My day this past Sunday started out the same as pretty much every Sunday has for the past couple of years, get up early, make a pot of coffee, run to the grocery store and the post office and then back home. Usually my wife and daughter are still sleeping, so I turn on the laptop while I’m putting the groceries away and check email and the day’s MiLB.TV schedule.
I noticed almost right away an email from a friend who I get something from once every couple of weeks or so, so I bypassed it and went on checking other stuff and went back, and was pretty surprised at what I read from him.
After five years of blood, sweat, money and time, he was shutting down a website he had built from scratch into one of the more respected blogs in a market where there are more websites than cigarette butts on the sidewalk.
I’m talking about Mike Silva and NY Baseball Digest.
There’s one big, important point here that everyone needs to understand…Mike isn’t media. Whatever he knows is self-taught, through either the school of hard knocks or from not being afraid to knock on someone’s door. Mike excelled at something that stops most people before they get off the ground.
Even the most formally trained journalist has to pay his dues; respect from professional players, coaches, and front office personnel isn’t given just because you have a website or write for the Post. Not only did Mike gain that respect, he kept it by being true to his word and maintaining a trait which seems to be lost amongst today’s “media”, integrity.
We first met in late 2006 when both were writing for a start up site called Dugout Central, which was founded and operated by former Yankees third baseman Mike Pagliarulo. Mike left shortly thereafter to start his own site, and through the subsequent years we had stayed in touch, either through my writing contributions to his site or as a guest on NYBD’s sister radio show. As a transplanted native of the Tri-State area living in the Southwest and a fan of the local teams, it was a mutual win for both of us as I kept up with the happenings of what was going on in the world of New York sports, outside of what ESPN’s spin city provided.
Mike, by birth I guess, is a Mets’ fan, and while his site touched on the Yankees and the other sports teams in New York and even the local talk show scene, it was the trust that he built with the Mets’ organization that led Mike to being respected enough to receive credentials and invitations to events which left some big-name “mainstream” media outlets outside on the sidewalk.
Finding a start-up site which has reached this level of respect in such a short period of time is like finding quality acting on “Jersey Shore”. Major League Baseball doesn’t arbitrarily hand out media credentials, I can tell you from my own personal experiences that your first born child and being written into your will isn’t good enough, it’s a sometimes never ending process for the vast majority.
This isn’t the end, however, as Mike is moving on to a new venture called Instream Sports, where he will be a featured writer and will maintain the radio show. The launch for his writing career will be effective June first, while you can still listen t his weekly Sunday radio shows on blogtalk radio.
For those who know Mike, he will be posting occasional updates on mikesilvamedia.com leading up to the launch, and will be making a formal announcement once his start date is official.
So, on behalf of those who care, and even some who don’t, thanks to Mike for five solid years of NY Baseball Digest, and good luck with the new opportunity.
The forty-two year old Rivera, baseball’s all-time saves leader and a likely first ballot Hall of Famer, tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee shagging fly balls during batting practice before the Yankees game with Kansas City. And while there was some second guessing going on after the fact, the truth is Rivera (and many other pitchers) have done this as part of their pre-game routines for most of their careers. Rivera, in fact, was an outfielder during his youth in Panama and only switched to pitching because he lacked one fundamental tool necessary to play professional baseball.
He couldn’t hit a lick. But ask anyone close to the Yankees, Rivera very well may be the best defensive outfielder in the organization, and has been for quite awhile.
Many have speculated this would be his last season in the major leagues; a formal announcement was planned sometime around the All-Star break, although Rivera has said since the injury he will attempt a comeback and plans on playing in 2013.
The Yankees have stated they will not look outside the organization for a replacement, instead they will finish out the season with a Rafael Soriano/David Robertson tandem, although don’t be surprised if this is just an experiment and a permanent selection is made as the season progresses.
As far as any potential free agents for next year, well, Rivera is one, so if the Yanks decide to go that route, there is only one logical choice. Which, when you look at the list of potential relievers/closers available for 2013, may still be their best option.
Personally, I think there is no shortage of potential candidates within the organization right now. The Yankees inability to draft and or develop quality major league arms on a consistent basis is a problem which will eventually come back and bite them on the butt.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, that productivity came while they both were wearing a different color uniform. The minor league system now is full of back of the rotation, long relief guys, or in the case of David Phelps now, a guy the Yanks can get a few quality starts out of while they wait for a better option.
Make no mistake, however, the best long term option to replace Mo is currently one of these back of the rotation starters, and it’s not Phelps or Adam Warren or Graham Stoneburner. It isn’t anyone currently in New York, either, whether it be any of Phil Hughes or Robertson or the injured Joba Chamberlain.
It’s Manny Banuelos.
For those who know me or have read my writings in the past, I’ve long been an advocate of Banuelos as Rivera’s heir apparent. His proven lack of durability as a starter, his inconsistent command and overrated repertoire have me convinced without doubt his future as a major league pitcher is as a reliever.
I have seen Banuelos pitch, mostly on MiLB feeds, and combined with scouting reports, what the “eye test” was telling me didn’t jive with the general feeling he was a top pitching prospect, and not just in the Yankees’ system.
Those feelings were justified when I had the opportunity to see “ManBan” pitch live during his 2010 Arizona Fall League assignment. He pitched pretty well considering the league’s propensity for offense and being just nineteen years old, but as I watched I could almost see the scouting reports come alive.
This is a player who, despite his age, is in his fifth season in the system, during which he’s averaged less than five innings per start, justifying those scouting reports which point to things like “durability”, “lack of physical strength” and “stamina” as potential long term red flags for him.
Banuelos is on the small side, but so to was another Yankee left hander of years gone by, Ron Guidry. A bit bigger than Manny, Guidry, too, was held back by an administration who didn’t believe a 5’11″ 170 pounder could pitch every five days at the major league level.
Unlike Banuelos, Guidry was a college draftee, who made his pro debut at age 21, and like Banuelos spent five years in the minors before making the Yankees’ rotation full time at the age of 26.
Throwing out the strength and stamina issues for a minute, unlike Guidry, Banuelos lacks a true “out” pitch. Guidry threw harder and had one of the best sliders of all-time, a pitch he could throw in any count and in any situation.
What I saw in the AFL was an overrated repertoire, an inconsistent fastball which had neither the movement or velocity I had expected to see, a curve with little downward break and which moved more like a flat slider or a cutter, and, most disappointing to me, a “plus” change up he had little command of and even tipped on occasion.
Throwing all those “ingredients” into a blender, I believe Banuelos’ inability to pitch deep into games and his lack of a “swing and miss” pitch makes him more suited to close games.
Through history, a closer with more than one quality pitch have been rare; Mo’s cutter, Eckersley’s slider, Hoffman’s change-up. Even going back to their beginnings, you had Hoyt Wilhelm‘s knuckle ball and Roy Face‘s splitter or fork ball. Having a go-to out pitch and a decent “show-me” offering are all a closer needs to get through three outs or fifteen pitches a couple of times a week.
With three decent pitches and not having to worry about pitch counts, Banuelos is ahead of the curve when looking at the qualifications needed to be a dominant, long term option for the role.
I think it’s awesome Rivera wants to try a comeback, and to go out on his own terms, but at age 43 and coming off major knee surgery I think the Yankees should be guarded in their optimism.
There’s an unwritten rule in the game which says a player can’t lose his job due to injury, but this isn’t a 25 year old coming off a pulled hamstring, and, quite frankly, Rivera’s job may be the most easily replaceable in sports.
If he comes to spring training next year and is the best “closer” in camp, then great, he wins.
But I think the Yankees would be foolish to not have his replacement already available, the time for that is now, before the need arises.
Time for the Sandman to exit, and for Manny Banuelos to enter.