Category: MLB

To Buy or To Sell…

MLB Trading Deadline approaches…

Friday, July 30th, 4:00 pm ET.

If anything, I have always tried to be a realist when it comes to the Yankees. There are years I have felt the team was a dominant performer capable of boldly sweeping October. Sadly, this is not one of those years. As I type this post, the Yankees sit eight games behind the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. One of the AL co-leaders and the Oakland A’s hold the two Wild Card spots with the Yankees sitting 3.5 games behind the A’s. They trail the Seattle Mariners by a game. Yes, I think the Yankees can catch and pass the Mariners and the A’s, but realistically, how deep into October can this team go?

I know, playoffs are always about which teams are “hot” at the moment, and it could be the Yankees as much as anyone, but the team carries too many flaws in my opinion and they’ll be exposed facing a steady diet of #1 and #2 starters if they somehow get in as a Wild Card participant. I don’t see the Yankees advancing very far and wonder if the team would be better served to make potential trades this week to help enhance chances for 2022…not this year. Short term rentals make no sense to me. Why throw away prospects when, in all likelihood, there is no chance for World Series participation in 2021? I’d rather use the prospects to help build the stable of quality, cost-controlled young talent that can help develop the next Yankees dynasty. 

I am not bailing out on the 2021 Yankees. I want the team to win as much as anyone. But to say they are the best team in the American League is something only a myopic Yankees fan would say. When there was the standard “Yankees suck” chant at Fenway Park the other night, I liked the social media comments asking if those were Red Sox or Yankee fans? Fair question…

This season has caused me to question if Aaron Boone is the right man to lead the team. I like Boone and I enjoy the good rapport he has with his players, but he doesn’t seem to get the maximum performance out of his players like some managers do. I always struggle with the question of who is better from the current managerial availability pool? I’ve heard people say Buck Showalter, but he had his time with the Yankees. He is a knowledgeable baseball man but the Yankees can do better. Of course I always quietly hope Don Mattingly becomes available to return home, but that’s not likely. Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter recently picked up Donnie Baseball’s mutual option for 2022. Ideally, you’d want someone with some experience. After the inexperienced Boone got the Yankees job most recently, I don’t think the next manager would be as inexperienced as he was. It takes too long to determine if he is the right fit for the job as the first year is always written off as “he’s learning”. I don’t want on-the-job training with someone wet behind the ears. The Yankees were interested in Bob Melvin after they parted ways with Joe Girardi. Perhaps it’s time to rekindle that interest. Oakland exercised Melvin’s option for 2022, so it would take prospects and bucket loads of cash to get Melvin but his track record shows he would be the right man for a job with a stronger budget than the cost-conscious Athletics. If not Melvin, it needs to be someone who can inspire his players like Melvin does. Baseball is not about being your friend. Winning is everything.

Photo Credit: AP

Nice comeback by the Yankees yesterday against the Red Sox. Credit to Estevan Florial for starting the rally against former Yank Nathan Eovaldi. He’ll probably be headed back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but I am reaching the point I’d prefer to have Florial over the unreliable Aaron Hicks for next season. I felt a little bad for former Yankee reliever Adam Ottavino for the dunk hits that Sox right-fielder Franchy Cordero couldn’t get to (okay, not really) but whatever it takes. The Yankees needed to steal a game after so many losses of winnable games. I hate the uneasy feeling that comes when Aroldis Chapman enters the ninth, but it is slowly getting better. It wasn’t that long ago Chapman and Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen were the best closers in the game. Now, it’s potential disaster any time either guy enters a game. It would be nice for Zack Britton to round back into form, but we’re not there yet. Hard to blame Chad Green for the occasional blow-ups. I think he is better served in the seventh and eighth innings than the critical ninth. I am grateful for the return of Jonathan Loaisiga who has arguably been the most trusted reliever in the Yankees bullpen this year.

It will be interesting to see what this week brings. Will GM Brian Cashman be an active player, one way or the other, or will there be nothing but crickets in the Yankees’ front office? I am not going to make a pro-Trevor Story or pro-Joey Gallo statement as I feel the team has much greater needs. I am glad to see Corey Kluber is throwing again, placing both him and Luis Severino on the team’s radar in the coming weeks and months. Too little too late, but it’s a start for a better 2022. Regardless of what happens, I always enjoy the usual hectic pace of the days leading up to the trading deadline. Always a bit like Christmas even if we walk away with a lump of coal. 

Congrats to the Yankees for the MLB Draft. I had been hopeful the team would sign the 20th round pick, Sean Hard, but he announced the intention to fulfill his commitment to Boston College. He will certainly win brownie points in Boston for spurning the Yankees. Fortunately, the Yankees were able to sign the other player that I thought was a long-shot, third round pick LHP Brock Selvidge, Hamilton High School (Chandler, AZ), who had previously committed to LSU. By signing their first and second round picks for under their slotted values, along with some of the lower picks, the Yankees were able to give Selvidge a signing bonus of $1.5 million (slot value was only $637,600). So, even though they lost out on Hard, I thought it was good strategic management of the bonus pool to sign 18 of 20 players picked. 

Photo Credit: Michael Chow, The Republic

As always, Go Yankees!

A Soggy First Win Against the Red Sox…

Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer, AP

A win is a win is a win…

First and foremost, prayers to those who were shot last night outside of Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. during a game between the Nationals and the San Diego Padres. Three people were injured in the gunfire exchange between two cars, but thankfully no deaths. The number of shootings in the United States this year is incredibly disturbing and quite sad. Last night’s incident, at an intersection outside of the Third Base Gate of the stadium, had the potential to be much worse than it was. Play was suspended with the Padres leading 8-4 in the sixth inning. The game will be completed later today.

As for the Yankees, they finally found a way to beat the Boston Red Sox for the first time this year. In the rain-shortened game called after six innings due to rain with the Yankees leading 3-1, we should be thankful play was unable to resume, potentially bringing Aroldis Chapman into the game. I know, he pitched better on Friday night, but still, Yankee relievers in the ninth inning have not been fun to watch for the last couple of weeks. Perhaps they have turned the corner, and the talent will re-emerge to restore its usual dominance. Nevertheless, I will gladly take the win any way it is delivered (within ethical boundaries, of course).  If the Yankees were 7-1 against Boston this year instead of the other way around, the AL East standings would look so much differently (and much, much better). 

Photo Credit: Mary Altaffer, AP

I feel very badly for outfielder Tim Locastro. When he made the leaping catch in left field against the wall padding, the injury did not appear so badly at first. Obviously, reaching for your knee is never a good sign, but Locastro stayed in left to finish the inning. He even ran back to the dugout after the inning was over, but he never came back out, replaced by Tyler Wade in the second inning. After the game, it was disclosed Locastro had suffered a season-ending torn ACL. Even though he does not have much of a hit tool, Locastro’s speed had brought a nice dimension to the Yankees lineup. I always love to see native New Yorkers do well in Pinstripes. It is unfortunate but it was probably Locastro’s final moment in Pinstripes. I guess there is a chance the Yankees keep him for 2022, but I am expecting more roster activity this off-season for deconstruct/reconstruct if the team continues to play below expectations.  Locastro’s acquisition had appeared, at least to me, to be a temporary solution for the Yankees because of the loss of Aaron Hicks for the season and the declining performance of the aging Brett Gardner, better used in situational spots than extended play.  I did not really expect Locastro t be a Yankee in 2022, but now the torn ACL could rob Locastro of his primary weapon…his speed.  The deck is clearly stacked against him. I hope for the best and pray that he can resume his MLB career, regardless of whether it is with the Yankees or another team. 

Gerrit Cole, fresh off his 129-pitch start/gem, continued his dominance with 11 strikeouts in six innings even if things got a bit dicey in the top of the sixth, in what would prove to be the game’s final inning, when the Sox loaded the bases with two outs. But Cole was able to end Boston’s threat by striking out Christian Vazquez in a heavy downpour. 

Nasty Nate, aka Nathan Eovaldi, almost matched Cole with an equally dominating performance as he yielded only two hits and a run, while striking out 7, in five innings. It was tough going early as the Yankees did not get their first hit until the fifth inning against the former Yankee pitcher. Fortunately, the Yankees, unlike the Red Sox, they were able to get into the opponent’s bullpen. The Yankees made it count with consecutive homers by Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the sixth, two outs before the rain delay.  The home run by Sanchez was disputed by the Red Sox for fan interference, but it was upheld upon review as the ball landed past the wall despite the fan’s reach. For Gleyber, hopefully the homer in a key opportunity is the start of his rediscovery of power. 

 The Yankees fan who threw the ball at Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo at the start of the bottom of the sixth is a disgrace to the Yankees Universe.  I certainly do not blame Sox manager Alex Cora for pulling his team off the field. Thankfully, Verdugo, acquired in the Mookie Betts trade, was not hurt. As much as I dislike the Red Sox, I certainly would have clapped for Verdugo if I had been in the outfield stands, as a show of respect, when he walked back into left field.

Photo Credit: Robert Sabo, New York Post

With the win, the Yankees are still 8 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, so the team has much work to do to dig out of their hole. They are 4.5 games from the second Wild Card spot, with a few teams ahead of them. I will always pull for the Yankees, but I am trying to maintain perspective. I am not optimistic, but I am hopeful. Throughout the history of Baseball, teams have overcome bigger challenges so anything is possible. For now, it is just to hold the words of former Yank Mariano Duncan close, “We play today, we win today…das it”. 

It is great that Hoy Jun Park and Trey Amburgey are on the Yankees roster, but Aaron Boone should play them. I have seen enough of the Rougned Odor Show to know that I would rather see another option while D.J. LeMahieu temporarily handles third base for Gio Urshela.  It is hard for me to think of Trey Amburgey as anything more than a Quad-A hitter, but he deserves the opportunity to perform. Like Locastro, I cannot really see Amburgey retaining a spot on the 40-man roster despite his years in the organization.  I always love to see a player outperform expectations and it would be nice to see the homegrown Amburgey achieve some success at the big-league level even if he will never be a star. 

All seems to be going well for Corey Kluber so it is exciting to think the Yankees could have both Luis Severino and Kluber back within the next two months, with August looming a possibility for Sevy. I am getting excited at the prospect of seeing #40 on the mound again. I know there will be rust, but hopefully he will be the #2 starter as soon as 2022 if all goes well.  It has been too long since we last saw Severino and I look forward to his continued journey back to league excellence. 

I felt the Yankees could have done better during the recent MLB Draft, but admittedly, I do not follow the minor leagues very closely. While it has been said that first round pick shortstop Trey Sweeney (Eastern Illinois) was a reach, I trust the Yankees for their ability to evaluate players (setting aside the state of the current big-league club, of course). I had expected the Yankees to grab Mississippi RHP Gunnar Hoglund, but the Blue Jays selected him a pick ahead of the Yankees, so we will never know. The MLB Draft, unlike the NFL Draft, has always seemed like a crapshoot. You look back at prior drafts, and the picks are littered with so many names that never made it. 

I did like the second pick of pitcher Brendan Beck, 22, a college senior out of Stanford. I knew in 2017 when the Yankees selected Brendan’s brother Tristan in the 29th round, he was not signable. I had kind of hoped the Yankees would somehow convince him to sign, but it was never realistic. Tristan was picked the next year (in the 4th round) by the Atlanta Braves, and is now in the San Francisco Giants organization. Brendan, unlike Tristan, gets the opportunity to pitch for Baseball’s most storied and historic franchise, and I wish him the best for much success. Beck’s signing bonus is $1,050,000; below the slotted bonus of $1,307,000.  I hope they can use the extra money to entice the third pick, Hamilton High School (AZ) LHP Brock Selvidge from fulfilling his commitment to LSU. 

Although Sweeney has yet to sign, the Yankees have signed 2B Cooper Bowman (4th Rd); Pitcher Robert Ahlstrom (7th Rd); Pitcher Chandler Champlain (9th Rd); and SS Benjamin Cowles (10th Rd). They have also signed a copy of the later picks (C Ben Rice, 12th Rd; and Pitcher Danny Watson, 15th Rd). 

I would love to see the Yankees sign the 20th round pick, RHP Sean Hard, but that is just the latest late round pick of a guy headed for college, ala Tristan Beck and Jack Leiter, hoping to create good will for future discussions.  Aside from Hard’s obvious talent, his name is right up there with Yankees’ prospect Janson Junk for greatest pitcher names. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Pinstriped Victories are the Best…

Photo Credit: Adam Hunger, AP


Led by starting pitching, the Yankees are on a roll…

The world always feels a little better when the Yankees are winning. They have won five consecutive games and have taken seven straight series including the latest one with the talented Chicago White Sox.

This has been an eventful week in the Yankees Universe, featuring a no-hitter by Corey Kluber, and Friday night’s triple play to erase a White Sox threat against Aroldis Chapman, which allowed the Yankees to win the game in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the ninth. 

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

I had my doubts about Corey Kluber (sorry) when the Yankees signed him in the off-season. It was tough to see James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka go and Kluber’s health history in recent years was less than stellar, but in retrospect, it was a great signing as Kluber has continued to improve as the season has progressed. In comparison, Paxton is not playing baseball after his recent Tommy John surgery and Tanaka has struggled in Japan (he took the loss yesterday against the Nippon Ham Fighters, dropping his season record to 2-2, with 3.00 ERA). The failure to find his splitter was the primary cause for Tanaka’s struggles yesterday but it has been that kind of season for the former Yankee. Kluber, meanwhile, has made up for the losses of Paxton and Tanaka. I would like to include Jameson Taillon in that statement, but we are not there yet. Kluber has provided the Yankees with one of their best number two starters in recent years. Not trying to knock Tanaka or Paxton, but Kluber is showing why he was such a great pitcher and competitor all those years in Cleveland.

It was exciting for Kluber to realize his no-no on the very mound that he pitched his one and only 2020 regular season inning for the Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. Although he was born in Birmingham, Alabama, Kluber went to high school in Coppell, Texas. Coppell is a northwest suburb of Dallas and a short ride from Arlington. It does seem like there have been a lot of no hitters this season. Kluber’s gem was the sixth of the season, one night after Spencer Turnbull of the Detroit Tigers threw one. Still, it was the first by a New York Yankee since David Cone threw the memorable perfect game in 1999. The only place other than Globe Life Park that might have been better for Kluber’s masterpiece (excluding Yankee Stadium) is Fenway Park. Kluber has a home in Boston and of course it would be fun to see the Red Sox go hitless any day of the week. It was probably tough for the Rangers fans to see their former player so dominant and wondering what could have been for them had Kluber been healthy during his time in the Metroplex. 

Photo Credit: Tony Gutierrez, AP

The triple play was such a thrilling moment on Friday night. Aroldis Chapman seemed to be having an off night (those happen) after walking the first batter in the top of the ninth, followed by his fielding error on a sacrifice which put runners at first and second with no outs. But as quickly as Chicago’s Andrew Vaughn hit the ball to Gio Urshela at third, the inning was over. It set the stage for Gleyber Torres to win the game in their next at-bat when he hit the third consecutive single of the bottom of the ninth inning to score Aaron Judge. The Chicago White Sox are one of baseball’s best young and up-and-coming teams, so the weekend series was expected to be a challenge and a potential preview of this Fall’s playoffs. With Saturday’s win, the Yankees have won another series regardless of what happens today. 

Jameson Taillon pitches this afternoon against Dallas Keuchel. I cannot say I am too optimistic about winning with Taillon on the mound, but the Yankees have done better against Keuchel in recent years after his dominance against them earlier when he was a younger starter for the Houston Astros. Today is a good day for Taillon to round the curve and begin the journey to, hopefully, better starts. I want to see Taillon succeed as a Yankee and I do not want to see him pulled from the rotation, but he cannot continue to struggle if he intends to hold down his spot. Luis Severino will soon start facing live hitters so his return will take focus within the next couple of months. He will be looking to take a rotation spot away from someone. Taillon has the power to ensure it is not his spot…or not…it is up to him.  I hope for his success.

I am getting a little tired of all the speculation among Yankees fans regarding who the Yankees should acquire to cover center field with the season-ending loss of Aaron Hicks after his wrist surgery. I have no idea who the Yankees should acquire but they need to do something. Playing Brett Gardner every day is not the answer. Promoting Estevan Florial seems a bit premature since he is not yet ready with his development. One day, but not today, tomorrow, or next week for the 22-year-old outfielder. The best option is most likely outside of the organization today. There will be no big, splashy type of trades, in my opinion. It will be an ‘under-the-radar’ move for a young cost-controlled player with potential who is currently in the Show or ready for it or a low-cost veteran. I am not expecting any big trades and there is certainly no chance the Yankees will take on a large salary without unloading a commensurate level of salary.

I have not been Miguel Andujar’s biggest fan, but I am glad to see he is taking advantage of the opportunity to play. He is far from a great outfielder but to his credit, he is trying, and he is improving. Those are two important factors for success.   

Photo Credit: Terrance Williams, AP

Despite the better play of late, the Yankees still find themselves in third place in the AL East although the gap is tightening. Entering play today, they are 1 ½ games behind the Red Sox and trail the Tampa Bay Rays by a ½ game. They have the same number of losses as the Rays (19) and only one more than the Red Sox. I had hoped Joe Girardi and his Philadelphia Phillies could have helped us out this weekend but, so far, they have dropped the first two games of the three-game set with the Red Sox at Citizen’s Bank Park.  The Yankees are running out of time to reach my goal of first place by Memorial Day Weekend, but we could see some movement in the standings this week. 

The Yankees have signed former Cincinnati Reds RHP Sal Romano to a minor league deal. He was assigned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In 14 appearances for the Reds this season, he had posted a 5.23 ERA before he was designated for assignment and released by the Reds. Romano had been with the Reds for his entire career (drafted in the 23rd round of the 2011 MLB Draft). His roster spot had been in jeopardy with the Reds this season due to his struggles, and it was lost when the Reds saw an upgrade their roster by claiming a better pitcher, RHP Michael Feliz, who had been waived by the Pittsburgh Pirates). He seems to be depth for Triple A, but it will be interesting to see how Romano performs under the tutelage of Yankee pitching coaches and analytics.  He carries the reputation of not missing many bats, so something is going to have to change if he ever intends to wear the Pinstripes at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees will have to face another one of their former players in the AL East following Tampa’s acquisition of former Yankees reliever J.P. Feyereisen from the Milwaukee Brewers. Feyereisen was one of the players acquired from the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 Andrew Miller trade that also netted Clint Frazier (in addition to Justus Sheffield and Ben Heller). He was traded to Milwaukee in September 2019 for a prospect and international signing bonus money. He has been a solid reliever for the Brewers and figures to help the Rays. I was a little surprised the Rays traded their starting shortstop, Willy Adames, to the Brewers. I know the Rays have the best shortstop prospect in baseball (Wander Franco) but considering Franco is not yet ready for the call, it seemed to be a strange move even if Adames is not a great player.

Speaking of not-so-great players, I saw the Brewers released infielder/outfielder Dee Strange-Gordon. He seems like a guy Brian Cashman might take a minor league flyer on. It has been a tough road for Strange-Gordon this season. Following his unsuccessful three-year run in Seattle, where they converted him to an outfielder when they still had Robinson Cano at second, he signed this off-season with the Reds but was released and subsequently signed by Milwaukee. It does not seem like it was that long ago Strange-Gordon was a young promising player, but he is now 33 and having a hard time finding his way back to MLB. 

As always, Go Yankees!

There Will Be Better Days…

Photo Credit: Dirk Shadd, Tampa Bay Times

Yankees off to usual slow start…

Can we take a mulligan on the season and start over? Slow starts seem to be a “Yankee thing”…unfortunately. It will get better. The wins will come but I always have unrealistic optimism for an undefeated streak, or least an extraordinary amount of April wins, to start the season, propelling the momentum for a strong season (much like how the 2018 Boston Red Sox charged to the championship) , but in usual fashion for our favorite team, a slow start eventually followed by consecutive series wins that puts the Yankees in the upper part of the division by June is the standard formula.

It is early, but the AL East standings appear to be in inverse order: 1. Orioles. 2. Red Sox. 3. Yankees & Rays. 5. Blue Jays. Flip the standings, drop the Jays and Rays a spot or two, and I am good.

I was hoping for more with the first game against last year’s AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays yesterday, especially with Corey Kluber on the mound. Sadly, it was not vintage Klubot. Not going to fret over one start, but it was not very pretty. Pulled with one out in the third inning, Kluber’s final line was five runs (three earned) with two walks and three strikeouts. He failed to preserve a brief two-run Yankees lead, and ultimately took the loss when Nick Nelson allowed the Rays to put the game out of reach. Bummer. There will be better Kluber starts this summer, but I was kind of hoping for a better first start against the Rays. 

Photo Credit: AP

I am unsure what to think about Aaron Judge’s latest injury. The Yankees always seem to be guarded with the information they will release about Judge and his ailments. Judge will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023 (and age 31). I have growing doubts the Yankees will commit long-term dollars to Judge and it is sad. When healthy, he is such a great asset…the bat, the glove, the clubhouse personality, etc. But if he cannot stay on the field, what is the value? The Yankees would be foolish to tie up so much money for a player who will become an even greater injury risk as he moves through his 30’s. Judge remains one of my favorite players and I really hope that he can put consistent time on the field to earn an extension. It is only my optimism, not desire, that is starting to fade. If the injuries continue, the desire will exit.

Speaking of health, Gio Urshela missed yesterday’s game after side effects from his vaccine shot. He is expected back this weekend, possibly today. Glad to hear much of the team has been getting their vaccinations and they do not show the vaccine hesitancy of other MLB teams. It is unfortunate Urshela suffered the adverse reaction but hopefully he is doing much better today. 

This was not a good week for health news regarding former Yankees players. The worst was former Yankees starter James Paxton. Paxton was pulled from his first start with his new/old team, the Seattle Mariners, after 24 pitches, recording only four outs. Afterwards, it was disclosed that Paxton likely needs Tommy John surgery. If so, he will be derailed for the rest of the season and likely all of 2022. I do not wish any ill will toward anyone and certainly not against the Big Maple, but it is somewhat of a relief the Yankees did not sign him to a new contract last off-season. No doubt his injury history played into the decision and rightfully so. Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon carry their own risk, but for now, knock on wood, they are healthy. Paxton’s MRI has apparently been sent to noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles for a second opinion. Dr. ElAttrache is the Head Team Physician for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Rams. If this goes the path of Tommy John surgery, I wish Paxton the best for a successful procedure and a speedy and full recovery. He is a good man and I look forward to seeing him on the field again even if he no longer wears the pinstripes.

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

The other ailing former Yank is New York Mets reliever Dellin Betances. Betances was placed on the 10-day injured list this week with a right shoulder impingement. Based on his last couple of seasons, Betances has picked up the tag “oft-injured” and his reduced velocity has been well documented. He was a great Yankee but it appears the Mets will never see that player. Not that I want the Mets to be successful (I do not) but I want Betances to succeed. Hopefully Dellin can overcome the latest health challenges, without missing too much time, and pitch effectively for the Mets. It is a contract year for him (with limited options last off-season, he exercised his player option which pays him $6 million this year but he is an unrestricted free agent after the season) and it is hard to see the New York native staying in the City.  He deserves better and I hope he finds it.

Photo Credit: ESPN

Color me as perplexed as anyone when the Yankees acquired the poor hitting Rougned Odor. When I saw the Texas Rangers were paying Odor’s salary, basically meaning Odor has no impact on the luxury cap, I can certainly see why he would appeal to Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. But aside from the homers, the bat has been horrific for a long time. I know he is only 27 (that keeps seeming to be the first positive everyone puts forward) but we all know young age does not equal success. I am skeptical the Yankees can find magic in his bat (or his glove). Thairo Estrada lost his seat at the table to make room for Odor when he was designated for assignment. Honestly, I would prefer Estrada over Odor. If the Yankees somehow unlock the potential Odor once held, great for them. I would love to see it happen. Realistically, I think he is just a future ex-Yank that could not cut it. 

Photo Credit: Smiley N Pool, The Dallas Morning News

The biggest surprise of the trade for Odor was remembering that Yankees prospect Antonio Cabello, who went to Texas with outfield prospect Josh Stowers, is only 20. He’s been around for so long, it seems like he should be older. The Yankees had moved the former catcher to the outfield, but the Rangers intend to resume his catching career. I hope Cabello achieves his dreams in North Texas. As for Stowers, it never really seemed like he had a future in New York when the Yankees acquired him a couple of seasons ago for the prospect they had acquired in the Sonny Grade trade to Cincinnati (second baseman Shed Long).  I get the Yankees’ logic. It is just a roll of the dice. If it works, they will be heroes. If it does not, Odor can be easily dismissed without financial ramifications. So, for now, welcome to the Yankees family, Mister Odor.  

I hope Estrada either clears waivers and is outrighted to the minors or the Yankees can trade him for something (bullpen help?). I would hate to see him simply cut for nothing.

Congratulations to Joe Musgrove for throwing the first no-hitter of the young season. Last off-season, before he was traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the San Diego Padres, many Yankee fans were calling for the Yankees to acquire him. Instead, the Yankees went for a different Pirates starter after Musgrove went to the land of “Sunny and 74”. I certainly do not regret the acquisition of Jameson Taillon and as previously noted, one start does not define a season, but good for Musgrove and congrats to the Yankee fans who saw the potential. It is kind of funny that Musgrove’s pitching coach is Larry Rothschild.

I am glad baseball is back. It is nice to see some people in the stands again after last year’s empty seats and cardboard cut-outs in some parks. I look forward to fuller stadiums as we move into the summer and fall.  Nothing better than a packed, energized Yankee Stadium crowd for a pennant chase and trophy hunt. It has been far too long since we have had that experience.

As always, Go Yankees!

Injuries Are Un-a-Voit-able…

Injured List claims Luke Voit, opens door for Bruce…

Hopefully, it is a not a case of “here we go again”, but the first major injury of the year occurred when the Yankees announced several days ago that Luke Voit would undergo surgery for a meniscus tear in his left knee. He had been dealing with swelling in the knee after games and decided it was better to take care of the issue now, rather than later in the season.  With no baseball activity for the next three weeks, he is expected to be out until May…possibly into June, depending upon how his rehab goes. 

The beneficiary of the Voit news is obviously Jay Bruce who had exercised his opt-out on Thursday and was within the 48-hour window for the team to decide their plans for the veteran outfielder/converted first baseman.  If Voit had been healthy, I fully expected Bruce to be handed his walking papers. There was no way the team was going to trade Mike Tauchman (versatility plays, versatility pays).  If Tauchman had stunk it up this spring, I would have been all in favor of his trade, but he showed enough flashes of his 2019 version. If he can prove 2020 was the fluke and not 2019, he will play a very vital role for the Yankees this season even if first base is not one of his positions. Maybe he should pick up Luke’s glove. Just kidding…maybe. Meanwhile, Bruce is the one trying to prove he can get better as a first baseman with regular playing time, at least for the foreseeable future. Let us hope Bruce’s defense does not make us miss Voit’s glove, who is not exactly in Don Mattingly’s realm as a superior defender.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, New York Post

It is anybody’s guess what happens when Voit returns. Given his linebacker’s mentality, I’d bet the under for his return. If Bruce is playing well, it will be extremely difficult to cut him. I guess that is a question the Yankees will have to address when the time comes. Other injuries will certainly determine present and immediate needs. 

To make room for Bruce on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved Clarke Schmidt (right elbow strain) to the 60-day injured list.

The loser of the Voit news is Mike Ford. As a choice for Luke’s replacement, he will instead start the season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Granted, he will be the first option for help if Bruce has any difficulty at first or gets hurt.  Ford cannot just sit back and wait for the phone call. He has Chris Gittens breathing down his neck.  Not that I ever try to read too much into spring stats, but Gittens certainly represents a first base option for the future based on the past few weeks. He played more games this spring than Ford even if he did not get as many overall at-bats. He hit three homers and drove in 7 runs in 20 games while Ford had one home run and 3 RBIs in 11 games.  Gittens delivered 6 hits in 19 ABs, while Ford had only one more hit despite 8 more at-bats. At 27, Gittens is a year younger and four inches taller.  Not that either factor is meant to imply Ford cannot do the job or that Gittens is better, but Chris has shown flashes he may be ready to help.

I had really wanted Derek Dietrich to make the team, but he has not played well enough to justify it. After his opt-out Thursday, the Yankees gave him his release. I certainly have no issue with the Yankees’ decision. I am only disappointed Dietrich did not show or do more.  I suppose there is a chance he could sign a new minor league deal with the Yankees to be a phone call away, but I think it is more likely he will try to catch on elsewhere. 

Lucas Luetge, 34, has certainly proved dreams come true. With improved spin rates, he appears to be a lock for the Yankees bullpen during the absence of the injured Zack Britton. In 10 1/3 innings, Luetge has given up only two runs and two walks while striking out 18.  The strikeouts lead the relievers and are second most on the team behind Gerrit Cole.  I have my doubts Luetge will be able to sustain his spring training performance over the course of a long season but for now, he will get to experience life in Pinstripes on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. That is something no one can ever take from him. 

The clear loser is Tyler Lyons. While Lyons has struck out 13 batters in 7 1/3 innings, he has also given up six runs.  Not that the Yankees need to replace a lefty with a lefty, but Lyons goes down as a camp disappointment and lost opportunity as a result.

Of the right-handed relievers, I thought Kyle Barraclough had some potential to open eyes, but he appears to be just bullpen depth to be stashed away in Eastern Pennsylvania.  Maybe that is all he ever was. I just try to be a little more optimistic than I should at times. 

I am glad to hear Justin Wilson is making his first steps to return. Despite an unimpressive spring, he will be counted on as a high leverage reliever this season and we need him to round into form. 

I was a little bummed when the Boston Red Sox grabbed Yankees pitching prospect Garrett Whitlock in last December’s Rule 5 Draft and probably a little more disappointed that he has been a camp surprise who has ensured a place on Boston’s Opening Day roster. I guess it is good for him given he probably would not have achieved similar success with the Yankees. At least not right now.  The likelihood the Red Sox will be a division bottom feeder this year probably means Whitlock will be able to stay on the roster for the duration of the season. Perhaps it is just a testament to the strength of arms the Yankees have in their system.  It is simply not possible to keep all of them. I would never begrudge Whitlock opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. This is what he has played for, even if he is now wearing the wrong uniform.

Speaking of the Red Sox, the COVID-19 diagnosis for Matt Barnes probably means Boston will open the season with Adam Ottavino as their closer. Look, I loved Otto as a Yankee, but I am glad he is not my team’s closer. When he is on, he is unhittable.  But when he is off, balls are going everywhere except into the catcher’s mitt.  Good luck with that, Alex Cora. 

Last off-season, I wanted the Yankees to re-sign Masahiro Tanaka. Instead, the team made the decision to use Masa’s money to sign Corey Kluber and trade for Jameson Taillon. It seemed a bit risky given the recent health history for the latter two pitchers. Yet, the healthy pitchers this spring have been Kluber and Taillon. As for Masa, a calf injury will sideline him and delay his return debut for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. For Masa’s sake, I am glad it is just a calf injury and nothing to do with his arm or shoulder. Hopefully, he will be back soon and ready to show Rakuten fans what they have missed while he was away in New York.

It is always tough when former Yankee greats pass. The latest is 96-year-old Dr Bobby Brown. At 96 years, he had a good run.  I primarily remember him as the President of the American League, but he did have a successful post-playing career as a cardiologist in Texas. I would say it was a life well served. As a third baseman, Brown won four World Series titles with the Yankees and was the last surviving member of the 1947, 1949 and 1950 World Series champions.  Brown was noted for his post-season success. In 17 World Series games and 46 plate appearances, he hit .439/.500/.707/1.207, with five doubles and three triples. I like the story of when he told his wife during their courtship prior to marriage and before he had met her parents. “Tell your father I’m a third baseman for the Yankees. Tell your mother I’m in medical school.”  Dr Brown, thank you for your accomplishments, for your memories, and for your service. You will be missed but never forgotten. Rest peacefully.

As always, Go Yankees!

And We Have Yankees Baseball…

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Spring Training Games set to begin tomorrow…

The long wait for baseball ends tomorrow with the first televised Yankees game since last October. Granted, it is just a seven-inning game but for spring games, most of the players who will see the Opening Day roster would have already hit the showers by the 7th inning anyway. The latter innings belong to guys like Trey Amburgey and Asher Wojciechowski so I think we can survive the deprivation of two innings. Nothing against Trey or Asher but it is not like you’ll see Aaron Judge making a diving catch in the bottom of the seventh to secure a win.  

I am glad that we will hear the familiar sound of the YES Network for the Yankees spring opener against the Toronto Blue Jays, the team likely to be their biggest challenger in the AL East this year. I know the Tampa Bay Rays made it to the World Series last year, but Blake Snell now resides in San Diego and Charlie Morton moved up the Eastern Seaboard to Atlanta. The up-and-coming Blue Jays, an overly aggressive player in the free agent market to mix with their plethora of young talent, figure to start making some noise even if this is not quite their year yet.  

The Greedy Pinstripes’ Bryan Van Dusen made a good observation on Twitter yesterday (@Bryan_TGP). Bryan’s words: “Cashman turned Ottavino into Gardner, O’Day, Wilson, and still has $1.425 million left over. Yeah, that’s pretty damn good work. But go ahead and bash the guy.” I know the point was directed to those bashing GM Brian Cashman on Twitter, but seriously, Cashman did convert Ottavino, an at-times frustrating pitcher to watch, into a clubhouse leader/outfield insurance and two good relievers with money to spare. The Yankees did pay the Red Sox $850,000 in addition to the prospect given up (RHP Frank German) to get Boston to take Ottavino, a free agent after the 2021 season. But, in retrospect, if someone asked me if I would trade Adam Ottavino and Frank German for Brett Gardner, Darren O’Day, and Justin Wilson, my answer is easy. All day, every day. The ability to shed payroll while getting better is clearly underrated…at least among Yankee fans.  

I liked Ottavino. I am not trying to bash him. When he was right, he was unhittable, but the games when he lacked control were very painful to watch. I think we will get better consistency with O’Day and Wilson.  I went through the winter saying the Yankees should move on from Brett Gardner but here we are. I am certainly not mad he is back. I just hope the Yankees stand behind their words left field belongs to Clint Frazier. It is his time. It does not mean Gardy will not get an opportunity to play. Hopefully, everyone can stay healthy this year so that Gardy can be used in short stints to keep him fresh. I really hope Frazier takes the ball and runs with it. He needs to make the case the Yankees were right in saying he is the starting left fielder.  After the season, I will resume my “it’s time for Gardy to go” campaign.  Let him have his final season in Pinstripes with hopefully packed Yankee Stadium crowds by the end of the season (vaccine distribution permitting). He has certainly earned the right to say goodbye on his terms and in front of the greatest fans in the World.  

It was not great news to hear pitching prospect Clarke Schmidt was shut down due to a common extensor strain in his right elbow.  Upon hearing the news, many started to wonder if it was the start of an inevitable delayed path which leads to Tommy John surgery anyway. Subsequent reports do seem to indicate this is just a muscle injury that simply needs rest (three to four weeks) and not something more serious that will require more drastic measures (i.e., surgery). It is a great opportunity for Deivi Garcia to grab the fifth starter’s spot considering Schmidt was his top competitor for the job. Hopefully, the rest does Schmidt good and we see him later this season. No doubt the Yankees will need both Garcia and Schmidt this year to be successful.  

I am getting tired of hearing the years of Mike Tauchman’s control as a reason to keep him. If you can do better, you do. Tauchman was originally one of my reasons for why the Yankees should have moved on from Gardy but now that Gardy’s back, Tauchman is not necessary despite his ability to play all three outfield spots.  I would like to see Derek Dietrich make the team over Tauchman.  I know he has not been the player he once was in Miami, but he is young enough (32 in July) to rebound. I like his versatility to play both infield and outfield positions. I would love to watch Jay Bruce hit bombs in Yankee Stadium but sadly I just do not see how he fits this roster. He is too one-dimensional in my opinion. Today’s game requires versatility, even with a 26-man roster. There is no room for multiple DH-types. 

I am quietly hoping for a strong year by Jordan Montgomery now that he has put some distance from his Tommy John surgery. He should have a good time this year following Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. If Gumby and Garcia can be consistent, you really must like the Yankees’ chances with this starting rotation. Barring injuries, it will be fun to watch every starter take his turn. If they can find their groove, extended losing streaks should be rare. The Yankees may not win 100 games this year, but it is fun to know they have the talent to do it.

This year will put pressure on both Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman to produce. Not that I expect either man to get fired if the Yankees depart October early, but there will eventually be a time when Hal Steinbrenner must make the difficult choices if the team is unable to deliver. It is tough. Winning in October is more often about who is hot at the moment than being the best team on the field. Cashman’s roster-tweaking must find the right blend of talent, chemistry, and timing. 

I am not always Cashman’s biggest fan, but I have to give him an A for his off-season. He was able to reduce payroll while improving the roster. Poor guy must please Steinbrenner and Yankee fans. Now that’s a master juggling act. No Cash bashing from me this year…not yet anyway. Let us see how the season plays out. This could be a championship year. Or not. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Opening Soon: Steinbrenner Field…

Ladies & Gentlemen, I’d like to present…Major League Baseball…

Finally, it is the return of America’s favorite pastime. In a matter of days…and…between now and a number of COVID-19 tests, Major League Baseball will make its triumphant return for the 2021 season. Soon, our favorite players will be together again, working out on the fields in and around Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. It’s been a weird off-season…following an even weirder 2020 baseball season…but hopefully some sense of normalcy is waiting for us sometime later this summer as the vaccinations reach out to the mass populations. I am truly looking forward to watching a Major League game while sitting inside a Major League stadium.

Today’s big news if you want to call it that was Jay Bruce’s decision to sign a minor league contract with camp invitation for the only New York pro baseball team he has never played for. 

Photo Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images

I think immediately, me included, everyone thought the move might spell the end for Brett Gardner. From a skillset standpoint, Bruce hardly qualifies as a defensive outfielder and he certainly has no ability to play center field so he is not a replacement for Gardy. From my perspective, it is more about money. Bruce stands to make $1.35 million if he makes the team which, barring a complete flop in Tampa, he most likely will. Based on plate appearances, he can pick up an additional $500,000 if he reaches 500 plate appearances. Although it seems like he should be older, Bruce is only 34 (or will be on April 3rd) and can still do some major damage to a baseball. Given the Yankees remain in the market for another reliever and assuming they are roughly $7 million, give or take, under the $210 million luxury tax threshold, it becomes a question of how much can the Yankees offer Gardner to return coupled with how much is he willing to give up to stay?  I suppose that’s a question to be answered over the course of the next few days.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I am ready to move on Brett Gardner. He has been a great Yankee and a great leader in recent years.  But there is a time when everything must end. I subscribe heavily to the belief I’d rather give up a player a year too soon than a year too late.  I had really hoped Estevan Florial would have been ready by now, but he’ll just be reaching Triple A this year (despite playing one game for the Yankees last year). A talented younger player (i.e., cheaper) with upside is more appealing to me as a backup when you are talking about the fifth outfielder. Not that I think Mike Tauchman is all that and a bag chips, but he’s younger and can do everything Gardy can (he’s 30 compared to Gardy’s 37…38 in August). So, Tauchman makes more sense as the fourth outfielder unless the Yankees can upgrade the position. I don’t think Gardy would come back for $3 million (could be wrong…stranger things have happened) and it makes no sense at all for the Yankees to spend $7 million to get him to come back.

The man who clearly should be worried about the presence of Jay Bruce is first baseman Mike Ford. 

When I hear the name Montero, I always shudder with disappointment thinking about failed former Yankees top prospect Jesus Montero. I guess I will need to find a cure as the Yankees have signed two unrelated Monteros, both international free agents. According to Baseball America, here are the international players signed by the Yankees (the July 2nd signing date last year had been pushed to January 15th due to the pandemic).

Hans Montero, shortstop, Dominican Republic

Fidel Montero, outfielder, Dominican Republic

Ramiro Altagracia, outfielder, Dominican Republic

Kleiner Delgado, shortstop, Venezuela

Johan Ferreira, third baseman, Dominican Republic

Hans Montero, 17, is 5’10”, 160 lbs. He reportedly signed for $1.6-$1.7 million. In their scouting report, Baseball America indicates Montero is likely to stick at shortstop, “with soft hands, a strong arm, and above-average speed”.

Fidel Montero is viewed as an athletic outfielder “with impressive raw tools who shows up-and-down game performance”. It does make you wonder if the Yankees hit the jackpot if they can iron out the wrinkles in his game. Fidel signed for only $500,000 but appears to carry strong potential. He is also 17 and stands 6’1” and weights 175-180 lbs.  Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com wrote the following quote today by ESPN’s MLB prospect insider Kiley McDaniel, “Some other teams tried to steal him. Some teams thought he was a $2 million talent. He’s just one of those dynamic centerfielders. Above average power potential. He can run. He can kind of do everything.”

Photo Credit: @BenBadler (Twitter), Baseball America

I guess there’s hope on the way to remove my negative connotation associated with the name Montero. Sorry, if your name is Montero. It’s not personal. I just expected a little bit more from Jesus or rather I bought into the false hype…or to be nicer…inflated perception of potential. 

Welcome to the Yankees Family, Hans, Fidel, Ramiro, Kleiner & Johan!

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the Yankees were one of the teams talking to former Yankees reliever Justin Wilson, a lefty. I’ve seen a number of people call for the return of Trevor Rosenthal. I think either would be fine although Rosenthal, after a successful 2020 season with the Royals and Padres, figures to command the larger contract. MLB Trade Rumors projected 2 years and $14 million for Rosenthal which would seem to be a bit high for the Yankees. Did I really just say that? I know, it makes no sense. Taxes and penalties do not seem to be impacting the defending World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. But to the Dodgers’ defense, they would be “first-time” offenders above the threshold since they reset penalties in 2018 when the Yankees did but unlike the Yankees, did not go over the threshold last year. 

I have seen a few fans wanting the Yankees to re-sign David Robertson. As much as I liked D-Rob during his two stints with the Yankees, the way things ended when he left last time was unsettling. I am not sure if he is the one who denied playoff shares to Yankees Assistant Hitting Coach P.J. Pilittere and others since it would have been a team decision, but Robertson’s voice was instrumental as a players representative. It is unfortunate and maybe a little sad, but I’d rather not see Robertson return. I did see the Mets are shopping Dellin Betances. Sorry, that’s another one I’ll take a pass on. I don’t think he’ll ever be the elite reliever he once was and in recent years, the injury history is just too much. So, for ex-Yankees, give me Wilson or Rosenthal. 

February 17thsoon.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Sound of Baseball in Tampa…

…is being drowned out by NFL Football…

Lots of activity near Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, this evening but unfortunately, it is of the football variety. Oh well, soon, Steinbrenner Field will be humming with the return of all players, new and old. Many of the team’s players are already in Tampa and it will be exciting when we can see player interviews as they arrive for Spring Training 2021. 

Photo Credit: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

It was a pipe dream the Yankees would sign Trevor Bauer, I know, but there was a part of me that wanted Hal Steinbrenner to bust the budget to ensure a formidable rotation from top to bottom. Alas, he let President of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Dodger, Andrew Friedman, spend the money of Mark Warner, Chairman & CEO, and his partners, for their title defense. Given how active the San Diego Padres have been this off-season, it was time for the Dodgers to do something. They’ve lost a few of their contributors over the past few years. Joc Pederson signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Cubs, and Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez now calls the AL East home after inking a deal with the Boston Red Sox. 

With the Yankees obviously trying to stay under the $210 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold, the Dodgers blasted through it. Their payroll is nearly $240 million, and they still need to decide whether they want to spend more to bring back free agent third baseman Justin Turner. Granted, if the Dodgers win the World Series again, I doubt there’s anyone in the organization that would say it wasn’t worth it so it’s hard to criticize them until/unless they fall short of their goal. 

I guess it boils down to whether the Yankees needed to spend more to compete with the Dodgers or the Padres or in-division against the Toronto Blue Jays, the clear up-and comer to replace the Tampa Bay Rays as the Yankees’ chief rival this year. Honestly, as structured, the Yankees stand as much of a chance to win in October as any other team. The Chicago White Sox are vastly improved, with a young core talent base, yet no team has a distinct advantage in the American League this season. Baseball is not always about the best but rather who is playing the best at the end. The Dodgers can pay Bauer $105 million over three years, but it doesn’t really guarantee they’ll be successful. The Yankees, led by Gerrit Cole, will have a top rotation if Corey Kluber can turn the calendar back a couple of years and if Jameson Taillon, with a fire lit under his butt thanks to the trade to a contender, can deliver healthy, productive innings. But setting them aside, Jordan Montgomery is a good option to have at the back end of a rotation, and I do believe we’ll see a breakout of one of the younger pitchers (the most probable, of course, being Clarke Schmidt). But if not Schmidt, I think another will take the opportunity. If we get into the season and Jhoulys Chacin is starting games, then we’ll know it all went horribly wrong. Until then, I will maintain the usual pre-season optimism the Yankees are entering a championship year. If not now, when? They have the team to do it this year.

I still expect the Yankees to announce a deal to bring back outfielder Brett Gardner for at least one more year. I am not really in favor of it, as I’ve said before. I would prefer to keep the money open for other potential in-season deals. As great a Yankee and leader as Gardy has been, they do not need him. Clint Frazier will be the leftfielder and Mike Tauchman is still hanging around as the fourth outfielder.  Not that I am Tauchman’s biggest fan, but it’s time for the Gardy party to end. It’s a bummer Estevan Florial has developed like we once thought he would. This would be his time if he had continued on his path of potential. At this point, he’s starting to seem like the latest Mason Williams even if some still think of him as an up and comer. Last year seems like a lost year in Florial’s development and I can’t say I am optimistic about his chances. Place that one under the category of “I hope I’m wrong”. I’d love to see Florial flourish at the Major League level.

Given the Yankees have yet to announce reliever Darren O’Day, it does seem GM Brian Cashman is working on something to clear some roster space. It doesn’t mean I am expecting something big. Yet, it seems like it would have been too easy to just cut outfielder Greg Allen or reliever Ben Heller so something else must be in play. Or Cashman’s trying and not succeeding in making the moves he has in mind with Allen or Heller ending up on the chopping room floor anyway. 

With the recent flurry of free agent signings as we get closer to Spring Training, I am surprised the Yankees haven’t been more active. The $210 million must be a “hard salary cap” in their eyes. Reset the penalties and then go after it again next year. I only hope we do not miss out during this championship window as a result. I guess this is where I wish the Yankees weren’t saddled with Giancarlo Stanton’s contract. Regardless of who it is, there always seems to be one player contract on the team that is an albatross. Alex Rodriguez’s final years…Jacoby Ellsbury. Stanton is the latest but someone else will take his place one day (just don’t let it be you, Gerrit!).  I don’t usually like salary dumps because you have to include quality prospects to entice other teams, but Stanton is emerging as a strong candidate, in my mind, if the Yankees could only find a taker. Unfortunately, I think they’re stuck with that one.

I like Luke Voit, I really do, but if the Yankees could trade him and acquire Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, sign me up. I’ve never been a big proponent of moving DJ LeMahieu to first base (losing his valuable glove at second base as a result), but, IMO, Gleyber Torres is a better second baseman than he is a shortstop. He has time to fix it, but Story would, pardon the pun, build upon the Yankees’ status of the most storied franchise. I’ve long admired Story and now that Francisco Lindor is no longer an option, he is probably my favorite trade target at the moment…even if he doesn’t bat lefthanded. 

I’d love to have another stopper in the bullpen but hopefully one of the young guys can bust through. I am holding out hope it is Nick Nelson who proves he can be a difference maker. It feels like the Yankees will sign another reliever before training camp, but I am keeping expectations low. For all intents and purposes, the pitchers, catchers and position players showing up in Tampa are those on the roster or in camp on minor league deals with training camp invitations. No “OMG, he’s a Yankee??!!!” moments coming up soon. I guess this is to be continued in July.

I am glad we’ll have a full 162-game schedule. I had prepared myself for a shortened schedule and delayed start to the season, but I am happy we can soon watch some baseball. I am hopeful the health and safety protocols will be sufficient to ensure uninterrupted play this season. Watching the Super Bowl with a packed stadium is kind of scary but I look forward to packed baseball stadiums in the not-so-distant future. Once it is healthy and safe to do so, of course. I would hate to go through another entire season with cardboard cut-outs in the stands. I miss the real sound and energy of a crowd and the ability to attend a game in person. I am nearing a year living within walking distance of a Major League baseball stadium and I’ve not been to a game. That is so wrong and not what I expected when I moved to the area.

As always, Go Yankees!

Spring Training, So Close Yet So Far Away…

Camps open in a couple of weeks, I think…

The final day of January means, generally speaking, we close the book on the last month without baseball (hopefully) until after the World Series. It has been an eventful January, all things considered, in the Yankees Universe. The official additions of Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon (“TIE-own”), the unofficial addition of Darren O’Day, the re-signing of hitting machine D.J. LeMahieu, and the sad farewell to Masahiro Tanaka.

When the Yankees didn’t aggressively pursue Tanaka after the season and then made the plays for Kluber and Taillon, it was fairly obvious there would be no return to Pinstripes for Tanaka. With some talk about the Toronto Blue Jays having interest in Tanaka, it was best case scenario for his return to Japan (if the Yankees weren’t going to bring him back). I am surprised more teams didn’t publicly express interest in Tanaka. He would make almost any rotation better. I get that he is no longer the pitcher, at age 32, he was at 25. The home runs could get annoying at times, but it was clear he loved New York and he loved the Yankees. When he had his opt-out a couple of years ago, I know the market conditions dictated his decision to some degree (or all of it), but I was proud of his choice not to opt-out. Time and again, we see players take the money and run (see Robinson Cano). Tanaka showed loyalty but sadly it didn’t really mean anything when it came time for the Yankees to make a business decision. 

Personally, I held out hope the Yankees would bring Masa back until the news of the official announcement of his two-year contract with Japan’s Rakuten Eagles. Suspecting his return was unlikely, I did try to hold some hope for the impossible.  For most of the off-season, I had said that I wanted one of Tanaka or James Paxton back. Now that Tanaka is gone, I can say I am not really interested in a reunion with Paxton. I like the guy and I think he’s a talented pitcher, but the first inning struggles last year wore on me and of course the injury cloud that seems to follow him is not very appealing.  Knowing that Jordan Montgomery is the team’s fourth starter behind Gerrit Cole, Kluber and Taillon, I’d rather see one of Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, or Domingo German (or even Luis Medina) take the fifth spot over a more expensive Paxton. So, I thank the Big Maple for his time in Pinstripes and wish him the best for good health in his future opportunities with other teams. It would be great to see him put together a healthy, productive season with no injured list stints. I’d hate to see him go to Toronto to do it, so I am hopeful he’ll find a new home outside of the AL East. 

Another player I am ready to say goodbye to is Brett Gardner. I know he has been a loyal, productive soldier for the Yankees, but I think it is time for the younger guys. Left field clearly goes to Clint Frazier, and with Mike Tauchman on the roster, there really isn’t any need for Gardy at this point. Not that I am all that enamored with Tauchman, the Yankees need to open opportunities for younger guys. At this point, I’d rather see the Yankees protect the checkbook and reserve more funds for potential July trades when they can better assess their needs. Not that I care how much Hal Steinbrenner spends, but it is clear the team is intent on resetting the luxury tax penalties again. 

I like the pickup of former Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves reliever Darren O’Day. After the trade of Adam Ottavino to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees clearly had a need and O’Day should prove to be an upgrade. That’s tough to say because I had really wanted Ottavino to succeed as a Yankee. There’s always a sting when a former Yankee goes to Boston, especially when that player is a native New Yorker, and it probably added some salt to the wound that it was the Yankees who sent him there. I could be wrong, but I think his stay in Beantown will only last the duration of his current contract (more probable even less when the July trade deadline rolls round if the Red Sox, as expected, are toiling at or near the AL East cellar). I don’t think he’s a Red Sock beyond the 2021 season. Stranger things have happened, and Ottavino has a connection to Boston, having played college ball at Northeastern University. 

MLB made a proposal to the Players Association today for a delayed start to the 2021 season with a modified 154-game schedule. If the proposal is accepted, spring training would not start until late March so scratch what I said at the top of this post. I do feel the players need to be guaranteed of full pay regardless of what happens, but setting that aside, as much as I want baseball to return, I think a delayed start might be for the best as we try to move forward with the pandemic. With each passing month, we get closer to broader distribution of the vaccines. I know I don’t want any disruptions during the season, so I’d rather have caution at the start to ensure the enjoyment of a full and uninterrupted schedule. Given baseball used to only play 154 games, it’s not like sacred tradition is being broken.  The cream is still going to rise to the top with 154-game schedule. But conversely, the major downside is players are preparing for mid-February arrival and the delay could adversely impact preparation. We saw a number of players last year that didn’t have the years we expected and there’s no question in my mind the delays were a common denominator among the root causes. Not solely, of course, but the delays played a part and there were players who were not at their best from a physical conditioning standpoint.

I guess more than anything, I am trying to say I am ready for baseball to start in a couple of weeks but if it is delayed, I am not going to scream. A mutual decision must be made between MLB and the Players Association and I’ll respect said decision regardless of the outcome. 

I do really want baseball back. Yet, the greater priority is the health of players and fans. 

I feel bad Colorado Rockies fans. After living among them for the four years (before moving to Los Angeles last year), I know how much they love their team and its players. I am sure it was very difficult for them to hear the new the Rockies were putting the final touches on a trade to send star third baseman Nolan Arenado (and $50 million in cash) to the St Louis Cardinals. I have to credit Daniel Kramer, a Seattle-based MLB reporter, on Twitter (@DKramer_) with the best tweet analysis of the Rockies organization: “Let’s review: The $70M Ian Desmond Experiment. The $106M in 3 bullpen arms that they all eventually released. Inadequately evaluating DJLM and letting him turn into an MVP elsewhere. Signing Dan Murphy for same $ as DJ. Paying $50M to get rid of your franchise star.” Well, I am okay with their inadequate evaluation of DJLM. Yankee fans continue to salivate over German Marquez and Trevor Story, sensing a fire sale in The Mile High City. The talk is they’ll use Nolan’s money to lock up Story, but it’s hard to see him staying in Denver for the long term. Todd Helton was a rare exception. It seems that most Colorado superstars eventually move on to other cities to make their mark.

Congratulations to Didi Gregorius on his new two-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies recently signed another former Yankee to play for manager Joe Girardi when they gave a non-roster invitation to Ivan Nova. Ronald Torreyes will also be in Phillies camp on a non-roster invite.

As always, Go Yankees!

Eleven Years and Counting…

Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Post

Rays cast Yankees aside, ending Pinstriped aspirations…

Well, that sucked.

If the Yankees had gotten any help from good health this year, they would be in the AL Championship Series, preparing to host the Houston Astros tonight in San Diego. I think the biggest disappointment is to miss the ALCS by one bad pitch. The path to the World Series this year might be the easiest it ever would have been for the Yankees. I don’t say that because I think the window is closing but the promising younger teams will only get better, increasing the competition so that you don’t have a team with a losing record and a history of cheating playing, sitting in the ALCS right now, for the right to advance to the World Series. The Yankees had a golden opportunity to exact revenge on Astros for their unethical play but sadly we must put our trust and faith in the Rays to do it.

Clearly, the Yankees must do SOMETHING about starting pitching. It will be an on-going Achilles heel unless there can be stronger and more reliable arms behind Gerrit Cole. Starting Deivi Garcia in Game 2 was a clear sign the Yankees simply did not have better options. After the high of Gerrit Cole pitching Game 1, I was deflated when I heard Garcia would get the ball in Game 2. Garcia has been a bright spot this season but the moment was too big for even him. Still, falling behind 2-1 in the series but winning the crucial fourth game, you had to like the Yankees’ chances for the fifth and final game with Cole on the mound. Unfortunately, the bats could not deliver and Year 1 of the massive Cole contract is in the books.

Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Post

As much as I’ve wanted the Yankees to bring Masahiro Tanaka back, he didn’t have a good post-season. If he had performed like he has in past Octobers, it is very possible the Tampa Bay Rays would be the team sitting at home right now.  The disappointing playoff starts have reduced my optimism the Yankees will or should bring back Masa. With the talk the Yankees will reduce spending, like all teams, after the lost revenue of the 2020 season, it is a near certainty the Yankees won’t make a big splash to land a number two starter like Trevor Bauer. Instead, it will be an off-season of looking for hidden gems ready to blossom.  It is clear Gerrit Cole needs help. He cannot do it by himself.  Whether it is Deivi Garcia and/or Clarke Schmidt or other young Yankee prospects, they need to take it to the next level. But the entirety of improvement in the starting rotation should not fall solely on the young arms. It needs to be a combination of veteran influence and exciting youthful talent and enthusiasm…just not as veteran as someone like J.A. Happ. 

I don’t have a grand plan for the off-season. The Yankees pay Brian Cashman and his henchmen a lot of money to make those decisions. However, I do know the Yankees must re-sign DJ LeMahieu. As one of the team’s best players the last two years and the 2020 AL Batting Champion, the Yankees cannot afford to let the superior defender and consummate teammate depart.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

I’ve heard many fans call for the head of Aaron Boone. While I feel he regressed in 2020, the fact is there is not someone better out there. I respect Boone’s clubhouse skills and I think he will show the improvement evident in 2019 in future years. 2020 was just a weird, freaky, ridiculous and deadly year. Except for maybe the wave of the ten-game winning streak, there was never truly a time that I felt the 2020 Yankees had that “it” quality in terms of championship aspirations.  So, as disappointed as I was to see Mike Brosseau and the Rays beat the Yankees, I cannot say I was surprised. 

I don’t want to point fingers at the Yankees’ bench coach, Carlos Mendoza, who served as Boone’s right-hand man for the first time this season. Perhaps former bench coach Josh Bard was more valuable than what we could observe from the outside looking in. Maybe Mendy is not the right guy to offer choices to Boone in the heat of battle. I like the coach and I am not asking for his firing but maybe a different role is in order. I’ve always felt Boone would be better served by having an experienced manager as his bench coach. Not that I think Buck Showalter would accept that type of position, but he’s the type of guy I have in mind. Okay, maybe I am pointing my finger at Mendoza but I do believe the Yankees need to make the tough decisions to put Aaron Boone in the best possible position to succeed. 

As for Brian Cashman, he is not going anywhere unless a team like the New York Mets throw an overabundance of cash to Cash. I kind of like the idea of maybe bringing back former assistant GM Billy Eppler who was fired after the season as GM of the Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim) by owner Arte Moreno. I thought Eppler did a decent job despite the handcuffs placed on him by Moreno. He could never get the pitching to support Mike Trout but I put that more on Moreno than Eppler. The obstacle for Eppler coming back is the apparent stranglehold on Eppler’s old position by trusted Cashman lieutenant, Tim Naehring. Eppler would most likely have to take a lesser role so I think he’s probably bound for another organization, maybe somewhere closer to his Southern CA home.

There are lots of decisions to be made if the Yankees intend to rebound with a vengeance in 2021. It will be another interesting (and strange off-season) with the pandemic continuing to rage across the globe and an impending battle for the White House next month. Although unrelated to baseball, these are factors that can influence significant financial decisions and commitments by all MLB teams.

If there is one guy on the roster who must improve headed into next season, it is Gleyber Torres. I am not advocate for trading him or, at this point, moving him back to second base despite the availability of so many talented shortstops. I guess I’d change my opinion if the Yankees let LeMahieu get away, but until then, I like DJ at second and not the rover he played during his first season with the Yankees. Gio Urshela has proven his worth as the starting third baseman and same with Luke Voit at first. I will always be enamored with having a guy like Francisco Lindor at short, but realistically, it will never happen. I’d rate it more likely the Yankees would go after a guy like Andrelton Simmons.

Not sure what I think about Gary Sanchez. I’ve always given him my support but after this season, given how he was first cast aside by Gerrit Cole and then later in the post-season by Aaron Boone, I don’t think he has a future in Pinstripes anymore. I certainly do not want Kyle Higashioka as the starting catcher (sorry Higgy fans). Options do seem limited, however, especially if the Yankees are looking to cut payroll. A move away from El Gary may not bring in a J.T. Realmuto to serve as his replacement. Keep expectations low seems to be the theme this year with the monetary constraints expected as a result of the pandemic.

I’d buy out Brett Gardner. Sorry. I can’t say enough about how great of a Yankee he has been. In his final game against the Rays a few days ago, he made a magnificent catch in left. But it is time to pass the baton. Clint Frazier should be the undisputed left fielder next season, with support by Mike Tauchman (or someone else if the Yankee can find an upgrade). Time to give Gardy a gold watch, pat him on the back, give him his day at Yankee Stadium and wish him well in his future endeavors.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

I am hopeful and optimistic for the 2021 despite my concerns noted above. I do think the Yankees will make the right decisions. I don’t see any team going hog wild in free agency this year and I trust the Yankees to find the undiscovered gems. The monster teams growing in San Diego, Chicago (White Sox), and Toronto concern me but the Yankees are a resilient organization with an eye for talent. There are more Gio Urshela’s to be found…the Yankees just need to move quicker before an intelligent team like the Rays can snatch them up.

As for the 2020 playoffs, it sickens me to think the Houston Astros are a series away from the World Series. I hate the Tampa Bay Rays so the ALCS is truly about the lesser of two evils. I’d rather see the Rays (ugh) advance than the pathetic Astros. The Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite NL team so the decision of which team to support is easy. So, win or lose, this is the order of teams I’d support for winning this year’s World Series:

1.       Los Angeles Dodgers

2.       Atlanta Braves

3.       Tampa Bay Rays

4.       Houston Cheaters

The NLCS should be a classic. The Dodgers have a great team but so do the Braves. I think this is the National League’s year to win the World Series so in my opinion, the winner of the Dodgers/Braves series will be the World Series champion. As long as the season ends with no celebrations by the Rays or Astros, I will be happy.    

Before I go, I’d like to say a final farewell to the great Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford.  The Chairman of the Board, one of the all-time greatest Yankee Legends, passed away on October 8th at age 91. He suffered from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease in recent years. He was apparently at his Lake Success, NY home watching the Yankees play when he died. No jokes. This is a sad time for the Yankees. I recall my feelings of disappointment when the 2019 Old Timer’s Day at Yankee Stadium did not include Ford. I had feared we were nearing the end of the road for the ten-time All-Star and six-time World Series champion. I never got to see Ford pitch but as a Yankees fan, his historic accomplishments are why the Yankees are such a wonderful collection of Legends who stand above all other teams. Rest in Peace, Whitey. We thank you and we will miss you…

Photo Credit: Ray Stubblebine, REUTERS

As always, Go Yankees!