Last day of the year, might as well look back.
There are plenty of ways to do year in review stuff, and I’ll probably approach it a few different ways today. For starters, let’s focus on one standout moment from each month. I tried to go with things that jumped to my mind rather than dig too deep and pinpoint the most important or most significant moments from each month. These are nothing more or less than the month-by-month events that stood out to me.
January The trade Early in the evening, I’d just sat down to dinner when the news began to break. The Yankees made two moves on the night of January 13, and if you were looking for immediate impact, it was the signing of Hiroki Kuroda that mattered most. If you were looking for a splash that we’ll talk about for years to come, it was the trade of Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda that made waves. There were other names involved, but Montero was the star prospect and Pineda was a few months from season-ending surgery. I was stunned then. I’m stunned today.
February Moving on Spring training was about to start, and everyone knew the Yankees wanted to trade A.J. Burnett. The deal came through right before camp opened. The Yankees had to pay a significant part of Burnett’s salary, they got two incredibly minor prospects in return, and everyone was finally able to move on after Burnett’s two brutal years in the Yankees rotation (he’d been pretty valuable his first year with the team). The Yankees had other rotation options already under contract. Burnett got to Pittsburgh and pitched to 16 wins and a 3.51 ERA.
March Andy’s back When I saw Jack Curry’s tweet, I thought it was either a joke or absolute proof that someone had hacked his account. Andy Pettitte was coming back? Just a few weeks after he’d been a special instructor? No chance. No way. But, of course, Jack was right, and within a few days Pettitte was back in camp as a starting pitcher. At the time, the Yankees seemed to have more starters than they needed (they still didn’t know about the Pineda injury) and absolutely no one seemed to know for certain whether Pettitte could still pitch effectively in the big leagues. Within a few months, Pettitte was reviving the Yankees rotation and proving himself all over again.
April Boston massacre The season’s first trip to Boston, second game at Fenway, and the Yankees were losing 9-0 after five innings. Freddy Garcia and David Phelps had been knocked around, and Felix Doubront was working on a shutout. Then Mark Teixeira homered in the sixth inning. Then Nick Swisher hit a grand slam and Teixeira went deep again in the seventh. The Red Sox lead was down to 9-8 heading into the eighth, and the Yankees scored another seven runs to create one of the most memorable wins of the year. It actually gave the Yankees sole possession of first place for the first time. And it was a sign of things to come for the Red Sox.
May Mo goes down Honestly, I was in the bathroom. What better time to go than during batting practice in Kansas City? Even if I were in my seat, I’m not sure I would have been focused on Jayson Nix taking his hacks. I must have walked back into the press box seconds after it happened, because everyone was confused. Someone was hurt. The Yankees were rushing to check on him. Oh my gosh, it was Mariano Rivera. He couldn’t walk on his own. Television actually had a replay. Looked like his knee went out. … That night, the silence in the clubhouse spoke volumes.
June Ten in a row On June 7, the Yankees lost to the Rays and fell into third place, only a half game out of first. On June 18, they won their 10th straight to increase their division lead to two-and-a-half games. During the streak, the Yankees never allowed more than four runs, and Robinson Cano hit .371 with four homers. All 10 wins came against National League teams, and Bryce Harper struck out five times in one of those games. The Yankees were playing well, and they carried that momentum through the All-Star break and into the season’s second half.
July The West Coast trip Even after the All-Star break, the Yankees five of their first six. Their lead was up to 10 games when they went on the road to play the lowly Athletics and Mariners for what should have been a forgettable trip out West. Instead, it might have been the most memorable trip of the year. Oakland swept four straight – all one-run games to completely turn the A’s season around — before the Yankees went to Seattle, traded for Ichiro Suzuki and lost Alex Rodriguez to a broken hand.
August Joba. Finally. Nothing really jumpted out to me about August, which means I probably overlooked something extremely obvious. But, when in doubt, go with Joba Chamberlain, who’s always good for a conversation starter. There was the Tommy John surgery in 2011. Then the trampoline injury in spring training. Finally Chamberlain made his season debut on the first day of August, having joined the team quite suddenly after the Chad Qualls trade opened a roster spot. Chamberlain got off to a slow start, but he seemed to find his footing as the year went on and there are still hopes that he can be a late-inning force next season.
September The division race This is why baseball added a second wild card; to make the divisions mean something again. Not wanting to fall into a one-game play-in scenario, the Yankees, Orioles and Rays fell into a wild race for the American League East. When the Rays fell out of the mix, it was down to the high-powered Yankees and surprising Orioles in a race that had those teams tied nine days in the month of September. Down the stretch, they were never separated by more than a game and a half until the final game of the year, when the Yankees won the division by two games. Robinson Cano hit .615/.628/1.026 in the final nine games.
October Jeter goes down What mattered most in the month of October is that the Yankees offense disappeared. They could barely score in the division series, and they couldn’t score in the ALCS. And that’s why the season ended when it did. But the October memory that lingers is of Derek Jeter face down on the infield dirt, having played on a bad ankle long enough that it finally broke. A brutal end to his own terrific season. He’d been their spark, their consistency, all year. Without him, the Yankees were finished.
November Martin to Pittsburgh Re-signing Hiroki Kuroda might be the Yankees most important move of the winter, and deals with Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera helped solidify the pitching staff, but the move that spoke volumes about the Yankees offseason approach was Russell Martin’s decision to sign with Pittsburgh. Two years, $17 million wasn’t an overwhelming amount, but the Yankees have focused on one-year deals and vowed a willingness to save money by staying in-house behind the plate.
December Kevin Youkilis Two things rolled into one transaction. First the Yankees announced that Alex Rodriguez needs hip surgery and will miss the beginning of next season. Then they found his replacement in a long-time Boston nemesis. It’s an odd pairing for any number of reasons, but the Yankees are banking on Kevin Youkilis to have something left in the tank, and Youkilis is counting on the Yankees to give him regular at-bats until he proves he can still hit. It’s the most memorable move the Yankees have made this winter. And it’s for Kevin freakin’ Youkilis.
The time for discussing team MVP and team Cy Young passed months ago. There’s little sense bringing up the obvious postseason disappointment and injury frustration. At this point, it seems more important to look back at what worked and what didn’t work; what had an impact and what fell flat.
Best move January 13 has been etched in our memories because of the Michael Pineda trade, but it was also the day Hiroki Kuroda signed his one-year deal. He wound up pitching more innings than ever in his career, and for a significant stretch of the season he pitched like a Cy Young candidate. This was a season when CC Sabathia went on the disabled list twice, Andy Pettitte missed a ton of time with his ankle injury, and Ivan Nova took a significant step back. The rotation needed someone to lead it, and Kuroda did just that. Last winter was fairly quiet except for one day, and that one day did have a significant silver lining. Worth mentioning: Sticking with Raul Ibanez; giving David Phelps a chance; trading for Ichiro Suzuki; dumping A.J. Burnett.
Worst move It’s too easy to chose the Pineda trade. Truth is, the Yankees rotation isn’t the reason they were knocked out of the postseason, and Jesus Montero didn’t do enough this season to suggest he would have made a difference. Long-term, that deal looks bad, but for this season it wasn’t crushing. What hurt the Yankees in the end was making Casey McGehee and Steve Pearce their big power-bat additions. Alex Rodriguez was a shell of his former self, Mark Teixeira was hurt late in the year and Curtis Granderson had a bad second half. Ichiro helped, and Ibanez came up big, but the offense disappeared at the worst possible time. Worth mentioning: Giving up Justin Maxwell; sticking with Andruw Jones; not trading Dellin Betances when his value was high.
Greatest surprise Frankly, there were a lot of pleasant surprises on this team. The Yankees found some minor league free agents and signed some cheap big league deals that had a real impact, but the surprise that kept giving and made the greatest difference was the return of Derek Jeter as a superstar. Hard to call a Hall of Famer a big surprise, but Jeter had been dismissed for a year and a half before showing signs of getting back on track late in 2011. This season was his return to the game’s elite, legitimately one of the best leadoff hitters in the league. And he just kept doing it until his ankle wouldn’t let him do it any more. Worth mentioning: Ichiro Suzuki’s final month; Eric Chavez’s steady production; the arrival of David Phelps; the emergence of Tyler Austin.
Greatest disappointment Maybe this is where Michael Pineda truly fits. There was so much expectation considering the cost and the potential, and to have Pineda go down without throwing a single meaningful pitch created immediate disappointment and long-term concern. He might never be the pitcher the Yankees expected. In a year full of long-term injuries – Joba Chamberlain, Brett Gardner, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira — the Pineda injury wasn’t necessarily the most crushing blow, but it was the most disappointing because of all the factors attached: The trade, the loss of Montero and the promise of strong arm wiped out by a faulty shoulder. Worth mentioning: Brett Gardner’s many setbacks; Russell Martin’s batting average; Ivan Nova’s season; Robinson Cano’s postseason.
Bigger impact than expected The best answer here is probably Rafael Soriano, but we’ll get to that in just a moment. In their own ways, guys like Hiroki Kuroda, Derek Jeter and Phil Hughes also made an impact beyond expectation, but those guys were each expected to play a significant role to begin with. The one who stands out as clearly exceeding expectation is Eric Chavez, if only because he opened the season with no role whatsoever. Eduardo Nunez was supposed to get regular at-bats against lefties, and Chavez was supposed to be a qualify left-handed bat off the bench. Instead, the Yankees needed someone to get regular at-bats as a designated hitter and third baseman, and Chavez stayed healthy enough to deliver a standout season as a regular platoon player that the Yankees truly needed. Worth mentioning: Raul Ibanez down the stretch; Jayson Nix on a minor league deal; Cody Eppley and Clay Rapada in very specific and occasionally crucial situations.
Smaller impact than expected Do you remember the sense around the team when Mariano Rivera crashed to the warning track? At the time, the Yankees were barely a .500 club, and losing the game’s greatest closer — in the season that many believed would be his last — seemed too much. It was hard to imagine a bigger blow. But the Yankees had Rafael Soriano, and frankly, the Yankees bullpen remained a strength even without Rivera (and for about a month, without either Rivera or Dave Robertson). Can’t understate the brilliance of Rivera, but the Yankees were actually able to move on without him. Worth mentioning: Eduardo Nunez failing in the field; Russell Martin’s batting average; Freddy Garcia’s step backward
Risk that paid off Sometimes the risk comes from doing nothing, and last season the Yankees took a risk when they let Phil Hughes work through his early struggles. He was coming off a lost year and had a 5.64 ERA at the end of May. The Yankees yanked Freddy Garcia from the rotation early enough that he didn’t do much harm, but they let Hughes keep going, and he delivered with a 3.70 ERA in his final 22 starts. He found a new slider/cutter hybrid that was effective, and he showed improved comfort with his changeup. Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda were the only Yankees to make at least 30 starts, and that only happened because the Yankees let Hughes work through some early trouble. Worth mentioning: Trading for Ichiro Suzuki; getting Andy Pettitte out of retirement; being aggressive with Tyler Austin and Chase Whitley
Patience that didn’t pay off Andruw Jones kept getting at-bats. There’s not much more to say about the situation. The Yankees needed a right-handed outfielder, Jones was the guy chosen for the job, and despite his constant struggles, his role never changed until the very, very, very end of the season. He finished with a .197 batting average, and more than a quarter of his home runs came during one three-game series in Boston. Worth mentioning: Alex Rodriguez in the middle of the order; waiting for Joba Chamberlain as an immediate bullpen boost; the early medical diagnosis of Manny Banuelos
Associated Press photos
The Jets are the mosy talked about team on NY Sports radio. They have been, since they traded for Tim Tiebo. Everybody wants to give their opinion. The Giants, who won the Super Bowl last year, are an after thought. When the Yankees fail this year and they will, they will be talked about on Sport’s Radio. You never hear about them. When it is hot outside and the Mets are their usual poor self, people will ask themselves, what about the Yankees? What happened? Then Hal, Hank and Randy will make more money. People will hear about the team on the radio and go out and buy their Yankee T-Shirts. So keep doin what you’re doing boys! EDB
Report: Red Sox, Pirates agree to trade involving Joel Hanrahan
(Presswire)Looking to solidify their late inning bullpen setup, the Boston Red Sox have a deal in place to acquire closer Joel Hanrahan from the Pittsburgh Pirates in what will amount to a six-player upon conclusion, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.
It’s reported there will be one more player heading to Boston in the trade, with outfield prospect Jerry Sands coming back to Pittsburgh along with right-hander Stolmy Pimentel and two additional players.
Of course this will all be contingent on the players involved passing physicals, but at this point that appears to be the final hurdle remaining.
Hanrahan, 31, is clearly the headliner in the deal. He’s coming off back-to-back all-star worthy seasons in which he posted a 2.24 ERA overall and converted 76 out of 84 save chances. He also averaged one strikeout an inning over 128 1/3, but struggled with command, walking 50 unintentionally. That number should be of some concern to Boston, especially in a division that is filled with more patient and all-around dangerous hitters than the National League Central.
It’s believed Boston views Hanrahan as insurance to incumbent closer Andrew Bailey, whom they acquired from the Oakland A’s last offseason, and would be comfortable using him in that role if needed. Hanrahan made $4.1 million in 2012 and will be due a nice raise in arbitration. Bailey, too, is arbitration eligible.
As for the Pirates, they’ll now turn to recently re-signed reliever Jason Grilli to fill their closer role. The 36-year-old right-hander served as Clint Hurdle’s setup man for most of the season and did well, posting a 2.91 ERA. He has five career saves in ten seasons.
The centerpiece of the trade coming back to Pittsburgh will be 25-year-old corner outfielder Jerry Sands. If you recall, he was expected to make a big splash with the Dodgers in 2011 after posting some huge offensive numbers at Triple-A Albuquerque, but failed to live up to the hype in Los Angeles. He was then traded to Boston in August as the player to be named later in the Adrian Gonzalez deal and will now look to take the next step in Pittsburgh. That won’t be easy, though, as the Pirates have no shortage of options on the corner outfield and even at first base, where many believe Sands will spend time in the future.
All in all, it’s not exactly the most inspiring return for Pittsburgh unless one of the two unnamed players turn out to be a higher valued prospects than expected. Then again, if Sands does end up figuring it out or one of the other prospects steps forward that wouldn’t look to bad either. But even in that scenario, you can’t help but wonder if they could have waited a little longer to get one player that would undoubtedly impact their team in 2013.
Why Hal Steinbrenner, New York Yankees May Be Headed Towards Rebuilding Mode
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
The New York Yankees‘ 2012-13 offseason has gone differently than most other winters in New York. The Yankees, who are often a force in the free-agent and trade markets, have laid low and allowed other big-market rivals like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels steal the headlines.
Not only have the Yankees avoided big-name free agents, they have even let some of their own players walk, largely due to monetary reasons.
Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez are all headed to new destinations due to contract offers that the Yankees refused to match. In addition, the Bombers have shown no interest in offering Rafael Soriano the type of multi-year deal he is seeking from other teams.
The reluctance of the Yankees brass to dole out large contracts may come from not seeing a good fit with any of this year’s free agents. Or, it could be indicative of a new era in New York.
This frugality comes directly from Hal Steinbrenner’s determination to get the team under the $189 million luxury tax by 2014. Unlike his father, George, Hal seems much more concerned with budgetary constraints. All signs point a substantial reduction in the team’s payroll.
Evidence of this is seen in a New York Times article published last March, where Hal was quoted as saying: “Budgets matter, and balance sheets matter. I just feel that if you do well on the player-development side and you have a good farm system, you don’t need a $220 million payroll. You don’t. You can field every bit as good a team with young talent.”
Hey Hal, you are a What farm system Hal? It does not exist at the present. You and your clueless brother resigned A-Stiff, when you did not have to. You gave “Genius Cashman” full control. The Yankees have not developed a “solid-player,” and I am using this term loosley, after the playoffs, Cano. Nunez cannot field and you or Cashman don’t know how to fix the problem. Your best offensive prospect is a Seattle Mariner. He was traded for a pitcher who might never pitch. Your great prospects, the Killer B’s, will always be prospects. Your best prospects are several years away, Hal. We all know that prospects are prospects until they make it in the Big Show. I hate it when owners, GM’s, presidents like that fat slob, Randy levine, think they are “pulling one over” on the fans. You can babble all you want. This comming season will show what the Yankees really are and it is not going to be pretty.
But while this refreshing approach sounds great in theory, the Yankees’ farm system is not in a state to support it. Not yet, at least.
The cornerstone of the Yankees’ farm system, Jesus Montero, was shipped off to the Seattle Mariners last offseason for Michael Pineda, who has yet to pitch an inning in pinstripes due to injury.
In addition, top pitching prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances have seen major setbacks over the past year.
While Banuelos remains a solid prospect following Tommy John surgery, but his minor league statistics were far from dominant once he departed from Single A. Betances, on the other hand, has seen a significant decline in performance and could possibly never return to the Bronx.
Other pitching prospects like Adam Warren and Chase Whitley could see innings with the Yankees this season, but are not key cogs in the team’s future.
On the offensive side, Austin Romine and Zoilo Almonte should have opportunities to break into the Yankees’ starting lineup going forward, but specific deficiencies could prevent them from making a lasting impact.
Romine has shown outstanding defensive skills but only hit .243 in the minors last season. It’s hard to see the Yankees counting on him in the long term.
Almonte, to his credit, has risen from an afterthought within the organization to a legitimate prospect. If he continues to improve, he could one day be a starting outfielder. That said, there are doubts about how high his ceiling actually is, due in part to his tendency to strike out (103 times in 419 at-bats in Double-A last season).
The true strength of the Yankees’ farm system is at lower levels like Class A.
Unfortunately though, most of that talent is still years away from the majors. Outfielders Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin, as well as catcher Gary Sanchez, lead a talented group. But questions naturally remain as to how well their skills will transfer to higher levels.
Success at each level of professional baseball is earned, not given. Until these players prove themselves against tougher competition, nothing can be assumed.
Thus, because of the flaws in the Yankees’ farm system, a rebuilding phase will be necessary if Steinbrenner plans to fully implement the strategy he seemingly desires.
There are two ways the Yankees can go about this rebuilding process.
First, despite the holes in their lineup, the Yankees should be good enough to at least compete in the AL East in the years to come. If the team re-signs Robinson Cano, then Cano together with Curtis Granderson, C.C. Sabathia and Mark Teixeira should provide the Bronx Bombers with a strong enough nucleus to stay competitive.
This would give the prospects already in the Yankees’ system enough time to properly develop until they are ready to contribute at the major league level.
The downside to this strategy is that even though the Yankees could compete in the AL East during this time period, they would likely not have the firepower necessary to win a World Series.
Furthermore, this strategy places a large amount of pressure on a limited number of prospects to develop into quality major league ballplayers. There’s no guarantee that prospects will succeed at higher levels, and if none of these prospects develop, then the Yankees would be in an even worse situation than they are now.
The second way the Yankees can rebuild is to fully commit to it.
This would mean trading current veteran players to establish a larger pool of prospects.
In this case the Yankees would look to shop Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes and possibly Robinson Cano or C.C. Sabathia. This commitment to rebuilding would be a drastic but smart move for the Yankees if they are truly concerned with meeting budget constraints.
All of these players should warrant substantial returns in terms of prospects, setting the Yankees up well for the future. Certain free agents that fit the team’s needs could then be brought in to complement these young players.
The problem with this approach is that the results are not immediate in any total rebuilding process. The Yankees and their fanbase would have to accept watching a young team develop. This may be a tough change to swallow considering that the Yankees have qualified for the postseason in 17 of the last 18 years.
And any potential drop in fan interest could cause gigantic issues from a business standpoint.
In 2008, the Yankees built a $1.3 billion stadium and raised ticket prices to sky-high rates. Given the current prices, a total rebuilding process could cause a dramatic reduction in ticket sales and sharply hurt the Yankees’ bottom line.
Personally, I feel the only way the Yankees will engage in this total rebuilding method is if the team badly underperforms in 2013. It would take a 2012 Red Sox-esque crisis for the Yankees’ front office to make such franchise-altering decisions, especially with so much of their profit at stake.
Essentially, because of the faults in the Yankees’ farm system, the fate of the Yankees in the near future depends on the extent to which Hal Steinbrenner is willing to empty his pockets.
If he wants to fill the current holes through free agency or trades, he still has the means to do so.
But if he doesn’t, he will have to accept some sort of rebuilding phase.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the Yankees will always have the financial ability to deviate from a rebuilding process even once it’s started.
For example, if Steinbrenner gets fed up with low attendance due to a young team, he can always go out and sign a bunch of free agents the following year. The Yankees can act like a small-market team trying to build its farm system and develop players, but still have the luxury of being the Yankees if it doesn’t work out.
No matter what path Steinbrenner and the Yankees choose to take, it’s important for them to consider both the long term and the short term.
My personal recommendation for the club would be to completely commit to rebuilding or spending to win now.
Taking a middle-of-the-road option will only lead to average results in the Bronx and a failure to improve the farm system.
Results that will make neither Steinbrenner nor the fans happy. EDB
New York Yankees: Former World Series MVP Hideki Matsui Announces Retirement
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Another former Yankee has decided to hang up the cleats for good.
The 38-year-old made headlines back in the winter of 2002 by coming over from Japan to the majors and choosing to sign with the Yankees on a three-year, $21 million deal.
In his first season with the Bombers, Matsui hit .287 with 16 home runs and 106 RBI while making the American League All Star team and finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Matsui captured the hearts of the fans in his very first game at Yankee Stadium by crushing a grand slam against the Minnesota Twins in April of 2003.
After his original deal expired, Matsui re-signed with the Yankees after 2005 on a four-year, $52 million deal, which made him the highest-paid Japanese player in MLB at the time.
As he started to get older, Matsui was transitioned from left field to permanent designated hitter duties because of knee injuries.
In the 2009 World Series, Matsui hit .615 (8-for-13) with three home runs and eight RBI. Matsui’s clutch performance in Game 6 against the Phillies helped seal the championship for the Bombers by going 3-for-4 with a home run and six RBI.
For his efforts in that series, Matsui won the 2009 World Series MVP Award.
After 2009, Matsui left the Yankees after seven seasons and signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels and hit .274 with 21 home runs and 84 RBI.
Matsui then joined the Oakland A’s in 2011 and then the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012, but was only on the team for 34 games and got released on August 1.
During those 34 games, Matsui only hit .147 with two home runs and seven RBI.
From 2003-2009, Matsui had an enormous fan base that followed him from Japan, and some even said he had a “rock-star presence” because how popular he was.
Matsui was known for coming up with clutch hits and being a true professional at his craft.
After 10 years of playing in MLB, Matsui retires with 175 career home runs and a .282 batting average
In the future, I’m sure we’ll all see No. 55 don the pinstripes again at Old Timers Games, and he’ll get standing ovations for his contributions while in the Bronx, especially his 2009 World Series performance.
As a Yankee fan, Matsui was one of my favorites in recent times, and it’s sad to see him retire, but like many fans, I’m grateful that I got a chance to see him play, whether it was in New York or on TV.
The Yankees have never replaced the “heart” and “clutch” of both Hidecki Matsui and Johnny Damon. A lot of the reason the Yankees won in 2009 was these two players. It certainly has not been due overall to A-Stiff, The Grandy Man, Robinson “I don’t Want To Know: Cano. They have been basically invisible. “A-Stiff gets a pass for 2009. Great players deliver more than one championship. I really hope the Yankees retire Hidecki’s number. EDB
Ira from Staten Island, a rabid Jets fan, who attends all 16 games, both home and away, traveled to beautiful Buffalo to watch his awful Jets lose to the awful. Bills. Ira called in to the “Jet’s Fifth Quarter Show,” as he always does. He said that he is going to let this game go. Perhaps, masochist should be substituted for rabid. Don LaGreca of ESPN Radio hosts the show along with former Jet Greg Buttle. LaGreca could not believe Ira was at the game. Ira mentioned that his flight was cancelled and he was stuck in Buffalo. Either LaGreca or Buttle should have called the Jets and Ira could have flown on the Jet’s plane. It is the least they can do for their biggest suffering fan. Another fan called the show and said he hopes to see a championship, before he dies. That’s a “pipe dream.” EdB
Mets to be Booted from Buffalo, likely headed to Vegas
The Mets have been keeping their triple AAA affiliate in associated with the Buffalo Bisons for the past 4 years but apparently sources say that affiliation is about to end. The Bisons have been frustrated with the Mets for years for failing to field a quality Triple AAA team. The few position player prospects the Mets have had in the last few years (Tejada, Davis, and Murphy) spent little to no time in Triple A. It’s uncommon for players to skip Triple AAA all together but because of a lot of injuries at the big league clubs minor league guys have been taken away from Buffalo. Players such as Vinny Rottino and Omar Quintanilla were very successful in buffalo but are no longer with the Mets or the bisons, further frustrating Buffalo. Bisons manager Wally Backman admitted this would be the Mets last year being associated with the Buffalo Bisons “It’s a shame for us, really. Buffalo is a great city but I don’t envision us coming back, from the things I’ve heard from the grapevine.”
This would be the Mets 3rd Triple AAA franchise in the last 7 years. After the Mets were kicked out of Norfolk they went all the way to the Pacific Coast League to New Orleans for two years and then spent the next 4 in Buffalo. There are 30 minor league franchises like the 30 major league ones so if Buffalo kicks the Mets out they can’t just make their own Triple AAA team they have to go to an already preexisting one. There are only 30 businesses in America licensed to run AAA teams, 14 in the International League and 16 in the Pacific Coast League. All 30 of those AAA teams are guaranteed a player development contract with a big league affiliate. The Bisons are rumored to want to go to the Toronto Blue Jays and the feeling appears to be mutual. Blue Jays play in Las Vegas which is known to be the worst place to develop young pitchers. The Jays have really struggled to develop their own pitching leading to their downfall at the mlb level this season.
Vegas is just an awful place to develop pitching. The ball flies and the infield is baked into a hard surface. The Pacific Coast League averages .279/.346/.432. At home, the Las Vegas 51s have hit .313/.386/.487. Yikes. Imagine how the Mets would be able to develop young pitchers like Zack Wheeler when the average player hits .313. You will have Mets pitchers coming straight from Double AA, less sure than ever if they are ready for the show. If you do decide to send top pitchers to Las Vegas, you have to worry about their confidence if they struggle at home. The ballpark plays like “Coors Field +Yankee Stadium on Steroids” and it will also have hitting prospects putting up just ridiculous numbers and team brass will be unsure if they are ready. Finally if the Mets need a call up right away Buffalo isn’t too far but now in Las Vegas it will be very difficult to get a call up to Queens by game times more often than not. It also hurts the front offices ability to scout players if they are much further away. The Las Vegas 51’s appear to be the only “free agent” minor league franchise available to the Mets.
The reason this is happening is because the Mets have failed to develop a quality farm system for a long time now. Every organization needs top prospects but it appears that once the Mets find one they are rushed immediately to the big leagues, whether they are ready or not. The Mets have only begun to slow their prospects down in the last year or so when Sandy Alderson took over as General Manager. Player development contracts are for two years or four years so ideally the Mets go to Vegas for two years, Sandy Alderson develops the farm system again and the Mets will become an attractive location again to International League Clubs like Buffalo.
The Mets should team up with the Jets, much like the Yankees and Nets did. Because both the Mets and the Jets have made an art of “fouling things up,” for most of their teams history. Because the Mets have failed to field a “quality” AAA team, the Mets affiliation with Buffalo will end. It looks like the Mets AAA affiliate will be in Las Vegas. If this does not work, the Mets are interested in New Zealand, so their players, when brought up, can fly half=way around the world. EDB