It's getting winter cold here in New York. But there is plenty of hot baseball air in the papers today: the Times reports that the Yankees are setting their sights squarely on Carlos Beltran; the Post notes that Brian Cashman and Joe Garagiola Jr met briefly, presumably to talk about Randy Johnson; Newsday mentions that Andruw Jones could be a good fit for New York should Beltran slip away, and according to the Daily News, the Yankees also met with Carl Pavano's agent yesterday. The News also has a story about the Mets interviewing Yankee coach Rick Down without permission. Ostensibly, it's all much ado about nothing, but at least it's about baseball.
One thing is for sure, Mel Stottlemyre will be back for one final season as pitching coach and Joe Girardi will be Joe Torre's bench coach. According to the Times:
"I had always intended on returning," Stottlemyre said. "I never had the word retirement in my mind at any time. There was more in the papers about retiring than I had in my mind."
..."My family very much wants me to go out the right way," he said. "I think the way is to announce that this will be my last year as pitching coach for the New York Yankees. Doing it this way takes away a lot of the thinking that health might be a problem."
..."I sensed a little bit from what you read in the papers and things going around that someone in the Yankee organization might be happy if I stepped down," Stottlemyre said, in reference to articles that appeared last week suggesting that he was preparing to retire.
Some Yankee fans, including me, have wondered if it isn't time for Mel to move on. However, Steven Goldman defended Stottlemyre well in the most recent edition of "The Pinstriped Bible":
In general...I think we're too quick to blame Stottlemyre for things that have gone wrong and don't give him enough credit for the many things have gone right.
...Perhaps Stottlemyre couldn't help [Jeff] Weaver get over his psychological problems. Neither could Joe Torre and a dozen other people connected with the Yankees organization. Every pitching coach has some pupils that will not be helped. The pitcher then changes teams and does a little better because he's found a coach who can somehow get through to him, or he's desperate enough to finally listen. Jason Marquis, who could not find success with the Braves' Leo Mazzone but was helped by the Cardinals' Dave Duncan, is a great example.
That leaves [Javier] Vazquez. If, as has been continually asserted, Vazquez's problem was mechanical/psychological (though emphatically not a phobic response to New York) rather than physical, it would be fair to say that Stottlemyre deserves to share some of the blame for the pitcher's breakdown. Still, there is a limit to what any teacher can do with a pupil who is unwilling or unable to listen, and in the heat of a pennant race, with 10 other pitchers to manage, the task becomes even more difficult.
And, as I've already mentioned here before, I'm excited about Joe G becoming the bench coach.