Category: Baseball

Yankees Shall Overcome…

XDH3VPLM6RDAJJIZGRLXPPKXZM
Photo Credit: Seth Wenig, AP

Despite injuries, Yankees are very good…

The talk about the Yankees having the best starting rotation in baseball sure ended quickly. It was disappointing to lose Luis Severino for the season when his forearm tightness led to Thursday’s Tommy John surgery. We’ll be left to wonder what could have been.

I had really been excited to see what Sevy could do as the second best starter on the staff but now that job falls to Masahiro Tanaka (or James Paxton when he returns). I like Masa and Pax but they are clearly a step down from Sevy’s potential. Oh well, injuries are a part of life and although the Yankees always seem to have more than their share, Sevy is not going to be the last good pitcher in the Major Leagues to go down for Tommy John surgery this year. There will be a time with Gerrit Cole and Sevy pair to give the Yankees a fantastic tandem but for now, we move on.

While I had hoped the Yankees would acquire a good veteran starter (and probably still do), I get the excitement about the Yankees’ younger arms. I am glad, for now, the Yankees retained J.A. Happ. He had been the guy I wanted the Yankees to trade all winter (to clear out his salary), but he clearly becomes an important part of the rotation. His talk about wanting to stay with the Yankees certainly played a part in my change of opinion, but the bigger factor was his off-season work to make adjustments and the involvement of Sam Briend, the Yankees’ Director of Pitching, Driveline to help Happ become a better version of himself. I’d love to have a replay of late 2018 season Happ or the guy who won 20 games in 2016.

Royals Yankees Baseball
Photo Credit: Rich Schultz, AP

Even though the Yankees haven’t handed a starting spot to Jordan Montgomery, I think all of us believe he is ready to return and play a big role for this team.

So it leaves one spot open in the rotation until Paxton returns. Admittedly, I’ve been seduced by the arm of Clarke Schmidt, like everyone else, but considering he does not currently have a spot on the 40-man roster and has only pitched three games in Double A, I can’t see him breaking camp and heading to Baltimore next month. No doubt we’ll see Schmidt at some point this year, but I think it will be later this summer. Everybody loves to talk about Deivi Garcia and Jonathan Loaisiga but Michael King is the guy I’d like to see as the fifth starter to open the season. He is a brilliant strategist who embraced Driveline before Sam Briend joined the Yankees, and there’s part of his makeup that reminds me of David Cone. Who knows if he can have a Cone-like career, but I think he can be a good Major League pitcher. He may not have the front of the rotation potential like Schmidt but he doesn’t have to be to help the Yankees win.

BB10hzxR
Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Maybe Garcia is ready now. If the Yankees feel he is, then I obviously would support the decision so I rate him as my second choice. I personally think he needs a little more time in the minors for his MLB preparation, but there’s no denying the talent of his arm.

Loaisiga scares me as a starter if for no other reason than his injury history. I see him as an effective bullpen weapon and that’s where I’d like to see him stay.

If Chad Bettis or Nick Tropeano win the fifth spot, I’ll be disappointed. I feel bad. Bettis has overcome so much to get here. I know the Colorado Rockies fans, having lived in Denver the last four years, really like and admire Bettis. Tropeano is a New York kid who is getting a chance to play for the primary local team. Nevertheless, I do not see the upside play in either Bettis or Tropeano and would rather take a chance on one of the younger arms.

Listening to CC Sabathia’s podcast this week, it was sad to hear Sonny Gray talk about the inability of the Yankees to help him. With the disclaimers both CC and Sonny gave about really liking former Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild, it was interesting to listen to them say Larry didn’t really have any answers. I guess I didn’t really understand how “behind” the Yankees were in current analytics and what drove the massive overhaul this past-offseason. I was dumping on Sonny Gray as much as anyone while he was a Yankee, but in retrospect, it would have been interesting to see what the Yankees current array of pitching coaches could have done with him.

I am not sure what to think about Giancarlo Stanton’s latest injury (calf) that will delay his start to the 2020 season. I am not ready to say he is ‘Jacoby Ellsbury Revisited’ but the injuries are disappointing. I am not going to blame Giancarlo for the injuries. They happen. But at this point, his contract looks like a sunk cost. If you could go back in time, there’s no doubt Brian Cashman should have snagged Christian Yelich instead of Stanton.  I remain hopeful Stanton can overcome these annoying injuries and be the player he was in 2017 when he won the NL MVP Award or in 2018 when he hit 38 homers for the Yankees. Yet, playing him anywhere except DH seems like a major risk at this point. We’ll see. For now I just hope he’s healthy soon and back on the field or rather the batter’s box.

This is a great opportunity for Clint Frazier to finally prove he belongs, but I am probably most excited about the limited work in left field by Miguel Andujar. With third base occupied by Gio Urshela, it would be fantastic to see Miggy grab left field for his own. Mike Tauchman will play a role but he’ll need to help Brett Gardner in center. I know many people would love to move Miggy for a quality starting pitcher and maybe I’ve been one of them, but with Stanton out, I want Andujar’s bat in the lineup. Last year, we had the Parrot. This year, we can have the Helicopter (a hat tip to Miggy’s swing).  As for Frazier, if he doesn’t make the team, I’d rather see the Yankees trade him than send him back down to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He really has nothing more to prove in the minor leagues. Love him or hate him, I’d like to see him get a big league opportunity even if it isn’t with the Yankees.

It’s funny how ex-Yankees always grow facial hair immediately after leaving the Yankees. Watching the Padres on MLB Network last night, it was weird seeing Larry Rothschild in San Diego’s dugout with a beard. I didn’t take a pic but thankfully James Kelly of ESNY did:

IMG_1221
Photo Credit: James Kelly, ESNY, via Twitter @jkellyESNY

I had caught Detroit’s game earlier in the day and Tigers catcher Austin Romine looks so different with his Civil War-like beard.

IMG_1222

You kind of half expect Didi Gregorius to throw the razor away.

With the fan uproar when the Yankees started the exhibition season with a couple of losses, I really hope the Yankees avoid a sluggish start to the regular season. Frankly, I didn’t care if the Yankees lost all of their 33 spring games so long as the players got the necessary work to get ready for the season. There are no trophies awarded for the best Spring record. It’s nice to see the team win like they have the last few days but in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really mean anything. The pitchers are experimenting and not offering their full array of pitches and strategy. It’s more about readiness to play at the game’s highest level for an extended period over the course of a long season. But if the Yankees lose a few games in late March to the lowly Baltimore Orioles, there’s no doubt the Yankee fans will be on the ledge. I feel bad for Gerrit Cole when he gives up his first home run. Let’s embrace this team. Even with the injuries, they still have the potential to be the best of the American League with an excellent chance to have a dinner date with the NL representative in October.  As they say, don’t sweat the small stuff.  There will be bumps along the way, but we’ll be there in the end.

xxx-121819_yankscole_dp_03-e1576687869745
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

It’s a good time to be a Yankees fan.

As always, Go Yankees!

The New York Yankees & Elusive Good Health…

PTSY4VA6LNGCZGEHDIGK3RVD4Q
Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, Associated Press


Starting Rotation missing its spots…

Silly me. I had hoped the “Next Man Up” tag line was the theme of the 2019 Yankees, not this year.

44be0c7a0d1ece2ba2c6ea34e661ded0
Credit: Randy Glasbergen

The Yankees are not off to a great start in 2020 with the injuries that have surfaced. James Paxton is not expected back until May at the earliest, possibly June, after recent back surgery, Aaron Judge is being held back over caution with his shoulder, and Luis Severino is headed to New York for further tests regarding the forearm tightness he experienced this week.

I am not ready to throw in the towel and concede the AL East to the Tampa Bay Rays, but no doubt the Rays see blood in the water.  The Yankees didn’t have Severino for most of last season and they still won 103 games so it’s not like they’ll fold without him. I am very thankful the Yankees were successful in signing Gerrit Cole last December and the team’s offense, even without Judge at 100%, remains one of the best in the game.

I went from wanting J.A. Happ traded after his disappointing performance last season (primarily to eliminate his $17 million contract and his potential for reaching the milestones to trigger another $17 million for 2021) to the realization that he is a major cog in the starting rotation, at least for now. With the absences of Paxton and Sevy, Tanaka becomes the second to Cole, and Happ is your third starter. It does not exactly instill confidence (at least not for me).Yet, I am hopeful we’ll see Happ’s return to be a stable and consistent force in the rotation like he was in the latter half of the 2018 season. Although nobody has handed him anything, Jordan Montgomery is expected to be the fourth starter. From there, it is anybody’s guess.

red-question-mark-with-3d-man

If GM Brian Cashman knew about Paxton’s troublesome back and some potential concern with Sevy’s forearm (if it has been bothering him since the playoffs last year this past off-season, I am surprised the best pitching options brought in from the outside were former Angels starter Nick Tropeano and former Rockies starter/reliever Chad Bettis. In retrospect, it seems like Cashman had the time to bring in a potentially stronger hedge for the starting rotation.

Most likely, the fifth starter role will be filled either by an opener or we’ll see one of the young guys (like Deivi Garcia or Michael King) step forward. There’s been a lot of hype for Clarke Schmidt but asking him to jump from Double A seems to be a big leap. Then, there’s the usual suspects, Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa. I am not trying to be critical of them but I see both as better arms for the pen. As much as we may like Loaisiga’s arm, he always seems to be an injury waiting to happen. I think the Yankees are better using Chad Green as a late inning bullpen specialist, especially after the departure of Dellin Betances and despite Green’s success as an opener last year.

It’s always possible the Yankees swing a trade for a starter but teams are less motivated to trade in March than they will be in July when they know whether or not October is in their future.

I’d love to see one of the young guys grab the starting spot and run with it.  Maybe that’s what the Yankees see. If it were my team, I’d probably be less willing to gamble with the fifth spot when there are questions with the third and fourth starters. But Cashman and his team know much more than I ever will and I trust them to make the right decisions. The Yankees have heavily invested in the 2020 season and they’re not going to throw it away now. Championship windows are not open for long and the Yankees know it. Trust the process.

ELEU6BZ4JRG73MUH6ZTM7ODP6Y
Photo Credit: Andrew Mills, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

I am glad we’ll have Yankees Baseball back on TV today when the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field. Or if you are fortunate enough to be in Tampa, all the better. J.A. Happ takes the pitching mound for the Yankees in their Spring debut. The game will also see Michael King, Luis Cessa and Nick Tropeano with turns behind Happ. We won’t have the joy of Troy Tulowitzki’s homer off his former team last Spring (the career highlight of his brief time in Pinstripes), but maybe Gio Urshela, the scheduled third base starter, can deposit a pitch over the outfield wall while facing some of his ex-teammates. Gerrit Cole, in a non-televised game, will make his debut on Monday against his original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bummer, I would have really enjoyed to see Cole facing live opposing hitters. The first few Spring games are always fun until the monotony sets in during the upcoming weeks. While I am anxious and excited for the March 26th opener in Baltimore, I am hopeful we’ll have greater confidence in the starting rotation behind Cole and Tanaka when the season starts. So I want the regular season to start soon, but not too soon. May the best possible 26 men head north to the great state of Maryland next month.

I think the inner George Steinbrenner in me wants the Yankees to grab whatever star players they can (Nolan Arenado, Josh Hader, etc.) so they can crush the World, but I know the Yankees have the healthy guys in camp right now that can bring home the “piece of metal” by season’s end. I was probably a little envious of the Los Angeles Dodgers fan base and how energized they became with the trade that brought Mookie Betts to their team. They seem to be beating their chests about this being “the year”. There’s still a lot of baseball to played between now and October, but I’ll happily take my chances with this collection of Yankees and how they stack up against the Dodgers assuming the teams are fortunate enough to advance to this year’s World Series.

MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days will feature the Yankees on Tuesday, March 3rd. I always enjoy the exclusivity of interviews with the Yankees players and coaches but those shows always seem like the fastest hour in Sports or at least the player interview segments seem too short. The YES Network is good about the Hot Stove shows early in the off-season but there’s always a sense of loss when the shows come to an end. It’s too bad they can’t have weekly shows from Tampa to give us insight into the players. I guess there’s Yankees Magazine but it doesn’t have the same real time effect like the Hot Stove shows.

They are saying Greg Bird has a legitimate shot to earn the starting first base job with the Texas Rangers as they break in their new stadium this season. I have to say it will suck if Bird has a happy and healthy season for the Rangers. I know, I shouldn’t say that. I do not regret the Yankees’ decision to cut Bird loose, but after so much false hope each season with Bird, it would be disappointing to see him give Texas what he never gave the Yankees (good health). I guess I turn the page on ex-Yankees faster than I should. I loved Didi Gregorius as a Yankee but now I find the fans who are still posting comments about how much they miss him to be annoying. I couldn’t care less about the Philadelphia Phillies and their manager. I feel the same about Bird and former Yank Todd Frazier (I see him as more of an ex-Met these days) in Texas. I am not going to root for them just because they once played for the Yankees. Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly is the lone exception to my personal rule.

AR-200219244
Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press

I’ve tried to avoid talking about the cheating scandal for this post but I want to say I feel David Ortiz is wrong for calling Mike Fiers a “snitch”.

mike-fiers-david-ortiz
Photo Credit: The New York Post

I respect Big Papi but Fiers, a guy none of us are enamored with as Yankee fans, did the right thing to bring attention to the Houston cheaters. While I understand Papi’s criticism that Fiers should have said something while a member of the Astros, I also get team camaraderie holding players back from being divisive forces in the clubhouse and the fact Fiers tried to follow proper channels through the Oakland A’s and the MLB office before stepping forward on the public stage. I support Fiers for his critical role in bringing to light the shame and scandal of the Houston Asterisks. I still do not like Fiers the pitcher, but I will always respect him for stepping forward and revealing the unethical play of the Astros.

Let’s enjoy some baseball today.

george17951

As always, Go Yankees!

Dear Astros, Please STFU…

truck_yard_sign.0

Someone, please, take out the trash…

I am tired of the Astros cheating scandal and I am ready to move on.

Borrowing from an old lawyer joke, how do you know when an Astros player is lying? His lips are moving.

After giving some praise to Carlos Correa in my last post, he subsequently opened his mouth in front of a camera in an interview with Ken Rosenthal and let the trash continue to spew. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has proven to be a very weak leader in the face of this adversity, and the entire ordeal, in my opinion, is a farce.

The players will never admit to anything that is not in the Commissioner’s report and the Commissioner does not have the power his predecessors may have had. He’s basically an employee of the owners and there was no way Jim Crane, despite his role into turning the Astros into a trashy organization, was ever going to be implicated. He was given the perfect way out by making GM Jeffrey Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch the scapegoats when he fired them.

I don’t want to belabor the issue. What’s done is done. The Commissioner has taken action, regardless of how we may feel was too light, and need to move on. The Astros players have had their time to talk but I wish they’d just shut their pie holes because no good is coming from their words. MLB needs to closely monitor teams to ensure this never happens again with the Astros, the Boston Red Sox or any other team in Major League Baseball. I am frustrated the Astros weren’t forced to vacate their fraudulently earned 2017 World Series championship but the time for proper penalty, unfortunately, has passed.

There is word we’ll hear about the Red Sox investigation by the end of the week. Although the Sox were led to the 2018 World Series championship by Cheat Leader Alex Cora, I have yet to see anything that leads me to believe any possible violations by their organization were on par with the schemes in Houston. As such, I expect any penalties to be very light relative to the penalties received by the Astros.  It’s possible there will be revelations that we have not heard  and it may change the situation but at this point, I think the Red Sox disciplinary action will be minimal and fairly quiet compared to the experience of the last few weeks. I am not defending the Red Sox but conversely I am not going to crucify them without cause.

My greatest hope for the 2020 MLB season is the game is played honestly and ethically. Let the chips fall as they may. Maybe the Yankees win a championship, maybe they do not. But in the end, we can hopefully say no one was cheating behind the scenes to change the outcome.

Moving on to other topics, it was announced today the Atlanta Braves promoted their GM, Alex Anthopoulos, to President of Baseball Operations. Not that I care about the Braves (although I have long respected Anthopoulos), the only point I raise by saying this is I continue to feel strongly the Yankees should do the same for GM Brian Cashman. As the long-tenured general manager for our favorite club, he is more deserving of the title of President of Baseball Operations than most of the guys who now hold it for their respective clubs.  Cash should be the President of Baseball Operations (or Executive Vice President, as long as he holds the top Baseball Operations position), and they should promote Tim Naehring to GM. I’d say Jean Afterman but I know that she has no interest in a greater role, particularly after her move to the Wine Country in Northern CA. That makes Naehring the next best candidate to step up. Perhaps you can say Cashman already holds the role despite his title and maybe that’s true. But for the optics, I’d like to see the title match the authority. I’ve been critical of Cashman at times, but there is no one more qualified to lead the baseball side of the house than him. Keep Randy Levine on the business side (or lock him in a closet, I don’t care).

The Yankees announced this week they have signed former Colorado Rockies RHP Chad Bettis to a minor league contract with invitation to Spring Training. I was a little surprised. It’s not that I don’t think Bettis can pitch, I just feel the opportunity is better elsewhere. Then again, if you want to get noticed, play for the Yankees (even if it is only Spring Training). If he doesn’t make the Yankees, perhaps another team sees enough to reach out to him.

imrs
Photo Credit: Chris Carlson, Associated Press

It’s easy to look at Chad’s 2019 numbers and scoff. Pitching mostly out of the bullpen, the former starter had a 1-6 record with 6.08 ERA in 63 2/3 innings. Those numbers won’t inspire confidence in anyone except opposing hitters, but Bettis has had a very hard road. Bettis, who will be 31 on April 26th, was 14-8 with 4.79 ERA in 186 innings in 2016 before a diagnosis of testicular cancer which he successfully defeated. Last season, he was converted to the bullpen after three starts, and was one of the Rockies’ most effective relievers in May (tied a franchise record for five consecutive scoreless outings, pitching more than an inning in each appearance without yielding any runs despite calling Coors Field home). Subsequently, a right hip impingement that eventually became a torn labrum ended his season and resulted in bilateral surgery in late August. The Colorado Rockies subsequently cut him loose after the season.

Last fall, Bettis was quoted as saying, “I’m going to build up again to being the best reliever that I can possibly be”. I don’t know where his road in Pinstripes will lead but I know that I will be cheering for him. If he doesn’t make the Yankees, I hope another team sees value and brings him to their active MLB roster for the season. Life has dealt Bettis a difficult hand and yet he has continued to overcome the obstacles and I don’t see that stopping now. Here’s to you, Chad. Our wish for much success with your continued MLB journey!

I thought it was great Yankees ace Gerrit Cole received a standing ovation yesterday after throwing to live hitters for the first time this Spring yesterday. This is just a prelude to what we’ll experience when Cole takes the mound in real game action. Very exciting times in the Yankees Universe and suffice it to say we’re all very happy Gerrit Cole is a Yankee. I know, there will be a complete Yankee fan meltdown the first time Cole gives up a homer, but, man, I love our chances for October with Cole leading the charge.

EQ6LnF9XsAI2Qfx
Photo Credit: Twitter, via @ByKristieAckert

I think James Paxton should keep the mustache. After his scruffy look in Seattle, I didn’t think the shaved version last season fit him very well.  While I am not generally a fan of “porn star” ‘staches, I think it gives the Big Maple some character and he should stay with it.

cut
Photo Credit: SNY

Sadly, the Yankees Universe lost a one-time member of the family when former Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Tony Fernandez, 57, died this past weekend. He fought polycystic kidney disease since 2017 and had suffered a stroke earlier this month. Fernandez played in 108 games for the Yankees in 1995. He was the starting shortstop entering Spring Training in 1996 when a broken elbow opened the door for Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame career. Rest in Peace, Tony. Your time with us was too short but we are glad you are no longer in pain.

gettyimages-51974172-1024x1024

As always, Go Yankees!

Astros Sorry They Got Caught…

usatsi_14034989_138566172_lowres
Photo Credit: USA TODAY

Fake Remorse by the Cheaters…

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is trash.

It’s no wonder the Astros players resorted to a cheating system that included beating on trash cans to signal stolen pitching signs. Crane set the example from the top of the organization and the trash rolled downhill.

I was angered after listening to the Astros’ poorly organized press conference this week. Despite their preparation a day before, I knew there probably was not anything the Astros could have said or done to gain forgiveness but I felt the entire charade was botched. From the canned brief statements from cheating leaders Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve to Crane’s use of new manager Dusty Baker as a shield, it was truly a clown show. It was absurd when Crane said the cheating did not impact the 2017 ALCS against the Yankees and then turned around less than a minute later to say he never said those words. Huh?

I’ll give the players after the press conference some credit. Carlos Correa, in particular, sounded much better and more remorseful than his teammates.

I think Major League Baseball butchered this by not taking away the deceitfully-gained 2017 World Series championship from the Houston Astros. At this point, you can’t give it to the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Yankees, but, in my opinion, the championship should be vacated. I don’t care there is no precedent for this. Considering we did not personally experience the great Black Sox Scandal a century ago when eight players were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, this is the worst stain of the game in our lifetimes. The players were granted immunity. They should not be allowed to represent themselves as champions.

I am ready to close the book on the Astros and move on. MLB is not going to do anything further to the Astros organization and we can only look forward at this point. However, I do think there will be some residual anger and frustration as players gather in Arizona and Florida.

Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers was very hard on the Astros yesterday when interviewed at Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers’ spring training home in Arizona. Per the LA Times, Bellinger said, “I thought the apologies were whatever. I thought Jim Crane’s was weak. I thought Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving them immunity. I mean these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from (Aaron) Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”

38f447cb8bee42bf95e5158f3d199743_xl
Photo Credit: ESPN

Despite the Astros’ claims the cheating was isolated to 2017 and a small part of ’18, Bellinger feels the cheating extended into the 2019 post-season. Bellinger probably said it best, “I know I personally lost respect for those guys. I think I would say everyone in the show, in the big leagues, lost respect for those guys.” I’ll take it further and say baseball fans everywhere, except perhaps for those in Houston, have lost respect for the Houston Astros.

I am not sure we’ll ever get over this, but we do need to move forward. However, I know I’ll enjoy watching the reception the Astros get when they visit different cities this season. They deserve everything headed their way. I am not endorsing physical harm, but let the verbal abuse begin. They created this mess and now they must face the music. I can’t wait for the Yankee Stadium reaction in September when the Cheaters come to the Bronx for a four-game series.

The Houston Asterisks, the Houston Cheaters, the Houston Asstros, the Houston Trashtros, whatever you want to call the worthless collection of scum, are coming to a city near you. Let the booing begin…

Moving on to other topics. The long awaited trade of Mookie Betts and David Price was finally made official this week after the Dodgers had to re-structure the deal. I still feel it wasn’t so much about the medical records of former Twins reliever Brusdar Graterol but more about Boston’s knee-jerk reaction to the poor reception over trading their homegrown superstar and getting minimal in return, thanks to the salary dump of Price. In the restructured trades, the Dodgers kept Graterol, who will fit nicely into the Dodgers’ bullpen with his 100 mph heat, after sending starting pitcher Kenta Maeda to the Twins. Replacing Graterol in the trade to Boston, the Dodgers added prospects Jeter Downs, a childhood Yankee fan named after a recently named Hall of Fame player, and catcher Connor Wong, to accompany the previously agreed upon outfielder Alex Verdugo. Downs, a shortstop/second baseman, was blocked in LA with Corey Seager at short and highly ranked prospect Gavin Lux in line to take over at second. Wong profiles as a backup catcher and the Dodgers have stronger catching prospects in Keibert Ruiz and Diego Cartaya.

I am sure Verdugo and Downs will have their moments against the Yankees in upcoming seasons, but I am glad to see Mookie Betts out of the division. Yankee fans have been moaning how they’ll miss beating up on Price, but I actually think the move to the NL West will be good for him. Regardless of how you feel about him, David Price is a good pitcher. If healthy, I think he has a chance to be much better for the Dodgers. Although Price was a reason the Red Sox celebrated a World Series championship in 2018, his overall tenure in Boston was not favorable. I don’t really buy into the Yankee fans who say they can’t wait to face Price in the 2020 World Series. First, we need to get to the World Series and there is a long road between now and then, but if we are fortunate enough to get there and face the Dodgers, it’s not a guarantee the Yankees would dominate Price. Just because they’ve enjoyed past success against him does not mean that they’ll forever own him. Price is a quality Major League pitcher and he’s motivated to improve. Therefore, you’ll find no disparaging words from me about him. As for Mookie, I am excited that I can finally root for the supremely talented outfielder. I appreciate his play and by all accounts, he is a fantastic person both on and off the field. I have no idea if Betts will be a Dodger for only one season or if he’ll re-sign with them when he hits the free market next off-season, but for now, I look forward to going to Dodger Stadium this season to see two great players sharing the outfield for the Dodgers.

There’s no question the Red Sox are a weaker team today than they were last week.  I think they realize they can’t compete with the Yankees or even the Tampa Bay Rays at the top of the division but I’d say they remain a dangerous team that can make some noise. They need many things to go right, but I wouldn’t totally discount Boston’s ability to snag a Wild Card spot. Once in the playoffs, anything can happen (as long as you aren’t cheating).

This week has been fun, as far as the Yankees go. It was great to see Gerrit Cole wearing Yankees gear, throwing to Gary Sanchez. I love the perfectionist on the mound and it’s clear he is a notch above anything we’ve seen in recent times with no disrespect to Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton or Luis Severino. I thought his words during the Thursday press conference were exemplary, as usual. Cole is quickly becoming one of my favorite players to listen to. No doubt he’s already there with his pitching.

Screen Shot 2020-02-15 at 7.10.27 AM
Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

As one who preached all winter for the Yankees to trade J.A. Happ, it was good to hear Happ say this week that he wanted to stay with the Yankees when he heard the trade rumors. He recognizes his shortcomings in last year’s juiced ball environment and he has been working on making the necessary adjustments. Given we need Happ with Paxton on the shelf for the first couple of months of the season, I’ve warmed up to the idea of keeping Happ for now. It’s possible he’ll be stronger this year than last. I still think he’s a trade candidate at some point depending upon how it goes with Jordan Montgomery, in addition to the eventual return of the suspended Domingo German and maybe a breakout by Deivi Garcia at some point. But as long as he is in pinstripes, I’ll cheer for him. As long as he puts the Yankees in position to win every fifth day, life will be good.

Gary Sanchez’s comment that you could rip his pants off if he hit a homer to send the Yankees to the World Series was priceless with its statement clearly direct at Jose Altuve’s obvious attempt to protect his jersey after last fall’s homer off Aroldis Chapman to end the ALCS.

Screen Shot 2020-02-13 at 4.53.40 AM

The Spring has brought a few more number changes. In addition to J.A. Happ’s recent switch from 34 to 33, Mike Ford dropped 36 in favor of 72 and Thairo Estrada took the departed Stephen Tarpley’s 71. With Luke Voit now wearing 59, the Yankees have a linebacker and an offensive lineman at first base. Probably because of David Cone, 36 seems more like a pitcher’s number to me so I am glad to see Ford grab a power number.

It was funny to see Greg Bird and Austin Romine, in Rangers and Tigers camps, respectively, sporting beards. It seems like the first thing players do when they leave the Yankees is toss the razor.

Z2UGDF5WMVHETKBQGS3UROBPMQ
Photo Credit: Smiley N Pool, The Dallas Morning News

e34ad56d-c5e7-456a-af25-1a2ff7af59cd-tigersautograph_012520_kpm_70
Photo Credit: Kimberly P Mitchell, Detroit Free Press

Now that pitchers and catchers are in camp, we anxiously await the arrival of all position players on Monday. Most are already in Tampa, but the band will officially be together again when President’s Day rolls around. I am looking forward to the first of the exhibition games until the monotony sets in a few weeks from now.  On the bright side, the regular season will soon be here as March 26th is not really that far away anymore. My expectations for the upcoming season are reasonable…total domination and obliteration of the American League (and the NL’s October representative)  by the Yankees will suffice.

As always, Go Yankees!

A Hinch In Our Step…

aj-hinch-020720-getty-ftrjpg_cks183x0gtlt1j2nj7bz3kcn4
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Hinch makes first public appearance…

A.J. Hinch will get another opportunity to manage in Major League Baseball.

This is not an endorsement or a belief he said the right things during his interview by Tom Verducci of the MLB Network. In fact, the interview might have raised more questions than answers but I do feel it was the critical first step for Hinch as he tries to rebuild his image and position himself for a job in 2021.

download

There is no doubt Hinch is still very protective of his Astros players even though he is no longer their leader. On one hand, it’s an admirable trait that he’s willing to be the sacrificial lamb for his guys but on the other, his players showed no respect for their manager when they continued their deceitful and illegal practices despite Hinch’s displeasure as evidenced by his use of a baseball bat to two monitors. Hinch should have said something, done something (beyond taking batting practice on the monitors), but I am glad to know he was not in favor of the cheating. His inaction to stop the cheating is not an honorable quality.

I am not really trying to dissect Hinch’s interview. I’ve never been a big fan of his and the perspectives of the fans will be based on our own individual biases. When I think of the smug answers he gave at Yankee Stadium during the ALCS last fall, it does infuriate me. Yet, on a human level, it’s hard to watch a man stripped of the game he loves. I don’t know if he has the proper remorse. He said the things he needed to say to take responsibility and accountability, which I appreciate. However, there are many unresolved questions. Ultimately, it comes across as ‘I am sorry I (we) got caught’.

The 2017 World Series Championship is forever tainted. There is nothing that can be said or done that will absolve the Astros of the sins they committed to take away a potential championship from two teams that, as far as we know, played the game the right way…the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. Championships are very hard to come by and we were deprived of the joy and excitement of potentially winning the World Series in 2017.

When the one year suspension is over, I am confident Hinch will be given consideration for a MLB job. Maybe he has to serve as a bench coach first but eventually he’ll be given a managerial post again. I’ve wondered if the opportunity could present itself with the team that fired him, the Houston Astros. There is nothing in the rule book that says he can’t manage the Astros again. Dusty Baker may be the current manager but there’s really no doubt he does not represent the long-term future as the team’s leader. He’s on the last stop of his long career, armed with only a one-year contract. He serves a purpose today, but it could open the door for Hinch’s return. The upcoming season gives owner Jim Crane a year to say they did the right thing by parting ways with Hinch and GM Jeffrey Luhnow but a year from now, there will be talk about how Hinch has served his punishment and his time away has given him the necessary introspection and redemption to resume his role as the Astros manager. If the Astros have a winning season this year without the trash can banging and other illegal practices, it helps Hinch’s case to return. I am not defending Hinch. This is just the reality of the situation. I firmly believe that he’ll see a Major League dugout again regardless of what we think or feel.

I want to see the Astros players take accountability. So far, only former Astros Mike Fiers, the whistleblower, and Dallas Keuchel have stepped forward. Houston pitchers report to Spring Training next Thursday, and the players (the heart of the conspirators) report a week from Monday. We’ll be watching closely as the players are asked about their involvement and I think it behooves the Astros organization to hold a press conference with key team players to address the elephant in the room sooner than later.

The Astros play their first Spring game on Saturday, February 22nd in West Palm Beach, FL against the team they share FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, the defending World Champion Washington Nationals. It will be interesting to see what type of reception they receive from the crowd. It’s too bad the Astros don’t come to Steinbrenner Field for any games during the exhibition season. The first regular season road crowd the Astros will face is the Oakland A’s on Monday, March 30th (they open the season at home against the Los Angeles Angels). I really hope the Oakland crowd, not one to hold back their feelings, lets the Astros players have it with their vocal displeasure.

gallery_medium
Photo Credit: Scott Strazzante, San Francisco Chronicle

Baseball continues to sit in limbo with the Mookie Betts trade. I feel badly for the players involved. Spring Training opens this coming week and Mookie has no idea if he needs to head for Arizona or Florida. On Tuesday night, it was reported the Boston Red Sox had agreed to send Betts, a free agent next off-season, and part of David Price’s contract (with the pitcher attached to it) to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the Red Sox would receive young Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo and Minnesota Twins pitcher Brusdar Graterol. For Graterol, the Dodgers dealt pitcher Kenta Maeda to the Twins. Standing behind this pending trade is the Dodgers’ pending trade of outfielder Joc Pederson and pitcher Ross Stripling to the Los Angeles Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo and prospects.  Four days later and the trades have yet to be finalized due to Boston’s concerns about Graterol’s health. The Dodgers got to go to arbitration to make their negative arguments against Pederson on Thursday, winning the case, so it’s hard to think Joc has warm, fuzzy feelings about his present/former team after a week of limbo and negativity.

The Red Sox, based on Graterol’s medical evaluation, are pushing for additional compensation. The Twins are resisting and the Dodgers do not seem willing to send any of their prospects to close the deal. It seems like the deal will eventually go through, perhaps as soon as today with the Player’s Union and agent Scott Boras coming out publicly to demand closure. So long as the Twins did not “hide” any medical knowledge about Graterol, I think the Dodgers should step up and send a quality prospect to Boston if they truly want Betts.  In no way should they send a top prospect like second baseman Gavin Lux, catcher Keibert Ruiz, or pitcher Dustin May, or even the well-named infielder Jeter Downs, for only a year of Mookie.  But a prospect with some potential makes sense.

When the trade finally goes down, the Red Sox, for the short-term, will be worse. Perhaps they’ll be stronger for the long run. The elimination of a significant chunk of Price’s contract and the money owed to Betts for the 2020 season will allow them to reset luxury tax penalties.  For me, it’s hard to fathom trading one of the game’s best players. I get the fear of losing a top player to free agency without a quality return but you have to look no further than the Washington Nationals to see a team that kept star players through the end of their contracts in two successive years, only to watch them leave (Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon). For the Nats, it paid off with the latter who helped deliver a World Series championship to the Capitol City.  Not that the Red Sox are a legitimate World Series contender this year, with or without Mookie, but it does seem odd when a big city team screams small market poverty.

There’s a chance the Betts trade could fall apart altogether. I doubt it and it would be very awkward if Mookie and Price have to show up in Fort Myers, FL.  Hopefully the trade gets done today or tomorrow at the latest.

Mookie-Betts-trade-reaction

Based on MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s words this week, we should expect news of the Red Sox investigation before teams start reporting to camp on Thursday.  I am not expecting much in the way of penalties against Boston but I hope their former manager Alex Cora receives no less than a two-year suspension. A lifetime ban would be better. Unlike Hinch who did not support the cheating but did nothing about it, Cora was an active conspirator with the players, perhaps its ring leader, and the proven liar should receive harsher treatment than Hinch. How the Commissioner handles Cora’s involvement as an active participant in the cheating scandal sets the tone for MLB’s future tolerance of dishonest play. Be a man, Manfred. Eliminate the game’s cancer.

I guess I should touch on the Yankees since this is a Yankees blog. Like all of you, I was disappointed to hear the news about James Paxton and how the lower back surgery to remove a cyst will keep him out of action until late May or early June. It certainly shows why J.A. Happ, now sporting number 33, has remained on the Yankees roster. I had expected Happ to be traded before Opening Day but at this point, he will accompany the team to Baltimore for the March 26th opener.  I have my doubts whether he’ll end the season as a Yankee.  I can’t see the Yankees allowing him to reach the milestone to kick in the 2021 option on his contract (165 innings pitched or 27 games started). I also can’t see the Yankees sitting Happ to keep him from reaching those milestones. I think they’ll find a way to move Happ at some point without sacrificing his ability to trigger the 2021 option. It makes too much sense to eliminate all or part of the money owed to Happ to create opportunity for younger, cheaper arms.

For the short-term, keeping Happ is fine. It opens the door for Jordan Montgomery to grab a spot in the rotation. If everyone was healthy and Happ still on the roster, it most likely would have meant a trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for Monty. But now, he seems to be the odds-on favorite to head north with the big league club. While it is possible that we’ll see Deivi Garcia, Michael King, and/or Clarke Schmidt make their Major League debuts this season, I feel their time will come later in the summer.

I do hate the talk that James Paxton (and the suspended Domingo German) will be like ‘trade deadline acquisitions’. The team will be better when they return but they are not deadline acquisitions…just like Gleyber Torres is no longer 22. The downside or risk is potential injury to other starters before or when Paxton and German return, making them replacements instead of additional starters.  Paxton will easily slide back into the rotation (obviously), but German’s future probably depends upon how well Montgomery does. I am hoping Monty grabs his rotation spot and does not let go.

L3YO67ELQVC5VGYQROJQFM7ZAM
Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky, AP

As teams are scurrying to bring in veteran players on minor league deals, I thought the Yankees would be more active than they have been. The latest veteran receiving a MiLB deal from the Yankees with Spring Training invitation is former Cleveland Indians reliever Dan Otero. Not exactly a name to get excited about. With Paxton headed to the 60-day Injured List to start the season, it seems like now would be a good time to ink Taijuan Walker or Aaron Sanchez to a minor league deal. The bloom is off both pitchers but they once held great promise and are still young. Both are summer of ’92 babies, making them 27 years old to start the season. I like the upside potential, especially if they come to camp on a minor league contract. As The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch likes to say, there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal.

It was great to see Gary Sanchez, Adam Ottavino and Gio Urshela on The Michael Kay Show yesterday. I am ready to see our favorite Pinstriped players voice their words and thoughts from the grounds of Steinbrenner Field in Tampa and watch them prepare for the championship 2020 season. And, oh yeah, Gerrit Cole is a Yankee.

MLB: New York Yankees-Gerrit Cole Press Conference
Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran, USA TODAY

As always, Go Yankees!

Nolan Arenado and the Yankees…

nolan-arenado-leadjpg
Photo Credit: SI.com

The lovely Rumor Mill is churning hard…

The dream was like any other but it stood out as one so vivid and exciting. I picked up my cell phone on a cool, crisp February evening, logged into Twitter, and was incredibly amazed to find the Yankees had acquired veteran third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Colorado Rockies.

Arenado, who turns 29 a few weeks after Opening Day, hit 41 home runs in 2019, driving in 118 runs. His batting line was .315/.379/.583 with .392 wOBA and 128 wRC+. This has basically been Arenado’s consistent production for the past five years.  A .300 hitter who will give you 40 bombs and drive in more than 110 RBIs every season, and play tremendous defense. Unsurprisingly, Steamer provides these projections for Nolan’s 2020 season…40 HR, 114 RBIs, .296/.370/.571. So, in other words, more of the same for the foreseeable future.

Late last February, the Colorado Rockies and Arenado agreed to an eight-year contract extension worth $260 million. The contract includes a player opt-out provision following the 2021 season and has full no-trade protection. At the time, Arenado and the Rockies were all smiles. “I think the future is brighter in Colorado than it’s been in the past,” Nolan said at the time. “That excites me and makes me very aware of what’s going on here.” Fast forward to 2020, after the Rockies finished 71-9 last season, good for fourth place in the NL West, a game ahead of the rising San Diego Padres. Nolan’s words now read, “I really don’t care what’s being said. I just know that I feel disrespected over there.” What a difference a year…and losing…makes.

Trevor Story signed a two year extension with the Rockies yesterday that provides the talented shortstop with $27.5 million. On the surface, it looks like the Rockies are trying to retain their core talent. But in reality, this was an extension that covers Story’s final two years of arbitration eligibility and sets the expected dollar cost with certainty for the Rockies. It does not touch any of Story’s free agent years, and as one Rockies blogger noted, sets the price for Story’s final two years with the Rockies before he hits the free agent trail. Colorado’s big free agent acquisition this winter, on a minor league deal, has been former Arizona infielder Chris Owings who spent time late last season with Boston.

For Nolan, the sad decline of the Rockies almost ensures that he’ll exercise the opt-out after the 2021 season. Some would question walking away from $35 million per year, but if Nolan performs like he always has, the money will be there. For the Rockies, trading Nolan, with his permission, makes the most sense this off-season. He carries greater value with two years of control versus just one next off-season.

So, how did Arenado end up with the Yankees? He did not. It was just a dream.

dont_believe_everything_you_think

The Yankees third basemen today, Gio Urshela and Miguel Andujar, are the same players that will be part of the Yankees team that shows up at Camden Yards on March 26th. I’d love for the Yankees to acquire Nolan and I’d like to think he’d gladly waive his no-trade to join his buddy D.J. LeMahieu in the bright lights of the Big Apple. But realistically, it will never happen. Fun to think about, sure, but like Power Ball, a near impossibility. I’d say the odds are 70 million to 1, or the dollars on Nolan’s contract before the opt-out. I am not getting my hopes up about this one, and wish the rumors would die. Let’s be happy about the guys on the roster and recognize the Yankees will field a very good team in 2020.

I’d be remiss if I did not mention how difficult this week has been. Sunday morning, we woke up to the horrible news that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, CA. As a Lakers fan, I know how much Kobe means to the City of Los Angeles and surrounding area. This week, we found out how much the entire country cares about the Lakers legend. Just this past December, we all saw the video clip of Kobe talking to his daughter, Gianna, at a basketball game, a scene that is now painful to watch, knowing we lost both young lives.

kobe-bryant-gianna-today-200126-main-04_2_dfd4b4ef8293883e66a102b8f54ce41b

The victims of the tragic crash:

  • Kobe Bryant
  • Gianna “Gigi” Bryant
  • John Altobelli
  • Keri Altobelli
  • Alyssa Altobelli
  • Christina Mauser
  • Sarah Chester
  • Payton Chester
  • Ara Zobayan

This one hurts. I’ve seen people make comparisons to the tragic death of Thurman Munson on August 2, 1979. I am not sure I can make a comparison. My perspective is different. When Thurman died, I was a kid and it was devastating to lose my favorite player so suddenly. It does not mean that the loss of the above nine people was not equally devastating (or probably more so because of the loss of so many lives). My heart is heavy and I am deeply saddened the young girls, in particular, had their lives end before they really even started. Gigi, born in 2006, had already showed us that she was proudly walking in the footsteps of her father and I have no doubt she would have been a force in basketball in the years ahead. I always enjoyed watching Kobe on talk shows, bringing his Mamba Mentality to his words of wisdom.

kobe-bryant-gianna-bryant

On a morning when the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded their helicopters because of the weather conditions, I wish Kobe and his pilot would have made the same decision. They are gone too soon and we were clearly not ready for their departure. May all nine Rest in Peace and know this World loves them, today, tomorrow and forever-more.

RIP-Rest-in-Peace

Stepping back to Baseball, there is only one open managerial position (Boston Red Sox) with Houston’s hiring of veteran manager Dusty Baker. Good for Dusty. I never really understood Washington’s decision to part ways with Baker a couple of years ago. He might not have a World Series ring for his efforts, but he has been a winning manager. I know the current trend is to hire young, analytics-driven managers and Dusty represents the last of the old guard, but he seems like the right guy for the right time in Houston. Most likely the stay is short and that’s fine. Dusty brings structure, credibility, and discipline back to the Astros clubhouse. You know the Astros will play the game the right way this season. I’d be surprised if Dusty is the Astros manager in two years but I am sure when he leaves, the franchise will be better for it.

Selfishly, I was glad Buck Showalter did not get the job. I enjoyed Buck’s return to the Yankees family late last season with his appearances on the YES Network and I’d like to see more as we move forward. There’s a chance he could get the job in Boston, which I’d really hate to see, but hopefully we can keep Buck on our side.

As for the Red Sox job, I liked Terry Cushman’s words yesterday on Twitter. Cushman, a Red Sox blogger/podcaster, said “Tomorrow is February. The same month the Red Sox will report to spring training with their ‘manager to be named later’. Nobody has literally ever uttered those words.” It does seem strange the calendar page has turned to February, with players heading to Arizona and Florida, and Boston’s leadership role sits vacant.

Farewell to former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, who announced his retirement yesterday. His stay in the Bronx was brief but enjoyable. The likeable Grandy Man has been good for baseball and I hope he stays in the game in some capacity. Here’s hoping his post-playing career is as successful as his playing days. A good baseball player, a better man.

ny_u_grandy_sy_576
Photo Credit: Michael L Stein, US Presswire

It’s Super Bowl weekend. I lost my horse in this race when the San Francisco 49ers made mince-meat out of my Minnesota Vikings a few weeks ago  but I am pulling for the Niners to bring home another Super Bowl championship to the Bay Area. During a year when the Raiders closed up shop in Oakland for their relocation to Las Vegas, it would be great to see the Niners ring the championship bell for the entire Bay Area, including the East Bay. I respect Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes as one of the great young talents in the game but I cannot bring myself to cheer for Kansas City.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Sights and Sounds of Spring Training…

Screen Shot 2020-01-25 at 8.53.43 AM

Nearing the End of the Off-Season…

Two months from tomorrow, Gerrit Cole will be taking the mound in Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, wearing the Yankee road grays and ready to throw his first official pitch as a member of Major League Baseball’s most storied franchise. Life is good.

I guess I should slow down and just be excited for the opening of Spring Training in less than three weeks. It will be fun to see activity at Steinbrenner Field again. I always love the first televised games of the Spring even if we don’t get to see very much of our favorite players. The interviews with players as they arrive at camp. The informal and subsequent formal workouts as the players get ready for the 2020 season. It’s just great to see those Spring pics of the Yankee rotation starters throwing bullpen sessions side-by-side. I look forward to the first pic featuring Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka. Yankees baseball, I love it.

But first, congratulations to Derek Jeter for his election to MLB’s Hall of Fame. Although expected, the announcement of his election this week was very exciting and it was so great to hear Jeter talk as a former Yankee great rather than as the CEO of the Miami Marlins.  I was convinced prior to the announcement there would be voters who would choose not to vote for Jeter so I never held the expectation he should be a unanimous selection but I’ll admit it was a bit disappointing there was just a single dissenting vote. Honestly, I don’t really care to ever find out who the voter was. I hope he had legitimate reasons for his choices although I cannot imagine what they would possibly be. Jeter was clearly the best candidate on this year’s ballot. Regardless, Jeter goes in with the second highest percentage (99.7%) ever with 396 of 397 votes. Once you’re in, it doesn’t matter if you got in with 99.7% or if you barely did it with 76.6% like Larry Walker. Walker (I am very happy about his election) is no less a Hall of Famer than Jeter. For Jeter, it has been great to hear his stories and how he still feels today that Yankee fans are the best in the World. There’s a part of me that kind of wishes the Steinbrenner family could have found a place for Jeter in the Yankees organization for his post-playing career but I suppose they were never going to sell him a stake in the team like he has in Miami. Jeter has reminded us this week of why he was such a special player in New York.

Screen Shot 2020-01-25 at 8.56.37 AM
Credit: Mark Ulriksen, The New Yorker

It will be exciting this summer (July 26th) when Jeter is officially inducted into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. No doubt guys like Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will be there. An encore musical performance by Bernie Williams, who played last year, would be nice.

AR-200129823
Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews, AP

I am probably softening on my stance against Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. I am not condoning PED use, but they were two great players before the suspected PED involvement. There are worse guys in the Hall of Fame. Clemens and Bonds are running out of time and did not really make up much ground this year. With Clemens and Bonds receiving 61.0% and 60.7% of the votes this year, they would have needed 156 and 157 more votes, respectively, to have made it into the Hall of Fame. That seems like a tall order with just two years of eligibility left. But if these two can’t get in, there’s no way for Alex Rodriguez who becomes eligible in 2022.

Nice recovery by the New York Mets who stayed in-house when they named Felipe Alou’s son Luis Rojas as their new manager replacing Carlos Beltran. Although Rojas is not the “name” Beltran was, I think he is better positioned to be a successful manager. As a long-time member of the Mets organization, he has extensive minor league managerial experience. Assuming Hensley Meulens does not get the Boston job, he’ll provide good experience for Rojas as the team’s bench coach. For as dysfunctional as the Mets can be, this was a good move, in my opinion. I am not really sure why Meulens keeps getting bypassed. I think he’d be a good manager but it would suck to see him go to the Boston Red Sox so I hope he gets bypassed one more time before getting his opportunity.

I have no clue what the Red Sox are going to do. On paper, they still have a very good team. Everybody seems quick to dismiss them but they have the players capable of making noise in the AL East. They’d be weakened if the rumored trade of Mookie Betts happens but if they hold onto him, the AL East will be no cakewalk for the Yankees. Boston’s famed Truck Day is February 3rd so you’d think they would have a manager in place by then. I think Buck Showalter would be an outstanding choice for them but like Meulens, I’d hate to see Buck go there. Even though he’d be a good manager, I am hopeful the Sox elevate bench coach Ron Roenicke to the post. Jason Varitek seems like the eventual manager so it would be wise for them to open a spot on the coaching staff for Tek and let Roenicke groom him for the position.

I thought it was funny this week to see the Houston Astros are going to interview Brad Ausmus. After stints in Detroit and Anaheim, he has proven he is not a very good manager. I know he was a long-time Astro but his selection as manager would probably be a great thing for Yankee fans. The Astros, if they are serious about putting the cheating scandal behind them and naming a guy who can rebuild their credibility, should go with either Showalter or Dusty Baker.

Back to the Yankees, I think we’re ready to go. There will be no trades for Josh Hader, Francisco Lindor or Nolan Arenado. I’ve been hoping for some under-the-radar minor league signings of high upside players but even that is probably not going to happen. They signed a few catchers to minor league deals (Erik Kratz, Chris Iannetta, and John Mazza) to bring catching depth to camp. Former Mets reliever Luis Avilan, 30, was signed to a minor league contract and is presumably a potential replacement for the departed Stephen Tarpley although the significance of a lefty specialist was diminished with this year’s installation of the minimum three batter rule.

The only change I see with the roster between now and Opening Day is the potential trade of J.A. Happ. I still think it happens.  I can’t see the Yankees taking Happ and his contract into the regular season with a chance to reach the innings threshold to activate his 2021 option. If they mess with his innings pitched by pulling him out of the rotation at times, that’s not really fair to Happ. I think best case scenario, which would help the team from a luxury tax standpoint, would be to move Happ now rather than wait. The deeper we go into the season with Happ, the greater percentage of his 2020 salary, $17 million, going against team payroll for luxury tax purposes. I suppose the Yankees want to see where Jordan Montgomery is at in Spring Training but I continue to believe Happ will be wearing another uniform by Opening Day.

The other guy who has to go is Clint Frazier. Now with the talk about Miguel Andujar being asked to learn first base and left field, it would further diminish opportunities for Frazier. There are things I don’t like about Clint but he remains a talented player and I think he would strongly benefit from a change of scenery. I get the argument you’d be selling low on the player but I do not see any positives for stashing Frazier in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for another year.  You want to see players in the best possible position to succeed and sadly I feel that time has passed for Frazier with the Yankees.

It’s funny but in interviews, I think I’ve heard Manager Aaron Boone talk more about “Mendy” (new bench coach Carlos Mendoza) than he ever talked about his friend and former bench coach Josh Bard (who returned to his role as bullpen coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers). I am excited about what Mendy brings to the bench in his new role. He also inherits the role as organizer of Spring Training activities (which always reminds me of former Yankees coach and now Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson who ran Yankees camp for years). A popular coach, I think this is an underrated and very positive move for the Yankees.

Speaking of the Phillies, I have to say it sucked this week when I saw this image on Sir Didi’s Twitter account courtesy of MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

thumbnail

Lastly, I want to say thanks to Mike Fiers. I know he is going to take much heat this year as the whistleblower of the Houston Astros cheating scandal but if he had not stepped forward, it’s not like the Astros were going to self-police and report themselves. Houston cost the Yankees potential opportunities to advance to the World Series through fraudulent measures. Fiers was the guy Yankee fans loved to hate. His infamy grew as the guy who threw the pitch in September 2014 that shattered Giancarlo Stanton’s face. But I honestly hope he gets cheers from the fans for his role in bringing light to the Houston cheaters. Also, congrats to Dallas Keuchel for taking accountability yesterday. I know his words were a little watered down but I appreciate his proactiveness and accountability, something that guys like Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve seemingly cannot comprehend.

Image-1

When Spring Training opens, I do feel that former Astro Gerrit Cole needs to address the media regarding any knowledge he may have had. While I do not feel the pitchers were directly involved (including the despised Justin Verlander), the topic is the elephant in the room and Cole needs to be open and honest about what he does or does not know. I remain very excited that Cole is a Yankee but he does not get a free pass simply because he is a Yankee.

As always, Go Yankees!