ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Conference Call Transcript

ESPN-MLB-logo1Earlier today, the new ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew – Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and John Kruk – joined a media conference call to discuss ESPN’s Opening Night and Opening Day schedules and the start of Sunday Night Baseball’s 24th season. Here is the replay.

MLB Opening Night and Opening Day on ESPN:

ESPN’s Opening Night coverage will begin on Sunday, March 31, with Baseball Tonight at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the Houston Astros hosting the Texas Rangers at 8 p.m. from Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. On Opening Day, ESPN will televise a star-studded, four-game slate: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees at 1 p.m.; San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers at 4 p.m.; Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves at 7 p.m.; and St. Louis Cardinals at Arizona Diamondbacks at 10 p.m.

For the full Sunday Night Baseball schedule, visit ESPN MediaZone.

Transcript:

Q.         The Astros have gotten a lot of notice, some complimentary, some not so complimentary this season.  I was wondering if any of you gentlemen have thoughts on the path they’re taking and whether it’s likely to have a good long-term outcome or if they’re essentially spinning their wheels at this point? 

DAN SHULMAN:  I think this is not going to be a short rebuilding process.  I think everybody can see that.  Hopefully the farm system will bear fruit in the next two, three years and the Astros will get back to respectability and eventually contend before too long.

I think if nothing else, they’re giving some guys a shot to play on a regular basis who maybe haven’t had that shot before.  It wouldn’t surprise me if some guys overachieved and if maybe this team was a little bit better than some of the critics think they’re going to be this year.

OREL HERSHISER:  I think, Dan, you’re right on with guys getting an opportunity.  We’re going to see some young players that have some pop in their bat.  They might strike out a lot.  Justin Maxwell, if you project him over a whole season, he can put up some big numbers, last year, 315 at-bats, 18 home runs, 53 RBIs.  I think getting Jason Castro back as their everyday catcher, hopefully he’ll be healthy.  He can do a good job with the pitching staff.

I think Bud Norris, who is starting Opening Day for them, has had eight different catchers in his career behind the plate.  It will be nice to have somebody back there stable.

As far as their plan of going with low salary right now and young guys and rebuilding, I think they’re trying to go after a path to get some top draft picks, farm system, get them building.  This is going to be kind a slow, painful process at times, but hopefully it will be fruitful at times in two to three years.

 

JOHN KRUK:  You look at how other teams have done it.  Washington Nationals collected draft picks, Strasburg, Bryce Harper and others.  When they thought the time was right, they go out, they make the trade, get a Gio Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche, solidify their team with some veterans to go with these young kids.

I think that’s the path that the Astros are trying to take right now.  They’re trying to figure out what they have.  Like Orel said, is Maxwell a guy we can count on every day?  Is Altuve an everyday second baseman?  Maybe we can build around these guys.  Let’s get draft picks, in two or three years, let’s see if we can develop them into star major league players like the Washington Nationals have.

To me, I think it’s a better way to go than you look at some teams that just go out and sign a bunch of older free-agent guys at the end of their careers.  You’re watching a bunch of old guys trying to play.  I’d rather watch young kids make mistakes playing their hearts out than a bunch of veteran guys going through another season collecting another paycheck.

Q.         In the meantime, can they lose 120 games?  If they do, what does that say about the competitive nature of the new division?  Will that alter the playoff possibilities in terms of having one team that’s at a record pace for losses? 

SHULMAN:  From my perspective, that speaks to a larger topic with the schedule being unbalanced, whether it should be as unbalanced as it is.

It’s less unbalanced in terms of inner league play, but it is significantly unbalanced in terms of how many games you have to play within your division versus how many games you play against other teams in your league.

You can’t adjust year-to-year based on how bad you think one team is going to be or something like that.  There’s no question that teams in the American League West now appear to have a bit of an advantage because Houston is there.  I almost like it to be looked at as part of a larger issue, whether or not you should be playing, I don’t know the numbers off the top of my head, 18 games against teams in your own division, and six in the other division.  I think that’s something that needs to be revisited.

Q.         I’d just like to ask all three, when you got your schedules, saw this was the Opening Night game, Astros/Rangers, what was your thought? 

 

HERSHISER:  At first you think, wow, the Rangers are coming off 93 wins, they’re a little disappointed with the way they semi-collapsed again.  It will be good to see them get back on the horse.  I was hoping to get to see Harrison and Darvish.  I’m going to get to see Harrison, that’s great.  You look at the Astros; it’s a significant game for baseball and baseball history that needs to be documented.

So the fact that it’s on our network and baseball and us, we chose to cover this, I think it’s a historic perspective, not a micro-look at this season compared to a macro-look at baseball of all times.  In some ways I think it’s a good thing to be covering.

SHULMAN:  I think last year if you may recall, we opened up in Miami.  If memory serves, that wasn’t even a series, that was a single created game that was taken from another series just to showcase the new ballpark for the Marlins.  I realize this isn’t a new ballpark.  As Orel was saying, this is a unique situation.

I think I speak for all of three of us.  We go where we’re told to go.  But from what I understand, ESPN and Major League Baseball worked jointly on this and chose this game.  It’s one of two games we’re doing in a 24-hour period.  We’re going right from there to Los Angeles.

I think Orel is right.  This is more about documenting a very unusual occurrence with a team switching leagues and playing for the first time as an American League team.

HERSHISER:  I just think sometimes, this will be my fourth year on Sunday Night Baseball, I was on ESPN long before that, nine or ten years, sometimes we get criticized for having the Yankees and Red Sox on too much and we don’t cover other things that happen around baseball.  We’re kind of expanding our wings.

The Astros are doing something significant moving to the American League and rebuilding an organization with a brand-new manager and GM.  I think baseball needs to know about it, baseball fans need to know about it.  It’s a whole smorgasbord over a two-day period what we’re doing.  It’s part of the whole landscape of baseball as we start the season.

KRUK:  I agree with what both of my colleagues have said.  Looking at it as a former player, this is where the schedule says to go, so that’s where we end up.

It’s a game on the schedule that they said, this is the game you’re going to do.  We’re going to do it to the best of our abilities.  Of course, the Astros move to the American League, the big story, but the Rangers, what happened to them last year, the players they lost, the players that they didn’t get via free agency this off-season, to me that’s a big story.  They are a powerhouse in the American League.  Some things have changed for them.  It’s good to get it out Opening Day.

Q.         As you all know, the three-person booth doesn’t always work.  It takes the right amount of chemistry for it to make it work.  We can certainly start with Dan.  Why do you think you all, and John as a new team, will work for viewers? 

SHULMAN:  First and foremost, because I think Orel and John are good at what they do.  That makes your job a lot easier.  I’ve done two and I’ve done three.  In recent years I’ve done more three than two.

I like the dynamic of having a hitter and a pitcher.  It’s very obvious to people that John and Orel are different people and look at a lot of things differently.  I think they’ll have some debate and differences of opinion.  I’m looking forward to see where it goes.

From the three games we did together in the spring, I thought they went really well, their chemistry was really good.  I think my job is just to set them up and let them go, let them tell us what they know about baseball, which in both cases, their knowledge is tremendous.

I think both of them love baseball.  I think they both love analyzing the game.  I think they love talking about the sport.  I think they’re going to make my job very easy.

HERSHISER:  I’ve been in a three-man booth, had Joe Morgan in 2010, Bobby Valentine in ’11, Terry Francona last year in ’12, and now John.  What John brings to the booth is a piece of almost all those guys.  I’m looking forward to this.  This might not be a team where next year I have a different partner, that John and I can do this for a long, long time to come.  I view him more as a peer, not somebody who is coming from another perspective like a manager or Hall of Fame broadcaster like Joe Morgan.  I think the debate is going to be clearer this year, us coming from the same page almost like teammates.  That will be interesting to the viewer.

As far as the debate from a two-man booth to a three-man booth is the challenge that we don’t overtalk.  ESPN Sunday Night we are able to do that because we have so many great things we can offer the viewer visually that we don’t always have to talk, the camera angles we bring, the replays we bring, the graphic elements, historic perspective from video clips, we can relax and let the viewer enjoy the game.

KRUK:  I think the dynamic between Orel and I is competing against Orel for all the years that I did, you can tell he was a thinker.  He thought through the whole process of this pitch, that pitch, what am I going to throw three pitches from now.  He tried to set things up.

I was just a reaction guy.  I saw it and tried to hit.  I didn’t try to overthink it.  When I did, bad things started to happen.

Just that dynamic alone is going to be interesting.  He’s going to say some things and I’m going to think, you put a lot of thought into that, why did you waste so much time?  He’s going to think, you must be a moron because you don’t think about anything.

I really think this dynamic is going to be great.

Dan is the perfect guy to orchestrate the whole deal for us.  I’m looking forward to it because if Orel gets me thinking about a lot of things, it’s hard to tell what I’m liable to say.

Q.         I think long-term big picture once the Astros are in the American League for six months, a few years, you get the rivalries with the Rangers and eventually even teams like the Yankees or the Red Sox.  Initially it’s a very unique move.  Nobody has done it since Milwaukee.  They even had some AL/NL back and forth.  The Astros have always been in the National League.  A lot of the long time, hardcore fans since the move were even rumored have been pretty upset about it.  I’m wondering what your take is on the historical blend, but the idea that this is a very unique game from the Astros’ perspective, something that is almost going to define the franchise for the next 1 to 10 to 50 years. 

SHULMAN:  I think you make a good point.  I think we have to be very cognizant of the fact that the vast majority of the Houston fans who are watching are probably pro National League.  We’re not there to defend or condemn their move to the American League; we’re there to document the game and the significance of the event.

But my personal feeling is over time, especially young fans will get used to it, just like there are many fans of Milwaukee now who have no memory of them being in the American League or probably love the rivalry they have with St. Louis now.  I think that will grow in time with Houston.

The best way for them to make new memories is to become competitive.  I think it’s going to take a little while.  Once they become competitive, winning ballgames, I think the rivalries will come quickly and I think people will adjust quickly to the American League.

Q.         This is a topic not related to your broadcast at all.  The topic is team chemistry.  As you all know, the Red Sox have gone through great lengths to improve the chemistry of the team with their acquisitions.  I know both Orel and John, you’ve been on great teams that probably had great chemistry.  I’m sure you’ve been on teams that probably didn’t.  I’m wondering what your thoughts were on what the difference is.  Is it one bad guy that upsets the apple cart? 

KRUK:  You know, I’ve been on bad teams that you got along great with everyone.  I was on a good team in Philly that there were times when fights broke out in the clubhouse more often than not.  But everyone said we had such great chemistry.

I think the bottom line is it all comes down to winning.  When you’re winning, you overlook certain things.  When you start losing, you try to find things of why you’re not winning.  This guy showed up late for BP.  This guy doesn’t come out for BP, spends all his day in the trainer’s room.  That’s when you’re losing.

When you’re winning, He’s getting prepared to play, don’t worry about him, he’s getting ready to do battle.  That’s when you’re winning.

It’s such a difficult thing to try to grasp, this chemistry thing, because to me it all depends on winning and losing.

HERSHISER:  Yeah, I think you’re right, John, it does.  Tommy LaSorda used to say, We can fight behind these clubhouse doors, but once we leave here we got to lock arms.  It all matters that when you cross the white lines that you are on the same page.  It doesn’t mean that you go to dinner, you ride in the same cab to the ballpark, your wives aren’t talking about other people.  The fact when you get on the field, everybody wants to win, show up, concentrate.

I think that comes out of the manager and the coaching staff sometimes, that even if you have a team that doesn’t seem like the chemistry’s perfect, but they make sure when the guys cross the line they’re all on the same page.

I’ve been on teams where we’ve had the white elephant in the room, and people were able to ignore it because they were strong enough personalities to keep people focused, and I’ve had teams where there were four or five white elephants in the room and people could not get everybody focused and things disintegrate.

Ultimately, I think the definitions we use about chemistry, a guy’s makeup, a guy’s style about how he prepares for a game, I think all those adjectives go back to – did they win or lose, get the guy out or a hit.  We choose the adjective according to the results, not to the way they got there.

Q.         Can you squash a bad guy if there are enough good veterans in the clubhouse?  Can you drown him out? 

HERSHISER:  I think you can.  Just depends if that bad guy, as far as a person, is hitting a three-run homer or not.  If he’s hitting a three-run homer, you can put up with the actions.  If the guy is dragging you down, not hustling, not playing defense, hits for himself when he should be moving a runner over from second to third, it multiplies the negative happening off the field.  If he’s doing something positive, it will neutralize what he’s doing bad off the field.

Q.         Your observations this year, I know Davey Johnson last year came out said the playoffs are bust, the World Series are bust.  This Washington Nationals team do you believe is capable of being a World Series contender? 

KRUK:  Yes, without question because they have pitching, they got a deeper bullpen this year than last year, and their young players in Bryce Harper, have a year under their belt.  They brought back Adam LaRoche, which I think is a key, because it seems like talking to some of the players that the young players kind of gravitated towards Adam, really sought his advice on how to go about being a hitter, certain situations, what to look for.  That’s what I heard.  If that’s the case, that’s the guy you need to bring back.  Adds value to your team.

Yeah, I think they’re as good as anyone in baseball.  I think, yeah, I agree, if they don’t get to the World Series this year, they should look at it as a disappointment.

SHULMAN:  For what it’s worth, they ask each of us to make our picks.  I don’t think they’re on dot.com yet, but will be in a few days.  I picked Washington to win the World Series.

They added Soriano to the pen.  Strasburg should be able to throw as many innings as he wants to.  Another year’s experience for Harper.  Zimmermann is primed to become an elite starting pitcher.  Two good catchers.  I think they’ve got everything they need to win the World Series.  Not to say it’s going to be easy, but I think they’ll be right there with everybody else.

HERSHISER:  I picked Strasburg to win the Cy Young.  Gio Gonzalez gets nosed out by R.A. Dickey and he’s on the same staff.  I think Strasburg is going to have a phenomenal year if he stays healthy.  He’s shown when he takes the mound, he can beat anybody, and he can dominate any game.

I think with the team he has around him, the momentum they have coming out of last year, it’s going to be an exceptional year.  If he leaves the game with a one-run lead in the sixth, hopefully the team will carry it and get the W.  On paper this is one of the top two or three teams in baseball.

Q.         John, how important is it for the Eastern Division for the Nationals and Phillies to continue to build this rivalry they are starting to develop?

KRUK:  You have to throw the Braves in there, too, because the Braves have been as good as anyone over the last two years.

I think the Nationals are going to have some staying power like the Phillies have had starting in 2007 because of their youth, because of their pitching, because obviously their willingness to spend money and go out and do what they have to do to put a winning team out there.

You have to remember the Red Sox/Yankees was always a great rivalry, but it wasn’t always a great competitive rivalry until the early 2000s when Boston started spending money to keep up.  That’s when it became really competitive, when Manny was in his prime, Ortiz came there, they started spending a lot of money, here we go.  Now you have a great rivalry because they were both really, really good teams.

I think the Phillies are going to be a really good team.  The Nationals are going to be a great team.  I don’t see why this rivalry can’t sustain for years to come, one, because they’re close to each other, but two, because they’re both willing to spend money and they both have great players.

Q.         What do you think of the Brewers acquiring Kyle Lohse and whether or not the Brewers have a rotation that can really compete with Cincinnati or St. Louis in the NL Central? 

HERSHISER:  I thought Kyle Lohse got stuck in a tough bind there, maybe asking for too much money in the off-season compared to the compensation.  It’s a shame that a guy could get a job quicker and maybe even a better contract if he has a worse year.  That’s an odd thing to happen with baseball.

I’m sure they’re going to really look hard with the bargaining agreements between the players and owners to help that that doesn’t happen anymore.

He definitely is going to help the pitching staff.  I tip my hat to Milwaukee ownership again that they step out, because of the size of the market, they’ll spend money to try to help their team as best they can.  They go out and get C.C. Sabathia in the past, sign their stars to good contracts.  Now they go out and get Lohse as a late sign, spend 30 some million dollars.  I’m not sure they’re going to be able to keep up with the Cincinnati Reds and the Cardinals, but this gives them a better chance.

KRUK:  I agree.  Anytime you add a quality maybe not No. 1 starting pitcher but a top-of-the-rotation guy, Kyle Lohse has been great over the last three or four years, it’s going to help you, it’s going to make you more competitive.

To me it all goes back to their offense.  Can Ryan Braun repeat with all the controversy surrounding him.  I don’t have any doubts he can’t.  Corey Hart has to be big.  Rickie Weeks has to be a great player.  Can’t be an average or below average player offensively if they’re going to win.

They have to have everybody contributing offensively.  If they do, they’re going to be fine.  If they’re not, I don’t care how much pitching you have, sometimes you have to outscore people.  It’s up to their offense.  If their offensive players produce, they’ll be fine.

Q.         Dan, we’re in the midst of this analytics revolution in all sports, especially baseball.  Stuff all over the Internet.  Front offices are using it.  Moneyball.  It seems like in baseball broadcasts, we’re still talking mostly about batting average, home runs, RBIs, no discussion of WAR.  My question is, do you think we’re going to start seeing more and more of this sort of analytical analysis in baseball broadcast or is that a different audience?

SHULMAN:  I think the vast majority of our audience, I bet for everybody on a Monday morning who said, do you know what Mike Trout’s WAR is, I bet there’s 10 people who say, did you see he hit his 30th home run or stole his 49th base or whatever.

I don’t think that many people are that deep into the new age analytics.  If you go back 15 years nobody was even talking about on-base percentage, that came in and then, of course, OPS came in.  OPS I think is fairly common now.  So things are moving; they’re just not maybe moving that the sabermetricians would like.

In terms of my personal viewpoint, I think some of those things are applicable now and useful now, and I think some of those things are better off for columns on dot.com, to be honest with you, because you can get into them a little bit more.

I also believe that numbers can tell a story.  But I also believe if I sit there and watch a game with Orel and John that the eye test from the experts tells a story as well.

I don’t get too caught up in the numbers, in the new age analytics.  I think there are intangibles.  I believe in intangibles, in chemistry, some guys performing better in certain situations than other guys.  I defer to Orel and John’s expertise in those areas as well.

Yeah, I do believe they have a use, but it’s just like an organization.  You can be all moneyball or you can be all scouting or you can be some combination of the two.  I think both have a place.  I think my personal preference is to dip my toe in the water a little bit but not delve too deeply into those during a telecast.

HERSHISER:  I think there’s a place for the new age stats with the front office.  There’s a scouting perspective and a mathematician’s perspective.  I think it’s easier to bring the stat to the broadcast if it’s a formula that everybody understands.

But I think that all of us on this call listening to my voice right now, nobody can tell me the formula for WAR.  We know what it stands for, wins above replacement, but how do you come up with a number.  I think people know what an RBI is, know what a home run is, know what a walk is.  Those are easy to explain.  People have a huge reference point.  Like Dan said, certain stats start to come in, but I think it takes time for them all to come in.

It’s baseball and it’s an eyes test.  Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean won two out of the last three World Series.  I don’t know if you can name me the WAR of any guy on their whole club.  Buster Posey probably has the best one, Matt Cain, maybe Pablo Sandoval.  I know those three guys are probably the core of their team.

I think people that are listening to us on a game, watching a guy strike a guy out, hit a home run, get a key RBI, not because that guy got a double.

SHULMAN:  On-base percentage, when I first started doing games, a batter would come to the plate, you would say batting average, RBIs, stolen bases, on what we call a lower third graphic.  At some point more and more local and national telecasts started using on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS.  I think those are all good things.

In terms of the new age stats, I’m a bigger fan of some than the other.  Some intrigue me.  Like Orel said, some you just don’t know exactly how they’re put together.  Unless you’re confident that the formula is correct, you’re hesitant to put it out there.

I know Sabermetricians have made tremendous strides in this both offensively and in terms of the defensive metrics as well.

Buster Olney is a guy, one of the announcers of the show, he’s a guy who delves deeper into the new age stats than the three of us do.  He will use them on the air.  We’re very comfortable with him using them on the air.

It’s something that he’s put more work into and is more familiar with.  I think it’s an area where he kind of takes the lead on our telecast.

Q.         As you mentioned earlier, your show started a year ago at the Marlins’ new ballpark.  A few things have changed since then with the Marlins.  Any general thoughts on the direction the Marlins took this off-season? 

KRUK:  If I’m a fan of the Miami Marlins, I don’t know if I would be a fan anymore.  How do you root for anyone?  You root for a team, you’re loyal to your team, but you also get loyal to players.  It just doesn’t seem like the Marlins are that interested in keeping players around that long for you to get loyal with.

Yes, they won a couple World Championships, that’s great.  Each time after they won they dismantled the whole team.

I think they were very disloyal to their fans by signing these guys, getting the hype about the new stadium, everything is going to be great, we’re going to be spenders, win another World Championship, then a couple months into the season, Okay, this doesn’t seem to be working, let’s get rid of everyone.

If I was a fan of the Marlins I would be confused, upset and not sure I’d be willing to spend my money anymore to go watch them.

HERSHISER:  It’s just really sad.  It’s sad to see the South Florida baseball fans get the wool pulled over their eyes.  The popularity rating of the owner is not real good right now, I wouldn’t think.  You look at the names that exited Florida, it’s unbelievable.  Usually the Canadian people come south to get warm, but it sounds like all of Miami had to go north to be in Toronto now.

It’s really sad to me.  I hope that they turn it around.  I hope that the ownership says, You know what, we have to be loyal to our fan base, to this commitment we made to this new stadium, to Florida baseball, turn it around.  But that would be a big switch from where they are right now.

Q.         Wondering your take on the challenges the Orioles will face to try to repeat last year’s success, and a thought on the AL East, is it potentially as tightly bunched as it appears it may be? 

SHULMAN:  I think all three of us were tremendously impressed with the year that the Orioles had last year.  I know Orel and I had a chance to do their wild card game and their series with the Yankees on ESPN radio, spent time around the team and Buck Showalter.  They had a great team.

They’re a team when you walk into their clubhouse, similar to the Giants, you get the feeling this is a true team.  All 25 guys are going to do whatever is asked of them to help the team win.  I think they had a great year.  I don’t think they were a fluke.  I think they’re a contending team.

You can’t talk about them without mentioning the record in one-run games.  Sometimes those things tend to even out a little bit over time.  I think they’re right in the mix in the American League East.  They’ve got some guys who were hurt last year, like Reimold, Roberts, Markakis.  If those guys stay healthy, they’ve got a chance to be a better offensive team.

You look at what Toronto has done, you can never, ever count out Tampa Bay with what they’ve done in recent years.  I think it’s a division where everybody could be .500 but nobody might win more than 90 because the division is so deep and you’re playing so many games against one another.  I think it’s got a chance to be the best divisional race in baseball this year.

HERSHISER:  I think the comparison to the Giants is a very good one.  You have a baseball manager that knows how to get everything out of his players possible.  If Adam Jones had some key at-bats, they could have gone deeper.  If those guys in the middle of the order get key hits, like Sandoval and Posey, the Baltimore Orioles might go a little bit further with maybe a little less of a rotation, and a bunch kind of misfit kind of players that play hard, know the details of the game, are being called on the coaching staff to play the game.  I think you tip your hat to Buck and the players for buying in and saying, we will be a baseball team, not just a bunch of players that take a field.

KRUK:  I agree with both of these guys.  I think they’re right in the mix.  And in this division, it wouldn’t surprise me if any team won it.  It wouldn’t surprise me if any of the teams finished last.  That’s how tightly grouped together I think all five of these teams are.

As far as the Baltimore Orioles go, yeah, I think the big key to them this year, we mentioned the one-run games, can they repeat that or come close to that?  I think if Brian Roberts can play a full season and be that lead-off hitter, something they really didn’t have last year, if he can be that guy to get on base, steal bases, Buck likes to run guys, put guys in motion in open holes, he could be another weapon not only for the Orioles but for Buck to play around with, too, during the season to have fun with.

HERSHISER:  I think it’s going to be hard for the wild card to come out of this division as evenly balanced as it is.  I think winning the division is the only way somebody is getting in.

Q.         When opening day rolls around, we know we won’t see the Yankees we are used to between all the injuries and veteran players.  What do you think the Yankees need to do to avoid a downfall and restore their former glory? 

SHULMAN:  First thing they need to get an incredible performance out of their pitching staff.  They have so many guys that left the team or are hurt.  They’re going to need every pitcher they’ve got to pitch well.

The second thick they’re going to need to do is hang around for six or eight weeks and try to stay in striking distance, until Granderson, maybe Alex Rodriguez comes back, you don’t know.  If I’m the other teams in the division, you want to bury them early.  If I get to Memorial Day, the Yankees are at .500.  I think they’re going to need to pitch great and play well early until the guys get healthy.

HERSHISER:  Can’t agree with Dan more.  I think Robinson Cano needs to have a huge year throughout the whole year.  They don’t have the ability to have their star or their stars be hot and cold throughout the year.  When their lineup was so deep, when Tex was done, Alex picked them up.  When Robinson was down slightly, they go with somebody else.  They don’t have the bench players or the depth of stardom to go through hot-and-cold streaks.  I think a guy like Cano has to have a solid, consistent year where he carries the team throughout the whole year.

KRUK:  I agree.  Robinson has to be an MVP candidate early.  To me Brett Gardner, Ichiro, especially early in the season, they have to get on base, they have to run.  They can’t wait back for that three-run homer because it more than likely is not coming this year, especially not early until everyone gets healthy, Granderson and Teixeira gets back.  I think Joe has to be creative offensively with this team, hitting and running, doing the little things, small ball.  If Gardner and Ichiro struggle early, it could be an ugly offensive season for them until these guys come back.

HERSHISER:  I think also C.C. Sabathia has a lot on his shoulders because that can be a pedestrian middle-of-the-road rotation without C.C. having a big, big year.

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