Tagged: Adam Ottavino

A Savage Week Shows These Yankees Are Special…

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Aaron Boone’s Defining Moment…

Thanks to noted podcaster @Jomboy of Talkin’ Yanks, the words of Yankees manager Aaron Boone to young home plate umpire Brennan Miller were immortalized on Thursday afternoon.

“My guys are fucking savages in that fucking box and you’re having a piece of shit start to this game. I feel bad for you, but fucking get better. That guy is a good pitcher, but our guys are fucking savages in that box, our guys are fucking savages in the fucking box, tighten it up right now.”  

The words, certain to become 2019’s rallying cry for the Yankees, almost immediately began showing up on t-shirts as they went viral thanks to social media. I loved every minute of it. I’ve been a Boone supporter since the day he was hired. I think at the time, my top choice had been San Francisco Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens but when the Yankees named Boone as the manager, I was on board with the choice. I liked Joe Girardi but I never once pined for his return after the decision was made to let him go upon the expiration of his contract following the 2017 season.

I knew there would be a learning curve for Boone. Every manager has to start some time. Joe Torre had his own early bumps with the Mets when he first started his managerial career. Boone’s mistakes last season were magnified, thanks to the New York media, and many fans were unforgiving. But as this season has progressed, the growth in Boone as a manager has been evident. It didn’t take his words this week to prove he had gotten better, it’s been on display for weeks, perhaps months. However, Thursday’s tirade showed the World that Aaron Boone has his players’ backs. He is an excellent leader and he has the full respect and command of the clubhouse. I think the ‘next man up’ mentality of the 2019 Yankees is fueled by Boone’s leadership style.

Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

Since the brim of Boone’s cap touched the brim of home plate umpire Brennan Miller’s cap during the post-ejection rant (seriously?), he was suspended for one game and served it last night against the Colorado Rockies. Bench coach Josh Bard, a graduate of Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado (a suburb of Denver), served as Yankees manager against his once-hometown Rockies.

Boone’s words aside, this has been a memorable week for the Bronx Savages. The four-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays didn’t start well when Mets cast-off Travis d’Arnaud homered three times including the game-winner, a three-run shot off Aroldis Chapman in the top of the ninth inning on Monday night when the Yankees were just a strike away from victory. It was a tough loss to accept (harder than most), but the Yankees rebounded and took the next three games to win the series, leaving the Rays a distant eight games behind in the AL East standings. The Yankees have won 12 of 17 games from the Rays this year, and it’s been the difference-maker in the standings.

Despite the successful Tampa Bay series, I was a little worried going into last night’s game with the Rockies. It kind of felt like one of those series where the team, coming off an emotional series with the Rays and looking ahead to a road trip next week that takes the Yankees to Minneapolis and Boston to play AL contenders, could let up a little. But if Friday night’s game is any indication, it is still ‘pedal to the metal’. After falling behind 2-0, the Yankees coasted to the 8-2 victory after Edwin Encarnacion blasted his ‘walk-the-parrot’ grand slam to take the lead in the bottom of the third. With three hits and some excellent defensive play, many were referring to this as Mike Tauchman’s game. That’s what I’m Tauchin’ about! The former Colorado Rockie, who was never really given a shot to play in the Mile High City, showed his former team they may have erred in trading him away earlier this year. Tauchman has double the plate appearances with the Yankees this season than he had in two years with the Rockies (shuttling back and forth from the minors). Former Coloradan players DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino, instrumental to the Rockies’ success of the past few seasons, also had a role in the decisive victory. Le Machine had two RBIs and Otto struck out the side in the top of the sixth inning. A friend, who is a die-hard Rockies fan, said she loves to see LeMahieu and Ottavino do well but “just not against us”.

The Yankees’ win, combined with losses by both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox last night, leaves the Yanks nine games up in the AL East standings. They are 30 games over .500 for the first time this season at 63-33, and have 11 fewer losses than the second-place Rays. I am always fearful of a swoon that could erase the large lead, but you have to like where the Yankees sit entering play on July 20th. YES Network analyst David Cone had some great words after last night’s game:

“If you don’t like the Yankees, I mean if you are a Yankee hater, this has gotta be a really obnoxious year for you.”

Since trading deadline deals generally start popping up the week prior to the deadline, this coming week could be very active with the hard July 31st deadline just around the corner. The Yankees have been great so far this season despite the injury challenges, but the Houston Astros, with just one less win than the Yankees, could substantially improve their starting rotation in the next eleven days if they successfully land one of the top starting pitchers on the market to slot in behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. In other words, there is room for the Yankees to get better and they have to in order to ensure October success.

The Yankees had Jim Hendry, special assistant to Brian Cashman, and others in Detroit last night to watch Toronto’s Marcus Stroman. There were a number of other teams in attendance to watch the New York native shut out the lowly Tigers on six hits over seven innings, with five strikeouts and no walks. For Stroman, a trade to the Yankees would represent the elimination of a 27 1/2 game deficit in a single day.  It think that would energize him, as it would any of the names that have been connected to the Yankees in recent weeks. I think my only hangup with acquiring Stroman is sending quality talent to an AL East rival. In many ways, I’d prefer to see someone like Clint Frazier or Estevan Florial or Albert Abreu head to Cleveland or San Francisco for no other reason than they are not AL East teams. But I am very intrigued with the idea of having the talented Stroman in the starting rotation.

As much as I like Madison Bumgarner, I don’t really expect him to show up in the Bronx. He could find his way to Houston, Minneapolis, or Atlanta which wouldn’t be ideal but there’s not much we can do about it except beat him when the time comes. Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks continues to be a name to watch but the D-Backs are only a game out of the NL Wild Card hunt. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers have lost five in a row to push them 5 1/2 games out in the AL Wild Card chase, which could potentially increase chances that Mike Minor is dealt.

For all the names that have been mentioned, I still half-expect Brian Cashman to land a solid starter that no one has mentioned. For as much as I like Luis Severino and Dellin Betances, I am taking the approach they’ll provide nothing this year. The Yankees have played 99 games without them and it’s hard to envision them making a significant contribution with the 63 games remaining in the regular season. Maybe they become solid bullpen options by October but realistically I am not counting on it. It seems like there have been too many setbacks for both so I am not pinning any hopes on them.

I keep seeing Yankee fans saying the team shouldn’t trade Deivi Garcia or Estevan Florial or other top prospects in the organization. I am sorry but if the payoff is a World Series championship this year, NO ONE is untouchable. I guarantee the Chicago Cubs have never regretted their decision to trade Gleyber Torres in 2016. They might regret the 2017 trade of Eloy Jimenez but not Torres because it meant the first World Series championship in a century for them. It hasn’t been a century for the Yankees, but it has been ten long years and several Red Sox championships since the Yankees last hoisted the trophy. We need to keep an open mind and let Brian Cashman do his magic. He lives for these hot, humid July days and I am confident that he’ll make this exciting, fun and very special Yankee team even better in the coming days. Our goal is to take the World Series championship away from the Boston Red Sox. Anything less is unacceptable. I don’t want another ALDS or ALCS exit. The window of opportunity is now. There may be pain along the way, but we need to persevere. Like Buck Showalter said the other day, “prospects are just prospects”. I want guys who can make a difference in three months, not three years.

The Yankees released catcher Ryan Lavarnway from his minor league contract this week and in his first game with the Cincinnati Reds, the team that picked him up, he hits two home runs and drives in six RBIs. Of course he does. I know, he’ll never sustain it and will prove to be the journeyman catcher that he is, but it’s funny how guys prosper outside of Pinstripes when they land in low pressure environments.  Not exactly people that you’d want in the trenches with you but good for them.

The Baby Savages (DSL Yankees) are at it again. After scoring the most runs in professional baseball with their 38-2 thrashing of the Twins’ affiliate earlier this month, they scored 19 runs in the second inning of last night’s game with the DSL Angels en route to a 23-10 victory. They brought 23 men to the plate during the highly productive inning. They are only following the lead of the big league club.

As always, Go Yankees!

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The Year of “Next Man Up”…

Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Yankees win again in the City by the Bay…

I’ve tempered my expectations for the 2019 Yankees given the savage rash of injuries that have afflicted the team, but you have to love this ‘next man up’ attitude of the replacement Yankees. No doubt if they can continue to drive the team to sustained success, the October prospects for the eventual healthy Yankees appear to be very grand.

Every year, there’s a team that somehow has the ‘it’ quality in their chase for the pennant. Last year, there is no question the Boston Red Sox had it when they busted out of the gate quickly and seemingly found a way to win every night on their way to 108 regular season wins and, eventually, the World Series championship. The 2019 Yankees have had every reason to fold up their tent and hope for next year, except they haven’t. As each new guy shows up, someone comes up big and they move on to the next game, win after win.

The Yankees will have hard decisions to make when guys start to come back from the Injured List. I’d hate to be Aaron Boone having the conversations with the replacement Yankees that their spots on the MLB roster have been eliminated, whether it is through demotion to Triple A or designation for assignment. Giovanny Urshela is one of those guys. We knew he had a superior glove in Spring Training, but despite his ‘all glove/no bat’ reputation, he has come through in clutch situations this year with the lumber to help the team score runs. Honestly, I prefer Urshela over Troy Tulowitzki. I know they play different positions but if I could only choose one for the active roster, it would have to be Gio. I don’t trust Tulo to stay healthy and right now, with his stint on the Injured List, he is proving me right. For the record, I like to be proven wrong when I have a negative perception of a certain player. But that’s on Tulo, not me.

I was a little disappointed with the series finale in Anaheim on Thursday when Masahiro Tanaka gave up a couple of two-run homers to let the LA Angels tie the game, and then Boone went to the weaker arms in the pen to allow the Angels to blow the game open. However, winning three of four games, especially in Anaheim…a place that was once a House of Horrors for the Yanks, is tremendous.  I’d gladly settle for three of four or two of three every series.

The Yankees continued their winning ways last night with a 7-3 victory in the Bay Area opener against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park Oracle Park. It was weird seeing Tyler Austin wearing orange and black and playing this game as a foe. He had San Francisco’s first hit when he singled to right off James Paxton in the bottom of the first inning. He scored the Giants’ first run on a sac fly after Brandon Belt had doubled to move him to third. But with no offense to Austin, the game’s best first baseman was Luke Voit. Louis Linwood Voit III was 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs, and two runs scored.

Paxton was unable to make a “quality” start by definition (an out away from completing six full innings when the Giants made it a two-run game in the bottom of the sixth) but he was very effective nonetheless. He finished with eight strikeouts to improve his record to 3-2.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I shudder to think of where the Yankees would be without the Big Maple. No question he is the team’s ace while Luis Severino is away. Unlike that last game in Anaheim, Aaron Boone made the right bullpen moves this game. Well, almost. I was disappointed with the three consecutive two-out walks by Zack Britton in the bottom of the seventh to load the bases, but all’s well that ends well. Adam Ottavino came in to strike out Buster Posey, his former NL West rival, to end the threat. So, despite those walks by Britton, the bullpen did not give up any hits or runs to the Giants to preserve the win for Paxton. I continue to stand by Britton but I know there are plenty of Yankee fans who would have preferred the return of David Robertson over Britton. Robertson is currently on the Injured List for the Philadelphia Phillies as he continues to recover from a Grade 1 flexor strain in his throwing arm. I guess D-Rob would have fit well on this year’s Yankees squad.

For everyone hoping the Yankees try to acquire Giants ace Madison Bumgarner at the trading deadline, this was not a good showcase for the one-time World Series hero. The lefty surrendered 11 hits and 5 runs in 5 2/3 innings to the team some call the New York RailRiders. He is 1-4 for the season with a 4.30 ERA.  I guess he knows how Chris Sale feels this season. Pitchers are fragile creatures unless your name is Mariano Rivera.

Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP

One-time Yankee prospect Mark Melancon, who has struggled with injuries in recent years, surrendered a two-run homer in the ninth inning to Luke Voit. Another former Yank, catcher Erik Kratz, struck out swinging in a pinch-hitting appearance against closer Aroldis Chapman to end the game.

With the win, the Yankees (15-11) picked up a 1/2 game on the idle division-leading Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays game in Boston was rained out and won’t be made up until June. Yankees currently trail the Rays by only 1 1/2 games as the Rays have started to come back to Earth after their torrid start. Again, the replacement Yankees get so much credit for helping this team stay afloat until the big guns are back. Actually, ‘stay afloat’ is a poor choice of words because they are doing so much better. My expectation or hope was they’d stay afloat to weather this storm but, clearly, they’ve done much more.

I’ll certainly cheer on Cameron Maybin as the newest of the replacement Yankees but admittedly I was a bit underwhelmed when I heard that he had been acquired for Cash (loved the references by people on Twitter that GM Brian Cashman had sacrificed himself for Maybin). But it was the green stuff that went to Cleveland for Maybin and not the Yankees’ long-time GM. Maybin, toiling for Cleveland’s Triple A team, was no doubt excited just to get another big league opportunity. He spent Spring Training with the team he is presently facing (the Giants). Early on, it looked like Maybin was going to make the Giants’ roster but a DUI in mid-March contributed, in part, to his release on March 22nd.  To Maybin’s defense, he seems like a good guy and appreciative of his latest opportunity. I am certainly not expecting much from him and it’s more than likely his Yankees career will be brief, but hopefully he can make a contribution as the next man up.

Photo Credit: Ben Margot/AP

I had hoped that we would soon see the return of Giancarlo Stanton to man right field until Aaron Judge returns, but it sounds like we won’t see him on this road trip due to a temporary setback. Hopefully it is just a minor thing and we’ll see him when the Yankees return to the Bronx early next month. Once fearing that he’d be lost for the season with the partially torn right labrum, it now appears Miguel Andujar could return before Stanton does. I have absolutely no idea if Andujar can make the necessary throws at third with his injury, but he deserves the chance to show he can play the position despite Urshela’s solid role in holding down third base with the help of DJ LeMahieu. If not, I agree with those who say Andujar should be moved to first base and DH to share time with Luke Voit in alternating roles. Mike Ford should be the odd man out (not Urshela) but that’s alright. Andujar is far more important to this team than Ford is.

Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP

This has been a tough week with the Yankees playing the Pacific Time Zone. For those of you in the Eastern Time Zone, my hat’s off to you if you’ve stayed up to watch the games. All I can say is thank God for DVR. At least there is only one more late night game (Tuesday night in Phoenix) before the Yankees return to New York. This weekend’s games are afternoon affairs. Same with Wednesday’s getaway game in Arizona to conclude the short two-game series with the Diamondbacks.

It’s a new day and another opportunity for a replacement Yank to step up. With J.A. Happ on the mound, they’ll need a few of the bats to come alive. Somehow, I suspect they’ll do it. They generally do.

As always, Go Yankees!

Opportunity Calls, Clint Frazier Answers…

Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP

Yankees Overcome O’s, thanks to the long ball…

We knew it was only a matter of time until Aaron Judge began his monstrous assault on MLB baseballs, but it was Clint Frazier’s lightning quick three-run homer in the top of the eighth inning that allowed the Yankees to overtake the Baltimore Orioles in the 6-4 win at Camden Yards.

Frazier needed this moment. Frankly, the Yankees should have never put themselves in the position of needing Frazier’s big hit but they did. They had a golden opportunity to break the game open in the sixth inning when they loaded the bases with no outs against arguably MLB’s worst team. Frazier entered the game, pinching hitting for left fielder Mike Tauchman, but the inning unraveled from there. Gary Sanchez, on third, was picked off by O’s catcher Pedro Severino. Frazier struck out swinging for the second out, and Giovanny Urshela, in his first at-bat as a Yankee and pinch-hitting for Tyler Wade, grounded out to second to end the scoreless threat.

I didn’t really get Aaron Boone’s decision to keep Jonathan Holder in the game for the bottom of the seventh inning. He had entered the game in the fifth, in relief of starter J.A. Happ with only one out. He gave up a single to the second man he faced, Renato Nunez, in the bottom of the fifth, which scored a run for Baltimore (charged to Happ) to make it a one-run game at 3-2. I know Holder had an easy three-up, three-down inning in the sixth, but that’s as far as I would have pushed him. Instead, Boone left him in to start the seventh (why?). He hit the lead-off hitter, Cedric Mullins, and then gave up a single to right off the bat of Jonathan Villar which put runners at the corners.  Boone finally made a move, bringing Adam Ottavino into the game. Unfortunately, Greg Bird misplayed a grounder to first by Chris Davis. He bobbled the ball, didn’t step on first and then threw high to home. Mullins scored and Davis was safe at first. After Villar stole third, pinch-hitter Rio Ruiz, batting for Nunez, lofted a fly to center to score Villar with the go-ahead run.

It looked like the Yankees were going to go down quietly in the eighth. Greg Bird led off the inning against Orioles reliever Paul Fry with a fly-out to left. A pitching change brought reliever Miguel Castro into the game to face Gary Sanchez who flied out to right. But in the face of defeat for the Yankees, Castro struggled with his control and lost Gleyber Torres on balls to put a runner at first. Then, D.J. LeMahieu did what he does best. He singled to right, his third hit of the game, and the Yankees had runners at the corners. Enter Clint Frazier. With the count at 2-2, Castro threw a slider that was meant for the low outside corner. Fortunately for The Wildling and much to the dismay of Orioles catcher Pedro Severino, the ball came in over the juicy part of the plate and Frazier didn’t miss his opportunity. With the rapid fire of his bat, the ball went screaming out of the park. The Yankees were up, 6-4.

Adam Ottavino walked Hanser Alberto, briefly a Yankee this past Winter, to lead off the eighth but got the next two outs with his insane pitches. With Alberto on second, Aaron Boone took the ball from Ottavino and brought in Chad Green. Greeny hit the shirt of Cedric Mullins to put a runner at first. The next batter, Jonathan Villar, hit an infield grounder to D.J. LeMahieu, who had slid over to second base from third when Giovanny Urshela entered the game. LeMahieu had an uncharacteristic bobble of the ball and Villar beat D.J.’s throw to Gleyber Torres standing on second base. The bases were loaded, giving the Orioles a golden opportunity to recapture the lead. Thankfully, it was only Chris Davis at the plate. He rapped a hard single to first base which Greg Bird easily handled, stepping on first ahead of Davis running down the line. Inning over, with the two-run lead intact.

Aroldis Chapman finished off the Orioles in the bottom of the ninth. Despite giving up a one-out single to pinch-hitter Jesus Sucre, he easily recorded the next two outs to gain his second save of the season even if his fastball couldn’t find triple digits.

The win went to Adam Ottavino (1-0) despite giving up the lead in the bottom of the seventh on runs charged to Jonathan Holder. Ha, they should have charged those runs to Aaron Boone!

And, oh, did I mention that Aaron Judge had two massive home runs earlier in the game. I knew it was time for a Judgian blast and had even commented on my post yesterday that it was a good day for an Aaron Judge home run. I was wrong, I should have said home runs. Judge’s first homer (and first of the season) came in the top of the first after Brett Gardner had struck out to lead off the game. The ball carried 412 feet over the center field wall. Trey Mancini had answered Judge’s solo homer with one of his own in the bottom of the first to tie the game. After Brett Gardner doubled with one out in the top of the third, Judge hit another ‘no doubt about it’ homer to center, giving him total yardage of 830 feet, with the two bombs. That was it for Judge in this game, he recorded outs in his next three at-bats which included two by strikeout. But the Yankees wouldn’t have been in position to win this game without Judge. Every day is a good day for Aaron Judge home runs.

Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP

I know it’s too early to watch or care about the AL East Standings, but the Yankees (4-4) did move into a tie for second place with the Orioles. The Tampa Bay Rays lost 6-4 to the San Francisco Giants so the Yankees are 1 1/2 games back. The Boston Red Sox dropped another game, 5-4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, to fall to 2-8. I know it’s only a matter of time until the Red Sox find their groove, but it is fun to watch them in the AL East Cellar while it lasts. It couldn’t possibly happen to a better team than the Red Sux.

The Yankees can sweep the series at Camden Yards today before they hop on a plane bound for Houston, Texas. Domingo German (1-0, 0.00 ERA) faces David Hess (1-0, 0.00 ERA). In his last start against the Toronto Blue Jays, Hess no-hit the Blue Jays until he was lifted with one out in the seventh (the bullpen blew his no-no). German, on the same day, held the Detroit Tigers to only one hit and unearned run, in five innings. It would be great for the Yankees to sweep after losing their first two series of the season. And it would provide a joyful mood for the long flight down to South Texas.

I was a little surprised to see the call-up of Giovanny “Gio” Urshela before yesterday’s game. It was funny how it unfolded. Urshela posted an airplane pic on Social Media and clever fans deduced it was the same type of plane departing from Buffalo’s airport (where the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders are playing) and headed to Baltimore’s BWI Marshall Airport. While I enjoyed the brief one game call-up of Thairo Estrada who didn’t get to see any playing time, Urshela is in better position to help right now. No doubt Estrada will be the better utility player in the long run, but Urshela, who has a superior third base glove, provides better support for interim third baseman D.J. LeMahieu. Urshela doesn’t have much of a bat but that’s not why he is on the 25-man roster now even if he had a couple of strong offensive performances for the RailRiders to start the season. I can still easily remember some of the spectacular defensive plays Urshela made against the Yankees when he was playing for the Cleveland Indians. Not that LeMahieu needs any glove help but the occasional breather is welcomed. To make room for Urshela on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved Didi Gregorius to the 60-day Injured List. Speaking of Sir Didi, damn, I miss those after-game emoji’s.

I know the season is early and stats, either good or bad, don’t really mean much given the small sample sizes. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how good D.J. LeMahieu has been for the Yankees. Expected to be a “floating” starter with time at first, second and third, LeMahieu was forced into full-time duty at third base when Miguel Andujar, with a small labrum tear, was placed on the IL.  LeMahieu is 11-for-24, batting .458/.536/.542 with 1.077 OPS. His eighth inning single last night set the stage for Clint Frazier’s heroics but it almost provided a game-tying opportunity by getting Gleyber Torres to third. A ball got away from Orioles catcher Pedro Severino and Torres most likely could have scored if he had immediately broke for home but hesitation kept the budding superstar at third. LeMahieu is not a flashy player and is not known for dingers but he does the little things right. Living in Denver, I’d routinely hear Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon talk about how much LeMahieu meant to their team. It’s easy to see why they held such high praise. The guy can hit, field and win. I am glad he is a Yankee.

CC Sabathia makes a rehabilitation start for the High-A Tampa Tarpons today. The Tarpons are hosting the Lakeland Flying Tigers in Tampa. Hopefully all goes well for CC who should soon be back in Pinstripes for his final go-around. Hope everything goes well today, CC. We miss you and look forward to your return.

As always, Go Yankees!

Opening Day Success for Tanaka & Company…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yankees Roll behind Tanaka and Voit…

I know, I am late to the party with writing about Opening Day but it was a very exciting day. Great weather, the wonderful presence of unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera throwing out the first pitch (I loved watching #42 fire one from the Yankee Stadium pitching mound), solid pitching by Masahiro Tanaka despite not having his best stuff, a villainous bullpen and a couple of home runs from people not named Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. It was an awesome day in the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/The New York Post

The 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles felt like it could not have been better scripted. It was a great start to the highly anticipated 2019 season by the Yankees. There’s obviously a long ways to go, with 161 more games on the schedule, but it’s better to start with a win than not.

I was around some non-Yankee fans watching the game who took delight when Tanaka gave up a couple of hits in the first inning even if the second infield single hit the lead runner for the final out. They were predicting doom and gloom for Tanaka and the Pinstripers. I know the Yankees were playing MLB’s worst team but I knew Tanaka would persevere. Despite a lackluster Opening Day history, Tanaka seems locked in this year. I certainly wasn’t going to give up hope after a couple of meaningless hits. Tanaka shook off the first inning and never looked back. I think this will be a big season for him.

The Yankees didn’t have to wait long for their first home run of the season. The easy picks would have been Judge or Stanton, but it was Luke Voit who kicked off the 2019 chase to beat the Yankees’ 2018 record of 267 home runs. Granted, the Yankees would end the day six home runs behind the Los Angeles Dodgers but there’s no doubt many balls are going to leave Yankee Stadium this year for the home team. When Luke hit that ball in the bottom of the first inning with Judge and Stanton on base, I wasn’t sure if it was hit hard enough to go out but with his classic hop at the plate, I felt a sense of assurance it did have the necessary distance. Thankfully it easily carried over the center field wall into Monument Park for a 3-0 lead. Miguel Andujar almost made it a four-run game when his fly ball took left fielder Dwight Smith, Jr to the wall but it fell short of clearing the fence.  As many said, that ball would have easily carried out in the heat of August. In cool, crisp March, the ball decided to find Smith’s glove instead.

Aaron Judge may not have hit the first Yankee home run of the season but he did score the first run thanks to Voit’s homer. It was a great game for Judge, who went 2-for-3 with a couple of walks and three runs scored. He only struck out once, showing a very patient eye. Despite the presence of so many great offensive forces in the Yankees’ lineup, Judge is clearly the conductor and the heart and soul of the team’s engine.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

Great game for Luke Voit who also picked up another RBI in the bottom of the fifth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Voit finished with one official at-bat, the three-run homer, with the HBP and two walks. While I didn’t think last year was a fluke for Luke, he still has a long way to go to prove it was not but this was a very good way to start. I have no desire to underestimate the Yankees’ very talented baseball analytics team. The Chasen Shreve/Giovanny Gallegos trade for the former Cardinals minor leaguer, with minimal Big League opportunities, was/is a steal.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

In a game Luis Severino had been slated to start until rotator cuff inflammation forced a change in plans, Tanaka pitched very well. He lasted until the sixth inning when a two-out run scoring double by Trey Mancini (one of the few recognizable names in Baltimore’s lineup) ended his day. 5 2/3 innings pitched, scattering six hits, yielding a couple of runs with only one earned and striking out five was a good day. From there, the Yankees used a bullpen formula we’ll see frequently this year. Adam Ottavino, who ended the sixth inning threat with a seven-pitch strikeout, to Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman. I know there was concern with Chapman’s velocity (he was off his usual velocity by 3 to 5 mph) but it’s early. Not time to sound the alarms yet. I’ll go with those who attribute the reduced velocity to the cooler weather and Chapman’s age-induced work to transition from a hard thrower to more of a pitcher. I remain convinced we’ll see triple digits when the warmer weather returns.

Credit to Greg Bird for answering Voit’s home run with a solo dinger in the eighth after three strikeouts.  Bird got the start at first base over Voit, forcing the latter to DH. I really like Voit as the team’s first baseman but I am certainly not going to complain if Bird finally has the year we’ve long waited for. I love Bird’s swing when his bat is happy and healthy.

Although I would have really enjoyed to see David Robertson return to the Yankees for this season, I’ve been excited about the addition of Adam Ottavino since the day he was signed. He had a great Yankees debut with 1 1/3 innings pitched and three strikeouts.  His pitches are wicked. When he’s on, the batters have no chance. If D-Rob has re-signed, the Yankees most likely would not have signed AO. So I am pleased the way things turned out despite how much I liked Robertson.

I think my only disappointment with Opening Day was D.J. LeMahieu sitting on the bench through game’s end. It’s tough being a starter without a position. He is capable of so much more. Hopefully Aaron Boone figures out a good way to keep LeMahieu on the field, with his incredible glove, this season and his productive bat  in the order to help keep runners moving around the bases. LeMahieu is potentially a huge answer to the team’s RISP problem from last season.

Opening Day was a great success particularly considering every AL East team, except for the Yankees, lost. Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox were bludgeoned in Seattle, although they did claw back and win last night’s game after trailing Seattle by two runs in the ninth inning, thanks to a three-run homer by Mitch Moreland off the M’s new closer, Hunter Strickland. Bummer that the Mariners traded their great young closer, Edwin Diaz, to the New York Mets in the off-season. If Diaz had been pitching, the Red Sox most likely would have lost their second consecutive game.

It stunk there was no Bronx baseball yesterday but the Yankees and O’s resume their series today. Woohoo! James Paxton will take the ball for his Yankees debut wearing the Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium for the first time. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Nate Karns, the one-time Tampa Bay Ray. I am looking forward to watching Paxton on our side. Hopefully this will be a much better outing than his last Yankee stadium appearance. Last season, on June 21st, he surrendered two first-inning home runs to Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar and lost a 4-3 decision to Luis Severino and the Yankees. On the bright side, the Big Maple won’t have to pitch to Judge and Andujar today since those guys will be playing behind him.

Poor Chasen Shreve. After being designated for assignment by the St Louis Cardinals, he cleared waivers and was sent outright to Memphis. Shreve may get another chance with the Cardinals if the injury bug hits their bullpen (very possible with the presence of injury-beleaguered Andrew Miller) but I am sure this is not how Shreve had planned for this season to play out. I was a little surprised that no team took a chance on Shreve but his stock has certainly fallen. He’s a good guy so I am hopeful he gets another chance but the game is clearly evolving away from lefty specialists. So if he can’t prove he is capable of more, his future is not bright.

Ronald Torreyes also failed to make the cut with the Twins. With an option left, Toe was assigned to Minnesota’s Triple A team in Rochester. The few times I saw him in Spring Training, I thought he looked good and had a chance to make the MLB roster. Hopefully he’ll get his chance to call Target Field home at some point this season. Former Yankees Tyler Austin, Jake Cave and Michael Pineda were all part of Minnesota’s Opening Day roster. Austin’s spot seems to be the most tenuous as he’ll be the odd man out when Miguel Sano is activated off the Injured List. With no options left, Austin’s future looks murky. The Twins have C.J. Cron at first and Nelson Cruz at DH. Both spots can be backed by Marwin Gonzalez so Austin represents a luxury with no real spot once Sano is back at third. These things have a way of working themselves out so hopefully Austin carves out a significant role with the Twins. If not, he’ll be packing his bags and moving on to the next city.

Bryan Mitchell was another ex-Yank to get the guillotine. Sent to the San Diego Padres in the salary-dump trade involving Chase Headley, Mitchell had been expected to be part of San Diego’s starting rotation this year. He was designated for assignment a couple of days ago and now awaits his fate. Ex-Yank Jose Pirela, a part of the Padres’ MLB roster the last few years, was optioned to El Paso. Nobody ever watches Padres games so I’m not sure anybody will notice. Hopefully Mitchell gets an opportunity with another organization to fulfill the promise he once held as a Yankees prospect. If not, he’ll be catching up with Pirela in West Texas for some Margaritas.

Keeping on track with the ex-Yankees theme, I was glad to see Melky Cabrera get another chance. In camp as a non-roster invitee with the Pirates, he was added to Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster when outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the injured list. I can still remember those great victory celebrations when Melky was a Yankee but Cabrera has traveled through many cities since that time. Hopefully he’ll get to spend some meaningful time in the Steel City. Former Yankees seem to do well in Pittsburgh.

One-time Yankees’ top prospect Mason Williams also gets another chance. After playing with the Cincinnati Reds organization the last couple of seasons, he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles yesterday after being cut by the Reds a couple of weeks ago. He’ll report to Baltimore’s top farm team in Norfolk, VA. It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were hoping for great things in Pinstripes for Williams. I guess if you want an opportunity to play, signing with a talent-devoid organization is the way to go. No doubt he’ll find his way to Camden Yards at some point this year if he proves himself in Triple A.

I continue to be amazed no team has signed either Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel. I really thought they’d be signed before the start of the season. I had fully expected the Milwaukee Brewers to grab Kimbrel after it was announced closer Corey Knebel would need Tommy John surgery but I guess the presence of premier bullpen shutdown artist Josh Hader lessens the need.  Keuchel can help almost any team win more games. I kept expecting him to be a late training camp sign by his former team, the Houston Astros, but it never happened. The Astros still seem like his best option but for now, he has to throw every five days on his own dime. If I was the GM of the Atlanta Braves, I’d be all over Keuchel to help with the highly competitive NL East. Maybe the baseball analytics are right about the regression of Keuchel, but I have to believe he can still help somebody.

I am very glad the baseball season is back. It’s been a long off-season. Spring training is nice but it gets old after awhile. It’s awesome to see games that count once again. I am hopeful these games lead to an AL East championship and a highly successful October for the Yankees. We’ve waited a very long time for this year. As they say, time will tell but I like our chances.

As always, Go Yankees!

Baseball Writer Nick Cafardo Passes Away…

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One of America’s Best MLB Writers Gone Too Soon…

I know this is a Yankees blog but we have to give a hat tip to the late Nick Cafardo, a baseball columnist for The Boston Globe. Cafardo died yesterday of an embolism at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida while covering Red Sox Spring Training. He was not scheduled to work yet there he was covering the game he loved.

Although I did not know Cafardo personally, I am very heartbroken over his passing. Every weekend, I made time in my day to read his Sunday Baseball Notes. For me, it was required reading. Cafardo may have been a lifelong Red Sox fan but I always felt that he never sugarcoated the Red Sox and he never unfairly discredited the Yankees. If the term ‘Yankees Suck’ was part of his vocabulary, it never appeared in any written form that I saw. I didn’t read the Sunday Baseball Notes column because I wanted insight on the Yankees’ primary rival — I read it because I wanted insight on Major League Baseball through the passionate eyes of a true baseball fan who understood the game better than most. I can count on one hand the number of professional MLB writers I hold in very high regard but Cafardo was one. Through so many of his colleagues, a common theme of Cafardo’s superior professionalism and high value of his friendship resonates. I know Boston is hurting over his loss, but his impact reached a Nation (United States, not just the RSN) and perhaps beyond.

2013 World Series Media Day
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Nick Carfardo, 62, began his employment with the Globe in 1989. Prior to joining the Globe, he worked for The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, MA. He covered the Red Sox until 2001 when he switched to the NFL’s New England Patriots. It coincided with the first Super Bowl Championship for Head Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady. Cafardo has been back on the baseball beat for the last 15 years. I am not sure when I first started reading Cafardo’s work, or how I even became aware of him, but he’s been a staple for me for many years. I appreciated and valued his insight as told through an objective and impartial lens.

The Red Sox released the following statement:

We are saddened by the sudden loss of long-time baseball reporter, Nick Cafardo. For over three decades, Nick was a fixture at Fenway Park and throughout ballparks across the country. His coverage was as consistent as the game itself. His opinions on the Red Sox and the most pressing issues facing Major League Baseball were a constant, particularly through the prominent Sunday baseball notes column in the Boston Globe. 

The Cafardo family will always be a part of the Boston baseball family, and the Red Sox will honor Nicks’ legacy at the appropriate time.

Boston mayor Marty Walsh probably said it best, “Nick Cafardo was a man who talent, enthusiasm, and contribution to Boston’s sports coverage was incomparable and something that I always enjoyed reading”. Me too, Marty. Even though I didn’t know him outside of his words, there’s a huge void in my life today. I am sure many feel the same way.

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Cafardo is survived by his wife, Leeanne, and two children, Emilee and Ben. Ben is a communications director for ESPN.

He will be missed.

As for the Yankees, the first Spring Game is nearly here. The Yankees travel to Fort Myers to play the Red Sox tomorrow. Nestor Cortes, a non-roster invitee, gets the opening nod to start the game. Cortes, attending his first Yankees MLB Camp, was wearing a Baltimore Orioles spring jersey this time last year as a Rule 5 Draft selection. I remember a few of his starts last March for Baltimore and I am excited that he’ll be doing it for the Yankees this Spring. I know he’s not a top prospect but I’ve always liked the lefty. I doubt he ever gets an opportunity in the Bronx unless injuries force the Yankees’ hand. Most likely, he’ll need to go to another team to get his shot. Hopefully with his performance tomorrow and over the next few weeks, he can open some eyes even if they don’t belong to Yankee scouts.

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Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com reported that Miguel Andujar, Greg Bird, Aaron Hicks, and Gleyber Torres will be making the trip to JetBlue Park. It’s also been reported that Clint Frazier, Kyle Higashioka and Estevan Florial will be there. Otherwise, I expect to see the lower end of the 40-man roster and the non-roster invitees on the field in the first meeting of the two AL East Superpowers. Go Trey Amburgey, Phillip Diehl and Billy Burns! Despite who may or may not be on the field for the Yankees, I know I’ll be watching and look forward to the first organized, albeit unofficial, game of the year for America’s best team (the visitors, not the home team). The soon-to-be dethroned World Champions play their first game today against Northeastern University.

I know it’s way too early to get excited but I loved seeing that Adam Ottavino struck out the four batters he faced yesterday, including Tyler Wade twice. Afterwards, Wade said, “Think about how nasty he is in highlights. Then times that by a lot.” I had wanted the Yankees to re-sign David Robertson but I’ve never once been disappointed that they signed Otto (and re-signed Zack Britton) instead of bringing back D-Rob. I think Otto is going to be one of my favorite relievers this year.  I am glad he’s a Yankee.

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Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky-The Associated Press

Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com had a nice column today about Miguel Andujar. In it, he quotes Willie Randolph saying, “I think he (Andujar) can be above average at third base.” Randolph added, “Listen, if you give me average defense, I’ll take that because the way he can hit. I think he’s going to be a batting champion one day.” Nice job by Randy and good read for Andujar naysayers. I know that I am hopeful we’ll be seeing Andujar dancing at third base this year.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Sights and Sounds of Steinbrenner Field…

Photo Credit: The New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)

Pitchers and Catchers Report on Wednesday…

Here we are. The final weekend before pitchers and catchers report and Major League Baseball officially kicks off preparations for the 2019 season. Many players have already made their way to Tampa and have been seen in their informal workouts on the practice fields around Steinbrenner Field and signing autographs as they depart the hallowed grounds of 1 Steinbrenner Drive.

Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

I always enjoy the opening of Spring Training. So much excitement for the new season, everyone’s healthy (for the most part), and after no Major League baseball since last October, the gang’s back together again to make another run at the American League championship and the ultimate goal of winning the World Series. Of course, the feeling starts to fade in a couple of weeks when we are anxiously  and impatiently awaiting the start of the regular season but for now it’s a thrilling experience.

The past week saw another round of rumors surrounding Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. While both young superstars remain unsigned, there is continued speculation the Yankees could make a play for one of the players if the price falls into their comfort zone. The words of Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner this week while attending the owner’s meeting in Orlando did not dispel the rumors. I know, he can’t say the Yankees are out because of the CBA, but he somewhat flamed the rumors by not counting the Yankees out on any moves they might make in the coming days.

Steinbrenner made the comment, “If there’s a narrative that we’re not spending money and being cheap, that’s just false”. In my opinion, the Yankees have not been cheap. If anything, my frustration is simply the allocation of dollars that have been spent. I like DJ LeMahieu but with all honesty, the team would have been better with Manny Machado than LeMahieu. There’s been word (no official confirmation) the Yankees floated a concept of 7 or 8 years for around $220 million when they met with Machado in December. If true, Machado’s agent should have used it as a starting point for more serious negotiations. It didn’t happen, and the team quickly pivoted to LeMahieu. I don’t feel Steinbrenner is being cheap but conversely I don’t feel that he’s putting the best possible team on the field. Maybe signing Machado is not meant to be or if he really wanted to be a Yankee, he would be one by now. Regardless of events, I can’t help feel a little disappointment that neither Machado nor Harper are making flight plans for Tampa.

At various points of the off-season, the Yankees have called Brett Gardner the starting leftfielder and Troy Tulowitzki the starting shortstop. I don’t buy either claim. At this point in his career, Gardy helps this team the best as its fourth outfielder. He is not the player he once was. Age happens to all of us, except for maybe Tom Brady or Mariano Rivera. Perhaps Clint “The Wildling” Frazier proves the injuries and concussions are behind him and he finally fulfills the promise he’s held for a few years now. I have no problem rolling out Frazier as the starter if he proves in Tampa over the next few weeks that he is ready. Personally, I’d prefer it if Frazier can take the job from Gardner because it means he has proven he can be better.

As for Tulo, I just can’t shake the feeling he is done. Realistically, I am not expecting much from him. I think he’ll be very rusty in Spring Training, and I don’t see him as an every day starter once the team moves north to the Bronx. It feels too much like trying to “catch lightning in a bottle”. The infield is much stronger, in my opinion, with current two-year consecutive Wilson Defensive Player of the Year DJ LeMahieu at second and Gleyber Torres sliding to shortstop until the great Didi Gregorius is ready to return.

Photo Credit: Didi Gregorius via Instagram

But despite Plan B’s that make sense with the current roster and invitees, the Yankees can be a better team with Harper or Machado. Of the two, Harper makes the most sense. Aside from the left-handed bat that he’d bring to the lineup, he represents a great option for left field, keeping Giancarlo Stanton in the healthier role as DH, and Harper could potentially develop as a first baseman. I know, you don’t pay a guy hundreds of millions of dollars to see if he can play a new position but Bryce would represent such a great resource for the Yankees in their drive to dethrone the Boston Red Sox. For Hal, Harper will increase tickets sales, both at home and on the road. If the Yankees are successful in reacquiring controlling interest in the YES Network, Harper would be a primary face and draw attraction for the team. He is a popular player, perhaps one of the most popular in the game outside of Mike Trout. This is not meant as a slam to Aaron Judge who I feel is one of the greatest players in the game, but Harper unquestionably has more fans outside of the Yankees Universe.

Photo Credit: USATSI

I am still a major fan of Manny Machado but I recognize that his presence would adversely impact Miguel Andujar. Nevertheless, the Yankees should not decide to pursue Machado because of Andujar because Machado is clearly the better overall player. But under that scenario, the Yankees would need to move Andujar to left field or first base or trade him for top starting pitching as we’ve talked about ad nauseam this off-season. Putting Harper in left keeps Andujar at third with the potential to see if he has improved his defensive game and allowing LeMahieu to slide over to the corner for support if necessary.

My desire to add either Harper or Machado will not die until the players sign somewhere, anywhere.  Once that happens and if it is not in the Bronx, we’ll move on. The 2019 New York Yankees will be a very good team with or without Harp-Chado. If the Yankees do not sign either player, I’ll undoubtedly look at it as  missed opportunity (the “missed” chance to turn the team from very good to great) but I’ll support the current roster with full force and vigor as we all will.

I am really enjoying Adam Ottavino as a Yankee. His ‘This or That’ videos on Instagram with his wife feeding him questions from off-screen have been stellar. Given he is a lifelong Yankee fan like us makes him so relatable, outside of the fact that he’s 6’5”, ruggedly handsome, throws a nasty slider, lives in a beautiful Manhattan apartment with an overview of the city, has an adorable wife and family, and makes millions of dollars per year.

I like that Otto’s first pic upon arriving in Tampa this week was to take a picture of the famed George Steinbrenner statue outside of Steinbrenner Field.

Photo Credit: Adam Ottavino via Instagram

Ottavino understands the history of the franchise better than most through his childhood fandom. He recently mentioned that his favorite Yankee hitter was Bernie Williams and fave pitcher was Jimmy Key. There’s probably guys on the team who don’t even know who Jimmy Key is. I respect both of those choices.

After being known for years as Zach Britton, I was surprised the reliever formally announced that he’d be known by the proper “Zack” going forward. Not so much the correction of his name to match how he uses it and the name which appears on his birth certificate but rather why it took so many years for him to do it. I am sure that I’ll type Zach a time or two this season. Personally, with no offense to any Zack’s reading this, but I prefer the “ch” version of the name. It sounds more sophisticated, IMO. But hey, it’s not my name.  Britton has the right to call himself whatever he wants. If he wants to go by “Fluffy”, that’s fine by me. I guess I’ll get used to the new spelling in time. Speaking of Britton, I didn’t realize that his brother Buck was a manager in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system. Buck Britton managed the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds to a 68-66 record in 2018. For this season, he’s been elevated to manager of the Double-A Bowie Baysox. Not that I expect Zack to ever get over his love for Birdland, but his brother’s presence in the Orioles organization continues to give him ties to his former roots.

I mention it every year but I’ll continue to do it until there are changes. The Yankees need to revisit their facial hair policy. I don’t want to see the uncontrolled beards like Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers wears each season or Johnny Damon’s “Caveman” look during his days in Boston, but with controlled guidelines, there’s no reason guys like Luis Severino should not be allowed to wear beards like this:

Photo Credit: YES Network

I know the Yankees stick to the policy out of respect for the late George Steinbrenner but times have changed. I do not feel that short, trimmed facial hair detracts from the brand. It seems like all of the Yankee players are sporting some type of facial hair during the off-season. And very often when Yankee players are traded elsewhere, the first thing they do is grow a beard. I saw a pic of Ronald Torreyes, now playing for the Minnesota Twins, sporting a cool goatee this week.

Photo Credit: Ronald Torreyes via Instagram

Players should be allowed a certain degree of self-expression. I get the history and tradition of Baseball’s most storied and prestigious franchise but wearing a groomed short beard is not exactly like slapping last names on the back of the famed Pinstriped jersey. Loosen up the facial policy rules, Hal. It’s your team, set your own standard.

This has been a tough year watching Boston win championships in both MLB and NFL. I am tired of Boston fans celebrating and want to see the fans of New York rejoice. The Yankees have a huge opportunity to make plans for a parade in late October. Let’s not screw this up. The dawn of the 28th World Championship is upon us.

As always, Go Yankees!

2 1/2 Weeks to Tampa…

The Yankees’ Migration to Florida Begins…

When the calendar page turns next Friday, we will enter a month WITH Yankees baseball for the first time since last October. It may not be “real games” but we’re getting the band together again in Tampa, FL and the Yankees will be playing their first organized exhibition game in less than a month when they travel to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers on Saturday, February 23rd to take on the bullpen-challenged Boston Red Sox.

I don’t know about you but I am ready to see the guys at Steinbrenner Field and watching the navy blue spring jerseys in full force.

Before pitchers and catchers report to camp in roughly two and a half weeks, I’d really like to see the Yankees formally introduce their off-season acquisitions in a press conference at Yankee Stadium. It doesn’t appear it is going to happen but I always loved it when the Yankees held press conferences at the Stadium followed by photo sessions down on the often snow-covered field. It seems like ages ago when the Yankees acquired James Paxton, yet we’ve only heard his voice in interviews. Most of us have yet to see the smile on his face and the Big Maple tattoo on his arm as he talks about the excitement of being a Yankee.

Photo Credit: The Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)

If I owned the Yankees, I’d pull Paxton, Troy Tulowitzki, DJ LeMahieu, and Adam Ottavino to New York before they head to Tampa. Heck, Ottavino is already there so it would save Hal Steinbrenner some money.

Nice post yesterday by Bryan Van Dusen entitled “Bryce Harper Will Be a Yankee”.  It’s worth checking out if you haven’t already done so. The way the market is playing out seems to be opening the possibility that Harper could find his way to Yankee Stadium. While I’ve long been a Manny Machado guy, I don’t really see the fit with Manny anymore given the infield acquisitions and the optimism Didi Gregorious could be back sooner than expected. Will there be a mid-summer “acquisition” better than Didi? I don’t think so. But as Bryan outlined yesterday, Harper fits the Yankees so many ways. I am sure they’ve heard the words of the newest Yankees talk about the reasons they joined the team. The theme of of an organization that wants to win every year resonates as does the lifelong dreams of wearing the famed Pinstripes. We know Bryce desires to be a Yankee. Hal Steinbrenner can make it happen and provide Yankee fans with one of the greatest young players in the game today (to go with our collection of other great young players).

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

The Boston Red Sox are seemingly hamstrung by their payroll. Not that I want the Yankees to be in a similar position, but the time to strike is now. Show no mercy. I want a roster that ensures the Red Sox are the team battling for Wild Card position this season and not the Yankees. The weakest position on the team, in my opinion, is left field. Brett Gardner is simply no longer the player he once was. Getting old sucks. I have no trust in Clint Frazier’s ability to stay healthy until he proves that he can. Jacoby Ellsbury? Please. Bring Bryce Harper to New York. His presence would help the other guys in the lineup and he’d deflect pressure off guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez.

If the market moves in the Yankees’ favor and they do sign Harper for less than original estimates, it will be one of Brian Cashman’s best moves in his Yankees career. Bryce Harper, New York Yankees. It sounds so right (or should I say ‘so lefty’?). Works for me. Let J.A. Happ pick out a new number. I hope he has that problem.

Staying with the “it’s just money” theme, the Yankees got a good idea what it might take to retain CF Aaron Hicks when the Los Angeles Dodgers signed oft-injured CF A.J. Pollock to a five-year, $60 million contract this week. Hicks, if he can stay healthy this season, figures to command an equal if not greater deal. I probably wish Estevan Florial was closer to The Show but the Yankees will have some tough choices next off-season with Hicks, Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances.

It’s great to see the finalization of Adam Ottavino’s three-year contract. I am really excited about his presence on this year’s team. I wanted Ottavino to wear Number 0 but I understood the concerns of those who didn’t want the Yankees to issue a number that has never been worn in the history of the franchise. In the end, I am glad the Yankees made the decision to allow Otto to wear his number. I know many wanted Number 2 to be the last single digit worn but there’s no disrespect with Otto continuing the tradition of single digits. I was a little surprised when the Yankees retired Joe Torre’s Number 6. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the manager and I loved the championships he brought to the organization, but it’s not like he played on the field with number 6 and it’s not necessarily a number we strongly associate with him. I get retiring Casey Stengel’s number but honestly I think retiring numbers should be reserved for players, especially when the organization has so many retired numbers. Aaron Boone managed 162 regular season games last year plus the Wild Card game and ALDS, yet we could probably count on one hand the number of times we actually saw his number. Boone could win the next five consecutive World Series but I wouldn’t retire Number 17. The recognition should be for the players, not the coaching staff. Players have a greater effect on the success of a manager than the manager has on the players. The point is, Number 6 should still be in circulation, and Otto’s number 0 should not be the last single digit.

Well, since Number 6 is retired, I do think they should honor Roy White and give him equal credit for the number in the way Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra share the retirement of Number 8. Roy White was such a huge and consistent part of the Yankees in the early years of my fandom. The lifetime Yank deserves his day in the sun at Yankee Stadium, and recognition with a plaque in Monument Park. White played 15 years for the Yankees from 1965 through 1979. He was always overshadowed by the bigger names but he was the consummate professional and the glue on so many of those great Yankee teams. Maybe his numbers did not warrant the sole retirement of his number but he deserves credit for it as much as Joe Torre in a shared capacity, in my opinion.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Speaking of retired numbers, it will be interesting to see if the Yankees take Number 35 out of circulation now that Mike Mussina has been elected to the Hall of Fame. I was pleased to see Mussina make the HOF but he was never a lock to make it in my opinion. There are certainly a number of players who are equally deserving, or maybe even more so, that have never gotten the call. Nevertheless, I am proud of Mussina’s accomplishment. I had felt he should go into the Hall of Fame with his Orioles cap but I was pleased with his decision to go in with no logo like fellow Hall of Famer Roy “Doc” Halladay who was equally great on two teams (same as Moose).

Mariano Rivera. What else can you say? The first man unanimously selected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame. There is no one better deserving of the honor and recognition.  We were privileged to see one of the game’s greatest and the best to ever play his position for so many years at Yankee Stadium. Growing up, I always thought how cool it would have been to see Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle (in his prime) play. As it stands today, I am glad I was able to see guys like Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter, and the Sandman. It makes up for never having seen the earlier legends. Congratulations Mo! You were one of a kind and we may never see someone of your greatness again. It was our pleasure to watch you.

Lastly, I was disappointed to see Al Leiter’s departure from the YES Network. I get his reasons for stepping down (to spend more time with his family and mentor his 18-year-old son Jack who will most likely be seen on Major League mounds in about a half decade or so). I was glad to hear Al will continue to appear on MLB Network but his voice will be sorely missed in the YES Network broadcast booth.

I am excited that Baseball is right around the corner. After next weekend (the Super Bowl), all eyes will turn to America’s greatest game. Well, maybe not basketball fans and March Madness, but for the rest of us, the dawn of the 2019 season is on the horizon. Can’t wait.

As always, Go Yankees!