(No binder?? For shame, man. Courtesy of the AP)
Joe met the media for the first of many times this season yesterday, giving his take on the most important and newsworthy talking points surrounding the team as they come into camp and setting the tone for what the important talking points will continue to be as Spring Training ramps up. As usual, he was positive and optimistic when evaluating his team and their chances this year, saying he felt they were capable of winning 95 games and the World Series this year and citing the strong returning pitching staff as a reason. There was plenty more where that came from and plenty to take away from what Joe had to say.
On Alex Rodriguez not attending Spring Training- “I think Alex had somewhat of a special surgery. It’s not a hamstring. It’s not something we’ve done a lot of. We feel at this point the best place for him to be is New York rehabbing under the doctor’s supervision."
Almost as soon as word got out yesterday that A-Rod wasn't going to be in Tampa, people started speculating what it meant and the Yankees were quick to say it had nothing to do with his latest PED connection. Joe basically said that in his statement but let's be honest, it's absolutely because of the PED story and the injury provides a built-in cover for that. A-Rod is a distraction right now, and he would be even more of a distraction were he in Tampa to be asked questions about the investigation. And if he wasn't there to answer questions, every other player would be asked those questions. The Yankees need to focus on the field and A-Rod isn't able to play right now, so it just makes sense to keep him away and keep the media focused on the field as well.
On the roster continuing to get older- “It’s always a concern, but that’s been something that we’ve been talking about for the last 10 years is an old roster. The last 12 years. Last year we were old and we won 95 games."
He's... actually got a point there. The roster is older and could be less talented than it was last year, but people were writing the Yankees off last season and they won 95. They've been writing them off for a while now and they continue to win. They aren't the dynasty they were in the late 90s, but until somebody knocks them off, the Yankees have to be considered the top of the heap in the AL East again.
On the catching situation- “Chris is probably going to play a bigger role this year. It’s an opportunity for a young guy like Austin Romine. I know he missed a lot of last year, but he still has an opportunity here. Cervy has a big opportunity in front of him."
Translation- "I don't have any clue who's going to be the everyday catcher and there's really not a lot to choose from so this is basically the best I can say about the lot of them." When all you can talk about with respect to each player is opportunities, that's a bad sign.
On Derek Jeter- "There’s concern about him coming back for me until I see him go through a week, two weeks, and how he responds. If he plays three days in a row, does he get sore? In my mind, I believe he’s going to be an everyday shortstop for us, but you still want to see it.”
Already laying the groundwork for a slow comeback for Jeter, which makes me wonder about what type of in-game program the Yanks will have him on in ST. Even if he is able to start on Opening Day, a watered down playing schedule with regular rest days seems like a good bet for at least the first month of the season.
On who's playing center field- "As of today, we haven’t really decided that we’re going to make a change. We haven’t had a lot of discussions about making a change. ... So it’s something that I’m sure will be talked about a little bit, but as of right now, Ichiro’s in right, Curtis is in center, and Gardy’s in left."
This whole situation still doesn't make a lot of sense. What is there to talk about? How many discussions need to be had to come to the very simple conclusion that moving Gardner to center and C-Grand to left is the right move? And why haven't they already been had?? This should have been discussed and decided upon prior to ST starting. At the end of the day, it's a decision to put a better defensive player with positive trending defensive metrics in a position where better defense is more greatly valued and the lesser defensive player with negative trending defensive metrics in a position where his deficiencies won't be exploited as much. There, discussion over.
On the batting order- "It’s something that I’m going to think about during spring training. I’m going to play with some different ideas during spring training. And then we’re going to have to have something for Opening Day.”
Well thanks for clarifying that there will be a batting order on Opening Day, Joe. We were getting a little worried that there wouldn't be. Not to start beating up on Joe before he's done any real managing this season, but isn't the batting order and accounting for the new players who will be in it something that also should have already been thought about? At least a little bit? Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I'm sure Joe has things in mind that he's not going to share right now, but his statements make it sound like he's not even going to give it a moment's thought until ST officially starts.
On a less powerful offense- "I think when you look at our club this year, there’s more speed. You have one outfielder who has the potential of stealing 50, 60 bases if he stays healthy the whole year. So I think our offense is going to be different, but I believe that we’re going to score runs. It’s just going to be in a different fashion than it has been in the past.”
Potential yes, but Gardner staying healthy enough to steal 50-60 bags is a bigger "if" than Joe made it sound like. And while the Yankees are going to have to adapt their collective offensive game a bit this year to make up for the loss of power, it's not like they are going to just snap their fingers and turn into a National League team. Their players are who they are at this stage in their careers and guys like Mark Teixeira aren't suddenly going to become hit-and-run guys. The Yankees still have a lot of players who will and should swing for the fences and the challenge will be to integrate the speed and pick spots to use it around the skill sets of the big hitters in the lineup, not to have them adjust their hitting style to fit the speed.
It certainly won't be the last time Joe's comments are dissected this year, but it's good to be back to that. Just another sign that baseball season is right around the corner.
(Girardi quotes courtesy of Chad Jennings)