By Sweeny Murti
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— The small upgrades have paid off so far. Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley are veterans that give the Yankees a more steady player in both cases for very little cost. Is the big upgrade available?
Maybe it will come in the form of Josh Willingham, or Alex Rios, or Marlon Byrd. But those players are likely to fall into the same category of upgrade as the previous acquisitions. If you’re expecting the David-Justice-to-the-rescue trade of 2000, you’re probably going to be waiting a long time.
Did you remember that in that summer of 2000, the Yankees tried to trade for Juan Gonzalez, Sammy Sosa and Jim Edmonds only to fail each time and then land Justice? Those types of players are just not available anymore, and this is not the same offensive era.
Maybe the Yankees could add a helpful piece. But the difference makers will be the guys they gave all that money to last winter: Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. And a healthy Mark Teixeira wouldn’t hurt, either.
— Joe Torre has said many times over the years how grateful he was to George Steinbrenner for the life-changing opportunity to manage the Yankees. That Torre forgot to give further praise to Steinbrenner in his Hall of Fame induction speech is regretful, but isn’t a sign of lingering animosity as some have speculated.
Even when his run as Yankee manager ended in 2007, Torre left the conference room in Tampa by shaking Steinbrenner’s hand and simply saying, “Boss, it’s been fun.”
And after his own election to Cooperstown last December, Torre said he believed Steinbrenner deserved election too.
Keep in mind, Torre will get a do-over. Not in Cooperstown, but where it will matter most — in the Bronx. Torre is to be celebrated at Yankee Stadium on August 23, with his No. 6 officially retired that day. You can bet that there will be ample praise given to the man who helped turn Torre’s good career into an immortal one.
— Watching Greg Maddux take his rightful place in Cooperstown reminded me of an interview I did with him in 1995, when he was the best pitcher alive and I was a 25-year-old staffer at WFAN who was covering some games here and there.
Late that season, I approached Maddux in the visiting clubhouse at Shea Stadium and asked the future Hall of Famer what his secret to success was. What I thought was a complicated question was met with a simple answer.
“Locate your fastball and change speeds,” he told me.
He said it as if it was as easy to do as tying his shoes.
Years later it occurred to me that maybe that’s why Maddux was so great–because to him it was almost that easy to do.
— Now that Derek Jeter has passed Carl Yastrzemski on the all-time hits list and will catch Honus Wagner with 10 more — and with no more legends within reach this year — he will finish his great career in sixth place all-time.
Just think about that for a minute, especially you who like to call Jeter overrated. In the entire history of the game only Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker will have more hits. Ever. That’s not intangible. That is quite tangible. And quite an accomplishment.
— Anybody remember Manny Banuelos? Currently pitching for Double-A Trenton, the 23-year-old lefty is being brought along slowly in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. He was averaging less than three innings per start … until his last two outings.
On July 22, Banuelos threw five scoreless innings, followed by four innings of no-hit ball on July 27. His pitch count was up to 70 in his last start.
Banuelos has still thrown only 53 innings this year, and while nobody in the organization is willing to share what his innings cap is, I am willing to bet his innings are being controlled now so that the Yankees might be able to use him in the majors if needed later this year.
And the way this season has gone, it is a near certainty that the Yankees will have innings to fill in September.
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