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Tag:New York Yankees
Posted on: December 8, 2011 6:42 pm
 

Angels lineup will change "100%" with Pujols

Shortly after the Angels won a bidding war against the Miami Marlins and secured free agent left-hander C.J. Wilson in the early morning hours Thursday, the pitcher spoke with the general manager of his old team, the Texas Rangers, in a farewell conversation.

"Is there any way," Texas GM Jon Daniels joked, "that I can convince you to go to the Marlins?"

And that was before Albert Pujols committed to the Angels.

Yes, the landscape changed rapidly in the AL West this week and, as things go on paper in the winter-time, the Angels positioned themselves as the potential division favorites heading into 2012.

That's as of today, and who knows what happens tomorrow. The ultra-aggressive Rangers surely will answer the Angels moves -- Prince Fielder? -- and the earth could yet shift again before spring training.

"It's crazy," Wilson said. "With Albert going, there's a big swing on the balance of power in the West.

"I thought I would make a difference, but he makes a huge difference. Nobody saw that coming."

Indeed.

"I'm shocked about Anaheim swooping into it," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

As if it wasn't stunning enough that the Angels hauled in Pujols (10 years, $254 million), Wilson (five years, $77.5 million) and reliever LaTroy Hawkins (one year, $3 million) during the final 12 hours of the winter meetings, the suits in the organization say they will not look to trade anyone.

Mark Trumbo, who played first last year and will be replaced by Pujols? He's taking ground balls at third base, a position of weakness.

Kendrys Morales, who played first two years ago? Unlike last year, the Angels are proceeding with caution after a second ankle surgery caused him to miss all of 2011.

Veterans outfielders Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells and young speedsters Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout also will fit in, somewhere, somehow.

"You have the opportunity from an offensive perspective to plug one of the great hitters of all time into the middle of your lineup," Angels GM Jerry Dipoto said. "And we feel like you can never have too much depth.

"As it pertains to Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales, we still have the benefit of playing in the American League, where we have first base at-bats, we have DH at-bats, corner outfielders at-bats.

"And we've discussed as we've gone through and into this season to date, Mark Trumbo is particularly athletic for his size. The power leads you to believe first base, but he's got a little bit of history at third base and in the outfield. We know those DH bats are there.

"We are still unaware of exactly the timetable for Kendrys Morales. But if we have all three healthy and clicking on all cylinders, we're going to be in a really good position."

One of Dipoto's most important early goals is to improve an Angels' lineup that was 11th in the American League in on-base percentage last year. Pujols' career .420 OBP ranks second in the majors among active players.

"One-hundred percent he'll change our lineup," Hunter said. "The way pitchers approach us, he's one guy who can change the whole lineup. You put Pujols in any lineup, any lineup, and it will be better."

The Angels could not have stunned the baseball industry more. Word of Pujols' signing broke just before 9 a.m. local time, just as executives from every club were gathering for the annual Rule V draft.

Even inside their organization, there was a sense of disbelief.

"This is crazy," Hunter said. "I'm so excited right now it's unbelievable. I'm just happy we have this chance. We've got a legitimate chance."

Hunter was working out at the Dallas branch of the Athletes' Performance Institute with pitchers LaTroy Hawkins (who signed with the Angels on Wednesday night, less than 24 hours ahead of Pujols and C.J. Wilson), Joel Hanrahan (Pirates closer), Jamey Wright (Mariners) and several young prospects when he learned the news.

"Everyone went crazy when it came up on the phone," Hunter said. "I am trippin' right now."
Posted on: November 14, 2011 4:08 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 4:28 pm
 

Matt Kemp joining elite group with new deal

Turns out, bankruptcy was a minor little inconvenience on the road to forever between the Dodgers and Matt Kemp: The two have agreed to an eight-year, $160 million contract extension pending the outfielder passing a physical examination, CBSSports.com has confirmed.

Talk about a serious commitment. Only six men in baseball history had reached the $160-million mark: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez.

Now, Kemp.

For those with a sense of humor ... or a sense of irony ... Kemp's deal is for the same numbers -- years and dollars -- that Ramirez received from Boston before the 2001 season.

In becoming the face of the Dodgers for years to come and en route to serious MVP consideration, Kemp first had to blow past comeback player of the year.

It was barely more than a year ago when Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti delivered harsh criticism of Kemp's defense and focus.

But after the disappointment of 2010 came a sensational 2011 in which Kemp batted .324 with 39 homers and 126 RBI. He led the league in homers, RBIs, runs (115) and total bases (353), and he swiped 40 bases.

And in one more bit of irony, the man who now will remain in Hollywood will stay in part because he went a little less Hollywood last summer. Those close to Kemp do not think it is a coincidence that he took his game to a different level after his high-profile romance with Rihanna blew up.

"I think he has less distractions in his life -- from my perspective," third baseman Casey Blake, one of Kemp's closest friends on the 2011 team, told me late last summer. "This game, some guys can do it with a million things going on. But this game is tough enough by itself.

"It's a hard game, and it seems like you're always dealing with a lot of thoughts of failure. The more you can lessen those thoughts, the better. The fact that he doesn't have some of those distractions anymore. ..."

Blake told me he thought Kemp had made a conscious effort to simplify things in his life, and it worked.

"I think he was embarrassed by a lot of things," Blake said, referring to Kemp's 2010 season in which he batted just .249 with a .310 on-base percentage, 28 homers and 89 RBIs. "And he made up his mind he was going to get serious about it."

The off-field stuff, the Rihanna romance, "I think they all directly related," Blake said.

Blake could tell Kemp was more focused in 2011 from the first day of spring training.

"He showed it in his attitude and in his play," Blake said. "How he went about it, from day one.

"He's respecting the game a lot more this year. He has an understanding that to be a complete player, you can't take a day off -- whether it's on the bases, on defense, anywhere."

Today, that respect is coming right back at Kemp to the tune of $160 million ... and a trust the Dodgers are placing in him that maybe you can't even hang a price tag on.
Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:42 pm
 

Yanks winter: "Pitching, pitching, pitching"

On Monday, the Yankees re-jiggered CC Sabathia's contract before his opt-out window closed.

On Tuesday, they held a conference call with Brian Cashman, fresh off of signing a thee-year deal to remain as the club's general manager.

Don't expect Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder by Wednesday or Thursday.

"I don't anticipate a bat being of need at all," Cashman said on the call Tuesday afternoon.

As for what the Yankees will focus on, here's a hint:

"Pitching, pitching, pitching," Cashman said.

Offense, the GM said, is "not a problem with this club at all, despite what happened with Detroit." The Yankees ranked second in the American League in both runs scored and on-base percentage and third in slugging percentage this summer and, despite Tigers pitching shutting the Yankees down earlier this month, Cashman said he thinks New York has enough sticks to contend again in 2012.

While he maintains that "that doesn't mean I'm not open-minded, realistically, offense is not something we're focusing on." Improving the depth in both the rotation and the bullpen? Now you're talking.

With Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and a post-surgery Joba Chamberlain on the horizon, Cashman called the New York bullpen "one of the strongest in the game." He would like to add another lefty to team with Boone Logan, if possible.

The free agent pitching market, led by C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson, is not too strong. Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish is expected to be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters.

All of this is why Cashman's time the past few days was monopolized by making sure that Sabathia did not become a free agent.

"We all know what CC brings to the table," Cashman said. "Pitching in front of the rotation, he he's created a great atmosphere in the clubhouse, he's one of our team leaders, he's influential in the community ... regarding all aspects of what you want the team to be, he's a major, major piece.

"You're comfortable every time he takes the ball."

His continued presence also allows the Yankees to approach free agency differently this winter because they can play from a position of relative strength.

"Securing CC allows us to be very open-minded and conservative in our approach," Cashman said. "We're in position now to take out time, explore and digest, pursue things at our own pace and not be over-reacting because we're vulnerable."

Some other Cashman thoughts heading into the winter:

-- On Alex Rodriguez's health: "I don't have any health concerns with Alex." Cashman said time will heal his sprained thumb, and it already has helped his surgically repaired knee.

-- On the club's interest in Jorge Posada: "He's been one of the best catchers in Yankees history, he's a borderline Hall of Famer and he's a free agent. That's something we'll have discussions on in the short term. It's not something I'm prepared to talk to you about today. He's been part of a lot of special moments here. He's created a lot of special moments."

-- On whether he feels more in control as GM with a three-year deal: "I don't think it's healthy to feel like you're in control. ... If you feel like you're in control, you've probably very vulnerable to some severe disappointments coming down the line."

-- He called catcher Russell Martin "Thurman Munson-like" in what he meant to the 2011 Yankees both on the field and in the clubhouse. Will that translate into a multi-year contract for the former Dodger, whom the Yankees control for one more year? Cashman said the Yankees right now enjoy the flexibility to go one more year with Martin, or "more than one if we find common ground."

-- He said the club will not consider moving A.J. Burnett to the bullpen. "If he is with us, without a doubt he is in the rotation," Cashman said. Cryptic? Maybe. The GM said "it would be hard to replace his innings. But I'm open-minded if anybody wants to approach us on anybody on the roster who does not have a no-trade clause. The worst that can happen is I say no. I'm open to creatively listening to anything anybody has to offer."

-- The biggest thing, Cashman said, is, like always, he has to improve the club's talent. He noted that the club "did not play to the best of our ability" against Detroit, and "part of that was under our control and part of that is what the Tigers put forth." With 97 wins, the Yankees were one of the best teams in baseball, Cashman said, "but October is a lot different. That's not an excuse. October is a lot different from April to September. You saw it with the crowning of the world championship team in St. Louis. They finished in the money the last day of the season, and then they ran the table. ... Is there a way to make it better? I'd like to think so. That's my job. I don't think all of our answers are in the clubhouse. Not at all. But I think some of the answers are in our clubhouse."

 

Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:34 pm
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Posted on: October 14, 2011 8:48 pm
 

Angels to interview DiPoto, Orioles too

Jerry DiPoto, who nearly became Arizona's full-time general manager before the Diamondbacks turned to Kevin Towers last fall, is a wanted man in the executive ranks.

The Angels on Friday became the second team to obtain permission to interview DiPoto for their vacant general manager's job, according to sources, following the Orioles. Baltimore obtained permission from Arizona to speak with DiPoto on Thursday.

DiPoto becomes the third person from outside of their organization with whom the Angels have received permission to speak. Earlier this week, the Angels obtained permission from the Yankees to interview Damon Oppenheimer, executive vice-president of amateur scouting, and Billy Eppler, the Yankees' pro scouting director.

The Angels got an up-close look at DiPoto in July of 2010 while dealing with the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren trade. DiPoto then was the point man for Arizona, which had fired Josh Byrnes, and it was under DiPoto that the Diamondbacks acquired four pitchers from the Angels for Haren, including Joe Saunders and top prospect Tyler Skaggs.

Highly respected within baseball circles, DiPoto, comes from a playing and scouting background. A former major-league pitcher, DiPoto was Colorado's director of scouting before coming to the Diamondbacks as their director of scouting and player development.

Angels owner Arte Moreno, manager Mike Scioscia, president John Carpino and former GM Bill Stoneman are expected to have input on the hiring of Los Angeles' new GM.

In Baltimore, Orioles owner Peter Angelos, of course, will make the final decision on Andy MacPhail's replacement -- with significant input from manager Buck Showalter.
Posted on: October 12, 2011 8:32 pm
 

Angels to interview Yanks' Oppenheimer, Eppler

Looking to begin re-stocking a gutted front office, the Angels have received permission from the New York Yankees to speak with two key members of general manager Brian Cashman's staff.

Damon Oppenheimer, 49, long-time Yankees' executive who currently is executive vice-president for amateur scouting, and Billy Eppler, 35, the club's pro scouting director, will interview with the Angels as the club looks to replace Tony Reagins, according to a major-league source.

Tim Mead, executive vice-president of communication for the Angels, would neither confirm nor deny that the Angels approached the Yankees about Oppenheimer and Eppler.

"We have initiated the start of the search process and will be speaking to some clubs," Mead said Wednesday night.

The opening was created when the Angels fired Tony Reagins as GM earlier this month. In a thorough gutting, the Angels also this month fired Reagins' top two assistants, Ken Forsch and Gary Sutherland, scouting director Abe Flores and longtime scout Rich Schlenker.

It also is believed that Jerry DiPoto, Arizona's senior vice-president of scouting and player development, is on the Angels' short list of candidates.

Mead did not list a timetable for when the Angels would like to have a new GM in place.

"We're going to be very thorough and do everything possible to find the right person," Mead said. "We will take the time it takes to select the right person."
Posted on: October 6, 2011 1:53 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 9:50 am
 

Yanks hope Fister, Alexander parallels continue

Like Doyle Alexander back in 1987, Doug Fister cleared the way for the 2011 Tigers to win their division and steam into the playoffs.

But, Game 5 Thursday night in Yankee Stadium? That's where the Tigers need the comparisons to come to a screeching halt.

The Yankees, meanwhile, will do just fine if the striking similarities continue for one more night.

"Fister is a really good pitcher," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said on Wednesday's off day in New York. "I have no idea what's going to happen. [Ivan] Nova is a good pitcher. He beat us in the first game here. ...

"Both of them are very good pitchers. It's one game. I don't know what's going to happen. Somebody can get a good bounce or a bad bounce. Somebody can hit a dramatic home run. Somebody can make an error. I can't predict that."

You couldn't predict the amazing mirror images that Fister and Alexander have provided in Tigers history, either.

Bill Lajoie, the gruff and brilliant baseball man who passed away last December, was the general manager of the Tigers when they traded a young John Smoltz to Atlanta for Alexander in mid-August of '87.

To this day, it remains a deal hotly debated by Detroit baseball fans because, while Smoltz blossomed into a certain Hall of Famer, the deal still accomplished perfectly what the Tigers needed at the time. And I do mean perfectly: Alexander went 9-0 with Detroit, and the Tigers needed every single one of those victories as they fended off the Blue Jays on the last day of the season.

Fister, meantime, went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA for the Tigers after GM Dave Dombrowski acquired him from the Mariners on July 30. More importantly, the Tigers went 9-2 in games Fister. Before his arrival, when that spot in the rotation came around, the Tigers had been 4-17.

Colleague Danny Knobler was combing through some statistics recently, and came up with this: Fister's 1.79 ERA came in 10 starts. The only Tiger in the last 38 years to make that many starts in a Detroit season with a lower ERA than that? Try Alexander, with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts in '87.

Separated by 24 years, the parallel paths of Alexander and Fister continued into the postseason.

Alexander, in his first postseason start in '87, was hammered by Minnesota in the Metrodome in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series. He served up six earned runs and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings and allowed two home runs, both to Gary Gaetti.

Fister, technically, has not made a start in this year's Division Series because of the odd Game 1 rainout that resulted in a suspended game. Fister "started" the next day, on Saturday, and was cuffed for six earned runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked two. He balked. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

Leyland hopes to see a sharper curve from Fister tonight.

"I didn't execute a few things," Fister said of his Saturday start in New York. "A good lineup makes you pay for it. That's what they did the other night. It's going to be a new fight [Thursday] night. I'm still going to go out there and approach the game the same way that I did before. I'm going after hitters and using my defense and obviously letting the offense do the work."

Back in '87, things did not improve for Alexander in his second -- and final -- postseason outing for the Tigers. With Sparky Anderson's club facing elimination in Game 5 in Tiger Stadium, the Twins clobbered Alexander again. In just 1 2/3 innings, he surrendered four earned runs and six hits. By the time it was finished, his smoldering ERA was resting at a vastly imperfect 10.00.

Fister? If the weird trend continues, the Tigers are doomed.

Likes: You can't beat three of the four Division Series going the full five games. Last time that happened? How about 2001, when Seattle (which beat Cleveland), the Yankees (Oakland) and Arizona (St. Louis) each won Game 5. ... The cheeseburgers at Miller's Bar in Dearborn, Mich. As good as they get. ... Detroit Beach Restaurant and Pizzeria in Monroe, Mich. ... Running through the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village grounds. Beautiful. ... The hints of orange and yellow now streaking the leaves in the Midwest.

Dislikes: Sleep well, Steve Jobs. What a legacy.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"As pretty as you are
"You know you could`ve been a flower
"If good looks were minutes
"You know you could have been an hour
"The way you stole my heart
"You know you could have been a crook
"And baby you're so smart
"You know you could have been a school book"

-- The Temptations, The Way You Do The Things You Do

Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:47 pm
 

Yanks turn A.J. loose, clobber Tigers in Game 4

DETROIT -- The scariest sentence of the summer for Yankees fans turned into the most surprising sentence of the year.

From "The season depends on A.J. Burnett" to "Good Lord above, look who saved the day!" in 81 pitches on a gorgeous night at Comerica Park for everything and everyone but the Tigers.

Mark it down. Burnett rides in on a white horse. The Yankees blast Detroit 10-1. This Division Series is headed back to New York even-steven at two games apiece, with the winner Thursday spraying champagne.

All hail A.J.

Maybe it was his 2009 World Series victory frozen in time inside of his laptop that spurred him. Perhaps it was getting kicked one too many times while he was down, getting taunted one too many times in public, getting spurned one too many times from the Yankees' brass.

Whatever it was, after a wobbly first inning in which he loaded the bases with walks -- including an intentional pass to Miguel Cabrera -- Burnett was, dare we say it, ace-like. He lasted 5 2/3 innings, the perfect amount for a bullpen that includes Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera.

And the thing is, after New York's six-run eighth, the latter two weren't even needed.

"You can't count me out," Burnett had said on the eve of his latest make-or-break start. "I'm going to bring everything I've got and just let A.J. loose out there."

Good thing for him, they let Curtis Granderson loose, too. That bases-loaded first inning? Two out, and Don Kelly smoked a screaming liner dead ahead to center field. Granderson broke in at first, then quickly recovered, scrambled back and made a leaping stab that ended the inning.

It was a spectacular catch made possible by an initial misread. Bottom line, it saved Burnett at least two runs and possibly an inside-the-park grand slam.

Granderson would make another sensational catch to end the sixth. But, by then, the Yankees led 4-1 and thanks to Burnett, they were out of the rough.

"I've been proving people wrong my whole career, it seems like," Burnett had said on Monday evening. "People are entitled to their opinion.

"Obviously, I give them reasons here and there do doubt."

In Game 4, Burnett gave them reasons neither here nor there to doubt. The dude was stellar, just in the nick of time.

Tuesday was a very, very good night for the Yankees also in that the blowout allowed Robertson and Rivera to watch idly from the bullpen and maybe get some crucial rest for what should be a terrific final act to what has been a riveting series.
 
 
 
 
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