Meanwhile, the Rumor Mill runs rampant…
As 2018 winds down to a close, all is quiet in the Yankees Universe except for Yankee Twitter and the endless possibilities expressed, again and again, by Yankee fans. The Yankees still have holes to fill in the bullpen and no confirmed plan at this moment in time to use anybody other than Tyler Wade and Gleyber Torres at shortstop to cover for Didi Gregorius. It does not appear these answers will be provided in 2018 and must wait until the calendar year changes.
Although Manny Machado has indicated he will not make his long-awaited decision until after the first of the year, I don’t think anybody knows what that really means. I think some Yankee fans and industry experts think we’ll have his choice on New Year’s Day or worst case, the next day. I honestly do not think this will be resolved that quickly. To account for some of the inevitable back and forth between teams (if that hasn’t already happened), I’ll predict we have Manny’s decision by Tuesday, January 8th. I think the first week of January will be trying to elicit the best possible offers from the interested teams. As much as I want the Yankees to sign Machado, it remains my belief he’ll take more money to play in the City of Brotherly Love or the Windy City. I heard Larry Bowa on MLB Network yesterday talking about how the Phillies can overcome Machado’s childhood fascination with the Yankees by adding a few more zeroes to the check. If this goes into an all-out bidding war, I have no doubt the Yankees will come in third to the Phillies and White Sox. At that point, Manny has to decide what is best for him and his family.
Manny Machado and wife, Yainee Alonso
The sooner Manny decides, the sooner we can move on to Plan B. I am ready to close the door, one way or the other. I am mentally prepared. If we have to settle for Freddy Galvis at shortstop, so be it. Let’s move on. At this point, pitching remains the team’s most critical need.
MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi is reporting the Los Angeles Angels are interested in David Robertson. Despite D-Rob’s expressed interest in playing close to his Rhode Island home, Morosi notes that Robertson would have the opportunity to close for the Angels and of course he knows Angels GM Billy Eppler well from their time together with the Yankees. It makes sense to me. I’d rather see D-Rob go to Anaheim versus pitching at Fenway Park for the Red Sox. I personally love Southern California so, in my opinion, it’s a no-brainer. I think it would be fun to play on the same team with Mike Trout. Eppler is trying to squeeze a few more wins out of his team with the recent signings of Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill. He needs to protect those investments by getting a reliable reliever to close out games. Robertson will be a much cheaper option than guys like Zach Britton and Craig Kimbrel and he’d fit well under new manager Brad Ausmus. Not that I am wishing D-Rob to the Angels. I’d still like to see him come back to the Bronx, but if that doesn’t happen, Anaheim is a preferred destination over division rivals.
Angels GM Billy Eppler
Gumby had a birthday yesterday. Jordan Montgomery turned 26 as he continues to work his way back from last summer’s Tommy John surgery. No doubt we’ll see the former Gamecock somewhere around the time Didi Gregorius returns (or maybe a little later in the season if Didi is somehow ready to go by June or July). Not expecting much out of Montgomery next season but I am looking forward to seeing him in Pinstripes again. Happy Belated Birthday, Jordan!
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)
Searching for things to watch on TV last night, I settled on the original version of A Star Is Born (1937) starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. Of course, it made me think of the 1937 Yankees. They won the ninth World Series in franchise history that year, finishing 102-52 to win the AL Pennant by 13 games over the Detroit Tigers. They defeated the New York Giants in five games to claim the World Series championship. What a year for Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig! The 34-year-old Gehrig, within two years from being forced from the game due to ALS, had 37 home runs and 158 RBIs. He batted .351/.473/.643 and had an OPS of 1.116. He took 127 walks to only 49 strikeouts. 22 year-old Joe DiMaggio had staggering numbers for such a young player. 46 homers, 167 RBIs, .346/.412/.673 and 1.085 OPS. He took fewer walks than Gehrig (64), but only struck out 37 times. Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri at second, Frankie Crosetti at short, Red Rolfe at third and a pitching staff anchored by Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing. Collectively, Gomez and Ruffing won 41 games as both pitchers reached the 20-win mark. Gomez threw six shutouts in 34 starts, pitching 278 1/3 innings, allowing only 72 earned runs for 2.33 ERA. Total Yankees domination. I love it! I know I left out some other great Yankees for the 1937 team but it must have been grand watching the Yankees annihilate their opponents year by year in the late 1930’s.
Moving back into current times, I felt kind of bad for Tyler Austin yesterday. When the Twins elected not to retain Logan Morrison after one year and Twins great Joe Mauer decided to retire, it appeared that Austin had a clear path to playing time for Minnesota next season. Then, the Twins acquired first baseman C.J. Cron from the Tampa Bay Rays and yesterday they inked former Seattle Mariners slugger and DH Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal with an option. Austin’s path to playing time appears to be blocked once again like it was with the Yankees. I was surprised Cruz went with Minnesota. I had really expected him to end up with the Houston Astros. He would have been a deadly bat in that lineup. I guess it’s better for the Yankees he went with Minnesota but of course he adds a weapon if the Twins can get a Wild Card rematch with the Yankees to avenge their loss in 2017. Cruz may be 38 but he has that David Ortiz knack for smashing huge home runs at the best times (or worst times, depending upon your perspective). I guess Ronald Torreyes will have plenty of opportunities for his Toe Night Show at Target Field next season.
I was reading one blog the other day that talked about trades the Yankees wish they could undo. The blogger listed the Brandon Drury trade as his first choice. I know that trade didn’t work out, but I don’t look at it as one I’d undo. I really liked Drury’s acquisition at the time of the trade. I liked the player and the potential that I thought he could bring to the team. A solid defender with some pop. I know it cost the Yankees several really good prospects (second baseman Nick Solak, currently rated as the eleventh best prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays by MLB.com and pitcher Taylor Widener, who ranks as second best prospect for the Arizona Diamondbacks) but I can’t say I’d undo the trade. It was a risk worth taking. It didn’t work out. Drury had the undisclosed migraines and never really performed for the Yankees before losing his job to Miguel Andujar and subsequently getting traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in the J.A. Happ deal. I thought then and I still feel that when healthy and given the opportunity, Drury is going to help a team. Not sure the Blue Jays are that team since 2019 should bring the emergence of top prospect Vladimir Guerrero, Jr to the Show at some point during the season to place a stranglehold on third base for years to come but Drury will make good on his promise one day. Look, I’d love to have Widener back but I wouldn’t undo the Drury trade even with the benefit of hindsight. You have to take those types of chances to get better and I’d never want to see GM Brian Cashman get “gun shy” and start holding onto prospects longer than he should. Some trades work, some trades don’t. That’s how it goes.
Not that I am trying to wish the new year to get here any faster, but I am looking forward to getting to next Wednesday so that the Hot Stove League can resume activity. The days of nothingness are long and boring on the baseball front. I am anxious and excited for pitchers and catchers to report to Tampa, FL on February 13th but there is still so much work to be done. We need to ensure that Aaron Boone, in 2019, knows what it must have felt like to be Joe McCarthy in 1937. No pressure, Cash. Talk to your boss and get it done.
As always, Go Yankees!
I was never a fan of good-byes…
Sadly, the 2013 Major League Baseball Season has come to an end. Well, at least for the New York Yankees. It was an eventful final week that saw a farewell to the great Mariano Rivera that was unmatched by any I have seen in recent years or even during my lifetime. Mo’s final game at Yankee Stadium turned out to be the final game of his professional career as he chose not to pitch during the season-ending series in Houston to preserve his Bronx goodbye as the final exit for a storied and soon to be Hall of Fame career.
I have been a Mariano Rivera fan since the days when he set up John Wetteland in the bullpen. His 7th and 8th inning appearances before the cardiac appearances by Wetteland were electric. The ball seemed to come screaming with blazing speed yet Mo seemed so effortless in letting the ball leave his hand. He made it look easy, and for the length of his career, he proved he was just a little better than everyone else. Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way. A couple of key blown saves in critical games, but these were few and far between. His success rate was far superior to any failures, and in those failures, you knew that Mo had left his all.
Looking back, I certainly have no regrets. It was an honor and privilege to be a Yankees fan and to witness the career of the latest Yankees legend. He’ll be someone that my grandchildren will be talking about, and I can say that I saw him pitch from the beginning to the end. Mo showed how special it was to play for one team, and he is forever embedded into Yankees lore. Ichiro Suzuki will be immortalized in Cooperstown one day as a Seattle Mariner, but Seattle will never be able to call Ichiro exclusively their own. They may have had his best years, but he still is playing his final years as a Yankee, not a Mariner. Fortunately, we never had to see Mo in another uniform or his former catcher, Jorge Posada.
I have been a Yankees fan since 1974 when free agent Jim “Catfish” Hunter, then my favorite pitcher, signed with the Yankees. I had grown up very intrigued by the Yankees with their great history and tradition. Those early 70’s were still a tough time for the Yankees organization, but they were about to turn the corner following the acquisition of the team by George Steinbrenner and his partners. To digress, I always loved the quote “There is nothing in life quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner”. This quote is attributed to former Yankees minority owner and later Houston Astros owner John McMullen. The first baseball biography I recall reading when I was little was a book about Lou Gehrig, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since. So, when Catfish made the decision to join the Yankees, it was very easy for me to follow.
During the course of my Yankees fandom, I’ve considered the following players to be my favorite Yankees. Hunter, Thurman Munson, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Don Mattingly, and Mariano Rivera. All those years and I can still count my favorite active Yankees on one hand, well until today with Rivera’s retirement. That doesn’t mean I don’t respect other Yankees over the years, these guys just happened to be my personal favorites at the time they played.
Being someone who appreciates history and tradition, I’ve always felt that Rivera was the perfect man to take Jackie Robinson’s number to retirement for the final time. Mo proved that he had the character to stand with greatness, and he served the legacy of Jackie Robinson very proudly and understood its significance. I am glad that the last guy out of baseball with #42 wasn’t some thug just trying to hang on to a lost career, with rumors of a steroid past. He wears #13. Okay, sorry, I didn’t mean that, or maybe I did, but you get the point. Jackie Robinson was a great man who dealt with more adversity than any of us will ever knew. He did it while turning the other cheek and proving he was the better man. He did this while carving out a Hall of Fame career on the field. If there was a man who deserved to have his number retired across baseball, it was Robinson, and if there was a man who deserved to be the final one to walk off the field with it, it was Mo. The Baseball Gods made sure this one played out like it was supposed to.
Mo, we thank you for simply being you. You did it your way, and you never strived to be anything other than what you were. You proved better than most in shaking off the game’s failures and you never gloated in its successes. You were proud of your teammates and respectful of your opponents. Baseball needs you, and I hope that this is just the beginning as you move into the next phase of your career. I am proud, very proud, when I say that I am a Mariano Rivera fan. He exceeded my wildest expectations and he leaves as the best ever at his position. He deserves to be a first ballot entry to the Hall of Fame. Anything less is unacceptable. He was ours and he proved he belongs to the Hall like no other that I’ve personally witnessed during my lifetime. Farewell, Mo. This is not the end, but simply the closing of one chapter and the opening of the next.
AP Photo (courtesy of LoHud Yankees Blog)
The gaze from under the brim of his cat…
While the focus of this post is Rivera, I would be remiss for not saying thanks to Andy Pettitte. Time and again, he stopped losing streaks and he was clutch when it mattered most (October). He never had the brilliant stuff of Felix Hernandez or Roy Halladay, but he was a winner. His passion showed and he was a champion. It was tough watching him leave via free agency for those three years in Houston, but I am glad he came back. Even during his time in Houston, you’d hear stories about how Andy still followed the Yankees. He is part of the Yankees family and history and always will be. It was so very fitting that his final game was a complete game win in his hometown of Houston. A bit ironic that the opponent was named Clemens (Paul Clemens, no relation to Roger). For the final game of the season, Roger Clemens did make an appearance to wish farewell to Mariano, and he gave Andy a hug. There has been a lot of mudslinging between the former close friends and regardless of what Roger may have or have not done, I was glad to see the small reconciliation. Baseball is greater than any one of us, and at the end of the day, Clemens, Pettitte, and Rivera were teammates and they represented the our team. I fully expect to see all three at future Old Timer’s Day games and I am hopeful that old scars can be healed and that the game itself can move forward.
Back to Andy, he will be a hard act to follow. When you look at the Yankees pitching staff, there is not one that can match Andy’s heart. CC Sabathia appears to be on the downside of his career, Hiroki Kuroda could very well head to Japan for his final season or two, Phil Hughes has worn the pinstripes for the last time, Ivan Nova is a roller-coaster and the jury is still out on David Huff. Next season will be one of transition and it is unfortunate that we’ll no longer have Andy as an anchor to the rotation. Andy’s ceiling was never as a #1 pitcher. He came to the major leagues with question marks, but he left as one of its greatest post-season performers. We were lucky to call Andy one of our own, and I am glad that he was never dealt away in one of those knee-jerk type of trades that we saw during the George Steinbrenner regime. Sorry, George, I miss you but you gotta admit that some of those trades left a little bit to be desired…
Getting back on track, Andy leaves the game being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest lefty in Yankees’ history, the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford. The Core Four (Rivera, Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter) did an excellent job in reaching the pinnacle of their positions in franchise history. Posada may not have matched Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey or Thurman Munson, but he can stand in the same room. DJ is obviously one of the greatest shortstops in the team’s history (along with Phil Rizzuto). For a team so stacked in history and tradition, four contemporary players reaching the upper echelon is amazing. It is the end of a terrific Yankees era, and as much as I hate to see Derek Jeter go out with an injury filled career, I would prefer for him to leave now rather than to come back next year for what most likely will be a year of reduced relevance on the roster.
What does the future hold?…
I really do not know what to expect next year. At the moment, it is uncertain if Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson will be back. Joe Girardi is talking about needing time to decide if he wants to come back which is not a good sign in my opinion. Mark Texeira will be back next year, but he is deteriorating as he ages. I am not sure that CC can get back to being the dominant pitcher he once was, and the line-up is filled with age and injury-susceptible players. The farm system at the upper levels is weak, at best. While many of said that this has been a great year of managing by Joe Girardi, I’d argue that it has not been one of Brian Cashman’s best years. I do not know how much he has been constrained by ownership, but the 10 wins that the team could have used this season could have been acquired through smart and strategic moves. The farm system is very lacking at the upper levels and I know that injuries have played a part, but at some point, Cashman has to be held accountable. Like fine wine, it is harvest season except the Yankees do not have anything to harvest. They’ll have to overpay and to give up too much young talent to field a championship squad next season. Unfortunately, neither makes sense even for the Yankees, so it feels as though we are in the midst of an era of transition. Hopefully, greatness will be waiting on the other side…
Maybe the Yanks should be spending some extra cash on PowerBall…
I get that $200 million is a lot of money, and the Yankees have been the only team to play in that neighborhood “salary-wise” until the Los Angeles Dodgers joined the party. But I am surprised to hear Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner making comments about the disbelief in fan reaction to the team’s non-activity outside of re-signing its key free agents. Yes, that point is huge. Re-signing Huroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and Andy Pettitte were essential to the team’s hopes for 2013 so I do not dispute the importance of the team taking care of those players. While I like the signings of 3B Kevin Youkilis and DH Travis Hafner, there are huge injury risks prevalent with both players. I could be wrong but I doubt either player gives the Yankees at least 140 games this year.
My point and frustration with the Yankees ownership is the loss of free agents catcher Russell Martin to the Pittsburgh Pirates and right fielder Nick Swisher to the Cleveland Indians. Catching is left to a couple of career back-ups, including one recently associated with PED rumors, unless touted prospect Austin Romine can step it up and make his presence felt in the Bronx sooner rather than later. In right field, the Yankees do have Ichiro but he’s not getting any younger. He certainly won’t provide the pop that Swisher could. He’ll make more happen on the base paths, but isn’t that what Brett Gardner is for? Sometimes, a team needs to make a move to excite the fan base. I do not equate that to throwing money away to satisfy the fans, but making calculated, smart moves that give the team something to build upon.
As it stands, the possibility the Yankees lose Robinson Cano to free agency is high. Yes, ownership makes the comments about how they want him to be a Yankee for life. However, I seriously doubt the organization is going to give an 8 to 10 year deal to a 30-year old veteran player even if he is the team’s best player. We have A-Rod to thank for making ownership a bit gun shy, and rightfully so. I think the single biggest detriment to keeping the Yankees from winning the World Series in the next few years is A-Rod. If you could take those dollars and invest them in better, cheaper resources, the team would be much stronger and the goal of coming in under $189 million next year would be possible.
If catching is a debacle and the older Yankees show their age, this is going to be a very long season. Personally, I think this will be Manager Joe Girardi’s most challenging year. He’ll be riding the hot seat all year long, especially if the Yankees get off to a sluggish start in April. It is a given that Mark Teixeira’s bat won’t show up until around Memorial Day so I am fearful the team will become too dependent on guys like Youk and Hafner which could overexpose them and increase the likelihood of injury. Now would be the time for infielder Eduardo Nunez to step up in a huge way…
The argument can be made that every team in the AL East has the ability to play better than .500 ball, and all have the wherewithal to win the division outright. My guess, at this point, is the division goes to the Toronto Blue Jays, leaving the Yanks, Red Sox, Orioles and Rays to fight it out for a Wild Card spot.
But it’s a long season, and there is always the potential the Yankees do make the necessary moves to ensure a strong chance for October success.
The Giambino back in the AL…
I saw a report this morning that former Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi has signed a $750,000 minor league deal and invitation to training camp with the Cleveland Indians. It seems a bit strange to see Giambi on a team managed by Terry Francona, but if used in the right way, Giambi could help the Indians. As the Toby Keith song goes, “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was”. While I think Giambi should have retired, I am sure that he’ll begin his coaching career soon enough and it’s not a bad idea to learn a trick or two from one of the better managers in baseball.
It’s just a number…
Although the Yankees active roster on MLB.com has not been updated, it looks like Kevin Youkilis is going to wear #36. I would have preferred to see the team dust off Jorge Posada’s #20 given that was Youk’s number in Boston. I am not trying to be disrespectful to Jorge, but I’ve never been a big fan of retired numbers unless the guy was an absolute legend like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig. Posada had a great career, but I simply do not put him in the same category with catching greats Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra or Thurman Munson. With all the retired and reserved Yankee numbers, it is inevitable that many players will be joining Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain in the 60’s or higher.
Time to head to Florida and Arizona…
With all the snow Boston has received this weekend, it’s hard to believe that baseball training camps start to open this week. It feels much more like baseball weather where I sit in California as temps are expected to reach the 70’s this week, but for my friends in Boston, I am hoping all are safe and warm. It was a good thing that Truck Day happened before the weather emergency. Even as a Yankees fan, I would never wish ill will on the Red Sox or their fans. As they say, you have to beat the best to be the best and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way.