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George Steinbrenner would've issued public apology

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George Steinbrenner would've issued public apology

NEW YORK (AP) George Steinbrenner would have issued a public apology.

After leading the league in wins this year, the New York Yankees didn't just lose to Detroit in the AL championship series. They got swept in one of the more humiliating moments in the team's history.

The four-game wipeout made headlines - A-Rod's benching, Derek Jeter's injury, Robinson Cano's slump. But it also revealed serious cracks in the foundation, showing a team full of aging All-Stars at the plate, in the field and on the mound that suddenly seems a long, long way from championship caliber.

``Obviously, we're all getting older,'' Andy Pettitte said Thursday night after the season-ending 8-1 loss to the Tigers.

Jeter broke an ankle near the end. Mariano Rivera busted a knee back in the spring. The Yankees transformed baseball's bruisers into the Bashed Bombers, closer to AARP years than MVP seasons.

Alex Rodriguez was so bad, the $275 million man was benched in three of nine postseason games and pinch hit for in three others, a possible prelude to a forced departure from pinstripes.

Yankees co-chairperson Hank Steinbrenner won't address A-Rod's future, saying ``I'm not going to get into that at this point.'' But he does think too much blame is being directed at Rodriguez.

``So is it fair to accuse him of everything but the Kennedy assassination? No, it's not fair, but we'll see what happens from this point on,'' Steinbrenner said Friday.

Six key players didn't hit their weight, with Rodriguez joined by Cano, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez.

His life already a soap opera off the field, A-Rod turned into daily fodder for on-field intrigue.

``It wasn't just one guy struggling,'' Rodriguez said. ``It was a collective group, and it was a very unique situation.''

Not quite. They floundered for two months, nearly blowing a 10-game lead in the heat of summer before holding off Baltimore on the final night for the AL East title.

Easily the oldest big league team at the season's start, they're on track to start next year with a 38-year-old shortstop with limited range coming off ankle surgery (Jeter), a 43-year-old closer returning from knee surgery (Rivera), a 37-year-old third baseman overpowered by right-handed pitchers (A-Rod), a 40-year-old left-hander who missed nearly three months because of a broken ankle (Pettitte) and a 38-year-old right-hander who topped the team in starts and innings (Hiroki Kuroda).

Their postseason star was a 40-year-old outfielder (Raul Ibanez), their center fielder struck out 195 times (Granderson), their left fielder played just 17 regular-season games because of an elbow injury (Brett Gardner) and their catcher hit .211 (Martin).

``It's difficult. It's disappointing. It's not where we want to be,'' general manager Brian Cashman said. ``I'm very surprised.''

Their .188 postseason batting average was the lowest ever for a team that played at least seven games. Rodriguez took the brunt of the blame.

Owed $114 million over the next five seasons, Rodriguez became the world's most expensive pinch hitter during the ALCS, a platoon player against left-handed pitchers on a team facing four righty starters.

``I've never thought about going to another team. My focus is to stay here. Let's make that very, very clear,'' he said. ``Number two, I don't expect to be mediocre. I expect to do what I've done for a long time.''

Yankees president Randy Levine joked in April with Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria about the possibility of dealing A-Rod to his hometown team.

``Take him. Tell me what you're willing to do,'' Levine said before the pair laughed.

After this debacle, talk could turn serious. The Yankees likely would have to eat 50 to 75 percent of what Rodriguez is due, but they may focus on the millions saved rather than the millions spent.

Back in 1981, after the Yankees took a 2-0 Series lead against the Los Angeles Dodgers and lost four in a row, George Steinbrenner issued one of his most famous statements, saying: `'I want to sincerely apologize to the people of New York and to the fans of the New York Yankees everywhere for the performance of the Yankee team.''

Hal Steinbrenner, who succeeded his father as controlling owner, is less impetuous. He wants to get the team under the $189 million luxury tax threshold in 2014.

Sending one of their lineup's senior citizens to finish his career in Florida would be a start.

Proud of his accomplishments and in constant need of admiration, Rodriguez may hold his postseason putdown against manager Joe Girardi.

``As far as I know, we're OK,'' Girardi said. ``It's not something I wanted to do. All of you know that. But I don't have any signals that he's mad at me.''

A-Rod, as always, tried to say the right thing.

``If I do what I'm supposed to be doing, neither Joe or Cashman can bench me,'' he explained.

His stay in New York always was a marriage of money.

After giving A-Rod a record $252 million contract, Texas traded him to the Yankees after three seasons and even agreed to pay $67 million of the $179 million remaining - an amount reduced by $21 million when A-Rod opted out of that deal following the 2007 season. Then the Yankees re-signed him to an even more massive megadeal, as much a weight on their payroll as his bat has become in the batting order.

Following the failure for the third straight year to win the World Series, there will be a slew of decisions. Exercising $15 million options on Cano and Granderson are a given, as is signing Rivera for 2013. They'll likely try to persuade Pettitte to pitch another year and attempt to re-sign Kuroda and possibly Ichiro Suzuki, whose bat was among the few with a sign of life.

Swisher seems set to depart and Ibanez could be one older player too many. Rafael Soriano, who filled in for Rivera, could turn down a $14 million salary for next year, terminate his contract and become a free agent.

``Every year the roster changes,'' Cashman said.

By now, the front office knows it needs an injection of youth. The wipeout may speed the turnover.

``We got a team of Hall of Famers, superstars,'' Cano said.

And by the time a player is almost certain of enshrinement in Cooperstown, it means the end is a lot closer than the beginning.

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T.J. Oshie says he was held out of the lineup longer than he wanted to be as a precaution

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T.J. Oshie says he was held out of the lineup longer than he wanted to be as a precaution

On Nov. 14, T.J. Oshie suffered a concussion on a hit from Josh Morrissey. The concussion sidelined him for nearly a month. He finally returned to the lineup Tuesday for a game against the Detroit Red Wings, but it sounds like he was medically cleared to return sooner.

During the team’s morning skate on Tuesday, Oshie revealed he had wanted to return a week sooner, but had actually been held out as a precaution.

“I've been good now for about a week and a half,” he said. “This is the longest [concussion] I've sat out. I wanted to play last week. We were pretty careful about it, and the guys that were in the lineup did an outstanding job of allowing them to give me that rest.”

This was the fifth documented concussion of Oshie’s career. While there is still much we do not know or fully understand about concussions and their effects on the brain, it certainly appears as if the severity of a concussion and concussion symptoms can worsen with successive injuries. As a result, the team’s medical personnel took no chances when it came to Oshie and held him out of play even after he was medically cleared to return.

“I felt good so what we did paid off,” Oshie said following Tuesday’s game. “It was an open conversation, a bunch of conversations between me and [Jason Serbus] our head medical trainer and really all our whole team of doctors. We went through it day by day. As it lingered on it was a couple of days by a couple of days and once I started feeling good they let me go. We took it slow and I got a week in of bag skates so legs-wise I felt pretty good out there. That was kind of the process for me.”

Oshie admitted there had been times in the past he thought he was ready to return, but it was clear after returning he had not fully recovered which could have been a factor in the team’s decision to be extra cautious.

“Every concussion's different. This one was different than all the last ones. It's really just not coming back until you're ready. I've had some where you think you're ready to play and you're pretty sure, maybe not 100 percent sure, and then a couple games in you get hit or your head hits something or whatever it is and you don't have a concussion but you have a headache now every time you get hit for sometimes a month or so.”

Oshie suffered a concussion last year after a hit from San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton. He returned to game action 15 days later, but did not look quite right initially and registered only a single point in his first seven games after returning.

If you believe the team’s decision to hold Oshie out had anything to do with that, however, Oshie disputes that notion.

“Last year I don't think I came back too quick,” he said. “I wasn't able to find ways to score, really. I was missing some passes that I normally don't miss. Everyone kind of jumps on the goal-scoring drought stuff, but I felt like I was doing a lot of good things away from the puck. I was keeping the puck out of our net and I was creating chances for teammates to score. It was a learning experience, but I felt like I was 100 percent when I came back last time.”

But why was it even necessary for the team to hold Oshie back? With his repeated history of concussions, not to mention his family’s history with Alzheimer’s, it may be surprising to some that Oshie had hoped to return earlier or that he wanted to return at all.

While the long-term effects of repeated concussions are still being studied and debated within the medical community, it is not a stretch to believe that repeated blows to the head can be detrimental to one’s health.

Oshie was asked if he felt concerned after suffering repeated concussions. His answer? “Not really.”

“I feel like when I go out there, if I get concerned about what's going to happen to me, I'm not going to play at the top of my game,” Oshie said. “Doesn't really concern me. I just kind of roll with the punches every day and if it does, it does. Hopefully it doesn't.”

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Roark is out, who could be in?

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Roark is out, who could be in?

LAS VEGAS -- Let’s strip the name and take a blank taste test. Wednesday, the Nationals sent an average of 197 innings out the door. That’s 591 outs. It’s not something to shrug off.

Trading Tanner Roark for a reliever, a minor-league one at that, extracts a path to almost 600 outs. The Nationals need to find a new one. Choices to do so aren’t very enticing.

They are back in the starting pitching market because of Roark’s regression the last two seasons coupling with an increase in pay. He’s expected to earn around $10 million out of salary arbitration. The Nationals are gambling they can find equal effectiveness through another starter -- or two.

There’s money to allocate now. It’s not much for the remaining upper tier of free agents. It’s sufficient to bring in someone on a one- or two-year deal and perhaps apply to a more versatile bench piece than a straight backup at first base.

Washington made Patrick Corbin the highest-paid pitcher this offseason. He was priority one. In a vacuum, he may not be worth six years and $140 million. But not all players carry the same value with every franchise. The Nationals had a clear need for another potent starter, and preferably a left-handed one at that. They received the combination with Corbin.

The challenge for the Nationals is handling this market after Charlie Morton and Lance Lynn complicated it. Morton signed a two-year, $30 million deal with Tampa Bay. Lynn received a three-year, $30 million contract from the Texas Rangers. If the Nationals didn’t want to pay Roark $10 million, they surely don’t want to pay another pitcher something near what Morton and Lynn received, even if it allows more control. Roark was entering the last year of his contract.

Dallas Keuchel remains atop the available starters. By WAR, the next-best available pitcher is 34-year-old Anibal Sanchez. He put together what appears to be an outlier season in 2018 following three consecutive years of significant regression. Sanchez’s ERA-plus went 80, 73, 70 before spiking to 143 last season, the third-best mark of his 13-year career. Sanchez has also averaged just 138 innings pitched on average the last four years. That’s a lot of outs between the workload Roark handled and Sanchez has as he heads into his age-35 season.

Next on the list by WAR? Gio Gonzalez. Moving on.

After that? Not much inspiration. Left-hander Wade Miley pitched well in just 16 starts last season. He has a carer 4.26 ERA. Miley has not put together a strong full season since 2013.

Matt Harvey? Trevor Cahill? Clay Buchholz?

Brett Anderson? James Shields? Jason Hammel?

These are not exactly places to hang your hat.

However, the Nationals have little choice. Their solution to replace Roark’s outs will come from outside the organization. Depth at Triple-A Fresno is negligible. Options in Double-A to help the rotation now are non-existent.

They have one intriguing pitcher lurking: Henderson Alvarez. The Nationals signed him to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

“Chance to make the team, if not, to pitch in Triple A for us,” Mike Rizzo said of his outlook on Alvarez.

Alvarez threw a no-hitter in 2013. He was an All-Star in 2014. Shoulder surgery was followed by shoulder discomfort, then another shoulder surgery. Alvarez didn’t pitch in 2016. He started three games for Philadelphia in 2017. He then pitched in the Mexican League in 2018, where he finished with 4.60 ERA in nine starts. The wildest of wild cards here.

Washington has also kept an eye on Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, who is available through posting system.

Somewhere, they need to find another 180 innings.

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