Category: New York Yankees

Now Available, Number 55…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Patrick McDermott)

Yankee Fans await the departure of Sonny Gray…

If you listen to the so-called Yankee GM’s on Twitter, the end of the road could be near for Sonny Gray. We know he’ll be gone by the time the guys pick up their bags to head to Tampa, Florida for Spring Training in February, but the only question is when, where and for whom.

When Sonny’s college pitching coach was on the Milwaukee Brewers coaching staff, there were lots of trade speculation with the Brewers. Now that the coach (Derek Johnson, formerly pitching coach of Vanderbilt) has moved on to the Cincinnati Reds in the same capacity, the Reds have become the “favored” trade target for the Twitter GM’s. I am sure Yankees GM Brian Cashman is talking to the Reds, as reported by the real insiders, but he’s talking with other teams too. I have no doubt Sonny Gray will perform better in a less-pressurized environment. We’ve seen it with the guys traded to Pittsburgh in recent years (most notably A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova).

When the Reds are mentioned as a Gray destination, the name of Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett repeatedly comes up. If the Yankees are successful in acquiring the left-handed bat of Gennett, it is going to take more than Sonny Gray to make it happen. Gennett is only 28 years old, and has had great numbers the last two years, but he is a free agent after the 2019 season. I’ve heard people nix the thought of trading for Arizona’s premier first baseman Paul Goldschmidt because of his impending free agency next off-season. Not sure why you’d trade a talented Gray for short-term assets. Gennett’s productive bat would slot nicely into the Yankees lineup, but I just don’t think he is part of a Gray trade unless the team is willing to let go of some top prospects too.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jamie Sabau)

One writer mentioned 2B/SS Jeter Downs as an option but young Downs is only 20 years old and while drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft (32nd pick), he has not played higher than Single A and is not ready to help in the immediate future. But, of course, you’ve got to like the name considering he was named for the Yankees future Hall of Fame shortstop. Still, I don’t see the Reds parting with one of their top prospects for Gray unless the Yankees sweeten the pot on their end.

The Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres are other teams mentioned, but there are others. While some have speculated Cashman’s return for Gray could be better than expected, I am anticipating it will be for minor league names that may or may not have heard of before. When you try to sell an asset, it’s generally not a good idea to tell the world how poorly it performs. I know that Cashman sells Gray’s upside in phone conversations with other GM’s, but he certainly has not avoided negative comments in his talks with the media. Nothing like giving a player a chip on his shoulder.

I am trying to keep expectations low for Gray’s return. I’d prefer not to see him go to a team the Yankees could potentially see in the playoffs, such as the A’s. I fully expect Gray to become the pitcher he once was when he exits the main stage in New York. He’ll also be a pitcher with an axe to grind given the disparaging words by our own general manager. While I don’t think Gray is a pitcher for the Big Apple, I won’t easily dismiss him when he is playing in another uniform. He will be a formidable foe in the future. There were some jokes that the Yankees should trade Gray to Oakland for Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian. Regardless of where he goes, we have to be prepared that he’ll pitch more like the ace he once was in Oakland.

The next milestone date for Major League Baseball is Tuesday when MLB 40-man rosters must be set in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. After November 20th, additions to the 40-man roster can only be made through trades and free agent acquisitions. With Tuesday’s roster deadline, there will be a flurry of activity as teams move to protect their best Rule 5-eligible prospects. The Rule 5 Draft is held on the Thursday (final day) of the Baseball Winter Meetings which will be December 13th in Las Vegas, NV this year.

Most people are speculating the Yankees will trade Gray before they begin aggressive pursuit of other pitching options like Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, James Paxton or Nathan Eovaldi. With its potential impact on the 40-man roster, it’s possible we could see Gray moved within the next couple of days. Otherwise, I think we’re going to have to be a little more patient and may not see anything until after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

On the bright side for whomever pulls on #55 next, the most recent guy to wear it is former Yankees great Hideki Matsui. Godzilla wore the number on the recently completed MLB All-Star Series in Japan as first base coach for MLB All-Star Team Manager Don Mattingly.

Photo Credit: AP (Toru Takahashi)

Speaking of pitching, MLB.com posted a column this week about the potential 2019 rookies of the year for each team. For the Yankees, Justus Sheffield was the choice. Per the column written by Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum for MLB.com, “The Yankees’ greatest need is starting pitching, and Sheffield should crack the Opening Day rotation.  His fastball, slider and changeup all can be three plus pitches, so it won’t be a shock if he’s New York’s second-best starter after Luis Severino”.  That’s probably a little more aggressive than my expectation heading into the new season. So long as he’s not included in a trade for a top starting pitcher, I don’t think Sheffield grabs a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training. I think CC Sabathia is holding the spot Sheffield will take when he’s ready. My expectation is the Yankees will acquire at least two starting pitchers this winter which will delay Top Sheff’s arrival. I hope Sheffield comes to Spring Training and absolutely dominates but I don not really think it will happen…yet. For the top four spots in the rotation, the Yankees need certainty and reliability. It’s great that CC Sabathia is back, but the team should not pin its 2019 hopes on his arm or his bum knee. He’ll be a year older and closer to the inevitable end of the line. I know it’s his last year, but there are no guarantees he’ll pitch like he did last season. He’ll be 39 next summer and he is not exactly in “Mariano Rivera-like” condition. Maybe he pitches solidly throughout the year, but then again, the end could come suddenly and without warning. The Yankees do not need more than one question mark in the rotation if they intend to de-throne the Champions.

Former Yankees managerial candidate Chris Woodward, recently named as the new manager for the Texas Rangers, has appointed a new pitching coach for the Rangers who has Yankee roots. Julio Rangel, most recently a minor league pitching coordinator for the San Francisco Giants, spent six years in the Yankees farm system from 1994 through 2000 but only made it as high as Double A. Still, he’s a Yankee by birth and I wish him the best for his first job as a Major League pitching coach.

I think November is probably my least favorite month as a blog writer. There really isn’t much happening and just lots of speculation, ranging reasonable to absolute ridiculousness. But it is the calm before the storm as we are only a few weeks away from all hell breaking loose with the Baseball Winter Meetings. January tends to be quiet but at least by that time, we’ll have shiny new toys on the roster we can talk about and get excited about the approaching call of Spring Training.

There are two MAJOR free agents available right now…genuine superstars and potential future Hall of Famers…but frankly, I am tired of hearing their names and refuse to write them with this post. If the Yankees sign one of them, great. If not, life goes on. I know one thing for sure, the Yankees roster in January will be much stronger than it is today. Until then, let’s enjoy some turkey and gravy, and spend quality time with our families.

As always, Go Yankees!

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2018 World Series Champions: The Boston Red Sox…

Equates to VICTORY for Julia, not me…

I am writing this as a result of a lost bet with a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan named Julia (@werbiefitz). During the recent World Series, I took the side of my favorite National League team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Julia stayed with the team she has stood with since her childhood, the Boston Red Sox. The loser of the bet (which turned out to be me) was forced to read a book chosen by the winner. Upon completion of reading the book, the loser was required to write an essay about the ten things they learned from the book. Not a book review, that wasn’t really the point of the exercise, but rather how did the book affect you.

The Red Sox won the 2018 World Series in five games to cap an incredible season which saw the team win a franchise high 108 games during the regular season. It represented the fourth World Series Championship for Julia since the Curse of the Bambino was broken in 2004. For me, it was a tough post-season. My favorite team, the New York Yankees, won 100 games but were eliminated in the ALDS by the Red Sox. Then, my favorite NL team gave me second life. A renewed opportunity to take down the mighty Red Sox. It was not meant to be and I suffered two heart-breaking series losses to Boston in the same October. Victory to Julia, and some book reading and an essay for me. I also had to change my FaceBook cover photo to one showing the Red Sox celebration for one week upon conclusion of the World Series.

The book Julia chose for me was Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant. At first glance, it would be easy to find the negatives in the book about the city of Boston and the Red Sox franchise, but admittedly, I found this a story of redemption.

I was shocked almost from the start when I found out the Red Sox had the first opportunity in Major League Baseball to sign the great Jackie Robinson on April 16, 1945 but passed due in large part to racism that existed within the fabric of the franchise. I didn’t know former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey but I do know that he hired his drinking buddies to hold key executive positions within the franchise and their racist beliefs prevented potential Red Sox teams that could have featured Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Ted Williams in the same lineup. It’s scary to think what the trio would have been capable of together. They certainly would have had a say in the great Yankees Dynasty of the 1950’s.

I qualify this book as focused on the Red Sox but to believe that racism did not occur within the halls of other MLB organizations, including the New York Yankees, would be very wrong. Even the Dodgers organization, as the first team to feature a black player on its roster in 1947, was later marred by the racist words of their former General Manager, Al Campanis, who was fired in 1987.  The book briefly mentioned Elston Howard, who was the first and sadly only black player on the Yankee rosters for years during the 1950’s. Howard later played for the Red Sox.

Tom Yawkey purchased the Red Sox in 1933. Yawkey had admired Eddie Collins, a former second baseman with the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox, and appointed him as the team’s vice president and general manager when he took over control of the team. Collins had been with the White Sox during the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919 when they threw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds but Collins had been cleared of any wrongdoing. In 1935, Yawkey traded for Washington Nationals shortstop Joe Cronin, developing close friendships with both Collins and Cronin. From basically 1933 through 1958, Collins and/or Cronin controlled all player movement within the Red Sox organization. With these two men, I believe, Yawkey tarnished his legacy. Whether he was racist or not is not really the point, he allowed racism to exist to the detriment of the city and the franchise and that makes him responsible.

After passing on Jackie Robinson in 1945, the Red Sox had a unique opportunity to sign Willie Mays four years later due to an exclusive lease arrangement that existed between a Red Sox affiliate, the Birmingham Barons, and the Negro League’s Black Barons. Cronin, by that time the GM for the Red Sox, had been tipped off about the incredible talents of the 18-year-old Mays and he sent a reluctant and racist scout to Alabama to watch Mays. According to stories, it rained for three days and the scout sent the Red Sox front office a negative review, perhaps without ever laying eyes on the legendary Say Hey Kid. It was another missed opportunity for the Red Sox, although I am sure the New York/San Francisco Giants didn’t mind.

The Red Sox were the last Major League Baseball team to add a black player to its roster. While the rest of the Major League teams were slowly starting to integrate, it would take the Red Sox over a decade before they would finally add a person of color to their team. Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, Jr. was born in Richmond, CA (East Bay near Oakland) in 1935. His brother, Cornell, someone I’ve been aware of since my childhood, was a star defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys. However, I never knew who Pumpsie Green was until reading the book. Fighting through racism within the organization and at the team’s training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, Green believed that he was going to open the 1959 season as the first black player for the Red Sox. At the eleventh hour, one of the noted racists within the Red Sox organization, manager Mike “Pinky” Higgins demoted Green to the minor leagues. Fortunately, it would prove to be a temporary decision. Higgins was fired 73 games into the ’59 season and replaced by Bill Jurges.  By that time, Eddie Collins was dead and Joe Cronin had left the Red Sox to become President of the American League. Green finally got the call to join the Red Sox later during the summer and on July 21, 1959, Pumpsie became the first African American player to take the field for the Red Sox when he was inserted as a pinch-runner for Vic Wertz and stayed in the game to play shortstop in Boston’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. After the game, Green wept in the clubhouse. I cannot begin to imagine the emotions he must have felt that day.

On a side note about Pumpsie Green, Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams routinely warmed up with Green before games. It became a superstition for Ted but for Pumpsie, he remembered Williams as one of few who treated him both as a ballplayer and a man. I personally haven’t followed Red Sox history, but the way Williams approached Green gives me newfound respect for the Hall of Famer.

Pitcher Earl Wilson might have been the first African American player for the Red Sox if not for a two-year military commitment. Originally drafted as a catcher, Wilson blossomed as a hard-throwing pitcher and roomed with Pumpsie Green for a time. But for Wilson, the Red Sox years were hard ones. After the ’59 season was over, Tom Yawkey fired Billy Jurges and restored the racist Pinky Higgins as manager. As their careers moved into the early 1960’s, Green’s career was quietly coming to a close (the lack of consistent playing time prevented him from realizing his potential) while Wilson was becoming more prominent. In 1962, Wilson (12-8, 3.90 ERA) threw a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Angels.

When Yawkey fired Higgins as manager in 1962, Wilson felt Yawkey was finally opening his eyes to what a divisive man Higgins had been. Unfortunately, Yawkey surprised everyone by making Higgins his general manager.  Higgins was the GM in June 1965 when the Red Sox traded Earl Wilson to the Detroit Tigers along with Joe Christopher for Don Demeter and Julio Navarro. Wilson won 22 games for the 1967 Tigers, although the Tigers finished a game behind The Impossible Dream Red Sox that year, and he accumulated 338 victories overall for his career. Although Wilson lost Game 3 of the Series, he celebrated a World Series Championship with the Tigers in 1968. It’s sad that a pitcher primed for tremendous MLB success in Boston saw his greatest days in Detroit.

In a twist of irony, Tom Yawkey fired Pinky Higgins as GM on September 16, 1965, the same day Red Sox pitcher Dave Morehead tossed a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. After his firing, while in Louisiana, Higgins drove his car into a group of black highway workers. He killed one man, a white World War II veteran and injured three others. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and sentenced to four years. However, he was paroled after serving only two months in 1969. But just two days after his release, Higgins dropped dead from a heart attack. As Earl Wilson would say while in Detroit when asked to comment on his former manager, “Good things happen to some people”.

I was appalled to learn that The Elks Club, as recently as the 1980’s, condoned racism. The Elks Club in Winter Haven, FL, the site of Red Sox spring training at the time would issue invitations to white players, but not the blacks. Growing up in the Midwest in the 70’s, my step father was an active member of The Elks Club and served as the Exalted Ruler for the local chapter in my hometown in 1978. I was unaware the organization condoned racism and I am deeply saddened to have been connected to such a pitiful organization. I may have been a kid but I feel a responsibility that I should have known better. I only hope that my step-father’s chapter did not practice racism like the Winter Haven chapter did. My mother and step-father have passed away so it is not a discussion I can have with them.

To back up a little, I vividly recall when Jim Rice and Fred Lynn burst onto the Major League scene for Boston in the mid-70’s. They were great players from the start.  Living far away in the Midwest, I didn’t see how the players were treated differently in their own city. Jim Rice, backed by his superior talent, had the power to be a major voice for the black community but it wasn’t his personality.  He was introspective and to the media, he was unfriendly and considered sullen. I know Rice has gotten into tiffs with Derek Jeter and CC Sabathia over the years for whatever reasons, but I am not trying to indict the man. He was an incredible ball player. In a career spent entirely in Boston, Rice hit 382 home runs and drove in 1,451 runs. His career batting average was a healthy .298 and he had 2,452 hits in a career that spanned from 1974 to 1989. He was an eight-time All Star, AL MVP in the Bucky “F**king” Dent year of 1978, a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, three-time AL home run leader, and two-time AL RBI leader. Yet, his number (14) was not retired by the Red Sox until two days after his Hall of Fame induction in July 2009. No one wore the number after his retirement but still, Rice is among the Red Sox Legends and deserved better treatment. Rice was charitable and a humanitarian. I think he is misunderstood because of his personality and I’d like to think he could have done more to help pave the way for black players in Boston, but there is no denying the man was one of the best in the history of the Red Sox to pick up a glove, bat and ball.  Noted baseball columnist Peter Gammons believed history would have been significantly different had Rice taken an active role in voicing his thoughts about the climate and culture of the Red Sox organization. To Rice’s defense, I’ll use this quote from the book’s author: “Had Rice been white, he would have been lauded as a modern-day Gil Hodges: strong, silent, important. Being black, though, meant Rice was moody, arrogant and distant.”  These words prove to me that I have absolutely no idea what it was like to walk in Jim Rice’s shoes.

The next great superstar in the Red Sox organization was slugger Mo Vaughn. He was drafted in Rice’s last year in 1989. For an organization that had featured so many outsiders over the years, Vaughn was a New Englander. He was from Norwalk, CT and had frequently visited Boston while growing up.  He was hailed as the first local Red Sox star since Carlton Fisk. As a Yankees fan, I despised Vaughn coming to the plate, much like how I’d later feel about David “Big Papi” Ortiz or more recently, Mookie Betts. These men knew/know how to use Fenway Park to their full advantage.

Vaughn was the AL Most Valuable Player in 1995.  The city of Boston accepted Vaughn as their own and he was able to transcend the issue of race in his city.  Vaughn loved the city of Boston and wanted to spend his entire career there. The GM at the time, Dan Duquette, brought an era of diversity to the Red Sox. He corrected many of the wrongs committed by previous regimes and reconnected with former black players like Tommy Harper, Dave Henderson, Reggie Smith, and Jim Rice. But for all his positives, Duquette had his faults. He had a reputation of being difficult to work with and he frustrated those who worked for him. The relationship between Duquette and Vaughn became irreparable in 1998 when Vaughn was led to believe that he would be offered four-year contract for approximately $42 million (Peter Gammons believed they had reached agreement). Yet, when the offer came, it was only two years for $17 million. Using the media, the Red Sox orchestrated a smear campaign on the popular Vaughn. Vaughn had put together six monster years for the Red Sox, but on November 25, 1998 as a free agent, he left the team to sign a six-year, $80 million contract with the Anaheim Angels. It was a sad day for Boston and for Baseball in general. Vaughn was not a So-Cal kind of guy. He was a New Englander who should have called Fenway Park home for his entire career. I certainly do not feel that Dan Duquette is a racist but this might have been one of the saddest stories while reading the book.

On February 22, 2002, the legacy of Tom Yawkey was ended when John Harrington sold the club to an ownership group led by John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. It brought much needed closure for the Yawkey Era, and it set the Red Sox on a path that has yielded four World Series championships in fourteen years. Before reading the book, I am not sure that I fully understood the huge impact John Henry has had on the Red Sox organization and how he has, through actions and not just words, rebranded the Red Sox organization into an exemplary model of professionalism and class. Well, maybe not for Yankee fans like me, but the current ownership group should be applauded for making a difference.

As Julia pointed out to me, while the history of the Red Sox organization wasn’t always pretty, the other Boston sports franchises were ground-breakers with integration. Willie O’Ree is referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of ice hockey” (the first black player in the NHL). He made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958. Chuck Cooper became the first black player drafted in the NBA when he was selected with the first pick in the second round of the 1950 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. Legendary Celtics coach/executive Red Auerbach put together the NBA’s first all-black starting five in 1964. In the inaugural American Football League draft in 1960, the Boston Patriots selected running back Ron Burton in the first round as their first-ever pick. Rommie Loudd became the AFL’s first black coach when he was named linebackers coach for the Patriots in 1966. Loudd later became the first black top executive in major league sports as the owner of the World Football League’s Florida Blazers in 1974.

There is so much more to the book than I’ve touched on with this short essay. Racism continues to be a big part of our everyday life in 2018 and it must stop. We’ve made some progress, but we are not where we need to be. We live in a current climate of hatred and blame which allows racism to survive. If I have one wish, it is a hope and prayer I live to see the end of racism as we know it. Even this week, there were reports out of the Seattle Mariners organization that their former Director of High Performance, Dr. Lorena Martin, has made allegations of derogatory comments made by GM Jerry DiPoto, Manager Scott Servais, and Director of Player Development Andy McKay with racial and sexist overtones. Maybe it is a case of a disgruntled former employee, but maybe it is not. Where there’s smoke, there’s generally fire. If true, this is unacceptable behavior that cannot be tolerated. I think all of us want a better tomorrow for our children and their children. The work to make it happen starts here.  No looking back, the focus should be on now and the future, and how we can help each other be successful and live meaningful, rewarding lives.  As they say, none of us are getting out of here alive.  We should live these days to the best of our ability and to share love and happiness around the World.

That’s a wrap. While I wish that I had won the bet with Julia, I learned a great deal from the book and hopefully I can be a better person as a result. Enjoy your World Series championship, Julia. Your team earned it. But rest assured, the New York Yankees will be back, stronger than ever in 2019.  Until next time…

The Bidding for James Paxton Begins…

Photo Credit: The Canadian Press (Fred Thornhill)

Will Paxton join Gerrit Cole in Houston?…

Last year, the Yankees missed an opportunity to acquire top starting pitcher Gerrit Cole from the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Houston Astros swooped in to grab the talented righty. It’s possible that the Yankees could be outdone by the Astros for the second consecutive year. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic tweeted this morning that Houston is in on the potential trade  talks for James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners along with the Yankees and other clubs.

I wanted Cole last winter although a number of Yankee fans did not. Honestly, it’s unlikely Cole would have pitched as well in the Bronx as he did in Houston so perhaps the opposing fans were right. This is a new year, and now the trade speculation is on Paxton, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. My initial desire is to place Kluber at the top of the list, but the more you think about it, the less likely you feel the Cleveland Indians would actually move their aces. The Indians remain a contending team so unless it is a serious overpay, the Tribe is not going to part with Kluber or Carrasco. So it leaves Paxton as potentially the best available trade target assuming the Mariners decide to move him. Seattle GM Jerry DiPoto is, of course, very unpredictable but the Yankees and Mariners have matched up for lesser deals in recent years so there is history of successful negotiations. I have no doubt DiPoto would trade within division for the right mix of players so Houston is a serious threat for the Yankees if they identify Paxton as the guy they want. The Astros may lose Charlie Morton to free agency and they’ve already lost Lance McCullers, Jr for the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery. So the Astros are just as motivated to add top starters as the Yankees.

As much as I like Paxton, he is not someone I would trade Miguel Andujar for (or Estevan Florial or Justus Sheffield for that matter).  Kluber or Carrasco, yes, but not Paxton. Paxton carries much greater risk with his inability to stay healthy. So, as much as I would hate to get punked by the Astros again and as much as I’d like Paxton on the staff, there is a price I’d draw a line. If Houston wants to overpay, let them.  If GM Brian Cashman can get Paxton at his price, great. I’ll be excited to see Paxton join the Yankees starting rotation…with Miguel Andujar continuing to field grounders at third in Yankee Stadium.

A pic of a shaved Dallas Keuchel has been floating the Internet with talk about how the “beardless” one would look in the Bronx.

With no offense to Keuchel, I don’t really want to see him in the Bronx. I know he’s been tough on the Yankees over the years but I cannot find myself with the desire to root for him.  Keuchel will only be 31 when the season begins, however, I think Keuchel and Patrick Corbin are on opposite trajectories for their 30’s. Corbin, like fine wine, stands a much better chance of aging well. If the Yankees miss out on Corbin and others, it is possible they have to make a run at Keuchel but I really hope that’s a potential option which never comes to fruition. Bring me Corbin and J.A. Happ and I’ll be happy.

Trying to brace myself for the possibility the Yankees pass on the big ticket purchases this winter, I think Marwin Gonzalez and Jurickson Profar represent the best options for the infield to help cover for the loss of Didi Gregorius. I’ve liked Daniel Murphy in the past but I don’t feel he really fits the Yankees at this stage in his career. Both Gonzalez and Profar have positional diversity which makes them very valuable with the current group of Yankees. Who knows, maybe this is the year Tyler Wade puts it together to launch his Major League career in full force. It’s not really a bet I’d make but it is not my team or my money. Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is on record that he is tired of lining the pockets of other owners and it’s his right to make the financial decisions in the best interests of the Steinbrenner Family. I think most of us thought the Yankees were positioning themselves for a big splash into the 2018-19 free agent market but the reality is that we need to be prepared for Team Fiscal Restraint. I am hopeful Hal sees the potential salary relief when guys like Jacoby Ellsbury come off the books in just a couple of years but we’ll see.

It was tough in years past to see the Yankees pass on the big name free agents. Max Scherzer stands out as one. At the time of his free agency, the Yankees were cited as one of the favorites to sign him. They didn’t and Scherzer moved from Detroit to Washington and has continued to pitch at an elite level. Even if the Yankees weren’t ready to add an elite pitcher at the time of Scherzer’s availability, he’d certainly look fantastic in the starting rotation today. The price would have meant the inability to bring payroll under the luxury tax threshold this year so the decision to pass on Scherzer remains debatable. It’s amazing how the decision to sign Jacoby Ellsbury has haunted the Yankees for so many years. I guess that’s a strong argument for not going hog wild in the current free agent market.

Before I close, I’d like to send out our prayers and thoughts to all those affected by the wildfires in Northern and Southern California. For some, there will never be recovery. I hope the fires are brought under control soon and we suffer no further loss of life. For those of you in California, please stay safe.

View of Malibu from Santa Monica Pier

Lastly, Happy Veteran’s Day! We can never forget those who served and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to maintain our freedom. Today, and every day, we honor you.

As always, Go Yankees!

Looking Forward to St Patrick’s Day…

Photo Credit: AP (Rick Scuteri)

Patrick Corbin should be at the forefront for the Yankees…

So many possibilities, where do the Yankees go? November is always a tough month for the Hot Stove League. Lots of talk but not really much action. There’s always the chance for a major trade but we generally have to get much closer to the Baseball Winter Meetings in December for the flurry of activity, then the quietness returns until the start of training camp. I don’t expect this year to be any different.

No doubt GM Brian Cashman is laying the groundwork for potential trades. He’s talked with the Cleveland Indians, he’s reached out to the Seattle Mariners, and has surely had talks with teams we’ve heard nothing about. The talks now will hopefully yield fruit later, but rest assured, if the Yankees are successful in obtaining Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco or James Paxton, it WILL hurt. For a team on the cusp of a championship, now is not the time to “prospect-hug”. The team must be prepared to pay the price, whatever it may be, to bring in a top of the rotation arm.

Of the names mentioned, I probably like Kluber the best. He would immediately became the team’s ace, which we clearly need, and his presence would help take pressure off Luis Severino. Less pressure on Sevy would only enhance the chances for him to become the best he can be. But if the Yanks can’t get Kluber, Carrasco would be a welcome addition. I really like James Paxton and I think his name has been mentioned frequently in the past by TGP’s Daniel Burch. My only concern, like many others, is health. Paxton has not proven to be a durable pitcher. But if the team has the opportunity to add Paxton and the price is reasonable, they should do it.

Photo Credit: USATSI

Regardless of how the trade market plays out, I hope the Yankees do not lose sight of free agent starter Patrick Corbin. He will be costly but I am very fascinated with how his left arm and pitching arsenal would play in Yankee Stadium. He grew up as a Yankees fan and wore #46 in Arizona out of respect for Andy Pettitte. He is a ground ball pitcher with five legitimate pitches although his deadly combinations are the slider, four-seam fastball, and sinker. He’s been praised for his work ethic and the signs show he will be an elite pitcher in his 30’s. Corbin might slot into the third or fourth spot in the rotation depending upon what the Yankees do on the trade market, but he’d ensure the starting rotation is a strength in 2019 compared to its achilles heel in 2018.

Despite the rumors of so many names, Corbin remains my number one target this off-season.  I hope the Yankees see it the same way. Paired with an ace acquired via trade, or added along with the return of a guy like J.A. Happ or Nathan Eovaldi, the starting rotation will be better next year with Corbin in it.

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports (Mark J Rebilas)

The Bryce Harper/Manny Machado talk has reached absurd levels. I am anxious for the guys to get their $300 million plus contracts to end the excessive chatter about the two young superstars. I think the Yankees would be foolish to pass on at least one of the rare “young” superstars but it’s not my money. I see the advantage of Bryce’s left-handed bat in the Yankees lineup and I see Manny’s role in bridging the gap at short and eventually providing a superior defender at third. My personal preference may be Machado as I’ve long admired the player but I would shed no tears with the signing of Harper. Still, the Yankees can win without either so if they go big with the starting rotation and bring in a guy like Marwin Gonzalez or Daniel Murphy to help the infield, it will not be the end of the world. I like the chances better with Harper or Machado, but the 2019 Yankees will contend for the World Series regardless of how this plays out. “Go big or go home” applies now more than ever.

I want the Yankees to end the reign of the Boston Red Sox next season so I am in favor of whatever moves the team has to make to improve. I’d hate to see Miguel Andujar, Estevan Florial, Justus Sheffield, or Albert Abreu leave, but if it improves the team, so be it. Championship windows do not remain open for extended periods of time. You have to take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves. I am ready for the pain for the greater glory. In Cashman we trust…

Photo Credit: AP (Gregory Bull)

For those keeping score, the Yankees have made some moves this off-season. They’ve re-signed Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia to one-year deals. They re-signed minor league free agent third baseman and defensive-whiz Giovanny Urshela and they signed a minor league deal with former Pirates catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Lavarnway was once a heralded top prospect for the Red Sox, although, now in his 30’s, he has settled into a journeyman role.  He provides much needed catching depth at the upper levels of the farm system. Lavarnway is one of those guys I hope the Yankees don’t need to use but he’s there to help if it becomes necessary. Milwaukee’s Erik Kratz has proven it is never too late to make a significant contribution.  Welcome to the Yankees Family, Ryan!

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Matt Freed)

The end is within sight for Jacoby Ellsbury. He only has two more years on his contract before the Yankees can exercise their buyout. Ellsbury is owed $42,285,174 for the next two seasons, and the Yankees can then buyout his contract for an additional $5 million. Realistically, I don’t expect Ellsbury to wear the pinstripes again or at least I hope not, but I am glad we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve seen some suggest the Yankees should trade Ellsbury for another dead contract (like Miami’s Wei-Yin Chen, owed $58 million for the next three years, or Seattle’s Robinson Cano, owed $120 million over the next five years). No, thanks. I don’t think the Yankees should take on more money to rid themselves of Ellsbury. I like Cano and he might help but financially it makes absolutely no sense. He is clearly on the downhill slide and he’s entering the really ugly side of his ridiculous contract. If the Yankees can finally move Ellsbury even if they have to pay the bulk of his remaining contract, that’s the way to go. If I was a GM for another team and I was convinced that Ellsbury was finally healthy, I’d take a chance on him for no more than a $5 million per year commitment. That’s a lot of money for the Yankees to eat, but it would be worth the investment (addition by subtraction). I am done with Ellsbury and don’t want to see him pull on the pinstripes again.

Yesterday saw two notable names in the game announce their plans to retire. Hats off to Joe Mauer of the Minnesota Twins and Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers for long, distinguished careers. Both are names I’d like to see stay in the game in some capacity. I am not sure what their plans are for the future but I wish both the very best as they enter the next phase of their lives. Mauer’s departure certainly opens an opportunity at first base for former Yankee Tyler Austin unless they decide to go in a different direction for new manager Rocco Baldelli.

Is Sonny Gray still a Yankee? Count me among those who think Cashman will bring a better than expected return for the failed Yankee. I am certain he’ll get at least a strong prospect with upside. We’ll see. Hopefully Gray’s Yankee career is over by this time next month. It would  be great if he could take Luis Cessa and A.J. Cole with him.

As always, Go Yankees!

No Doubt Today’s a “Work Day” for Brian Cashman…

Let the Dialing for Dollars Begin…

Free Agency has officially begun as the team-exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents expired yesterday and the rumors are running rampant. I am never quite sure why they even allow teams a window to talk to their free agents since it almost never results in any pre-open free agency signings. This year, there was more activity with guys renegotiating new contracts due to opt-outs and buyouts.

Before I get started, I wanted to give a shout-out to Bryan Van Dusen of The Greedy Pinstripes last week for his post entitled Manny Machado vs. Bryce Harper, and The Rest Of The Offseason. Bryan put a great deal of time and thought into his post and of the many, many posts out there about the Yankees off-season and what the team should do, Bryan’s piece is one of the most thorough, logical, and reasonable. It represents a great blueprint for how the Yankees can win the 2019 World Series Championship. Nice job, Bryan!

Well, the World Series didn’t exactly go to plan. Pulling for the Los Angeles Dodgers, I lost a bet with my good friend Julia (@werbiefitz), a lifelong die-hard Red Sox fan. As a result, my FaceBook cover photo has shown a picture of the Red Sox celebrating their championship for the last week. I can’t take it down until a full seven days have elapsed from the end of the World Series. Needless to say, I’ve been staying away from FaceBook lately. I am also reading a Red Sox-related book chosen by Julia. Upon completion, I have to write a 500-word essay about the ten things I’ve learned from reading the book. My goal is to have this finished before Thanksgiving.

Obviously, it is not fun to know the Red Sox have won four championships this century. But if there is any positive about this year’s Boston champagne party at the conclusion of the World Series, it will be so much sweeter when the Yankees snatch the trophy away from them next year.

Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (John Munson)

The Yankees’ off-season got started quickly this year when the Yankees, as expected, declined the $12.5 million option on Brett Gardner’s contract.  After paying the $2 million buyout, the parties quickly announced a new one-year deal for $7.5 million. TGP’s Daniel Burch had pitched bringing back Gardy for $6.5 million so he was very close to the team’s line of thinking. I thought it was a bit of an overpay, but I had mentally prepared myself to move on from Gardner due to the crowded outfield. But upon reflection, I agree Clint Frazier is a huge question mark/uncertainty heading into next year and Jacoby Ellsbury, despite reports of good health, is just buying time until his next DL stint. Regardless of whether or not I think the Yankees should bring CC Sabathia back, I honestly do not feel they will. Certainly things could change, but I think CC gets put on the back burner as the Yankees pursue other pitching opportunities. It increases the likelihood another team, such as the Oakland A’s or Los Angeles Angels, could pitch him an incentive-laden one year deal to return to his home state of California before he rides off into the sunset. Without Sabathia in the clubhouse, Brett Gardner becomes the senior voice and mentor for the younger guys. He may not be the player he once was, but his influence on this team is invaluable so welcome back, Brett!

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Nick Turchiaro)

Every year, I look forward to MLB Trade Rumors and their predictions for the top free agents (teams and contracts). Tim Dierkes is one of the best and I have a great deal of respect for him, but I have to admit that I about fell off my chair when I read his latest offering. He has Bryce Harper going to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 14 years (Yikes!) and, gulp!, $420 million. I am not sure we’ll see a contract break the $400 million mark this year, but if that’s the price tag, the Yankees shouldn’t play. I’d love to have Bryce on the Yankees, but I’d rather spread the money around for the best possible club. Dierkes has Manny Machado going to the Philadelphia Phillies for almost as much (13 years at $390 million). I think most Yankee fans want the team to sign at least one of those guys (with a few ready to spend a billion dollars to sign both as if that would ever happen). If Dierkes is right and Machado and Harper sign elsewhere, I would prefer to see them go to National League clubs. I know, the Yankees don’t need either guy. But it is not often that 26-year-old superstars are available for nothing more than money. So, count me among those who want to come away with at least one. Nonetheless, we need to be prepared the Yankees may not be in play for either.

Third on Dierkes’ list is Patrick Corbin. I saw one writer this week predicting an ‘out of nowhere’ signing of Corbin by the San Diego Padres, but Dierkes stayed with the majority to project Corbin to the Yankees on a 6-year deal for $129 million. Sign me up. If there is one guy I want in this year’s free agency, it is Corbin. He may not be a frontline ace, but he is a very sound option for the starting rotation and would place right behind Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka to give the team a formidable front three. Yesterday, news broke that the Cleveland Indians may be willing to trade veterans so immediate speculation went to a trade to bring Corey Kluber to the Bronx. Regardless of whether or not the Yankees go after Kluber, I’d still sign the left-handed Corbin. He seems like an excellent fit for Yankee Stadium.  Honestly, I think the Indians would be foolish to trade Kluber but if it did happen, he is one of few that are as good as Boston’s Chris Sale. The Yankees should be “all-in” if Cleveland is truly willing to deal, but conversely, it should not stall plans to go hard after Corbin. Getting both would be “greedy”, sure, but losing out on both would hurt.

Dierkes has Andrew Miller going to the Red Sox and Zach Britton to the Astros. I have resigned myself to the loss of Britton and dread the thought he’ll sign with either the Red Sox or Astros. Miller scares me a bit with his recent injury history, but I loved the guy as a Yankee and I would like to see him come back if the Yankees do not resign Britton or David Robertson. Miller has an infectious team-first mentality that rubs off on others and the talent to match.

Photo Credit: SI.com

Friday was an active day as teams had to make decisions regarding qualifying offers. The Arizona Diamondbacks, as expected, issued a qualifying offer to Patrick Corbin. The one that surprised me was the decision by the Houston Astros not to extend the qualifying offer to Charlie Morton. As such, he represents another option for the Yankees should they lose out on Corbin or simply decide not to pursue him for whatever reasons. If Morton is the best the Yankees can get this off-season, it will be a huge disappointment. Sorry, Charlie. C’mon, I had to do that! With the recent rule changes, the Yankees won’t lose their first round draft pick should they sign Corbin since it’s protected. They would lose their second highest draft pick in next year’s MLB Draft plus a half-million in international bonus pool money. Morton would not cost anything but money but seriously I hope the Yankees can do better.

With the heavy roster activity by MLB teams yesterday, the Yankees picked up a minor league infielder claimed on waivers from the Texas Rangers. Hanser Alberto is a 26-year old shortstop with an ability to play multiple infield positions and even logged some time in the outfield. He hasn’t done much in limited big league opportunities with the Rangers, but he has strong minor league numbers. Last year, in Triple A, he hit .330/.346/.452, with .797 OPS, in 361 at-bats. He doesn’t have much power, but he did drive in 58 runs last year for Round Rock. It remains to be seen if he’ll stick on the 40-man roster this winter. One Rangers blog predicted the Yankees will try to slip him through waivers so that they can outright him to the minors (Alberto is out of options), giving the Rangers an opportunity to grab him back. We’ll find out within the next couple of weeks as the team prepares to finalize its 40-man roster in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. I am not really expecting Alberto to stick around.

I was glad to see Clayton Kershaw sign an extension to remain with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I know he’s struggled with injuries the last couple of years, but I see him as a lifetime Dodger. I know some Yankee fans were hopeful that he’d reach free agency, but I didn’t think the Yankees would have been in play. Knowing Kershaw and how important family is to him, I think he would have returned to his home state of Texas if things didn’t work out with the Dodgers or at the most, would have gone somewhere in the Midwest. There was never a chance he was going to come to the East Coast, in my opinion.

Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward lost his competition last off-season with Aaron Boone for the Yankees’ managerial gig, but now he’ll get a chance to compete with Boone again as the new manager for the Texas Rangers. The Yankees certainly hold high regard for Woodward given their consideration of him last year. I wish him the best in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.

Lastly, before I go, I want to say that I am on Team Sanchez. So many Yankee fans have wanted the team to trade Gary Sanchez to the Miami Marlins for J.T. Realmuto. I am not questioning Realmuto is a great catcher, but I am not ready to give up on El Gary. 2018 was not a good year for him but I think he’ll be much better in 2019 with room to improve. If the Yankees are going to give up good, young prospects, it should be for their biggest weaknesses, like the starting rotation for one. Selling Gary low would be a huge mistake in my humble opinion.

As always, Go Yankees!

World Series: Dodgers vs Red Sox…

LA wins NLCS to advance to Fall Classic…

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite National League team and now they represent my final hope for ending Boston’s season without a championship. The Yankees couldn’t stop the Red Sox and neither could the defending Champion Houston Astros. I wasn’t too confident heading into Game 7 of the NLCS, especially with the game being played in Milwaukee, but the Dodgers showed the resiliency they’ve had all season to win the game in convincing fashion and propel themselves into the World Series for the second consecutive year.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Nothing against the Milwaukee Brewers. I think they’re a fine baseball team and I have much respect for former Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and former Yankees Erik Kratz and Curtis Granderson, but as a Minnesota Vikings fan, the thought of a World Series between the fan bases for both the Red Sox and Green Bay Packers was a bit too much for me. I am glad the Dodgers bailed me out. I guess I should also thank former Yankee Clay Bellinger and his wife for giving birth to Cody and setting the stage for young Bellinger’s go-ahead two-run homer last night.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Stacy Revere)

I wish the Dodgers had a more formidable bullpen outside of closer Kenley Jansen but the Red Sox proved you don’t need a great bullpen to make it to the World Series. I doubt we’ll see Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw closing out games in the World Series like he did Game 7 of the NLCS. But down the stretch, the Dodgers pen performed about as well as you could so I think I’ll take my chances with Dodger Blue over the course of the next four to seven games. The Dodgers have the bats to get into Boston’s bullpen and I think that will finally be the Achilles Heel for the Red Sox.

It will be fun to see Manny Machado back in Boston. Like Manny’s response last night while celebrating when asked if the win was sweet after the boos from the crowd. He said “what do you think?” and took a swig of champagne. Perfect! There is no love lost between Machado and the Red Sox from his days in Baltimore, and I am sure much will be written in the coming days about his villainess in the city. No doubt the boo birds will show up in full force on Tuesday night. I’d love to see Machado to emerge as one of the heroes of this World Series. It makes a nice segue for his future as a Yankee.

As previously written on this blog, I have finalized the wager with my long-time friend, Boston-area native/resident and die-hard Red Sox fan, Julia (@werbiefitz on Twitter). We have had numerous wagers over the years involving the Yankees and Red Sox. It was not meant to be (for me) this year so I am jumping on the Dodgers bandwagon for the latest wager. Well, it’s not really ‘bandwagon jumping’ since the Dodgers have long been my NL team and that wouldn’t have changed even if they had lost 115 games this year like the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees are still my primary team, but for the rest of October, I am bleeding Dodger Blue.

For our wager, the loser must change her (okay, his/her) cover photo on FaceBook to a picture of the winning team celebrating their World Series championship for seven days at the conclusion of the 2018 World Series. The loser must also read a book chosen by the winner, and then post a minimum 500-word essay about the ten things they learned reading the book. Not a book review, but rather information that he/she did not previously know about the winning organization. The essay must then be posted on Social Media for all to see.

For Julia, since the Dodgers are going to win, I’ve chosen Brothers in Arms:  Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition by Jon Weisman.

Should I lose, which is obviously not going to happen, Julia has chosen Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant.

We’ve had fun with these wagers over the years. I’ve had to take pics of myself wearing Red Sox hats, including a pink one, and Julia, a Red Sox fan from birth, has had to wear a Yankee hat…in public…in Boston. Since I don’t live in the New York City area, I’ve been fortunate I haven’t had to wear a Red Sox cap in the Bronx, but I am sure it is inevitable if we keep up these wagers.

Game On, Julia! I am ready. My beloved Yankees may not have been able to take down the Red Sox this year, but I get a second chance with the Dodgers. 2018 has been a year of resiliency for the Dodgers who were once ten games below .500 (16-26) during the regular season.  They’ve battled back a few times, with their backs to the wall, and have always prevailed. They may have lost the 2017 World Series to the Houston Astros but this is a year of redemption. You’ll always have your 108 regular season wins, but sorry, my friend, your season will end on a down note. You may want to go ahead and buy the book in advance so that you are ready to start reading.

My prediction:  Dodgers in Six (with hat tip to former Yankees and Dodgers manager Joe Torre).

My apologies, I now return you to Yankees Baseball…

After celebrating Mickey Mantle’s birthday yesterday, today’s “Birthday Boy” is alive and well at age 90.  Happy Birthday to the Chairman of the Board, Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford!

Whitey was born on October 21, 1928 in New York City. A lifetime Yankee, Whitey pitched for the Pinstripers in 1950, served two years in the U.S. Army during the Korean War (thank you for your service!), and resumed his career in the Bronx from 1953 through 1967. Ford was 236-106, 2.75 ERA, and had 1,956 strikeouts for the Yankees. He was a ten-time MLB All-Star and he won six World Series championships. In 1961, he was the AL Cy Young Award winner and World Series MVP. Andy Pettitte may have surpassed Ford for most wins by a lefty in franchise history if not for Andy’s three years in Houston. Pettitte, who won 256 games overall, finished 17 wins behind Ford while wearing the famed Pinstripes. It is very appropriate for Ford to remain at the top of the list, closely followed by Pettitte, another former Yankee I hold in very high regard.

I get excited to see Whitey Ford every year on Old Timer’s Day. His health is in decay (I know, it happens to the best of us) and there will be a day when he is no longer able to take part in the Yankee Stadium festivities. Like Mantle, he was a great, great Yankee, and perhaps the greatest living one. I am so proud he is among the greatest of Yankee Legends.

I’ve seen a few Yankee fans say the team should sign Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, and Nathan Eovaldi for the starting rotation next year. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo wrote this morning in his Sunday Baseball Notes that Eovaldi, currently part of Boston’s World Series roster, should command a deal comparable to the one that Alex Cobb signed late last off-season with the Baltimore Orioles (4 years at $57 million). If the Yankees are successful in signing Corbin and retaining Happ, that’s probably too much for the Yankees to sign Eovaldi as well, especially with young guys like Justus Sheffield, Jonathan Loaisiga, Albert Abreu and Domingo German waiting in the wings. If the Yanks lose out on Happ, I’d have no problem with an Eovaldi reunion but I am not really expecting it to happen.

As for Corbin, Cafardo notes the Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and Atlanta Braves will also be vying for his services. Here’s hoping “blood” is thicker than water. Assuming all dollars are fairly equal, I hope Corbin chooses his Yankee family roots. While Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado would be nice free agent signings (or in the words of TGP’s Daniel Burch, “luxuries”), Corbin is clearly the one I want and the one the team needs. Patrick, we’re waiting for ya, bud! Come join the Party in the Bronx! We will be spilling champagne in 2019!

After previously withdrawing his name from consideration for the managerial gig with the Cincinnati Reds, Joe Girardi has withdrawn his name from consideration in Texas for the Rangers job. I am a little surprised but I have always felt Girardi’s dream job is with the Chicago Cubs. I can’t see Joe Maddon staying with the Cubs too many more years so maybe that’s what Girardi is waiting for. Who knows. Maybe he is starting to understand the reasons he is no longer Yankees manager. As for the Reds, they’ll name David Bell as their new manager on Monday. Bell, like Yankees manager Aaron Boone, comes from a baseball family.  His grandfather, Gus, and his father, Buddy, were both Major Leaguers. Boonie is creating a new trend…analytics AND baseball in the blood.

Lastly, a shout out to Didi Gregorius! He was sharing his million-dollar smile last night at the Knicks game. It didn’t help the Knicks win (they lost by two to Boston) but the pic put a smile on my face. It was a reality check to see his heavily wrapped elbow but the dude can light up any room with his effervescent personality. I can’t wait to see him back on the playing field, starting at shortstop, next summer.

As always, Go Yankees!

Happy Birthday to Mickey Mantle!…

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Yankees Legend would have turned 87 today…

Mickey Mantle was born October 20, 1931 in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, a town with a population of 437 (according to 2010 census) in Northeast OK. He died August 13, 1995 in Dallas, Texas at the age of 63. Mickey was taken from us too soon but he’ll never be forgotten. I remember following the news of his liver cancer and other ailments, subsequent transplant, and finally his death, and even attended his funeral in Dallas. My earliest memories of Mantle were late in his career so I didn’t get to see the great Yankees Legend at his best but you didn’t have to be there to know that he was one of the finest Yankees in the history of the organization. He had his faults, but that’s true of us all. Mantle, the  baseball player, was one of the greatest to ever play the game.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

A funny thing happened to the Los Angeles Dodgers on their way to the World Series. I’ll have to give Game 6 of the NLCS to the Milwaukee Brewers and especially their fans for getting inside the heads of the Dodgers and Manny Machado. Many on Social Media were referring to the fans as the Milwaukee Booers and there’s no doubt it played a huge role. It will be interesting to see how the Dodgers rebound today for their final chance to win a trip to Boston, Massachusetts to play the Red Sox starting Tuesday night. If the Dodgers lose, I am finished with baseball for 2018 as I have no interest in Brewers/Red Sox even if there are a few former Yankees involved.

I was surprised to see Joe Girardi remove his name from consideration for the Cincinnati Reds managerial vacancy. Girardi apparently had been a frontrunner for the job, in competition with former Detroit Tigers manager, current Los Angeles Angels special assistant and one-time Yankees prospect Brad Ausmus and David Bell, currently VP/Player Development for the San Francisco Giants. I wonder if Girardi has a preference for the American League or if he wants to hold out for a Chicago job should one of the jobs open within the next year or so. Girardi is apparently still under consideration for the job with the Texas Rangers. With no offense to Cincinnatians, I know that I’d prefer to call Dallas/Fort Worth home but that’s me. For now, Girardi will continue his work with The MLB Network. Regardless of what he does, I suspect he doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal is coming from.

I know the Yankees don’t need a superstar at every position. Erik Kratz is proving that you can be one game away from the World Series with a marginal catcher. But the more I think about it, why wouldn’t you want to drop Bryce Harper in the Yankees lineup between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton? I know, money. But I am confident money is not an issue for the Yankees organization. Sure, I believe you don’t need to spend $200 million to win a World Series, but I also believe in putting the best players on the field. TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen made a great correlation earlier this year about how success = money for those who think Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t want to spend money. I don’t just want to beat the Boston Red Sox next year, I want to crush them.  Having Judge-Harper-Stanton in the heart of the Yankees order, with so many great bats elsewhere in the lineup would truly be the modern Murderer’s Row. Harper can’t pitch, it’s true, but I fully expect the Yankees to bring in reinforcements to help Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka in the starting rotation regardless of any run for Harper.

The Yankees are apparently going to buy back controlling interest in the YES Network according to reports. The Yankees sold 80% of the network, retaining 20%, in separate deals completed in 2014 to 21st Century Fox.  The YES Network, at the time, was valued at $3.8 billion. If the Yankees have the money to buy back the YES Network, they have the money to sign Bryce Harper. Another superstar for YES Network subscribers? Makes sense to me. Remember, Success = Money.

Photo Credit:  New York Daily News Illustration

If the Yankees were headed for the World Series, non-Yankee fans would be in an uproar about how they are the best team money can buy, yet nobody is saying a word about the nearly $240 million payroll-bloated Red Sox.

After a lost season for Yankees prospect Thairo Estrada (he was shot in the hip during a robbery attempt in Venezuela in late January, missed Spring Training, and then was lost for the season in June due to the hip and a back injury), it’s good to see his participation in the Arizona Fall League. The numbers aren’t there (4-for-25, with no extra base hits and a lone RBI) but at least he’s back on the playing field. Here’s hoping 2019 will be much more productive for the talented shortstop. He still has the bullet lodged in his hip but hopefully he is back stronger than ever next year.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Didi Gregorius.  As most of us know, he had successful Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Wednesday morning in Manhattan. At this point, we don’t know when we’ll see Sir Didi again as some reports say he may be out until August, but I wish him much success and a quick return to good health with his post-surgery rehabilitation. I really hope the Yankees move to lock up Didi long-term and don’t allow the surgery, and subsequent lost time, as a reason to non-tender the player. I’d prefer to see the Yankees find shortstop alternatives to hold them over until Didi’s return, keeping Gleyber Torres at second, rather than moving Torres back to his natural shortstop position and bringing in a name second baseman like Joe Panik or D.J. LeMahieu. I love having Didi Gregorius as this team’s shortstop and I don’t want that to change anytime soon. Get well, Didi!

I am anxious to get the playoffs and World Series over so that we can begin the Hot Stove League season. I am excited to see what presents Santa Cashman has in store for us this year. Fans of the Red Sox, Brewers and Dodgers may think differently, but I am ready to begin building the 2019 New York Yankees and starting their run for the Championship. Pinstripes for you, Pinstripes for everyone. Climb aboard the 2019 Victory Train!

Go Yankees!