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The Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017 in Cooperstown is set.
By: Mike Lindsley
Here is the quick breakdown:

The inductees: Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines.

Raines: .294 lifetime batting average, 2,605 hits, 1,571 runs, 808 stolen bases, 430 doubles, 1996 World Series champ (NY Yankees), 7-time All-Star. Teams: Expos-White Sox-Yankees-Athletics-Orioles-Marlins.

The snapshot: Raines' momentum has been building over the years for many reasons. He was one of the best all-around players of his era, stolen bases mean more now and we look at overall numbers more than ever (thanks, Steroid Era). Raines led the National League in stolen bases in four straight seasons (1981-84). You cannot discount the clubhouse impact Raines had with every team. He, with Andre Dawson, made baseball thrive in Montreal. Raines was well-respected and a tough out. Raines also won a World Series as a Yankee, which doesn't hurt. "Rock" arrives in Cooperstown on the final year on the ballot.

Bagwell: .297 lifetime batting average, 449 home runs, 1,529 RBI, 488 doubles, .540 slugging percentage, 2,314 hits, 4,213 total bases, 1994 N.L. MVP, 1991 Rookie of the Year, 4-time All-Star, 2005 pennant winner with Houston. Teams: Houston Astros.

The snapshot: Bagwell, one of the classiest players of all-time, was the heart and soul of the "Killer B's" and the Houston Astros, a team he played his entire career for. Bagwell was the face of that franchise for 15 seasons. Bagwell never won a title, but boy did he put-up great numbers, slugging his way to more than 400 home runs and 1,500 RBI. MVP and Rookie of the Year Awards go a long way on a baseball resume (see past inductees) and Bagwell's defense is often forgotten about because he was so feared at the plate over the years. He did win a Gold Glove in 1994, but could have won many more.

Rodriguez: .296 lifetime batting average, 2,844 career hits, 1,354 runs, 1,332 RBI, 1999 A.L. MVP, 14-time All-Star, 4,451 total bases, 2003 NLCS MVP and 2003 World Series Champion with the Florida Marlins, 2006 pennant winner with the Detroit Tigers.

The snapshot: arguably the greatest defensive catcher of all-time. He stopped wild pitches, commanded every pitching staff for every team he played for and was incredible at throwing runners out. Offensively? Feared because of hitting the ball all over the field. He could move runners. He could hit them in. "Pudge" is of course linked to steroids but there are no failed tests. He did get bigger over time and then skinny when testing began and ended, but like all of the other steroid stories, he didn't fail a test, it was a bad era because baseball turned the blind eye so they could fill seats and Rodriguez was likely a Hall of Famer even without them. To say he was well-respected in baseball is a gross understatement. The young Florida Marlins ran all the way to the World Series in 2003 and beat the mighty Yankees in six games, winning Game 6 in the Bronx on a Josh Beckett 5-hit shutout (2-0), caught by "Pudge." His influence on that team was a big reason why they won. He was the leader. Rodriguez, even with the steroid cloud hanging over him for some, is easily the best player in this Class of 2017.

5 Burning NY Yankees Questions For 2017.
By: Mike Lindsley
The New York Yankees, despite trading two huge bullpen pieces and moving superstars in 2016, almost made it to the playoffs thanks to an influx of young players. The rebuild in the Bronx continues but with some pieces added. Let's have a look at the top questions surrounding the team as Spring Training gets closer.

1. How will Gary Sanchez play? Sanchez took baseball by storm, hitting 20 home runs and knocking in 42 RBI in just 53 games while setting multiple rookie home run records along the way. But with those numbers come expectations in 2017, especially in New York and especially in this uniform. Can Sanchez rise to the occasion? Expect him to drop off a little over the course of a 162-game season, but Sanchez certainly passed the look test, can really hit, commands the catcher position and doesn't fear anything. His humility helps too, and will continue to help him in the fishbowl of New York City.

2. Happy Holliday? The Yankees signed Matt Holliday to a one-year deal to occupy the designated hitter role and maybe play a little first base. Holliday is a veteran from St. Louis who should be a solid clubhouse guy. He also has produced big October hits for the Redbirds, something the Yankees need if and when they return to playoff baseball (Holliday could be a tough out if the Yanks surprise by making the postseason in 2017). Holliday had a rough 2016 and is looking to bounce back in pinstripes.

3. Will the Bird be the Word? Greg Bird is back after missing all of 2016 with a right shoulder labrum tear. Bird was expected to be a key piece of the team after having hit 11 homers in 2015 and providing a nice platoon option at first base. Bird provides more youth and versatility for New York. With Mark Teixeira's career over, this is a huge year for Bird, who will get a ton of at-bats and time in the field at first.

4. Chapman Domination? Closer Aroldis Chapman was traded by the Yankees to the Cubs, won a World Series with Chicago in historic fashion and is now back in the Bronx. Money helps, but Chapman cited the Yanks as the team he wanted to play for because they gave him a chance during his domestic violence situation. Dellin Betances will set him up. Some people in baseball circles questioned the Yankees bringing Chapman back because New York won't be a contender in 2017 or maybe even 2018. Don't tell that to them. The goal is to make the playoffs and see what happens. Remember, the Indians were supposed to be a year away from big success in 2016 as well.

5. Ace in the Hole? If the Yankees are to contend for a playoff spot, Masahiro Tanaka needs to stay healthy and be an ace. Tanaka logged, stunningly, almost 200 innings in 2016 and compiled a 14-4 record with 165 strikeouts and a 3.07 ERA. Remember, he still technically has a partially torn UCL. Yes, the Yankee pitching depth is still lacking after Tanaka, but without him they are absolutely nothing.

Yankees Need to Bring Chapman Back.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees got their closer back. Aroldis Chapman is heading back to New York for five years and $86 million. Here is the good, the bad and the ugly of the deal.

The Good: The Yankees have a closer back. And although Dellin Betances can close, no one can throw 102 MPH like Chap. Make it a six inning game when you can't hit and are rebuilding and still have pitching questions. That's the New York Yankees. In addition, New York essentially paid no big price whatsoever for highly touted prospect Gleyber Torres, who is in the original Chapman to Chicago deal. Nice work Brian Cashman, for seeing this process through.

The Bad: Can Chapman live-up to the contract? This is the most money any one reliever has ever made. Plus, Chapman has a World Series ring. Is he too comfortable in the Bronx? Is the money too much? Let's find out. Many of the last contracts for relievers haven't worked out long-term. Chapman is special and throws harder than anyone in MLB. This contract consists of an opt-out after three years, but can he make it that long?

The Ugly: This should read more like “the potential ugly.” The Yankees might not contend for a title until 2019, maybe sooner if they overachieve like the Indians in 2016 or the Royals for two years before that. If the Yanks don’t contend for at least two years, that means they wasted a lot of money on a closer when it could have just been added to the Manny Machado or Bryce Harper pile. Plus, as New York continues to rebuild, their offense is still pretty weak, which means late leads might not come often, so when do you use Chapman? Earlier in games? Gary Sanchez won’t keep-up the pace from 2016, even though some Yankee fans likely expect him to hit 100 home runs after what he did last season after being called-up.

Yankees Need to Bring Chapman Back.
By: Mike Lindsley
It was a fun and good season in 2016, overall, for the New York Yankees. Trade the two best postseason bullpen difference makers to rebuild the farm, still compete, find out (hopefully for the long term) that Gary Sanchez is a superstar and ah, yes, waive good-bye to A-Rod.

The Yanks didn't make the playoffs, but boy they tried, and it was a good year overall considering the roster heading into the season.

Now it's time to get good again through free agency, the old Yankee way, to go along with the youth movement and compete soon for a title. All of this while using front office brains, of course, assuming there are still a few left.

Bring Aroldis Chapman back to the Bronx, Brian Cashman.

The best bullpen in baseball was the Yankees and could be the Yankees again, even without Andrew Miller. And, let's face it, that is where it begins in baseball these days. Win it over six innings and shut em down from there.

Chapman clearly likes New York. He handles pressure. He doesn't fear the American League East. The Yanks gave him a chance in the first place after his ongoing domestic abuse case.

Chapman, like everyone else in America, also loves money. The Yankees print it like no one else, still to this day.

The postseason stage didn't scare Chapman at all. What hurt Chapman was how he was used way too much and too early by Joe Maddon. Chapman was a monster x-factor going into the playoffs and once there, was his usual fireballing self who hitters couldn't keep-up with.

Think about the young relief arms led by Dellin Betances, who would set-up Chapman. In baseball, you need four things to get to the postseason and win in the postseason. Timely hitting, starting pitching depth, an ace pitcher and….a bullpen. Well there you go, Brian Cashman. Get the big piece of last part.

Chapman had 20 saves for the Yankees. Then 16 more for the Cubs down the stretch. If New York had any kind of an offense, the team would have made the playoffs because with a lead, the bullpen was tough to hit on most nights.

Brian McCann is gone. Money moved. Mark Teixeira is off the books. Money moved. Andrew Miller was traded. More money moved. Many salaries are still on the team but are key pieces or you can't move them because no one wants those players.

Chapman's resume looks awfully good, not just because he is a great closer with the game's best fastball, but because he helped the Cubs end the 108 years of World Series misery.

But now it's time to win in New York. And doing that will be easier with the Cuban fireballer in the Bronx.

Brian Cashman, clean the uniform and open-up the checkbook.

Aroldis Chapman needs to be refitted for pinstripes.

2016 World Series Recap.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Cubs and Indians played a classic best-of-seven World Series with 176 years of suffering since their last World Series titles, respectively.

Chicago came out on top in a thrilling Game 7, 8-7, to end 1908 and all the waiting and suffering and Billy Goat and black cat talk from decades past (if you believe in that crap). Here are 10 quick takeaways from the Fall Classic.

1. You are free, Steve Bartman.

2. Best World Series of my lifetime. Best Game 7 of my lifetime. Right behind it would be 1991, 1986, 2001 and 1997.

3. These Cubs played this series and Game 7 like they did all year. Unfazed by pressure and the history and everything else. Play baseball. Love playing baseball. We are good, we know we are good and we have been good our whole lives. Even if eight of them are 25 and under.

4. Still a hell of a year, Cleveland.

5. Francisco Lindor. In every facet of the game.

6. Wrigley Field is such an amazing place. What a time they must have had around those parts.

7. Terry Francona, enter Cooperstown.

8. Theo Epstein, enter Cooperstown.

9. So the Cubs were loveable losers for 108 years. Now they are the favorites to win it all again next year with expectations. Don’t you love sports?

10. Joe Maddon, you are a solid baseball mind. But you got away with a few in this clash with Cleveland. Aroldis Chapman pitching with a five-run lead in Game 6, for example, isn’t exactly the wisest move. But years from now, no one will remember Maddon’s bad managing in the final games. They will remember that he was the skipper of the team that won the biggest World Series of them all and the biggest sporting event in Chicago sports history.

2016 New York Yankees Season Was A Success.
By: Mike Lindsley
2016 turned-out to be alright for the Yanks. A success in fact. And here are 10 reasons why.

1. Youth movement. Tyler Austin, Gary Sanchez and the rest of the kids had a chance to showcase their talents. This all happened by trading two closers (Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman) and outfielder Carlos Beltran as well and the farm system is being rebuilt. The future is NOW for New York.

2. CC Sabathia. The guy doesn't have a lot left and can't dominate a game anymore, but how can you not respect the guts and fight from this guy? He was basically done and rehabbing an alcohol problem and came back and had a nice year. Good for him.

3. A-Rod sent away. Enough said.

4. Dellin Betances. He had some rough spots and was used wrong a couple of times, but for the most part Betances was outstanding. He was the 7th inning guy and then an 8th inning guy and then a closer after Chapman and Miller were traded away. Betances has continued to pitch well, which is important with young players across the board from a consistency standpoint. Betances had 126 strikeouts and 12 saves in 2016.

5. Gary Sanchez. He needs his own section even though he was mentioned in #1. Sanchez flat-out went off and deserves to be Rookie of the Year in the American League despite not playing a ton in 2016. Without him, the Yanks wouldn't have even sniffed the 2nd Wild Card. His final line: .299-20 HR-42 RBI-.657 slugging percentage.

6. Starlin Castro. He seems to be a perfect Yank. Slick in the field and good enough at the plate. .270-21 HR-70 RBI. Most importantly, he handled New York just fine in year one.

7. Home record. Yankee Stadium isn't exactly intimidating these days like the old place. But the pinstripes finished 48-33 at home in 2016. Not too shabby.

8. One of the most difficult things to do in sports these days is figuring out how long to hang-on to a young pitcher, starter or reliever. The Yanks stuck with Luis Severino, let him work in the minors and then bounced him around as a reliever/starter between the two stops. Smart. Severino is for sure a part of the plan moving forward and should be.

9. Jacoby Ellsbury's health. He will come nowhere near earning his contract (Yankees' fault of course), but Ellsbury was healthy at the end of the season and showed how vital he can be to a lineup when the Yankee offense was clicking and challenging for a playoff berth.

10. Masahiro Tanaka. How is this guy still able to pitch let alone dominate periods of baseball games? He was in the conversation for American League CY Young for awhile. Tanaka went 14-4 with a 3.07 ERA and 165 strikeouts with, for the most part, a horrendous offense until the young guys came-up. Incredible.

Didi Gregorius Deserves a Tip of the Cap.
By: Mike Lindsley
Filling the shoes of legends has to be brutally difficult. You think anyone actually wants to snap from center after John Elway did so in Denver during a Hall of Fame career, for example? Mike Hopkins has a rough task ahead in following Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. They still have yet to find the next Montreal Canadiens goalie since Patrick Roy.

Enter Didi Gregorius. Does it get any tougher than playing shortstop in New York after Derek Jeter? Likely no. Jeter was everything. The homegrown kid who dazzled with a jump throw and had 200 hits season after season and was a face of a franchise for two decades. He hit in October and November and led the way in which not many players can lead, even Yankees with the last names Mantle or Gehrig or DiMaggio or Munson. Five titles. Seven pennants. .310 lifetime average. 3,400-plus hits. First ballot Hall of Famer. The Flip. Mr. November. Clutch as hell.

Yep, that guy.

But credit Didi Gregorius. He went into this thing chill. Literally. Just play the game. Hang with teammates. Take to Twitter to praise others and the city of New York and his teammates and interact with fans with humility. Learn and grow. His glove was already good. It's now great. His bat needed work. It's now better. Joe Girardi, while he has benched him late in the season at times, has been able to work with him. Many Yankee fans were skeptical. Not anymore.

Gregorius is not a player who can carry a lineup. But he can save runs in the field, be a nice complement to superstars and work well in certain spots in the order. He can be a nice player for the Yankees moving forward, assuming the roster around him continues to change and supports him, and vice versa.

Didi Gregorius was never the next Derek Jeter and he, more than anyone, knew that.

And maybe, after all, that's what has made this whole thing turn out alright in the first place.

2016 New York Yankees By the Letter.
By: Mike Lindsley
The season isn’t over yet, and when it ends, the Yankees might even play in the….postseason. Hard to believe for some, but on the other hand, selling at the trade deadline opened up a chance for young guys to play with nothing to lose, a more versatile lineup and new pitching opportunities for young and old. Here is the 2016 New York Yankees’ story by the letter of their own franchise name.

N-ew. This whole team feels new. From the youth to the starting rotation 1-5 to the feeling of the fans to having depth and speed and energy. It’s fun in the Bronx again.
E-ast. American League East. Yanks finish with a pile of games against division foes that could decide the division one way or the other.
W-ild Card. They still have a chance.

Y-outh. What the Yankees needed most. Now it is finally here.
O-rioles. The Yankees host the Orioles in the final series of the season in the Bronx. Who knows what could be on the line for this one.
R-odriguez. Trading A-Rod was the start of the turn-around.
K-the symbol for strikeouts. Masahiro Tanaka, still amazingly pitching with a partially torn elbow, has been an ace for New York and will go over 150 strikeouts for the first time in his big league career.

Y-asiel Puig. The Dodgers come to the Bronx September 12-14 in a classic match-up of teams who used to battle in New York (Brooklyn and the Bronx) and from coast to coast when the Dodgers moved to LA.
A-roldis. As in Aroldis Chapman, a rental closer who New York traded for a boat load of prospects. Those prospects aren’t all quite ready yet, but watch out. They all can play.
N-ever give-up. Yanks are all-of-a-sudden cardiac kids and comeback kids. See September 6, 2016 against Toronto, a 7-6 win after two comebacks down 2-1 and 4-3.
K-ay. Michael Kay, YES play-by-play man, even has an extra jolt behind the microphone these days.
E-llsbury. When healthy, Jacoby can be a huge asset to this team. He has shown a little renaissance with the young guys and is swinging the bat fairly well.
E-very day players. From Ellsbury to Brian McCann to Starlin Castro to Didi Gregorius, the Yankees need all of them to play well together the rest of the way. This team doesn’t have a superstar to carry the lineup.
S-anchez. As in Gary Sanchez. The new catcher of the team. 11 home runs in 23 games at one point, a baseball rookie record. He is at the core of the youth movement.

Yanks Doing the Right Thing.
By: Mike Lindsley
You be the Judge. See how I did that?

As in Aaron Judge. As in newcomers and youth and forcing A-Rod to see the door. Mark Teixeira retired. Worked out perfectly as well.

And the team unloaded Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran, one a rental player and the other at the end of his deal who can help a postseason team perform at the highest level because that is what Beltran does in October. Andrew Miller? Only tradeable if you got the A+ prospect package. Well, the Yankees indeed received that from the Indians.

This is long overdue in New York. There have been dinosaurs roaming the Bronx far too long. Too many players do the same thing. There are too many bloated contracts. The rest of the baseball has been this way for five to seven years or more. The Yankees just haven’t done it this way at all. They simply have written checks to nomads for the sheer enjoyment or because that is what the Yankees are “supposed to do” or to try and steal share away from an opponent (nice try on Jacoby Ellsbury, even the Red Sox knew he was shot).

And so now we wait. We wait to see if the kids can play. But at least play them to know down the line. The Yankees used to know their players very well. They were good at trades and scouting and knowing when a player was or wasn’t going to help them long term. They need to get back to those days.

Aaron Judge, what a start. Gary Sanchez. Nice defensively but a little ways to go at the plate. But with him in there, you can move Brian McCann to designated hitter on occasion ONLY because A-Rod is gone. Tyler Austin. He can man third or first or play some outfield. Just give him a shot with Brett Gardner doing his typical fall in August, this time with an injury, but normally it’s due to a lack of production.

Keep playing the kids. Keep moving the age and the bad contracts.

The Yankees are on their way back. And they still have the finances and the ability to use that money to sign big stars in the future. They just cannot miss on them the way they have the past six or so years (no one is of course assuming a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado collapse but stranger things have happened).

The Empire is alive and well. It just might take a little time.

Watch out baseball.

Yanks Trade Andrew Miller to Tribe.
By: Mike Lindsley
And so the selling in the Bronx continues. Andrew Miller, maybe the best closer in baseball, moves from the Yankees to the Indians to give Cleveland a shot at a pennant and maybe more and the Yankees more prospects to rebuild the franchise. Here is a breakdown of the trade.

Why it works for the Yanks: Many Yankee fans feel that Andrew Miller shouldn't have been traded because of many factors. One, he's really good. Two, the Yanks still need to have a great bullpen, an important part of the game. Three, he comes cheap considering prices these days at $9 million per season. He also has two years on his contract, which would be 2017 and 2018 in the Bronx, unlike now-Cub and rental closer Aroldis Chapman, who was traded before this by the Yanks. Here is the counter and only thing that matters. The Yankees' contracts are so bloated and run so deep on the roster that 2017 is a wash at this point anyway. So you are wasting Miller's time and your own if you aren't winning because you can't get leads to get Miller into the game and can't get out of your own way with dead weight, flabbergasting contracts and horrendous depth and versatility. Why keep Miller if the package is A+ with this being the #1 factor? Move him and hope that the players (outfielder Clint Frazier (#1 Cleveland prospect), left-hander Justus Sheffield (Indians' #5 prospect) and right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen) in return are big league ready sooner rather than later.

Why it works for the Indians: Win now. They have a true shot to win the American League and maybe the World Series RIGHT NOW. You have to strike when the iron is hot. The American League Central Division is down, mostly because the Kansas City Royals are finally facing a slew of injuries and have the back-to-back World Series hangover. Cleveland is young and full of pitching and just needed one more thing to make a run. That thing was a closer. Miller is lethal. And he comes at a nice price with two more years left on his deal as previously stated. If Cleveland's young players continue to play well and its pitching holds-up, the Tribe can go for it for at least another two years with Miller closing the door at the end of games. Pretty nice thought here if you are a Cleveland baseball fan.

Bottom line: Yanks continue to regroup. Indians can go for it and try to keep the Cavaliers' momentum going in a city that was dying for a title; now they could get two in the same year. And finally, the parity in baseball continues as another mid-market club has the belief that they can win it all for at least another two-plus seasons.

10 Takeaways From Hall of Fame Induction Weekend in Cooperstown.
By: Mike Lindsley
1. Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. As good a class as there has ever been. Piazza was a generational offensive catcher. Griffey was five-tool all the way. Incredible all-timers.

2. Johnny Bench. Overrated personality. The guy is never happy when I see him. Ever.

3. Hot, hot, hot. Wow. Sunday was steaming.

4. Hank Aaron wasn't there. And he was missed.

5. Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson is a true professional and a wonderful guy. He deserves a lot of credit for this weekend.

6. Ken Griffey Jr. struggled with his speech more than any Hall of Famer I have ever seen. But he finished strong, with the backwards cap. Nice ending there and great suggestion by another Hall of Famer, "The Big Hurt" Frank Thomas, who pushed Jr. to do it before the ceremony.

7. Monte Irvin and Yogi Berra tributes. Talk about two greats. And two guys who we miss a lot.

8. Next Induction Sunday: Trevor Hoffman and Jeff Bagwell will go in. Will Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez?

9. The Baseball Hall of Fame needs to figure out the media situation. How can someone have section three tickets and not have access to the pit in front of the stage to interview big names who are there from all walks of life? What is the point in being there for a reporter? And the treatment of the media when walking out. In order. Grabbed and shoved by a no-name usher. Forced to walk in a huge crowd with fans around the normal exit lanes. Told to deal with it because there are new rules. Absolutely disgraceful.

10. Nowhere in sports do you get that amount of legends/Hall of Famers on one stage at one time. That's the best part about this weekend annually. And it never gets old.

Photos by Rocco Carbone
2016 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction

Baseball's All-Time Mount Rushmore (Players Only).
By: Mike Lindsley
So many players. So hard to do. How can you pick four guys in any sport all-time? I will give it a shot here with our National Pastime, the great sport of baseball. Criteria: elite player, longevity, obvious numbers, a winner, changed the game within the game and transcended the sport within our country/world/culture. Quick reminder: this is a "players only" Baseball Mount Rushmore. Pitchers have to be separated for obvious reasons (that Mount Rushmore is coming soon). Here we go.

1. Babe Ruth. Without Ruth, there might not be the home run as we know it today. His uppercut swing changed the Dead Ball Era and forced teams to go away from John McGraw's "small ball" of slapping hits and bunting and running. Baseball became BIG because "The Babe" was BIG. Without Ruth, there also might not be the New York Yankees, thanks to the sale of "The Bambino" to the Yanks from the Red Sox (Harry Frazee really needed that "No No Nanette" to go off well). Then the Yankees became the Yankees and the Red Sox became the Red Sox. "The Curse of the Bambino" was born and lasted until 2004. All Ruth did was win and slam home runs in the Bronx, in a stadium literally built for him by Yanks owner Jacob Ruppert. As a Yankee, Ruth would play in seven World Series and win four. His home run total is 714. His hit total is 2,873. For a slugger, his lifetime batting average is a stunning .342. When someone says baseball, we say Babe Ruth. When someone puts up incredible numbers, we today refer to them as "Ruthian." Ruth also was the face of the "Roaring 20's" in America, grew the game on tours to Japan and elsewhere and allowed the American public into his world by visiting sick kids in hospitals and roaming the streets as a cultural icon. Babe Ruth was a like a Twitter sensation and YouTube star 95 years before social media existed. Oh, and last but certainly not least, he would have been a Hall of Fame pitcher. Ruth went 94-46 before becoming the greatest slugger of all-time and also won two World Series with Boston as its ace. Baseball is Babe Ruth. Babe Ruth is baseball. Now and forever, and it will never change.

2. Hank Aaron. "Hammerin' Hank" would eventually eclipse Ruth's home run total on April 8, 1974. Aaron was a true five-tool player and was a winner, capturing a World Series title for Milwaukee in 1957 over the hated Yankees. Aaron, remember, fought his way through racism and incomprehensible treatment to become one of the greatest players in big league history. He helped put Milwaukee on the map as a true baseball-loving town and to this day, is considered the greatest living ballplayer. Numbers? Out-of-this-world. 2,297 RBI, still #1 all-time. His home runs: 755. And still the Home Run King if you ask this author (Barry Bonds' gigantic head and numbers don't register when they were chemically enhanced). .305 lifetime batting average. 3,771 career hits. Think about that. Henry Aaron has 700 home runs and 3,000 hits. No one in history does. His role playing ambassador for the game has been second to none. No one has done it better, no one has embraced helping those who he played with and against to obtain pensions and respect and a quality life. He has helped players and non-players alike with the B.A.T group, the "Baseball Assistance Team," in providing financial assistance to those in need inside and outside the game, so they can continue to hold jobs and have a better life. The player Hank Aaron is a no-brainer on Baseball's Mount Rushmore. The person, baseball advocate and cultural and social icon, for how he handled the racial punches during the home run chase and his overall baseball career, stands just as tall.

3. Willie Mays. "The Say Hey Kid" was the most entertaining player of all-time. Speed-arm-glove-hit for power-hit for average. The greatest all-around player of all-time, which is saying something considering he spanned the era of Aaron-Mickey Mantle-Joe DiMaggio-Eddie Matthews-Frank Robinson-so many others. Mays faced the same nonsensical racism that Aaron did and flourished throughout. While Ruth created his namesake from the uppercut home run and changing the game offensively, Mays changed the game with his defense despite still being one of the greatest offensive players to ever live. Every amazing outfield play, especially over-the-shoulder catches, brings broadcasters nationwide currently to say the player "channeled an inner-Willie Mays" or something close to that. Mays' robbery of Vic Wertz in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series is always one of the first highlights shown during the baseball calendar. The game was tied 2-2 in the 8th inning as well, and Mays prevented runs from scoring and set a tone in the Fall Classic. The Giants won in the 10th on a Dusty Rhodes home run and would go on to win the World Series over the Indians. Mays hit 660 home runs, drove in 1,903 RBI and is a 3,000-hit club member. Throw in there a .302 batting average, 12 Gold Gloves and two MVP awards. Mount Rushmore has a spot for the greatest all-around ballplayer who ever lived. Say Hey!

4. Jackie Robinson. We can go on and on about who the fourth guy could be. Lou Gehrig or Ty Cobb or Joe DiMaggio or Stan Musial or Frank Robinson or anyone else. So, it's easier to take none of them and instead take the guy who changed the game forever, who also happened to be one of the elite players of all-time. April 15, 1947. Jackie Robinson became the first black player in big league history, in part by Branch Rickey's innovative thought to change the game. What followed was an amazing Brooklyn Dodger, who stole home and cruised from first to third with ease and hit doubles and homers and base hits and triples wherever he wanted and helped dethrone the mighty Yankees, finally, in 1955 for the "Bums" who waited no longer for a title. But Robinson's impact then and continued impact now is unmatched in terms of the social and racial climates, thus the real reason for his position on Baseball's Mount Rushmore. He opened the doors for black players in baseball, gave black Americans in the United States a new jolt of confidence and continued to fight racial issues until his dying day. Without Robinson, there might never have been a Hank Aaron or Willie Mays or Barry Bonds or Ken Griffey Jr. or any Latin players either. Jackie Robinson entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. Robinson would have been a Hall of Fame player for even longer than his 10 short years if integration happened earlier. There were other "greater" players than Robinson in history, some named above. But it's what he did on that historical day in 1947 as baseball's first black player and beyond as a social/racial activist that truly places him on Baseball's Mount Rushmore.

Winning and Re-Building Not Working in the Bronx.
By: Mike Lindsley
Right now, it is split down the middle. Half the Yankee fans, well, at least half of them, want to always win, but win at any cost. That means a big payroll and at least having a playoff team because well, if you are in it, you can win it.

But therein lies the problem. This team isn't good enough to win it, even if they are in it. The other half or roughly half of realistic Yankee fans know this. This team is old and slow and boring and bloated with awful contracts. It's the same movie every night.

So, where do we go from here? You cannot wish winning or losing streaks. You cannot predict that the Yankees will lose 15 of 22 games and then go into fire sale mode sooner rather than later so the re-make can happen sooner rather than later.

But, really, whether you like it or not, that is what needs to happen. Immediately.

This competing while rebuilding thing isn't working in the Bronx. You cannot compete and rebuild with this roster. A roster that has a center fielder who is the same as the left fielder and one old guy after another, all who can pretty much do only ONE thing on the baseball field.

For those who want this formula to continue, did you enjoy a younger, better, more athletic team with an ace shut your team down at home in last year's one game, take-all Wild Card game? Astros over Yankees and it wasn't fun.

So, move everything and everyone you can, Brian Cashman. Cashman doesn't have any guts to do it, but this is the time to move a lot of pieces.

Move Carlos Beltran to an American League team for a couple of Double-A prospects and a bag of peanuts. Beltran can help a young team and can still hit, assuming he doesn't have to play the field. In New York, he plays the field, because the Yankees are dead-set on still playing A-Rod because of his massive contract. Oh yea, release him too.

Mark Teixeira is off the books this year, and hopefully the Yankees don't bring him back. You never know!

Explore your trade value for Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner, considering they are the same player. Go get something for one of the big time bullpen guys (just not Dellin Betances since he is homegrown) and start planning for Aaron Judge and the gang from the minor leagues.

Maybe the Yanks can try and move Brian McCann, develop a catcher, and move those received pieces to the West Coast for Mike Trout, a New Jersey guy, who grew-up on Yankee tradition and winning? Getting Trout is like getting a date with the hot girl. You don't know until you ask and try.

It's time to re-make the Yankees for the long term, not for consistent Wild Card one game, take-all scenarios. This is the New York Yankees. 27 titles. 40 pennants.

Baseball has changed. The Yankees haven't changed with it. New York needs youth and athletic players and better pitching and guys who can hit in the clutch and put the ball in play, with speed coming after that on the bases. Sure, the Yanks have won in the past and made the playoffs. They have had some success since 2000. In 16 years, many franchises would still take multiple World Series appearances and a ring and AL East Division titles splashed in.

But it isn't about one title from spending over $400 million (see 2009).

It's about that lasting ability to be a top team in the game, especially when your uniform consists of pinstripes and your bank account is more full than everyone else's. The Yanks even had a face of the franchise during the horrible 1980's in Don Mattingly. Currently, they don't even have that.

The Yankees cannot win every year. No one can. But if the Pirates are better and the Royals have gone to two straight World Series and won one and the Mets have the best rotation in baseball, doesn't that say something?

It says the Yankees cannot try to compete and rebuild at the same time.

It's taking too long in the Bronx.

Jacoby Ellsbury is the Worst Yankee Contract.
By: Mike Lindsley
Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. Carlos Beltran (gone after this year). CC Sabathia. So many contracts. So many old, broken down players. So much dead weight.

The above names in the above paragraph add-up to roughly 700 million dollars for not a lot of current production. And don't give me the "well, they got one World Series win out of this group." Look at the other side and the losing and missing the playoffs multiple times and falling down in the playoffs and not building a baseball team. It doesn't add-up.

BAD CONTRACTS. Yes, this is the Yankees' major problem right now.

Then you have Masahiro Tanaka. His contract is becoming brutal. His fastball is becoming slower. His ulnar collateral ligament is becoming thinner. After 2016, he is owed three more long years and another 66 or so million dollars. Another horrible contract.

But wait, the worst contract, because of the amount of years and player he never was when brought to the Bronx is currently….

Jacoby Ellsbury.

Maybe you didn't think this article was going down Ellsbury Drive. But it is. Jacoby Ellsbury's career as a Yankee, so far, is a complete joke. Of course we have to remember that the Yankees, not the player, are always first to blame because it is a blank check filled-in with millions for a baseball nomad or an older player or a thought to get a competitive edge over an opponent without doing homework or, in this case, grabbing a successful Boston Red Sox star and thinking he will perform at the same high level in the Bronx. Oops.

Seven years. $153 million. Ellsbury was signed for this amount in December, 2013.

We hear it all the time from the YES Network crew and every other Yankee expert as far as how good Ellsbury is "when healthy." Well, folks, he never is consistently healthy.

The writing was on the wall. His lower body gives out all the time, whether it was caused by a real injury or freak injury. He has, at this point, weak everything, weak knees and quads and ankles and hamstrings. One thing gives out, another thing compensates and then that gives out. This is the Ellsbury story.

Nice guy, sure. Nice player "when healthy," sure. But not worth this contract and not worth the years.

Ellsbury, really, is another Brett Gardner. Somewhat fast. Lefty bat. Same skill set in the outfield. Same kind of power. Same on base percentage potential. The difference? Brett Gardner stays healthier but to make-up for it slumps from August 1 on.

Ellsbury missed 13 games in 2014. He missed 51 in 2015. His average dipped 14 points during that time.

To make matters worse, Ellsbury is supposed to be a spark plug in a lineup. Well, you can't do that when you are healthy and have deteriorating bat speed and don't look comfortable in a uniform. On top of this even is the fact that Ellsbury has to play well because the rest of the Yankee offense is so bad and old and predictable. Ellsbury is being paid like a superstar who carries a lineup, when, really, he can't even be a spark plug three times a week.

At least with the above mentioned dinosaurs wearing pinstripes, the contracts are coming to an end in the near future. Mark Teixeira's is done after this year and if the Yankees are smart, they will be done with him. Carlos Beltran's is up after 2016. Hopefully he will retire and enjoy a few years before heading into the Baseball Hall of Fame if the writers vote him in. Sabathia can be a free agent in 2017 with a vesting option with too many things in it to type here. A-Rod is gone after the 2017 season. Tanaka is a problem with the years left. You can only hope he throws above 86 and doesn't blow his elbow out.

Which makes Jacoby Ellsbury the worst contract on the Yankees when you consider the years left, money spent, quality of player and how similar he is to a guy playing right next to him in the outfield.

This is one more of Brian Cashman's foolish attempts at trying to build a baseball team. You don't do it this way.

Robinson Cano wanted 10 years and at least $240 million. The Yankees offered less total money, but more money per year, over seven years, and he walked to Seattle for the above amount.

Well, considering the Yankees instead went with Beltran at $45 million over three years, Brian McCann for five years and $85 million and Ellsbury at his deal, Cano looks like the better move.

Plus, Cano was a homegrown ballplayer (imagine that), the best fielding second baseman in the game, close to a guaranteed minimum season line of .290-25-100 and would go down as the greatest 2nd baseman in franchise history.

Ellsbury is injury prone. Cano is durable. Ellsbury is another Brett Gardner. Ellsbury can't hit in the clutch and is always injured. Ellsbury is already 32 (more like the body of a 34-year old considering how injury-prone his lower body is and how dependent he is on that lower body to be successful on the field), and will be 36 at the end of this deal, around the same age as all of these older players in the final years of their contracts.

Ellsbury has a long way to go on his current deal as opposed to the rest of the Jurassic Park roster.

And that makes his contract the worst one in pinstripes.

I'm Tired of the New York Yankees.
By: Mike Lindsley
I'm tired of the New York Yankees. Tired of everything pinstripes.

I'm tired of Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, who you can never find talking or caring about the team or making any moves. I'm tired of George's boys not taking the time to learn about how today's baseball world works and the lack of effort.

I'm tired of Brian Cashman as general manager and his defense of the franchise continuing to buy players who are bad for the team's framework.

I'm tired of CC Sabathia's contract and fat, old and out-of-shape body and his lugging out to the mound for garbage ERA.

I'm tired of Alex Rodriguez's flailing at strike three out of the zone and his half squat out of the batter's box in-between pitches and his licking of lips and his constant look-at-me favors because he cheated the game for years and now he wants us to celebrate his bull shi& deeds and more importantly landmarks he would have had anyway without the steroids. Biggest fraud in sports history.

I'm tired of people thinking that Jacoby Ellsbury will be Bernie Williams when he isn't even Brett Gardner.

I'm tired of Brett Gardner, especially in August. I'm tired of his $55 million contract over five seasons. Only the Yankees would pay a barely above average player that.

I'm tired of not seeing Robinson Cano rope home runs in Yankee Stadium for the next 8-10 years and being the greatest second baseman the franchise has ever seen.

I'm tired of the Yankee offense.

I'm tired of Yankee fans buying A-Rod merchandise.

I'm tired of Michael Pineda's roller coaster pitching career.

I'm tired of the bullpen not getting opportunities because the starting pitching sucks and the offense sucks more.

I'm tired of Joe Girardi's binder.

I'm tired of talking about Masahiro Tanaka's elbow.

I'm tired of baseball experts saying the Yankee farm system is "coming along," yet they either can't call players up because they have fat contracts in the way or the prospects actually really aren't good enough.

I'm tired of the bad crowds at Yankee Stadium.

I'm tired of the franchise's celebration of past years when the current group would dream to be the Kansas City Royals.

I'm SOOOO tired of John Sterling having no idea what is going on during a game and Suzyn Waldman's complete misunderstanding of baseball and sucking-up to every player because she gets paid by the Yankees.

I'm tired of Ken Singleton doing color in the TV booth because he is a former athlete. Singleton also ripped me for what happened in Albany with no prior knowledge. Guy has no talent whatsoever and couldn't find his way out of a journalism school paper bag.

I'm tired of Michael Kay's puffy white clouds.

I'm tired of soccer commercials and Nets commercials on the YES Network.

I'm tired of Carlos Beltran needing a cane in right field.

I'm tired of Chase Headley being a Triple-A third baseman.

I'm tired of uneducated Yankee fans thinking that this team will turn it around or be good because the interlocking NY is on the jersey and hat.

I'm tired of that interlocking NY on the jersey and hat being mentioned by Michael Kay on the YES Network.

I'm tired of A-Rod. Again.

I'm tired of, if given a choice, going to any ballpark besides Yankee Stadium because the atmosphere is so bad and the Steinbrenner boys continue to price out most fans (yes you can buy a ticket up top for cheap, but most seats the general public used to be able to afford are affordable no longer).

I'm tired of God Bless America at the 7th Inning Stretch. Let's move on.

I'm already tired of the Mets being better than the Yankees and equally tired of Met fans thinking their team has always been better than the Yankees and thinking that it's actually the Yanks who haven't won a World Series since 1986 when clearly we know the Mets haven't won it all since they were truly Amazin' and then choked soon after.

I'm tired of the Yankees' scouting team and higher-ups not knowing their players.

I'm tired of A-Rod. Has that been said?

I'm tired of hearing about Ivan Nova's promising stuff.

I'm tired of relying on Nathan Eovaldi.

I'm tired of Brian McCann having a horrible batting average and it being justified because he hits home runs and RBI.

I'm tired of two men on base and the offense rarely getting a two-out hit when that used to be a Yankee staple.

I'm tired of Mark Teixeira's act. Every part of it.

I'm tired of there being no Yankee bench.

I'm tired of national baseball people saying that the Yankee clubhouse stands for something. It stands for NOTHING. These players are money collectors and haven't won a damn thing. They were all handed salaries they can't live up to. And yes, that is mostly the Yankees' fault.

I'm tired of never looking forward to a Yankee game when that's the #1 thing in sports that I used to look forward to, game-in, game-out, even during a long 162-game schedule.

I'm tired of A-Rod, seriously.

I'm tired of being tired of the New York Yankees.

I'm tired of the Yankees being one of the worst teams in baseball in multiple categories.

This article was written during an off-night for the New York Yankees. They will again play baseball soon enough.

Grab your pillows and blankets for what happens next.

Dellin Betances Could Be an All-Time Great.
By: Mike Lindsley
And away we go again with predicting and expecting and water cooler talking our way into trouble. Deep trouble.

But with Dellin Betances, how can you not?

The kid is so good. So legit. So versatile. So complete. Such an anchor for a Yankee bullpen that is one of the best in baseball and could be the best if they just got more runs from that brutal, old, slow and boring offense that is too predictable night in, night out.

Betances is magical on the mound. No one has his velocity with the outrageous stuff. The change in speeds with control is something you just cannot teach.

Betances, if he keeps this up for 10-12 years, could be an all-time great Yankee and ballplayer. We could talk about a guy with a ton of relief innings, some closing time, some saves, some wins and just a flat-out microscopic ERA. Not many clubs in baseball have a Dellin Betances.

Betances came on the scene big time in 2014 for New York. 90 innings pitched. 70 games performed in. An insane 1.40 ERA. And of course a tremendous 135 strikeouts. He then came back in 2015 with this line: 84-74-1.50-131.

Scary right? Basically, Betances was the same pitcher in 2015 as he was in 2014. An All-Star both years. Third in Rookie of the Year voting in 2014. He curbed and managed expectations as a young pitcher who had a great year while performing well all over again. And he is a Yankee. That isn’t easy to do. The more you pitch and the better you do, there is more film on you. And more film now in the game than ever before. Yet Betances adjusted and continued to succeed. Plus, every little thing in New York gets broken down and dissected and analyzed. It is constant pressure. Not everyone can play there. Ask Carl Pavano.

Need more? Betances is as cool as a cucumber on the mound. He gets excited, but he never panics. He is also a decent guy in the clubhouse from what my New York media people tell me.

It is awfully dangerous to play the expectation game. But with Betances, how can you not get excited?

Health and consistency will be important, just like anyone else.

For Dellin Betances, there could be no ceiling high enough for how good he can be.

Unless, of course, the ceiling has the words all-time great written on it.

Yankees Bullpen As Good As Advertised.
By: Mike Lindsley
Strength of the team: bullpen. Weakness: offense. Unknown because of age and injury and inconsistency: starting pitching.

That was the story going into 2016 for the New York Yankees. Not much has changed.

Unless the bullpen could actually be better?

At one point in April, 2016, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, the mighty 1-2 punch at the back end of the New York bullpen, struck out 27 of 41 batters faced. That is pure insanity, frankly. Betances and Miller come at hitters with fire and control and height and spotting any pitch they want. Betances' fastball is prime, his off-speed stuff unfair. Miller? Simple as fastball-fastball-slider. Thanks for stopping by.

And. Help is on the way.

Now, you have to be careful rushing to expectations in sports. Tiger Woods was supposed to crush Jack Nicklaus' major record. We had Sidney Crosby as the next Great One. Still looking for Calvin Johnson to eclipse everyone. Wait, he retired.

But if Aroldis Chapman comes back from his domestic abuse suspension and is even a whisker below what he was last year, the Yankee bullpen will be the best in baseball by 10 Empire State Buildings. And if Chapman is dominant? You know the drill.

Chapman closing. Miller before him. Betances before that. All three guys bringing 95-102 miles per hour. Betances, of course, the unique guy because of how filthy the off-speed stuff is.

The Yankee bullpen was advertised, all right. It was advertised as dominant, versatile, intimidating, deep and balanced.

There is now just one question that needs answering.

Can the team consistently score to get this group the lead?

2016 New York Yankees Preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yanks come off a playoff year with still plenty of question marks surrounding the roster after the one game playoff loss at home to the upstart Houston Astros. Here is a glimpse at the team in 2016.

Greatest strength: Bullpen. The Yankees are questionable in the rotation and weak offensively. So what do you do? Shorten games and hope you have the lead in doing so. The Yanks are taking a chance on Aroldis Chapman despite his domestic violence situation. This bullpen, on paper, has the potential to be the best in Major League Baseball and even all-time if they show-up and "WOW" in October. Dellin Betances-Andrew Miller-Chapman. Scary stuff.

Greatest weakness: Middle-of-the-order. The Yankees just don't have great RBI guys and Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are old and injury-prone. There is no way they will be able to do what they did even last year before injuries and slumping was eventually going to happen. Look around baseball. Most contenders have contact hitters with speed and athleticism setting-up the big boys and then the order rolls. If the Yankees get on base, the rally stops. This has been a major problem since the 2009 team won it all. That year, you could name any of the multiple reasons as being the key to the World Series run (Phil Hughes setting-up Mariano Rivera or the free agents or anything else, for example), but first and foremost you would have to bring-up how clutch multiple players were with the game on the line (Derek Jeter-Alex Rodriguez-Johnny Damon-Hideki Matsui).

Welcome to the Bronx! Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks. Infield and Outfield. Good moves by Brian Cashman. Guys who can play multiple positions, are athletic and younger. Watching Castro (who will play mostly second base) and Didi Gregorius (shortstop) turn double plays should be a blast.

Injury bug: It has already hit. Youngster Greg Bird is out for the season (shoulder), which is a huge blow for New York, considering that he could have filled-in for Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez at first base and designated hitter, respectively. Players on this roster are going to go down because of age and injury history. Losing Bird is a crushing blow.

Key position player: Jacoby Ellsbury. There are times when you can't get this guy out. And then other times when he goes 2-25 and you wonder what happened. Ellsbury has five more years in pinstripes and is grossly overpaid, (Who isn't when playing in the Bronx?) but he is a lineup changer when he hits, get on base and steals bases. The Yankees cannot afford to have Ellsbury produce again like he did in 2015, hitting just .257, collecting just 7 home runs, notching just 33 RBI, having an OBP of just .318 and missing 51 regular season games and being a non-factor in the playoffs. It is go time for Ellsbury.

Key starting pitcher: Michael Pineda. This pitching staff has a question for each guy. Masahiro Tanaka's elbow, Luis Severino's control and youth, CC Sabathia returning with tons of miles on his body and arm and on and on it goes. But if the Yanks can get a middle guy to over-perform, it will lengthen the staff or make-up for an injury or problem in the future. Pineda wants to log a lot of innings this year. Let's see if he is ready.

McCann can? Brian McCann looked more comfortable in year two than year one. in a Yankee uniform. He really is an important player for the Yanks, not just offensively, but defensively, as he handles that always questionable pitching staff and keeps runners in tact. If the Yankees get the 2015 McCann again in 2016, and not the 2014 version, plus a little more in the clutch, where he was great last year with men on base, things could point towards October. McCann is that important.

Projected record: 85-77. No playoffs.

Is this really the New York Yankees? The payroll continues to be high but the roster rarely gets much better. The team just has a "bad look" to it. The key is getting rid of all of the albatross contracts. The problem after that? When two or three come off the books, there are at least three more to wait out until the end. It's a bad situation that seems to never end.

Bottom line: This could be a playoff team. It could be a division winner. It could be a .500 team or a disaster from start to finish. Baseball is getting harder and harder to predict. There are too many teams in the crowded American League and most contending clubs got better, including the rival Red Sox with the addition of David Price. The American League East can be had and should be tight all year, like last year, until Toronto ran away with it. The playoff formula is rather simple. New York needs to stay healthy, consistently hit well enough to have leads in the 6th inning and then send in the crew of Betances-Miller-Chapman to finish the job.

2016 New York Yankees By the Letter.
By: Mike Lindsley
It is almost here. The smell of peanuts and hot dogs and beer and warm Summer air. Baseball, that is. And with baseball comes, of course, the New York Yankees. Let's have a look, as best we can, at this year's team by each letter in the club's name.

N-ew York City, of course.
E-llsbury. If the Yankees are to make the playoffs, they need their centerfielder to produce. Jacoby Ellsbury must stay healthy.
W-orld Series or bust. That is what fans expect in the Bronx, even when the team isn't good enough. Well, fans need to relax. This team isn't good enough. 2009 was the last title season and 2016 won't be the next.

Y-ogi Berra. This is the first season in the Bronx that starts with Yogi not around. We sure do miss the guy. And as we know, baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.
O-ffense. The Yankees need it. It starts with the aforementioned Ellsbury and continues with the likes of catcher Brian McCann, who had a better second year than first in the Bronx. McCann hit .268 with 26 home runs and 94 RBI in 2015. New York needs at least that this season.
R-ivera. Mariano Rivera will have his rightful place in Monument Park on August 14, 2016.
K-ay. Michael Kay has been a Yankee broadcaster for various outlets since 1993. He started on the current YES Network in 2002.

Y-outh movement. No, this isn't the Cubs. But the Yankees are slowly getting younger, faster and more athletic. The albatross contracts need to expire before this team can seriously contend again. At the head of the movement is pitcher Luis Severino, who a year ago showed a dazzling fastball, composure and breaking stuff that continues to develop.
A-ustin Romine. Haven't we heard about this catching prospect forever? If he was so good, why did the Yankees sign Brian McCann? Maybe it's trade bait time. 2016 should tell us everything.
N-ewcomers. Starlin Castro joins the infield and Aaron Hicks joins the outfield as a versatile player. Yanks need the athleticism.
K-Stands for strikeouts, thanks to early baseball pioneer Henry Chadwick, who chose "K" in the scorebook because it is the dominant letter of the word "strike." The Bronx crowds (you hope) should see a lot of them from the Yankee bullpen. Dellin Betances-Andrew Miller-Aroldis Chapman. Watch out MLB, as long as the three stay healthy, Chapman stays out of trouble, and no one other than Chapman gets the itch to close and causes chemistry problems.
E-ventual injuries. It is only a matter of time before Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira go down, and that is just the start of it. Too bad Greg Bird isn't there to fill-in.
E-ovaldi. Don't sleep on Nathan Eovaldi. Manager Joe Girardi loves him and the baseball nomad was a bulldog last season (14-3). He can eat innings and lengthen the rotation. With this bullpen, Eovaldi's 5 or 6 innings pitched will be enough (assuming the team has the lead, of course).
S-abathia. C.C. Sabathia, that is. Sabathia went through alcohol rehab after he was scheduled to be a vital part of the rotation in the 2015 season. He never pitched last October, of course. Sabathia has worked on his life, which is good for him, and his pitches. He says he feels great. The Yanks could sure use him to provide even more length in an always questionable pitching staff.

Top 5 Current Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
As we slowly grind through another Northeast Winter, baseball isn’t really that far away. Pitchers and catchers will be on the field in no time down South, and then Opening Day will arrive and things will be right again.

Many people like to do a Mount Rushmore of a franchise or sport or put together a Top 5 or 10 list of a franchise or sport. Or by a position or era in any given sport.

How about the Yankees currently? Let’s have a look at the Top 5 current New York Yankees based on overall value, skill and relation to the game.

1. Dellin Betances, relief pitcher. What does it say about the Yankees when their best player is a reliever? It’s bad because you want an everyday player at a position to be in this spot, putting up homers and RBI and all the rest. BUT, it is also good because it’s a bullpen game now. Betances has already been an All-Star and is the best set-up man (now a set-up, set-up man) in the game. His demeanor on the mound is fearless and he owns a nice cast of pitches. Yanks fans hope he will be in the Bronx for a long, long time. Wins above replacement in 2015: 3.72.

2. Aroldis Chapman, closer. Uh, oh, it happened again. But Chapman is the most feared closer in the game. He throws 100 MPH and is unhittable when in control. If all of the off-the-field stuff isn’t a problem, this is a major addition for New York. He helps shorten the game with Betances and a later name in this Top 5. Wins above replacement in 2015: 2.71.

3. Brian McCann, catcher. McCann doesn’t hit for a high average. But what he does as an overall catcher is irreplaceable. He hit in the clutch in 2015 and improved his RBI count by 19 in the process, many coming with men on base. His slugging and on-base percentages shot-up as well. McCann was incredible behind the plate, handling a mediocre starting pitching staff and runners didn’t exactly do well against him when trying to steal. The Yankees need him to be even better in 2016 than last season. McCann doesn’t really have a choice. Because of old players and bad contracts all over the team, he has become the team’s best position player, whether Bronx supporters like it or not. Wins above replacement: 2.77.

4. Andrew Miller, relief pitcher. Now the set-up man for Chapman. Miller is unflappable on the mound and dominates with his fastball and devastating slider. His 6’8 frame doesn’t help hitters either. Miller is needed with Betances before him and Chapman after him. The Yankee offense and starting pitching are both huge question marks, so Brian Cashman went out and shortened the game even more. Miller is a huge piece of that. Miller’s most important value? His experience pitching in the AL East for multiple teams. He knows every hitter in full. Wins above replacement in 2015: 2.23.

5. Luis Severino, starting pitcher. Too soon? I’ve seen enough of him for a short amount of time in the minor leagues/in pinstripes to put him in this group. Severino is primed for a monster 2016 after having a below-3.00 ERA last year. He doesn’t mind the spotlight and grows as the game goes along. Severino can give you innings and is a strikeout artist (56 in 62 1/3 innings in 2015). His fastball is in the mid-90’s and he complements that with a plus changeup that dips and a slider that dives. Severino still needs to work on control and getting ahead of hitters. Perhaps the brightest part about this bright star is how he keeps getting better at keeping the ball in the ballpark. Severino is the real deal and could be the Yankee ace in 2017 or 2018 depending on the health of Masahiro Tanaka. Wins above replacement in 2015: 1.9.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza Take Place in Cooperstown.
By: Mike Lindsley
Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza are your 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees. Very deserving. Here are 10 thoughts on the voting-in of these two amazing players and the rest of the list.

1. Two themes this year. #1: Generational. #2: Positive. Piazza hit like no catcher like Johnny Bench. He was a generational offensive talent at that very demanding position. Jr. was a transcendent guy. A generational guy. Everything from the backwards cap at the Home Run Derby to the 5-tool make-up to the Dad of a very good ballplayer to his jumping of outfield walls to make plays. These two are as generational as it gets. This was a positive vote for a lot of players. Jeff Bagwell (15.9%) and Tim Raines (14.8%) went up in percentage points by a large margin. Even guys linked to steroids like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens got a slight push going-up nearly 8%. Curt Schilling rose to 52.3% and over time is likely to get in thanks to his incredible postseason resume.

2. Three voters left Ken Griffey Jr. off. Seriously? Who are you and have you ever watched the game of baseball? You should be suspended from work for a year. Idiots.

3. Griffey Jr. was on 437 of 440 ballots, passing Tom Seaver's percentage record.

4. From #1, expect Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell to get in for the Class of 2017.

5. Speaking of Tim Raines, he gets lost in the shuffle in baseball history because he was the #2 leadoff guy in his time behind Rickey Henderson. For some time, I said "no way" to him being a Hall of Famer. I have changed. He was unreal. Doubles and singles and steals and very good defense and enough power and a .294 career average, a point better than Lou Brock, who people cannot stop talking about every year in Cooperstown. Raines is behind Brock in many categories but they were very similar players. One category Raines beats Brock in? RBI. 980 to 900. Brock was a better player of course, as he stole more bases and is a member of the 3,000-hit club. But this isn't Babe Ruth vs. Paul O'Neil. Raines compares just fine and he deserves induction in the Class of 2017.

6. Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson is a class act. He has come on with me many times on radio and is just a delight. One of the best people I know and I consider him a friend. Thanks for everything, Jeff.

7. Would have been nice to add Pete Rose. My stance will never change. Penalize him by continuing to ban him for life from baseball because of his gambling mistakes. But throw him in the Hall of Fame with a plaque and a description at the bottom with why he was left out so long (gambled on the sport, lied about it, etc.). This way, we celebrate the life and career of an amazing player but penalize him for his awful decision making. Best of both worlds. Pete gets in before he dies. We all enjoy it. This needs to be put to bed. It is getting tiring. Oh, and have you seen the racists and cheaters and crooks in the Hall of Fame? Rose looks like an angel compared to some of those dirt bags.

8. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire aren't Hall of Famers. Is this opinion because of steroid use? Or suspected steroid use? Actually, no. They were simply one dimensional and that's that.

9. Randy Winn is for sure not getting in anytime soon.

10. I cannot even explain how amazing it is to cover the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction year-in and year-out. Probably the coolest thing I do annually at this stage of my career. The Hall of Fame stage before the ceremony, with all of those legends gathered together, is a sight to behold. July 24, 2016. I cannot wait until you arrive.

Aroldis Chapman to the Bronx.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees sent four minor leaguers, none in the top crop, to Cincinnati for one of the best relievers in the game, Aroldis Chapman. Here is a breakdown of the move.

3 reasons to like the trade:

1. Chapman has blow away stuff. When on and in control, he is simply unhittable.

2. Shortening the game. The Yankee offense is up and down and the starting pitching is always a question mark. How do you cover-up those two problems? Shorten the game like the Royals. The Yankees just need a 1-run lead most times and they should be able to win. Dellin Betances-Andrew Miller-Aroldis Chapman. That is scary stuff.

3. Chapman is young, at 27, and doesn’t fit into the albatross, aging contracts the Yankees are smothered with (their fault of course).

The one problem:

Chapman is under investigation by law enforcement officials and Major League Baseball in a domestic violence case. The police say Chapman fired eight gunshots into a garage after arguing with his girlfriend back on October 30 at their home in Florida. There could be legal trouble ahead or even a suspension under MLB’s new domestic violence policy. The Dodgers and Red Sox both wanted Chapman but eventually pulled out of the running because of this situation.

Still Miller Time?

Brian Cashman and crew have suggested that Andrew Miller is not on the trade market. Miller was sensational as the Yankees’ closer last season and has an intimidating look on the mound at 6’7. If all of the pieces fit into the puzzle, the Yanks would be wise not to shop Miller despite the need for a starting pitcher or another bat. Miller is that good.

In the end…

This is a win for the pinstripes. The Yankees didn’t have to give-up any big time prospects like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Luis Severino or Gary Sanchez. Adding money to an already high payroll also isn’t a problem. Chapman is being investigated but he hasn’t been convicted of anything. Assuming the Yankees did their homework and know things will be fine with Chapman off the field, this looks like a big time trade. The Yankees should also keep Miller so the game becomes a 6-inning one. One other question becomes if Miller and Chapman can co-exist considering both are good enough to be dominant closers. Chapman knew he would have been an 8th inning guy in Los Angeles if he went there, so maybe things will be fine in the Bronx if he ends up shuttling between the 8th and 9th inning roles.

Dellin Betances Important For Yankees' Future.
By: Mike Lindsley
Dellin Betances has already shown he is an All-Star. He can set-up the closer. Heck, he could be a closer. He is also someone who seems unfazed by the New York limelight. He is, undoubtedly, an important piece to the Yankees' future.

But the deeper truth for the Yankees is they need as many young players who are already big league worthy or close to it. Betances fits that bill. He is a guy you can build around in a bullpen that is one of the best in baseball. The Yankees cannot trade him. They cannot give-up on him if he has a bad month or two. Everyone has a bad month. Michael Jordan missed jumps shots, remember.

Another reason to love Betances is his strikeout ability. Sure, he gets a little out of control at times, but he has a few pitches that allow him to battle back and get strikeouts quickly if he isn't already ahead in the count and putting people away. Betances had 135 strikeouts in 2014 and 131 in 2015.

Young with productivity and big league worthy, a strikeout pitcher in your bullpen, can handle New York and a foundation piece for the next generation of Yankees, a team that has to get younger sooner rather than later.

What is the point of all this? Dellin Betances should be the #1 most un-tradable player on the Yankee roster and someone who could potentially be in pinstripes for his entire career.

Starlin Castro Heads to the Bronx.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees improved their second base situation drastically with a versatile all-around player in Starlin Castro in a trade with the Chicago Cubs. Here are 5 reasons why Yanks fans should be happy with the move.

1. Young and athletic. 25 years old. He can go back on balls or come in on balls. He can steal bases. The Yankees aren't young and athletic as a team, but with Castro they add a player they need more of, someone who can actually move around and isn't 38 years old.

2. Right-handed hitter. The Yankees were brutal against lefty pitching in 2014 and 2015. They need more contact hitters from the right side to combat the southpaws in the American League. Casto will help.

3. Versatility. Castro started last season at shortstop but moved over when Chicago management decided that Addison Russell needed to play at his natural position, shortstop. Castro moved over with ease and actually improved his fielding. That is encouraging for the Yankees if they need to toss him to shortstop for some games or if they trade Didi Gregorius in the future. Castro can also back up 3rd base. Big league teams are getting more versatile and athletic. The Yankees are finally paying attention and following their lead.

4. Gave up nothing. Adam Warren is solid pitcher and had a tough role in New York because he was tossed back and forth as a starter and reliever. But Warren isn't a major difference maker. And the other player given-up is Brendan Ryan. Trading two pieces like this for a multiple All-Star is a no-brainer.

5. Money. Castro is owed $38 million through the 2019 season. That is a lot of money for the player Castro is, but at the same time isn't a lot of money considering baseball salaries are through the roof for even people not named Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. If Castro puts-up the same numbers he has, plays great defense and changes the look of the Yanks, this salary will be far from a problem considering the other old, broken-down money players who are way past their prime in pinstripes.

Should Yanks Sign Cespedes?
By: Mike Lindsley
Yoenis Cespedes is a player. The Mets' acquisition of the Cuban superstar changed the season in Queens because Cespedes lengthened the lineup and allowed players in front of him and behind him in the batting order to see more fastballs in better counts.

The Mets went to the World Series and lost. But that isn't the story. The story is this: New York was dead in April, May, June and July until general manager Sandy Alderson pulled the trigger to get Cespedes.

Cespedes is a baseball nomad, already. He has been in four markets, Detroit-Oakland-Boston-New York. In that group would be the two fishbowls of Boston and NYC. People criticized him in Oakland and Detroit, saying he couldn't carry a lineup. Even the psycho Red Sox fans said that and said he couldn't handle the media because he ONLY spoke Spanish. David Ortiz speaks Spanish and barely English but it seems ok.

How is this all looking now that the slugger basically changed a baseball season for those getting off the 7 train for games at Citi Field?

So….here we are. We have arrived to the team across town. Should the Yankees sign Yoenis Cespedes?

The Yankee offense is weak. The yes to the above question would come from three things. The Yankees need offense, they need power and they need a consistent RBI guy.

The absolute and only no to the above question is obvious. This isn't about money for the Yankees. It never is. Even when Brian Cashman and The Boss' boys cry poverty, the Yankees still make millions and millions. This is about one thing, developing a baseball team the right way. That means NOT through another HUGE contract, no matter the production.

If the Yankees didn't have bad contract after bad contract on the roster right now, it would be fine to sign Cespedes and build a team partly around him. You can take that chance, no matter how good the 2015 Met would be. But reality is reality in the Bronx. Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, Carlos Beltran for another year, A-Rod and the deals that will eventually be terrible like Masahiro Tanaka and Jacoby Ellsbury. Plus, Cespedes, who carried the Mets for weeks, will want at least an 8-year deal. That's age 38-40 at the end, considering those added staples the Yankees always add, assuming his age is actually correct on that birth certificate. Uh, no.

So, you know what? Sign Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets. You have the dollars and the room to spend and the team you need to keep together while that pitching continues to throw strike after strike over 1,000+ combined innings over a regular season. Even if the contract fails., that is your only one (David Wright doesn't count because he has hung around for all the bull shi*).

Yankees, stay away.

Because your previous contracts don't give you the right to try another one.

2015 World Series Preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Mets are back in the Fall Classic for the first time since 2000 thanks to strong starting pitching and a deadline deal for a power bat. The Royals, meantime, return to the World Series for the second straight year by being the most complete team in the American League and hope that this year ends a little different than last when Kansas City was 90 feet short. Here is a World Series preview.

The Mets will win if: they set the tone early. This team is so about confidence and the moment right now. If they keep that going after a little bit of a lay-off, things could get rough for the Royals. Think about how the Mets react to Ruben Tejada breaking his leg or another Daniel Murphy home run or a Curtis Granderson leaping catch or the face of the franchise, David Wright, finally turning his offensive woes around. They really are a momentum team. Starting hot in the series where hitting and confidence are contagious is a big deal for the Amazins. The first two games in KC are big.

The Royals will win if: they get enough starting pitching to equal New York. The Mets have a huge edge of course with arms, but don't underestimate the streaky Royals. If the KC staff is off, this will obviously be a quick series, but they can be on, and deadly when on. Johnny Cueto-Edinson Volquez-Yordano Ventura is the key trio. And the key for them is control and early strikes.

Key Met: Matt Harvey. It would be easy to take anyone. Yoenis Cespedes because he started this whole thing when Sandy Alderson made the move. Daniel Murphy because he turned into Ted Williams for a few weeks. Jacob deGrom because he is the best pitcher New York has. But really, the Mets' deep power pitching got to this point because Harvey, the one time ace of the staff, isn't the best guy anymore but is still damn good and lengthens the Met staff even more than he used to by NOT being the ace. deGrom and Noah Synderguard have passed the Dark Knight. Having said that, it was Harvey who was the difference in the NLDS against the Dodgers. The Mets' offense rallied around him gutting it out on not his best day, and Harvey certainly was better than Brett Anderson. Three games in the series were decided by a total of five runs. The winner of Game 3 was likely the series winner. The Mets won because they had Harvey as the better pitcher in Game 3. Now he goes in Games 1 and 5 of the World Series. If he comes up big again, the Mets will be in good shape.

Key Royal: Alcides Escobar/Ben Zobrist. These two set the tone at the top of the order. If the duo gets on base, this is good for Kansas City because it gets the Met pitching out of rhythm and pressing. It also sets-up the boppers Alex Gordon-Eric Hosmer-Mike Moustakas-Lorenzo Cain-Kendrys Morales for RBI chances. Escobar and Zobrist killed Toronto in the ALCS. Maybe Ned Yost should move renaissance man Alex Rios up in the lineup to lengthen the lineup even more after Escobar and Zobrist and all others?

Prediction: Royals in 7. Thanks to the stupid All-Star Game rule where the winning league gets World Series home field advantage, the Royals are in business. This should be an amazing series with the chess match being the Mets' power arms against a Royals team that always has good at-bats and puts the ball in play in the gaps, with infield hits or power. The series could go either way, but the Royals are hungry after coming up just short last year and are a very complete baseball team. They pitch, play the best defense, have a great bullpen and have a unique collection of contact hitters. No Royal is a superstar nationally, but all Royals are superstars to the team and the city of Kansas City for how they do things. KC hasn't won it all since 1985 and George Brett has been going crazy ever since.

Postseason Teams Pack Punch, Unlike Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
Let's first start this piece by saying that none of the teams in the 2015 MLB postseason have the long, amazing history that the Yankees have, with the 27 World Series titles and the 40 pennants and those Hall of Famers, one after another after another.

Now that we are through that, the 2015 postseason has also reminded us of what the Yankees aren't. And that currently, the Yankees must forget about the past.

The pinstripes aren't athletic like the Pirates or full of deep pitching like the Mets, who also have a slugging superstar in Yoenis Cespedes, acquired to make a run at a World Series. Cespedes is in Queens thanks to a farm system so loaded that a minor move of youth wasn't a big deal. The Yanks aren't a complete team like the Toronto Blue Jays or stock full of farm products like the Chicago Cubs or Houston Astros, with those products not only Major League-ready, but maybe MVP-worthy had they started the season in the big leagues (see: Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa).

Lately, the Yankees also aren't the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that repeatedly goes to the postseason and wins divisions and pennants and a World Series here and there because they have a farm system and a unique free agent approach in the offseason that plugs players in when others go down. They know their players. They can scout. And here is the catch, they don't give players contracts if it is too much, even if it's Albert Pujuols. The Yankees, meanwhile, bring back aging players after they have hit the ceiling.

Meanwhile, in the American League Wild Card game this season, the Yankees lost to the Astros because Houston's starter was better, the Astros' offense was more clutch, and the team from the Lone Star State was smarter and younger and looked to have Little League fun on the field. The Yankees are none of that. The Bronx outfit is old and slow and boring and stale. It's the same story every single year.

And it has to change.

The Yankees continue to have terrible contracts on the team, from CC Sabathia to Mark Teixeira to Jacoby Ellsbury to A-Rod to Carlos Beltran to eventually Masahiro Tanaka. Even the overrated Brett Gardner's deal is a little much, considering the left fielder continues to decline post-All-Star Game time. One suggestion? Release everyone and eat the money and let the kids play. These deals are just getting in the way.

If the Yankees are to get back to the top of the mountain, they need a little Cubs and Astros sprinkled in, with youthful, good to great players who have staying power. This comes from keeping the farm system and knowing your players.

New York also needs a little of the other New York, deep, solid pitching with options like the Mets have. How about a little Toronto? Depth and versatility and power and contact hitting. The Rangers were dead early in the regular season and came back. How? Well, Cole Hamels helped and getting Derek Holland back was nice. But really, it was the consistent, clutch hitting. Texas is probably, however, the least likely 2015 postseason team you want to copy if you are the Yankees considering how badly they choked in Game 5 against Toronto and those other postseason failures of the past.

We have gone this whole way and not mentioned the Royals. Goodness, the Royals, a team that puts the bat on the ball all the time. Athletic, great in the field, run the bases well and never panic. Kansas City doesn't have a lot of stars. But their best players are stars to them. And they make-up a team that counts on each other, similar to the Joe Torre Yankees.

Youth. Athletic, versatile players. Good scouting. Knowing your players. Clutch hitting. Vibrant, fun and confident players who pick each other up. Deep pitching. Bullpen (the Yankees actually have that). All of the 2015 postseason teams are awake and lively.

It's time for the Steinbrenner boys and Brian Cashman to wake-up from their naps.

New York Yankees’ 2015 Season Ends.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Houston Astros ended the Yankees season 3-0 in the one game Wild Card showdown in the Bronx. Here are 10 takeaways from that game and the 2015 New York Yankees season.

1. Enough already about the “pressure of playing in Yankee Stadium.” This isn’t the old place. This isn’t the old crowd. This isn’t the old atmosphere. The new Yankee Stadium is a ghost town during the regular season and in the playoffs. The crowd made noise against Houston and it was still embarrassing. Home field advantage is so 2008 and prior in the Bronx.

2. The Yankees cannot win with this model. When you have an outfielder making $22 million dollars (Jacoby Ellsbury) and he doesn’t even play, that is a problem. Enough with the bad contracts. Enough with players who mirror each other and waste two roster spots (Ellsbury and Brett Gardner). From Mark Teixeira to A-Rod to Ellsbury to Gardner to C.C. Sabathia to Carlos Beltran, the contracts are brutal. Yankee fans don’t want to hear this, but ONE year of being 15 games under .500 is worth it to build an actual TEAM for 15 years.

3. How exactly did Masahiro Tanaka make it through the full season?

4. Speaking of Tanaka, sure, he labored in the Wild Card game. But he pitched just well enough. And the bullpen was good enough, too, for New York, against Houston. It was the awful offense that stumbled into the playoffs that hurt the team yet again.

5. At the same time, one guy deserves some credit too. Houston ace Dallas Kuechel is a great story. 20-game winner in 2015. 7th round pick in the 2009 amateur draft. He actually pitched in Troy, NY for the Valley Cats back in 2009. I hope he pitches for a long time. Cool beard too.

6. How big, exactly, is that Joe Girardi binder?

7. The Houston Astros were a year early. Look out. Carlos Correa is a future MVP, Jose Altuve is a 200-hit machine. Speed-power-pitching-athletes-farm system-bright front office. This is how you win in baseball today (Hank, Hal and Cash, hello, are you listening?).

8. Common, even you wanted one more Derek Jeter postseason at-bat. Just one. Would it have been any worse than the trash that was at the plate against Houston?

9. This Yankee team truly did overachieve this season. They were projected as a .500 team but made the playoffs. Mark Teixeira and A-Rod had a lot to do with that from an RBI standpoint. But reality set-in, and they were exactly what they were supposed to be in the loss to Houston. Old-slow-injured-not clutch at the plate-boring-average-you get the drill.

10. These teams are all better than the Yankees: Cubs-Pirates-Astros-Royals-Mets-Rangers-Blue Jays. Let that sink-in. 2015 modern baseball. Revenue sharing that the Yankees are #1 in giving to, which goes to other teams to keep franchise players and build a farm system (take the Mets out, they have enough money if they choose to spend it, and really, the Blue Jays do too now with the new ownership, but it all started with revenue sharing). Meanwhile, the Yankees spend their $200+ million the wrong ways and have, still, a weak farm system despite the Greg Bird-Luis Severino-Aaron Judge trio. Again, back to #2 above, the system has to change. There are two options. Keep the bad contracts and play the players and hold back young players (Greg Bird namely). Or release the players and eat the money (you are spending the money anyway) while building an actual team. The ball is in the court of the Steinbrenner boys and Brian Cashman. The problem is, when they have picked the round ball up the last several years, they miss the lay-up.

Yogi Berra. What A Treasure.
By: Mike Lindsley
Everything has been written about Yogi Berra. For 90 years in fact. By families and friends. By baseball writers and those who wrote about World War II. We have seen him at Old Timers’ Day and celebrated everywhere in our country. So what could I possibly say about him?

That he was a treasure. Treasure is the word I came-up with.

As a ballplayer? The best catcher of all-time. We throw around superlatives and the labels of legend or all-time, really, all the time, but Yogi was the BEST at his position in the history of the game (we must remember that the great Josh Gibson might have been, but he was never allowed to play in the big leagues because of the ridiculous segregation at the time).

Berra. 3 MVP awards. 2,150 hits. 358 home runs. 321 doubles for a guy some people said would never be able to run or be an athlete because of his awkward looking body and strange baseball style. .285 lifetime average. 1,430 RBI. 10 World Series rings. 14 American League pennants. The best “bad ball hitter” ever according to other Hall of Famers, players and teammates. And the most amazing two stats of all: just 414 strikeouts in 8,359 career at-bats and never struck out more than 38 times in a season. Think about that today. Some guys strike out 38 times in 6-8 weeks. Yogi went into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. I remember years ago interviewing Clete Boyer (boy was he having a good time in Cooperstown signing autographs and having some beverages), the former 3rd baseman and teammate of Yogi, and Boyer told me all about Mantle and Maris and Ford and everyone else on those great Yankee teams. But “we wouldn’t have won one, or more than one, without Yogi Berra behind the plate.” Bobby Richardson, the outstanding 12-year Yank and second baseman, former teammate and friend of Berra and 1960 World Series MVP, told me on radio shortly after Yogi died that there was a feeling of comfort with Yogi behind the plate. He was that kind of teammate and that kind of baseball pilot. As a ballplayer, he was a treasure.

As an American? Treasure is understated. Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller never liked Berra until Berra asked why, and Feller told him it was because Yogi never served his country. Well, Feller changed his tune shortly after. D-Day. Allied Forces. Navy troops storm the Nazi front. Still, the largest seaborne invasion in history. And control gets wrestled from Hitler’s boys in German-occupied Northwestern Europe. What a win in Normandy France. Berra (who later was awarded a Purple Heart) was there, as a gunner on a 36-foot rocket boat and was told to shoot at anything. Berra was part of a group that was labeled “fire support” stationed off the coast of Normandy on that June 6, 1944 day that changed the world. Yogi and support. Fitting. What a treasure.

As a person? 65 years married to his love Carmen. And the Yogi-isms. Good grief. The Yogi-isms. “It’s déjà vu all over again.” “We made too many wrong mistakes.” “The future ain’t what it used to be.” “It gets late early out here.” “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.” And perhaps the most famous one, when he was manager of the New York Mets in 1973, and the team was really struggling in the standings: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” What a treasure.

Oh yes, the coach and manager tenures. So many seem to forget that part of Yogi Berra’s baseball life. He could always relate to players. No matter what age or era or team. He was hired as Mets coach from 1965-71 and worked with his old Yankee manager, Casey Stengel, that one year in 1965 (technically player/coach even though the stats say Berra played in just four games). This led to Yogi taking the managerial job with the Mets from 1972-75. In 1973, the team was in last place in July, and one thing that turned the tide was when Berra told a reporter, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” The team won the pennant over the Reds and lost to the A’s in the World Series. Clearly Yogi’s presence was felt during that long, tough year right toward the end. What a treasure.

Berra also coached the Yanks from 1976-83 and enjoyed the Bronx Zoo days with World Series crowns in 1977 and 78. Imagine Berra as a coach and Thurman Munson and Reggie Jackson and Ron Guidry (who actually had a locker next to Yogi’s and picked the legend’s brain about becoming a better pitcher). My, the stories. But then trouble hit years later in the Bronx.

Berra managed the pinstripes in 1984 and 1985. And it was more ugly than good. He and George Steinbrenner butted heads, but it was The Boss’ fault. Berra came back to manage the team in 1985 after receiving good news that he wouldn’t be fired, directly from Steinbrenner. But then The Boss fired Yogi 16 games into the season by sending his partner in crime, Clyde King, to do the dirty work. Clearly a wrong. Yogi was most upset with “how” The Boss did it, not the actual firing, and rightly so. And this led to Berra separating himself from the franchise for 14 years until George and Yogi made-up in New Jersey in 1999. Berra then showed-up to spring training, worked with Jorge Posada, and was part of the Yanks again. The only way it should be. Oh, and later that year, “Yogi Berra Day” took place on July 18. Don Larsen came out to toss the first pitch to Berra in celebration of that perfect game the two engineered in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Dodgers. Berra’s presence rubbed-off again on the Yanks. David Cone then tossed his own perfect game against the Expos. 27 up and 27 down. Just like Larsen did 43 years earlier on the October stage, with of course, Yogi Berra behind the plate. What a treasure.

Don’t forget about those Astros years either, where Yogi was a coach from 1986-89 when the team reached the NLCS in ’86, losing to the eventual champion Mets. Everywhere Yogi went, he was a part of winning at some point. As a coach and manager, he wasn’t perfect, but he was a treasure.

90 years walking the Earth. 90 years of doing everything the right way. Person-ballplayer-NAVY hero-son (he quit school in the 8th grade ONLY for the sake of helping his struggling family financially)-husband-father-manager-jokester-baseball ambassador. Perhaps the most beloved Yankee and overall player of all-time.

I remember meeting him in Cooperstown in the Summer of 2011. He was 86. The whispers started that Yogi Berra, a man most thought would never die, was slowly coming to the end. That we should treasure the treasure, because one day we would walk these streets and go to the Hall of Fame ceremony and one day, he wouldn’t walk out to the annual standing ovation before the new class was inducted. Shortly after in recent years, Yogi wasn’t in Cooperstown because of his health. But he always watched on television and everyone knew the kid from “The Hill” in St. Louis was still with us.

Now he isn’t. Well at least they say he isn’t. “Yogi Berra, dead at the age of 90” is what you read and hear and see on your phones and radios and televisions. But Berra isn’t dead. Legends never die, as I have been told by my dear friend Michael Backus. Treasures never die either. They simply go to another place.

Casey Stengel once said of Berra: “He’d fall in a sewer and come up with a gold watch.”

Only a treasure could produce something so magical.

Two Yankee Youngsters Paying Off.
By: Mike Lindsley
Most Yankee fans are used to The Boss spending and doing whatever it takes to win another World Series. 1999? To hell with 2006 and win NOW. But this season, Brian Cashman (grades for keeping players below) did it a little differently as general manager. Let's have a look at the two key pieces that could be huge players for the Yanks for years to come thanks to Cash NOT moving these youngsters for ace David Price and Troy Tulowitzki (currently hurt), two guys Yankee fans thought can spin a magic wand and deliver a World Series to the Bronx (but might in Toronto; one year, remember, if they do).

1. Luis Severino, pitcher. Late fire on the fastball and off-speed stuff that made him an "untouchable." Doesn't fear the moment and already has huge wins against the Rays twice and Cleveland. Doesn't fear a big moment. He is also 21 years of age. He will be at least the #3 pitcher in the rotation next season behind Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda and maybe a #2 if the first guy blows out his elbow. Cashman grade for keeping him: A+.

2. Greg Bird. The Bird is the Word. Ok, Family Guy episode and fans aside, this guy has been amazing considering the circumstances. He doesn't fear the moment like the pitcher above. And, he is filling-in for Mark Teixeira, who is gone for the year. Those are big shoes to fill in 2015 because Tex, always great defensively, has also been a big RBI guy for New York. Again, I may be from the moon here, but I release all of the old guys and just start a new collection of young players and let them grow. Bird is included in that group. Cashman grade for keeping him: B+ because you can usually find a first baseman who is athletic in Major League Baseball or at least trade for him. A bigger chip right now is Aaron Judge. He is a power outfielder who teams covet because you just cannot find power outfield guys with great arms at 6'7 and 250 pounds?!?!? Problem here is, he is not on the Yankees because of the surplus of outfielders. But Cashman's grade for keeping Judge, just for fun, is an B for those scoring at home only because I saw the kid play in Syracuse and he looked awful against the change-up, typical for a youngster looking to reach The Show.

Brian McCann's Turnaround 2015.
By: Mike Lindsley
Brian McCann came over from Atlanta to the Bronx and signed a typical, massive contract at 5 years and $85 million after the 2013 season. Buster Posey, he isn't. But that's the Yankees. See something you kind of like, and overpay.

And then 2014 was a mess. McCann had trouble adjusting to the pressure of New York and living up to the contract. He was pushing and pulling his swing every which way. .232 average. 23 home runs. 75 RBI. This for a player making $17 million a season (mostly blame the Yankees though for having no idea what they are doing in terms of contracts and player value).

This contract is not validated. McCann is not a $17 million yearly player. He is not a top flight catcher. But in 2015, things have changed quickly and frankly, money aside, the Yankees can't afford to lose him.

McCann's power numbers are great, he has handled the pitching staff, young and old, worked with a terrific bullpen, seems to throw everyone out when trying to steal and, the big one, he hits in the clutch in every series. McCann has already surpassed his RBI total from last year, has a better slugging percentage and a better OPS. What a difference a year makes. And, New York, New York isn't overwhelming him. There is more of a comfort level.

His average will still be low again in 2015, but he isn't a high average player. And if you think about it., most catchers aren't high average players. Even the great Johnny Bench only hit .267. But it was everything else that got him into the Hall of Fame and rightly so.

Brian McCann, amazing player and $17 million annually? Not so much. But for what this Yankee team is right now and how McCann has bounced back with both stellar defense and clutch hitting, he may just be the most important player on the team.

And if the Yankees make an October run partly because of McCann's bat and play behind the plate, maybe, just maybe, this year's part of the catcher's salary will in fact be worth every penny.

Eyeing October: 5 Keys For Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees are right there, despite the Blue Jays' recent charge in the AL East. August 14 helped too, when the Yanks came back in Toronto thanks to a huge homer from Carlos Beltran. Here are 5 keys for the Yankees to make the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

1. Clutch hitting. A-Rod and Mark Teixeira have been big all year. More Beltran homers would help. In fact, it doesn't matter who hits when. This team has to get those big hits like the Giants and Cardinals and Royals did last year. Think back to the Joe Torre era and how many big hits late took place, and in tough counts with two strikes. And of course people were on base. This team has to hit down the stretch in big spots, something it has not done since the 2009 World Series run.

2. Bullpen. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have to continue their dominance. Many teams have good bullpens. The Yanks have one of the best. And it shortens the game for the….

3. Starting pitching. Yes, you might say we are just naming all the keys to winning baseball, but let's just shrink this down to two key starters. The Yankee pitching has actually hung in. If they get three guys to grind it out and two guys to rise to the top (think Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke to a lesser extent), that would be enormous.

4. Beat bad teams. The Yankees aren't an amazing club, but they are better than most of the American League, save a few teams. This time of year, you cannot lose a series to the Braves-Indians-Red Sox-Rays-White Sox if you are a playoff team.

5. Health. None of the above four matter for an old team if you don't have the players actually in the game. This team has to stay healthy in order to make the playoffs. Jacoby Ellsbury cannot go down, for example, and they can't lose a big arm in the bullpen, as another example. Health is key for all teams, but especially is important for an aging roster.

Blue Jays Fly High in the Bronx.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Blue Jays are baseball's scariest team, thanks to a three-game sweep over the Yankees in New York. Let's look at the takeaways from the series:

1. Toronto scored 10 runs the whole series. This offense can score 10 runs a game. So the Yanks were lucky, frankly, to not get blown out. The Blue Jays' pitching was the story of this series thanks mostly to…

2. David Price. Stud. He gets batters in 0-2 holes so quickly and operates in gliding motion. He is an ace to the term, and Toronto is lucky to have him. This lengthens the rotation and guys are more comfortable in less-than-ace roles. Price's performance in Game 2 vs. New York was impressive to say the least, as opposed to...

3. Joe Girardi. Mis-managed the bullpen the whole weekend. Friday night, he sends in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller in a 1-1 game. What a waste. Then on Saturday, Ivan Nova is exhausted and Adam Warren is ready to go, but Girardi leaves Nova in, and Justin Smoak hits a grand slam. Awful. Was the binder open or closed here, Joe? We all couldn't tell.

4. Jacoby Ellsbury. He doesn't look right since he came back from the knee injury. This contract is going to burn the Yankees.

5. Yankee pitching is average and questionable every night. But don't blame them in this series. The Eovaldi-Nova-Tanaka trio did just fine. It was the Yanks' offense that didn't hit.

6. This is more about Toronto than the Yanks. Hottest team in the game right now and the acquisitions of Troy Tulowitzki and David Price are really paying off, as are the bullpen moves. This team is flat-out dangerous.

7. New Yankee Stadium crowds are an embarrassment.

8. Anyone want to play second base for the Yanks?

9. A-Rod looks to be slowing down. 40 and years of steroids will do that to you.

10. American League Executive of the Year? Right now it has to be Toronto's Alex Anthopoulos.

New York City Baseball Back And Beaming.
By: Mike Lindsley
Start spreadin' the news. Baseball is back in New York City.

This isn't 1986 when ONLY the Mets were Amazin'. Or 1996 to 2003 when ONLY the Yankees were a running dynasty (they beat the Mets in the 2000 World Series, of course).

Both teams are relevant. Both teams are fun. The Yankees have a huge payroll but no star in his prime and not many superstars. They are like the 25-year company worker who still brings the same lunch pal to work each and every day and just goes to work and comes back the next day fresher, somehow. This team is an underdog. An underdog in first place that no one saw coming. What they have done up to this point is simply incredible, no matter what happens in August and September.

The Mets snapped out of their welfare funk and traded for Yoenis Cespedes, a big bat that can provide homers and RBI and lengthen the lineup a little bit. This club also has a Top 3 rotation in baseball, so good that all of the young starters could each be an ace on over half the teams in baseball, easily. This excitement has brought bigger and better crowds to Citi Field. Queens is loud again and it is good to see.

Let's get to the key to the rest of the season for both teams:

Yankees: A trio must perform well and stay healthy. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are so important to this team, as is catcher Brian McCann, who has done a masterful job, to say the least, handling the pitching staff and hitting with runners in scoring position. A-Rod and Mark Teixeira have stayed healthy so far and are the main RBI guys. But in case something happens to these two down the stretch, it makes the above trio that much more important as well.

Mets: Be in it late no matter what. Just be in the hunt, for a Wild Card spot or make the Washington Nationals sweat after Labor Day in the National League East. New York's pitching can go toe-to-toe with anyone and push this club into the playoffs. Really, on most nights, they only need two runs, which looks a lot better now than before the Cespedes move.

You can talk about Madison Square Garden and the Knicks or the Rangers or the Nets or the Islanders moving in with the Nets or the Giants and Jets in the ultra-powerful NFL. You can talk about college basketball at MSG here and there and St. John's with new life bringing back Chris Mullin as head coach. But in New York, baseball is still number one, especially when the Mets and Yankees are fun and the parks are packed and the teams are in races.

This IS a baseball town before everything else. You can use that old sports argument: "the teams that win create the #1 sport in a market, no matter the size." That is fair. But baseball seems to always be king in the Big Apple. Think about when the Yankees don't win and miss two postseasons. There was still a good-bye to Mariano Rivera and to Derek Jeter that dominated the headlines and everyone was glued to the hot stove to see if this team would make any moves. Baseball is #1 in the Big Apple.

The Yankees and Mets are right through the very heart of the baseball season. They are making a brand new start of it. Hopefully the prior, recent baseball blues for both teams have officially melted away.

And hopefully the Yankees and Mets won't just make it anywhere, but to October together, in New York, New York.

2015 Induction Class Shines in Cooperstown.
By: Mike Lindsley
Baseball. Big crowd. Four legends. 53 Hall of Famers in all on the same stage! Sun-splashed day. Cooperstown and its baseball soul. How could anything be more perfect?

John Smoltz-Randy Johnson-Craig Biggio-Pedro Martinez. Those were the four names that entered the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on July 26, 2015. The day and weekend had a lot to digest. But here are my 20 takeaways:

1. Best speech: John Smoltz. A little long, sure, but who doesn't have a long speech? It is their day. Smoltz rose to the occasion yet again in a big spot by giving advice to parents and coaches. Smoltz: "I want to encourage the families and parents that are out there to understand that this is not normal to have a surgery at 14 and 15 years old. That you have time, that baseball's not a year-round sport. That you have an opportunity to be athletic and play other sports," Smoltz said. "Don't let the institutions out there running before you guaranteeing scholarship dollars and signing bonuses (tell you) that this is the way. We have such great, dynamic arms in our game that it's a shame that we're having one and two and three-time Tommy John recipients. "I want to encourage you, if nothing else, know that your children's passion and desire to play baseball is something that they can do without a competitive pitch. Every throw a kid makes today is a competitive pitch. They don't go outside, they don't have fun, they don't throw enough, but they're competing and maxing out too hard and too early and that's why we're having these problems." Well done.

2. The Dominican Republic, with its amazing passion for the game of baseball, took over the town of Cooperstown. They deserved a good weekend. The nation saw Pedro Martinez go into the Hall, the first Dominican to enter since 1983 and Juan Marichal.

3. Let the Hall of Famers wear polo shirts for crying out loud. Hank Aaron on an 85 degree day at the age of 81 years old in a suit seems preposterous to me.

4. As expected, a standing ovation for Hank Aaron. The crowd could stand for 15 minutes for this guy and no one would mind.

5. Nice tribute and moment of silence for Ernie Banks, but what about the annual video honoring the others who we lost this past year.

6. Ultimate good guy Hall of Famer? Fergie Jenkins. Humble. Charity work, Free inscriptions for his autograph that only costs $30 on a ball. This guy struck out 3,000 batters and won 284 games!

7. We all learned a little bit more about Craig Biggio this weekend. He was the under-the-radar guy in this group but the most underrated. 3,000 hits. Doubles machine. Catcher-second baseman-outfield. 400+ steals. Played his whole career in an Astro uniform. First Astro to enter the Hall of Fame. After his heartfelt speech applauding his family and teammates and everyone along the way, I wish I cheered more for Craig Biggio when he played.

8. Oh, and those Astros fans? Nice travel job.

9. Thank goodness they got rid of Johnny Bench doing his silly Harry Caray impression for a 7th inning stretch. There is NO ONE in baseball more full of himself than Bench.

10. Robin Yount. Bad-ass looking dude.

11. Joe Morgan doesn't look good.

12. Still don't like Randy Johnson.

13. Hit a new food and drink spot on Saturday. Cooley's Stone House Tavern on Pioneer Street. Amazing rueben and homemade chips. Yuengling is tasty and cold on tap. Great bartenders. Awesome baseball fans. Hell of a time.

14. Stand outside of the Hall of Fame and just look at the building for 60 seconds. The place is gorgeous. Then do it again. And again. And again.

15. This is the first class in induction history where three pitchers were elected to the Hall of Fame.

16. Yes, the aforementioned Randy Johnson is a son of a gun. But what a pitcher. 300-win, 3,000 strikeout club (actually trails only Nolan Ryan in strikeouts with 4,875). Five CY Young Awards. No-hitter. Perfect game. 2001 World Series champion. Quite a career.

17. Try the Cooperstown Brewery's Pale Ale. Nice taste and relaxing. Cooperstown Distillery on Main Street lets you try beers and other drinks. Cool stuff.

18. I met the mayor of Cooperstown, Jeff Katz. He also has a new book called "Split Season 1981," Fernandomania, The Bronx Zoo and the Strike that Saved Baseball. Pick it up.

19. The drive down on Friday is so amazing in anticipation of everything. Time with my close media friends Matt Michael, Rocco Carbone and Scott Pitoniak. The autographs I can add to my collection and what themes to start with the memorabilia (this year I started two Hall of Fame logo balls, one with just Hall of Fame pitchers and the other with just Hall of Fame infielders). The crowds, the village, the food spots, the new stories and the chase for interviews. This year, I went Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the first time since I covered the induction in 2003. And the drive home was sad. I am always sad when it ends because Induction Weekend is THAT special.

20. And onto 2016. Ken Griffey Jr. is a first ballot guy. Mike Piazza should get in. I expect Trevor Hoffman to have to wait a year or two.

New York Yankees 2nd Half Preview
By: Mike Lindsley
Predict the craziest things in the world. Go ahead. No one could have predicted this question that many Yankee fans have as we hit the dog days of August:

"Can the 2015 Yankees hold onto 1st place in the American League East?"

But that is the world of 2015, parity and a brutal division, plus, to the credit of the Yanks, a few surprises along the way and of course that amazing bullpen.

5 things need to happen for the Yankees to win the AL East or at the very least make the playoffs as either Wild Card for the first time since….since….2012. Here they are:

1. Health. Jacoby Ellsbury cannot get hurt again. Closer Andrew Miller must stay healthy. This team is old enough. They cannot get injured even more.

2. A-Rod/Tex combo. The dog days of August could slow these guys down, but the reality is, they are the two main RBI guys in the lineup right now. They must keep it going.

3. Starting pitching depth. Masahiro Tanaka is barely hanging on. CC Sabathia is a mess. Michael Pineda is good but not great or elite. He is by default the team's ace, but no one gets him confused with Clayton Kershaw or Gerrit Cole or Chris Sale or….you get the picture. Ivan Nova is still a question mark. That leaves the biggest surprise in the rotation this year, Nathan Eovaldi. He has been, really, a bulldog for New York. It is those kind of players that can push a team to the playoffs. Especially when you don't really have an ace and need depth.

4. No AL East team emerges. Toronto-Boston-Baltimore-Tampa Bay. None of those teams are good enough to go on an amazing run and blow away the division. BUT, this is baseball and you cannot predict anything. One of those teams charging with a historic 2nd half would likely take away a playoff spot for the pinstripes.

5. Youth. The Yankees finally have some young blood in the farm system that can actually play (hopefully the front office doesn't trade the farm for aging, rotten apples). And it is these type of guys who will be playing for a roster spot in 2016 when the rosters expand to 40 this September. Keep an eye on these names: Aaron Judge, Rob Refsnyder and Luis Severino. Outfielder-2nd baseman-pitcher.

Greatest 2nd half strength: bullpen. All-Star Dellin Betances and closer Andrew Miller are studs.

Greatest 2nd half weakness: offense. Sure, the pitching is shaky, but this team dies scoring runs at times and it makes you nervous with the old guys Tex and A-Rod having to carry the load down the stretch. They don't have a single Mike Trout or Bryce Harper or Miguel Cabrera to carry a lineup. It is never about one guy, but when you have a major RBI man who carries a lineup and lengthens a lineup, it makes a monster difference. Remember Albert Pujols during his prime years in St. Louis? This is where you would love to have, despite his rocky 2015 in Seattle, Robinson Cano in the lineup down the stretch.

Prediction: Yankees win a Wild Card spot with a record of 39-35 in the 2nd half and an overall season record of 87-75.

Tex Easily Team MVP.
By: Mike Lindsley
Sometimes in sports you just don’t see it coming. Ben Curtis winning the Open Championship. Tiger Woods’ downfall. Tom Brady becoming one of the best quarterbacks to ever live. A four-year player in college basketball who wasn’t highly-touted in high school, growing into an NBA player, and making the play of the 2003 championship game. Hakim Warrick at Syracuse, for example.

Enter Mark Teixeira.

Tex has been splendid for the New York Yankees in 2015. He is knocking the ball all over the park, hitting home runs and driving in runs. Over 20 homers and 60 RBI by early July? Raise your hand if you saw that coming. You saw it coming like Buster Douglas over Mike Tyson or the Miracle on Ice or Onion galloping past Secretariat at historic Saratoga Race Track. Ok, maybe not to that level, but you get the point. Teixeira becoming one of the best power hitters this season wasn’t exactly a thought in New York. It was a dream amongst Yankee fans.

Add to that the defense. Wow, the defense. Teixeira’s defense has always been Gold Glove-like, even in down offensive years or injury-prone years (basically since 2010). The two plays he made in the Oakland series at Yankee Stadium in early July were highlight plays and saved the game.

The Yankee first baseman doesn’t have a great batting average. But for what this team needs, it doesn’t matter. They need Tex to hit home runs and drive in runs. They need him to stay healthy as well, in order to be productive.

This Yankee team has also been a surprise. Sure, the division is weak and the competition not what it used to be in the old American League East. Boston and Baltimore were supposed to be better. The Rays cannot hit and the Blue Jays cannot pitch. But the Yankees, the Yankees, are better than most thought and have emerged as, shockingly, the most complete team.

They have fought through injuries and pitching doubts and a down offense at times. They have had different batting orders and farm system guys plugged in here and there. Somehow, this team isn’t below .500 and has a real shot at October. OCTOBER? Yes, playoff baseball, something the Bronx would welcome back in a heartbeat after two missed opportunities in 2013 and ’14 when we waved good-bye to Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, respectively.

There has been A-Rod and Dellin Betances. There is Brett Gardner. The closer, Andrew Miller, has been nearly perfect. But really, this surprising Yankee team’s MVP is the guy who is more of a prototype than anyone else in pinstripes because he, like his team, has been the biggest, most productive surprise of all.

Send a Tex message to your friends (you too, John Sterling).

Mark Teixeira is the 2015 MVP of the New York Yankees to this point.

James Kaprielian Heading to the Bronx.
By: Mike Lindsley
The ultimate crapshoot draft? Probably the Major League Baseball Draft. But, they do it anyway.

And with the 16th pick….the Yanks picked James Kaprielian out of UCLA, a hulking 6'4, 200-pound right-handed pitcher. Let's have a look at what people around the country are saying about him.

From Sports Illustrated:

Kaprielian was a high-profile and very good pitcher in high school and has continued that success uninterrupted at UCLA, first as a freshman closer, then as a starter the past two seasons. Unlike many college pitchers during the spring, Kaprielian's stuff has improved as the season has worn on, and he's been at his best even as his inning count has gone over 100 (10–4, 2.03 ERA in 106 innings this season). His fastball, which was a fringy plus pitch previously that played up due to its movement and his ability to spot it, has been a power pitch in the 93–95 mph range over his past few starts.

Scouting report: Kaprielian is one of the best available starters from the college ranks but as Baseball America wrote last week: "His at times pedestrian velocity holds him back for some clubs." It's said that he has a high-price tag, too.


He is thought to have a somewhat pedestrian fastball -- mostly in the range of 91 to 93 mph -- but finished fifth all-time at UCLA in career ERA (2.06) and sixth all-time in career strikeouts (275).

UCLA has turned out some top-notch arms in recent years. There was Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick of the Pirates in 2011 (the Yankees took him in the first round in 2008 but he chose not to sign and instead attended college), and Trevor Bauer, taken third in 2011 by Arizona. He now is with the Indians.

Here is a highlight clip of Kaprielian.

The bottom line is you can NEVER have enough pitching, especially in today's day in age. You have to keep-up with other staffs in MLB.

Kaprielian's upside is a plus out pitch in his curveball and his size and IQ. Obviously his control and fastball leave something to be desired, but he is still young, after all. Another plus would be where he comes from. UCLA has been a nice pitching factory the last several years. It is kind of like the NFL general manager trying to figure out who the best player on the board is in the NFL Draft's 5th round and they just end up not caring and going with a player from the SEC with great size and speed who played the best competition in college. The reputation speaks for itself in both cases.

For the most part, scouts like him. The Yanks like him. And you need lots of pitching. This could be a good move for New York.

In that whole crapshoot business, of course.

Masahiro Tanaka Situation Growing Tiring.
By: Mike Lindsley
We wait and we wait and we wait and we wait. We always are waiting with Masahiro Tanaka.

We wait until he makes another bullpen start or pitch session or minor league start. We wait to hear his translator say, for the 10th time, that "he felt no pain." We wait for manager Joe Girardi to say that his once-ace but now not an ace but maybe an ace again someday or maybe not an ace someday will be back soon and that the Yankees are positive about his rehabbing.

Here lies the problem, folks. Masahiro Tanaka waited. And that is why WE are all waiting right now.

See, Tanaka is playing a very dangerous game. So are the Yankees, considering the millions the team is pouring into the Japanese product. Tanaka continues to pitch with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. When that ligament is fully torn, a pitcher needs, as you know, the now-famous Tommy John Surgery.

Tanaka partially tore the ligament last July. Since then, he has had exercise programs and platelet-rich plasma injections and whatever other treatment. The problem, of course, is like with any injury, you favor other areas and strain other areas to protect your injury. In this case, Tanaka is protecting his torn ligament by pushing different releases and finishes and doesn't drive his fastball and other body parts and having to overwork. Hence, we have seen him go down with a myriad of different injuries including a forearm strain and wrist tendinitis. One thing leads to the next which leads to the next.

What should have happened? Tanaka should have had Tommy John Surgery last July. Think about it. We are coming-up on mid-July, which would be a year since the 2014 surgery. The Yankees could then bring him back this season for a stretch drive in a super-weak American League East Division and even if you don't win the division, you have a shot for, at worst, the second Wild Card. Would the Yanks win it all with Tanaka? Of course not. But continued missed playoff seasons in the Bronx are getting tiring.

Adding Tanaka would be like landing a major trade without giving up anything. Even if you don't bring him back for the last month and a half or two months of the season because management wants to make sure everything is right or the team stinks, you start 2016 fresh with him on Opening Day and make sure everything is lined-up correctly.

I am no doctor. But Tanaka's elbow is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. There is that word again. Waiting.

We wait and wait and wait. The Yankees wait. The doctors wait. Tanaka waits.

Sure, we would be waiting for Tanaka to return if he had the surgery. But it is a different kind of waiting. Waiting for a healthy return. Now, all we are doing is waiting for Tanaka to get injured for good and have the surgery that should have happened nearly 12 months ago.

And that type of wait is much harder to deal with.

New York Yankees Retired Numbers. How Many?
By: Mike Lindsley
This piece literally comes to you because of a great debate by the boisterous, passionate Chris "Mad Dog" Russo on High Heat.

Russo claims that the Yankees overdue it with retiring numbers. His reasoning is the club should only include Hall of Fame ball players.

This is a fascinating debate because not everybody is the Yankees. They have more Hall of Famers and quality players overall than the Mets or Giants or Braves or Royals or Twins or Blue Jays or anyone else in history.

For example, take away the Bernie Williams here or the Tino Martinez there or the Jorge Posada there or the Ron Guidry here. No problem. Hell, take away Reggie Jackson and Lefty Gomez while you are at it. Dave Winfield too. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera to Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio to Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth to Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra and on and on it goes have you covered.

On the flip side, what about a franchise like the Pittsburgh Pirates? They have a very special core player now in Andrew McCutchen who might not be a Hall of Famer one day like Roberto Clemente (we have no idea right now, of course) but is the equal to a Don Mattingly in the Bronx. Beloved-played for only one team (maybe)-productive-respected within the game-etc. Should Pittsburgh not put him in franchise lore by retiring a number because he might NOT be a Hall of Famer? Sounds sort of silly. And it sounds silly from a Yankee standpoint as well with Mattingly.

The Yankees are the real issue here because they have the most titles and Hall of Famers and flat-out great players and are the most famous franchise in American sports. No team has more lovers and haters at the same time. New York has a Monument Park. It has the retired numbers. It has a ridiculous, unmatched history. So many players impacted the team in so many different ways and for different periods of time. For example, take a Roger Maris vs. Goose Gossage. Can you separate them or others? Possibly, but it would be difficult. Let's continue.

Red Ruffing is in Monument Park but the Yankees didn't retire his number despite his induction into Cooperstown in 1967. WHAT? This guy won seven pennants and six World Series. He is the greatest right-handed pitcher in Yankee history. Ruffing did wear four numbers in pinstripes, 21, 18, 15 and 22. So, you could take 15 because he wore that one the most and have the dual retirement for that number with Thurman Munson. #8, after all, has both Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra honored. See where this gets messy?

Then you have Lefty Gomez, a Yank from 1930-42. A 1972 Veteran's Committee selection which is insane considering how good he was. He should have been elected to Cooperstown outright. He was the lefty version of Ruffing who he teamed-up with for all of that October success. 1934 and 1937 pitching Triple Crowns. How is his #11 not retired? Another sticky situation. But he would fit Russo's argument, as would Ruffing. Hall. Of. Famer.

Don Mattingly. Another example. A few years away from a Hall of Fame career. BUT, he played his whole career in a Yankee uniform and you can put him up against anyone in the category of beloved. Plus, a great player. Messy but also easy to decide. Donnie Baseball is in.

Wade Boggs. Hall of Famer but too short of a career with New York, so no. Same with Rickey Henderson. Dave Winfield? Hall of Fame player and nine years with the Yanks. Terrible era. He had 6 100 RBI seasons and did all he could on a bad team. Do you see where this gets brutally difficult? On Winfield, I would say yes to retiring his jersey with New York based on this reasoning beyond his Hall of Fame status. He played nine years with the team out of 22 in the big leagues and played for six teams overall (Padres-Yanks-Angels-Blue Jays-Twins-Indians). So that is nearly half of his career with the Yanks. He also had no help from the front office, like Mattingly. Yet, those two formed one of the most devastating duos in Yankee history. Barely, Winfield gets the honor.

Here is the way I would basically settle it overall after a few examples, but it isn't easy.

Retired numbers should include Hall of Famers, period, who played their whole careers in the Bronx or enough of a career in the Bronx. So, let's say first tier players: Ruth-Mantle-Jeter-Gehrig-Rivera-DiMaggio-Berra-Ford-Ruffing-Gomez-Winfield and so on.

It should also include the second tier examples like these guys: Thurman Munson-Roger Maris-Mattingly-Bernie Williams-Jorge Posada-Andy Pettitte. These players need to have played their whole careers in pinstripes or played a long enough time in a Yankee uniform and have the "extras" to earn a retired number.

Pettitte makes the cut because, although he played in Houston, he has the Winfield argument above as far as career years but more importantly was on five Yankee World Series winners. Maris makes the cut because of the Winfield career years argument, he won two MVP awards, won multiple titles and broke the all-time single season home run record in 1961. He just fits into second tier players in my opinion because he did just enough. Remember, Mickey Mantle (hip abscess due to a shot) went down in 1961 during the final week of the season and Maris carried the lineup to close the pennant. That alone wouldn't be enough for a retired number situation, but you can't ignore it, either, and it just adds to his resume.

Goose Gossage? So hard. But he would be a guy, in a special Hall of Fame player circumstance, that I would leave off the retired numbers list because his tenure in New York was so short (1978-83, 89) and he didn't really make the impact of a Roger Maris, for example. He also only (yes, this is the Yankees) won one World Series and the team he was traded to was already a world champion with a closer in Sparky Lyle who also happened to be a CY Young winner (1977 for both)! How to separate Winfield or Maris above from Gossage here? Winfield and Maris were every day players who had more of an impact than a closer like Gossage. Winfield played longer in pinstripes. Maris played the same amount of years in pinstripes as Gossage but with more impact. Both were better players and Winfield got caught in a bad era. Goose was an outstanding player; he just played too short of a time with New York in a less impactful way for the retired numbers section. Monument Park? Put him on a Bronx Zoo plaque. More on that to come.

Now, Russo would argue with me about the non-Hall of Famer Posada-Williams homegrown player duo up above from the Joe Torre era.. Here is where he is wrong. Those players played for the Yanks their whole careers and made a huge impact, plus were probably two-four great years away from being Cooperstown-bound. Oh, and they….WON…A LOT! They are second tier players, simply put. What is the difference, then, between a Bernie Williams and a Paul O'Neill on the second tier voting?

Williams is a Yankee FOR LIFE. So is Posada for that matter. That is my separation. O'Neill added a ton to the Yankee dynasty of 1996-2001 and started a lot of the fabric when Gene Michael brought him over. I get it. But he wasn't a Yankee for life. And if you aren't a Yankee for life, you have to be as good as Winfield or as special as Maris in the uniform or historically.

A great argument against those Joe Torre homegrown guys would be a career Yankee like Bobby Richardson. Why doesn't he fit the bill? It's simple. Williams (five-tool player) and Posada (enough defense and handling multiple pitching staffs plus very good offense) were overall better players in a more developed game, had longer Yankee tenures and played in a postseason that was expanded with travel and deeper (not better within the era) competition. No disrespect to Richardson and all the rest from the 1950's and 60's, but if you had the best record back then, you automatically won the pennant without having to go through Divisional Rounds or a League Championship Series. You went straight to the World Series. Win one series, the Fall Classic, and it's over, you are the #1 team in baseball. Plus, Williams (4) and Posada (4) have more rings than Richardson (3).

Franchises, the Yankees mainly, should retire numbers based on individuals being first tier players or second tier players. For review:

First tier players: Hall of Famers. These players played with the Yankees their whole careers or with the Yankees long enough. Jeter would be the first example. Winfield the second. The common ground? It is Russo's labeled "Hall of Famer." An Ichiro Suzuki (future Hall of Famer) would be a no. Goose Gossage would be a no. Ichiro and Goose don't fit either category.

Second tier players: Non-Hall of Famers who played with the Yanks their whole careers or a long enough time AND made a significant impact with the team based on any number of reasons.

Mattingly was a career Yank and beloved and a great player so he fits. Munson was all that and he won and he had the untimely death so we will never know his full career. Would he have stayed in New York or gone to Cleveland and played in his hometown and wrapped-up a Hall of Fame career? He fits either way so it doesn't matter. Reggie Jackson speaks for himself despite the short five-year tenure. Andy Pettitte, who pitched for a long enough tenure in the Bronx and won five rings, is a yes, although he could head into Cooperstown one day. Examples of being a "no" would be Scott Brosius or Paul O'Neill or Tino Martinez or Daryl Strawberry or Doc Gooden or Bobby Murcer or Hideki Matsui or Ron Guidry or Elston Howard. Howard was the first black Yankee but that's on the Yankees. Howard would make more sense, based on the very good but not elite player status, going into….

Monument Park. I would use the same strategy as retired numbers for players but also use the "special circumstances" label for guys or situations like George Steinbrenner or Bob Sheppard or Ed Barrow or Joe Torre or 911 remembrance or Howard or Jacob Ruppert (first Yankee owner) or Mel Allen or Jackie Robinson (retired through all of baseball) or Billy Martin. But for the Tino Martinez-Paul O'Neill-type group, you can combine players on one plaque as the "Torre Dynasty" for example and include the big name guys from that era. Every one of them doesn't need a plaque, unless they are Derek Sanderson Jeter. Same goes for the aforementioned Bronx Zoo "really good players." There are ways around this. An easy way is to combine dynasties and players and then have your elite players get plaques (Ruth-Mantle-etc) plus your "special circumstances" figures or situations.

By the way, what about all of the Hall of Fame players on this list who I didn't mention?

You can figure it out for yourself based on my criteria. Earle Combs and Tony Lazzeri would be a "yes" based on my and Chris Russo's thinking. Frank Chance, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Gaylord Perry and Frank "Home Run" Baker would be a "no."

Phil Rizzuto, by the way, isn't a Hall of Famer. Sorry. Look at his numbers. I just thought I would throw that in. He meant a lot to those Yankee dynasty years of the 1940's and 50's, but his numbers aren't Hall of Fame worthy. He was aided by playing in New York, being liked by the media, his later broadcasting career and the lovable "Scooter" nickname. I do, at the same time, take into account his years missed due to World War II (1943-45). For those three seasons, he would have had to put up at least his MVP season of 1950 three more times to be a borderline Hall of Famer. Just facts.

One final thought. Managers like Miller Huggins, Joe Torre, Casey Stengel and Billy Martin without a doubt deserve a spot in monument park. But as far as retiring a skipper's number, and this goes for all Major League Baseball teams, I say no. Managers can make a difference in clubhouses and in games and in terms of winning titles, don't get me wrong (Joe Torre certainly was the right fit at the right time), but it is the players who ultimately win the games. Retiring numbers should be players only. Awards, statues and plaques? Managers can go down those roads. But not retired numbers within a franchise unless they also happened to play for that team and qualify through an above tier.

It is a tough debate on how to retire players' numbers based on careers, success, numbers, how they are loved and more within a franchise.

And because the Yankees are the Yankees, it only makes the overall debate tougher in the Bronx.

A-Rod Carrying Yankees.
By: Mike Lindsley
Go ahead. Think about the unknowns or the predictions heading into this Yankees season. One from this website surely was that A-Rod would do NOTHING.


Hate him all you want, and this website has talked about the hate many times for the reasons we don't need to go over, but the Yankees might be the worst team in baseball without Mr. Alex Rodriguez.

He is hitting the ball well and is showing a rare, calm, confidence in his at-bats. Retaining the ability to hit a fastball is certainly there, and A-Rod seems to be having fun on the diamond. How long this early, hot start for A-Rod lasts is anyone's guess.

Take Friday, April 17, 2015 for example. The Yankees had NO business winning in Tampa against the Rays. A-Rod hit two home runs, one to the moon, and had the winning hit and RBI in the 8th inning plating Brett Gardner and giving the Yanks the 5-4 lead, which would ultimately be the final score. A-Rod hitting with two outs in the clutch? As Vince Lombardi would say, "What the hell's going on out here?!"

Obviously, there might be 6 million reasons why this is taking place. A-Rod is due yet another silly pay day if he reaches a certain home run milestone and equals Willie Mays at 660. This is another asinine reward from the Yankees after they stupidly brought him back after the opt-out during the 2007 World Series. The Yankees will fight paying him. They will lose. They made their own bed here.

Money and incentives aside, A-Rod is playing well. Does it bother me that this team is about Alex Rodriguez, even in a somewhat positive light after everything that has happened?You are damn right it does.

But you cannot ignore the obvious where the Yanks and the troubled veteran are concerned. This team is so poorly put together beyond even A-Rod and likely has no shot at making the playoffs because there are too many trouble spots on the roster. So winning games is going to be brutally tough the entire season.

How New York wins them doesn't matter because of exactly that. And right now, for better or worse, they are winning them mostly because of…..

Our old friend, Alex Rodriguez.

2015 New York Yankees Season Preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees head into 2015 much the same way they headed into the 2014 season. Bad contracts. Not a lot of expectations. Old. Injury-proned. Full of question marks. Lack of speed. Lack of offense. Lack of bench.

There are only two real differences. Derek Jeter is retired. Alex Rodriguez is back after his year-long suspension.

Pitching staff: Masahiro Tanaka aces the staff while the team waits for Ivan Nova to return from Tommy John surgery. CC Sabathia is back with added weight and more strength in his legs and says he feels as good as he did three years ago. Meantime, Michael Pineda looks for a big year and Chris Capuano (strained right quad) starts the season off on the disabled list. The X-factor is two-fold. Sabathia providing length to the rotation and Tanaka, if his elbow can hang in there, providing the dominant ace production that postseason teams have.

Lineup: The Yankees couldn't score runs in 2014 and there isn't much to look forward to offensively in 2015, either. Some of the same staples return like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran as outfielders and infielders Mark Teixeira, Chase Headley, Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan. Didi Gregorius was added to replace Jeter and provides defense and athleticism but not much with the bat. The X-factor of the offense, however, is Brian McCann. McCann had trouble adjusting to New York last season after his stint in Atlanta and hit just .232 with 23 home runs and 75 RBI. The problem for McCann was hitting in the clutch. The Yanks overpaid to bring the catcher in and he was an above average player to begin with and had shoulder problems, but he does need to at least show something more this season. Will prospects Tyler Austin and Mason Williams emerge into anything in the outfield?

Bullpen: David Robertson is no longer the closer (now with the White Sox) but the bullpen is strong. Adam Warren, Chase Whitley and others will lead into Andrew Miller and likely closer Dellin Betances, an All-Star last season. The interesting piece is Nathan Eovaldi, who will wear Robertson's old #30, and is set to pitch in the bullpen or spot start early for Chris Capuano or Ivan Nova. The Yankees like Eovaldi as long as he keeps the ball down. He gave up 223 hits in 2014 as a Marlin, but with no supporting cast around him from a bullpen standpoint and a pitching staff hurt by injuries.

Face is gone. Derek Jeter, the Yankee captain and future first ballot Hall of Famer, is retired. It will be strange to watch New York without #2. Alex Rodriguez, the troubled slugger and multiple PED user, is back, however, after sitting out 2014. Look for A-Rod to play around 20-25 games at 3rd base and DH the rest.

Projected record: 82-80.

Projected finish: 3rd place in the AL East.

Bold prediction: Masahiro Tanaka won't finish the season and will need Tommy John surgery.

Wouldn't be surprised if: The Yankees were close to the playoffs and traded a crop of prospects for Rockies shortstop and fan favorite Troy Tulowitzki. "Tulo" has six years left and $118 million left on his deal in Colorado. He's a great fit in New York but health is the problem. The star shortstop has averaged just 117 games played in a season going back to his rookie campaign in 2007. We all know why he wears #2.

Derek Jeter vs. Tom Brady.
By: Mike Lindsley
One was the face of his most famous team in American sports history and sport. The other still is the face of his latest, best team in our most famous sport in American sports history.

Derek Jeter vs. Tom Brady. What players. What careers. What examples for sports. Which career would you take? Brady still has some time left, we know, and it may be another five years, or if it is up to him, gulp, a decade. Let the debate begin!

Derek Jeter:
-5-time World Series champion, 7-time American League champion, 13-time American League East division champion.
-Member of the hallowed 3,000 hit club.
-14-time All-Star.
-2000 World Series MVP, 2000 All-Star Game MVP (still the only Major League Baseball player in history to win both awards in the same season).
-Postseason participant in every season he played from 1996-2014 save three, 2008, 2013 (injured as well and only played 17 games) and 2014.
-1996 Rookie of the Year.
-Postseason numbers: .308 batting average, 200 hits, 61 RBI, 111 runs scored. Jeter is arguable the most clutch October player in decades. What stands above all of these numbers is the .308 batting average. His regular season lifetime mark is .310. So, DJ hit nearly his career regular season mark over 162 games during postseason play when teams, starting pitching and bullpens are far superior over the course of playoff rounds. It's astounding, really.

Tom Brady:
-4-time Super Bowl champion, 6-time AFC champion, 12-time AFC East division champion.
-10-time Pro Bowler
-Most career Super Bowl touchdown passes, pass completions and passing yards.
-21 career playoff wins as a QB.
-392 career touchdown passes.
-53,258 career passing yards.
-2-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

Key similarities: both play tremendously demanding positions. Shorstop is a key place on the baseball field and you are an every day player. You must do everything. Hit, field, lead, captain the defense, etc. Quarterback is the most important position on the football field. Without a QB, you don't win in the playoffs and the Super Bowl is a dream. They both play in demanding markets, New York and Boston. They both created a winning environment and demanded the best from teammates. Both practice (d) like it was the Super Bowl or Game 7 of the World Series. Both were/are not only the faces of their respective dynastic franchises, Jeter and Brady were/are the faces of their sports. One could make a case for Peyton Manning only for the commercials. Everyone knows Brady is ahead of Manning on the QB chart, and frankly it probably isn't close.

Jeter edge: he hasn't been under any cloud of cheating whatsoever, with PED use or pine tar or gambling on the sport or anything else. Brady, meantime, has been under the recent cloud of DeflateGate (which isn't a big deal if you know the sport because QB's have been doctoring footballs for a long time and no one has cared, including opposing teams and the league and defenses facing those quarterbacks) and SpyGate, which is a different matter. The Patriots clearly cheated by filming the opponent at home and changing the headsets to enable Brady and the coaching staff to communicate below the 15-second mark of the play clock, when headsets turn off that communication normally. That would give the QB plenty of time to audible out and fool the defense. How could all of this possibly happen and Brady not know it considering the guy knows EVERYTHING about football, his team, his teammates, history and more?

Brady edge: Football has a salary cap. You cannot spend money and get a division title. The Yankees have spent unwisely many times, sure, but at the same time, their spending has at least gotten Derek Jeter to the playoffs. $175-$200 million dollars for a baseball team? Really? You can make five mistakes but five things on a roster at least work in your favor (small market owners pocket money, yes, but the Yankees' ability to spend rarely can be matched during the Jeter era). The Patriots have drafted and mixed the pieces correctly and Tom Brady has had to work extra hard at making those around him better, as has his partner, head coach Bill Belichick. More Brady edge; he also has two MVP awards to Jeter's none. Jeter was, however, robbed of the MVP in 2006 (the Twins' Justin Morneau won it) because writers rarely give the award to someone with very good numbers on a high payroll team with a bunch of superstars. But Jeter carried the Yankees that year if you watched most games, through injury and awful offensive stretches. #2 deserved it if you know baseball.

The verdict: Derek Jeter's career. The similarities and comparisons of these two legends are scary. In the end, Brady and Jeter both have the winning resumes, the numbers and a place in their sports' respective Hall of Fames, via the first ballot. This isn't over yet. Brady still has more time, so he could trump DJ. But in the end, currently, the Jeter edge is his unaffiliated role in any kind of cheating. Brady and the Pats had five 8-0 home records from 2001-2011 and won an almost unrealistic 31 straight home games during a time, which helped create multiple home field advantages in the playoffs for the Patriots, which resulted in three Super Bowl wins (2001-2003-2004). SpyGate was released to the NFL and public just after Week 1 of the 2007 season opener (source: SpyGate, the Untold Story by author Bryan O'Leary). Brady and the Pats failed to win another Super Bowl until the 2014 season, topping the Seattle Seahawks. Prior to that, the Pats came up short either in the playoffs, the AFC title game or TWICE against the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. Obviously, the Pats couldn't use SpyGate in the Super Bowl because they weren't playing at home, so take that for what it's worth. No SpyGate helped the Giants win or the Giants were just better with that pass rush. Your call. SpyGate isn't the only reason why New England won those championships, but you wonder if more teams could have visited Foxboro and won more in the regular season with the proper rules, thus jeopardizing the Pats' chances to further cement their postseason rule. Both Jeter and Brady are amazing players and future Hall of Famers and it takes splitting hairs to pick one over the other. That splitting hair is the New England Patriots' involvement in SpyGate, which helped Tom Brady SLIGHTLY along the way.

Close call, but Derek Jeter wins.

A Little Derek Jeter In Russell Wilson.
By: Mike Lindsley
Early career success. Class. Face of a franchise. A “you know right away” about a guy feeling. Leading. Keeping your head up when you fail. Wanting it so bad that you scare others and they don’t want to answer to you, but in a good way, of course.

Derek Jeter was this way from day one in a Yankee uniform. A certain guy in the NFL is the same way.

Take out, of course, that interception that ended things for the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. The Patriots won the game 28-24 and Russell Wilson finally failed in the big game, early in his career.

But Wilson’s confidence didn’t waver before the play or during the play or after the play. It was the wrong call, too, by the way. RUN THE BALL, Pete Carroll! But Wilson didn’t throw his coach under the bus. He accepted blame and said he would learn from a mistake and he told the media how bad he felt because it was solely him who lost this game.

Well, it is a team game, isn’t it, Russell? The defense got chopped apart in the 2nd half by Tom Brady on two straight drives too. But Wilson did what leaders do. He accepted blame. He stayed confident. And quietly and indirectly spoke loud enough to let others know that he will be coming back strong. Quarterbacks get all of the credit and all of the blame, rightly or wrongly (even here despite the wrong call by the head coach because Wilson still got picked-off in the end, no matter how you look at it). Somehow, Wilson knows this and stood strong. That is who I would want running my offense and team for sure, for years to come.

That’s a leader. That’s a face of a franchise. That is what Derek Jeter used to do.

By elite quarterback standards, Russell Wilson is underpaid. He will cash in soon, however, and when he does, it will help his bank account but will it hurt the Seahawks? How many people will Seattle be able to keep?

Wilson is in the third year of a four-year rookie contract that pays him $662,434 with a cap number amount of $817,302. Wilson can, however, renegotiate that deal after this season, and there are whispers around the league that he could receive a contract that pays him $20 million minimum per year.

Seattle’s mini dynasty isn’t quite that now that they lost to New England, thanks to Pete Carroll’s messed-up call. What’s next is anyone’s guess in terms of keeping players and trying to get back to the Super Bowl. The team faced this issue after it won Super Bowl XLVIII and signed Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman as opposed to going out and getting free agents. Smart move. It kept the #1 defense in the NFL together and forged another run to the big game.

The next smart move would be to keep your quarterback in a quarterback league. Especially a quarterback who has the skill and leadership and the intangibles and is clutch when big games are on the line.

Russell Wilson wears #3 for the Seahawks and is simply cut from a different cloth. But cut from the same cloth as #2 was for the Yanks.

Four Words Describe Newest Baseball Hall Members.
By: Mike Lindsley
Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio and John Smoltz head into Cooperstown on July 26, 2015. Very deserving for all. It is one word that sometimes defines the greats in this game we call baseball. Here’s a look at each word that describes each newest inductee.

Pedro Martinez: Theatre. Every single time Pedro pitched, it was appointment television. 1999 All-Star Game, blowing away the National League one batter after another. ALCS games against the Yankees in 2003 and 2004. “Who’s Your Daddy” chants in the Bronx after he claimed the pinstripes were his Daddy. 2005-08 with the Mets brought more fans to Shea Stadium just because he was Pedro. He was a pitcher on Broadway every single night, no matter the city, home or away. 15-8 in 2005 when NO ONE thought he could ever again win 15 or more. Even pitching for the Phillies in the 2009 World Series. He brought life to that team, and returned to play, of course, the Yanks in the World Series. Three CY Young Awards. 6th best winning percentage of all-time. The best combination of two pitches I have ever seen with the fastball and changeup. Pedro Martinez was fun, energetic and dominant all together. But the word above all is theatre. He was a movie you wanted to watch 1,000 times and then again just for good measure.

Randy Johnson: Dominating. 6-10. Towering. Glove to the face. Fastball. Fastball. Slider. Good-bye. The Big Unit, he was called, and rightfully so. For having problems with control in the beginning and at times throughout his career, Randy Johnson marked the spot with blow away fastballs and a slider that was unhittable for most. Four straight CY Young Awards from 1999-2002 might be the most impressive thing. Or is it the 21-6 mark in 2001 with the 3-0 World Series record and MVP honors (shared with teammate Curt Schilling)? Johnson’s 4,875 strikeouts are 2nd all-time and first among lefties. Baseball is a numbers game. Johnson has the numbers. But he has the numbers because he was dominating.

Craig Biggio: Versatile. Catcher-second base-outfield-back to second base. Put him everywhere and anywhere. Craig Biggio didn’t mind. A team-first guy who racked-up Silver Slugger Awards and All-Star Games and that 3,000 Hit Club mark. Some Biggio haters say he was a “compiler” and not a great player. He played 20 seasons in the big leagues, staying remotely healthy and putting up consistent numbers and led plenty of Astros teams to success. How is that different from Pete Rose or Hank Aaron or anyone else who had a lot of stats? You have to play a lot of years and stay healthy and consistent to get those numbers. Biggio isn’t the caliber of player of an Aaron or a Rose, but the comparison is just. Biggio deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, if for nothing else than the 3,000 Hit Club. Add the other stuff to it and you have a consistent, great player, who was as versatile as anyone the game has ever seen.

John Smoltz: Gamer. For as great as Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine were in Brave uniforms, Smoltz was the one I always was nervous about in the Fall Classic games of the 1990’s against the Yankees. He just had a knack for the big moment. He went after people a different way. He blew air into his hand on a cold October night in a different way. He had a different look in his eye. That’s why Andy Pettitte’s greatest win as a Yankee was 1996 World Series Game 5, because he outdueled Smoltz (Pettitte got shelled in Game 1 and Smoltz was dominating, so it speaks volumes even more). Smoltz did his “gamer work” as a starter and then as a closer. Rarified air. 213 wins. 154 saves. His postseason mark was 15-4, 2.67 ERA, 199 strikeouts. Incredible. Smoltz was drafted in the 22nd round of the 1985 amateur draft. And he was drafted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and Cooperstown on the first ballot. I love these stories. What a gamer.

Tough Baseball Times In The Big Apple.
By: Mike Lindsley
Knicks. Nets. Giants. Jets. Mets. Yankees.

New York sports are a mess. The only thing rolling somewhat decently is hockey with the Rangers and Islanders on pace for at least the playoffs and possibly more.

The last two above teams are of course in the sport of baseball in New York City and are an embarrassment for different reasons. Fred Wilpon and family treat the Mets franchise like a welfare group. The Yankees have one of the largest payrolls in the game with a bunch of useless, old, overrated players. They don't sign Robinson Cano to a 10-year deal but the answer is half a billion dollars on older or injury-proned or average players from the other league. Not good.

Attendance is also down at the new ballparks, built during the same time which opened the same year (2009) to get with the times. Citi Field is beautiful but is never full because the Mets stink. The new Yankee Stadium has its nice parts, like the facade on the sides and the old, old Yankee Stadium look in other parts with wonderful history when you walk-in, but the reality is the place is full of white collar guys who spend but don't cheer and corporate nonsense that takes the feel out of the game and eliminates home field advantage. Big league teams are not scared to go to Yankee Stadium and play on the road. They used to be, but not anymore.

1986 seems like 100 years ago for Met fans. For Yankee fans, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and any World Series represented year and even the title in 2009 seems like forever ago now. The Boss is dead. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera have retired the last two years. Bob Sheppard isn't around anymore to do the public address announcing. The times have changed. The ownerships are idiotic and the teams don't win. Plus, you have to pay extra in some parts to even watch the game on TV which is slow as molasses to begin with.

Meanwhile, baseball is thriving in Kansas City and San Francisco. Why? The front offices are smarter and mid-market teams are also using big payroll revenue sharing to keep their players. Even the Pirates are making the playoffs these days (granted the Yankees have far more historical success and World Series rings, but presently you see what's going on here).

Baseball hasn't been this bad in New York for both teams in a long time. Both franchises should be embarrassed.

The problem is, Fred Wilpon and Hank and Hal Steinbrenner just don't care.

It's about making money. Not winning. And certainly not about the fans.

Baseball in the Big Apple, for the time being, has disappeared in a New York minute.

It's Miller Time In The Bronx.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees' Hot Stove season was cold until recently when the pinstripes signed lefty power reliever Andrew Miller. Here are five reasons to like the signing.

1. Bullpen strength limits starters' innings. The Yankees' pitching staff is old or injury-riddled or just plain old a question mark as a whole. Well, one way to limit innings of Masahiro Tanaka-Michael Pineda-CC Sabathia is to strengthen the bullpen and make it a 6 inning game, assuming the Yanks will have a lead. Andrew Miller can help do that.

2. Tough trio. If the Yanks re-sign David Robertson, the Miller-Betances-Robertson bullpen backend looks darn good. Or Miller in the middle depending on lefty hitters in a specific spot.

3. Years, money and prime. Miller is 29. And it is a four-year deal that isn't CRAZY money considering today's contract amounts for specialty players. This is not a typical recent Yankee contract for a player who is too old and not in his prime with too many years and too much money on the deal. This is a fresh breath of air.

4. AL East showdowns. Miller knows the AL East. He pitched in the fishbowl of Boston and in Baltimore for a division winner in 2014. The rival games won't faze him.

5. Hefty lefty. The Yankees have a ton of right-handed pitchers in both the rotation and bullpen. Having a lefty option will be a blast for manager Joe Girardi.

What the Yanks Should Do This Off-Season.
By: Mike Lindsley
Here is a Top 10 list of what the New York Yankees should do this off-season. Some things might be unrealistic. Some things might be doable. But New York should at least be attempting the list because these are the steps to the Yankees getting back in contention for a division title and beyond.

1. Release or trade A-Rod. Alex Rodriguez has three years and $61 million left. Trade him (To Miami for a veteran presence in South Florida for a young club?) and pick-up most of the money or just release him. The Yankees have eaten contracts before once the player has bottomed out. It is worth it to eat the money and NOT have the distraction all year, next year and the year after that.

2. Move any other dead weight. The Yanks have too many bad contracts. Would they be able to move Mark Teixeira? Something has to give here pretty soon. This team, full of overpaid dinosaurs, has to get younger and cheaper.

3. Figure out a bullpen order. 7-8-9. Did you see the AL champion Royals this year operate this way and have one of the best bullpens in the big leagues? Kelvin Herrera-Wade Davis-Greg Holland. Consistency. Guys know their roles. Whether or not David Robertson is back, the Yanks need to really see if Adam Warren or Shawn Kelley can handle a real role. Dellin Betances looks like a stud after an All-Star year. He is the 8th inning guy or closer if D-Rob doesn't return after wanting insane money.

4. Sign Andrew Miller. Miller's stock rose last year with Baltimore. He is a big lefty who throws fire out of the bullpen. The Yanks could use a power lefty to go with the slew of righties out of the pen.

5. Figure out a back-up catcher. Gary Sanchez, John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine. We have heard all about the catching pipeline for years. If it was so good, why did the team sign an overrated Brian McCann to a big deal? McCann was average in Atlanta and now he is brutal in New York. Good guy, but can he really handle the Yankee fish bowl? He needs to be pushed in 2015. And the Yanks need to find the catcher of the future now and DH McCann a lot during the late part of his contract.

6. Sign Asdrubal Cabrera. He is a shortstop and second baseman. He can field. He will sign for cheap. He has been through big games. The Yankees need more flexibility in the infield and Cabrera can provide it. Cabrera also puts the bat on the ball when runners are in scoring position, something the current pinstripes cannot do.

7. Sign Jon Lester or Max Scherzer. Who knows what CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova and Masahiro Tanaka will do next season? If the Yanks didn't spend foolishly last off-season, they could have signed both Lester AND Scherzer. Lester is a bulldog, is a postseason performer and a lefty in Yankee Stadium is always a good thing. Scherzer hasn't gone "Bob Gibson" in October yet, but he can sure get you there. And he has thrown far less pitches than many aces out there.

8. Put Gene Michael in a bigger role. The farm system needs to return. Talent evaluation needs to improve. Brian Cashman needs Baseball 101. Michael saved the franchise in the 1990's when George Steinbrenner was in jail for digging up dirt on Dave Winfield. Give Michael more power in terms of baseball decisions, scouting, trades and more. The guy knows the game, the franchise and players inside and out.

9. Never play Carlos Beltran in the outfield. He is a defensive disaster. ONLY DH him.

10. Pull a monster trade. Trade who? For what? I have no idea. But the Yankees need to make a "smart" splash and pull a trade. Remember when Boston dumped dead weight (Carl Crawford-Adrian Gonzalez-Josh Beckett) to the Dodgers and then won the World Series? Maybe the Yanks could trade David Phelps and Manny Banuelos and Beltran and outsmart someone. Chances are slim, sure. That's because the Yankees have gutted the farm system and lack creativity. All they do is sign overrated and overpaid old players. It needs to stop.

Thank You Derek Jeter.
By: Mike Lindsley
Thank you, Derek Sanderson Jeter. For everything.

Thank you for playing the game the right way. Thank you for playing hard each and every day since your early days in the minors and majors.

Thank you for representing Major League Baseball as the face of the game.

Thank you for Mr. November and The Flip Play and the 2000 World Series Game 4 home run off Bobby Jones on the first pitch to take momentum back from the Mets.

Thank you for beating the Red Sox. Thank you for appreciating that rivalry.

Thank you for presenting reality to your teammates in the early 2000’s by reminding them that they have to earn titles, they aren’t just handed out because you wear the pinstripes or make a lot of money.

Thank you for the jump throws to first base.

Thank you for being the perfect leader for the Yankees, the perfect person for New York, the perfect person to control a team full of egos that at times you probably didn’t want to play with, especially when it got ugly after the 2001 World Series.

Thank you for not defending Alex Rodriguez through the years when so many wanted you to.

Thank you for your four minute interview with me in 2004 in Cleveland.

Thank you for creating a Turn 2 Foundation that sets an example for all of us.

Thank you for being a role model to our youth, both in baseball and out of baseball.

Thank you for hitting .400 in the 2009 World Series when I really needed one more title as a Yankee fan because the last several years were so bad with the names Sheffield-A-Rod (in fairness, he came through that year too)-Giambi-Pavano-Gordon-White-Vander Wal-I don’t want to go on.

Thank you for working so hard to hit the ball the other way and showing that hard work and commitment can pay off and that if we do one thing good, we should want to do it great.

Thank you for not being Ray Rice.

Thank you for not being Ryan Braun or involved in Biogenesis or BALCO.

Thank you for not being Barry Bonds.

Thank you for never lying to us.

Thank you for your 3,000th hit, a slider from David Price. Oh, and for the game-winning hit after that to beat the Rays.

Thank you for being a Yankee for your entire career.

Thank you for helping young teammates and setting an example.

Thank you for playing your final weekend at Fenway Park, where I sat in Bleacher Section 36, Row 22, seat 7 on Sunday.

Thank you for the Thursday before in New York, winning a game in the bottom of the 9th inning with your typical opposite field single. The most incredible moment inside a terrible Yankee season. This of course after David Robertson blew a 3-run save, because, well, Mariano Rivera is retired and couldn’t come into the game.

Thank you for being one of the few big league players that actually knows how to bunt a guy over to 2nd or 3rd base.

Thank you for running hard to first base 162 games a year.

Thank you for joking with fans before your at-bats and giving them a lifetime of memories.

Thank you for catching and signing my baseball in Toronto when I was a college sophomore at St. Bonaventure.

Thank you for your support of ALS and how it connects to the Yankees and one-time captain Lou Gehrig. And by supporting the cause, thank you for touching the life of former Boston College player Pete Frates, who started the “Ice Bucket Challenge” movement due to having ALS. Frates was at Fenway Park on September 28 to honor you during an A+ ceremony by the Boston Red Sox.

Thank you for understanding what the Yankee uniform means.

Thank you for your appreciation of those who have come before you on a baseball field.

Thank you for listening to your parents and NOT quitting the game of baseball or leaving the New York Yankees.

Thank you for dealing with George Steinbrenner.

Thank you for calling Joe Torre “Mr.Torre.” It shows respect and sets an example.

Thank you for not showing your opponent up by flipping a bat or pointing to the sky or doing dances or anything else that looks like clear bull shi*. Thank you for not getting ejected by umpires. Thank you for not spitting in an umpire’s face like a Hall of Famer once did, Roberto Alomar.

Thank you for congratulating the Baltimore Orioles on a job well done in 2014 and wishing them luck in the postseason. Only you would do that on YOUR night in the middle of YOUR answer to the YES Network about what had transpired on a magical Bronx night just minutes before.

Thank you for being, as far as we know, a clean ballplayer. I have always believed you would never mess with that PED stuff because you respect the game too much. You never changed weight. Your numbers declined in slumps, not all-of-a-sudden. You took forever to come back from injury and then were injured again. Like a normal ballplayer. Not like some mutant who can inject needles and get back quicker and hit 40 home runs unrealistically.

Thank you for being you, Derek Jeter.

Thank you for the memories. For the moments. For the excitement. For the nostalgia. For making it special to be a Yankee fan. For getting me out of my seat at home or at the park watching you. For getting me incredibly excited while reporting or talking about the game of baseball. For the regular seasons and the Octobers and that one November and this September.

You did it your way, Derek Jeter, like the commercial says. Thank you for that. You gained our RE2PECT, like the other commercial says. We tip our caps to you, number 2, and deservedly so.

Thank you, Derek Sanderson Jeter. For everything. Said a 2nd time because, well, that is your number and a place you have batted many times in the order. It only seems fitting to say it exactly twice and exactly that way, in closing.

Thank you for a great career, Captain Yankee.

Derek Jeter, see you in Cooperstown. July, 2020.

Robinson Cano = Yanks Playoff Berth.
By: Mike Lindsley
.314. 27. 107. 7.6

Those are the 2013 numbers of Robinson Cano, his last year in a Yankee uniform. It goes, in order, batting average, home runs and RBI. But the last stat is the key. 7.6.

That marks his WAR. In baseball spelled out, it is wins above replacement. Exactly how much a player is worth to his respective team. So basically, Cano was worth 7.6 wins to the Yankees.

New York of course didn't sign Cano. Now he is in Seattle worth about 6 on the WAR scale because his power numbers are down. Everything else is really good though. His average is great and his fielding is superb and his leadership is really paying off. RBI? Respectable but not overwhelming because of the ballpark he plays in for home games.

The point? If the Yankees had Cano in 2014, they would have made the playoffs in Derek Jeter's final season.

The team is bigger than one player, duh, but this is a fact, not an opinion. After all the age and injuries and poor hitting in the clutch, ONE player could have solely gotten the Yanks into the playoffs. Think about it. New York has been around 3-5 games out for the top or 2nd Wild Card for some time. Cano's WAR number in the Bronx, higher than Seattle, would have pushed New York to October. Heck, his number this year in Seattle puts the Yankees in!

And, if they signed Cano to 10 years, not exactly a dream contract, maybe the Beltran-Ellsbury-McCann trio wouldn't be in pinstripes which is a good thing.

The incredibly missed Robinson Cano. Don't ya know?

Yankee Stadium Review By Stadium Journey
By: Sean MacDonald
In 2009, the New York Yankees opened the second iteration of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx and tore down their old home, which had served them since 1923. The old Yankee Stadium was an American icon. In spite of the mid-1970’s renovation that sucked some of the charm out of the old building, attending a game there was still a commune with baseball’s history.

There was the field that Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio all starred on. There was the copper frieze in center field, and the icons to Yankees past in Monument Park. And the history and spiritual nature of the old stadium was a necessary part of the experience, because truth be told, it was also a dump.

Somehow cavernous and cramped at the same time, unfriendly, and with an odd smell in the concourses that never quite went away, the old Yankee Stadium was at the end of its useful life when it closed. Its replacement by a billion-dollar palace was welcomed by many Yankee regulars.

Six years on though, and some of them have started pining for the old stadium. The major flaw of the new Yankee Stadium is an overpriced system on tickets and food that leads to a sterile setting and empty seats through much of the summer. The result is a ballpark that feels more like a museum. It’s a beautiful building that’s meant to impress and intimidate, not to welcome.

For a full review of Yankee Stadium, go to Stadium Journey

Blurry Bronx Outfield.
By: Mike Lindsley
Have you thought about the Yankees' outfield for the next several years? It doesn't look good if you know baseball.

Ichiro Suzuki is gone after this year as he should be. Then you have Jacoby Ellsbury in center and Brett Gardner in left. They are essentially the same player. Speed, lack of power, average arms and decent outfielders. .280 hitters at best. 175 hits or so at the most annually. Yikes.

The Red Sox this year, among 100 other things, had a major outfield problem. It looks better now after some maneuvering. Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig will help, especially in that ballpark and Boston just landed Rusney Castillo out of Cuba for over $72 million.

Why bring up the Yanks' rivals? Because it hurts the Yankees. While the Yankees are spending money on dinosaurs and forking over money to an average player like Brett Gardner, they are getting crushed in international scouting while others like Boston, within the AL East, are thriving outside the United States. How did the Yankees not scout hard and outspend for Yasiel Puig or Jose Abreu or Cespedes?

Or now Castillo?

There aren't many outfielders on the market anymore for a few reasons. One, this isn't the 1990's where you had tons of mid-level to great outfield players shifting teams (think Roberto Kelly for Paul O'Neill or Dave Justice coming to the Yankees). Two, franchises are hanging onto their best players due to revenue sharing and making them faces of the team. Jose Bautista, for example, isn't going anywhere as he is locked-up in Toronto. Same with Andrew McCutchen in Pittsburgh. Likewise for the guys in Washington, Kansas City and Oakland.

Yes, the Yankees have many problems. You hear about pitching and age and contracts and a lack of leaders without Mariano Rivera and soon Derek Jeter. But what about the outfield?

It's a place where legends and greats once roamed. Joe D. The Mick. Babe Rutrh. Bernie Williams. Bobby Murcer. Paul O'Neill. Earle Combs. Roy White. Dave Winfield.

It's a blur out there in the Bronx in the coming years.

5 Reasons Why Yankees Miss October.
By: Mike Lindsley
The New York Yankees are a disaster. $200 million and then some for not a lot of good players. Here are the 5 reasons why the Yankees will miss the playoffs for a second straight year and yet again send a legend off into retirement with no postseason play.

1. No offense. This team cannot hit. Brett Gardner is the team's #1 threat. Two words for that. NOT GOOD. How much would Robinson Cano help right now?

2. Pitching depth. This is one of four keys to win a World Series and even before that go through a successful season. The others are a pitching ace, timely hitting and a good bullpen. The Yanks have no one left in the rotation. CC Sabathia is done for the year as is Ivan Nova. And Masahiro Tanaka is a monster question mark moving forward. It's up to you Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy! Good grief.

3. Heart. Remember the Joe Torre Yankee teams that would play really hard and accept nothing else? Does this team even have a pulse?

4. Age. Dog days of August. This team is old and slow with a bunch of guys like Carlos Beltran running all over Jurassic Park.

5. Too many teams. Four teams are battling for the 2nd Wild Card. That includes the Yankees. Sure, the 2nd Wild Card gets another team in, but it is hard for it (Yanks included) to get in because of the parity-balance-mediocrity in the game. Use whatever word you want. This is another reason why the Yankees should stop spending so much money because they get taxed and that money goes to these teams that use Yankee money to keep good players.

Beltran's Bat Needed for October.
By: Mike Lindsley
Most don't agree, nor do I, with giving a 37-year old a contract worth $45 million over three years. Especially to a man of that age who has bat knees and bat speed that is declining by the day. Especially to a man who is limited in the outfield and lacks the range of 10 years ago.


Oh yes, there is always a but.

Beltran has been money late in the year for several different teams over the years when it counts. See, Carlos Beltran needs to stay healthy not just now, but in October. He is one of the greats of October baseball. He has ice in his veins. He is a pure hitter who can hit it out of the park or in the gaps. He has that postseason IQ to get the job done. Do you know why the Yankees have just ONE World Series title since 2000? Guys haven't hit in the clutch consistently like the Joe Torre teams.

Carlos Beltran should have been signed to a one-year deal, one year at a time as his body grows older and his career continues in the current twilight.

But one thing is for sure. The Yankees aren't worried about years two and three of that deal.

They need Beltran this October if they make it.

Because no matter the age, bottom of the 9th with two on and two out in a tie game, is there anyone better in the game than Beltran in the postseason? Equal to yes, but not better than last several years. Maybe Albert Pujols classifies or Buster Posey in spots. But after that it gets tough. And if Beltran were to make an out, it would be because he simply got beat by the pitcher and the defense. Not because he feared the pressure-cooker situation.

It's Beltran or bust if the Yanks reach October.

2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend Wrap.
By: Mike Lindsley
10 quickies, in no particular order, about 2014 Induction Weekend in Cooperstown, one of the best of all-time, with Greg Maddux-Tom Glavine-Frank Thomas-Joe Torre-Bobby Cox-Tony LaRussa all going into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

1. Maddux-Glavine-Cox all made their marks with the Braves. But the more telling story about this trio was how tactical they were. They didn't crush people with power or pure talent. They beat people with precision, IQ and hard work. That versatility in the game is a rarity.

2. Joe Torre talked for around 30 minutes. And failed to mention and thank George Steinbrenner. The Boss is the reason Torre is in the Hall of Fame. The former Yankee skipper even said so by telling the crowd he was there because of his days in the Bronx ("Let's cut to the chase, I'm here because of the New York Yankees."). And failing to mention George? Not good.

3. Hank Aaron wasn't able to stand for the national anthem because of his health. Watching once-amazing baseball players and people for that matter get old really, really sucks.

4. Moment of silence for Tony Gwynn and Ralph Kiner, two Hall of Famers lost this past year. Nice touch. But where was the annual scroll remembering all baseball folks lost?

5. Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey didn't make it. It has been a long time without those four on stage. All are not doing well health-wise and we wish them well.

6. No chosen team cap for Greg Maddux. He decided no logo would do both the Cubs and Braves equal justice (Dodgers don't count).

7. Best speech quotes: Tom Glavine by a mile. "Obviously I would have been a Hall of Famer in hockey too (in reference to his ability to play hockey and baseball and being drafted in the NHL Draft by the LA Kings ahead of Hall of Famers Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille). And this one: "If there's one thing I've heard from these guys (Hall of Famers on stage) all weekend, it's been, hurry up."

8. A common theme amongst some inductees was telling kids and everyone else not to take shortcuts to success. Uh, LaRussa managed a clubhouse full of steroid users in Oakland and there were a few 1990's and beyond Yankees in Torre's clubhouse accused and convicted of all sorts of PED use. Do we know who knew what and when? Of course not. But someone had to know something, ANYTHING. Let's cut the crap already.

9. Big Hurt. Big Emotion. Frank Thomas cried for just about his whole speech. He remembered his father and his tough childhood economically. This guy appreciates what he has now and how he got here. And he showed us. His loving words about his Mom were incredible.

10. Who gets in next year? predicts Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson on the first ballot and Craig Biggo on his 3rd ballot. Remember, on Saturday, before the induction, the rule was changed from 15 years to 10 years allowed on the voting ballot after your five year waiting period from retirement. #1 reason? Everyone wants the steroid guys off the ballot as soon as possible. That is what's always sad about this. Baseball never had testing for some time. Guys used steroids. All-time greats used steroids. And numbers were ruined. And now, all of a sudden, the sport in full, including the Hall of Fame and silly baseball writers, care. They should care. But they should have cared well before Barry Bonds passed Hank Aaron, the guy who received the only massive, non-inductee standing ovation on Sunday, on the all-time home run list.

McCann Must Hit.
By: Mike Lindsley
It is awfully tough to pin an entire team’s success on one person in any sport. Michael Jordan was good. Hell, he was the best. But he needed help before he and the Bulls got through Bird and the Celtics and the Bad Boy Pistons and everyone else for that matter.

And now the analogy back to baseball. Brian McCann isn’t very good. He was overrated in Atlanta but he was better than this, right? He calls a solid game (the YES Network actually thinks it’s a great game and talks about him like he’s Johnny Bench) and is respectable as a defensive catcher. But ultimately, the former Brave was brought to the Bronx to hit. And McCann has been absolutely BRUTAL so far with the Yankees. He doesn’t look comfortable. He misses on most pitches. Fastballs could be meatballs and he still couldn’t hit them. And that wind tunnel and short right field porch? It feels longer than a trip from the Bronx to Staten Island.

But, Brian McCann is crucial to the Yankees’ success. He is bad, we know. But think about one more consistent big jolt in the lineup. Where will that come from if it isn’t McCann? From a 40-year old Derek Jeter? Mark Teixeira looks like he should be in a nursing home. Brett Gardner is an average ballplayer. Jacoby Ellsbury is a shade better in the same costume (look at the numbers; they aren’t that different of players over the years even with Ellsbury obviously being better and more clutch than Gardner in 2014 which really isn’t saying much). Robinson Cano is long gone. A-Rod is a dinosaur drug addict who is hanging out on suspension. Carlos Beltran and Ichiro Suzuki could star in Jurassic Park. Brian Roberts? What a laugh.

Brian McCann has to be the guy. $85 million for him. Ignore the money. The Yanks always overpay for everybody. McCann could be good. Maybe it is just early. Maybe he needs to adjust. Well, let’s scrap those both because it is past the All-Star Game and hasn’t he seen a lot of, at the very least, National League pitching in this jumbled interleague schedule MLB so desires? He should be hitting by now, at least against National League teams he has seen the most for his entire career. This isn’t a demand for McCann to hit .385 this season with 50 home runs.

But the Yanks could use McCann in the form of 8-10 more hits a week and 8-10 more RBI a week.

One more consistent jolt. McCann has to be the guy whether he likes it or not.

Because after all, there is no one else in pinstripes to do it.

Masahiro Tanaka Injury Should Be Last Straw for MLB GM’s.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees were dumb enough to do it. The Dodgers were dumb enough years ago. The Red Sox have done it. Many teams have done it.

Oh it looks fancy and great early doesn’t it? It’s like being in a relationship in the early stages where you never fight and everything goes well. You have fun with your partner day and night. And then it gets really old, really quick after year one or two. Boring. Complacent. Arguments over nothing. Failure to communicate. One side blames another for absolutely nothing. And then boom. It breaks. The relationship ends. The gifts are returned. Both sides move on.

Masahiro Tanaka has broken. The break-up is here.

Hideo Nomo broke too. So did Dice-K. Every pitcher from the Far East breaks or is figured out by the BEST hitters in the world. These aren’t Japanese hitters, no disrespect to that league. This is Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera and Giancarlo Stanton.

Tanaka has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. This means that he can do one of two things. Surgery now or surgery later. The Yankees will wait on surgery and rehab the elbow for six weeks and see what happens. The surgery is of course called the famed Tommy John Surgery.

Why? Just get it done now. Get it done so Tanaka can be a nice add-on in July 2015 after the All-Star break. Or do the Yanks really want to tax Tanaka this season to try and get Derek Jeter into the playoffs in the captain’s final season?

More to the point, general managers everywhere should end the nonsense. Stop trusting these Japanese pitchers to come over here and be successful long term (gulp, maybe short term should have been said instead?).

Their season isn’t our season. Their pitch count isn’t MLB’s pitch count. Their workload and demand doesn’t match-up over here. Certain pitches are encouraged in Japan, here they are discouraged. Want a prime example? The splitter. Yup, Masahiro Tanaka’s go-to pitch for strikeouts. The pitch that pitching coaches and general managers stateside have cringed at over the years and have recommended be limited or removed altogether because it puts too much wear and tear on the arm.

Pitchers are babied here because of the money (see: Stephen Strasburg) and perhaps they should pitch more. Maybe the pitch count should be removed. Maybe this goes back to Little League and there should be pitch counts for kids growing through their baseball lives and then no pitch counts as they get stronger in college and beyond.

No matter how you look at it, one thing is for sure. This Far East to Major League Baseball pitching ride is as rough and unstable and idiotic as humanly possible.

Masahiro Tanaka is just the latest example.

And if any Major League Baseball front office executive has a brain, Tanaka should be the last.

Derek Jeter Deserved Better.
By: Mike Lindsley
Wait, WHAT? Derek Jeter deserved better? When could this have ever been possible? Sure the guy worked hard. And he has represented baseball better than anyone ever could have, not to mention the Yankee franchise. But at the same time, he got paid a lot of money by the Yankees over the years and dated every super hot woman it seemed who ever walked the planet. He owns New York City still, at the age of 40, with just about all of his baseball skills having left him. He can still do no wrong thanks to those October, and yes, November moments.

Ah, but Captain Jeter deserved better through the years, actually. No, he really did.

He deserved better when in 2006 he was screwed out of an MVP trophy because voters felt his overall team was superior to the Twins and the eventual MVP Justin Morneau. Jeter had better teammates and they really carried him, said the idiot voters. Uh no. The other way around, actually. Jeter carried the Yanks that year. #2 also set the tone in the playoff series they eventually lost to Detroit 3-1. Remember the Game 1 5-5 showing? I do. I was there.

He deserved better after the 2001 season when the Yanks lost in the World Series in Game 7 to Arizona (God forbid they don't win five titles in six years and four in a row!) when Boss Steinbrenner decided to take matters into his own hands and sign steroid clown Jason Giambi and guys named Gary Sheffield later. Egos, not team guys, started entering Jeter's championship world. Guys who failed in the postseason. Guys who couldn't hit Ervin Santana in the playoffs. Guys who folded against the Red Sox at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium FOUR GAMES IN A ROW. Oh and those Kevin Brown's and Rondell White's showed up and eventually a fella named Alex Rodriguez. Oh A-Rod. The worst nightmare for Jeter.

A-Rod was a choking dog until 2009. Twice lied about steroids. He became awkward around teammates. He was dropped in a lineup once for choking. And wait for it. The Yankees could have gotten out of that contract thanks to A-Rod opting out during the 2007 World Series. But instead, the Yanks gave the lip-licker and choking dog more money and more years and more incentives, making it like A-Roid, not Jeter, was the face of the team and the future of the team for years and years.

Jeter deserved better when the Yanks gave a postseason winning ultimatum to his beloved skipper "Mr. Torre." Torre was gone, replaced by a former teammate in Joe Girardi. Jeter and Torre were a fabric. Girardi and Jeter just kind of get along. This year, Jeter retires and Torre heads into the Hall of Fame. Ironic, isn't it?

Jeter has five rings. He has played in seven Fall Classic events.

He has made a lot of money and has enhanced stardom thanks to New York City.

But that goes both ways. Jeter has given everything. He has made the Yankees possibly double in finances than his career salary thanks to the winning and the apparel and everything that goes with Derek Jeter. Yankee For Life.

But thanks to bad signings and decisions, like Alex Rodriguez and others, Derek Jeter was robbed of more titles because many guys didn't give the game or the franchise what Jeter did. Some didn't try. Some cheated along the way.

Jeter won titles. But he could have won more. He wanted to win more. 10 years ago he once told me he would play the game for free if he was guaranteed a ring every season. Jeter cared more than everyone else but didn't have the right team built around him for the last decade because The Boss and those around him and after him cared more about the dollar bill than the World Series ring. The ring once so important to the Pinstripe Empire. How's that new Yankee Stadium morgue working out and the around .500 ball club with a half a billion dollars locked up in dinosaurs and overrated nonsense?

Next season it gets worse. Derek Jeter will be in year one of retirement and guess who is back on the team? Alex Rodriguez. That's who.

What does all of this add up to?

Derek Jeter deserved more.

Ranking the Yankees Signings.
By: Mike Lindsley
We aren't yet to the midway point of the season, so there is plenty of baseball left to play. Let's still rank the Yankee off-season acquisitions heading into the 2014 season to this point of the campaign in order (the important ones that is; sorry, Brian Roberts, you aren't important).

1. Masahiro Tanaka. Shocked right? This guy has been not only the ace of the team and not only a bullpen saver, but perhaps the American League Cy Young Award winner. Already a double-digit winner. Already over 100 strikeouts. Already proving his merit in the big leagues. Three years from now he may struggle because of the repetition of facing him from other lineups and the scouting and the video. But right now, this guy is an All-Star and the Yanks would be screwed without him.

2. Jacoby Ellsbury. He doesn't have blow away numbers and he already has nagging injuries. But the former Red Sox fan favorite has played incredibly hard, gotten big hits in spots and has terrorized the base paths. Forget for a second his great plays in centerfield, like robbing Robinson Cano of a multi-bagger. Ellsbury isn't worth the 7 years and $153 million (and Robinson Cano wasn't the answer?). And he certainly won't be in the future. But he has been a character guy who plays hard so at least give him that. #2 it is.

3. Carlos Beltran. Old and broken down. Love the attitude and he is a true clubhouse guy. But a .220 or so hitter? No power? Barely can run. What a brutal signing by the Yanks. 37 years of age. And three years of this? Good luck. Ichiro could have been signed for two more years and the team would have gotten better production. Beltran after 2004 or 2006, absolutely. But not now.

4. Brian McCann. The worst of all. Too much praise for his defense by New York media weirdos when he does NOTHING on offense. McCann is overrated and was exactly that in Atlanta. The Yanks should have platooned catchers instead of shelling out $85 million for McCann. The former Brave has been too slow to adapt to the short rightfield fence and doesn't hit with runners in scoring position. Not good.

New Hall of Fame Classic is Right Thing to Do.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Hall of Fame Game, played at historic Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, for years would feature teams with an "off day" from the big leagues during a road trip to another city.

Most of the players rarely wanted to go. They rarely wanted to talk to the media. Some of them swung and missed on purpose during the game (you could tell), just to get the hell out of dodge and Doubleday and Cooperstown altogether.

Well, this system has changed over the last few years, and it has worked magically. Instead of having two big league teams with no care in the world to be in the little village enriched in baseball nostalgia, the Baseball Hall of Fame powers-that-be decided to have an All-Star Game of former players called the Hall of Fame Classic. Some Hall of Famers. Some future Hall of Famers. And some plain old former big leaguers with enough name recognition to join the fun.

2014? A home run. Pun intended. Pedro Martinez. Hideki Matsui. Roberto Alomar. Ozzie Smith. Jim Thome. Ivan Rodriguez. Phil Niekro. Andre Dawson. Steve Garvey. Rollie Fingers. Just to name a few.

All of the players want to be there. They don't have to rush off to Boston or New York or Philadelphia or Toronto after the game they don't try in and don't have to waste the "off day" because there is no such thing. These guys have already wrapped-up their careers and appreciate being in Cooperstown because they are removed from the game and look back and miss it, long for it and welcome new things within it.

So, hats off to the Hall of Fame. Hats off to the Hall for bringing a new edge and idea to an event that easily could have died and never been replaced. The Hall of Fame Game that big leaguers didn’t care about is replaced by a Hall of Fame Classic that everyone seems to care about. Former players who are good with the media, are big enough names for the fans to relate to and some of whom can relate to the younger generation as well are a part of it. This event had 6,000+ people in the stands at Doubleday Field. Better than having no event at all, right?

Oh, and just to top it off, the Hall brought in members of the military from Fort Drum during Memorial Day weekend so the fans could stand as one and honor our real heroes.

The Hall of Fame Classic has become exactly that final word in the event's name in the little village we call Cooperstown.


CC isn't CC. Joe Girardi Must Learn.
By: Mike Lindsley
Have you noticed all of the bad starts by CC Sabathia the last two years? Have you noticed the 85-90 MPH fastball that gets rocked to right field and left field and center field and in the gaps and up the lines and through the infield and out of the park? Have you noticed the lack of a change-up? Have you noticed the big innings? Have you noticed the laboring? Have you noticed a guy who isn't an ace and hasn't been for some time now?

I am sure the answer is yes to all of the above. Because you aren't delusional.

Unlike Joe Girardi.

See, the skipper of the Yankees is still completely floating in outer space where his "ace" is concerned. CC Sabathia either "didn't have his stuff" or "just missed on a couple pitches." Maybe it's that he was "lacking a little control" or the ultimate best from the manager, "he just couldn't get going."

These are all Girardi-isms when it comes to his overpaid, overaged ace. Girardi doesn't understand that CC is shot. Or he does and won't admit it to the fish bowl New York media because he doesn't want to do that to his player (Joe G. always defends his players remember, pine tar or steroids be damned). Sabathia is a 33-year old trapped in a 40-year old body because of the 2008 playoff run with the Brewers and all those innings in Cleveland and all those innings in New York from the 2009 title year until now. Oh, and he's owed $71 million through 2016.

The quicker Girardi realizes Sabathia is toast, the quicker the pitching staff can reform and Sabathia can feel more comfortable. Would it be a shot to the ego of CC if he were bumped from the #1 rotation spot? Maybe, but Derek Jeter can't hit the ball the other way and is retiring very soon because he is done. He cannot hit the ball to the other side of the field and misses pretty much everything at the plate these days. All ballplayers lose their battle with time. And you know the Yankees will NEVER send a name like Sabathia to the minor leagues, especially with the money on that ridiculous, albatross contract.

This isn't a knock on CC Sabathia the guy. He is wonderful. Personable. Charitable. But as a pitcher, his best days are behind him. 40,000 big league pitches or so will do that to you. So will 2,800-plus innings.

Joe Girardi has to realize that CC Sabathia is cooked if he doesn't already.

And if he does realize it, he needs to do something about it.

Joe D and the Strikeout. Never a Match.
By: Mike Lindsley
You can watch and marvel at the baseball stars of today. Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. Veterans like Derek Jeter or David Wright. Perhaps you lean towards a Triple Crown guy in Miguel Cabrera. Or, maybe your favorite is in Boston or St. Louis or Seattle or Los Angeles with the names Papi-Yadi-Robbie-Puig.

Love them all you want, and you should. Baseball should be celebrated by generations. But one thing that over the years gets dismissed is how much baseball players today strike out. It doesn't matter how much you cheer them. They whiff. All. The. Time.

Mike Trout last year? A year in which he easily could have been the MVP AGAIN? 136 strikeouts. In 2012, the five-tool master had 139 K. Miguel Cabrera has struck out 1,200 times during his Hall of Fame career. Robinson Cano, about a decade deep into his MLB career, is already over the 700 K mark.

How about some legends? Mickey Mantle, the greatest combination of speed and power the game has ever seen, struck out 1,710 times. Babe Ruth, considered by many to be the greatest of them all and the guy who invented the uppercut swing and home run game, struck out over 1,100 times. Hank Aaron? 1,383 strikeouts. Frank Robinson struck out over 1,500 times.

This all leads us to another baseball God, Joltin' Joe DiMaggio. We all hear about his 56-game hitting streak and that run-like-a-giraffe-speed in center field. We also hear about his amazing arm and insane power from the right side and the incredible numbers he put up despite being pulled over seas to fight for the red, white and blue during World War II.

But beyond that, a stat that is lost among baseball's elite, is that of Joe D's strikeout number. DiMaggio struck out ONLY 369 times in 13 years over 6,821 at-bats. This is simply astounding to process. Baseball nuts are so obsessed about 2,131 or 4,256 or 61 or 755 (yes, the real home run numbers) or even the 56 number owned by the Yankee Clipper. But what about this strikeout number by DiMaggio?

This number is so ridiculous that it simply states the following: Joe DiMaggio only struck out once every 18.4 at-bats. That means that compared to many legends of yesterday and today, and simply baseball's best today, the guy really NEVER struck out.

Dimaggio and the K were not a match.

Maybe this is actually the greatest stat or number of them all.


Tough To Top Tanaka.
By: Mike Lindsley
Japan to the United States. Language barrier. New league. New hitters. New food. New manager. New teammates. New rivalries. New regimen. New type of baseball. New team. New city. New transportation. New areas. New road trips. New expectations.

New everything.

Easy transition, right?

Forget about the money. Sure, $155 million over 7 years is generation on top of generation on top of generation money. But you still have a human being and adjustments and feelings.

Masahiro Tanaka has been flat-out amazing. Period. End of discussion. Is there reason to keep going here?

3-0 in his first four starts with a blistering ERA of 2.15 with, gulp, 35 strikeouts. 35 strikeouts! And the guy has pitched and dazzled in New York and at Boston’s famed Fenway Park in the rivalry that has been going on for decades upon decades. Nothing fazes him. First time pitching at home for the Yankees? First time going-up against the rival Red Sox in that park, and with Boston being last year’s champs? Just another ho-hum day for the Japanese hurler.

And the make-up? Forget about it. Tanaka throws fastballs (two and four seam, we think) and sliders and changeups and the evil splitter that dives any way he wants it to. Down on lefties. In and down on righties. Away from righties with a dive that the catcher has to try and hang onto with his glove way outside the strike zone. Do you know how many pitchers actually throw a splitter these days? Not many because organizations frown upon the pitch because it adds wear and tear to the arm. Tanaka doesn’t seem to mind. Neither do the Yankees.

It is way too early to say Tanaka is another Yu Darvish. It is way too early to say that the Yankees’ money will be well spent for the ENTIRE time of the contract. Players haven’t ever seen him before. They haven’t had multiple chances to adjust to him. He hasn’t pitched multiple seasons in the big leagues after throwing thousands upon thousands of pitches in Japan. The kid is 25, but based on wear and tear, he is really like a 28-year old because of how much work he put in over in the Far East.

But so far, so good for Tanaka in pinstripes.

You can call him Masahiro. You can call him Tanaka. You can call him damn impressive. Or call him Esu.

That last one means ace in Japanese.

Yankees Care About Money, Not Wins.
By: Mike Lindsley
It might come across to the casual or expert New York Yankee fan from the Bronx to Florida to California to international lands that the Yankees are all about winning still. That The Boss’ boys, Hank and Hal, are really about winning because they blew nearly half a billion dollars after a failed 2013 season, a season where October was missed.

But spending money and spending money poorly are two completely different things. The Yankees’ spending this past offseason was poor spending. It was on a catcher and centerfielder who are both injury-prone. It was on a 37-year old outfielder way past his prime. And on a Japanese pitcher, 25 years old, yes, but who could be good for maybe three years. This pitcher has also thrown hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of innings in the Far East against inferior hitters with a completely different baseball.

Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka are all fine players. But they aren’t the second coming of Cobb-Ruth-Mays-Aaron. They are all players with too many question marks to blow that kind of money on. But the Yankees don’t care. The Yankees will spend wildly to ensure that they put their foot down as the big, bad money guys in baseball. To ensure that they can compete with the now-World Series champion Red Sox (Boston winning another title is the worst possible thing for the Yankees because it causes irrational thinking and spending in the Bronx). And also to ensure, and this is the biggest one, that they are not going to rebuild, that they will continue to spend money to keep YOU interested.

But who really is “you?” Ah, and we have come to the point of the article. The “you” is the white collar Yankee fan. “You,” who blows thousands of dollars on those silly new Yankee Stadium corporate seats. “You,” who doesn’t show-up for a May contest between the pinstripes and Royals because “you” just don’t care about it. But don’t worry, “you,” the Yankees love you. They love you more than wins, in fact. They love you more than division titles and pennants and Fall Classic wins. They love you more than a really good farm system and smart, savvy baseball moves. “You” have taken over the franchise.

Blue collar, smart Yankee fans understand what makes a team successful. It isn’t signing nomads from elsewhere. Sure, free agents should be signed, but to a certain degree with the right scouting. The right fit. The right age. The right make-up. Not as many question marks. And, gulp, surrounding a farm system (imagine that!) around these free agents.

When the Yankees won during the Joe Torre era, it was because Gene Michael built the franchise around the farm. Jeter. Rivera. Williams. Pettitte. Later Posada. The Boss was in jail at the time for digging-up dirt on hero Dave Winfield. Best thing that ever happened to the Yanks. This allowed for the non-baseball man, and business-only man, to stay away for awhile. And then, the Yankees won. And won. And won. All they did was win. Four times in five years. Pennant after pennant. In front of sell-out crowds, hardly what you see now in the new Yankee Stadium that holds 50,000 but never has 35,000 sitting at one time, let alone that many in the park for every game.

Well, now, the Yanks are back to the mid-2000 Yankees. Buy, buy and buy again. Sell jerseys and hats. Sell corporate seats. Sell $12 beers. Sell $8 hot dogs. Money, money, money and more money. Partnerships with soccer teams. Partnerships with whoever they can get their hands on. Oh, and thank goodness Derek Jeter is retiring right? The Yankees can make crisp, cool millions off of all the #2 apparel as they say farewell to a FARM SYSTEM player and a first ballot Hall of Famer. And at the same time, the Yankees have the 29th best farm system in MLB out of 30. And while all of this goes down, the Yankees aren’t a Top 5 team in the American League with a payroll swelling way over $200 million yet again. This formula doesn’t work.

Boston defends its title in 2014 with a Top 5 farm system. The Cardinals and Giants have built their teams around youngsters who develop who they know can help them and know where they can help. And if not? Well, they are traded of course. It comes down to knowing your players. And then get the free agents. Since 2006, the Cards and Giants each have two titles. Oh, and Boston does too. Meanwhile, the Yankees have one title (2009) and horrible current contracts they are stuck with, including Alex Rodriguez who isn’t even playing, CC Sabathia (completely broken down) and Mark Teixeira (a guy who has given the team nothing since the first day he arrived).

But the team is making money, right?

So life must be ok in the Bronx.

2014 New York Yankees Preview.
By: Mike Lindsley

The Yankees enter 2014 having spent a lot of money with huge expectations and have question marks across the whole baseball field. Sounds familiar, right? Well, heading into the season, two things are completely different. One, Mariano Rivera isn't around anymore. Two, Derek Jeter is retiring at the end of the year. Will the players step-up for Captain Jeter in his last campaign? Can the newcomers provide a lift? Will CC Sabathia return to form? Will the team miss Robinson Cano? Here is a look at the Yanks in 2014.

Key player: Mark Teixeira. Tex played in just 15 games last year due to a torn tendon sheath. He says he is 100% healthy. The Yanks need his switch-hitting ability for power and average and his slick glove at first. Tex provides versatility and depth in the lineup for Joe Girardi. And, you can hit him anywhere from the 2-spot to the 6-spot.

Key pitcher: CC Sabathia. There is a lot of hype surrounding the Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka. But Sabathia is still the key guy in the Yanks' rotation. He had a dismal 2013 where velocity was lost and his slider didn't dip. CC went just 14-13 last year with a high 4.78 ERA. That isn't going to cut it this season. Sabathia lost weight as well, up to 40 pounds. His improved pitching is crucial to a postseason berth for New York.

Key to the season: Health. This team has plenty of old players and players coming back from injuries. The whole key to the season is keeping people healthy. Jeter is 40. Ichiro is 40. Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran and Hiroki Kuroda are all over 35. Teixeira is coming off an injury. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann, signed to big deals in the offseason, have had major injuries in recent years.

Swan song: Last year it was Mariano Rivera. This year it is Derek Jeter's turn. Jeter, who released a statement on Facebook that the 2014 season would be his last, deserves every standing ovation and ounce of appreciation. He has been top notch through the years as a clutch, future Hall of Fame player and the face of the Yanks since 1996 and baseball for that matter for the last several years.

Key additions: Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka (Japan).

Key subtractions: Robinson Cano (Mariners), Curtis Granderson (Mets), Mariano Rivera (retirement).

Key free agent: Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury received a monster $153 million contract from New York over seven years. He plays hard and provides four tools of baseball, including remarkable speed on the bases and closing ability in the outfield. He must stay healthy. And he must use the fifth tool of baseball, power, to hit another 5-10 home runs over the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium to partly make-up for the loss of All-Star Robinson Cano's home run production.

Season's blessing: No Alex Rodriguez (suspended for the season in the Biogenesis case). Nothing else needs to be said.

Farm report: There isn't much there. The Yankees, over the last 15 years, have become completely lost in how to develop a farm system and seem to not know their players in terms of potential or impact. You hear a lot about catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielders Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin, as well as pitcher Rafael De Paula. But if they were that good, wouldn't they be up in the Bronx by now? The Yankees are far from the Gene Michael days when the team was built around Rivera, Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte and surrounded by key free agents, all of which led to multiple World Series titles. Zoilo Almonte had 106 at-bats last year, but where will he fit on a Yankee roster in 2014 with five outfielders?

Something to love: Despite spending boatloads of money on older players and injury-prone players, the Yankees formed a team of effort guys who play the game extremely hard and get after it for 162 games.

Something to hate: Robinson Cano is gone. Was it a good idea to sign Cano to a 10-year deal? No. But if Ellsbury signed for $153 million over seven years and does basically what Brett Gardner does, then signing Cano at 10 seems a lot more reasonable.

Projected record: 91-71. 2nd in the American League.

Bottom line: Too old. Too slow. Too many unknowns. No Mariano Rivera. No bench. Too good of an American League East and league overall. Too many players coming back from injury. Too many players destined for an injury. There is no way this team can win a championship with those variables, but they can make the playoffs because there are now two Wild Cards in each league. Expect the Yanks to take one of the two AL spots because their overall roster (not the pitching staff for sure) is a shade better than Tampa Bay's, and because the team will rally around Derek Jeter and get him to the playoffs one more time to see if the Yankee icon has any more October magic left. From there, New York will fall in the one-game Wild Card showdown or the American League Division Series.

Derek Jeter. 2014 Swan Song.
By: Mike Lindsley

The name Derek Sanderson Jeter speaks for itself at this point. Now batting. The shortstop. #2. Derek Je-tah. #2. You can almost still hear Bob Sheppard say it.

October moments. The leadership. Five rings. Mr. November. Diving into the stands. Face of the franchise since 1996. Face of baseball during that time as well.

And now, all of a sudden, it is all over, as Jeter has announced that 2014 will be his final season in the Bronx. Time flies doesn’t it? It seems like yesterday when Phil Rizzuto was Holy Cowing in Cleveland over Jeter’s ridiculous over-the-shoulder catch and that laser home run to left-center field.

Yankee fans don’t have any tears left after saying good-bye to the greatest closer of them all, Mariano Rivera. They will have to find some somewhere, because Jeter’s going away party and season are going to be as emotional for everyone. In fact, Mariano Rivera will be a spectator at Yankee Stadium to send Jeter off. How’s that for closure and emotion? So weird, how this thing called “time” works.

But there are two things that come to mind with this retirement. One is the fact that Mariano Rivera should have pitched one more year. Not now, of course. Coming out of retirement would be stupid, especially because of the send-offs and that great good-bye in 2013. It’s Rivera’s life, not ours. But think about the careers ending together, these two giants in pinstripes. Plus, the Hall of Fame gathering in Cooperstown, with Mo and Captain? Insane.

The second thing that comes to mind is just how screwed the Yankees are without these two guys. Heart and soul and leadership and production and class and clutch play and faces of the most famous franchise of them all. The Yankees are simply in trouble. Jeter and Rivera are irreplaceable. There has been Ruth and Gehrig and Joe D and Mantle. Whitey and Yogi and Donnie Baseball and Munson. These guys are right there with them. Some people have Rivera and Jeter as the top guys. They have been that important to the team’s success.

Hopefully Derek Sanderson Jeter’s final campaign is one for the ages. He has given everything to the game and his team and his teammates and handled himself extremely well through the years. He deserves it.

And that’s why his name speaks for itself.

New York Yankees Spring Training. 5 Burning Questions
The New York Yankees begin 2014 with plenty of question marks as they try to return to the playoffs after a disappointing 2013. Here are the Top 5 questions and likely answers for the Yankees by Opening Day.

1. No More Mo. Who's next? David Robertson is next in line to close and if all goes well, Robertson will be the next closer of the future. It will certainly be weird to not have Mariano Rivera around, even in Spring Training, where his presence is felt by Yanks who have been around and newly signed free agents. This is a new era, and one that Yankee fans should be dreading because Rivera, baseball's ultimate x-factor the last several decades, is no longer in pinstripes as he enjoys his early retirement before heading to Cooperstown.

2. What will Derek Jeter give the team? Jeter returns for what could be his final season at age 40. Expect him to play 100 or so games at shortstop, 30 at designated hitter and sit out 32. This if he is 100% healthy throughout the 2014 campaign. His ankle, hamstring and quad injuries from last year plus his age will make him a role player in 2014.

3. Total Tex? First baseman Mark Teixeira missed almost the whole season in 2013 save 15 games due to a torn tendon sheath. Tex says he is 100%. For the Yanks' sake, he better be. He is no longer the player he was, but his defense is incredible every night and he can provide switch-hitting pull home runs in the lineup.

4. Free agent production? Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Masahiro Tanaka and Brian McCann all come to the Bronx thanks to large paychecks. Can they produce? Can they handle New York? This is always a wait and see situation. The contracts don't help. The expectations don't help. Not everyone can be Paul O'Neill. The Yankees wouldn't give Robinson Cano big money over 10 years but gave a ton of money over enough years to these guys. It doesn't quite add-up.

5. What's the rotation order? CC Sabathia-Masahiro Tanaka-Hiroki Kuroda-Ivan Nova-David Phelps.

National Museum of American Jewish History Explores
America’s Favorite Pastime in Chasing Dreams
Groundbreaking Exhibition Opens in Philadelphia March 13, 2014
There are people whose contributions to baseball history went far beyond mere batting averages or stolen bases. They didn’t just play the game, they changed the game. For generations of American Jews and other minorities, they served as athletic, cultural, and ethical role models. On March 13, 2014, just in time for the start of baseball season, the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) will open a groundbreaking new exhibition highlighting these game changers and—just as importantly—the fans, ideals, and culture they inspired. Chasing Dreams: Baseball and Becoming American is the first large-scale exhibition to use the story of Jews and baseball as an opportunity to highlight ways in which our national pastime is part of the history, and ongoing story, of how immigrants and minorities of many different backgrounds—including Italians, Asians, Latinos, African-Americans, and many others—become American, to feel a part of the society in which they might otherwise be on the margins. The exhibition is co-curated by Dr. Josh Perelman, chief curator and director of collections and exhibitions at NMAJH, and Ivy Weingram, associate curator. It will be on view at the Museum through October 26, 2014.

With major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, in close collaboration with Major League Baseball, and featuring important loans from the Baseball Hall of Fame, Chasing Dreams features more than 130 original objects, including game-worn uniforms, game-used objects, correspondence, newspaper accounts, board games, awards, baseball cards, signed baseballs, Jewish ritual objects, ballpark giveaways, stadium seats, Little League memorabilia, and more. Objects from the Museum’s collection will be complemented by loans from public and private collections, as well as the Museum’s public collecting initiative on Tumblr. Original films feature interviews with baseball executives and everyday fans. Interactive displays will offer visitors various opportunities to play, participate, and learn.

“Since the nineteenth century, baseball has been an exhilarating metaphor for America, a land of so much promise and opportunity,” says Perelman. “And for minority communities in this country, the sport has long served as a path to learning and understanding American values, representing a shared American identity and sometimes highlighting our differences. It is, in short, a mirror of America.”

Visitors to Chasing Dreams will explore baseball’s legends and myths, its heroes and flops, its struggles and its moments of triumph. The exhibition will celebrate well-known Jewish heroes such as Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax and iconic baseball pioneers like Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Roberto Clemente, and Ichiro Suzuki, as well as baseball’s extended family of vendors, team owners, minor leaguers, amateur players, scouts, broadcasters, journalists, novelists—and especially, fans. Chasing Dreams explores how baseball has served as an arena in which values, identity, ethnicity, and race have been projected, contested, and occasionally solidified. It poses questions such as: Why have so many immigrant groups and minority communities identified with, taken pride in, and felt connected to the nation’s pastime? Did baseball impact how American Jews established affinities with other racial and ethnic minorities? What does it mean that Jews consider Jackie Robinson to be one of their own heroes?

Chasing Dreams addresses these questions through the exhibition’s four key sections:

Introduction to the exhibition and early baseball history: Establishes the exhibition’s principal themes and immerses visitors in the early history of the game and its key figures, from Lipman Pike to Helen Dauvray and Barney Dreyfuss, co-inventor of the World Series.

Shaping Identity: Examines baseball as a lens through which to learn and understand the values of a rapidly changing nation. Features players such as Hank Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio, who proved their mettle on the field and in their conspicuous patriotism. Highlights Moe Berg, who showed that a catcher could also be a spy and Thelma “Tiby” Eisen of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, who proved that women could play at a competitive level.

Overcoming Adversity: Explores how baseball has been intertwined with the history of racial, ethnic, and gender integration, as well as the complexities of Jewish racial identity. Beginning with Jackie Robinson’s debut, this gallery features notable barrier- breakers such as Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Ichiro Suzuki, and Justine Siegal, the first woman to pitch major league batting practice. Special attention will be paid to Sandy Koufax, whose unparalleled athleticism yielded millions of flashbulb memories and whose decision not to pitch the first game of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur unexpectedly made him a hero

Family and Community: Examines how baseball has impacted communities, shaped relationships within families and established new, personal meanings for each generation of fans in Little League, at camp, or through ballpark concessions. This section will feature memorabilia culled from the Museum’s Tumblr-based public collecting initiative, objects related to broadcasters and journalists such as Mel Allen, more recent players like Shawn Green and Brad Ausmus, and an illustrated timeline of notable events in baseball history.

Within this thematic exploration, Chasing Dreams also provides several opportunities for pure, playful fun. Museum-goers are invited to interact with a simulation game created specifically for Chasing Dreams called Catching History. Visitors are invited to “field” balls hit by a variety of baseball greats and are rewarded with facts and trivia for every play. An interactive, touchscreen database entitled People of the Game will provide an encyclopedic exploration of approximately 200 Jews in the major leagues—each represented by a baseball card, as well as biographical and statistical information—and an opportunity to build one’s own virtual “dream team” which visitors can then e-mail to themselves. The Museum’s concourse level will feature Koufax on the Koncourse, an interactive experience complete with Koufax’s rookie jersey and a pitcher’s mound that invites baseball fans of all ages to don a reproduction jersey, then pick up a ball and try their hand at pitching like the indomitable Dodgers’ ace. As a celebration of passionate fandom, the Museum’s first floor will feature nearly 100 original baseball cards, along with some of their stories.

Chasing Dreams will be complemented by a dedicated website, educational and public programming, school curricula, and a family guide. Title I schools are eligible to bring their students to the exhibition free of charge and additional funding is available to subsidize other schools and camp groups. A fully illustrated, 256-page companion book will also be available. The book includes original pieces by more than 40 notable authors, including John Thorn, the Official Historian of Major League Baseball who often appears on ESPN, MLB, The History Channel, and other television outlets as a sports authority and commentator; Ira Berkow, former New York Times sports columnist and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting; Doug Glanville, retired major league player for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, and Texas Rangers, an ESPN baseball analyst, and a regular contributor to and The New York Times. The book and related exhibition merchandise, including a set of baseball cards developed by Jewish Major Leaguers, Inc. for the Museum and the American Jewish Historical Society, will be available at the Museum Store onsite and online.

After closing in Philadelphia, Chasing Dreams will tour to museums nationwide. A panel version of the exhibition (without artifacts) will also travel to ballparks, historical societies, libraries, community centers, and synagogues.

Additional information about public programming, the Museum’s Tumblr public collecting initiative, and the companion volume is available at the Chasing Dreams press room.

Masahiro Tanaka Bronx-Bound.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees have signed Rakuten Golden Eagles pitching ace Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year $155 millioin deal. Here is the breakdown:

The contract: Seven years. $155 million. Opt-out clause after the fourth year. Yanks also have to pay a $20 million posting fee which won't count against the 2014 payroll or luxury tax.

Scouting report: Balanced delivery. Wicked fastballs and a splitter as an out-pitch. Mixes pitches nicely. Throws a fireball dart from a tucked elbow spot.

Why it will work: Tanaka is just 25. That is a plus for an old Yanks team both with position players and the rotation. The Yankee roster is filled with injury question marks from a year ago and a ton of age. Tanaka is perfectly healthy and super young. Finally, Tanaka is what the Yanks need, on paper, a shutdown starter at the front end of the rotation who can give them a chance every fifth day and rest the bullpen.

Why it won't work: Tanaka may be durable and may be 25, but he is really at an age 27 or 28 considering he has thrown thousands upon thousands of pitches since high school. Tanaka tossed 160 pitches in the last Japanese World Series and then demanded more work and took the ball in relief in Game 7. Japanese pitchers have come and gone, been good for a short time and then have dissolved once big league hitters figure out how to hit them. Look at Dice-K, Hideo Nomo and others. Yu Darvish has been excellent for the most part. And the Yanks hope Tanaka can provide at least what Darvish has for Texas.

Prediction: Tanaka is very good in year one, solid in year two and good in year three and elects to opt-out of his contract. The Yanks will then decide if it is worth it to keep him. Hopefully they won't make the mistake of giving him more years and money like they did with CC Sabathia. New York will have to be smarter with their decisions the next few years if they are to get back to the playoffs consistently in the post-Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter era.

A-Rod Suspended For 2014.
By: Mike Lindsley
Alex Rodriguez has used steroids. We all know it. He knows it, no matter how many ridiculous statements he makes or how many sketchy people he gets involved with. A-Roid, as he is called in funny circles, is a dope. And a doper.

And now an arbitrator has ruled that he is out of the 2014 season, both regular season and postseason, should the Yanks make it to October (good luck with that). Here are five things to take away:

1. A-Rod was guilty from the beginning. Biogenesis proved this. A-Rod proved it. His nut job group proved it. His lies over time proved it.

2. MLB is also full of crooks and bad people. MLB says A-Rod is guilty. Says who? Do we know A-Rod is a liar beyond liars and a drug user? Sure. But somehow, MLB still doesn't have a failed "drug test." Imagine that. The sport that says its own drug testing policy is the best in sports doesn't have a failed physical drug test on the guy they are going after A #1. What a bunch of sorry losers.

3. Derek Jeter, for 2014, you are free.

4. Could be the end for A-Rod. This guy's career could now be over. A year from now, A-Rod will be even older, even more broken down and even more scrutinized by all. He should just walk away.

5. A-Rod is still a Hall of Famer. Yes, this list has the ups and downs, the heads and tails, the black and white. Bottom line is, A-Rod put up the numbers. We don't know how many numbers were based on the PED use. But Rodriguez, like Bonds and Clemens, is a HOF with or without the ROIDS. Put him in. But put him into a wing where the Baseball Hall of Fame can educate baseball fans around the world about steroids. Don't put these scum bags in with the great players of all-time in what is known as "The Great Hall" and shame us all. Put them where they belong. In the cheating wing. But still in the Hall of Fame where they should be in some way, shape or form. MLB will disagree with it despite turning a blind eye to drug use so it could make money after the strike and beyond. And put A-Rod and Bonds and Clemens in and whoever else put up the numbers in.

Damn those idiot baseball writers who know far less about the game than they think they know. This sport is a sham no matter what thanks to the PED use, no closure, Bud Selig, no testing, the HOF voting; Need we go on? And that Hall of Famer-crook-liar-talented son-of-a-gun-since-Seattle Alex Rodriguez leads the way.

The Tanaka Tale.
By: Mike Lindsley
So that was too easy to predict. Masahiro Tanaka is officially posting for MLB clubs to bid on him and will eventually be in the United States, as long as the winning bid, somewhere around $20 million, can negotiate by January 24. What will a big league club get with Tanaka? We can only guess right now because of the unknown of Japanese pitchers, but on paper it looks like this:

The good: Tanaka's stuff is nasty, with control and velocity. His "wipeout slider" is MLB-ready. Many teams will have issues with him in his first two years because he brings such a different look to hitters in what scouts call a stretch delivery very low to the ground. Think high strikeouts. Think not many walks. Think Yu Darvish if things go well. But if they does not happen, what will be the cause? Well...

The bad: From Let's examine the rarity of Tanaka's workload. In addition to Tanana, only two other pitchers since 1961 have thrown 1,315 major league innings through age 24: Larry Dierker (1964-71) and Bert Blyleven (1970-75). But what's even more rare is that he carried an unusually high burden as a teenager. At ages 18 and 19 with the Rakuten Eagles, Tanaka threw 359 innings. Only two pitchers in major league history ever threw more innings as a teenager and they did so ages ago: Bob Feller (1936-38) and Pete Schneider (1914-15).

Uh oh. Tanaka has thrown piles of innings as a member of the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Before that? He threw a ton of innings as an 18 and 19-year old. This is a huge risk to give a guy $100 million over five or six years when he could break down any time because of use. Tanaka seems like he has a durable body but he is also wiry.

Prediction: Tanaka signs for $110 million and five or six years with either the Yankees, Dodgers or Cubs.

Robinson Cano To Seattle: The Winners And Losers.
By: Mike Lindsley
Robinson Cano is off to coffee, fish, rain and, yes, the Seattle Mariners. 10 years. $240 million. Here are the winners and losers of the deal:

Winners: Yankees. New York didn’t want to give him the years. Plus, even though Cano is as talented as anyone in the game or maybe more so, he doesn’t play hard. He is buddies with Alex Rodriguez. He doesn’t hit in the postseason. New York wants to get rid of those images on the team. Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury might be injury- prone and struggle in October also, but they do play hard and they are solid defensively, another area the Yanks have to get better in considering their all-time closer Mariano Rivera is gone and the starting pitching is suspect to say the least. Finally, this opens up the door for two more signings. You might be wondering how the Yanks can sign Ellsbury and McCann and resign Hiroki Kuroda and try to get under that $189 million payroll threshold so they don’t have to pay a luxury tax. Well, without Rivera on the books and Andy Pettite as well, plus Cano, the Yanks have removed around $51 million. Derek Jeter’s option year deal was also less money. And Curtis Granderson is gone. The A-Rod money is still to be determined as he battles along in the Biogenesis scandal.

Other winner: Joe Girardi. Girardi hustled as a player and loves players who hustle for him as a Yankee manager. Girardi once benched Cano because he was so lazy. He won’t have to worry about Cano leaning on just his talent in games anymore.

Losers: Robinson Cano. He is 3,000-plus more miles away from his home in the Dominican Republic. His games are now at 10 PM on the East Coast. No one will watch him based on viewer tonnage unless he plays against the Yanks or Red Sox or even the Mets or Nationals or Cardinals in interleague play. His market value has gone down. He has no protection in the M’s lineup right now. He is in a pitcher’s ballpark (the only saving grace there is Cano is an average guy more than a power guy and thanks to his talent he could hit .330-.340 with 22-25 HR instead of .300 with 30-35 HR). He loses the “Yankee” national connection and in Seattle, he isn’t even the face of the franchise. Felix Hernandez is. Oh, and the Mariners are behind the Seahawks and Sounders (that’s soccer, America) in popularity. This is an overall horrendous move for Cano.

Other loser: Jay-Z. The guy wrote about New York in a song. He loves the Big Apple. He is part owner of the Brooklyn Nets which makes for great cross-promotion. And he takes his first big sports client, a YANKEE, to Seattle to play? Uh, fail. Who could win and lose: Seattle Mariners. The Mariners will sell more tickets but it’s not like they brought in Ken Griffey Jr. at age 25 here. Cano is a great player, but not that much of a draw, nor is he the game’s ultimate best at the plate and in the field it is arguable. The Mariners will also be in the conversation now in terms of getting more free agents to build around Cano in the lineup. But, the M’s also have to deal with 10 years of a contract and paying the guy until age 40 and we know that never works out. Plus, if the team loses and they don’t build around Cano and King Felix in the rotation, Cano becomes upset, which makes the agent upset, and then the Jay-Z-Cano team will want out of the Northwest. The M’s, on paper, win and lose NOW, but what will happen in the future to sway it to one side or another is still to be determined.

Why it really happened: New York was never going to give 10 years to Cano. This wasn’t about the money (don’t listen to the sports talk hosts who say it is about the money ONLY). The money was equal on both sides. $20 million from the Yankees and $24.2 from the Mariners. It was a matter of seven or 10 years. Cano wanted 10. So did Jay-Z. That is why Cano is a Seattle Mariner. Period. End of discussion.

Just Wrong to Sign Jacoby.
By: Mike Lindsley
The New York Yankees have had some bad signings since 2000. Since then, the team has won only one World Series in 2009. And yes, there is a direct correlation to not winning it all or choking in the playoffs or in the case of 2013, not making it at all, with bad signings and not building a team with a farm system underneath it that you can rely on (for farm system success, see: Cardinals, Reds, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, Nationals, Giants, etc over the last decade-plus). The recent signing of Jacoby Ellsbury will help continue the World Series drought and idiotic make-up of the Yankees. Here is the list of reasons why:

1. Ellsbury has missed 264 games the last four seasons combined. He is anything but durable.

2. Robinson Cano isn't exactly the favorite player of this website, but he is a hell of a lot more durable than Ellsbury. And speaking of Cano, Why exactly pay Ellsbury just under $22 million annually when you might have been able to negotiate Cano down to $22-$25 million per year? The point here is that Cano isn't the ultimate answer. But if Ellsbury is, then Cano looks more like the answer.

3. Ellsbury relies on his lower body like a certain former Met, Jose Reyes. When he gets injured in the lower body area, his whole game suffers. Not good. And when Ellsbury plays unhealthy, the former Red Sox CF doesn't play the field well, which will hurt the Yanks defensively, an area they can ill afford to fail in considering how that pitching staff looks for the next five years.

4. Isn't Brett Gardner a darn good centerfielder? Now the Yanks move him to left and they take away a guy with solid range who not only comes from the farm (yea, that word means nothing to New York), but set an example as a grinder and a worker who stuck with the team. This is just wrong.

5. Ellsbury is 30. A three-year deal maybe would make sense. But the Yanks again overpaid for a player who will be aging badly when he enters years 4-7 on the contract. Just a horrendous move.

McCann Brian Produce For The Yankees?
By: Mike Lindsley
And so here we are again. The Yankees, who missed the playoffs last year and watched Mariano Rivera retire, are at it again. The Yankees, who added old players instead of removing old players in 2013, are at it again.

Catcher Brian McCann is the latest. Five years. $85 million. Vesting option for a sixth year that could push the deal towards $100 million.

McCann is slightly different than say Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells or whomever else in terms of age. He is not yet 30. Soriano helped the Yanks but he turns 38 next year and the Yanks had to take on the back side of that contract for 2014. Wells was good for a a month or two and then was a mess.

There are unknowns, goods and bads with this signing, just like many others for the Yanks. Let's look at all of it:

The good: McCann, as mentioned, isn't yet 30. He is in the prime of his career. He has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last six seasons. That number should reach 30 in the Yankee Stadium air tunnel as he is a lefty. McCann is a good clubhouse guy who brings toughness and competitiveness to a team that needs both. He hit .256 last year with 20 HR and 57 RBI in 102 games. Not exactly Yogi Berra. But Yankee catchers hit a brutal .213 and eight homers in 2013, so even McCann's numbers are an improvement.

The bad: McCann has a solid skill set, but not an overwhelming one. He has already had shoulder surgery. The former Brave's numbers are solid but not great, so he was clearly overpaid by the Yankees. McCann has also been a horrendous 2nd half player the last three years and is for the most part a non-clutch hitter in the playoffs.

The unknowns: McCann could produce and be a good fit, but either way you look at it, it is the Yanks spending again and not shifting the franchise into the re-building mode with the farm system being a priority. What does this say about prospect Gary Sanchez if he is ready for the 2015 season? This is a tough spot for New York though, in defense of management, because the catching position is so bad they had to fix it. We just don't know right now if McCann is the right answer now or for the next few years.

What's next? Was the McCann signing considered a priority over Robinson Cano? It could be. If the Yanks sign Carlos Beltran or Shin-Soo Choo before chasing Cano, you will have your answer. The Yankees likely want Cano back but for no more than $165-200 million and six or seven years. You get the feeling that they are willing to walk away from Cano and spend $200-$300 million elsewhere to build a contender for the next 4-6 years with multiple players who can fill holes all over the baseball diamond.

Syracuse Chiefs Announce Christmas Merchandise Sale
By: Syracuse Chiefs
The Syracuse Chiefs are pleased to announce the team's semi-annual Merchandise Sale, scheduled to take place from Monday, December 2nd to Friday, December 6th, or while supplies last. Chiefs merchandise including baseball equipment, team hats, blankets and stuffed toys, among others, will be available during the sale. In addition, game-used items such as catchers' gear, cleats, batting helmets, warmup clothes and hats are also available for purchase.

The Merchandise Sale will take place in the hallway of the Chiefs' home clubhouse at NBT Bank Stadium from 9:00am to 5:00pm on the selected dates. Fans who attend the sale will also have the opportunity to view the team batting cages and team clubhouse.

"This event will be a great way to interact with the fans and show them some rarely-viewed behind-the-scenes areas", said Chiefs general manager Jason Smorol. "We invite our fans to come get an early start on their holiday shopping!"

For more information on the team's Merchandise Sale, please contact Jeff Irizarry, Manager of Community Relations & Social Media, at, or via the Chiefs' front office at 315-474-7833.

The New Derek Jeter? Dustin Pedroia, of Course.
By: Mike Lindsley
He has already won three World Series titles in his career, the latest being a 2013 triumph over St. Louis. He is the face of the franchise. He is adored by his fan base in Boston. He plays the infield. His clubhouse presence is followed by all. He was Rookie of the Year in 2007. He gets the big hits and makes the huge plays in the field at the crucial times. He has actually also won an MVP.

Sound familiar?

It should, other than the MVP part. Dustin Pedroia is the new Derek Jeter. Famed franchise. Face of that franchise. Big market. Handles everything the right way. A player your kids can look up to on the diamond. A leader. Clutch. Destined for the Hall of Fame.

Now sure there are some differences. Jeter was really young (26) when he won his gulp, fourth World Series title in 2000. Pedroia has been in the league eight season already and has two titles and is 30. But look at everything else Pedroia does on the field. He makes the big plays and gets the big hits in the biggest situations. He plays hard. Winning is the only thing that matters. In typical Jeter fashion, did you see Pedroia lose his mind in disbelief when Boston lost Game 3 against the Cardinals on an obstruction call? Pedroia was beside himself. He just cannot accept losing. Jeter is the same way.

You link Pedroia with the Red Sox the way Jeter was linked to the Yanks all those years. David Ortiz may give the speeches and swear on the field and capture an MVP in the Fall Classic. But Pedroia is the heart and soul of the Boston Red Sox and could be a lifetime player for the franchise. Ortiz started with the Twins.

So while names like Harper and Puig and Trout come along, as well as the young pitching, and we try to see who the next face of baseball will be, maybe he is already here and might just be a little older than those fellas and reside in Beantown and thus we can all save time.

If Derek Jeter was the face of baseball and there is a new face in his prime, well, Dustin Pedroia is that guy. The roll fits. The glove fits. The player fits.

And as a baseball fan, you should be just fine with that.

2013 World Series Preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox will meet in the 2013 World Series, a re-match of the 2004 Fall Classic when Boston steamrolled the Red Birds and ended the curse. Here is a series preview:

Key Cardinal player: Wainwright and Wacha. Fenway Park is the #1 home field advantage in baseball. The Red Sox know how to hit there and where the dimensions are and the lineup rallies around Red Sox Nation's energy. Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha (held the Dodgers scoreless in two starts in the NLCS to win series MVP) have a chance to set a tone early in this series in Games 1 and 2 in Boston.

Key Red Sox player: Mike Napoli. He has been the playoff MVP for Boston. But in the NL park in St. Louis, Boston will lose the DH and likely will play David Ortiz at first base and because he is a lefty hitter against righthanded pitching. Napoli needs to cash-in at home and give the team a jolt in big spots on the road as a pinch-hitter should he not start at first.

Bullpen battle: The Red Sox grinded at-bats out against Detroit in the ALCS and rightfully so. The bullpen was the unit Boston had to get to and was the ultimate weakness for the Tigers. Not with the Cards. They have guys who all throw 95-100 MPH and can neutralize the Boston bats. Boston, meantime, has a split-finger fastball throwing closer named Koji Uehara who has been lights out in the playoffs outside of a walk-off home run given up in Tampa Bay. Uehara has five playoff saves and gets better as the at-bat goes on, especially if he is ahead.

X-Factor: Allen Craig. Up until Labor Day, Craig was the NL MVP before he went out with a major foot injury. He is the most underrated hitter in baseball because he always gives a good at-bat and hits well in the clutch. Oh, and because his name isn't known nationally. He is back and will start at least a game or two and can pinch-hit. This is new life and length for the already-tough Cardinal lineup.

Prediction: Cardinals in 6. This is the most complete, clutch team in baseball.

Yanks' Interest in Carlos Beltran is Typical.
By: Mike Lindsley
The New York Yankees have interest in 36-year old Carlos Beltran.

Not 27 or 29 or 31 or 33 year-old Carlos Beltran.

36-year old Carlos Beltran.

This isn't to make fun of Beltran. He has, after all, been magical at times again this October. This article is to make fun of the Yankees BECAUSE THEY NEVER LEARN.

Back in 2004, Beltran tore October apart as a member of the Houston Astros after he was traded by the Royals in a three-team swap. Beltran hit eight home runs in that postseason and hit well over .400 in both National League postseason series. Beltran was THEE postseason player that year, and it ended up getting him a fat contract from the New York Mets.

And right there is the problem if you are a Yanks fan. Or should be the problem. Beltran was spectacular in 2004. Do you need a reminder what the Yanks did in 2004 in October? Didn't think so. One thing they lacked in those final four losses to Boston, all in a row, in the greatest meltdown in baseball history, was a clutch performer with men on base (the other thing they needed was a starter who could stop the bleeding but they let Andy Pettitte walk).

Fast-forward to 2005. This was essentially the same team coming back from 2004, a collection of guys who didn't know how to play together and couldn't hit with runners on base. The Yanks, still spiraling, did nothing in the off-season, yet knew they needed another outfielder for a long time with Bernie Williams nearing the end. But the Yanks didn't sign Beltran. Beltran, a five-tool player in his prime who can hit from both sides of the plate who could handle the New York and October pressure was that guy. Oh, and 27 years old at the time.

Sure, injuries have been a part of Beltran's career. But there was a need there and the Yanks didn't get him. So if New York didn't want him then, what in the world makes him that much more attractive now? For example, Do you think the Yankees miss the playoffs a few years later in 2008 with Beltran, a guy who that season drove in 112 RBI for the Mets and hit .284 with 27 home runs? No way.

The Yanks didn't try and trade for him later on either. Beltran can play anywhere in the outfield and that is something the Yanks needed post-2009 World Series title run. All the Mets wanted in 2011 at the trade deadline was a young stud pitcher. They got Zach Wheeler from the Giants for Beltran. The Yanks couldn't have made that move with Phil Hughes, a pitcher some felt then and still feel now can succeed in the NL and outside the fishbowl of New York? Couldn't they have thrown-in two other Class A pitchers? Brian Cashman just didn't work hard enough to try and get Beltran. Oh, and in 2011 and 2012, the Yanks didn't hit in the postseason. Beltran, in 2012 with the Cardinals, hit .444 and .300 against the Nationals and Giants in the NLDS and NLCS, respectively, with three home runs and six RBI. In 2011, Beltran didn't make postseason play with the Mets and Giants. He would have been hungry that year to play in October. And it should be mentioned that at times he almost willed San Francisco into the playoffs by himself with big hits down the stretch.

Now here we are. Beltran is 36. He has had wonderful postseason glory about 75% of the time, which is more than most, but it is all behind him. He can still perform. But he is a little slower and older and goes through bigger slumps. Take the 2013 NLCS as an example. Great start to the series, and then a downfall.

Older-slower-past his prime postseason glory once defined and now inconsistent. The player you don't give a three-year deal to. Especially at 36. That's not a shot at Beltran. It's the way you do baseball business these days.

Unless you are the Yankees (see: Vernon Wells). Typical Yankees have serious interest in 36-year old Carlos Beltran after the 2013 season. Of course they do.

How many times can you drive the broken-down car until it falls apart?

If you're the Yankees, the car for some reason never gets old.

Joe Girardi's Yankee Managing Days Roll On and it Won't Be Easy.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees didn't give Joe Girardi a chance to talk with other teams. Hank and Hal didn't want Joe G, the former player and champion in pinstripes and a manager who has tasted the bubbly in 2009 to walk away to Washington or walk home to Chicago. They wanted him. For four more years and big money, $16 million in fact. Take it or leave it RIGHT FREAKING NOW.

And Joe took it.

But now things get really tough. This is a team in complete turmoil. Their closer, the greatest of them all, is gone for good. Mariano Rivera is not coming back, even if Enter Sandman is played on his voicemail with Girardi begging on the other end. Andy Pettitte, while old and crumbling in the end, is gone, another face Girardi recognizes all too well.

Then there is the A-Rod drama. When will he be suspended and for how many games? And will this distract the team even more than it did last year?

And then the Robinson Cano situation. The Yankees are in a no-win spot. If they sign him long-term, Cano is not the leader or clutch player or hustler the Yanks need. You cannot market him. He isn't a face of the franchise. Sure he is dynamic and talented and gives you 100 RBI, but that is all he gives you. In the postseason the guy falls down as well.

How about that Derek Jeter fellow? Age 40 soon. Not much left in the tank. Girardi cannot even count on him anymore.

How much payroll will be added to make the team better? Who is on the pitching staff? The farm system is a mess. Can CC Sabathia rebound from a horrific season in 2013 where his fastball was routinely in the mid to upper 80's? Is David Robertson, GULP, the closer? Close your eyes now.

There are so many questions and so little answers. This is a tough time in the Bronx. And an even tougher time for the manager.

It's a good thing Girardi has his money and his years, because those things are the only guarantees for him managing a Yankee team in deep trouble and no solid future to look at.

Mariano Rivera's Great 8 Postseason Mo-Ments/Performances.
By: Mike Lindsley
Everyone wants to do Top 10 lists or Top 5 lists. But how about a Great 8 list of the best Mariano Rivera postseason moments/performances? After all, as far as his career goes, “Mo” made his mark in the postseason. No disrespect to Derek Jeter, the face of the franchise since 1996, but everyone had great position players during his time and Mariano’s time. Those players maybe weren’t as clutch as Jeter and didn’t win as many rings, but they were at least there. NO ONE had a Rivera. So here are Mariano Rivera’s Great 8 postseason moments/performances.

1. 2003. Game 7 of the ALCS vs. the Red Sox. Rivera pitched three scoreless innings of relief (9th-10th-11th) giving up two hits, no walks, no runs, and stuck out three. 33 of Rivera’s 48 pitches were strikes. Aaron Boone ended up hitting the game-winning walk-off home run off Tim Wakefield on the first pitch in the bottom of the 11th inning, winning the game and sending New York to the World Series. Rivera was named ALCS MVP.

2. Oct. 4, 1995: Mo establishes himself as a postseason star with 5 1/3 innings in the playoffs without giving up a run. His most memorable moment came in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Mariners. Mo earned the win with 3.1 innings of scoreless relief in a 15-inning epic tilt that ends on a Jim Leyritz home run and celebration amongst Yankee fans in the Bronx.

3. 1998 postseason. Rivera makes 10 appearances, doesn’t allow a run and saves six postseason games. Yanks win the World Series in four games over San Diego, their second championship in three seasons.

4. 1999 postseason. Six saves, two each series, against the Rangers, Red Sox and Braves. Mo even picked-up two wins along the way. 12 1/3 innings pitched and no earned runs. This was another great example of how all of the teams in the 1999 playoffs had great position players, but only one team had Mariano Rivera, and it was the Yankees. Mo was on the field for the final out of the Fall Classic and the first back-to-back World Series sweeps in baseball in 60 years, when the Joe DiMaggio-led Yanks did it in 1938 and 1939.

5. 2009 World Series. The stakes were high against the defending champion Phillies. The Yanks hadn’t won a World Series in nearly a decade. Mo rose to the occasion. 5.1 IP in four games, two saves, just three hits allowed and three strikeouts. Rivera was on the field in a non-save situation in Game 6 at the new Yankee Stadium to celebrate the 27th title in Yankees history and one for the thumb for the great Mo.

6. 1996 postseason. Before Mo was a great closer, he was an elite set-up man to John Wetteland. Mo pitched 14 1/3 innings in the ALDS-ALCS-World Series against the Rangers-Orioles-Braves, giving up just one run in eight games while striking out 10 batters. The Yanks captured their first World Series since 1978.

7. 2000 World Series. Mo was again on the mound to get the final out of the Fall Classic, a fly out to center field which Bernie Williams caught. Rivera had two saves and seven strikeouts in the series and ironically for him, actually gave up two runs. But it didn’t matter in the end. The Yanks beat the Mets in five games and Mo was again a major reason why. The other team once again didn’t have a “Mo.”

8. 1999 World Series. Rivera gets four straight outs to clinch the Yankees' second straight World Series title, this time over the National League team of the decade, the Atlanta Braves, and wins World Series MVP with a pair of saves and a win.

5 Things Could Cost Yanks Playoffs.
By: Mike Lindsley
The 2013 New York Yankees will be remembered for many things, but ultimately it could be a team remembered for one thing above all, and that is as a non-playoff team. The Yanks are in danger of missing the playoffs for just the second time in the last 19 seasons. If Yankee Stadium isn't open in October, these will be the reasons why:

1. Losing to the bad. Sweeps earlier in the year by the White Sox and Mets really hurt the Yanks and then losing two of three to lowly San Diego was the cherry on top. People who think that not every game matters in a 162-game schedule are out of their minds. This is solid proof.

2. CC Sabathia. If Sabathia was a touch above average, the Yanks might have 5-10 more wins whether he was the winning pitcher or not. Hiroki Kuroda became the ace of the team and then felt the dog days of August later in the season while CC continued to be marginal. The Yanks really never had a true "ace" all year which hurt them. Kuroda was their ace by default.

3. Phil Hughes. Hughes' continued regression again left a gaping hole in the rotation and gave the Yankees no pitching depth. Part of the reason teams win World Series titles is pitching depth, and the Yanks never had it this year. Blame Hughes first and foremost.

4. Inept offense. Sure, now, the Yanks are scoring and have since the addition of Alfonso Soriano. But truthfully, between injuries and bad at-bats and here and there slumps by Robinson Cano, the Yanks couldn't hit a lick for two months of the season or more. That set them back in the early going.

5. Derek Jeter's absence. Look, it is never about ONE guy in baseball, but this guy is monumental to the Yanks' success. Jeter never healed from that broken ankle suffered in last year's playoffs and the team was hurt by it. He lengthens the lineup, can bunt people over, gets the big hit, knows how to get the job done with runners on base with timely sac fly balls or hitting it to the proper side of the field and has tremendous leadership. Not having Derek Jeter, especially in the beginning of the year with so many people out, really devastated this club.

By: Mike Lindsley. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports

Tough Days For Derek Jeter
By: Mike Lindsley
Things just aren't what they used to be in the Bronx. Tickets all around the first level in the stadium are too expensive. The crowd is subtle and weak. You can't really see Monument Park. The team is old and worn down. A-Rod is a complete headache. Jorge Posada is long gone. You can't find the owners. Bernie Williams is playing guitar. Top brass wants to lower payroll. CC Sabathia's arm is dead. The farm system is an embarrassment. And Mariano Rivera is retiring after this season.

But perhaps the biggest sign of change and the future Yankees fans should be dreading, unless they live in a baseball cave, is Derek Sanderson Jeter's attempt to play baseball this season after trying to return multiple times from a broken ankle suffered last October. Jeter's attempt at swinging a bat at fastballs he can no longer keep up with. His attempt at running down the baseline on a ground ball at 85% and laying-up because that ankle is barely healthy. The captain's inability to get two-out hits like the old days. Jump throw from the hole? Forget about it if he had the opportunity.

Rivera has been the biggest x-factor of the last several decades in baseball. Everyone has had great position players, but no one has had a closer of his magnitude in the regular season or more importantly in the postseason. But Jeter still represents the face of the team. Ruth-Gehrig-DiMaggio-Mantle-Munson-Mattingly-Jeter. Those are the guys we easily match the team with.

So now, it is just brutal to watch. Jeter could have been injured at age 29 like he was last year in the postseason at age 38. But the recovery at his now-age of 39 with an injury as serious as a broken ankle is the tricky part. Who knows, maybe he will come back strong next year and play until he is 42 while landing in the lineup at DH 80 times a year.

But the reality is, these are tough days for Derek Jeter. The guy once told me he would play the game for free if it guaranteed a World Series ring annually. I believed him then and I believe him now. He is a flat-out winner and gamer and loves the game and his teammates and the Yankee uniform.

But he is struggling to play baseball. And Derek Jeter knows it. He is just too proud to admit it.

There aren't many like Derek Jeter. And that's what makes this so tough.

By: Mike Lindsley. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 31st Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera has used his legendary cut fastball to break a lot of bats during his career, most of which are presumably discarded like other useless pieces of wood. The Minnesota Twins, however, decided to turn some of those broken bats into a gift for Rivera during this season's farewell tour, making him a rocking chair out of them. The "Chair Of Broken Dreams" is the number 31 moment of our countdown.

How cool is that rocking chair, by the way? It doesn't look as if it'd be particularly enjoyable to sit on, but that's not the point. Somewhere in Mariano Rivera's home, he'll have a piece of furniture that also serves as a testament to his greatness as a pitcher and to his ability to absolutely demolish the bats of his foes with regularity.

This was by far the coolest gift bestowed upon Mariano during his farewell tour so far this season. Opponents within the Yankees' division will really have to step up in the creativity department if they want to come anywhere close to the level of the Twins' gift.

Rivera took time before his final game at Target Field to thank Twins employees, as he has been doing at every stop on his farewell tour, and was presented with the chair by Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. He was also given a $10,000 check for the Mariano Rivera Foundation by the team.

Only thirty moments remain in the countdown of the top Mariano Rivera moments, and they are all on field moments from here on out. Keep checking back to find out what they are over the final thirty regular season game days of his career.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 32nd Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera is one of the faces of New York sports, which makes it weird to think that he spent some time playing in the Albany area before getting his break in the Major Leagues. However, he did just that as a member of the Albany-Colonie Yankees in the number 32 moment of our countdown.

Rivera spent less than a season in the Albany-Colonie Yankees uniform with the Yankees double-A affiliate, posting a 3-0 record in nine starts with a 2.27 ERA. Later that season, Rivera was promoted to Columbus to join the Yankees trip-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers.

These stories are common in Major League Baseball, given that just about every player that makes it to the major leagues spends some time in the minors. But Rivera, along with Derek Jeter, was far and away the best product to ever come through the Albany-Colonie Yankees, which makes his time here not only special to the club, but to the Albany area fans that were able to come out and see him before he was a star.

The Albany-Colonie Yankees were previously the Albany A’s, a member of the Oakland Athletics farm system, and eventually moved to Norwich to become the Norwich Navigators in the Yankees minor league system.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 33rd Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera was in the middle of his first season as a full time closer in 1997 and he was doing well enough to warrant an appearance in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Cleveland. It was his first All-Star Game appearance, his first All-Star Game save, and it is the number 33 moment of our countdown.

Rivera made quick work of the National League lineup in the ninth inning, striking out Charles Johnson, inducing a groundball to first base from Mark Grace, and getting a line out from Moises Alou to end the game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning, securing a 3-1 win for the American League.

By the way, isn't it weird seeing Mariano Rivera pitching out of the windup as he was in this video? He goes out of the stretch now, so to see him in the windup is a testament to just how long ago this was and how many adjustments he has made over the course of his career.

Also, please take a minute to take a look at the rosters in this game. The entertainment value of running down each team's lineup and counting all of the guys that have come out as steroid users since then is well worth the little bit of extra time. And if we can also just take a moment to remember that Jeff Cirillo was once an All-Star, that'd be great too.

This was the first of Rivera's nine All-Star Game appearances, in which he has never conceded an earned run. This is yet another amazing feat in the unbelievable career of Mariano Rivera.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 34th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera is one of the faces of the New York Yankees, and has been since the 1990s. But that may have never been the case if he hadn't been undrafted in the 1992 Major League Baseball expansion draft, the number 34 moment of our countdown.

In November of 1992, the brand new Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies were given the opportunity to take their pick from other Major League Baseball franchises in an expansion draft. Each team was able to protect 15 players from their 40 man rosters, with the rest of the roster and minor league rosters up for grabs. Rivera, a few years from breaking into the majors, went unprotected.

The first pick for the Rockies was pitcher David Nied, and the first pick for the Marlins was outfielder Nigel Wilson. Nied only lasted in the majors until 1995, while Wilson was out of the league by 1996. By 1996, Rivera had won his first of five World Series rings.

Another interesting fact from the expansion draft was that Trevor Hoffman, arguably the second best closer of all time, was the first eventual All-Star taken in the expansion draft at pick number eight by the Marlins.

Clearly it was too early to know that Mariano Rivera was going to be such a star, but had he been chosen by the Marlins or Rockies in the 1992 MLB Expansion Draft, Mo may not have won five championships, may not be baseball's all-time saves king, and definitely would not be one of the greatest Yankees of all time.

This is yet another moment in the career of Mariano Rivera that shows he was destined to play for the greatest franchise in baseball and to do the great things that he's done during his storied career.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 35th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
In addition to his excellence on the mound, Mariano Rivera is excellent in the realm of philanthropy, doing great things for people with the Mariano Rivera Foundation along with other charities. Just this week, Rivera visited Saratoga to raise money for Refuge of Hope, the number 35 moment in our 42 For 42 countdown.

As reported by the Saratogian, Rivera was in Saratoga on Monday at a charity event where over $300,000 were raised for the charity. The event was a $1,000 a plate dinner with VIPs paying $2,000 a plate and receiving a jersey signed by Rivera.

At the event, he stopped to give a kiss to a wheelchair-bound child whose father told Rivera what a devoted fan she was. Mo, whose compassion and generosity know no bounds, invited her to be his guest at an upcoming Yankees game.

Mariano got back to New York from the charity event at around 2:30 a.m. according to the Saratogian article, but was unfazed as he recorded the final two outs of the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays after Joba Chamberlain failed to inspire confidence by allowing a runner on base in the inning.

Not only is Mariano Rivera one of the best pitchers of all time, but he's one of the most socially conscious athletes around as well.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 36th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
There aren't many hitters that have come through Major League Baseball in Mariano Rivera's career that can be considered truly fearsome. Barry Bonds, however, was one of them. Despite his alleged dealings with performance enhancing drugs over the course of his career, Bonds was still one of the best hitters of all time, and the game's home run king. Whether you like him or not, his matchup with Mariano Rivera during a 2002 interleague game between the Yankees and San Francisco Giants was historic, and the number 36 moment of our countdown.

Bonds, five years away from breaking the all-time home run record, only faced Rivera this one time in his career. The moment sticks out to me because I was at the game at the ripe, young age of 11 years old. I practically begged my dad to take me to the game because I thought that Bonds was amazing, even though there was a part of me that knew he was not hitting all of those home runs cleanly.

Earlier in the same game, Bonds smashed a three run homer in the first inning that went into the upper deck in right field. Sitting in the lower deck in right field, the ball flew right over my dad and I which he hated, but I secretly loved.

Before facing off with Rivera, Bonds was 2-3 on the game with a home run, single and a walk. When Bonds came to the plate with a man on first and one out in the top of the ninth, the game tied at 3, you could feel the excitement.

Mariano had the clear advantage with his cut fastball, simply by virtue of the fact that Bonds had to face it from the left side of the plate. He started Bonds off with a strike, alternating balls and strikes until the count was even at 2-2. After Bonds fouled off a pitch, Rivera threw a high fastball. Bonds never stood a chance, swinging and missing. Rivera won the only matchup between the two titans of the game.

When asked about facing Rivera, Bonds simply said: "He's nasty. That's why he's the best."

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 37th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
In life, whether you are the CEO of a big corporation, a famous actor, or a star athlete, you have to get your start somewhere. That is the focus of moment number 37 of our 42 For 42 countdown, when Mariano Rivera got his start in baseball by signing his first contract all the way back in 1990.

Rivera, from Panama, originally wanted to be a professional soccer player but was not cut out for it. He picked up baseball, joining an amateur team in Panama City as a shortstop. He was noticed by Herb Raybourn, director of Latin American operations for the New York Yankees, who saw that he was athletic enough to play the game, but not as a shortstop.

Then, fate intervened, as Rivera volunteered to pitch for the team, impressing his teammates who contacted the Yankees to tell them about Mo's talent on the mound. They invited him to a tryout in Panama City.

While Rivera was nowhere near the polished pitching machine he is today, he had enough raw talent to impress Raybourn, who signed him to a $3,000 amateur contract to join a rookie ball squad affiliated with the Yankees.

Today, players in the NBA Developmental League make a minimum of $13,000, many of which will never be good enough to see an NBA court. Just put that into perspective when thinking about the fact that Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history, was once only worth a quarter of that amount when he started his professional baseball career.

Now, Mariano Rivera makes $10,000,000 per year with the Yankees, which is 3,333 times more than he made on that first contract back in 1990. Without being discovered over 23 years ago, none of the other moments in this countdown would have ever happened, and baseball would have been robbed one of the greatest players in its history.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 38th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera is arguably one of the greatest baseball players of all time. But with his career coming to an end soon, he's going to need to find ways to occupy his time when it's done. The Harlem Globetrotters extended an olive branch to Rivera, offering to help him fill the void on the basketball court by drafting him earlier this year in the number 38 moment of our countdown.

Rivera was "drafted" by the Globetrotters in June. Of course, they didn't expect him to actually accept their invitation to play for the team. Each year, the Globetrotters choose a couple of big names to list in the press release that announces which players are actually joining the team to draw attention to the announcement.

In the press release from the Globetrotters (yes, the Globetrotters have a press release for a draft that isn't even real), the team praised Rivera's charitable efforts and ability to close games, which is just as important in basketball as it is in baseball.

"And in the fourth quarter, when the Globetrotters need to close out a game, who better than the best closer of all-time? Mariano Rivera has made a living by finishing off opponents. We always have a place on our roster for winning athletes with that kind of mindset.  His charitable work through the Mariano Rivera Foundation also embodies the spirit of the Globetrotters giving back to the community."

Rivera, who was drafted along with WNBA star Brittney Griner, didn't take the selection seriously. When asked about the invite from the Globetrotters, Mariano simply laughed.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 39th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera is synonymous with Metallica's Enter Sandman after a Major League career consisting of well over a decade of entering baseball games with the song serving as the soundtrack. As a result, the Cleveland Indians decided to give Rivera a gold copy of the album as their gift to him during his farewell tour this season.

I applauded the Indians at the time for their creativity in coming up with this as a gift for Rivera, as plenty of teams have just made donations to his charity. While there is no such thing as a bad charitable donation in any situation, the teams that have gone above and beyond in coming up with cool gifts for Mo have done a great job in doing so, the Indians being no exception.

Really, this is a perfect gift for Rivera, who has arguably become more famous than the song itself, making people think of him before Metallica when the opening riff is played.

This was easily the best gift of Mariano's farewell tour so far this year, with the exception of Minnesota's gift, the Chair of Broken Dreams, which will definitely be making an appearance later in the countdown.

The album was presented to him by Indians president Mark Shapiro, along with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame president Greg Harris.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 40th Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera is obviously influential on a baseball field, but it can be argued that he is just as influential off of it. Rivera, a native of Panama, was finishing a series with the New York Yankees in Texas against the Rangers. That same night, the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, a North American international soccer tournament, were being held in Cowboys Stadium. His native Panama were taking on Mexico that night, and Mariano just had to be there to support his countrymen.

The day before the game, Rivera met up with the Panama national team to deliver some words of wisdom ahead of a match in which they were surely underdogs, not only because of the level of talent possessed by Mexico, but because of the proximity of the game to Mexico itself, which resulted in a large percentage of the crowd cheering for El Tri.

Rivera certainly inspired the Panamanian team, known as Los Canaleros, leading striker Blas Perez, who plays in the MLS with FC Dallas, to say this of Mariano's meeting with the team prior to the match:

"It was a very motivational conversation, He’s a person who is a great believer in God, he gave us a lot of inspiring quotes that will stay with us and we have to [look to him] as a great example. Mariano’s a great figure in Panama and the US and we’re hoping to do the great things he’s done."

It was only the second time that Panama had reached the semifinals of the tournament and, thanks in part to Rivera's pep talk, the team came through with a shocking 2-1 victory over Mexico. In the video below, Mariano spoke about the match to reporters at around the 2:20 mark.

Mariano Rivera is clearly a great inspiration on the baseball field, but he is also one wherever else he goes, as evidenced by this quintessential Mariano Rivera moment.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 41st Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Mariano Rivera is certainly the greatest closer in baseball history, but many people don't remember that he also saw four plate appearances in his storied 19 year career. And despite having a batting average of .000, Mo still managed to drive in one run in his career in the number 41 moment of his career.

In 2009, back when Sunday Night Baseball was a big deal and the Subway Series was still kind of cool, Mariano Rivera stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded. He was in the middle of a multiple inning save attempt, so could not be pinch hit for. He was going to have to face Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez on his own.

Rivera hung in there, working the count full against the man known as K-Rod for much of his career. The payoff pitch was amazing, hilarious, and another notch in the belt of Mariano Rivera.

Even when he's at the plate, Mariano Rivera is able to intimidate the person standing 60 feet and 6 inches away from him. That's what has made him so great, and that's why this moment made the countdown.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

42 For 42: Mariano Rivera's 42nd Greatest Moment
By: Jay Sanin
Believe it or not, there are only 42 games remaining in the final regular season of the storied career of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. With the playoffs looking unlikely for the Yankees this season, it's also possible that these next 42 games will be it for the most storied closer in baseball history.

In honor of the Yankees legend, we here at 104.5 The Team have decided to pay tribute to Rivera in these last 42 games by counting down the 42 greatest, most influential, most quintessential Mariano Rivera moments from throughout his career, recounting the good, the bad, and everything that made him such a legend.

The countdown starts at number 42, which is a recent moment from Mo, thus one that is not nearly as powerful as some of those from earlier in his career. However, as the career of the player on the other side of this moment continues to develop, this moment may look much more impressive, especially if he can continue playing like he is in his rookie season.

The 42nd greatest moment in our 42 for 42 countdown is Mariano Rivera's strikeout of Yasiel Puig from the 2013 season.

Puig has taken the baseball world by storm this season, combining his speed, power, strong arm and all-around athleticism into a phenomenon that breathed life into a baseball season where storylines were lacking at times.

This matchup between Puig and Rivera was captivating, not only because it was a matchup between two very skilled players, but also because it pitted Rivera, one of the last great players to come up in the 1990s with Puig, who was in his first season. It was the ultimate battle between the old school and the new school, one that Rivera won, in typical Mariano Rivera fashion, as he's done so many times since becoming a Yankee in 1995, when I was just four years old.

By: Jay Sanin. Follow him on Twitter @Jay_Sanin

A-Rod Could Have Been LeBron James
By: Mike Lindsley
Alex Rodriguez had the goods as a baseball teenager. Five tools is what you heard. Talent through the roof. And the smile and good looks to make him a TV superstar. Oops. Just about two decades later, we have nothing in terms of A-Rod. His lies and deception and silly acts and steroid use are tireless at this point. What could have been? A lot more. A lot more as in baseball's LeBron James.

LeBron has delivered, unlike A-Rod. He was the most hyped athlete of all-time. High school to the NBA. Led a Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals with no-name players. He has won two titles in Miami. He has turned into a King. He has four league MVP awards and now relishes the postseason and has shown he can dominate in the NBA Finals. James is now clutch. He's the league's best passer and fast break player and the toughest match-up in the land. He is a good teammate and gets the best out of his Heat outfit. He gives back to his high school and Pop Warner teams and rides a bike with regular people for a good cause and poses pictures on jury duty. James doesn't fake a thing about it, unlike A-Rod, who commits to a charity named after a young man who committed suicide due to his lack of control off steroids, and then A-Rod himself lacks control and gets linked to Biogenesis. Talk about different athletes here.

We have the guy who gets it and the guy who is clueless. But they could have been one in the same in different sports.

But instead, there is LeBron James the good in basketball and A-Rod the bad in baseball.

By: Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," M-F 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

The Real A-Rod Suspension Situation.
By: Mike Lindsley
A-Rod has been suspended 211 games by Major League Baseball for, according to the official statement released, possessing testosterone and human-growth hormone over multiple years, for attempting to hide his violations and for "a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner," announced Monday by MLB.More... Rodriguez was first suspended for 214 games. Then 211, starting this Thursday. And can actually play while appealing, which he has three days to do. WHAAAAAT? Are you confused yet?

This is all you need to know in this order about the entire A-Rod soap/drug opera:

1. A-Rod was suspended by MLB at 3:00 PM EST on Monday, August 5 for repeatedly violating the Joint Drug Policy and impeding the investigation about Biogenesis through the 2014 season.

2. He has been given a three-day appeal window, which puts the initial suspension of 214 at 211 because A-Rod is allowed to play during the appeal and will play at least three games. ESPN television does a horrendous job explaining these things.

3. It looks like A-Rod will appeal within this 72-hour period, which means the ACTUAL appeal will not be heard until early October or November. Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, has already stated as much. A-Rod will likely have nothing going on in October because the Yanks won't be playing OR he will lose the appeal if heard in October because Rodriguez doesn't come through during this month anyway (come on, laugh a little).

So there you have it. In the end, expect Alex Rodriguez to miss somewhere between 150-211 games starting next season. The only guarantees in all of this should A-Rod appeal, which he will because he is A-Rod, will be that Rodriguez will miss all of next season and will in fact play the rest of this season because of the appeals process. He could miss part of 2015 only if the game total of the suspension is obviously greater than 162, a full MLB season.

By: Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," M-F 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Hiroki Kuroda is Yanks’ MVP in 2013.
By: Mike Lindsley
Just having the nonsense with Alex Rodriguez would be enough to tarnish a season for the New York Yankees, even one in which they made the playoffs and fought for the American League flag. But on top of that you have so many other things that have gone wrong.

Derek Jeter not being able to get on the field as well as Mark Teixeira's season-ending injury and Curtis Granderson missing tons of time.

Horrible signings. Vernon Wells, Kevin Youkilis, Travis Hafner. Really, Brian Cashman?

A very likely non-playoff year.

A very likely non-playoff year for Mr. Postseason Mariano Rivera in his final season.

The awful production of Phil Hughes and regression of CC Sabathia and the continued spiral of Andy Pettitte.

The lineup that looks Little League-ish on some nights.

Yea the team has had some issues in 2013. And then there is Hiroki Kuroda.

Kuroda has been the team's MVP. Not even close. For all of the problems on the pitching staff, and yes the pitching overall as well as the bullpen have been good enough to win more games than New York has, Kuroda has been the #1 guy, the stabilizer, the guy who has somehow gone pitch for pitch with guys named Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and Matt Harvey. Kuroda has given the Yanks a chance to win in every start but one this season. And he hasn't gotten any offense. Yet he has double digit wins and his ERA is lower than most. He should have 15 wins.

So for all of the dark and doom and gloom this season for the pinstripes, if there has been one bright spot, look no further than Hiroki Kuroda.

He's been called crafty and unflappable and a stabilizer.

Add 2013 New York Yankees MVP to that list of names.

By: Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," M-F 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Robinson Cano's Production Key For Yanks Down The Stretch.
By: Mike Lindsley
It never comes down to one guy in team sports (basketball sometimes), but when a major RBI man in a baseball lineup has big game after big game down the stretch of a season, it rubs off on everyone else and the team is overall is a much better place in terms of making the postseason. If the Yankees are to make the playoffs, they need Robinson Cano to produce. Plain and simple.

Derek Jeter's place with the Yankees is forever cemented. He proved that again in his Sunday comeback game against Tampa Bay, going 2-4 with a first pitch, first at-bat home run that set the tone in an eventual 6-5 win. But can Jeter carry the Yanks with his still-recovering ankle and at age 39? Unlikely. The future might be Cano's in this spot. The future face of the franchise might be Cano. Thus, he must produce when it's on the line. And October is very much on the line right now as the dog days of August near.

The Yanks are looking up at the AL East leader and more realistically, the AL Wild Card spots. They have only missed the playoffs once since 1994, the 2008 season, manager Joe Girardi's first with the team. If they are to make it again, New York needs everyone's effort.

But one guy the most. Robinson Cano. Cano's Yankee future is at-stake as he becomes a free agent after 2013.

He would do himself a favor by being the main reason the New York Yankees make the playoffs again this season.

By: Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," M-F 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Alex Rodriguez Could Face Lifetime Ban.
By: Mike Lindsley
Citing Major League Baseball sources, Jim Axelrod of CBS Evening News reports that Alex Rodriguez could be dealt a lifetime ban for using performance-enhancing drugs through Biogenesis.

A source from MLB said a plea deal looks pretty bleak for A-Rod right now. Rodriguez, it appears, is in much deeper than Ryan Braun of the Brewers, who was recently suspended for the rest of the season for his involvement with the Miami clinic. Sources are actually calling the evidence against A-Rod "far beyond" what MLB had on Braun.

Amazingly, A-Rod has never been suspended for steroid use even though he admitted using PED's in 2009 and a book was released stating his drug use. A first time offense is 50 games. A second offense is 100 games. A third offense is a lifetime ban. Rodriguez is believed to have multiple offenses within the Biogenesis era which would give him that 50-150 game territory. However, if they are major offenses, Rodriguez could fall into that "lifetime ban" category because as stated above, three violations of MLB's drug policy removes a player from the game.

Whatever the suspension ends up being, it is believed to come down in two to three weeks.

By: Mike Lindsley, "Mid-Day with Mike," M-F 1-4, Yankees pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

How the Yanks Can Make the 2013 Playoffs.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees are projected for 87 wins. They have 26 games in the second half against the Rays, Orioles and Red Sox with 12 against Boston. How can the Yanks make the playoffs for the 18th time in 19 seasons? Here is how:

1. Timely hitting. The Yankee offense is brutal to be kind. Other than Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner penciled in, you have no idea who will be in there. Can Derek Jeter do something? Can Curtis Granderson provide something? Can, gulp, Alex Rodriguez come back and give New York more than David Adams did or what Kevin Youkilis was supposed to give? Whoever it is, the Yanks need to hit with runners on base, period.

2. Big 2nd from CC. CC Sabathia must pitch better in the second half. He won't ever be the 2007-2011 Sabathia again, but he must look at least like a #2 guy or half of a #1, not a #3 or #4.

3. Bullpen to Mo. The bullpen overall has been good. If the pen can get the ball to x-factor Mariano Rivera even more in one-run games and close games, New York has a shot to get back in this thing.

4. Beat the East. As you saw above, the Yanks play a heap of games against AL East counterparts. They must win series against the Rays, Red Sox and Birds because chances are, those teams will be battling for the AL Wild Cards, if not the AL East, like the Yanks.

5. Cano the carrier. Robinson Cano hasn't had a lot of protection in the lineup, but he also has come up empty a lot this year. He needs to provide the Yanks with big hits in big spots. Cano's production could add five more wins alone.

Prediction: Yankees somehow make the playoffs. Sabathia usually turns it up in the second half, the pitching will continue as a pleasant surprise, the Yanks will get a few players back and the bullpen should be solid. If nothing else, the entire team should put everything on the line so that Mariano Rivera gets one more crack at October.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

A-Rod’s Latest Should Surprise No One.
By: Mike Lindsley
Alex Rodriguez is a clown. He is a fraud. He is a broken-down steroid user. He is a cheater. He is bad for baseball. He is downright horrible for the Yankees. And, like the 5th grade student in the back of the room who can't stop annoying the teacher, he is a bad boy with bad behavior.

So this latest episode of Tweeting that he has been cleared for rehab games by his hip doctor Bryan Kelly, when he isn't even close to rehab games and should really be cleared by HELLO, his baseball team and team doctors, should come as no surprise to anyone. The circus that is A-Rod never ends.

General Manager Brian Cashman, the guy who never wanted A-Rod back in 2007 after the drama queen opted out of his contract, told, \"You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will].\" \"Alex should just shut the f--- up. That's it. I'm going to call Alex now.\" Cashman had enough of Rodriguez a long time ago. Now he is publicly swearing about him. That is what A-Roid has done to the franchise. Embarrassment, failure on the field (which should be bad enough) and organization staples (love or hate Cashman all you want, he is one) stressing out in public and dropping f-bombs in frustration.

This is what Hank and Hal Steinbrenner wanted. They wanted A-Rod representing the Yankees for years to come, even if it wasn't what was best for the team and the face of the franchise Derek Jeter. And so the re-upped contract came with more years and more money and more incentives. Then the steroids (twice?) and the poker games and the back pages and the lying and the troubling figures in his camp, including Tony Bosch of Biogenesis. The Steinbrenners still sit around and do nothing about it other than saying they are \"disappointed in him.\" Well, being disappointed isn't enough.

The Steinbrenner pretty boys are still the only ones who can fix it. Their Dad would have dropped A-Rod a long time ago and eaten the money. Because even \"The Boss\" would have eventually figured out that Alex Rodriguez has tainted those pinstripes long enough.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Most Beloved Yank of All-Time.
By: Mike Lindsley
Picking greatest Yankees in any category is like splitting hairs or flipping a coin or picking the most ripe apple in the bunch during the months of September and October in the Northeast. How about the most beloved Yankee of all-time? Just as tough as the next question when regarding the pinstripes, but I have narrowed it (I think) down to a Top 5. Enjoy.
  1. Mickey Mantle. Mantle took over for the legendary Joe DiMaggio in centerfield. People took right away to his lethal combination of speed and power, the greatest combination of those skills the game has ever seen. He had the charm and the youth and the look and the smile. He came from the Midwest to New York and excelled, which people from that area of the country aren't supposed to do. He was on television and in the spotlight more than Duke Snider and Willie Mays because he was in the World Series just about every year during the Golden Age of Baseball in New York City. Even though people knew about The Mick's womanizing and drinking, there was something about the Yankee star that made people not care. They loved him too much. Plus, what is not to love about the baseball name Mickey Mantle? Too perfect. Legendary public address announcer Bob Sheppard once noted that Mickey Mantle was one of his favorite names to announce. Sheppard once said, \"Mickey Mantle says 'Every time Bob Sheppard introduced me at Yankee Stadium, I got shivers up my spine.' And I said to him, 'So did I.'\" Only Mickey Mantle could do that to "The Voice of God.\"

  2. Don Mattingly. There is a feeling of love but also sadness that turns into more love because Mattingly, unlike so many Yanks legends before and after him, never played in or won a World Series. Mattingly had 14 great seasons in pinstripes but appeared in just one postseason (1995). He won an MVP and was a leader. But "Donnie Baseball" played on some awful teams. Many Yankee fans would trade in one Joe Torre era World Series win for one during Mattingly's tenure. That is how much fans love him.

  3. Lou Gehrig. Babe Ruth was beloved, but not like \"The Iron Horse.\" Gehrig brought a new sense of pride (yes, pun intended) and class to the Yanks. Later, he lost his life to the disease that claimed his name, which made Gehrig a tragic figure and enhanced people's love for him even more.

  4. Thurman Munson. Players in Yankee history wanted to win as bad as Munson, but not more than him. Munson defined guts, winning, class, intensity and teamwork all in one. August 2, 1979 will never be forgotten, when Munson was tragically killed in a plane crash while flying back to see his family in Ohio. Munson's legacy lives on and the love people show for him in the Bronx to this day is astounding.

  5. Derek Jeter. Talk about winning. Five World Series rings and seven Fall Classic appearances. From day one as a rookie in 1996, Jeter took the bull by the horns and made the Yankees his franchise, which isn't easy to do and the fans came to love him for it right away. The legend grew from there with leadership, amazing October feats and Hall of Fame benchmarks like 3,000 hits. Jeter crosses over to many pockets of baseball fans including women who love his looks and even those who hate the Yanks but can't hate Jeter. He has been too good for the game. Every Little League player should aspire to be Derek Jeter. Class, respect, will, leadership, teamwork, love for the game, winner, good attitude, guts and a clutch player you can count on. People love those qualities and they should. Derek Jeter represents them all.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Oakland Coliseum is new horror house of baseball for Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees' troubles at Tropicana Field are no secret, but add Oakland Coliseum to the list as the new baseball horror house for New York. The recent series sweep by the A's was ugly.

It started in Game 1 with CC Sabathia having no control or command of his pitches. The Athletics' lineup took advantage and hit balls hard all over the yard in a 6-4 win. Then, in Game 2, Phil Hughes did his usual less than five innings work day, the bullpen imploded in the 8th inning (Joba Chamberlain) and the Yankee 3-6 hitters went 0-13 in a 5-2 loss. Game 3 was a horrendous 18-inning 3-2 loss where the bullpen was burned and the heart of the Yankee order went 0-28 with 12 strikeouts.

The Yanks just look uncomfortable in Oakland. They are tentative at the plate and don't get key hits. Their pitchers seem distracted. The A's have won 10 of their last 13 overall against New York, including seven straight at the Oakland Coliseum.

Tropicana Field has company in terms of horror houses of baseball for the Yankees. Oakland Coliseum has been added to the list.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

A-Rod Clown Show Must End.
By: Mike Lindsley
Cheating and lying in Texas while using performance enhancing drugs while playing on the richest contract in baseball history. Cheating and lying through steroid use and coming out and admitting it, while causing a circus in New York and using teammates as pawns, only to in the end try and look like the innocent and sad sorry guy who would change his baseball and personal life if we all forgave him.

And then the involvement with Dr. Anthony Galea and his products. And then the cherry on the steroid sundae. Biogenesis and Tony Bosch and paying people close to the Miami-based PED clinic not to say anything about his involvement.

Enough is enough with Alex Rodriguez. The clown show must stop. The pre-Madonna must go away. It doesn't matter who makes A-Fraud go away first. It doesn't matter if A-Rod walks away or MLB suspends him for the Biogenesis involvement for 100 games, ultimately leading to the end of a joke of a career, or here is a suggestion.

How about the Yankees take care of A-Roid? He is their problem, after all. Phony Hal Steinbrenner and his punk brother Hank are disappointed in Rodriguez and Hal wants him to "act like a Yankee." How about A-Rod not being a Yank at all so you don't have to worry about it?

The Yankees created the problem. Actually, George Steinbrenner's idiot sons created the problem, by bringing back A-Rod after he opted out of that mega contract in 2007. So now, Hank and Hal can be like their Dad once and for all, and create the beginning of their own Yankee legacy as team owners.


The clown show must end.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

2013 Needs To Be The End For Andy Pettitte and Yanks
By: Mike Lindsley
No one will ever forget the postseason wins, the bulldog mentality, the cap set down just above the eyebrows as the cutter dives in on righties and away from lefties. No one will forget saving the bacon in the Bronx time after time after time, nor will they forget outdueling John Smoltz in the 1996 World Series.

But this isn't 1996 anymore. Hell, it isn't 2009 anymore, either. Andy Pettitte and the Yankees need to be finished with one another after this year, once and for all.

The same movie has played again in 2013. It starts the same way each time, with Pettitte in great shape in the offseason at his Texas home, talking to his wife and kids about playing another year in the big leagues. Then he signs a one-year deal with the Yanks. Then he pitches a few times like it's 1996 again. And then he gets hurt, comes back, gets hit, gets hurt, comes back, gets hurt again and then the Yanks hope he is healthy for postseason play. And for what, one possible good start in the American League Division Series?

This is getting old. Look at the Cardinals, Giants, Reds, Rangers, Tigers and Nationals. All of those teams are built for the next seven to 10 years and are championship contenders in those years. Why? Deep starting pitching through the farm that isn't aging. Look also at the Rays, a team that during the long haul of a season doesn't advance as far as the Yanks, but give them trouble during the season because of active, young arms.

Pettitte is the last great Yankee arm from the farm. New York needs more, of course, and needs to rebuild the pitching staff through the minor leagues and smart free agent signings or trades in order to contend for a title for the next decade.

Pettitte's time in the Bronx has been wonderful. But that time is up.

The movie needs a new actor.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Let Phil Hughes Walk After 2013.
By: Mike Lindsley
After this season, the Yankees have a decision to make in terms of Phil Hughes, the guy once designated for pinstripe greatness and ace-type status. Hughes' contract (third year, arbitration eligible, one-year, $7.15 million) is up this year. Here are the three options for the Yanks as far as Hughes goes after 2013:
  1. Let him walk. Hughes will get paid somewhere and probably a lot of money just because the premium on pitching is so needed and high. Hughes as a back-end guy in the National League for the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Cubs or Marlins would be a great fit for him and a chance to revitalize his career without the fishbowl that is New York City.
  2. Sign him and start him deep in the rotation. Hughes will never be a #1, #2 or #3 guy. He might not be a #4 either. The Yanks could sign him and put him at #5 and pray every fifth day that he gives the team a chance to win.
  3. Sign him and make Hughes a reliever. Remember 2009? Hughes was Mariano Rivera's set-up guy by accident and the Yanks flourished. There was less pressure on Hughes, he seemed to like the role and his fastball never lost pop. Maybe the Yanks try and rediscover that.
The verdict: In the end, the Yanks should let him walk. Hughes isn't worth the headache or $50-$60 million over four years which he will likely command. Time to move on with another pitching prospect who never worked out in pinstripes.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Derek Jeter Will Never Be the Same.
By: Mike Lindsley
3,000 hits. Well over .300 batting average. The rings and the pennants and the October moments. Derek Jeter is a first ballot Hall of Famer and no one should doubt that. But Derek Jeter will never again be that Derek Jeter.

The injured ankle is a lot to come back from, even for Derek Jeter. Jeter said Opening Day was his return date. And it wasn't even close to the return date. And now we wait until at least late July for the return of the Yankee captain.

Derek Jeter will never again be THAT Derek Jeter because his feet are important to his game. A repaired and once broken ankle doesn't help. He needs both feet to move laterally and effectively at shortstop. He needs that left foot to both plant and drive the ball to mostly right field, a swing we have been so accustomed to since 1996.

Jeter also turns 39 in June. His body isn't what it was. And no matter what Jeter says, ANY injury is harder to come back from at 39 as opposed to 25.

Jeter was great. He may surprise us when he returns this year and beyond to finish his amazing Yankee career. But don't expect to see Jeter be the old Jeter consistently ever again.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Ichiro is First Ballot Material.
By: Mike Lindsley
Over 2,600 hits. A .322 lifetime batting average. More than 3,400 total bases. 450+ steals. 1,200+ runs scored. Over 600 RBI and over 100 home runs for a non-power player. Ichiro Suzuki is not a Hall of Famer. He is a first ballot Hall of Famer.

And the reason actually has nothing to do with numbers. The numbers above would qualify him to be in the discussion as a first ballot guy. But it is his pioneering of the game from Japan that puts him up a level to earn the label of a first ballot Hall of Famer. Look at the amount of Asian players in the game now. Hideo Nomo was one thing for pitchers. But Ichiro carried the torch in the early 2000's and paved the way for hitters who never really made it over to play Major League Baseball. Ichiro set the tone for decades in the Far East. Now, teams scout differently and put more finances in the Far East and general managers look for the next Japanese player to help their team. That didn't happen pre-Ichiro.

Ichiro has played the game with class, dignity and respect. Hopefully, the baseball writers return the favor by making him a first ballot Hall of Famer in Cooperstown. The guy deserves it.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Leadership Still Key For Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
Talk all day long about the 2013 replacement players in pinstripes. Talk about general manager Brian Cashman taking chances. Talk about the starting pitching being good enough in spots. Talk about whatever you'd like as the main reason for the Yankees' demise not quite happening just yet like some thought. The real talk is the leadership and presence of Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte. As long as those three are in the Bronx, it starts and ends with that.

One of the big reasons why the Yankees are where they are is because guys like Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner get into the clubhouse and don't want to fail in front of Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera, and now in front of Derek Jeter, who is the captain and back in the dugout watching games (which you know drives him crazy). These guys are Yankees. They are core Yankees. Hall of Fame Yankees. And they have rings. These three make everyone better from just being there, talking to players and having a presence that rubs off on others. Rivera, even more than that, is dominating at age 43. Players marvel at that and respect him. Think Michael Jordan making the 1990's Chicago Bulls six-time champions. It is the same thing.

Obviously, these three legends are not 30 anymore and in their absolute prime (Rivera might be challenging that), but them being around the team and playing at a high enough level alone makes the Yankees' demise a tad premature. When Mo, DJ and Pettitte are officially gone and their skills completely diminished on a baseball field, however, it will be one scary future in the Bronx.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Yanks' Leadership is Slowly Dwindling.
By: Mike Lindsley
Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada, two core Yankee players from the Joe Torre era, are long gone. Mariano Rivera, another quiet leader by example, is retiring after this season. Andy Pettitte is near the end. And the Yankee captain, Derek Jeter, won't be back in the lineup until who knows when and is nearing 40. Leadership used to be a huge piece of the Yankees' winning puzzle. That leadership is dwindling away.

Some players lead by example and don't have to say much. Some players are more vocal but do it behind the scenes. Some players talk the right way to the media as the team leader and representative. Jeter, for example, has done all three well but mostly the first two to perfection. If Robinson Cano signs a big deal, he could lead the team, but we have not seen any signs of him being a leader up to this point. CC Sabathia is a quiet leader, but not an original Yank. Curtis Granderson might not even be in the Bronx next year. Brett Gardner? Uh, no. Mark Teixeira? Not likely. Ivan Nova? No way.

Winning ballgames cures everything. When you win, no one worries about chemistry or leadership or anything else. But when you go through losing streaks and tough times, those things come up a lot and leaders are needed more than ever. The Yankees are coming to the point where leadership will be lacking and that is a scary thought.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

Farm Pitching.
By: Mike Lindsley
Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy never panned out. Now, the best in the Yankee farm system is Manny Banuelos, who is out for the minor league year with Tommy John surgery and who knows if Dellin Betances will ever emerge like the Yanks said he would two years ago. The Mets on the other hand...They don't have the rings and pennants and division titles or the fan base like the Yankees do, but strictly speaking about the pitchers in the farm system, they have what the Yanks need. Matt Harvey is a stud and Zach Wheeler (acquired in the Carlos Beltran deal) is coming through the minor leagues now and appears to be the real deal thanks to his mid-90s fastball, plus curve and big league-ready changeup. The Met phenoms are what Banuelos from the left side and Betances from the right side were hyped to be two years ago and are supposed to be now.

The Yankees haven't developed a farm pitcher since Andy Pettitte. They sign and trade and trade and sign. But don't develop. Championships are won with farm system pitching in today's baseball age. Ask the Giants, not the Yankees.

By: Mike Lindsley, \"Mid-Day with Mike,\" 1-4, Yankee pre/post-game host on 104.5 ESPN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

How much is Robinson Cano worth?
By: Mike Lindsley
Brian Kenny of MLB Network recently suggested that Robinson Cano should get $252 million after this year because he is worth seven wins per season in the stupid category of \"Wins Above Replacement.\" This category is almost as stupid as giving Carl Pavano $40 million over four years. Why? Seven wins in the regular season means nothing in the postseason if you don't hit and lead, which Cano has yet to do either.

So that brings us to how much Cano is worth after this season, his free agent year. He is a clear five-tool player with talent so the Yanks do want to keep him and rightfully so, and Robbie dumped agent Scott Boras for Jay-Z, so the deal should be a little easier to close for Hank and Hal (if they even remember they are running the team) and Brian Cashman.

10-years is too long of a deal. Five years is too short. Think seven years and $20 million per season. Pitchers like Justin Verlander are getting that kind of money, but they DO make a difference. Until Cano makes a difference in October and leads the team (which he probably never will because it isn't in his DNA), he is worth more than $15 million annually, but not quite worth Albert Pujols money.

By: Mike Lindsley, 1-4 daily host and Yankee pre/post game host on 104.5 The Team. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLSports.

2013 New York Yankees preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees are the same, yet so different from last year. No Nick Swisher. No Raul Ibanez. No Russell Martin. Enter Kevin Youkilis and some baseball nomads.

Other than that, they look the same. The difference? They aren't healthy, not by a long shot. There are injuries or holes at first base, center field, third base and catcher. The pitching staff is pretty much the same. Here is a breakdown of the Bronx Bombers (using that term lightly, of course).

Greatest strength: Pitching staff.

Don't laugh. This team is a mess offensively. And the bullpen is a question if for nothing but Mariano Rivera coming back from a torn ACL and turning 43. At least the Yanks can trot out five starters who give them a chance to win with David Phelps making spots starts if need be.

Greatest weakness: Age and injuries.

Mark Teixeira (torn tendon), Curtis Granderson (forearm), Derek Jeter (ankle), Alex Rodriguez (everything) and whoever is next. This team is so beat up and all of the players mentioned are a year older. Even the general manager went down in the offseason skydiving for war veterans. It will be a challenge to keep the roster together at any time this season.

Most important player: Robinson Cano

Too easy of a choice. With Jeter’s lingering ankle injury and the injuries to Tex and Granderson, Cano must produce. He is also in a contract year and will be the face of the franchise if he isn’t already. Cano went back to some of his old habits in the postseason last year, however, and has to get his focus back and play harder, plus come up with big hits in October to get the big paycheck. The Yanks need him now more than ever.

Most important pitcher: Ivan Nova

We already know what CC Sabathia will do if healthy (bulldog, innings eater, stop losing streaks, etc) and what Andy Pettitte will do (get hurt by July, come back in September, pitch average in October and contemplate another year). Phil Hughes will never materialize. Hiroki Kuroda had a nice 2012 and should be fine. The wild card is the all-of-a-sudden not-so-confident Nova. He won 16 games in 2011 and fell on his face in 2012 and barely stayed in the rotation. He is the absolute key to this staff because he is young and brings so many different pitches to the plate against all types of hitters.

Key part of the schedule: August 9-22.

The Yanks play three against Detroit, three against the Angels and three at Boston with a day off and then a three-game homestand with Toronto. This may very well be the make-it or break-it time in the schedule and will set-up September and a playoff run. Plus, it will show if the Yanks are legit or not.

Key six-pack: Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia.

By late May, the Yanks need these six healthy and playing well. If not, things will get ugly very quickly.

Projected record and finish: 92-70. AL East champs. ALDS first round loss.

Yea, the Blue Jays made moves. The Rays have pitching. Buck's boys in Baltimore are somewhat back. But Boston is still way down. Toronto has to prove it. Tampa Bay has no offense. And Baltimore can’t do what they did last year again, can they? This division is still New York’s to lose. And the Yankees still have enough talent and offense to win games in the regular season and beat #4 and #5 rotation pitchers. The problem is the postseason, where they are still nowhere near built for a run or a ring.

Breaking Down the Rotation.
By: Mike Lindsley
Ok, so we know that the Yankees pitching staff (and most of the team for that matter) will look pretty similar to 2012. That isn’t necessarily a good thing. Below is the 1-5 rotation and the upside and downside to each pitcher this season, along with who is in line to join the staff should an injury happen or surprising progress take place.

1. CC Sabathia.

Upside: CC wants the ball. He stops losing streaks. He eats innings. He saves bullpens. He is the horse of this rotation and has pitched through postseasons, which in New York, is literally priceless. You could make the argument that CC has been the best big game pitcher in MLB since 2008 and certainly the most important ace to a respective team in all of baseball as well.

Downside: Weight and work. When does Sabathia finally crumble due to his frame and amount of work? While he does eat innings and save bullpens as mentioned above, you feel every year that his arm is going to snap off or his big body will cause injury. Is 2013 the year where he breaks down or starts to break down?

2. Hiroki Kuroda.

Upside: Kuroda proved he could pitch in the AL East and helped erase the unknown question mark that was the Yanks staff going into 2012. So the proof is there.

Downside: Teams may have figured him out. Elite hitters (Major League hitters for that matter) coupled with the amount of video are cause for concern that Kuroda won’t be able to give the Yanks 16 wins and nearly 220 innings pitched from a year ago.

3. Andy Pettitte.

Upside: The Yankee veteran on this team and one of the greatest Yankee arms of all-time keeps the staff steady and is the lefty they need. He works with the youngsters and is another guy who wants the ball in big spots and isn’t afraid of failure. He also attacks people as opposed to #4 to come.

Downside: The usual Pettitte injury, wait for him to come back, and then not be himself by October. This has happened the last two years. Frankly, the Yanks should have let him walk after 2012. Is it really worth $12 million to get 4-12 wins? Eventually, time is going to be up for #46 who turns 41 in June.

4. Phil Hughes.

Upside: He is still just 26 and has an arsenal of pitches. He is a power guy who’s fastball, when it is on, can set-up one of the most devastating curve balls in the game.

Downside: How long can you wait for Hughes to be a big part of the future in the Bronx? The Yanks have developed him the right way for the most part, now it is time for “In Phil We Trust” to come to fruition. That starts with Hughes attacking hitters and not nibbling around the strike zone.

5. Ivan Nova.

Upside: Nova (PP believes he will beat out David Phelps for the 5 spot) won 16 games in 2011 and is only 26 years old, like Hughes. He throws four pitches and brings a unique style to the staff from the right side. His down year in 2012 after success the prior season is part of the growing pains in the big leagues. The problem with that is you aren’t allowed growing pains when you wear a New York Yankees uniform.

Downside: Confidence. It was enough that Nova regressed from 16 wins to 12 and his ERA ballooned from 3.70 to 5.02 from 2011 to 2012. But Nova’s confidence was shot in the early going and he never recovered. He has to get his mind right in Spring Training.

Next in line:

1. David Phelps.

Upside: 26 years old and a utility arm you can use in the rotation and bullpen who throws strikes early in the count.

Downside: Hasn’t developed enough for the Yanks to this point.

2. Michael Pineda.

Upside: Throws 97+. Just 24 years old. Fastball-slider combo has the potential to be lethal.

Downside: He is recovering from a torn labrum and appears to be damaged goods. This was Brian Cashman’s worst trade in years, acquiring Pineda from Seattle for top prospect Jesus Montero on January 23, 2012 (Hector Noesi was shipped to the West Coast as well and could have been used as trade bait in another deal). The Yanks don’t expect much from him in 2013.

The Yankees’ 5 Burning Spring Training Questions.
By: Mike Lindsley
1. How will Derek Jeter (ankle) and Mariano Rivera (torn ACL) return from injuries?

They are a huge part of this team obviously, a team that is pretty much the same club as last year. The Yanks are hoping for production from both Core Four guys considering the make-up of this team is still built around DJ and Mo (for good and bad reasons). The Yankee bullpen must get another solid year out of Rivera because it isn’t as deep as last year or the year before and doesn’t have Rafael Soriano to fill-in or spot close. Jeter must hit in key spots because the Yankees are a one dimensional, home run-hitting team until they prove otherwise.

2. Who plays center field?

Curtis Granderson has been there and Brett Gardner returns, the normal left fielder. But the Yankees are exploring their options in center because of Granderson’s weaker arm and declining fielding ability. Both players are fast and can close gaps quickly. Granderson turns 32 on March 16 while Gardner doesn’t turn 30 until August 24. Does that age comparison of two years make more of a difference than pure skill set and potential? Only Yankee brass has the answer.

3. How much production will the team get from Kevin Youkilis?

The former Red Sox player and hated man is now the third baseman for the Yanks while Alex Rodriguez rehabs from hip surgery, steroid use, more steroid use, a broken down body, more steroid use and a more broken down body. How much can Youk produce for the Bombers? Expect the 33-year old to perform similarly to 2012 with a little less production. Let’s count on a .275 batting average, 15 home runs, 40 RBI and slightly above average glove work at the hot corner. He has shown the ability to hit the other way at times, which would benefit him this season thanks to the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium.

4. Who is catching?

This is perhaps the weakest link on the Yankee roster. No more Russell Martin (signed with Pittsburgh for way too much money anyway). The days of Jorge Posada are long gone (Did you appreciate him enough when he was in pinstripes?). And Yogi Berra probably cannot catch. So who is the guy? Francisco Cervelli, Austin Romine and Chris Stewart will battle it out for the starting role. But the reality is these guys are all platoon players and not good enough to start on a regular basis. Expect Joe Girardi to split time with all three with Cervelli and Stewart getting the most time with Romine (good defense, poor offense, especially hitting off-speed stuff) grooming underneath the others with a shot at the starting role in 2014.

5. What’s next for Cano?

This is the biggest year in pinstripes for the Yankee second baseman. He is signed through 2013 but that is it. Cano regressed in the postseason by not hitting in the clutch, showed some of his lazy tactics again out of the batter’s box and had 24 less RBI in 2012 than 2011. The Yankees have a lot of options. 2013 will set-up a three-year deal, a long-term deal or maybe the Yanks even trade him halfway through the season to replenish the farm system which is overrated and down when compared to over half of Major League Baseball teams.

Mike Lindsley’s Top 5 Reasons to Hate Alex Rodriguez Right Now.
By: Mike Lindsley
1. He lied again.

So A-Rod not only took steroids back in the day and announced it with the Yankees, but he also later said he was all done with it, done with the performance enhancing drugs that helped him hit all of those home runs and drive in all of those runs. Not the case. BALCO East, or Biogenesis or whatever you want to call it has links to A-Rod getting PED’s and taking steroids this whole time. What a liar and a cheater and a fraud.

2. Even worse teammate.

Everyone, even Derek Jeter, defended the guy. They defended him and understood that people can make mistakes. If I am a Yankee and I know I am playing clean and have played clean, I wouldn’t even look A-Rod in the eye.

3. Can’t stay healthy.

Due the steroid use and age, A-Rod needed hip surgery that may keep him out the entire 2013 season. So not only did he lie and cheat again, he cannot even stay healthy through it all to help the team win. This is called a waste of money.

4. Money owed.

This is why baseball contracts, which are guaranteed no matter what, are the worst in sports. How can anyone justify Alex Rodriguez not only getting paid what he does, but getting paid $130 million more on his current deal while cheating, not producing AND HELLO, NOT EVEN PLAYING??!?!?!!?!?!?? His contract is the worst in sports. You have to blame the Yanks the most, however, because they could have been out of the first contract in 2007 when Rodriguez opted out during the World Series (this was before A-Rod admitted to steroid use for a three-year period of time and before he carried the Yanks in the 2009 World Series, but the contract was still insane and the Yanks would have been better off long-term as a team without Rodriguez).

5. Bad example.

For kids and baseball and records and everything else, Alex Rodriguez is a terrible example. Here is a guy who we are supposed to remember as a five-tool, all-world baseball player who was an all-time great and attracted the American and Latino masses. Now we see needles and drugs, cheat and scam, drama and disaster whenever his face comes on TV or any medium or his name comes up in any discussion. It is amazing to think it has come to this for a baseball player who didn’t even need the steroids to begin with. The guy is an embarrassment to the Yankee uniform, an embarrassment to the game of baseball and is a total disgrace.

The Best Possible A-Rod Scenario.
By: Mike Lindsley
Forget for a second, even though it is hard to do, about the years remaining and the money remaining on one Alex Rodriguez’s contract. Five years. $130+ million. Yea, scary and hard NOT to think about. But the Yankees make enough money to cover up plenty of mistakes, and so believe it or not, no matter what the years and dollars say, this is the best possible scenario: to have A-Rod NOT PLAY at all for the Yankees in 2013.

The beautiful thing? It may actually happen.

General manager Brian Cashman recently went on ESPN Radio 98.7 in New York City and told Michael Kay and Don La Greca that there is “a chance” that A-Rod’s hip surgery could keep him out of the entire 2013 season. This is amazing news for the Yankees and for Yankee fans and for the general make-up and productivity of the team.

A-Rod is a lightning rod in the clubhouse and around the media. He is full of drama and headlines you don't want. And there has to be a little of that jealous of Jeter stuff still lingering. But mostly, the guy is completely and utterly DONE as a ballplayer. He can barely run. He can barely field his position on a day-to-day basis. He can barely get the ball to the outfield thanks to his broken down, steroid-ridden body.

The money and years left on his contract are asinine and astronomical and frustrating all at the same time. But don’t worry about that. Worry about the team being good. They are not as good with Rodriguez in there. He doesn’t move people over. He doesn’t get people in. Hell, he cannot even hit home runs, which is the only thing he used to be able to do. And that hurts considering that A-Rod always hits somewhere in the middle of the lineup. So, Who cares if the Yanks pay him not to play if it is better for the team?!!?!?? “Not I, says the Captain.” Well, Jeter would probably say that.

The Yankees are always patient and savvy and have a veteran presence when they win. But when they lose? Oh, how old the pinstripes are and how slow the team is. Well, the latter is now actually starting to come to fruition. Jeter (coming off of foot surgery), Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera (coming off of ACL injury), Mark Teixeira and Ichiro are all a year older. When does C.C. Sabathia start breaking down? A-Rod being in there and NOT producing just adds to the age thing.

So, if A-Rod misses the whole season, this is a good thing. You take out a selfish player who doesn’t produce and is a distraction for the betterment of the team. Sure, the Steinbrenner family isn’t paying him to actually play and produce, or not produce, but they are paying for something else.

The Steinbrenner family riches are, in the end, indirectly paying for the ballclub to be better.

What the Yankees Batting Order Should Be.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yanks said good-bye to Nick Swisher and Russell Martin in the off-season, may lose Alex Rodriguez for the whole season due to hip surgery, will figure out if Kevin Youkilis fits well into pinstripes and if Curtis Granderson can do anything besides hit home runs. Then there is Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, the return of Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira and Ichiro. Here is an early look at the 2013 Yankee lineup:
  1. Derek Jeter (SS)
  2. Ichiro (RF)
  3. Curtis Granderson (CF)
  4. Robinson Cano (2B)
  5. Mark Teixeira (1B)
  6. Kevin Youkilis (3B)
  7. Eduardo Nunez (DH)
  8. Chris Stewart-Francisco Cervelli-Austin Romine (C)
  9. Brett Gardner (LF)
Against right-handed pitching, just switch Jeter and Ichiro around. The key will be the 6-9 spots in the order. Can they manufacture runs or get on base for Jeter and Ichiro to hit them in? After all, last year we learned that home runs are sexy and fun in the regular season, but you need to do more to score runs in the postseason. Jeter and Ichiro are the only guys on the team who have the offensive skill set to score runs by singling, getting sacrifice flies, hitting the occasional home run and GULP, bunting people over or in on a squeeze play.

If Alex Rodriguez comes back, plug him into the 7-hole as a DH. $25 million to DH. Incredible.

The key to this offense is obviously Robinson Cano. He must produce runs from April through October if the Yankees are to win another World Series. He had a dreadful 2013 postseason and seemed to drift away mentally and not hustle again. If Cano performs like that again this October, should the Yanks make it to postseason play, New York will have to think long and hard about one of those mega contracts for the star infielder.

Spring Training isn't that far away. But the Yankees doing anything differently offensively than last year seems like an eternity away.

By: Mike Lindsley
Going into 2013, the Yankees look this way. They have a third baseman who is injured again and won't be able to hit in the clutch when he returns. His replacement is another baseball nomad who is overpaid and overrated and had his day five years ago for a bitter rival. There is no productive catcher. The pitching is a question mark. The team is old and slow and lacks speed. The team lacks depth on the bench. They are one dimensional.

Sound familiar? 2013 will be a lot like 2012 in the Bronx.

Things will be exciting at times, sure. The Yankees will hit a lot of home runs. They have stars. Derek Jeter will get more hits in his quest for 4,000 career. CC Sabathia will save the day a few times and the now-Core 3 will try and put together one more magical run. The Yankees and Mets will play silly Subway Series games that the media and fans go bonkers for. The Red Sox will come in for the usual rivalry games. And Joe Girardi will be on the hot seat for some reason or another.

But let's look at this seriously. The Yankees don't have the horses or the pieces or the anything to win a championship. And that is what it's about in New York. Division titles are sweet. Pennants are sweeter. World Series titles are the sweetest.

The Yankees didn't have a good off-season. They signed Kevin Youkilis to replace A-Rod. Youk is what the Yanks already are: slow, old, overrated and overpaid. There is no room for one more. The Ichiro one-year deal makes sense but Ichiro brings a different dynamic than most players the last 20 years so he almost doesn't count (and he is getting up there in age). Andy Pettitte is back for more staredowns from the mound, but another injury and comeback and soap opera are sure to follow. Ivan Nova seems to have regressed and Phil Hughes is the ultimate enigma. There was no addition to the bullpen that lost Rafael Soriano. The catcher spot? Good luck.

This team is good enough to win the division. Or good enough to claim the Wild Card spot or the handout Wild Card spot. But there is no reason to believe this team is any different than last year.

The only way that happens is if New York learns how to hit with two outs or Curtis Granderson can hit the ball the other way or if Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes attack and finish hitters. Or if they magically develop a farm system player (GULP) and he instantly makes something happen in the rotation or if Michael Pineda comes back and throws lightning and makes Brian Cashman look somewhat smart for trading the best prospect in the organization (Jesus Montero) for an average number two pitcher. Or if the average age gets a little younger than 36.5.

Until then, 2013 is going to look a lot like 2012.

Same Old Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
Before Yankee fans get bent out of shape about an article that slams the Yanks (this is more realism, however, than anything), it is important to note that it is fully known that New York won the World Series in 2009 and reached the American League Championship Series this past season and makes the playoffs every year. However...

This is more about how the team is built. The average age of the Yanks is 35.6. The third baseman is out 4-6 months and is due $114 million over the next five years NOT including incentives. Right field is weak. There is no one to play catcher. All they do is hit home runs. And the pitching staff, which includes two up and down guys (Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes) and a 40-year old Andy Pettitte, is still a monster question mark long term. Oh, and when does CC Sabathia break down and Huroki Kuroda underachieve?

Ah the Yanks. Blessed with more money than baseball Gods can create. Now they have offered Kevin Youkilis (puke in mouth now) a one-year deal for $12 million dollars to replace A-Rod for the time being. Yep, $12 million. Isn't Wade Boggs around instead?

I understand the national media's perspective on New York and Yankee haters' opinions. They are old and slow when they lose but gritty, tough and patient when they win. But right now, it is more of the former. And it's not even close.

See this is the same old Yankees. They haven't groomed a farm arm since the previously mentioned Pettitte. They keep going back to the free agent well where old, crusty has-beens await a big contract to finish out their career and sit back to enjoy retirement. And those players know they will get it, because the Yankees overpay and cannot build a team anymore. This is the pinstripe system now, and Hank and Hal seem to be ok with it.

Remember Gene Michael? Remember how he wouldn't trade Bernie Williams or Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera or Andy Pettitte? Remember how the team was built around core farm system players and then the right pieces through the free agent market and big dollars? It isn't this way anymore. Yet the rest of baseball is doing it that way. The Giants, for example, are doing it that way and won the World Series with free agents and trades built around a farm system pitching staff and National League MVP Buster Posey.

The Yankees may win a World Series here and there, but they aren't setting themselves up for runs like the Cardinals or Giants (or even teams who haven't won like the Nats). The Yanks won it all in 2009 with A-Rod carrying them and Sabathia pitching and Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsusi grinding out at-bats, which is great news in the Bronx. But it isn't the Giants' run in 2010 and 2012 or the Cardinals' run since 2006.

Those are TEAMS. The Yanks are an old, has-been, overpaid, broken down collection.

And in that collection there is certainly no place for Kevin Youkilis.

Andy Pettitte, Again?
By: Mike Lindsley
How many times can you do the exact same thing? You can pay rent every month. You can ride a bike every day in the Summer time. You can tie your shoes over and over and over again. You can eat pizza every Friday night. You can brush your teeth every day and get dressed every day. You can say good-bye to family members every morning on your way out for work. Christmas happens every year. So does the New Year and July 4 and Memorial Day and well, you get the point.

And, apparently, you can sign Andy Pettitte to one-year deals if you're the New York Yankees. Over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Pettitte will be 41 years old in June, 2013. The Yankees need to get younger and faster and better. You don't do it by signing a 41-year old pitcher who is coming off of a broken fibula, 5-4 2012 season, even if he is a member of the Heroic Core Four.

See, these one-year deals are getting as old as Pettitte. It is the same thing every year. Pettitte has no idea if he wants to pitch again after the season. He then gets verification from his wife and kids if they are ok with him playing again. Plus he has to figure out if he has “the drive” again. And then the Yankees overpay him and sign him to a one-year deal. And then he gets injured in some capacity, comes back for the stretch run, and then we do it all over again. It's old. It's boring. It's a waste of time.

While some would think there isn't anything else out there, maybe the Yankees haven't looked hard enough. Maybe they haven't scouted hard enough to find another Hiroki Kuroda. Surely they haven't groomed enough starting pitchers over the years because none of them are healthy or ready. A good idea might be to pass the torch to David Phelps just by default to see what the youngster has. At least with Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and David Phelps the Yankees are younger. That problem is solved. The other problems of production and winning games is not solved, but certainly both are fixable considering what upside we have seen at times from all three.

Yankee fans understand the importance of Pettitte over the years. It isn't about that. It isn't about three Game 2 wins during the 2009 World Series run or beating John Smoltz head-to-head in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series. It isn't about the .633 winning percentage or the 245 career wins or the 2,320 career strikeouts. It isn't about the cutter into right-handers and away from lefties. It isn't about the stare to home plate. It isn't about that bulldog mentality or the pickoff move to first base. It isn't about being a borderline Hall of Famer and the second greatest lefty in Yankee history.

It's about what's best for the Yankees. And because they need to get young and stop living in the past, it is about the team first and the future, not trying to make it like it is 1996, 1998, 2000 or 2003 all over again with these silly Andy Pettitte one-year deals.

What's Next For A-Rod?
By: Mike Lindsley
Two options.

The Yankees keep him and deal with his broken-down body and lousy play and pre-Madonna acts or they cut Rodriguez and pay for him to NOT play on the team.

Option two is the best but not likely. From what Brian Cashman is saying, the general manager of the Yanks, New York is committed to the aging star and Alex Rodriguez is committed to contributing and helping the Yanks get back to the World Series.

The problem is both sides are in denial. A-Rod is done. Shot. Toast. Cooked. Never again will he be a productive player. And he is old. And his body is breaking down more and more from the needle. Both sides know it, they just don't talk about it. They probably don't even talk about it with each other. And the reason for that is simple, because A-Rod has always gotten a free pass for just about everything, and plenty of freebies from the New York Yankees, the team that has paid him far too much money and delivered him an opportunity to finally win a ring.

What should happen is that both sides understand 30 million times over again that this was never going to work in the first place. It was never going to work because A-Rod always wants more. He wants more fame, more money, more women, more everything. He proved it in 2007 by opting out of a 10-year deal worth $250 million during the World Series so he could get a $300 million deal with incentives from the Yankees who had no problem running to his feet, kissing his toes, handing him half the franchise and walking away happy about it.

If you're a Yankee fan and hoping that the Marlins recent fire sale to Toronto made room for Rodriguez in Florida and that this opens the door for a trade, good luck. A-Rod is a nobody in Miami, and he knows it. Sure, he can speak some solid Spanish with the belly dancers and strippers, but Miami is not a baseball town, even if it is one of his three homes. New York, however, is a baseball town. It might be the strongest baseball town of all. The new Yankee Stadium, despite NOT being the old one with the ghosts and the history and the real fans, is still superior to the fish tank aquarium in Miami. A-Rod would be a goldfish there at best as opposed to a beta or small catfish in New York City.

So, make no mistake about it. A-Rod will be a Yankee until the end of his baseball time. He will miss fastballs and not be able to make it to first and limp around 3rd base. He will be a hole in the lineup bigger than the Grand Canyon and continue to fail in October. Off the field, he will make news that isn't all good and be a lightning rod for reporters and fans, both home and away. He will continue to talk during post games about getting better and helping the team and blah, blah. This will continue unless one thing happens.

The Yanks cut him and pay him. Don't hold your breath.

Mo Returns.
By: Mike Lindsley
Mariano Rivera continues rehabilitation on his torn ACL from when he was shagging fly balls in the outfield in Kansas City during the 2012 season. In the meantime, we can already make his Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown for election in say...well who knows? Why don't we know? Because Mariano Rivera may not retire anytime soon after his announcement that he will return to the Bronx for another season in 2013. Here are three reasons why believes Rivera decided to come back.

1. The competitor.

Mariano loves the game. The game loves him and so do the fans. And most of all, #42 loves to compete and loves the thrill of running out of that bullpen door to shut the door on the opposing team. You know he wants to get after it one more time and win another championship and add to those 608 saves and add to that career .70 postseason ERA.

2. Soriano opt-out.

Rivera's replacement last year and the 2011 set-up man Rafael Soriano has already opted out of his contract and will test the market. If Rivera is ready to go, there is no way in hell the Yankees give the closing role back to Soriano, not just because Mariano Rivera is Mariano Rivera, but because Rafael Soriano is trying to get more money from MLB teams than a team that can pay players and closers the most money in baseball, the New York Yankees. Why Soriano would leave that money on the table AND not fight for that closer's spot is beyond comprehension. It shows you the difference between Rivera and Soriano as competitors and Yankees.

3. This can't be the end.

Mariano Rivera doesn't want his last baseball image to be getting carted off the field with a torn ACL. He wants it to be on the field, competing hard and striking people out with that cutter he has baffled hitters with and broken bats with since 1996. Even if the Yanks don't win a championship in 2013, Rivera will be on the field trying for it as opposed to sitting on the couch. And all Yankee and baseball fans will remember that more than the ACL injury, which is just how the Yanks legend wants it.

Be Careful With Cano.
By: Mike Lindsley
He is talented. He is five-tool. He is one of the top five all-around players in baseball. His smile is perfect. His glove is flawless. His arm is strong. Teammates seem to love him. Fans really seem to love him. Former players say \"best hands in the game since Rod Carew.\"

But it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter for two reasons. One, because Robinson Cano seems like he doesn't care that much about playing the game. Two, because Robinson Cano couldn't hit a lick in October, 2012. Five or seven more big hits might have sent the Yanks to the World Series the way their pitching staff and bullpen came together. John Jay doesn't seem to have issues hitting. Austin Jackson, the Yanks farmhand in Detroit, doesn't seem to have an issue. But Cano does.

Nick Swisher and A-Rod didn't either. But it is different with Cano. It is different because Robinson Cano is the best player on the Yanks. He was supposed to take the team over. He was supposed to lead and take over with Derek Jeter on crutches and preparing for ankle surgery. He was supposed to make-up for Swisher, Curtis Granderson and A-Rod.

But instead, Cano went 3-40 in the playoffs. No big hits. 0.75 batting average in the playoffs. 0.53 average against the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series. A botched double play. And not a care in the world.

And so now the Yankees have a decision to make. The Yanks have a team option for him for the 2013 season on his five-year, $44 million contract which is up after this year. What do you do with him now and after 2013? How many years? How many dollars? How much trust do you put into a five-tool player who hits in the regular season and not the postseason? How much trust do you put in a player whose talents are through the roof but the effort and clutch hitting are through the basement?

The answer should be simple. A four-year deal with a TEAM option for a fifth after management picks-up the 2013 option. Put in clauses and incentives. Put in a \"work harder\" clause that states more than five turtle runs to first takes away money. If he wins two rings, pay him a bonus. If he wins a batting title, give him a car. Do something to motivate RC. Hell, maybe bring Larry Bowa back to slap him across the face a few times.

If Cano and his agent Scott Boras want more than four years with a team option, which they most likely will, don't pay him. Let Cano test the market. Let him walk. New York cannot afford another A-Rod situation in the six to 10-year window of an awful contract somewhere in the Carl Crawford range or Albert Pujols range or A-Rod range.

One thing is for sure. The Yanks were still four wins away from the World Series and their 41st American League pennant. At the same time, the Yankees need to build a team again in order to reach the top of the baseball mountain they are so accustomed to.

And if Cano wants to be a part of it, he needs to start trying harder and hitting in the clutch in October.

Yankees-Tigers ALCS preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
The two teams with the best uniforms in baseball square off in the American League Championship Series for the right to go to the World Series. The Yanks haven't been to the Fall Classic since they beat in the Phillies in six games in 2009. Meanwhile, Detroit is looking to return for the first time since 2006 when it lost to St. Louis. Here is a breakdown of what should be a wonderful series:

Why the Yankees will win: Jeter, Ichiro and starting pitching.

You need a team to win any team sport. But look at the big time performances by Derek Jeter and Ichiro in the ALDS against Baltimore. Jeter had 8 hits, 2 RBI and a .364 batting average and played a magnificent shortstop for all games but one. Ichiro was a ninja the whole series and provided a spark in the field, on the bases and at the plate with key hits, including his RBI double early in Game 5. In the meantime, the starting pitching has come together and for the first time in a long time, the Yanks have a staff that can match the Tigers' mighty arms with CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes.

Why the Tigers will win: Best pitcher and best hitter.

Justin Verlander is nearly unhittable and has about six pitches. He is the best pitcher in baseball, arguably, this time of year. Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in the game and proved as much this year by winning baseball's Triple Crown. Plus, he hits in the clutch time and again. These two by themselves are a handful and can overwhelm any team, including the Yanks.

Yankee x-factor: Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira

If the Yanks don't hit with runners in scoring position, forget about it. The only reason why the Yankees beat the Orioles is because Baltimore couldn't drive people in either. Alex Rodriguez is a non-factor, as is Nick Swisher. Curtis Granderson has done nothing other than the Game Five homer over Baltimore. It is up to Cano and Tex to do the heavy lifting with the likes of Jeter and Ichiro on base or this one could get ugly in a hurry for New York.

Tiger X-factors: Doug Fister and Jose Valverde

Fister starts the series in Game One and provides the pitching depth after Justin Verlander. He throws hard, moves the ball around and can go deep into games. He is important for Detroit. Valverde, the often-unreliable closer, has been known to blow games. If the Tigers have a one-run lead in any game, the spotlight shines on Jose as an x-factor who has to come through for Motown.

The pick: Tigers in 6

The starting pitching is too deep and the middle-of-the-order guys, Prince Fielder and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, will come through in the clutch more than the Yankee middle-of-the-order and send Detroit to the Fall Classic to face the Giants or Cardinals.

What the Postseason Order Should Be.
By: Mike Lindsley
October is knocking. What will the batting order look like for the Yankees? How will Joe Girardi maneuver his players and bench? Who knows, but this is what it should look like (let's assume Mark Teixeira is back).

1-Derek Jeter-SS- The captain has been the MVP of the team this season in a renaissance year at age 38. He has started innings with momentum-type hits, driven people in and continues to lead this team. The top spot is his. The only way he hits second in October is if a righty pitcher is in there, and then Joe Girardi can flip DJ and Ichiro.

2-Ichiro-LF- He should help the Yanks in the postseason because he is a situational player and hitter. He can slap the ball anywhere, bunt and get sacrifice fly balls. Ichiro can help manufacture runs, something the Yanks haven't done consistently in the postseason since the Joe Torre era.

3-Nick Swisher-RF-The Yanks need the always-happy Swisher big time in the playoffs. His ability to hit from both sides of the plate presents match-up problems. Can he hit in October this time around?

4-Robinson Cano-2B- The best player on the team by far. Hits for average and power. Cano's RBI production is an enormous element in a deep postseason run considering New York has yet to see consistent run production off the bats of Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and A-Rod since each came over as Yankees.

5-Alex Rodriguez-3B-Don't expect much from A-Rod. He can barely get his bat around and his power is diminished. The worst contract in baseball.

6-Mark Teixeira-1B-Will he be healthy? If he is, Tex needs to get into hitter's counts instead of digging himself into holes by swinging at trash away from the strike zone. That should help him have an improved postseason.

7-Curtis Granderson-CF--A 40-home run guy hitting this low? Absolutely. Granderson's production against lefties has gone down the last few months and his average isn't good enough to hit third. His clutch hitting has been mediocre since July.

8-Russell Martin-C-Every so often, Martin has a big game. He is 8th because he doesn't do it consistently and is aging. His defense behind the plate, however, is vital.

9-Raul Ibanez/Eric Chavez- DH- Two unsung heroes this year on the Yanks (in sports terms of course). Ibanez has been through the postseason baseball wars before (in sports terms, again, of course) and Chavez, like Ibanez, wants to make one more run at a ring. Either of these guys should be good enough in this spot all October. In the field, Chavez should play over A-Rod at least once a series.

How to Fix the Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
The Yankees will either barely make the playoffs or be one of the biggest choke artists in recent times after having a 10 ½ game AL East lead weeks ago. Either way, they are not a World Series team. How can they get back to the top of baseball? Do these five things:

1. Release A-Rod.

He can't run. He can't stay healthy. He can't get runners in scoring position home. His bat speed is slower than a turtle on a good day. Yet he makes $30 million per season. He is only killing the team and has become useless across the board. Brian Cashman should call Magic Johnson and the Dodgers and pick-up most of the contract. Get A-Rod OUT of the Bronx so the team can become a team again. Enough is enough.

2. Rebuild the starting rotation.

Enough cast-offs. Freddy Garcia, thanks for your time, you have done enough as a Band-Aid. Enough of Phil Hughes who still can't figure out a way to go after people, finish them off and stay consistent. Huroki Kuroda, you had your few week stretch. CC Sabathia is tiring and getting older. The Yanks haven't developed a farm arm since Andy Pettitte. Brian Cashman and his people (help us all) need to figure out a way to develop an arm in the system and sign pitchers who will be helpful for the long haul, not for eight weeks or a year and a half.

3. Find more grit.

The Yankees collapse this year had a lot to do with players not being hungry and getting after it while they were up 10 ½ games. Brett Gardner being out for the season hurts here because the guy really plays hard. But too many guys just coasted for weeks. It is time to get players back who actually cherish wearing the uniform and want to win even if they are part of a team running away with a division halfway through the year.

4. Get a catcher.

Here is how you win in October: pitching ace, deep starting rotation, solid bullpen and timely hitting. The Yankees have none of these parts. But think about how many of these elements a catcher has to do with. All of them! Russell Martin is shot. It is time to bring in a youngster or go get someone if Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez are truly that far away from helping the team. And some Yankee fans thought they wouldn't miss Jorge Posada in his prime. What a silly thought.

5. Stop making stupid trades.

Brian Cashman started the year off by shipping #1 prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle in a deal that netted Michael Pineda. Then Pineda went down with an injury and missed the entire season. Even without the injury this trade was stupid. When you trade your #1 prospect, you need to get an ace or five-tool player in return, not an unproven, young, middle of the rotation guy. This trade was a bust from the start and is just one example of how the Yankees are getting lapped by the Nationals, Orioles, Rays, Reds and other clubs around Major League Baseball in terms of trading players.

Yankees are wasting Jeter in 2012.
By: Mike Lindsley
The collapse since the All-Star break is enough to handle. The injuries are enough to handle. Watching the team age is enough to handle. It is hard to find bright spots these days if you are the New York Yankees.

And then you stop and think about the biggest bright spot of them all. That guy again. #2. The Captain. The shortstop. The face of the team since 1996. Derek Sanderson Jeter.

Have you heard of him?

He is going to have a 200-hit season in 2012 assuming he stays healthy. Jeter will hit at least .300 assuming he stays healthy and doesn't go into a mega slump. His shortstop play has been magnificent all year. He has hit in the clutch time and time again. He has started rallies time and time again. He has done it all. And yet the Yankees are not matching his production, not by a long shot. This is another wasted year for the team while the face of the team has a terrific baseball season.

See, the Yanks have done this often since 2001. They have wasted GREAT Jeter years by tanking the regular season or losing terribly in the playoffs. Jeter had a career year in 2006, for example, when he hit .343 with 214 hits and 97 RBI. Toss in there 14 home runs. Plus, DJ went 5-5 in the first game of the American League Division Series against Detroit and set the tone by himself, only to see his team lose three straight after the rainout in Game 2.

Jeter has gone wild in 2012, having a career year and carrying the team, as usual. Yet Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez cannot stay healthy or produce in the clutch, Nick Swisher fails in clutch spots late in the year, Curtis Granderson has disappeared, Robinson Cano is inconsistent and getting jumpy at the plate again and the rest of the band-aids on the team are wearing out. The pitching is a disaster top to bottom in the rotation and the bullpen has gone from great even without Mariano Rivera to a an average group at best.

The point is Derek Jeter is carrying the Yanks in 2012. Derek Jeter is playing at a high level. Derek Jeter shows heart every night. Derek Jeter gets the key hits. Derek Jeter has stayed healthy. Derek Jeter is having a career year. Derek Jeter has been a championship ballplayer in 2012.

Now imagine if the team followed suit.

Hiroki Dokie Into the MVP.
By: Mike Lindsley
The appreciation of the 38-year old Derek Jeter is a main story in the Bronx in 2012. You could say that Rafael Soriano's impact on the team is unmatched. Raul Ibanez? Splendid. Eric Chavez? Tremendous. Nick Swisher? Clutch and impressive with middle of the order guys out. Ichiro? Everything the Yanks needed for who he is NOW and how old he is NOW. But there is one guy who, so far, is the MVP of the team. A guy who Pinstripe Passion thought wouldn't even be on the roster come September 1.

Hiroki Kuroda. That is who.

Japanese pitchers don't usually hang-in for the long term in Major League Baseball. They come over with tired arms. They come over having pitched a ton of pitches and innings. They come over with a high amount of pressure to perform for their very passionate country. It just doesn't work. Add to that Kuroda, coming from the National League West for four years, and having to battle the monster lineups in the American League East and American League as a whole. Plus, Kuroda is 37 years old! When the Yanks got him during the offseason, two words came to mind: GOOD LUCK!

But Kuroda has been insanely good. He has dominated good lineups in August, Texas and rival Boston to be exact. In fact, against the Rangers, the two-time defending American League champs, Kuroda took a no-hitter into the 7th inning. His cut fastball, in and out to lefties and out and in to righties, baffled the masses in Ranger uniforms.

Kuroda is the MVP of the Yanks thus far, however, mostly because CC Sabathia has been injured twice this year and on the disabled list both times, Andy Pettitte is out with a fractured ankle until at least the beginning of September and Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes are both gigantic question marks. Freddy Garcia has battled through so many starts, but can you really trust him in October? Probably not.

Kuroda has come through, and in a big way. So here is to you, Hiroki, from Pinstripe Passion, who doubted you from day one.

Umaku itta shigoto. Job well done. Now just do it in October because that is the other thing Yankee fans are waiting for.

Put a Fork in the Yanks.
By: Mike Lindsley
It sure is hard making predictions in sports these days. Tiger Woods vs. the field is over in golf. Anyone can win on any given day. The NFL still reigns parity. College basketball has sent Butler, VCU and George Mason to the Final Four since 2006. Baseball has seen the Orioles, Athletics and Pirates stay around for the stretch run in 2012.

But this one you can mark down. The Yankees will not win the World Series this season. Oh and you can mark this one down too: they will not get out of the first round in the playoffs.

Why? Pitching, my friends. You need an ace. And you need a deep pitching staff to make a deep run in October. CC Sabathia, New York's pitcher and glue guy, is out for another 15 days minimum with elbow inflammation. Sabathia recently told national media people that he can't even raise his elbow up to his shoulder. Not good. Add to that Andy Pettitte's questionable return in September, Phil Hughes' erratic arm and Ivan Nova's nonsense and the Yankees have problems. And Huroki Kuroda is their best guy. And David Phelps is spot starting by default. YIKES!

That is why you can put a fork in the Yankees. Ultimately, did the lineup cost the team in last year's postseason? You can make the argument that the answer is yes. But all in all, the Yanks haven't had the arms to measure up with the Texas, Detroit and whoever else trio in baseball the last few years. A-Rod was amazing during the 2009 World Series run and Phil Hughes was a great set-up guy and the lineup was clutch with Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon and that Derek Jeter fellow, but CC Sabathia was the ace and the big shutdown guy that season. The Yankees even received solid starts from A.J. Burnett (remember him?) in the playoffs that year and got four postseason wins from Andy Pettitte, two of which came in the World Series against Philadelphia (Games 3 and 6). This team in 2012 has NONE of that pitching and we are in August!

The Yankees will win the American League East. They will shower one another with champagne for making it through another grueling 162-game schedule because it is tough to do that, no matter what your payroll is. And the AL East championship flag will fly around for a few days while minor leaguers trot around the Bronx as the postseason looms.

But when the postseason arrives, forget about it. The Yankees are dead. The last flag that will fly will be an American League East banner, and 100% of the time that flag just isn't good enough in the Bronx. But Yankee fans, management and everyone else will have to deal with it for one reason and one reason only.

There isn't enough pitching to get that 41st American League pennant or 28th World Series ring in 2012.

What's the Order?
By: Mike Lindsley
Joe Girardi is trying to shake things up. Joe Girardi is trying to make players fight for positions. Joe Girardi is trying to give opposing pitchers a different look. Joe Girardi is seeing what his options are without A-Roid. Joe Girardi is taking chances.

Joe Girardi, it isn't working.

You cannot bat Curtis Granderson leadoff. Why? The guy has a brutal hitting average for one of the best players on the team and he is an RBI and HR guy in the order. He also has never been a table setter nor will he ever be. In the meantime, Derek Jeter's on-base percentage is really good and hello, the Captain has been batting leadoff for the majority of his Yankee career. Ichiro would be a good candidate considering he handled the same duties in Seattle for years. The problem is his on-base percentage is way down (but it is improving as of late, however). What's the solution? Take a look.

Against lefties:

Jeter-SS Granderson-CF Teixeira-1B Cano-2B Swisher-RF Martin-C Chavez-3B Jones (DH) Ichiro-LF

Against righties:

Ichiro-LF Jeter-SS Granderson-CF Cano-2B Teixeira-1B Swisher-RF Martin-C Chavez-3B Wise-DH

That's my lineup right now until A-Rod gets back and fails with runners in scoring position. What is yours? “LIKE” Pinstripe Passion on Facebook and send it over.

Yanks' Flaw Will Hurt Them in October.
By: Mike Lindsley
Every team has a flaw. Detroit's bullpen has been up and down. The Red Sox don't have enough starting pitching. The Angels traded for Zach Greinke because they are in the same boat. The Rangers' defense is average at best. Baltimore looks like world-beaters one day and a team you cannot take seriously the next. Toronto can't stay healthy. Tampa Bay can't hit. Cleveland doesn't have enough top to bottom. And Oakland can be shut down by a #1 starter once they come back to earth a little bit. The White Sox are the White Sox. Nothing special there.

But what about the Yankees? Well, their pitching isn't exactly the pitching staff of the 1954 Cleveland Indians, but it has hung in there. Their bullpen is one of the best in baseball despite not having Mariano Rivera. And that lineup can really hit...home runs.

Ah. Home runs. Sure those are fun. They clear the bases quickly and chicks love them too, we have been told. But when you rely on the home run all the time, a team can lack situational hitting. This has been a problem all year for New York.

Manager Joe Girardi has said all year it isn't a big deal because home runs are hits too. Well, that is true. But even Girardi, a National League guy for a good part of his playing and managing career, knows all too well that those Yankee teams he played for under Joe Torre were incredible at moving people over and getting the late hit in a 2-2 ballgame and then leaving it up to the bullpen. Girardi really does know this. He is smart. He went to Northwestern, remember.

So, if the Yanks are to be taken seriously, seriously as in “World Series contender,” they need more than Derek Jeter's opposite-field hits. They need more than Curtis Granderson's line shots into the right field seats. They need more than the sweet swing of Robinson Cano. They need more than Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez hitting fly balls into the seats. They need more than the big, bad bullpen. They need more than the September return of Andy Pettitte or the bulldog innings of CC Sabathia. They need more than Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda giving the team a chance to win. They need the above offensive players and Russell Martin and Ichiro and Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira to deliver two-out hits from now on. And do it deep into games against the best of the best; Tigers, Red Sox, Angels, Rangers, etc.

Because if the Yankees don't become situational hitters and hit in clutch spots deep into games, you can forget about it during postseason play. After all, one of the ingredients to being a great team and making an October entrée is timely hitting.

So far in 2012, the meal has yet to be made.

Ichiro's Impact.
By: Mike Lindsley
With Brett Gardner out, Nick Swisher inconsistent and a lack of big time hitting with two outs, the Yanks acquired Ichiro Suzuki from Seattle. What kind of an impact could he have for New York? Keep reading.

1. New life.
Baseball has been brutal in Seattle, to say the least, the last several years. Ichiro is having a down year for him, but he automatically joins a high-powered offense and pennant contender. This could pump new life into the Japanese star.

2. Clutch hitting.
The Yanks hit too many home runs and haven't gotten big hits consistently. Ichiro is a very good situational hitter and bunter. This should help the Yankees manufacture runs and help the cause in winning more close games.

3. Marketing.
Remember Hideki Matsui? Yankee staff members who work in sales could make a mint off of Japanese companies looking to buy more advertisements with the Bombers. Plus, think t-shirts and apparel. And if Ichiro re-signs long enough for his 3,000th hit in pinstripes? Forget about it.

4. Outfield help.
Gardner is toast for the year and you can't rely on Swisher. Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez are serviceable but getting old. Ichiro can spell time in both left and right fields.

5. Professionalism.
Don't worry about chemistry breaking down with Ichiro. He is a hard worker who leads by example and respects the game. He should fit right in.

Sizing Up the 2nd Half.
By: Mike Lindsley
Here we are, the second half of the Major League Baseball season has arrived. The Yankees have fought their way through injuries (CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, David Robertson, Mariano Rivera, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner) and brutal production in the middle of the order and yet they still lead the AL East. Here are the five things that must happen for the Yanks to keep that lead and make a serious run at the World Series:

1. Healthy pitching.
The two key pieces here are Pettitte and Sabathia. We already know that Mariano Rivera is likely done for the year even though his doctor says there is an outside chance he could return in 2012 because the rehab is going so well from the partial ACL tear. If CC and Andy come back 100% from injuries, however, that is a major boost for the rotation in terms of leadership, depth and innings pitched to save the bullpen and ultimately win games.

2. A-Rod and Tex.
Here we go again. A-Rod and Tex in the middle of the order are major RBI guys. They must hit in the biggest of series (see Rangers, Tigers, Angels, Rays, Red Sox). Sometimes the difference between playoff teams and non-playoff teams is simply big time production from big time guys. From there, RBI production in October separates pennant winners from playoff teams.

3. 1-9 production with RISP.
#2 is part of this. But up and down the order the Yanks must hit when they get on base. They are home run monsters and home runs help, but New York lacks two out hits, which are crucial during the dog days of Summer and in the postseason. This is where Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano come in as important pinstripers.

4. Bullpen confidence.
Rafael Soriano has done a magnificent job in the closer's role. David Robertson is a stud. The question marks are Cory Wade, Chad Qualls, Clay Rapada, Boone Logan, Cody Eppley and Freddy Garcia. When this group decides NOT to attack hitters, they get behind and leave fastballs for hitters, a no-no in the American League.

5. Win series.
The Yanks don't have to play blow away baseball. At the All-Star break, the Bombers led the AL East by seven games over Baltimore. If New York can just win series, as Joe Torre and Joe Girardi have said for years, they will be in good shape and lined up for October baseball and possible home field advantage.

The Cano Factor.
By: Mike Lindsley
Robinson Cano, \"Don't Ya Know\" (thanks, John Sterling) is becoming as synonymous with the Yankees as \"The Bird is the Word\" to Family Guy (thanks, Peter Griffin and Seth McFarlane).

Truth is, Cano is the best player on the Yanks, at the plate and in the field. Why is he so important? He hurts teams in three main ways. Below is \"The Cano Factor\" and why he presents so many problems for the opposition:

1. Hits it anywhere.

The situation could be no one on, and Cano hits a homer or hits a single to start a rally. Another situation could be a man on third base and Cano gets a sacrifice fly just to get the runner in. Another situation could be two on and Cano drills a three-run shot to blow the game open. Any hit at any time and anywhere. It's what makes Cano so dangerous. Managers cannot plan for him because he is so good no matter the situation. Think of Yogi Berra hitting every bad ball and every good ball thrown to him. You run out of pitches. Now if he could just calm down with the bases loaded and work the count. If that happens, he is 100% impossible to pitch to.

2. Range and arm.

Getting balls by #24 in the gap between second and first and second and shortstop isn't as easy as it once was. Cano is more conditioned in his legs compared to when he first came up in 2005. He reads balls like no tomorrow and jumps to the spot before the ball gets there. Secondly, his infield arm is the best in baseball. Anything close goes to the thrower, not the runner because Cano zips the ball to any bag so quickly. Cano's defense also kills rallies and momentum because he makes the great play look so easy and is awesome in double-play situations.

3. Maturity.

Five years ago there wouldn't have been a \"Cano Factor.\" Today there is because he is one of the best players in the game and it all started when he grew up. Credit Joe Girardi who benched the youngster years ago after Cano failed to hustle down the first base line. Now, Cano is committed to discipline at the plate, hustle out of the box and focus in the field. All of that transpires into leadership and productivity, Yankee staples. You can also credit Cano for wising up and taking the bull by the horns after Girardi's lecture. What has this all done in the end? Created the best player currently in pinstripes and arguably the best player in Major League Baseball.

When the AL Returns.
By: Mike Lindsley
Three straight sweeps are nice. Dominating inferior lineups with pitchers hitting at the end is nice. Beating average bullpens is nice. Everything for the New York Yankees in Interleague play since it began has been nice.

The Yanks are the best in baseball during the Interleague season. And they have continued serious dominance this year against National League teams Washington, the Mets and the Braves. The reasons are above. But why might they not still be a World Series team? It is simple. They don't get the key hit in the postseason and there are better lineups and bullpens in the American League.

Take, for example, the Rangers, Angels, Rays and Tigers (who haven't even hit a stride yet but have all the pieces to do so). Every one of those teams may not be as good as the Yankees now, but how they shape up for August and September and ultimately October is what matters most.

The Rangers have the most complete team out there and are clutch hitters, just look at the last two runs in the playoffs when they won back-to-back American League flags. Their rotation is stacked and when it gets healthy, look out even more. The Angels also have the goods and Albert Pujols, one of the most clutch players of the last 20 years. Tampa Bay lacks hitting but has big time arms and the Tigers have the best shutdown starter in the league in Justin Verlander.

The one key for New York to counter those clubs has been the pitching. CC Sabathia continues to be a horse even when he pitches poorly, Andy Pettitte's cutter has returned and Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes are attacking hitters and finishing them off with ground balls and strikeouts, respectively. Even Huroki Kuroda has had some nice starts as of late. You can actually credit Pettitte the most here. Since his return, the rotation has been rejuvenated and durable and everyone is challenging the next guy because no one wants to follow a string of wins with a loss.

The Yankees are riding the best stretch in 2012 without David Robertson, Mariano Rivera and Brett Gardner, no question about it. And the hitting hasn't even come around yet as a full lineup. Add to that a spectacular bullpen managed very well by the skipper Joe Girardi. It's been nice, there is no doubt about it.

But what happens when the schedule gets tougher against American League teams that you have to oust in the postseason is what really matters. The Yanks have to beat those clubs to convince more baseball people that they are in fact for real this season.

Otherwise, it may be more of the same since 2001, a first round playoff exit as AL East champions.

Yankee Pitching is A #1.
By: Mike Lindsley
Do you want to hear something you have heard before? No, not look both ways before you cross the street. No, not get the latest date possible on the milk gallon. No, not that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.

How about this one: Pitching is important in baseball. Yawn now if you want.

But pitching is probably the most important unit for the team in the Bronx, the New York Yankees. In fact, starting pitching is more important to the Yankees than anyone in baseball.

Think about it, the Yanks have lost Mariano Rivera for the year, have lost Michael Pineda for the year, have lost David Robertson for a good amount of time and Brett Gardner is gone until who knows when.

Add to that the fact that Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are a disaster at the plate with runners in scoring position and Robinson Cano hasn't found a true grove yet. Other than Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and on occasion Raul Ibanez, the lineup is too inconsistent and not worthy in the clutch.

Yes, pitching is important to say the least. But the good news is that CC Sabathia is CC Sabathia and now the big fella has some help, assuming the rest of the arms can stay consistent. Andy Pettitte has something left in that left arm, Phil Hughes showed signs in Detroit and Ivan Nova always has the potential to toss 7 IP of solid ball.

During the Joe Torre era, the pitching was outstanding, but the bullpen was also the best in the game and one of the best in baseball history. The current Yankees don't have that luxury thanks to all of the injuries. Now is the time, until late September, for the pitchers to step-up.

New York needs Nova's control and command, Hughes' first pitch strikes and new attacking style and Pettitte's veteran poise, command and cutter the rest of the way. Hitting in the clutch would help too. So would healthy bodies. But the Yanks don't have either of them. So the pitching must come through.

The Yanks don't have a choice if they want to make the playoffs.

Oh Mo!
By: Mike Lindsley
He deserved better. 608 career saves. 42 postseason saves. .70 postseason ERA. The ultimate X-factor in Major League Baseball since 1997. Team leader. Intimidator. Greatest closer of all-time. No one had the great Rivera. No one.

And no one has been like him the last few decades as a person who also played the roll of star athlete. He has shown us over time that mega-star, mega-million dollar athletes can be humble along the way.

And now it may be over due to a freak accident. A freak accident occurring in Kansas City where Rivera was shagging fly balls in the outfield, something he has done for 18 years in the big leagues. Torn ACL. Torn meniscus. Good-bye season.

So what now? That is what we do nowadays isn't it? We want an answer immediately after something happens or we want an answer on top of an answer and then another answer followed by an explanation. And we have to Tweet it all.

The immediate problem is that the Yankee bullpen just became a regular old bullpen. Freddy Garcia, Cory Wade, Clay Rapada, Boone Logan, D.J. Mitchell, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson. Average to nice pitchers. None are Rivera. You take Rivera out, and now everyone moves up a slot and things get shortened up quite a bit.

The other problem is this. The Yankees were in deep trouble before this happened. They have five holes in the lineup with A-Rod and Mark Teixeira not hitting, Brett Gardner out and Nick Swisher also injured. The other hole is at the bottom of the order collectively where no one, including the soon-to-be broken down Russell Martin, swings the bat.

Oh and the pitching. Good Lord the pitching. After CC Sabathia, there are no guarantees. Ivan Nova is solid, not dominant. Hiroki Kuroda? Good luck. Andy Pettitte returning after 18 months off isn't the answer. And Phil Hughes is a disaster.

The problems were already there. The Yankees were already in trouble. And now Mariano Rivera is out. The toast just got left in the toaster too long and is officially burned.

But you can always put another piece of toast in the toaster if it burns. You can't put another Mariano Rivera on the mound in the 9th inning. And you can't have a celebration of his career with him out for the season and not on the mound.

It's too bad. Baseball deserved better. Yankee fans deserved better. Rivera's teammates deserved better.

But most importantly, Rivera deserved better.

Go-Go Cano.
By: Mike Lindsley
Have you seen the kid hit yet? Have you seen him consistently hit since 2005, when the Yanks called him up to help jolt the lineup? Really, take a look at him. He is frighteningly good. He hits the ball at ease. He hits the ball with force and power. Here are the top five reasons why Robinson Cano is one of the Top 5 hitters in the game today:

1. Hands.
His hands are always in the right spot. He turns them over when he wants to pull the ball. He stays even if he wants to take it the other way. Robinson Cano has been called “another Rod Carew” by many, and it all starts with the hands.

2. Discipline.
This is where things changed. Cano used to get into 0-2, 1-2 and 2-2 counts before you could blink. Now, his patience and discipline at the plate have completely changed how he hits. He lays off bad pitches and average off-speed stuff so he can get more 1-0, 2-1 and 3-1 counts. And if Cano forces a pitcher to throw a fastball in a hitter's count, God help the pitcher.

3. Joe Girardi.
Credit Joe Girardi for helping to make Robinson Cano into who he is today. It wasn't too long ago when Girardi benched the youngster for being lazy while running to first base, losing track of the game in the field and taking an overconfident approach at the plate. Since that time, Cano has matured, become a guy the Yanks can count on and still has fun while leading the team (the last two sound kind of like the guy playing shortstop).

4. RBI man.
One of the reasons why Cano is a better hitter and player right now than Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez is because he hits in the clutch and hits teammates in when they are in scoring position. After Cano's 97 RBI output in 2007, he dipped to 72 in 2008 and then he didn't look back. 85, 109 and 118 RBI the last three seasons. He has become clutch and feared in the lineup. Baseball traditionalists will always tell you that your best hitter should hit third in the lineup no matter what. Well, Cano is in that spot now for a reason.

5. Bat speed.
Sometimes a lightning quick swing of the bat or golf swing can be out of control and costly. In the past, however, it has worked for some athletes. Think Tiger Woods. Think Gary Sheffield or Barry Bonds (with or without steroids). But Cano's bat speed is fast when it has to be and controlled when it has to be. It depends on the pitcher, the pitcher's skill set of pitches, the surroundings, the baseball situation, etc. Cano's bat speed in a particular situation has never been better or more under control, yet another element to making Robinson Cano one of the top five hitters in all of Major League Baseball.

2012 New York Yankees Preview.
By: Mike Lindsley
2012 New York Yankees preview:

Yankee fans are getting restless again. Why? Because the Bronx Bombers haven't won a World Series since 2009! All kidding aside, the Yanks struggled to beat more complete teams in 2010 and 2011, falling short in the ALCS against the Rangers and ALDS against the Tigers, respectively.

So now the page turns to 2012. The Yankees will again contend, but will they win it all? Ultimately, that is the only question pinstripe fans need answering. Here is a breakdown of the year to come in the Bronx:

Cause for celebration:

Bullpen. At this time last year, the bullpen was the best in baseball on paper and through the year it was darn solid. Well, this year it may be even better. David Robertson and Rafael Soriano (if he stays healthy) leading into Mariano Rivera should make it tough for opponents late in the game. Boone Logan should be tough from the left side and watch out for Cesar Cabral, also from the left side, who the Yanks are very high on.

Pitching. Yes, pitching. You read that right. After the Yanks swapped mega prospect Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda, the rotation received an instant jolt. Now, CC Sabathia has protection by Pineda and 16-game winner Ivan Nova. Plus, the Yanks feel that Hiroki Kuroda is a steal at the backend of the rotation and hope for a big year from Phil Hughes. Freddy Garcia, old smoke and mirrors, is back for another run as well.

Cause for concern:

Age. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are a year older and Mariano Rivera, at age 42, is hinting that he may retire at season's end. Plus, Russell Martin behind the plate could face physical challenges as he ages in 2012 as well. That's four big spots on the roster.

Mark Teixeira's career struggles in the postseason. Tex was brutal against the Tigers in last year's ALDS, getting no big hits and finishing at .167. He was lost against tough Texas pitching the year before in the ALCS. It is his time to shine. The Yanks are paying him too much money to have continued failures in October.

Key Yankees:

Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Isn't A-Rod always an answer? The pitching looks solid heading into the year, unlike in 2011. And last year, remember, the Yankee bats failed in big spots late in the season and in October while the pitching bailed the team out (CC/Garcia/Nova/Bartolo Colon). Well, Tex and A-Rod have to get runners home. Robinson Cano shouldn't have problems doing it, but the BIGGEST bats and power hitters must come through for a serious run to the playoffs and more importantly, a deep run in October. A-Rod needs to relive 2009. Tex just needs to get it going period.

Projected rotation:

1-CC Sabathia
2-Ivan Nova
3-Michael Pineda
4-Hiroki Kuroda
5-Phil Hughes/Freddy Garcia

Projected lineup:

1-Derek Jeter
2-Curtis Granderson
3-Robinson Cano
4-Alex Rodriguez
5-Mark Teixeira
6-Nick Swisher
7-Russell Martin
8-Raul Ibanez
9-Brett Gardner

Where they'll finish:

Boston has too many question marks under new manager Bobby Valentine. Will the pitching hold up? Who plays shortstop? Is the bullpen good enough? Because of those reasons, the Yanks win the AL East. What about after that? See below:

Postseason predictions:

AL East- Yankees
AL Central- Tigers
AL West- Rangers
AL Wild Card- Angels

ALCS- Tigers over Yankees

NL East- Phillies
NL Central- Brewers
NL West- Dodgers
NL Wild Card- Giants

NLCS- Phillies over Giants

World Series- Tigers over Phillies

Awards section:

AL MVP- Albert Pujols
NL MVP- Matt Kemp
AL CY Young- Justin Verlander
NL CY Young- Cliff Lee