67 1.165 3.52 11.7 11.0
MLB Rank 12th t-8th 36th t-26th t-44th 22nd 29th t-13th 17th

Kuroda has been no worse than a top 15-20 starter these last three years when you look at the whole picture, his effectiveness on a rate basis and the bulk innings he provided. He went 7+ scoreless innings in 14 starts over the last three years, the fourth most in baseball behind Clayton Kershaw (20), Adam Wainwright (19), and Felix Hernandez (15). In his only two postseason starts with the Yankees, Kuroda allowed two runs in 8.1 innings (2012 ALDS) and three runs in 7.2 innings (2012 ALCS). He struck out 14 and walked one.

“The next outing, I may end my career there. Who knows?” said Kuroda to Chad Jenningsfollowing his start last Friday. “For now, I still have a job to do, which is to finish this season. I don’t really put too much time on (thinking about what’s next). It’s something I need to think about once I finish my responsibilities here.”

During his three years in New York, Kuroda was consistently solid, occasionally brilliant, and rarely bad. He was almost like the position player version of Hideki Matsui, fitting the team in a way that made it seem like he had been with the Yankees for years and years. Kuroda was obviously excellent on the field but he also carried himself with class and represented the team with dignity. Forgive the cliche, but he was a True Yankee in every way.

Kuroda’s tenure in pinstripes will likely come to an end tonight, overshadowed by Jeter’s farewell. That’s fine though. He’s been overshadowed and somewhat underappreciated ever since he arrived in New York. That’s his thing. Hopefully he gets a moment in the spotlight and a big ovation when he walks off the Yankee Stadium for what figures to be the final time tonight. Kuroda has been a great pitcher and a damn good Yankee these last three seasons, and he deserves a little send-off of his own.

King: Yasmany Tomas already has $75M offer (not from Yankees) —

King: Yasmany Tomas already has $75M offer (not from Yankees)

By Michael Axisa

Via George King: Soon-to-be free agent Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas already has a $75M contract offer from an unknown team, though it is not the Yankees. King and Ben Badler said Tomas looked good during his showcase over the weekend and that hundreds of scouts showed up. The Phillies and Rangers have scheduled private workouts and Jesse Sanchezsays more are expected to happen in the coming days and weeks.

Tomas, 23, has established residency in Haiti and been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Asset Control, but he still hasn’t been declared a free agent by MLB. That is expected to happen soon but he is unable to sign at this very moment. The Yankees’ level of interest in Tomas, a right-handed power hitting outfielder with some swing-and-miss concerns, is unknown at this point. They did invite recent Cuban free agents Aledmys Diaz and Rusney Castillo for private workouts, so I assume they will do the same with Tomas. If he is truly a middle of the order hitter with power, I think the Yankees should be all over him.

Derek Jeter’s decision to play or not play in Boston up to him, Girardi says —

Derek Jeter’s decision to play or not play in Boston up to him, Girardi says

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Derek Jeter prepares to bat in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on August 3, 2014.

By DAVID LENNON

If everything goes according to plan, Thursday night will be Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

But it also could close the curtain on his 20-season career, should Jeter decide to say his last goodbyes in the Bronx rather than at Fenway Park this weekend.

If the game does come off as scheduled, Jeter still hasn’t revealed whether he intends to play in Boston. But a source said yesterday that Jeter is likely to DH at Fenway, saving his final appearance at shortstop for the Bronx.

Or a third scenario: Thursday night’s game may not happen at all.

With heavy rain in the forecast, there is the possibility that Wednesday’s 9-5 loss to the Orioles — which ended with Jeter standing in the on-deck circle — will endure as his swan song as a Yankee, or at least in New York.

No wonder he didn’t know what to think heading into what figures to be an emotional cyclone Thursday in the Bronx. Minutes after the Yankees were eliminated from playoff contention, Jeter had trouble sorting through what was churning inside him.

“Right now, it feels bad,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. I can’t tell you what tomorrow is going to feel like. I really can’t. But right now, it doesn’t feel good.”

Jeter spent his career never looking any further ahead than the next game. It’s a mind-set that has served him well in collecting five World Series rings and building a Hall of Fame resume. But now there’s only one game left at Yankee Stadium, and even Jeter can’t downplay the significance.

All season, he has been treated to standing ovations during every at-bat, from Fenway to Camden Yards, from Safeco Field to Rogers Centre. Those receptions have intensified during this last month, and his Bronx home has turned into a cathedral of sorts for Jeter worship.

As impressive as that has been, expect that to be raised to another level by Thursday night’s sellout crowd.

“I think that people have shown him appreciation wherever he’s been this year,” Joe Girardi said. “For him to do it one more time in Yankee Stadium, I think is going to be special. I’ve talked about how special it is to put a uniform on, how special it is to put a Yankee uniform on. It’s very difficult to take it off.

“But I think tomorrow will be kind of a culmination of all the love that he’s been shown and all the appreciation that he’s been shown during the course of this year and in his career. And I think it will be something that we’ll remember for a long time.”

The tricky part for Girardi is balancing the natural progression of the night with a proper sendoff for the Yankees’ captain. He did it perfectly last season for Mariano Rivera’s final game. After “Enter Sandman” and the crowd-pleasing jog from the bullpen, Rivera got two quick outs before Girardi sent Jeter and Andy Pettitte to retrieve him from the mound.

Look for the Yankees to let Jeter take the field alone at the start of the game, in a way to soak up the adoration, and it’s a virtual lock Girardi will take him out at some point during the ninth inning as the closing act. Now that the Yankees have nothing left to play for in terms of the postseason, Girardi has free rein to focus on the Jeter-fest, even if he’s still formulating how to do it.

“I really don’t know,” Girardi said. “I think you kind of let it unwind, the day unwind, and see how it goes. And then you make some decisions as the day’s going on. I think that’s the best way to do it.”

Rain permitting, of course. As of Wednesday, Weather.com called for a 60-percent chance of showers at 7 p.m. That drops to 40 percent by 8 p.m. and 30 percent at 9 p.m.

Rest assured Major League Baseball will do everything within its power to make sure the game is played — regardless of the delay — because a makeup on Monday would be a logistical headache for everyone involved if it was needed to determine the AL’s best record for the playoff-bound Orioles. Ultimately, it will be MLB’s call on whether Jeter’s final home game is played tonight.

“I heard that it’s supposed to rain, but I’m not a meteorologist,” Jeter said. “So hopefully it cooperates.”

A year ago, Rivera decided that the Jeter-Pettitte moment was how he wanted to go out as a Yankee and passed on playing in Houston, despite Girardi’s willingness to give him an inning in centerfield.

That surprised Girardi. The manager said he will speak with Jeter before Thursday night’s game to discuss the plan for Fenway. Jeter had no interest in going there after yesterday’s loss and chided a reporter for asking about it.

“Respect the fact that we just lost — we’re not going to the playoffs,” Jeter said. “I can’t think about Boston.”

The feeling in the clubhouse, however, is that Thursday won’t be Jeter’s last game. Regardless of the weather.

“If I had to guess, he’s going to want to play every game,” Brett Gardner said. “Because next week it’s all going to be over.”

McCann’s recent homer binge an encouraging sign heading into the offseason — September 24, 2014

McCann’s recent homer binge an encouraging sign heading into the offseason

By Michael Axisa

Brian-McCann-001

The Yankees are one loss (or one Royals win) away from being eliminated from postseason contention because their offense simply did not produce enough this summer. Specifically, the team’s big money middle of the order bats did not perform as expected. Carlos Beltran,Mark Teixeira, and Brian McCann have all been major disappointments in 2014, combining to hit .229/.302/.403 in nearly 1,500 plate appearances. The Yankees won’t be playing in October for many reasons and those three are among the biggest.

Unlike Teixeira and Beltran, who have battled nagging wrist and elbow problems down the stretch, McCann is actually finishing the season on a high note. He went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer off the ultra-tough Andrew Miller in last night’s loss, his eighth homer in 21 games this month. His .240/.308/.560 batting line in September is both better than what he did from April through August (.234/.287/.384) and a reminder that 82-plate appearance samples can produce weird slash lines.

McCann is 6-for-23 (.261) with three homers in six games on the homestand but his run of solid production really dates back to the beginning of July. He’s hit .252/.301/.473 with 14 homers in 62 games since the start of July, which is basically last year’s .256/.336/.461 batting line minus a bunch of walks. McCann has a career-low 6.0% walk rate this year (5.3% since July), down from 9.7% last year and 9.1% for his career. His 14.5% strikeout rate is identical to his career rate and he’s swung at 28.3% of the pitches he’s seen out of the zone, in line with his 29.4% career average.

For whatever reason, McCann stopped walking this year. It could be a decline in pitch recognition, it could be unfamiliarity with the new league and new pitchers, he could be pressing, it could be all of that and more. We’ll have a nice long offseason to sit around and wonder why McCann has suddenly stopped accepting free passes this year. The most important thing to me are the results he’s getting when he puts the ball in play. The first three months of the season were miserable, but since July McCann has been recording base hits and hitting for power at the same rate as last year. That’s good! That’s what we want.

My theory is McCann focused on trying to go the other way to beat the shift this season and it fouled him up. I don’t think it’s a coincidence he’s put more balls in play to the opposite field this year (94) than he has in any season since 2008 (100). (His high from 2009-13 was 86 balls in play the other way in 2009.) I know I’m not the only one who thinks this because an unnamed team official said “I wish (McCann)  would pull more” toBen Lindbergh earlier this year. Here’s a quick look at his pre- and post-July 1st spray charts, courtesy of Baseball Savant:

Brian-McCann-spray-charts

Left: Before July 1st. Right: Since July 1st.

It … kinda looks like he’s pulled the ball more since July 1st? Maybe. McCann did eliminate his toe tap and make some changes to his batting stance at midseason, but he abandoned those changes a few weeks ago (I’m not sure when exactly, but I noticed it in early-August) and went back to the setup he had been using at the plate previously. It could be that he simply stopped trying to be something he wasn’t, so he went back to what worked with the Braves and sent him to seven All-Star Games. Toe tap, pull the ball, whatever.

Either way, McCann has gotten much better results these last two and a half months whenever he’s put the ball in play. He still isn’t walking for whatever reason and that might be a long-term problem. The power is still there though — his 23 homers are second only to Devin Mesoraco’s 25 among big league catchers — and his average has climbed back into the mid-.250s, where it normal sits. McCann is not going to be a .300-ish hitter. That’s just not who he is at this point of his career.

Of the team’s three disappointing middle of the order bats, I felt McCann was by far the most likely to rebound even before this recent homer binge. He’s the youngest of the trio and also the healthiest, as far as we know. Beltran will turn 38 soon after Opening Day and is scheduled to have elbow surgery in like a week. Teixeira will turn 35 next April and his surgically repaired wrist continues to be a problem, not to mention all his other nagging injuries. It’s tough to look at these two and feel good about their performance in 2015.

The same would have been true of McCann had he not started to turn things around in July and put an exclamation point on his season with all these dingers this month. These last few weeks don’t erase his overall disappointing season, but at least now McCann and Yankees fans can go into the offseason encouraged by his strong finish and feeling better about what he might bring to the table next year as well as the final four years of his contract.