New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez

A-Rod won't get the Jeter treatment

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
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NEW YORK -- Joe Girardi is about to go from the Farewell Tour to the Circus Parade.

Girardi took a lot of heat this season for managing what some believed was a Derek Jeter Farewell Tour rather than a baseball season, and put forth the dubious proposition that this was the reason the Yankees missed the playoffs for the second straight year.

Next year, I can practically guarantee it will be the other way around. While Girardi certainly deferred to Jeter all season, continuing to play him at shortstop and bat him second, despite sometime shrill calls from many corners claiming this was the reason the Yankees stunk in 2014, Alex Rodriguez cannot hope to enjoy the same level of respect.

[+] EnlargeAlex Rodriguez, Joe Girardi
AP Photo/Kathy WillensAlex Rodriguez, left, is in for a rude awakening if he expects Joe Girardi to give him the same superstar treatment Derek Jeter received this past season.
That much was clear from Girardi's postseason wrap-up news conference at Yankee Stadium on Monday, in which he refused to guarantee A-Rod his old job back, despite being given several opportunities to say so.

And it is backed up by his history, most notably in the 2012 postseason, when Girardi decided that the best Yankees lineup in six playoff games, including two elimination games, did not include Alex Rodriguez.

Asked directly, twice, on Monday if A-Rod was returning as the Yankees' starting third baseman, Girardi hedged.

"He hasn’t played in a year," Girardi said. "That’s not easy to do, to sit out a year. I've got to see where he’s physically at, I’ve got to see from a playing standpoint where he’s at. Do we expect him to be a player on our team? Absolutely. Do we expect him to play third base? Yes. But in fairness, I think you have to see where he’s at."

Which raises the bizarre and tantalizing prospect that Alex Rodriguez could be returning to the Yankees as a part-time player, or worse, a bench player.

Funny, Girardi showed no similar hesitation when asked similar questions about Jeter a year ago, even though Jeter was a year older than Rodriguez and coming off a similar yearlong layoff, having played in just 17 games scattered throughout the 2013 season. No matter by what illicit means he achieved it, Rodriguez was always a better player than Jeter, if not nearly as much of a winner or so good a teammate.

Still, it seems obvious that Rodriguez, with more home runs than all but four players in the history of the game -- and incredibly, only the fifth-highest paycheck on the team these days -- will not be getting the star treatment from his manager.

It is easy to argue that he doesn't deserve it, for transgressions both on the field and off. And you know that just his mere presence, from his first appearance in spring training, will create more of an uproar than Jeter's entire eight-month victory lap, which really started when he made his retirement announcement back in February.

Without even trying, A-Rod is going to cause Girardi the kind of headaches that Jeter never did, and he does not appear to be relishing the prospect, even five months removed from the start of spring training. Although the manager went out of his way to mention, "I have a good relationship with Alex," he was unable to give a precise date of the last time he and his erstwhile third baseman actually spoke.

According to Girardi, he and A-Rod have communicated via text "once or twice a month," and never about baseball.

"We've talked more about how he’s just doing and his family, mostly through texting," Girardi said. "Obviously that will pick up now that we’re through the season and I don’t have nearly as much to do, just to see where he is at physically and encouraging him and see what his thoughts are."

I can make a pretty good guess at what his thoughts are: All indications are that he expects to come back to the Yankees in all of his former capacities, as the everyday third baseman and a middle-of-the-order hitter, as well as a possible new capacity -- as a team leader now that Jeter will no longer be in the clubhouse.

Without mentioning names, Girardi spoke in general terms about the likelihood that several current Yankees could step up next year to fill the leadership void Jeter leaves behind. And from what I know about Alex, I can tell you he considers himself one of those candidates, if not the only legitimate one. He certainly enjoyed a good amount of stature with many of the younger players and probably assumes he still will when he returns next season.

But it is just as likely that his return will be seen by some in the Yankees clubhouse as a burden, because at least for the beginning of spring training, the camp is likely to be crawling with even more media than usual, poking and prodding A-Rod for his daily thoughts and charting his every move on and off the field.

Girardi acknowledged the coming circus could serve as a camp distraction, but said: "I think our players will handle it fine. The first couple of days in spring training there will be more attention, and that will die down. That's the nature of sports too. Something’s gonna happen that the focus will be off of him again." His history, of course, tells us that the focus will never be off him for very long, however, and once the spring training games begin, the spotlight will be on him again as he faces a likely procession of hostile crowds, perhaps even in his own ballpark.

"His teammates enjoy Alex," Girardi said. "His presence in the clubhouse, the way he likes to teach the game and talk about the game, so I don’t think that will be an issue. Will he have to deal with some angry fans? Yeah. But we’ll help him get through that. And when’s the last time Alex hasn’t had to deal with that? It’s not like it’s something he’s not used to, and sometimes players thrive on that, so maybe it will help him."

If he's even 75 percent of the player he was before he was suspended, A-Rod can help the Yankees too, especially the offensively challenged Yankees of 2014.

But there's no guarantee that when he comes back to the Yankees -- and his yearlong suspension ends as soon as the World Series is over -- that aside from his lavish paycheck, Rodriguez will enjoy any of the perks he did before he was set down, or any of the deference the manager showed to Jeter.

Which sets up a mouthwatering question for Girardi's postseason news conference a year from now:

After being accused in 2014 of playing Derek Jeter too much, will Girardi in 2015 face charges that he didn't play Alex Rodriguez enough?

A-Rod vs. Varitek turns 10

July, 24, 2014
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NEW YORK -- Think about where you were 10 years ago today. There is a pretty good chance you were in front of a TV or you heard later about the fight between the Yankees and the Red Sox that featured none other than Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek.

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Joe McDonald did a long piece for ESPN Boston on the anniversary. It was at the height of the Red Sox-Yankees' recent saga, as Rodriguez is the biggest figure in the rivalry since Babe Ruth. McDonald writes:

The image of Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek shoving his mitt into the face of Alex Rodriguez has become an iconic symbol of the storied rivalry between Boston and the New York Yankees.

The picture hangs in sports bars, restaurants and man caves all over New England. It is sold in memorabilia stores -- even though both players refuse to add their autographs to the print -- and it represents to Red Sox Nation all that went right that season.

It's been 10 years since those two players ignited a bench-clearing brawl on July 24, 2004, at Fenway Park. The Red Sox, who had fallen to the Yankees in a heart-wrenching seven-game ALCS the year before, were trailing 3-0 with two outs in the top of the third inning when pitcher Bronson Arroyo drilled Rodriguez on his heavily padded left elbow with an inside fastball.

For all the hoopla generated by the 2004 incident involving Alex Rodriguez and Jason Varitek, the principals remain reluctant to discuss it.

As Rodriguez slowly started toward first base, he stared down Arroyo and had words for him.

Rodriguez then turned his attention to Varitek, who was telling the Yankees' cleanup hitter to shut up and go to first.

"I told him, in choice words, to get to first base," Varitek said at the time. "And then it changed from him yelling at Bronson to [us] yelling at each other, and then things got out of hand."


The Yankees face the Red Sox in Boston next Friday. It is still a rivalry, but it is not the same as it was a decade ago. It doesn't have the same intensity as it did then.

And by the way, whatever happened to A-Rod?

A-Rod finally listened to Cashman

June, 25, 2014
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It was exactly one year ago today that Brian Cashman told Alex Rodriguez to "shut the f--- up."

Cashman's delivery was indelicate over a phone he abruptly hung up, but his advice was good. Rodriguez probably would be in a better position if he didn't decide a good offense was his best defense. All the noise on the internet, TV and in the newspapers didn't help. The lawsuits all failed. Rodriguez ended up embarrassed and suspended for a full season.

Now, it seems A-Rod is finally heeding Cashman's advice. While it may not be because of Cashman's words -- frankly, it probably isn't -- Rodriguez has stepped away from the spotlight during his exile from the game over his involvement in the Biogenesis PED case.

A source told ESPNNewYork.com last week that the Yankees are prepared to take Rodriguez back in 2015, "If he can still play." Either way, the Yankees will still pay the soon-to-be 39-year-old Rodriguez. They owe him $61 million over the next three years. If he were to hit six more homers, he would tie Willie Mays with 660 career long balls, which would be worth another $6 million.

For now, Rodriguez isn't talking to anyone. He has not had any sensational stories turn up on Page Six or TMZ. He seems to have decided to be quiet, which was Cashman's point all along.

On Deck: The Yankees finish their three-game series in Toronto on Wednesday night. Hiroki Kuroda (4-5, 4.23) versus Drew Hutchison (5-5, 3.86). Wallace Matthews will be in the press box for all the action.
SEATTLE -- And no, the highest-paid Yankee is not the one you think it is.

Jeter
Jeter
Derek Jeter is the highest-ranking Yankee on Forbes' annual list of the highest-paid athletes, coming in 34 spots behind the top-earner, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., who raked in $105 million for two fights.

Jeter's earnings are pegged at $24.3 million, $9 million of which came from endorsements. The next Yankee on the list is CC Sabathia, in 37th place, with $26.2 million. Alex Rodriguez, everyone's poster boy for extravagant contracts, doesn't show up until No. 48, with stated earnings of $22.9 million. However, because of his suspension, A-Rod will take home a mere $5.9 million this year -- a $3 million bonus from the Yankees, as well as $2.9 million in salary not covered by the 162-game ban.

Mark Teixeira ($22.7 million) checks in two spots below A-Rod, and Alfonso Soriano rounds out the Yankee presence at No. 93 ($18.1 million). Also on the list are ex-Yankees Robinson Cano (#60, at $21.5 million) and Vernon Wells (#65), who will be paid $21.1 million, probably without playing a single game this season.

You can view the entire list here.

Jeter: I will never manage

May, 22, 2014
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CHICAGO -- Derek Jeter wants to do a lot of things post-career but being in a dugout every night is not one of them.

"I will not manage," Jeter said.

The subject came up at U.S. Cellular Field, because Robin Ventura, Jeter's former teammate, is in the home dugout managing. Jeter thinks he, like Ventura, might have the even-keeled demeanor for the job, but Jeter just doesn't want to do it.

"My temperament would be all right to manage," Jeter said. "But I'm not. No. Write that down."

Jeter is DHing on Thursday night.

Notes: Girardi stacked his lineup with righties, because Chris Sale has not given up a hit to a lefty in 20 at-bats this season. That is why Ichiro Suzuki and Brett Gardner aren't starting. Brian McCann is also receiving the day off. ... Michael Pineda (upper back) will throw to batters on Saturday. He could return at some point next month. ... Alex Rodriguez returned from hip surgery and was suspended last year here at U.S. Cellular Field. Does Girardi still keep in touch with Rodriguez? Girardi said, "I'm not going to say." ... Girardi said he spends one hour before each series figuring out his bullpen matchups.

A-Rod trade revisited

April, 23, 2014
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videoHave you missed Alex Rodriguez? Did you forget that he could have been a Red Sox instead of a Yankee? Well, above, you can relive all the fine details that brought him to the Bronx.

If you would prefer to see it on the big screen, ESPN will be airing a "30 for 30" "The Deal" after the Yankees-Red Sox game tonight.

First Pitch: Rivalry missing A-Rod

April, 13, 2014
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NEW YORK -- You may hate Alex Rodriguez. In fact, most of you seem to. But you have to miss him a little this weekend.

A-Rod is the biggest figure in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry since George Herman Ruth.

Without him some intensity is lost from the rivalry. There is a little less intrigue and a lot less hate.

The tug-of-war between love and hate is what really makes rivalries special.

It is difficult to have much angst when everyone is making nice. The Red Sox, following basically every other player ever, all love Derek Jeter. Before Thursday's game, David Ortiz asked to meet Yangervis Solarte, and gave the kid some advice on how to have a long big league career.

Even when there is an apparent incident, the managers and players basically just ignore it, even if fans and media don't.

Kevin Millar told the New York Post the Yanks-Red Sox rivalry has become a little softer, saying:

The rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees got a little softer, a little friendlier. I think you see more of a rivalry with the Rays (and Red Sox). The one with the Yankees seems to be a little marshmallow-ish. You saw that kind of with (Mariano) Rivera last year, and now you’ve got (Derek) Jeter’s going-away tour. When’s the last time we’ve seen a good squabble between the Red Sox and Yankees?"


Well, last year actually. Ryan Dempster drilled Rodriguez on purpose for being, among other things, A-Rod. Rodriguez answered Dempster's deed later in the game with a towering homer, complete with a fist-pumping trot around the bases set to a soundtrack of Fenway boos. It was classic Yanks-Red Sox, love-hate stuff.

Now, Rodriguez is gone from the rivalry -- maybe forever. But he was the villain who stirred up both sides.

Ruth's last game as a Yankee and Rodriguez's first were seven decades apart. It may be another 70 years until there is another character as large as Ruth or Rodriguez in this rivalry. And for that reason, A-Rod is sorely missed.

On deck: On ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Ivan Nova (1-1, 8.68) vs. Felix Doubront (1-1, 9.00 ERA). The Yankees are off on Monday.

Got you covered: Kieran Darcy, Gordon Edes and I will be there.

Question: Do you miss not having A-Rod in the rivalry?

Question 6: Can the Yanks replace A-Rod?

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
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Alex RodriguezJared Wickerham/Getty ImagesYou may not miss Alex Rodriguez, but the Bronx Bombers might.
As we count down to Opening Day, Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand will answer 14 for '14 -- the top 14 questions facing the 2014 New York Yankees. The series will run until the eve of the first pitch between the Yankees and Astros on Tuesday, April 1, and will end with both Matthews and Marchand making their predictions for the season.

Question: How much production will the Yankees receive from Kelly Johnson, etc.?

Andrew Marchand: The Yankees believe Johnson's lefty stroke is perfectly suited for Yankee Stadium. Johnson has been a 20-plus home run guy twice, most recently in 2011.

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Will the Yankees be able to replace A-Rod's production at third base?

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If he is healthy and some of the fly ball outs in other ballparks turn into long balls in the Bronx, then Johnson may be able to hit 25-plus homers. In 2013, he had 16 in 418 at-bats. So to think he could be a 25-homer guy in 2014 seems pretty reasonable.

Johnson is a .253 career hitter. If he can stay healthy, a .253 season with 25 homers and 75 RBIs seems possible. His defense is not expected to be great, considering he never played third base in the majors before his 16 games in 2013 for the Rays. But really, the man whose name shall not be spoken will turn 39 and has been injury-prone in recent years.

If Alex Rodriguez (OK, so we said it) were not suspended for the entire season, how much better would he be than Johnson? Probably not much, since Rodriguez has been hurt each of the past three years as his production declined.

Wallace Matthews: The answer, of course, is you don't replace A-Rod, because he really is one of a kind, and I'm not sure you even want to. As Andrew points out, Johnson is capable of matching Alex's recent numbers with the help of the short Yankee Stadium right-field porch, and with the upgrades to the offense the Yankees made in the offseason, his bat may not be missed all that much.

But where the Yankees will miss A-Rod is on the field. His range may not have been great anymore, but he was a sure-handed third baseman with a rifle for an arm. Johnson was a pretty capable second baseman, but at third, he is certainly a work in progress. His two errors Tuesday night, especially the second on a routine grounder that went between his legs, are something we may see a lot more of this season than we did during the A-Rod era. And his backup? Eduardo Nunez.

This is one area that still may be attended to, either by a trade or the signing of some player released at the end of training camp, a la Lyle Overbay last season.

CC on velo: I'll still be good

March, 26, 2014
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Sabathia
Sabathia
CC Sabathia had some laughs with Mike & Mike on ESPN New York 98.7 FM and across the country on ESPN Radio/ESPN2 on Wednesday morning.

When Mike Greenberg mentioned that the second Sabathia pitches in spring, Greenberg's Twitter feed fills up with how hard he is throwing, Sabathia knew the topic he doesn't love was next.

But Sabathia handled the velo question with relative ease. "My velocity is what it is, to be honest with you" Sabathia said. "As [Mike] Golic just said, I've thrown a 1.2 million innings. It is what is at this point. Wherever it is, I'm fine"

Sabathia reiterated that he needs to locate and he will be fine, if he does. As we have written about here repeatedly, Sabathia needs to reinvent himself to be successful. He may not use those words, but the fact he recognizes it is important.

Sabathia hit on some other subjects as well.

1. An ESPN The Magazine Players' Poll that said the Yankees are the most overhyped team in baseball:

"That's standard," Sabathia said. "If I wasn't on the Yankees, I'd be saying the same thing."

2. At 33 years old, how does he feel compared to other seasons?

"I feel like I'm further along than I have been in the past," Sabathia said.

3. On Masahiro Tanaka's ability to be successful in the majors.

"His stuff can play," Sabathia said. He said he has been impressed with Tanaka's ability to handle all things that come along with being a Yankee -- meaning the media and the expectations.

4. On Derek Jeter's retirement tour.

"It is going to be fun," Sabathia said.

5. On the Alex Rodriguez not being on the team this year.

"It is behind us," Sabathia said. He wasn't very verbose on A-Rod, saying he is still a teammate, but they can only worry about the guys in the clubhouse now.

Tipping Point: A-Rod sighting

March, 13, 2014
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That was the first time A-Rod had tweeted since right after the Super Bowl:



Even though A-Rod is back on Twitter, I don't think he will be congratulating Chelsea Handler on this bit of news:

Chelsea Handler rips A-Rod

March, 5, 2014
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Chelsea HandlerCharles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty ImagesChelsea Handler is not a fan of banned Yankee Alex Rodriguez.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Suspended third baseman Alex Rodriguez is not around these days, but he is never forgotten.

Driving into the Steinbrenner Field parking lot this morning, I heard comedian Chelsea Handler on "The Howard Stern Show" on SiriusXM. Of all the things she could be talking about, it just happened to be Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez. And the things she was saying weren't nice.

Apparently, Handler had made fun of A-Rod on her E! talk show or someplace else, so Rodriguez approached her at a party to try to make peace.

"Get away, you're disgusting," Handler said she told him. "You're gross."

Rodriguez, according to Handler, responded, "Why am I gross? We got off on the wrong foot. I read all of your books. I'm a big fan."

That seems nice enough from No. 13.

Handler said she replied, "I don't know why you're a big fan. I think you're a f---ing a--h---."

A-Rod has heard similar stuff before.

So where does Handler's hatred come from? She mentioned the alleged centaur picture of A-Rod that he supposedly owns.

Handler acted as if it was a fact that the painting exists. We aren't doubting the possibility, but it has never been proved -- not even by Bud Selig's investigators.

Handler added that she doesn't like the way Rodriguez conducts himself, saying he is "a buffoon." He has been called similar names before.

Handler also said a personal assistant to A-Rod e-mailed her to set up a meeting between the two, and she replied, "Pass."

(Hat tip to Jimmy Traina for the transcript.)
Masahiro TanakaAP Photo/KyodoAfter meeting Derek Jeter, Masahiro Tanaka couldn't name another Yankee he wanted to see. Will he be that guy after the Captain's final curtain call?
TAMPA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka was asked Sunday if there was a Yankees player he particularly admired and was looking forward to meeting.

The Japanese right-hander listened patiently to the translation, pursed his lips as he thought for a moment, and then answered.

“Off the top of my head, no," he said through an interpreter. “Actually no one comes up."

Since Tanaka had already met Derek Jeter, there was no blaring headline in the answer, and you could almost hear the sighs of relief from the Yankees' media relations staff that he didn’t say Alex Rodriguez.

But what Tanaka did say only reinforced the fact that a year from now, after Jeter retires, there isn’t likely to be a single player in the Yankees' clubhouse a newcomer to the team will say he has always wanted to meet.

Once Jeter is gone, the Yankees will still be a good team. The desires of ownership and the pressures of the New York market guarantee that will always be the case.

But without Jeter -- and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada, and yes, A-Rod -- the Yankees will be just another good team, with plenty of talent and not an ounce of mystique.

Unless, of course, Tanaka turns out to be as good as advertised.

Because unless, and until, the Yankees pry away Bryce Harper or Mike Trout from their current employers, there simply is no transcendent player or personality on their roster.

Except for the promise of Tanaka.

There is still a long way to go before anyone can even begin to judge how good the 25-year-old will be in the major leagues, because there’s no one on planet Earth, neither superscout nor sabernerd, who can look at video of Tanaka dominating Japanese hitters and envision how the same stuff will translate against, say, Miguel Cabrera.

But there is a definite charisma about Tanaka, an easygoing charm in the face of the media hailstorm, that tells you if this kid turns out to be the goods, he could be the next Yankee other players will someday want to meet.

Not to denigrate anyone on the current Yankees roster, but most of them have either seen their best days (Jeter, CC Sabathia, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Hiroki Kuroda) or will never see days good enough to transcend being simply a competent major league ballplayer.

For now, anyway, the days of the Yankees having guys who seem as big as, or bigger than, the game are about to retreat into the past once Jeter leaves the clubhouse.

As good a player as Jacoby Ellsbury or Brian McCann turns out to be, neither seems to have that aura that made Jeter or Mariano special, that drew other players to them and brought fans into the ballpark.

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Will Masahiro Tanaka be the next face of the Yankees?

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Tanaka can do that -- provided he can come close to matching the kind of dominance he showed in Japan last year, when he went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and led his club, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, to the Japan Series title.

For better or worse, Tanaka is likely going to be the new face of the Yankees for the next five years, if only because of the size of his contract -- $155 million -- and the size of his own personal media contingent, which is exceeded only by the size of his expectations.

For that kind of money, you can throw Brian Cashman's “reliable, consistent No. 3 starter" projections right out the window. Tanaka is likely to be either spectacularly good or spectacularly bad. Mediocrity simply does not figure to be in the cards for this player.

Sunday, Tanaka did no more than take pitcher’s fielding practice, a sham of a drill in which pitchers mime delivering a pitch and then practice sprinting to cover first base. PFPs, as they are known, are generally a collective yawn to the public and the media.

But when Tanaka took PFPs, he was watched by hundreds, as he was Saturday during his first bullpen session.

(By the way, Yankees officials confirmed the line drawn in the dirt Saturday to keep reporters a good distance away from the bullpen area was indeed a "Tanaka Line." Sunday, reporters were invited, encouraged even, to get as close a look as possible at David Robertson, the new closer, and Manny Banuelos, the boy wonder, as they threw their first bullpens of the spring.)

And afterward, his locker was once again mobbed, by not one but two crowds, first of English-speaking journalists and then by the Japanese contingent, characterized by a Yankees official as larger even than the one that followed Hideki Matsui around in his MLB rookie season of 2003.

By comparison, Sabathia, Robertson and Kuroda were virtually ignored.

That will change in a couple of days, when the regulars get here and especially on Wednesday, when Jeter holds his news conference to discuss his decision to retire after this season.

But Tanaka-palooza is guaranteed to resume shortly thereafter, no doubt peaking on the day he makes his first preseason start early in March.

After less than a week of training camp, it is obvious he is the most compelling figure in this camp, and aside from Jeter, is likely to be the most compelling figure on this team all season long, and probably for as many seasons as he chooses to remain a Yankee (his contract includes a player opt-out clause after four seasons).

Of all the players who will be on the roster after Jeter is gone, Tanaka is the one that a decade from now, a young player entering the Yankees' clubhouse for the first time might admit to a group of reporters he has always wanted to meet.

Will Alex be welcome among the Bombers?

February, 12, 2014
Feb 12
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Alex Rodriguez
Rodriguez
NEW YORK -- We all know Alex Rodriguez will not be playing for the Yankees this season, and as we learned last week when he decided to drop his fight to overturn the 162-game suspension incurred by MLB for his involvement with Biogenesis, he no longer plans to crash spring training when the Yankees open camp in Tampa beginning on Friday.

But it's a long season and it's tough to imagine A-Rod, who truly loves baseball, being able to stay away from the game for the next eight months. So what exactly is a player under suspension permitted to do in regards to baseball?

I submitted a short list of questions on the subject to an MLB spokesman. Here they are, along with the responses:

--Is he allowed to attend any MLB games, or is he barred from ballparks?

A Player suspended under the Joint Drug Program is not barred from ballparks. It is a Club decision whether a suspended Player should be permitted in a ballpark, but he should not be in uniform at any point and should not be in the dugout, on the field, with his teammates, or seen by fans at any point after the gates open on game days.

--Can he enter the Yankees clubhouse to visit teammates?

It is a Club decision whether a Player suspended under the Joint Drug Program should be permitted in a clubhouse, but a suspended Player should not be in the clubhouse at any time that reporters have access.

--Is he allowed to use any MLB training facilities?

A Player suspended under the Joint Drug Program is not prohibited from working out with his Club at certain permissible times during his suspension. It is a Club decision to allow a suspended Player to work out in Club facilities at any time on non-game days and on game days up until the time gates are opened.

--Could he play in an Independent League?

A Player under contract with a Major League Club is not permitted to play in an Independent League.

--Could he play in Japan?

A Player under contract with a Major League Club is not permitted to play in Japan.

--Is he still subject to random drug testing during the suspension?

A Player suspended under the Joint Drug Program remains subject to testing at all times.

--Is his merchandise still being sold on MLB websites?

A Player’s suspension under the Joint Drug Program does not affect a his merchandise from being sold on MLB-affiliated websites. (FYI, Rodriguez replica jerseys are still available on Yankees.com for $99.99).

--Does he have to apply for reinstatement at the end of his suspension or is he automatically reinstated?

Pursuant to Section 7.I of the Joint Drug Program, a suspended Player shall be reinstated from the Restricted List immediately at the conclusion of the specified period of ineligibility.

I found it rather interesting that the questions regarding visiting his Yankees teammates in the clubhouse or using the team's training facilities are left to the discretion of the club. So I emailed GM Brian Cashman to find out what the Yankees policy would be regarding their (temporarily) banished third baseman.

Here was his terse reply: "No interest in talking about Alex."

Draw your own conclusions.

12 burning Bombers questions

February, 12, 2014
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Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, and Carlos BeltranAP Photo, Getty ImagesThe Yankees missed the playoffs, then promptly reloaded. So what can fans expect in 2014?
NEW YORK -- Every baseball season begins the same way. Players report for spring training. Reporters start asking questions.

Some of those questions, naturally, cannot be fully answered until the season is over, and sometimes not even by then. But that doesn’t stop us from asking them, or trying to guess at their answers.

In that spirit, as the Yankees' pitchers and catchers prepare to report to training camp on Friday, we begin asking our questions today. And coming off only their second playoff-less season in two decades, this year's Yankees team faces some serious issues.

We’ve come up with a dozen questions the Yankees need to answer if they’re going to have a bounce-back 2014 season.

1. Who's on First? This is an easy one, although since he played in just 15 games last season, you might have forgotten about Mark Teixeira. He is said to be healthy and ready to go following wrist tendon surgery, but what kind of player will he be? Teixeira will turn 34 in April, and by his own admission last season, may well be in the start of a decline. And as a frame of reference, Jose Bautista, who had the same surgery in 2012, had a pretty good 118 games in 2013 -- .259 BA, 28 HRs, 73 RBIs, .856 OPS -- but was nowhere near the force he had been in his MVP-caliber 2011 season.

2. What's on Second? Well, it won't be Robinson Cano, doncha know? Right now, the job belongs to Brian Roberts, the veteran Baltimore Orioles second baseman who was signed to a one-year deal by the Yankees as a free agent this winter. Roberts, a career .278 hitter who has averaged roughly seven HRs a season over 13 years -- his high was 18 in 2005 -- will make no one forget Cano at the plate or in the field, but he is a serviceable player who should fit in well.

3. I Don't Know's on Third? Again, we do know who it won't be: Alex Rodriguez. Right now, barring a last-minute signing or the picking up of a late spring training castoff (a la Lyle Overbay last year), it will either be new signing Kelly Johnson or old pal Eduardo Nunez. With the exception of the circus that seems to follow A-Rod, neither can be seen as an improvement: Johnson's past three seasons pretty much mirror A-Rod's production for power, averaging 17 HRs a season, but his BA over that span is .226 and his OPS barely scrapes .700. Nunie, of course, is Nunie -- always an adventure in the field, rarely an explosion at the plate.

4. A short season for the shortstop? Derek Jeter remains a huge question mark, since beginning with spring training last year he was never able to play two back-to-back games in the field and return healthy. True, he’s had more time to heal this winter and presumably will benefit from a normal offseason workout routine. But he will also turn 40 this June and you have to guess he'll spend a lot of his time as a DH this season.

5. Nervous ninths? You betcha. With Mariano Rivera gone, the ninth inning of a Yankees game will not be the same this year, and probably never again. Even if David Robertson rises to the occasion -- and he certainly has the capability to do so -- there's just no way anyone in the stands, or the Yankees' dugout, for that matter, will ever head into a ninth inning with a one-run lead thinking, “This one’s in the bag." With Mo, that was a nightly occurrence, but with Robertson's penchant for putting runners on base -- and admittedly, usually leaving them there -- there will be a lot of sweaty palms in the ballpark before that last out is made.

6. Crazy eighths? Probably, because the Yankees didn't just lose their closer when Mo retired, they lost their eighth-inning guy as well. And no one in baseball set up his closer better than Robertson, who in moving up leaves a gaping hole behind him. Who in the Yankees' bullpen will step up to fill it? Right now, the guess is Shawn Kelley, who was a revelation last season after recovering from a second Tommy John surgery.

7. From whom will the Yankees get minor contributions? As in, from the minor leagues? Well, in the three-part series Andrew Marchand and I did last week on the Yankees' farm system, maybe no one. GM Brian Cashman is hopeful 22-year-old phenom Manny Banuelos, coming off Tommy John surgery, will show enough in spring training to make the team as perhaps the second lefty out of the bullpen. Cashman also believes 24-year-old right-handed flamethrower Jose Ramirez could make an impact. And there is still hope for Dellin Betances, as there should be for any 25-year-old who can hit 97 on the gun.

But aside from those three pitchers -- and J.R. Murphy, who will be given a shot to win the backup catcher's job behind Brian McCann -- there isn’t much on the farm that is ready to be harvested. Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin and Mason Williams are all several years away.

8. Will the new offense make up for the loss of Cano and A-Rod? Possibly. The Yankees lost their best bat in Cano, but you have to remember they got virtually nothing out of the catcher's spot last year -- .213-8-43, .587 OPS -- and McCann will make a huge difference there. Also, Carlos Beltran should be a major upgrade over Vernon Wells, Jacoby Ellsbury -- if he can stay healthy -- is a more powerful version of Brett Gardner, and the Yankees will have the benefit of a full season of Alfonso Soriano, who figures to get the bulk of the right-handed DH duty. It might be difficult to replace the home runs lost with the departures of Cano and Curtis Granderson, but didn't we say that before last season, too? The 2013 Yankees matched the 2012 Yankees for home runs -- in April, anyway. Overall, last year's club hit 101 fewer homers than its predecessor.

9. Can CC find his lost V-LO? Who knows? Sabathia will turn 34 this season and barely avoided finishing as a .500 pitcher for the first time in his career. More alarming was his ERA, which skirted 5.00 (4.78) and was the highest of his career. Most alarmingly of all, the big man’s velocity has steadily declined over the years, from a high of 94.1 in his first season as a Yankee, to an average of 91.4 in 2013. Publicly, the Yankees continue to maintain they believe CC will find those lost mphs this season, but plenty of pitchers his age have had to make the adjustment from thrower to pitcher and he may now be one of them. Also, for those of you who believe he was "too thin" last season, he looks to have lost even more weight this winter. If size = velocity, that may turn out to be good news for CC's cardiologist but bad news for the Yankees.

10. Can Hiro go the distance? It's a legitimate question now that Hiroki Kuroda has shown a disturbing tendency to fade down the stretch in both his seasons as a Yankee. In 2012, he went 4-1 in September but posted a 4.71 ERA. That was good compared to last year, when, to borrow Graig Nettles' famous line about Sparky Lyle, he went from Cy Young to Sayonara virtually overnight, going 1-7 with a 5.40 ERA over the final two months. Hiro turned 39 on Monday and if the Yankees hope to go far in October -- or even get there in the first place -- they need him to stay strong to the finish.

11. Will Masahiro Tanaka come as advertised? Depends on what you’re expecting. Cashman might have offered a clue this weekend when he told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor that he felt the 25-year-old right-hander could develop into "a really solid, consistent number three starter." Later, Cashman said his words had been “misconstrued" and that he meant Tanaka could be a No. 3 "this year." Whatever. At $155 million, Tanaka has got to be better than that, hasn’t he? And all those teams who lined up to bid on him couldn't be wrong, could they?

All we know is, there's always a lot of adjustments to be made when coming from the Nippon Baseball League to MLB. Some make it seamlessly, like Kuroda and Yu Darvish. Others struggle to keep up, like Daisuke Matsuzaka. And some never make the adjustment (dare we mention Kei Igawa?) Sabathia, Kuroda and Ivan Nova form a nice foundation for a starting rotation, but if Tanaka can’t make the adjustment, all the offense in the world is unlikely to help the Yankees.

12. Is Cashman on the hot seat? Highly doubtful. The GM is in the final year of his contract, but he made some gutsy choices this offseason and if the team rebounds the way it might, he should reap much of the credit. Besides, Hal Steinbrenner is not George M. Steinbrenner; he has shown no inclination for scapegoating or knee-jerk firings and I can't see him kicking Cashman to the curb if the team fails to produce. Now, might Cashman decide to walk on his own?

Well, that’s just one more question that we can ask today, but won't be able to answer for another six months. At least.

Yanks on A-Rod: See ya next year

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
4:31
PM ET
With Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi all on hand for the Masahiro Tanaka press conference, Alex Rodriguez, of course, was going to come up.

The Yankees didn't say much.

"I haven't thought about it," said Steinbrenner when asked if there is a sense of relief now that the suspension has been settled. "Not good form."

Steinbrenner apparently felt it was not proper for a reporter to broach the A-Rod subject on the day Tanaka was introduced. Cashman declined comment, while Girardi -- who is still texting buddies with A-Rod -- said A-Rod may be a Yankee still in 2015

"It is something that seems to have been settled," Girardi said. "We won't have him until 2015. We'll focus on this year, this year and next year, next year."

After this season, the Yankees still owe Rodriguez $61 million over the next three years. They don't plan to make any decisions until 2015.

"Obviously, you know where you are now and you just move forward," Girardi said.

As for third base in 2014, the Yankees believe Kelly Johnson can handle the left side of a platoon, but don't have much of an idea who will emerge for the right. The candidates include Eduardo Nunez, Scott Sizemore and, Cashman mentioned, Russ Canzler.

Canzler, who has hit lefties well in the minors, has mostly played first, but could get a look at third.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Masahiro Tanaka
WINS ERA SO IP
13 2.77 141 136
OTHER LEADERS
BAJ. Ellsbury .271
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146