This spring training kicked off in a little war of words between the Red Sox and Yankees. Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox CEO and President, attacked the Yankees free-spending policy which led Yankees President Randy Levine to counter by saying Lucchino was, “spooked by the Yankees.” Joe Maddon, manager of another AL East rival, took a different approach.
Maddon, the manager that has turned the Tampa Bay Rays franchise from an afterthought to a perennial contender, spoke to reporters before Sunday’s bout at The Boss against the Yankees. Unlike Lucchino, he raved about the Yankees making the right moves. He began with Jacoby Ellsbury and the new dynamic he brings to the club. He compared the Brett Gardner and Ellsbury pairing in the outfield to the combo the World Champion Red Sox had in their outfield last season with Ellsbury and Shane Victorino. “That part worries me a little bit because if that starts rolling, that’s hard to stop.”
He then went on to discuss the signing of Carlos Beltran. Maddon discussed how Beltran seems to be an ageless wonder as he has, like a good bottle of Merlot, gotten better with age. “He’s really good in the latter part of the season. That’s the kind of guy you want.”
Lastly, he touched on All-Star catcher, Brain McCann, whom he feels is the biggest piece to the Yankees championship puzzle.
McCann, it starts right there for me. To be able to get McCann behind the plate, what he brings … not just the hitting, the potential home runs to right field, but what he does toughness-wise and what he does in regards to preparation. And when the pitchers fall in love with that kind of stuff they pitch better. To me, that’s probably the most important acquisition.
Maddon nailed this. As a long-time Yankee fan who has not only lived in Atlanta for 12 years but worked at Turner Field for three, I can tell you I have seen a lot of Braves games. I can also tell you how excited I was when Evan Gattis got off to his great start last season because I knew by the All-Star Break the Braves were going to let McCann walk and that the only team that was going to be able to afford him was the Yankees. Maddon is 100% right in what McCann brings to a line-up. Yes, it will be exciting to watch him abuse that right field porch with his left-handed power bat, but like Maddon mentions there are more intangibles McCann has than mere power. He brings a toughness that the Yankees were missing last season (remember how McCann waited for Carlos Gomez at home plate last year?). The biggest thing is how he handles pitchers. The Braves rotations over the years have evolved from crafty veterans to young guns. McCann knows how to handle a guy who just wants to throw his game as well as mentor the young pitchers into elite starters. That could pay huge dividends with the mixed bag that will make up the Yankees rotation with two elder statesmen and three youngsters still relatively new to the game.
Coming from a guy who has revamped a team of nobodies to a division rival the Yankees have to worry about year in a year out, Maddon’s words speak volumes for what the Yankees did this offseason. I’m sure he is hoping that he is wrong but I am certainly one Yankee fan who thinks he got it right.