New York Yankees

A Chat With Indians Great Kenny Lofton

Kenny Lofton showing off some of the skills that earned him four Gold Glove Awards.

Kenny Lofton showing off some of the skills that earned him four Gold Glove Awards.

Kenny Lofton enjoyed a successful 17-year Major League career with 11 different organizations. Of course, he is best known as a member of the Cleveland Indians, a team he spent parts of 10 seasons with on four different occasions (1992-1995, 1996, 1998-2001, 2007). His speed and grace helped earn him four Gold Glove Awards and the .299 career hitter was a member of six All-Star teams.

Our Jim Monaghan recently sat down with Lofton to talk about his career in baseball, the World Series, and life after baseball in the film industry.

JM: Just a terrific Major League baseball career that you had Kenny. 17 seasons in the Major Leagues; in the postseason 11 times; in the World Series twice; an Indians Hall of Famer. You had quite the career.

KL: Yeah, it was fun. I had a great time. I mean I enjoyed every minute and the experiences I had with different teams that I played for. And my 2 greatest moments were the World Series (’95 w/Indians, ’02 w/Giants) I played in. They were pretty fun.

JM: The team I associate you most with, of the 11 you played with, is of course the Cleveland Indians. And you played with them for one good chunk of time and then came back with them a few other times. The KC Royals this year, Kenny, remind me an awful lot of that Cleveland Indians team in 1990s. That team you played on, the Indians team, you played on in the 1990s. That Indians team you played on was just so much fun to watch. And the Royals team really recaptured that spirit for me in this postseason. Guys like Lorenzo Cain and Nori Aoki.

KL: Well you know I think we had a combination of pretty much everything. We had speed, defense, we had power…we had it all. We didn’t have the best starters in the world, but we had a team that was very steady, you know we got the job done. We all worked together, and had a great bullpen. We had an all-around great team, but I think our speed and defense stood out and that’s what’s going on with Kansas City. Their speed and defense is standing out right now. When you get in the playoffs, you get on a roll and that’s what Kansas City has done, has gotten on a roll and they have not stopped.

JM: Yeah, sometimes it’s not the best team that wins (the World Series), it’s the team that’s the hottest. And that may be what this San Francisco team is walking into, because this Kansas City Royals team has been incredible.

KL: Oh yeah, they’re (the Giants) in trouble. They (the Royals) have this attitude. They’re very confident in what they’re doing, and what it means for them to play defense and when they get on base they use their speed. There’s no team in baseball that SF has faced this year like this. There’s going to be a rude awakening for them once the process all starts.

JM: Safe to say Kenny that you’re picking Kansas City in this World Series?

KL: I like Kansas City because of that reason. That was my style of play. They’re doing what I liked to do. And baseball had gotten away from all of that because of the steroids and all that. But baseball is back to the way it’s supposed to be. Fun, speed, defense…so you know that’s the reason I’m liking them, because they play my style of game.

JM: You played with a very controversial player in your career, Albert Belle. I actually know somebody who roomed with Albert when he was coming up in the Cleveland system early in his career. He said that Belle was completely misunderstood. Do you think that’s going to keep Albert out of the Hall of Fame?

KL: With the Hall of Fame you don’t know how it’s going to…how they go about the process with the Hall of Fame, because it’s very tricky in who they want in and who they don’t want in. So, I don’t know, I think you know what, your on-field numbers should show up and your “off-field” numbers are in a separate category. Just like Pete Rose. Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame

His numbers on the field is what depicts what goes on. What you do a little bit off the field should kind of weigh a little bit, but his numbers are above and beyond anybody I have ever seen ever. So if you’re going to look at it, Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame. But I don’t think, again, with Albert, you can’t look at how someone’s attitude, or what it’s like. Look at Eddie Murray. People complained about Eddie Murray, and he was a first ballot Hall of Famer. So it’s about the numbers. It’s about what you put up in the game. So that’s what the people should look at, not all that other stuff.

JM: You just mentioned about a team getting hot at the right time. We’re at the 10-year anniversary of that 2004 Red Sox team that came back from three games down against the Yankees. You were on that Yankees team. As you were watched those four games unfold after that 19-8 clobbering, what was going through your mind and the mind of your teammates at that point? Could you really believing what was happening as that Red Sox team got hot?

KL: Well I was on the bench. So I felt like I was a guy that should have been on the field and wasn’t. So I was sitting on the bench and it was tough to where I know what it’s like to play in those situations and I felt I should be in the game and I wasn’t.

But you could saw it coming and unfolding, and nothing. And the tough part about the whole thing, I was upset, because there was nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t in the game. That’s what kind of made me feel like I know what I can do and what I could bring to the table. Just watching it unfold and you got your hands are tied and couldn’t do anything about it. Actually, it was a sad feeling for me to sit there and watch it.

JM: Kenny, last week I spoke with Dean Cain (TV’s Lois and Clark) last week about this new movie he’s working on, “My Last Christmas”. There’s an indie funding project that’s tied in with it. What’s your role with this film, with Dean?

KL: I’m good friends with Dean. I brought the project to him from a guy who works with me. I’ve got a company called, “Film Pool” that I’ve had since 2004. The guy that works with me brought the project and said, what do you think of the project? I liked it and took it to Dean and a few other people. It’s a project that I’m very passionate about. You go to indiegogo.com/mylastchristmas and it was a film about a form of a cancer, Myelodysplastic Syndrome  (MDS), that a lot of people don’t know about. It’s very rare and if you’re multi-racial there’s a good chance you could come up with this cancer.

We hooked up with a company called “Project Race”. They’re a company that goes out and tries to get people to register for bone marrow (to donate.) Because you need this type of bone marrow… you’ll need to find a match. We felt very strongly about it. I talked to Dean he was very passionate about it and he liked it, because family members and friends he knows as well, besides me, that are multi-racial. If something was ever to happen and you can’t find that match you’ll feel very sad. When you have that opportunity to go out there and make awareness to this form of cancer and that’s what this film is all about.

JM: And your college degree was actually in film studio production, right, at University of Arizona? And what is the website again for the film.

KL: Yes it was and I had an opportunity to start up my company in 2004 and this is where I am right now. The website is My Last Christmas and you can also go check it out on Twitter.

JM: Best of luck to you and Dean on this film. Thanks Kenny, and continued success to you.

KL: All right, thanks a lot!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.

Advertisements

The NY Media has found a new target – Derek Jeter

By Jim Monaghan

The final week of the regular season played out like a Hollywood script for Derek Jeter. First came the walkoff single against the Orioles in his final game in Yankee Stadium, and then came the three-day lovefest in, of all places, Boston’s Fenway Park where the Yankee legend was greeted with the kind of cheers and “DER-EK JEE-TER” chants usually reserved for Yankees home games.

Photo courtesy Getty Images

Photo courtesy Getty Images

From the moment back in February when Jeter announced his retirement via a post on his Facebook page – “First of all, everyone said they didn’t even know I had a Facebook page” – the tributes came pouring in. The cynics started to wonder if Jeter was being credited with inventing and/or saving the game of baseball.

The final weekend in Boston was positively surreal. Sure, there were Yankees fans everywhere, but there were also a lot of Red Sox fans leading those cheers. Gone were the days of the “Nomar’s better” chants…heck, Jeter and the rest of us might have even forgotten about the “Pokey’s better” days of 2004.

And then came October 1.

The guy who had been so reserved in his comments to the media – has any player ever use so many words in a post-game interview to really say so little? – was now offering athletes a chance to speak out, albeit in a highly-controlled manner. “I do think fans deserve more than ‘no comments’ or ‘I don’t knows.'” Jeter was “in the process of building a place where athletes have the tools they need to share what they really think and feel. We want to have a way to connect directly with our fans, with no filter.”

David Waldstein’s article in The New York Times revealed that “The website will have editorial oversight. Gary Hoenig, a former editorial director of ESPN Publishing and an editor of ESPN the Magazine, will be the editorial director. The website will be backed financially, in part, by Thomas Tull, whose production company was behind ’42,’ a film about Jackie Robinson.”

Cue the media backlash. Writers who’d spent the better part of the past two decades singing Jeter’s praises suddenly had their opening, and they ran with it.

John Harper from the New York Daily News offered this.

Steve Politi from the Newark Star Ledger was equally miffed.

Politi explained his lack of enthusiasm for Jeter’s venture saying, “Here’s my problem: After a lifetime spent guarding every detail, big and small, about his life it’s a tad hypocritical to ask current athletes to bare their souls on his website. What’s next? Joe Girardi encouraging other managers to throw out their research and just ‘go with their gut?'”

The crowning touch came from New York Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica.

Lupica’s column contained a couple of not-so-veiled very crude references to female anatomy that were, among other things, completely devoid of the class that Jeter showed throughout his career.

Jeter’s been seemingly EVERYWHERE lately. An appearance on the Today Show, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and an online twitter chat of all things.

And Jeter Publishing is off to a roaring start.

Derek Jeter came into professional baseball with a plan – play the game the right way, and don’t give the media a reason to take something you say and run with it. He’s clearly treating the next step in his professional life with another carefully laid-out plan. That Players’ Tribune twitter page and website were registered in November 2011; the domain for his Jeter Publishing website was also set up about a year ago. He managed to fly completely under the radar with both until he decided to make it public.

We all know that any content published by athletes via Jeter’s site (Russell Wilson is the first to contribute something) is going to be heavily edited. Big freaking deal. The media backlash – less than 72 hours after Jeter’s career came to a close – is ridiculous and can be summed up in four words.

Leave DJ Alone

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.

A Red Sox fan’s farewell to Derek Jeter

By Jim Monaghan

If you’ve listened to me on the radio for any amount of time, you know I’m not a fan of the New York Yankees. Red Sox executive Larry Luchino dubbed them the “Evil Empire” some years back; I’ve been known to say things far less complimentary.

Photo courtesy Reuters

Photo courtesy Reuters

Derek Jeter‘s Hall-of-Fame career will come to an end Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park in what will otherwise be a completely meaningless baseball game for both the Yankees and the Red Sox.

Both teams are out of the playoffs, and the lineups for the two previous games of this series have looked like something you’d see in the late innings of a mid-March spring training game when the starters have long since left the field and showered.

Red Sox principal owner John Henry put Friday night’s lineup into perspective with an all-too-appropriate seven-word tweet.

So with all that said, allow me to get the snark out of the way first.

I agree with much of what Keith Olbermann said this past week about Derek Jeter. In case you somehow managed to miss what Olbermann said, go here and here.

Derek Jeter isn’t going to go down in baseball history as the “Greatest Yankee of All Time.” There are at least five ahead of him you may have actually heard of – Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra. I’d even go so far as to offer up Don Mattingly as a better-than-Jeter candidate. You may have some others as well to throw into the mix.

Derek Jeter isn’t the “Greatest Yankee Shortstop of All Time.” That Rizzuto character was pretty good, you know.

And for awhile, you could make the argument that Derek Jeter wasn’t even the best shortstop on his own team once that Alex Rodriguez fellow – remember him? – joined the Yankees.

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

Team leader? It was blatantly obvious that Jeter didn’t make Rodriguez’s transition to New York any easier. Truth be told, given my own feelings about Rodriguez I probably would have done the same thing, but as I said right from the start, this is the snarky part.

Team player? One could argue that the Captain could have and should have gone to manager Joe Girardi any number of times this year and asked to be moved out of the two-hole in the lineup as it became painfully evident that he wasn’t producing well enough to be in the first third of the order.

Photo courtesy Associated Press

Photo courtesy Associated Press

And don’t even get me started on the whole “Derek Jeter Farewell Tour sponsored by Steiner Sports.” My first thought on Thursday night when Jeter’s teammates dumped a bucket of Gatorade (with the “2” in place of the usual logo) on him was, “Wonder how much Steiner will be charging for THAT jersey?”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of capitalism, and I’ve never once begrudged an athlete his mega-contract. But these last two weeks of the season have been more like a QVC Network production than a final well-deserved victory lap for a player of Jeter’s stature. Anyone want to buy a rake?

The “flip” play against Oakland in the playoffs? I don’t care how many times Joe Torre makes the claim, but I refuse to believe that the Yankees actually practiced that play. One could make the argument that the Captain was actually out of position. And if Jeremy Giambi had slid…. But I digress.

Photo courtesy Associated Press

Photo courtesy Associated Press

That playoff home run against the Orioles in 1996? It would clearly have been overturned under the current replay rules.

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

The patented jump throw? I’m old enough to remember a guy named Bobby Wine making similar plays for the Phillies back in the mid-60’s. But again, I digress.

Mr. November? As a Red Sox fan, I’ll always have Jetes’ performance in Games 4 through 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series to look back on.

** SNARK OVER **

Derek Jeter will play the last game of his Hall-of-Fame career Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. It will cap off what has been a three-day love fest from Red Sox fans. And while details haven’t been announced, you just know that Red Sox Executive Vice President Dr. Charles Steinberg and his staff will be pulling out all the stops to honor Jeter. And deservedly so.

Photo courtesy MLB.com

Photo courtesy MLB.com

Plain and simple, Derek Jeter is everything I want a baseball player to be. And yes, he played hard…and he stayed cool.

He respected his teammates, his opponents, and more importantly, the Game of Baseball. In the PED era of players routinely putting up video game numbers, Jeter’s name was never on the list of the usual suspects, even as some of his own teammates treated the clubhouse like a chemistry lab.

He battled his way through each and every at bat of his career. He may never have put up enough league-leading numbers to satisfy the likes of the Keith Olbermanns of the world, but he certainly had his share of big base hits, and I lost count of how many of those came at the expense of the Red Sox over the years. Derek Jeter could beat you with his bat, his glove, and his legs. And as someone who probably watched or listened to 90% of Jeter’s career, I can say with confidence that he never stopped trying to beat the opponent no matter what the score was.

For years, I led the “if he played anywhere other than New York he’d be considered just another very good player” crowd when it came to assessing Captain Intangibles. But as the final weeks of Jeter’s career have unfolded, I’ve started to appreciate Jeter in a whole new way. I’ve also discovered a sense of melancholy that I wasn’t expecting.

Some of that came from knowing that Jeter is going through that phase of his life as described by Jackie Robinson when he said, “Athletes die twice.” Derek Jeter’s athletic mortality is playing out in front of our eyes. In many ways, I think it’s reminding me of my own mortality.

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

The image of Jeter heading out to shortstop once last time following Thursday night’s game and crouching down with his hands covering his face, clearly filled with emotion, is one that will stay for me forever. Jeter said more in that moment about his love for the game he played so eloquently for nearly 20 years than he could have said in a month of post-game press conferences.

My 13-year old son wants to play baseball for a living. It’s all he talks about. Like any of the tens of thousands of kids who call themselves Red Sox fans, he wants to call Fenway Park “home” some day, and he absolutely despises the Yankees.

Photo courtesy New York Times

Photo courtesy New York Times

But when Jeter dropped that single into right field in the final home game of his career to drive in the winning run against the Orioles, my son found himself filled with emotions he wasn’t expecting for the only Yankees shortstop he’s ever seen in his brief lifetime. “This is really the end of an era,” he said in one of those moments that may be the first time he’s felt a part of his own childhood dying.

Derek-Jeter-nephew-tips-capSo yes, Keith Olbermann and Derek Jeter’s naysayers may indeed have a lot of valid points. And I warn you now that we’re going to deal with the whole over-the-top Jeter Love Fest again in five years when Cooperstown surely comes calling.

But this Red Sox fan is also hopefully objective enough to acknowledge one of the all-time greats.

#RE2PECT, indeed.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.

A Red Sox fan offers Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda some advice

By Jim Monaghan

The last time we saw New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda was back in April, standing on the mound at Fenway Park as the home plate umpire was inspecting him for a suspicious-looking substance on his neck which, of course, turned out to be pine tar.

Pineda was immediately thrown out of the game and pine tar – and its use by pitchers – became a big topic for awhile.

Pineda is starting for the Yankees tonight in Baltimore and in the spirit of “can’t we all just get along?” I have put together some helpful hints for him tonight.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.


Jim Monaghan can be heard Monday through Friday mornings on the WDHA Morning Jolt from 6-10AM & Sundays from 7-10AM with “All Mixed Up.” He’s also an instructor at Professional Baseball Instruction in Upper Saddle River. Follow him on twitter – @Monaghan21.

Lester and Price Lead The Winners and Losers of Deadline Day

Tigers supergroup

Three Cy Young winners All in a row.

It’s been a five days since the craziness of the final hours of the Major League Baseball trade deadline came to an end. I cannot recall the last time there was such monumental team changing/game changing deals on July 31. Lately, many of the bigger trades have taken place as the deadline neared. This year, it was a frenzy right down to the final minutes, with some deals announced shortly after the deadline had passed.

So, who came up as the winners and losers at the deadline? Let’s take a look.

Winners

Oakland A’s: This isn’t Moneyball, this is sending and receiving at its finest. The A’s needed to strengthen their starting rotation and add some veteran presence to it. Prior to the deadline, they went out and got Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samarzdija and fellow starter Jason Hammel for a package that included highly rated shortstop prospect Addison Russell.

Inserted in the A’s rotation, Samarzdija pitched to his reputation, but Hammel struggled, leading GM Billy Beane to pull off a bold move. He sent his slugging left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Boston Red Sox for their ace, Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. The A’s outfield had been thinned with an injury to Coco Crisp, so the addition of Gomes gave them another World Series ring-wearing veteran.( Beane would later flip aggrieved starter Tommy Milone for outfielder Sam Fuld to strengthen the bench and play centerfield while Crisp is out)

Lester was the key maneuver, though, joining a rotation of Samarzdija, veteran Scott Kazmir and youngsters Sonny Gray and Jesse Chavez. The left-hander started his first game as an Athletic on Saturday, in front of a charged Oakland crowd. Lester allowed three earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched in the A’s 8-3 victory. It was Lester’s 110th career victory and his first in a uniform other than that of the Boston Red Sox. (A day later Lester took out a full page ad in the Boston Globe to thank the fans.)

Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly. That’s a pretty intimidating starting rotation right out of the box. Now add David Price to it and look out. That’s exactly what Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski was able to do on Thursday. As soon as Lester was dealt by Boston, Tampa Bay Rays’ Executive VP of Operations and GM, Andrew Friedman, began to get inundated with calls about Price.

The 2012 AL Cy Young winner still had another year on his contract, so Tampa did not need to trade him this year with the worry of losing him to free agency in the offseason. But Friedman found a deal he liked and brought in the Seattle Mariners as a third team to get it done.

The Rays sent Price to Detroit, who in turn traded centerfielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners and Smyly and minor league infielder Willy Adames to the Rays. The Rays also received second base prospect Nick Franklin from Seattle.

The Tigers now have the last three AL Cy Young winners with Verlander (2011, also MVP), Price (2012) and Scherzer (2013). Sanchez is now the best number four starter in the Major Leagues. The Tigers still need to work on their bullpen –as the Phillies can attest, a great rotation (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt) doesn’t always get it done – which has not performed up to par, but they may not need to make too many appearances with a group of starters that can routinely pitch into the 7th and 8th innings. Price makes his Tigers’ debut Tuesday evening in a place he has started 23 games, Yankee Stadium. (Price is 10-5, 3.66 vs. the Yankees, including 6-2 in the new Yankee Stadium.)

Boston Red Sox: There were a lot of disgruntled Red Sox fans on Thursday, most of them not wanting to see Lester go. But with a better than 50/50 chance of Lester returning as a free agent, GM Ben Cherington took a team that went from first to worst and got it back on the road to future success.

In Cespedes, he got a bona fide power hitter whose power had been lessened by the A’s spacious home ballpark. Now he has the Green Monster to pepper shots off of. It also gives David Ortiz more protection in the lineup than he had with Mike Napoli and allows manager John Farrell to move Dustin Pedroia into the number two slot in the order. Cherington also sent John Lackey to St. Louis for first baseman Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly

Craig drove in 90-plus runs the last two seasons before an ankle injury robbed him of much of the current season. He’ll give depth to a lineup that has struggled to score runs this season. The Red Sox also added youth with the just turned 30-year old Craig and the 26-year old Kelly. The right-hander was solid the past two seasons as a reliever and occasional starter, and helped the Cardinals to their second NL pennant in three years in 2013.

Kelly was limited to 10 starts between the Majors (7) and minors (3) this season due to a strained hamstring that kept him out of action for three months. He’ll join the only remaining Boston starter, Clay Buchholz, from the rotation that began the year. (The Red Sox had already dealt Jake Peavy prior to the deadline and sent lefty Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs on the 31st.)

The Sox also dealt veteran shortstop Stephen Drew, to the Yankees of all people, to free up playing time for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks, and Mookie Betts. The aforementioned Peavy deal brought them pitcher Edwin Escobar, ranked in the 2014 top 100 MLB prospects by Baseball America and MLB.com, and a possible addition to their bullpen in right-hander Heath Hembree.

 

Losers:

Philadelphia Phillies: One has to wonder how GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has managed to keep his job. Yes, the Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and repeated as NL pennant winners a year later. But the writing was on the wall for quite some time and Amaro ignored it. He also doled out way too much money for too many players and was unable to move any of them by the deadline.

One of those players was starting pitcher Cliff Lee. The former AL Cy Young Winner still has about $37.5MM owed to him for the next two years. Whether he’ll be able to play or not is another matter. Lee was bothered by elbow problems this season, which made him and his contract harder to move. But Amaro should have done something, even if it meant not getting much in return. He may have been able to move some of Lee’s salary. He didn’t and Lee re-injured his elbow and is likely done for the season, which means no waiver trade either.

First baseman Ryan Howard is not what he used to be, which was a home run smashing, RBI-producing, bad-fielding first baseman. Okay, he is still the last part. Amaro foolishly gave Howard a six year, $106MM extension after the 2012 season. It’s a deal that will be paying Howard $25MM the next two years when he is 35 and 36. The Phillies are just lucky, if you want to call it that, they have a $10MM buyout on a $23MM option in 2017.

If you are to believe the reports, Amaro was also asking for too much in return for outfielder Marlon Byrd. As of this writing, the 36-year old had a .799 OPS with 21 HR and 63 RBI in 110 games. Ah, but Amaro’s over-generosity did him in again. There are plenty of teams that want Byrd for this year, maybe even next season at the $8MM it may cost them. But they don’t want a 38-year old Byrd with another $8MM in 2016.

Amaro was clearly counting on Byrd not being able to attain the vested portion of his contract – 600 plate appearances (PA) in 2015 or 1100 PA between this year and next. Byrd already has 462 PA as of this writing, with nearly two full months of the season left.

Amaro could have also moved A.J. Burnett, whose performance has dropped off from last season. Burnett makes $15MM and has a mutual option with just a $1MM buyout for next year. In today’s market, Amaro did a good job on Burnett’s deal. Burnett is the most likely of the Phillies to pass through waivers and be dealt. He’d better be or Amaro’s trade season will be a complete flop. Not that it still won’t be a complete flop even if Amaro does move Burnett.

There were a number of teams that hoped to improve with minor moves that fall somewhere in between winner and loser. Time will tell which of the categories those deals fall into.

 

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

 

Lester Scratched as MLB Deadline Nears

Will Lester get the ball back in Boston?

Will Lester get the ball back in Boston?

by Drew Sarver

We’re less than two days away from the Major League Baseball trade deadline and the number of rumors is starting to add up. The biggest name among them is Boston Red Sox ace Jon Lester. The veteran left-hander has been scratched from his Wednesday start, which means Boston will be making a heavy push to trade him for a boatload of prospects and/or Major Leaguers prior to Thursday’s 4 pm EDT deadline.

With the team and Lester unable to agree on a new contract to keep the left-hander in Boston beyond this year – he becomes a free agent after this season – a trade is now very likely.

Lester’s a grade ‘A’ player; a top performer, team leader, and whose departure would leave a major vacancy in the Red Sox rotation. The 30-year old, who beat anaplastic large cell lymphoma eight years ago, holds a 110-63 (.636) record as of this writing and is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. His K’s per nine innings (9.4) is the highest in four years and he has career bests in ERA (2.52) and WHIP (1.119).

He’s also been solid in the post-season. Last year he helped lead the Red Sox to their third World Series title in 10 years. He won four games, including two in the World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. It will be difficult to cut the cord, but if the Red Sox truly feel they cannot resign him, they might as well try to deal him. Needless to say, they’ve getting calls from many teams. That includes the Pittsburgh Pirates, who last night emerged as a “dark horse favorite”.

Lester could be part of a Boston fire sale now that the Red Sox have dropped 12 games out in the AL East and 9.5 games out of the second wild card position. The team, which dealt starter Jake Peavy to San Francisco on July 26, has been fielding calls on John Lackey, Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, and Jonny Gomes.

The Red Sox are also rumored to be interested in Matt Kemp, which makes no sense whatsoever. The injury-plagued LA Dodgers outfielder is owed $107MM over the next five seasons. The Red Sox would be better off spending money on starting pitcher. They don’t have to look that far back to see how injured and/or overpaid players (Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez) failed in Boston.

The next best pitcher available is Cole Hamels. After not being able to pull off a Cliff Lee deal so far, the Phillies have reportedly either been shopping Hamels or steadfastly refusing to trade him. Even if Hamels is dealt, the Phillies would like to deal Lee and the minimum $37.5MM he stands to make the next two years. He’s also owed the remainder of $25MM this season. Lee will not command the return of players he once was able to unless Philly eats the majority of the salary.

Hamels stands to make $90MM through 2018, with a possibility of making an addition $20MM-$24MM in 2019. Like Lester, Hamels is 30-years old and is having a very good season. Tuesday night he tossed eight shutout innings in a win against the New York Mets. It lowered his career-best ERA to 2.55 and a very good ratio to 1.128 His 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings is his highest total since 2006. The Phillies certainly won’t give him away and are probably going to hold on to him.

Like the Red Sox, the Phillies could move several players. Outfielder Marlon Byrd is in high demand and inquiries have been made about A.J. Burnett. The Phillies would love to rid themselves of Ryan Howard’s remaining $60MM over the next three years (the last year is an option with a $10MM buyout.), but that’s not likely to happen.

Other pitchers that could move today are the Mets’ Bartolo Colon, who has one year and $11MM remaining on his contract. The Minnesota Twins would part with Kevin Correia, though there isn’t much demand for a pitcher who leads the AL in losses and whose ERA is over 5. The Twins have also been fielding calls for catcher Kurt Suzuki and outfielder Josh Willingham.

The Kansas City Royals will likely lose James Shields to free agency after the season, but with the team five games behind Detroit in the AL Central and 3.5 games behind Toronto for the second wild card, how could they not keep him?

The Cleveland Indians face a similar dilemma. They’re 6.5 behind Detroit and sit five games in back of Toronto. Do they think they can make a run and become buyers or do they go ahead and become sellers? The Indians are a team that might try to do a little of both. Rumor has it they are trying to move starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who is having a disastrous season. Another player having a bad year is Nick Swisher (.615 OPS as of this writing), though the two years and $30MM will make it harder to move him. Add on his failure in several post-seasons, and Swisher won’t bring much return at this point. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera could be in a new home by Friday, as he enters free agency after this season.

The Padres are reportedly shopping reliever Joaquin Benoit, who can either set up or close. Other players that could move on are pitcher John Danks, outfielder Dayan Viciedo, and 1B/DH Adam Dunn of the White Sox, pitcher Colby Lewis and outfielder Alex Rios of the Rangers, Cubs’ Pitcher Edwin Jackson, Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, and Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra.

Stay tuned!

Done Deals

Cleveland sent Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfield prospect James Ramsey. Masterson has been having an off-year in a contract year, but the Cards are hoping he can be the second coming of Jake Westbrook. The Cardinals depth in the outfield allowed them to deal Ramsey, the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 draft.

The Red Sox have traded a left-handed pitcher, but it’s not Jon Lester..yet. They’ve sent Felix Doubront to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later.  A Cubs official told Peter Gammons that Doubront was getting “One more change to grow up.”

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.

Jeter’s Last All-Star Hurrah

Jeter14ASNow batting (for the last time) for the American League, number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2.

by Drew Sarver

It seems like it was only yesterday that Derek Jeter was in his rookie season with the New York Yankees. I was younger then, than he is now. It’s odd enough to not see Mariano Rivera in a Yankees uniform this season, but to not see Jeter in the home pinstripes or the road greys next season is incomprehensible. Life moves fast and so has Jeter’s final season as a Major League baseball player. Tuesday night, he’ll be introduced as the starting shortstop for the American League in the 85th MLB All-Star game at Target Field in Minnesota.

The fans voted in Jeter as the starter this season, as a tribute rather than because of his play this season. They recognize the special player they have witnessed on a nightly basis for nearly 20 seasons. (The anti-Yankees/anti-Jeter sentiment among some fans, specifically those criticizing his place on the team, is more about those fans and their lack of perception of the baseball world outside of their own team.)

Jeter made his first All-Star appearance in 1998, his third full season in the Major Leagues. In an interview with former teammate, and current ESPN analyst Aaron Boone, Jeter admitted to being “scared to death” in his first mid-Summer classic. It’s hard to believe, coming from a player with the confidence that Jeter has, but newbies are newbies. Things have changed since then. (See the entire ESPN interview by clicking here.)

Jeter enjoys chatting with players he doesn’t get to talk with too often. Even those (Dee Gordon) that are the son of a former teammate (Tom “Flash” Gordon). The Yankees’ captain would certainly like to leave a lasting impression for the fans, in attendance and those at home, during Tuesday night’s game. Of course, he would never admit to that.

In that first All-Star game 16 years ago, Jeter subbed for the starter, Seattle’s Alex Rodriguez, and struck out in his lone at-bat. A year later, Nomar Garciaparra got the start and Jeter’s one at-bat again resulted in a strikeout. (A-Rod was left off the team by Yankees manager Joe Torre after a knee injury limited him to a .316 batting average, 1.045 OPS, 18 HR and 48 RBI.)

Jeter was voted in as the starter for the first time in the 2000 season. It was one of the top all-around seasons for the then 26-year old. He was the game’s MVP in the American League’s 6-3 victory, going 3-3 with two RBI,  and a run scored. He then went on to capture the World Series MVP when the Yankees topped the Mets in the Subway Series that Fall.

The next two seasons Jeter again found himself on the bench as Cal Ripken Jr. had his swan song at shortstop (Ripken was actually voted as the starter at third base, but Torre and A-Rod, the winner at shortstop, orchestrated a positional switch at the start of the game.) and a year later A-Rod once again topped the vote leaderboard among the league’s shortstops.

Jeter1998ASJeter’s 1998 All-Star debut in Colorado.

Number 2 in pinstripes missed the ’03 game after he missed a month and a half of the regular season with a shoulder injury. But with A-Rod’s move to the Yankees and third base, and Garciaparra’s declined play, beginnnig in 2004 Jeter was voted in as the starting shortstop for the next six seasons. He lost out to the Cleveland Indians’ Asdrubel Cabrera in 2010, but was back as a starter in 2012. Last season was just the second game he missed since 1998 when a broken ankle and other injuries limited him to just 17 regular season games.

Tonight, he will hit leadoff for the AL and receive a number of rousing ovations from the Minnesota crowd, his teammates and his opponents. At some point, AL manager John Farrell will send Erick Aybar or Alexei Ramirez out to replace Jeter in the middle of an inning so that the 20-year veteran can receive one more thunderous July ovation.

And then one more “the last one” will be in the books.

 

Derek Jeter’s All-Star statistics

H AB AVG OPS R RBI HR 2B
11 25 .440 1.061 5 3 1 1

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Drew Sarver is the founder, publisher, managing editor, and a contributor for Designated For Assignment. He can be followed on twitter at @mypinstripes and @d4assignment or contacted by email at dsarver@d4assignment.com.