Sticks and Stones may break my bones…

Some words are better left unsaid…

I was disappointed that the Yankees could not reach agreement with Dellin Betances before proceeding with the arbitration hearings.  It’s never good when a player has to sit in a room to hear about his faults.  It’s hard to walk away without some residual adverse impact.  Once it was determined there was no common ground, the Yankees cannot be faulted for allowing the arbitration to proceed.  It is just a very unfortunate situation.

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Credit:  Andrew Savulich, The New York Daily News

The Yankees, based on prior arbitration cases, were probably fairly confident they would prevail.    The gap of $2 million may not have seemed to be great, but in terms of the dollars it could eventually cost the Yankees on new deals with Betances or the precedent it would have set could have been very costly in the grand scheme of things.

Yet, it was absolutely out of line for Yankees President Randy Levine to gloat after the arbitrators announced Betances would be paid the Yankees offer of $3 million rather than his request for $5 million.  Levine’s comments that Dellin’s $5 million request was “over the top” and “not based on reality” were unnecessary and ultimately inflammatory.  If Betances had any lingering hard feelings before, they’ve multiplied.  Given Levine’s extensive background in Labor Law, I am very surprised that he’d make those type of comments.  The words do seem out of character for a Labor attorney.  I’ve never been a big fan of Levine’s but it’s hard to dismiss his accomplishments which included work at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Reagan administration, former Labor Commissioner for New York City, and MLB’s chief labor negotiator during the negotiations for the 1996 MLB Labor Agreement.

So, maybe that’s why the unnecessary words that Levine spoke yesterday hurt even more.  He, more than anyone, should have known better.  There was no value in attacking Dellin’s attorneys, and the long-term impact is only harmful.  If Dellin eventually walks away when free agency arrives, we’ll be able to look back at this day as the first nail in the coffin.

There are some guys in the Yankees executive management team that you want to keep away from talking to the media.  Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner is one, but you can certainly add Levine to the list.  Levine has been the Yankees president since 2000 but maybe it’s time to bring in a younger, more open-minded replacement.  If I owned the Yankees, I would probably promote Brian Cashman to President, Baseball Operations, hire a new general manager, and show Levine the door.

Goose being Goose…

Every spring, Rich “Goose” Gossage shows up and makes statements that sound like he’s been smoking too much weed in Colorado.  His remarks in training camp that he cannot be compared to “one inning” closers like Aroldis Chapman and Mariano Rivera was absurd to say the least.

Nevertheless, I felt Brian Cashman’s comments were perfect when he said that he had more important things to think about like drinking his cup of coffee and working on his tan.  That’s exactly how I take anything Goose has to say.

I loved the guy when he was the Yankees closer, and he was arguably my favorite Yankee (after the unfortunate loss of the beloved Thurman Munson).

Goose is only trying to draw reactions with his words.  He played during a different time, and it’s very hard to compare the challenges he faced in the 70’s and 80’s to modern times.  The game has evolved.  Despite nearly 500 more career innings than Rivera, Goose had barely more than half of the total career saves.  Goose was a great Yankee for 6 years.  Rivera was a great Yankee for 19 years.  Rivera’s number (42) would have been retired even if MLB hadn’t retired the number league-wide for the great Jackie Robinson.  Last time I checked, Goose’s number (54) is neatly placed on the back of current closer Aroldis Chapman.

Goose just needs to enjoy his time in Florida before he hops on a plane to travel back to his favorite Cannabis shop in Colorado Springs…

–Scott

If at First you don’t succeed…

He has swing and miss ability!…

My first thought hearing the news (allegedly, as there has been no official announcement yet) that the Yankees signed free agent first baseman Chris Carter was the team had captured last year’s strikeout leader.  Great if the signing was for a pitcher, but not so great when it is a hitter.

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Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

Still, for a team with questions at first base, the signing makes some sense.  It’s not a given that Greg Bird will pick up where he left off in 2015 given that he missed most of last year due to injury (playing only in the Arizona Fall League).

The other first base candidate (Tyler Austin) was completely off the Yankees’ radar last off-season.  He had a surprisingly good year to recapture prospect status and came up with some big hits in the Bronx at the end of the year.  But he is not the second coming of Don Mattingly, Tino Martinez, Jason Giambi or Mark Teixeira.

Carter will end many innings with strikeouts, but the potential for the big smash to win games is there.  He provides help from the bench if Bird captures first with a strong Spring performance or is there for a platoon if necessary.  He also provides insurance at DH for Matt Holliday who has spent a fair amount of time on the DL over the last few years.

For only $3.5 million (and one year), Carter is a good investment.  He can play his way into a new contract with the Yankees or the parties can decide to part ways at the end of the year which fits with Hal Steinbrenner’s desire to get under the luxury tax threshold next year.

We’ve been spoiled by great first basemen over the years, but I didn’t enjoy the various Teixeira ailments that plagued the team in recent years.  I am hopeful that Bird grabs the position and runs with it.  Carter will be there for insurance.

 

Wanted:  Starting Pitchers…

I had been hopeful the Yankees would sign a veteran pitcher to bring to camp but it doesn’t look like it will happen.  Jason Hammel had been my choice, but he recently signed with the Kansas City Royals as they attempt to recover from the devastating passing of Yordano Ventura.  Doug Fister is still out there, but I don’t think he’ll be coming in for the Yankees.  So, it looks like the Yankees will fill the two open spots in the rotation with in-house candidates.  Clearly, they have to be hoping for a rebound by Luis Severino who failed miserably as a starter last year (finding success only in the bullpen).  But with off-season work with Pedro Martinez, maybe Sevy can show he is capable of becoming a good starter at the major league level.

I would love for James Kaprielian to take the other spot, but I recognize that he is not ready yet.  He’ll need more time in the minors and might get a chance later in the year.  Luis Cessa and Chad Green will be given every opportunity, but Jordan Montgomery is quickly becoming my favorite.  Last year, he pitched to a 2.95 ERA in 19 starts with AA Trenton, and then 0.97 in just 6 starts with AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre.  At 6-6, he is a formidable presence on the mound with the pitches to match.  His time may be now.  Severino and Montgomery have the potential to make the back end of the Yankees rotation quite strong, which would certainly help the question marks that exist in the front end.

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Credit:  Jason Farmer/Scranton Times Tribune

It’s exciting that baseball is almost back.  Pitchers and catchers will report on Valentine’s Day (that must have made a bunch of wives and girlfriends very happy) so we’re only days away.  It seems like it wasn’t that long ago Aroldis Chapman was on the mound winning a World Series.  It will be good to see him back in blue (well, a darker shade of blue than we last saw him in).  The excitement of spring training and the limitless possibilities it brings is fun.

Welcome back, Yankees!

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Sad Day for Detroit and all of Major League Baseball…

On a final note, my deepest sympathy and condolences to the Detroit Tigers, their fans, and the family of their late owner Mike Ilitch who passed away yesterday.  He was great for the Tigers and for the city of Detroit.  He will be missed.  It’s unfortunate that he was unable to see a Tigers championship or the opening of the new Little Caesars Arena for his other team, the Detroit Red Wings.

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Credit:  MLB.com

—Scott

Bats and Balls may break my bones, but words will never hurt me…

Unforgiven…

Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner created some waves this week when he said the domestic abuse allegations regarding closer Aroldis Chapman should be forgotten.  When I heard the words, I did not feel that Steinbrenner was condoning Chapman’s actions, but rather he had admitted his guilt, paid his dues, and has since held good behavior.

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I do not think any of us will ever condone or “forget” Chapman’s domestic violence offense.  His actions were inexcusable but I agree that he deserves a second chance.  Granted, I am the same guy that kept supporting second chances for Darryl Strawberry and Steve Howe.  But realistically, Chapman does deserve a chance for redemption.  If there had been subsequent reports of domestic abuse, then the Yankees should have steered clear of the flamethrower.  But by all accounts, there have not been any further incidents.

So, I think the media’s exploitation of Steinbrenner’s comments are unjustified even if he did misspeak.  It was clearly not his intent to sweep the domestic abuse issue under the rug.

Logan…

Yes, I am looking forward to Hugh Jackman’s upcoming film, but I was disappointed regarding the other Logan.  I had hoped for a reunion with free agent and former Yankees reliever Boone Logan.  However, yesterday, he signed a one year deal to join Andrew Miller and the Cleveland Indians.  I thought that Logan would have been a better lefty option than Tommy Layne.  Current free agent Jerry Blevins could provide the same support for the Yankees pen, but I haven’t heard the Yankees connected with the former Mets reliever.

Granted, if it is Steinbrenner’s goal to reduce payroll for luxury tax purposes, we will have to live with young, inexperienced and cheaper options at certain positions.  The days of overpaying aged veterans are over.

Trolling for miracles…

With a few decent free agents still available, teams are adding short term pieces to complement their respective rosters  Like the Indians’ signing of Logan or Kurt Suzuki signing with the Atlanta Braves, teams are taking chances with short term investments.  But the Yankees, to this point, are not playing.  GM Brian Cashman was apparently right when he made the comments about a month ago that the Yankees were done and the current roster of players would be the ones headed to spring training in Tampa.

I think it is a mistake not to bring in a veteran pitcher to compete with the kids for the two open spots in the starting rotation.  I would love nothing more than James Kaprielian, Luis Cessa, Jordan Montgomery, Luis Severino, and other young arms coming to camp to step up their respective games and grab those final two spots.  But I am fearful for the inconsistency that young pitchers bring.  But granted, if they don’t get the opportunity, they will not learn.  The Chicago White Sox were patient with former Yankee Jose Quintana and they’ve been rewarded.

Worst case scenario is that CC Sabathia proves he is an old man and that last year’s resurgence was a fluke, Michael Pineda continues his inconsistent performances or gets hurt, and Masahiro Tanaka opts out of his deal at the end of the season.  It is possible that all five rotation spots, as we view them today, could be open at the end of the year.  It will take young arms to step up to the next level, but there needs to be an infusion of veteran talent to help form the bridge.

I’d take the chance on Jason Hammel but all signs seem to indicate a lack of interest from the Yankees.

Meanwhile, in Boston, their number 4 and 5 starters (most likely Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright) have the proven history of being able to shut down the Yankees.  So, that’s without even any consideration for the top three, all of whom have Cy Young ability (including one that currently holds the award and is arguably the worst of the trio).

Perhaps the Yankees should package some of the top prospects for a proven young starter.  There is always an adjustment period for New York, so acquiring a young starter a year or two in advance of the team’s return to contention status is not a bad idea.  While I do not want to lose top prospect Gleyber Torres, the Yankees have a surplus in young, talented shortstops with Jorge Mateo (perhaps a future centerfielder), Tyler Wade, Wilkerman Garcia and Kyle Holder.  Having the best farm system in baseball means surplus.  There’s no way all these guys can make it in the Bronx.  Obviously, not all will succeed anyway, but it’s best to take advantage of promise and potential to help the major league team restore its dominance.

As for the potential rumors to acquire an ace like Zach Greinke, I do feel it would be a mistake to take responsibility for his mammoth contract.  The Dodgers were smart not to match the offer Greinke received from the Arizona Diamondbacks last season even if it did weaken their rotation.

Every year, there are names that seemingly come out of nowhere to achieve major league success.  There’s no doubt the Yankee scouts are scouring the leagues to uncover potential hidden gems.  Through patience and perseverance, there will be better days ahead.  We just sometimes get a little impatient and want the up cycle to accelerate.

I am excited that pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting.  There’s football yet to be played on Sunday, yet I am looking more forward to seeing activity at Steinbrenner Field in a few weeks…

—Scott

The Sounds of Spring are approaching…

Soon, very soon…

We are less than a month away before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa.  Sitting in Denver, I still have a few more snowstorms to go before America’s favorite pastime returns, but I am excited and looking forward to the upcoming season.  The Yankees are still a couple of seasons away from being a serious World Series threat, but the season should be fun nonetheless.

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There are a lot of big if’s with this year’s squad.  Can Aaron Judge make the necessary adjustments at this level?  Can Jacoby Ellsbury ever be the player he once was in Boston?  Can he stay healthy?  Will Brett Gardner be traded?  Will Chase Headley be traded?  Will Starlin Castro be moved to third base?  Will Gleyber Torres show that he’s ready for major league action sooner rather than later?  Will Didi Gregorius sustain last year’s success and show continued improvement?  Will Greg Bird restore the great promise that he showed in late 2015?  Will Gary Sanchez continue to show that he is arguably the best Yankee or at least show the Yankees were right in sending Brian McCann to Houston?  The list goes on and on, and that’s without even getting to the pitching staff.

During the recent Winter Warm-up in the Bronx, James Kaprielian sounded like a future ace.  I have long been a fan of Kaprielian’s and have looked forward to his arrival at Yankee Stadium.  Last year’s injury that caused him to miss most of the season was a significant setback, but as a college player, Kaprielian is not that far away.  If he can show success at Scranton/Wilkes Barre this year, there’s no doubt he’ll be making his major league debut later this summer.  I would not be disappointed if Kaprielian surprisingly grabbed a rotation spot out of spring training.

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Credit:  Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports

I remain hopeful that Ian Clarkin can be a future rotation piece, even at the back end.  With the influx of other prospects via last summer’s trades, Clarkin’s name is rarely mentioned.  But he is another one that I have hoped would achieve the big leagues.  Drafted as the 33rd player in the 2013 MLB Draft, Clarkin missed part of last season with a knee injury.  He is still only 21 years old so I am hopeful that he’ll bounce back for future success.

The Yankees will have a number of young arms competing for the open rotation spots, but I’d still like to see them bring in a veteran for competition.  Same with the bullpen.  I am supportive of the return of Boone Logan and would like to see him back in pinstripes.

Other teams are making minor moves.  I liked the Miami Marlins’ acquisition of pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds.  I remember a few years ago, I was on a flight from Portland to San Francisco.  There was a guy behind me on the plane that was raving about his son, a pitcher who happened to be the minor league strikeout leader at the time for an Oakland A’s farm team.  It was Straily’s dad.  Straily has been through a few major league organizations since that time, but at least Miami is making moves.

I also thought the Boston Red Sox signing of former Philadelphia Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick was a sound move.  Who knows if Kendrick will ever be the pitcher he once was with the Phillies, but you don’t know if you don’t try.

By not signing any veteran pitchers, the Yankees are clearly saying that they want youth to take the final rotation spots.  If this team is truly dedicated to the youth movement and realistically won’t be in World Series contention for at least two seasons, I do not understand holding onto Brett Gardner.  He is 33 (will be 34 this season).  Speed does not age well.  If the Yankees had a shot for the World Series this year, I’d say hold him.  But that’s not the case.  Granted, we do not know the packages that GM Brian Cashman has turned down and perhaps he has only been offered less talent.  But I firmly believe in identifying undervalued assets to take advantage of potential over proven performance.  There are surprises every year, but again, you don’t know if you don’t try.

Most likely, at this point, Cashman is right that no further moves will be made.  I think it’s a mistake but hopefully the top young prospects will prove that the best move was no move.

I can hear those pitches popping in the catching mitts.  Soon, very soon…

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—Scott

Is Status Quo enough?…

Waiting for Spring…

This is the time of year when there is not much activity in the way of baseball news.

Soon, MLB teams will be preparing for the journeys to Florida and Arizona (ala the Boston Red Sox infamous “Truck Day”).  There is still a number of free agents searching for new homes, but the Yankees have not engaged any players in known, substantive talks.

I remain convinced the Yankees need to bring in a veteran arm to compete with the young talent that will be auditioning for the two open spots in the rotation.  Jason Hammel remains available and that’s the arm I feel the Yankees should bring to camp.  But there are others.  I know that he’s not the pitcher he was earlier in the decade, but I liked San Diego’s move to sign Trevor Cahill.  A reliever for the Chicago Cubs, Cahill will get an opportunity to start again for the Padres.  Who knows if he’ll be successful or will ever be the starter that he once was, but the Padres are taking the chance.

Regardless of who the Yankees bring in, it’s a certainty that there will be a Scranton/Wilkes Barre shuttle for starters as well as relievers.  I have no doubt that names like Jordan Montgomery and Chance Adams will make their major league debuts in 2017.  The likelihood of Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia staying healthy all season long is remote.  This is why I feel that it is a very good idea to bring in a stable, consistent veteran influence like Hammel.

GM Brian Cashman would make the trade for Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox today if the price was right, but odds are it will be too high for the Yankees (leading to Cashman’s statement that it is 99% the Yankees will not be adding a pitcher before heading to Tampa).  I still expect the Houston Astros to pony up the prospects necessary to pry Quintana from the White Sox.  There’s no doubt Quintana would great in the Yankees rotation, but the time is not right.

There is a genuine concern that Masahiro Tanaka will have a great season and opt out of his deal next fall.  Without Tanaka, the Yankees rotation is looking very scary unless the young arms make major advancements during the season.

Here’s how the Top 3 rotations currently stack up in the AL East:

Baltimore Orioles:  Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy

Boston Red Sox:  Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello

New York Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia

Tampa Bay Rays:  Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, and Jake Odorizzi

Toronto Blue Jays:  Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, and Marcus Stroman

Clearly, Boston is the class of the division, with the Blue Jays not far behind.  There’s talent with the Orioles and Rays rotations.  The Yankees clearly hold the most questions heading into the season.  This is even more reason to shore up the back end of the rotation.

It’s tough thinking about giving up top prospects to bring in a much needed top starter.  The Yankees need an ace to pair with, or potentially replace, Tanaka.  2B/SS prospect Gleyber Torres seems to have that “It” factor that separates the great players from the good ones.  OF prospect Clint Frazier is guaranteed to be a hit in the Bronx if he gets the opportunity with a huge personality that matches the talent.

Hard decisions will need to be made as the team prepares for World Series contention within the next couple of years.  For now, Cashman needs to ensure that he gives Manager Joe Girardi the best possible arms for 2017.  It may be the best move is no move, or it may be bringing in a veteran arm or two to compete.  Either decision is a hard one.  It is time for the young guys to step up their game…

—Scott

Youth Movement is great, but…

When is there too much youth?…

The Yankees continue to be linked to the Chicago White and their latest ace-in-waiting Jose Quintana in the rumor mill but like many, I do not expect, nor want, the Yankees to give up the top prospects it would take to bring him back to New York. At the risk of being a “prospect-hugger”, I want to see Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, James Kaprielian and others succeed in the Bronx.


Credit: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports

Without getting into the analytics for why the Yankees should or should not pursue a particular pitcher, I think the best move would be to sign one of the remaining free agent pitchers (why not roll the dice, it’s only money). Or perhaps GM Brian Cashman should focus on an ‘under the radar’ trade for an arm with potential that doesn’t carry the current media focus like Quintana.

Of the remaining free agents, I would pursue either Jason Hammel or Doug Fister. Neither pitcher is flashy and both slot in at the back end of the rotation but both are capable of delivering 10+ wins which, for a #4 or #5 starter, is not bad. Fister has been the model of mediocrity for a couple of seasons and Hammel benefited from being part of a World Series caliber staff to garner his highest career victory total last year. For the back end, I want starters who can keep the team in games. Watching Luis Severino go winless in his starts was brutal. I’d easily take the dependablity and reliability of Hammel or Fister over another ‘0-fer’ performance by Sevy.

If Severino shows in spring training that he is capable of making the necessary adjustments and can be the 2015 starter version versus the 2016 bullpen-only guy, great, put him in the rotation. But that’s not a bet I’d take in Vegas.

I want to limit the ‘see if they can grow into the role’ opportunities in the rotation to no more than one. The certainties in the rotation are Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. After that, it is a plethora of young arms. I’d prefer to see Luis Cessa succeed because I admire his attitude on the mound so he’s my favorite to add. But the stress is much greater if we have to rely upon Cessa AND Severino, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell or Adam Warren without a strong backup plan.

If Pineda continues to struggle or if Sabathia gets hurt or further regresses, the rotation will collapse if they have to be carried by unproven prospects. I want nothing more than to see Jordan Montgomery, Dietrich Enns, Chance Adams, and Justus Sheffield get their chances. I also think Albert Albreu was a great addition. But none of those quality arms will be ready in April 2017.

It is imperative for the Yankees to bring stabilization to the rotation. If healthy, Hammel or Fister would help provide it. What is the risk in bringing in a proven veteran to compete with the kids?…

 — Scott

Life as a Yankees fan…

42 Years…

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My interest in Baseball began in my childhood like most fans.

I can remember NFL Football as the first sport I discovered but my passion and love for Major League Baseball started a few years later and quickly rose to favored status.

I consider 1972 as the year I started following Football with close interest.  That’s the year I became a fan of Fran Tarkenton and the Minnesota Vikings.  I was aware of Football in the immediate preceding years, but my father died in early 1972 at the age of 42.  I found the Vikings gave me something to focus on as I processed my grief.

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Along this same time period, I started following the Oakland A’s.  In the 1970’s, they were a very colorful team with a unique owner and a collective cast of characters that were routinely championship caliber.  But the one player that stood out to me was A’s starting pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter.  As a North Carolina farmer, fisherman, and general outdoor enthusiast, Catfish had a very easy and engaging personality to go with the fantastic arm.

During the 1974 season, Catfish finished 25-12, with a 2.49 ERA, while winning the AL Cy Young Award.  Meanwhile, the A’s were winning their third consecutive World Series championship.

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I had been aware of the perfect game that Catfish had thrown during the 1968 season and it was easy to identify with him as my favorite active player.

One of the very first books that I read was a biography about Yankees legend Lou Gehrig so I naturally carried positive feelings about the Pinstripers and their rich, legendary history.

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This set the stage for December 31, 1974.  After aggressive pursuit by the majority of the MLB teams, Catfish, a free agent, signed a five-year contract with the New York Yankees.

I remember feelings of disappointment that the A’s had allowed Catfish to become a free agent and could not envision myself as an A’s fan without him on the mound despite their recent history of success.

So, on the day Catfish signed with New York, I officially decided to become a Yankees fan.  The team had struggled during the preceding decade but my preference was to follow Catfish, even with a potentially losing team, over continuing to root for the A’s.

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From that day forward, I have never looked back as the Yankees have been my team ever since.

After a couple of years, catcher Thurman Munson replaced Catfish as my favorite baseball player but the love of the Yankees deepened with each passing year.

I will always credit Lou Gehrig for creating my positive perception of the Pinstripes, and Catfish Hunter for bringing it all together.

42 has multiple meanings for me.  It is the number  of years I’ve been a Yankees fan, it was the number of years my father walked the Earth, it is the symbol of one of Baseball’s greatest players (Jackie Robinson), and the number of one of my all-time favorite Yankees (Mariano Rivera).

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Today, December 31, 2016, I look back on the many great memories (the tremendous victories and the heartbreaking losses) the Yankees have provided, and look forward to the the bright future and continuation of the success of Baseball’s most storied franchise.

I am grateful to be a Yankees fan…

–Scott