Interview with Bryan Hoch

Here at 6P8OBJ, we have been lucky enough to conduct a bunch of great interviews with esteemed sportswriters.. Regular readers will recall that we have already had the priviledge of conducting interviews with the likes of Kat O'Brien, Tim Dierkes, Ed Price, Mike Ashmore, and Tyler Kepner. We are very lucky to have added Bryan Hoch, the Yankee beat writer at yankees.com, to the list today.

Conor Cashel- Jose Molina is currently the only player guaranteed to be on the Yankee bench when the season starts. The other spots will most likely be determined in spring training battles. The loser of the center field spot (Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner), the loser of the right field spot(Nick Swisher or Xavier Nady), and whoever wins the role of utility infielder (Cody Ransom or Angel Berroa) plus possibly Juan Miranda will make up the rest of the bench. There is a possibility that Nady or Swisher will be traded. If that were to happen, the Yankee bench would be pretty weak. Any chance the Yankees try to add some depth by signing someone like Mark Grudzielanek or Nomar Garciaparra?

Bryan Hoch -There's a chance, but Brian Cashman said recently that he's in the mode of offering non-roster invitations only – all the money is pretty much spent from the budget and they're going to cut it close to last year's $209 million figure after signing Andy Pettitte. Really, I lean the way of thinking that the Xavier Nady-Nick Swisher talk is a little overblown. It served a purpose for Cashman to work the phones a little and see what might be out there for either guy, but obviously no one was coughing up the family farm because both players are still with the Yankees. At this point, why open yourself up to a scenario like the one you just mentioned? They'd be well served to hang on to both players at least until exhibition games start and see what develops. Maybe some team suffers a crippling outfield injury and absolutely must have Nady or Swisher, and the Yankees can hit the jackpot. Or, what if there's some shallow fly ball in – say, Dunedin – and all of a sudden Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera or Brett Gardner is on the disabled list for a long period of time? You just never know. Spring Training is a gauntlet to get guys to the finish line healthy and it doesn't always work out that way.

CC- One player we haven't heard much about this off season is Chien Ming Wang. Wang has taken on the role of ace for the past few seasons, and now he will be the third starter as CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett have taken over the top two slots. Will Chien benefit from the lessened pressure on him, or will he start to throw like a third starter rather than the ace he is?

BH- I don't know that Wang can have any more pressure on him than he does right now. Here's why – every time he takes the mound, it's a national event in Taiwan. If you think the tabloids go crazy shooting Alex Rodriguez's every midnight dalliance, imagine what it must be to be Wang in Taiwan, where the microscope is about 100 times closer. Pitching for the Yankees is actually a great escape for Wang, because people in the United States don't zero in nearly as much on him as when he's at home. If Wang is healthy, people around the Yankees expect that he'll be able to turn in his usual performance, with no after-effects of that freak injury. For Wang, that's about 19 wins, a ton of ground balls and not many strikeouts. The Yankees would take it.

CC- Mariano Rivera's contract expires after the 2010 season. Will Mo hang 'em up after '10, or could he try to get 1 or 2 more years in? If he keeps pitching the way he has been, what kind of deal would the Yanks offer him if he wants to return past 2010?

BH - Good question. I tend to think that this is probably Mo's last contract – Jorge Posada has already strongly hinted that he's done after 2011, and you can tie those guys together as 'old-guard Yankees' who locked in for one last big deal after the 2007 season. What Rivera did last season while hiding a painful injury for almost all of the season was nothing short of amazing. He's still a joy to watch and you just hope that the day comes when he can leave on his own terms. There's nothing sadder than a fading hero who can't get it done anymore, and Rivera strikes me as too proud to pitch when he is diminished in that way.

CC - With the current composition of the bullpen, should the Yanks expect the same amount of success as last year? Will the promotion of Mark Melancon along with a healthy season from Brian Bruney make this a 'pen to be feared? There has been a lot of specualtion about the Yanks adding Juan Cruz because he would only cost them a 4th round pick rather than the 1st rounder he would cost most other teams. If he comes cheap is he a smart investment, or is he just an extra piece that the team doesn't need?

BH- Poor Juan Cruz, the victim of a flaw in the compensation system. Frankly, I'm surprised the Yankees didn't make a run at him, but they're putting a lot of stock in Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte. I actually think Bruney will have a very good year and that Marte will be much more effective than some of those lefty options the Yankees have trotted out there in the last few years – Mike Myers, Ron Villone, etc. We'll see what happens with Melancon. I wouldn't be stunned if he opened the year at Triple-A, but there are a lot of people in the organization who'd like to get a look at him sooner than later. The setup innings will probably go to Bruney and Marte in April, but the back end of that bullpen is wide open. I don't see any reason why a guy like Melancon couldn't eventually displace the likes of Edwar Ramirez or Jose Veras.

CC- Many writers have debated whether Joe Girardi should bat Teixeira 3rd and A-Rod 4th, or vice versa. What's your take? Who needs the protection more?

BH - If it was my lineup card, I think I'd bat Teixeira third and have A-Rod fourth. Can you imagine an opposing manager trying to pitch around Teixeira to get to A-Rod? There's a legit argument on both sides – if you flip it, A-Rod is on base for Teixeira to drive in a whole lot more. But I think Teixeira will get on base so often that no one is going to look longingly for Bobby Abreu's patient approach. Mike Scioscia put Teixeira third in front of Vladimir Guerrero and that worked like a charm. But really, A-Rod needs someone behind him hitting with authority to make sure he sees pitches to hit. That's part of the reason they've got to cross their fingers and hope Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui are ready to answer the call.

CC- Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera are expected to fight it out during the spring for the starting center field spot. What have both players done thus far this winter to prepare for the upcoming season, and who do you see winning the position battle?

BH - Robinson Cano says that Melky Cabrera is working out hard down in the Dominican Republic, and Brett Gardner got to camp very early and has been running around the Minor League complex. I think Cabrera has a slight edge because of his contract ($1.4 million) and his lack of options, so if all things are completely equal, the Yankees will carry Cabrera. But a good spring from Gardner changes that. They're going to give him a legit opportunity to win a job and we already know Girardi likes his speed a lot. People haven't given up on Melky but he has something to prove after taking a step back.

Kevin Seefried- With the recent revelation of A-Rod's failed steroid test, how do you think that will affect him both mentally and performance-wise in the upcoming season?

BH - This is going to be the biggest challenge of Alex's baseball life. His legacy is in tatters and, 20 years from now, people will be judging him over how he handles the next few seasons. Alex's baseball talent is tremendous and that won't be washed away by any Sports Illustrated story or Selena Roberts' book due out in April. But they will be giant, ugly distractions and the roller-coaster is just beginning for him. There are going to be issues down the road and his teammates may get tired of answering questions for or about Alex. I keep thinking about 2007, when Alex basically told the world to butt out and put in his iPod headphones. He kept distance in '08 as well, but injuries put a dent in those numbers. He's never going to be warm and fuzzy for the media, and that's his decision to make. If he takes it out on American League pitching and Alex can avoid saying silly things, the Yankees will be pretty happy.

KS- When Jeter's contract is up, it is not out of the question that the Yanks' might prefer to move him to center field. Since Jeter is such an icon, would the organization actually ask him to move as part of the contract negotiations, or is there a chance he might pull a Cal Ripken Jr., and move to do what is best for the team?

BH - Who knows – maybe Gardner and Cabrera are complete busts and Jeter sees center field late in 2009? No, I don't actually see that happening, but you can't rule anything out. Ideally, you'd want his heart to be in it, if you're going to cross that bridge. The number of positions where you can actually consider moving Jeter are limited because of the long-term deals the Yankees have committed to – actually, one of my first thoughts when they signed Teixeira was, where are they going to play Jorge Posada? Brian Cashman bluntly said in an interview that the '09 Yankees are a bad defensive team – he's admitted that outright. The thinking is that CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Joba Chamberlain will strike out so many guys that it won't matter. Either way, there's going to be some tough decisions to make after '10. You don't want to see Jeter cracking his 3,000th hit wearing a Rays uniform or something. But the Yankees have a way of taking care of their own and, trust me, I don't think they'd ever let that happen.

Thanks for your time Bryan. Be sure to see Bryan's work as the Yankee beat writer for Yankees.com


Scott said...

Put Jeter in Left!

Steven said...

taking care of their own?
- Joe Torre?
- Bernie Williams?

Ryan said...

-Jorge Posada
-Mariano Rivera

Anonymous said...

...who the heck is going to be leading off for the yanks once Damon is gone? If Hughes has a great year, do they trade Wang for a stud CF w/ speed instead of signing him to a big contract? They'll need an Ellsbury or Sizemore and there are no 2010 FAs that fit the mold.

Conor Cashel said...

Well hopefully, as Damon leaves Austin Jackson will come up and play the role as everyday CF and lead-off man. This post outlines that idea http://6pound8ouncebabyjoba.blogspot.com/2009/02/how-i-see-future.html