Tagged: Brett Gardner

The April Roller Coaster Ride…

Photo Credit: Anthony J Causi/NY Post

Up and Down Start Continues…

It was an uneven week to say the least. Sure, it was great to sweep the two-game series in the Bronx against the dreaded Boston Red Sox but to follow up with lackluster play in the first game of the Kansas City Royals series was disappointing. It’s easy to blame the high number of injuries for the slow start but there’s no excuse for not playing hard every game. Fortunately, the Yankees rebounded last night to beat the Royals, 6-2, behind CC Sabathia (1-0), the bullpen and a couple of dingers.

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

I’ll admit it. I was one who didn’t feel the Yankees should have re-signed Sabathia this past off-season. For as much as Sabathia has meant to the Yankees over the years and his invaluable role as team leader/mentor, I thought his spot in the rotation could be improved upon. I was wrong and that’s perfectly okay. Sabathia has continued to surprise me with his late career renaissance. When he encountered the knee problems a few years ago, I didn’t think he would be able to reinvent himself as a pitcher, yet he did. I am enjoying Sabathia’s final ride and pleased he’ll do it in Pinstripes. I don’t know his post-career plans but I am hopeful the Yankees find a role for him. I am not sure he can continue to pitch like he has in his first couple of starts but there’s no doubt he’ll give his team a chance to win every time he takes the hill.

We came into the season with such high hopes. For a few years now, we’ve looked at 2019 as the year the Yankees would arrive to capture their 28th World Series Championship. Then, player after player found his way to the now-massive Injured List and the team has struggled out of the gate. Someone asked Mike Axisa on his River Ave Blues chat yesterday how many wins this Yankees team (as currently constructed without the return of any of the men on the Injured List) could achieve and he responded with 84. He’s not wrong. You can’t lose so many superstars without an adverse impact. The big question is who would step up to take advantage of opportunity due to the missing stars.

So far, the award for best replacement player has to be Clint Frazier. There are many who still feel that Frazier’s future lies outside of Pinstripes but I am glad to see him potentially have his breakout year. I’ve been a critic and not exactly an admirer of his social media skills. But we’re starting to see the player GM Brian Cashman saw a few years ago when he sent reliever Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians. In fifteen games covering 57 plate appearances, he has 4 homers, 12 RBIs, and is hitting .327/.351/.577 with a great 145 wRC+. His arm was on display last night in right field when he fired a 95 mph throw to catcher Kyle Higashioka on the third base line to nail Martin Maldonado who had tried to score after tagging up at third in the third inning. For as much as Brett Gardner has done to help the Yankees win this week, there’s no question the future of left field should reside with Frazier. When Giancarlo Stanton returns to take DH and Aaron Hicks is back in center field, it should be time for Gardy to move to the bench. Maybe Frazier is just rebuilding his stock for an inevitable trade for starting pitching but I honestly I hope not. I’d like to see him thrive in the Bronx. His time is now.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

While there won’t be room for him on the big league roster when Stanton and Hicks return, it’s nice to see left fielder Mike Tauchman hit a couple of home runs this week. It’s amazing that he was never able to launch one at Coors Field in his young career. I know, he was only given limited opportunities with the Rox but there’s no question his swing would have played well at 5,280 feet if he had been given more chances. With the Rockies running into their own string of injuries, I can’t help but wonder if they wished they had held onto Tauchman.

I fully expect the Yankees to let pitcher Gio Gonzalez walk when he formally opts out of his minor league contract this weekend. While I’d prefer the experienced Gonzalez over Domingo German for the long haul, German has certainly pitched well enough to retain his spot in the rotation despite his rocky start last Thursday. I think my biggest concern in the rotation right now (aside of Luis Severino’s absence) is the performance of J.A. Happ. It’s unfortunate the Yankees do not have more time with Gonzalez to keep him available if Happ continues to struggle. I don’t see Gonzalez extending his minor league contract with the Yankees and I do not see the Yankees bringing him up only to serve as a long man out of the pen.  I think there are starting opportunities for him with other teams (like the New York Mets who just placed the great Jacob deGrom on the Injured List). He’ll get a starting gig somewhere.  So, Gio, thanks for the memories. Sorry you didn’t the chance to wear Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium but it’s probably best the Yankees didn’t need you during your short stay.

Speaking of minor league contracts, I am not sure what I think about the Yankees signing first baseman Logan Morrison to a minors deal yesterday. It’s hard to let go of his comments from the past. I know Gary Sanchez has moved on with his comments yesterday that the Home Run Derby (when LoMo questioned the choice of Sanchez over him) was two years ago. But LoMo attacked Yankee fans with his infamous “you can’t fix stupid” remark. I don’t think I am as forgiving as El Gary. I am not sure LoMo will ever get a chance to wear the Pinstripes (he has a July 1st opt-out) but if he does, he owes an apology to the Yankees fan base and to the team for his ill-advised prior comments. It’s hard to criticize LoMo for his poor 2018 with the Minnesota Twins which ended with hip surgery but he is only a season removed from 38 jacks. If he could be that guy, he would certainly be an improvement over Mike Ford as backup first baseman.

With the impending return of Gary Sanchez in the next few days and hopefully Giancarlo Stanton by the end of the month, I am hopeful the Yankees can get on a roll. Today, the Yankees will send Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 3.22 ERA) to the mound.  He’ll be opposed by RHP Heath Fillmyer (0-0, 9.00 ERA). Tanaka will look to erase memories of that grand slam that did him in last Sunday in the 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox. We keep saying it but so far the Yankees have failed to capitalize, they need to beat teams like the Royals. Handed a soft schedule to start the year, I never dreamed that we’d still be chasing a .500 mark nearly a month into the season. But all things considered, it’s nothing that a nice 10-game winning streak can’t cure.

I just saw the news that the Miami Marlins fired their hitting coach, former Yankees third baseman Mike Pagliarulo, after their game last night. I hate to say it, but I think the days are numbered for Marlins manager Don Mattingly. Despite his Yankee connections, I think Marlins CEO Derek Jeter will move to get his own guy in the dugout at some point. In my humble opinion, odds are greater Jorge Posada will be Marlins manager next year over Mattingly. It’s unfortunate because Mattingly was my favorite Yankee during his playing career, and I’ve been a fan since those days ended. To replace Pags as hitting coach, the Marlins appointed Jeff Livesey as his replacement. Livesey is son of former Yankees executive Bill Livesey. Livesey will be assisted by one-time Yankees top prospect Eric Duncan.

Okay Yankees, we need a win today. Please bring home the “W” to even your record at 10-10. We want this, you want this. Make it happen.

As always, Go Yankees!

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And So It Begins, Yankees-Red Sox…

Photo Credit: Jim Davis-The Boston Globe

First Tune-up Between the AL East Elite…

Finally, the Yankees are playing today! It might just be a meaningless exhibition game and the biggest of the team’s stars stayed behind in Tampa, but the Yankees take the field later today (1 pm EST) at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL. Woohoo! Let’s get this party started!

Here are the scheduled lineups for today’s game.

YANKEES

CF Aaron Hicks

2B Gleyber Torres

3B Miguel Andujar

1B Greg Bird

LF Clint Frazier

DH Mike Ford

C Kyle Higashioka

SS Tyler Wade

RF Matt Lipka

SP Nestor Cortes, Jr

RED SOX

LFGorkys Hernandez

C Sandy Leon

DH Rafael Devers

CF Rusney Castillo

RF Bryce Brentz

3B Michael Chavis

2B Tzu-Wei Lin

1B Josh Ockimey

SS C.J Chatham

SP Josh A. Smith

Who will be the next Yankees Captain? I’ve seen more than a few people say that Aaron Judge needs to win a few championships before he is appointed as the next Captain. Why? I think the guy is the clear leader of this team and he sets the standard both on and off the field. If you are a proponent for the role of a Captain, there is no one more deserving than Judge.

Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When Thurman Munson was named the Yankees Captain in 1976, it was the first captain of the team since Lou Gehrig. At the time, the Yankees had not won a championship during Munson’s tenure with the team. They won the 1976 American League Championship in his first year as Captain but fell to the Cincinnati Reds in a four-game sweep in the World Series despite Captain Munson’s heroic efforts. Under Munson’s leadership, the Yankees won the next two World Series in 1977 and 1978. His captaincy was ended prematurely with his tragic death on August 2, 1979.

The next Captains were products of those 1977-78 World Champions. Graig Nettles held the title from 1982 until March 1984 when he was traded to the San Diego Padres. Willie Randolph and Ron Guidry served as Co-Captains from 1986 to 1988.  Randolph left the Yankees in December 1988 through free agency, signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Guidry retired.

Don Mattingly, with no championships on his resume, was appointed the Captain in 1991 and he held it until his retirement following the 1995 season after the disappointing loss to Randy Johnson and the Seattle Mariners in the playoffs. Still, he helped usher in the new era of Yankees baseball which collected multiple championships in the late 1990’s and 2000.

When Derek Jeter was appointed Captain in 2003, he held four championships. This was more than any of his predecessors since Lou Gehrig who had four under his belt at the time of his appointment in 1935.

I guess you could argue the Yankees don’t need a Captain. I think it is a good honorary role that has served the Yankees well over the years. I really wish Mattingly could have enjoyed winning a World Series in New York but his back was not cooperative. Yet, I still view Mattingly as a champion even if he didn’t get the ring.

I do know that Aaron Judge has earned the right to stand in the same conversation with the previous Captains. He sets the example for his teammates and he represents the Yankees as well as anyone has since Jeter retired. He is worthy of being the Captain and probably for the most part he is currently recognized as the team’s unofficial Captain. Maybe eventually the honor will come to Judge but I believe it should happen sooner rather than later. He’s a great Yankee despite his youth. If the Yankees win the World Series in the next couple of years, there’s no doubt Judge will be at the forefront, leading the charge.

Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported yesterday that among his various positions on the field, D.J. LeMahieu could also serve as the backup first baseman. This leads to the conclusion that either Luke Voit or Greg Bird will head to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for the start of the season depending upon who wins the job this Spring. It seems odd to put such a great defensive middle infielder at first base, but he’s athletic enough to make the transition. Still, it seems to carry risk since LeMahieu has only played four games in first base in his Major League career with no appearances there since 2014. I had really wanted someone who could play both left field and first base which is why I liked Marwin Gonzalez so much. I think the Minnesota Twins grabbed a good player at a decent price when they signed Gonzalez this week for two years at $21 million ($3 million less than the Yankees are paying LeMahieu over the same time frame). But I do recognize that if LeMahieu can successfully add first base to accompany his skills at second and third bases, it helps to potentially open the door for Clint Frazier which is not a bad thing if Frazier has a good Spring.

I remain concerned about going into the season with Brett Gardner as the starting left fielder. If Aaron Hicks gets hurt, then Gardy is the starting center fielder. This seems like such a huge risk to me.  I am not trying to diminish what Gardy has meant to the Yankees but he seems best suited for part-time duty as the team’s fourth outfielder at this stage of his career. Frazier seems ticketed for Triple A given how much time he lost last year, but I really hope he is ready soon. Meanwhile, we really need Brett Gardner to have a career renaissance. I think the 2019 Yankees are an improved team over the one that lost to the Boston Red Sox last October, but I am concerned about how left field will play out. Giancarlo Stanton made 72 starts in the outfield last year. As it stands, he’ll need to make more this season.  The team’s physical trainers had better take special care of the big guy. We really need him to stay healthy.

Today’s game will be a battle of no-names after the first couple of innings but at least baseball is here. Beating the Red Sox under any circumstances always feels good. Bring home the “W”, guys!

As always, Go Yankees!

To Be a Yankee or Not To Be…

Unofficial Source points Machado to the Yankees…

Dan Clark, an Orioles blogger from Australia, caused quite a stir yesterday afternoon when he tweeted Manny Machado is headed for New York.

According to Clark, he trusts his source and stands behind his words. Ultimately, nobody really knows until Manny signs his name on the dotted line. He may want to be a Yankee as we’ve often heard and he may feel today the Yankees are his team but until the final decision is made and the agreement is in place, Manny is free to change his mind. I continue to hope Manny signs with the Yankees but honestly it continues to be my opinion that he’ll take the most money which will probably not be the Yankees regardless of how much he may have loved the team as a kid.  My hope is the Yankees make their final offer close enough that it causes Manny to accept slightly less to wear the Pinstripes. But if it is a wide gap, the Yankees had better enact Plan B immediately.

I feel bad for Clark. He has taken so much heat for his comments and people are attacking his credibility. In my opinion, that’s not fair. Does having “credentials” make a guy like Joel Sherman a better human being? No, I don’t think so. Clark has friendships with the Orioles and he is more connected to the inner workings of that organization than most Yankee insiders. I place some value in Clark’s message, but I recognize to blindly trust the words until proven correct is foolish. If he is right, great. I look forward to the introduction of Manny Machado at Yankee Stadium. If he is wrong, the world goes on and we wait for the development of Plan B to cover for the temporary loss of Didi Gregorius next season. I won’t think any less of Clark if he is proven wrong. He has expressed an opinion which is his right. He has the basis of sources that he trusts. We don’t know his sources but it’s not a reason to invalidate Clark’s words. I support his right to say whatever he wants about the Yankees or Orioles or any other team. He believes the words, right or wrong, and that’s all that really matters.

As for Machado, the Yankee fan base seems so divided over the young superstar. I know that he failed to deliver a World Series championship for the Los Angeles Dodgers and we all know about the infamous “Johnny Hustle” comments, but last time I checked, the Red Sox rolled over all their competition last season, not just Machado’s Dodgers. I don’t blame Machado for the Dodgers’ loss. This is a team game. He is one of the best players at his position, whether it is shortstop or third base. He makes any team better and I think if he becomes a Yankee, the fan base will rally around him. At the end of the day, he’ll only want the same thing we want, a World Series championship. We’re going to boo him for that?

In my post yesterday, I predicted Manny’s decision will come on Tuesday, January 8th.  However, that was under the assumption final offers had not been submitted. If, in fact, the Yankees, White Sox, and Phillies have submitted their best and final offers to Machado’s agent, Dan Lozano, I’ll revise my decision date to Friday, January 4th. Next week should be an eventful one. We’ll see. Either way, I am glad the Machado speculation is coming to an end.

I saw the blurb this morning in MLB Trade Rumors about the Texas Rangers and their trade of Jurickson Profar to the Oakland A’s. In the post today, Gerry Fraley, Rangers beat writer for The Dallas Morning News, is quoted as saying “The Yankees were interested in Profar as a stopgap player while Gregorius recovers but weren’t willing to give up much”. I figured the Yankees could have put together a prospect package that rivaled the one received from the A’s but this indicates the Yankees were not as sold on Profar as we thought. Fraley goes on to say Profar’s throwing problems will not be as obvious at second (he had 24 errors last season at third and shortstop) but the Yankees do not need a permanent second baseman (they already have great one) and the last thing they need is another defensively-challenged infielder. I like Profar and continue to hope he can fulfill the promise he once held as the top prospect in the game, but it sounds like the Yankees made the right decision to pass.

The Sonny Gray to the Brewers talk seems to be picking up steam again. For Sonny, I think it would be a great opportunity. The Brewers have a good, young team and it’s obviously a winning environment right now. Sonny could prosper in Milwaukee. As for a potential return, I’ve heard Corey Knebel’s name. I know 2018 was a struggle for the Brewers’ closer and it included time in the minor leagues to find himself again, but I like Knebel and I think he’d be a good addition to the bullpen. Another potential name is first baseman/outfielder Eric Thames, but man, that would really be a pronunciation conflict with Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames. Seriously, Thames would be a good add but it would spell the end for Greg Bird and I am not sure the Yankees are ready to break that bond yet.

Bryan Van Dusen (@Bryan_TGP) posted this comment on Twitter this morning: “All this talk about Manny Machado, and I’m just hoping that Brett Gardner is not the regular left fielder this season. Although, I’m looking out for Clint Frazier, as I wouldn’t be surprised if he became the regular left fielder sometime during the season (assuming no Bryce)”. I agree with this 100%. There hasn’t been a lot of talk about Red Thunder and I know everyone wants to see if he can stay healthy, but I am really hoping that Frazier can grab a starting role through his performance. I think everyone loves Gardy and he has been a great Yankee but the truth is he is not the player he once was. He can still be a very good fourth outfielder but the team should not depend upon him in the starting outfield when there are better options. Frazier, clearly, can be the better option.

On MLB Network yesterday, one of their predictions for the new year was the Yankees’ acquisition of LHP Madison Bumgarner at the trading deadline.  That’s one I could really get into. I know there’s been a lot of talk and speculation about MadBum but everyone expects the Giants to try and get their best deal in July. This is one that I hope the Yankees are positioning themselves for, especially if MadBum stays healthy. The Giants love Bumgarner, but new President of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi will make a decision that is in the best interests of the Giants organization for the long run. The odds MadBum will be traded are as great as they’ve ever been. I’d love to see him playing in October again.

I am so tired of the World Series highlights that are continually replayed as the end of the year approaches. Can we turn the page already? The Red Sox are so yesterday’s news.

As always, Go Yankees!

Waiting for Gifts from Santa Cashman…

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Photo Credit: Hearst Connecticut Media (Scott Mullin), via Stamford Advocate

One holiday down, one to go…

It’s the day after Christmas and there are still a number of questions yet to be answered for the New York Yankees. Sure, the Yankees acquired left-hander James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners in November and they re-signed LHP J.A. Happ earlier this month but we’re the ‘what have you done for me lately’ crowd.

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When will the Yankees sign infielder Manny Machado?  As we’ve been told, Machado does not intend to make any decisions until after the first of the year.  Does that mean we’ll know something on January 2nd? Probably not. This thing could drag out for days or weeks into January before it plays out. I feel the team needs to brace itself for Plan B in the event Machado takes the money from Philadelphia or Chicago and runs (well, in his case, slowly jogs). Although I am not excited about the idea, the Yankees should consider signing Troy Tulowitski but they’d be foolish to rest their hopes on Tulo as a Didi Gregorius “fill-in”. I really like the diversity of Marwin Gonzalez and he has a championship pedigree thanks to his role in helping the Houston Astros win it all in 2017. I’m not excited about moving Gleyber Torres temporarily off second base to cover for Didi at short, but a second baseman like D.J. LeMahieu or Jed Lowrie could help this team. I think Brian Dozier has seen his better days so that’s a hard pass for me. Neil Walker, I’ve already seen that show. It’s probably not outside the realm of possibility the Yankees decide to stay in-house and give Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, and Hanser Alberto opportunities during Spring Training. For a team ready to contend for the World Series, I hope not. There’s too much at stake for the Yankees to come up, pardon the pun, short.

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When will the Yankees focus on the bullpen?  The obvious answer is now. With Machado’s decision pushed off until next week at the earliest, I really wish the Yankees would fill at least one of the two vacancies this week. With each passing day, there is an increasing likelihood that David Robertson, Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton sign elsewhere. It really sucks listening to St Louis Cardinals fans and players talk about how excited they are to have Andrew Miller. As much as I like Robertson, I don’t really get the sense he is a priority for the Yankees, therefore, I really hope they are actively working with the agents for Ottavino and Britton. I know Britton has the potential to get “closer” money, but we need his talent and skills in the Yankees bullpen. Last year showed that we cannot place 100% faith in Aroldis Chapman and his problematic knee. Dellin Betances did a fine job, but I prefer to keep him in a setup role which means we need a proven backup closer to help Chappy. Ottavino has closed and certainly offers that ability, but I’d rather see Britton return among the two choices. Healthy, he is ready to dominate once again. But I won’t be disappointed if Ottavino is the one.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Do the Yankees need to bring in another starter?  Quite simply, the answer is yes. Perhaps the Yankees are convinced Jonathan Loaisiga is the solution for the role of “sixth man”. But he’s about as much of a question mark as the starting rotation itself.  Loaisiga is a talented pitcher but until he can prove the ability to stay healthy, he’s going to carry the injury-risk label. Starting with the back end of the rotation, CC Sabathia is expected to be ready for Spring Training but realistically the Yankees need to prepare for other options in the event CC suffers any setbacks. Encountering heart problems at 38 is never a good sign and we do not know how Sabathia will hold up to the rigors of a 162-game schedule. J.A. Happ was solid for the Yankees down the stretch, but he’s 36. A smart pitcher, yes, but a year closer to retirement. With Masahiro Tanaka, you know we’ll eventually hear “he needs Tommy John surgery”. We’ve been living on borrowed time and it is inevitable he’ll eventually need the surgery to continue. Despite a successful 2018 campaign, James Paxton carries his own injury concerns. Luis Severino is perhaps the pitcher with the fewest question marks but he needs to overcome his second half regression from last season. The Yankees need a bona fide starter to serve as the long man/spot starter. I really hope the 2019 answer is not Luis Cessa or A.J. Cole.

Why is Sonny Gray still on this team?  I really thought Gray would be an ex-Yankee before 2019 but we’re running out of time. There has presumably been strong interest in Gray, with as many as eleven teams expressing interest, but GM Brian Cashman has yet to receive an enticing offer. Although I am surprised he hasn’t been traded yet, I fully expect Gray to be gone before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, FL on February 13th. I think many fans were hopeful the Yankees could package Gray with a few high end prospects to grab Cincinnati’s Scooter Gennett but I think that ship has sailed. With the Reds acquiring Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood from the Los Angeles Dodgers last week, the team is clearly focused on squeezing a few more wins out of their roster next season. Parting with their talented second baseman would not be consistent with that objective. At this point, I don’t think Gray’s presence on the roster is helping anyone. There seems to be an increasing number of Yankee fans wanting the team to hold onto Gray for the hope he can still be what we once thought he would be. For me, I’m done with Gray as much as I am done with Jacoby Ellsbury.

Which leads me to the next question, why is Jacoby Ellsbury still on this team?  Insurance payments. As long as the Yankees have the potential to collect on insurance to defray Ellsbury’s cost, he isn’t going anywhere. If and when he is finally healthy, the Yankees will either make the hard decision to stash Clint Frazier at Triple A or they’ll cut bait with Ellsbury and eat the remainder of his contract. If you count the 2021 buyout of his contract, the Yankees still owe Ellsbury $47.3 million. If the Toronto Blue Jays can afford to absorb $38 million to sever ways with Troy Tulowitski, the Yankees can afford $47 million to make Ellsbury an ex-Yankee. It amazes me how the Los Angeles Dodgers can routinely shed bloated contracts but the Yankees cannot. Well, credit to Cashman for the Chase Headley contract elimination but he needs to find the way to part ways with Ellsbury. If Ellsbury is on the Opening Day Roster (I highly doubt it), I will have no choice but to root for him but, ideally, I hope that day never comes.

I know there are more questions that need to be answered before the Yankees show up for Spring Training in February but these are a few on my mind. I am not sure the tandem of Greg Bird/Luke Voit offers the best hope for first base in the long run but we need more time to see how this plays out. Voit has earned the right to play first base for the Yankees, but Greg Bird should be given the opportunity to play during Spring Training and earn his right to be part of the Opening Day roster. He is running out of time and chances, but I don’t think it is the end of the road for Bird yet nor should it be.

Miguel Andujar is my third baseman until he isn’t.

If there is one starting position on the team that concerns me, it is left field. I love Brett Gardner as much as the next guy, but at this point in his career, he’s better suited to serve as fourth outfielder in my humble opinion. I suppose there’s always a possibility that Giancarlo Stanton plays left more often next season or Clint Frazier works himself into a platoon with Gardy or even takes the job. So much is dependent upon whether or not the Yankees sign Machado. If they do, there will be a chain reaction when Didi Gregorius returns late next summer which will presumably push Machado to third, displacing Andujar who will have to move to first, left or DH. Until this is figured out, it will concern me.

One position that does not cause any alarm for me is catcher. I really expect to see an improved Gary Sanchez in 2019. I honestly feel that he’ll continue to improve defensively with each passing season. I was never in favor of the trade rumors for J.T. Realmuto and stand by El Gary as the present and future of Yankees catching. Austin Romine is a fine backup so I have no desire to see any changes with the current catching duo. I’d certainly have no qualms about Kyle Higashioka taking Romine’s job away if his performance dictates it. That would be a nice problem to have. Until younger guys like Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux are knocking at the door, Sanchez is this team’s catcher.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

These were just some random thoughts on my mind. There hasn’t been much baseball talk the last few days with the holiday season upon us so I’ve been missing it. I turned on MLB Network Radio this morning and had to listen to one-time Yank C.J. Nitkowski talk about his Christmas gifts for his wife. That’s nice. Let’s get this talk back to Baseball. Is it time for Spring Training yet?

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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!

Hey Red Sox Fans, But the Game’s Not Over…

‘Stros Send the RSN Home Early in Game 1…

I wasn’t going to watch Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, but I got sucked into it when the Houston Astros took a one-run lead off on the Boston Red Sox, with everybody’s favorite…Joe Kelly…on the mound, in the top of the sixth inning. It was awesome in the top of the ninth when one-time Red Sock Josh Reddick blasted a solo shot against his former team to make it a two-run game. When Yuli Gurriel parked a three-run homer into the right field stands, the Red Sox fans were exiting Fenway Park in droves and their team had yet to take their final swings in the bottom of the ninth. It was such a beautiful sight!

Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)

The Astros won the game, 7-2, to ensure they’ll head to Houston with no less than a split pending the outcome of today’s game. They could sweep the games at Fenway Park before jumping on a Texas-bound plane and they do have the good fortune of facing Yankees punching bag David Price later today. Hopefully the Astro bats will enjoy hitting off Price as much as the Yankees do.

Photo Credit: Boston Globe

Gerrit Cole draws the Game 2 pitching assignment for Houston. It is easy to look back to last winter and say the Yankees should have been more aggressive in their pursuit of Cole. Ken Davidoff wrote a great piece in The New York Post today regarding the Yankees and Cole. The Yankees were willing to package a deal centered on outfielder Clint Frazier, but the Pittsburgh Pirates wanted the inclusion of Miguel Andujar as a centerpiece too. In retrospect, despite the lost season for Frazier, it’s hard to find fault with the Yankees’ decision to hold onto Andujar even if the Yankees desperately need pitching. Also, there was no guarantee Cole would have pitched as well in New York as he did in Houston. Maybe Andujar eventually gets moved for another frontline starter. Oh well, I am not going to look back and criticize the Yankees for their failure to acquire Cole. The Pirates chose to accept an inferior package from the Astros. It was their decision; not ours. There’s nothing we can do about it. Cole is a good pitcher, but he’s not worth handing over the farm system for. Now if we are talking about Jacob deGrom, that’s a different story.

Many Yankee fans were offended when Alex Rodriguez lost a bet to David “Big Papi” Ortiz and had to wear Red Sox gear on Fox TV, thanks to Boston’s win over the Yankees in the ALDS.  Honestly, I could care less. It would have hurt if the player had been one of the core Yankees, but A-Rod’s not in that category. I know he’s done much to rehabilitate his image, but I truly wish the Yankees would have never acquired him. I would have been fine with him wearing a Red Sox uniform for real in 2004. I think A-Rod has done a fine job on the broadcasting side and I know he continues to preach the Yankees are his favorite team, but it doesn’t mean that I have to like him. The fact remains he tarnished the game and he lied to the fans. But aside from that, I’ve lost bets and had to wear Red Sox jerseys or hats before so to me it was no big deal.

Photo Credit: FS1

I saw a funny Twitter post yesterday that said Milwaukee Brewers reliever Brandon Woodruff has more postseason homers than Boston’s Mookie Betts. Woodruff hit what would prove to be the eventual difference-maker in Milwaukee’s NLCS Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night off the great Clayton Kershaw. So far in the 2018 post-season, Betts only has 4 hits in 20 at-bats, with no homers and a couple of RBI’s. Betts is a great player but he is not immune to the post-season blues.

Everyone is making their predictions for which pending free agents the Yankees should re-sign or let walk. I hate to say it, but I don’t see the Yankees bringing Brett Gardner back. They’d be foolish to exercise the $12 million option and while declining the option and re-signing him to a lower one-year deal is possible, I am convinced the presence of a healthy Clint Frazier and, ugh!, Jacoby Ellsbury will force the Yankees to move on.

If the Yankees sign free agent Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks (as many expect) and re-sign J.A. Happ, I also do not see the Yankees bringing back CC Sabathia. So, the Yankees could be on the verge of losing their top two veteran leaders. I have no doubt other guys will pick up the void but I am appreciative of the Yankee careers for both Gardner and Sabathia. They’ve worn the Pinstripes proudly and will be missed.

Photo Credit: MLB.com

The Yankees face big decisions in the bullpen. With both David Robertson and Zach Britton ready to hit the free market, the Yankees have to decide whether to try and bring both back, just one, or let them both go elsewhere to the highest bidder. I’d love to see both return and I feel that having a super bullpen is so critical. Unless Luis Severino can make major adjustments this winter, the Yankees lack a true ace and signing Corbin does not change that fact. A super bullpen compensates for the deficiencies in the starting rotation. I love D-Rob’s heart, but if I had to make a choice for only one, I’d go with Britton. Unfortunately, I think Britton will get an insane offer from some other bullpen deficient team to be their closer, so it’s probably more likely the Yankees bring back Robertson. I’d really hate to see both leave.

While I think it is possible the Yankees go over the luxury tax threshold next year, the realist in me knows that Managing General Partner will give GM Brian Cashman a defined budget that may not include paying luxury tax penalties. I think some fans are expecting a 2009-like splurge with great young free agent superstars like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but there’s a very good chance the Yankees pass on any extended nearly half a billion dollar contracts. I see many fans predicting both Machado and Harper in the 2019 Yankees lineup and that’s simply not happening.

It’s amazing to think former Yankees third base coach Joe Espada might get a managing job before his former boss, Joe Girardi. Espada, currently bench coach for the Houston Astros, is emerging as one of the favorites for the job in Anaheim which was vacated when long-time Angels manager Mike Scioscia stepped down. Angels GM Billy Eppler knows Espada well from their time together in New York. Espada may be living the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ dream, but his run of consecutive championship series will end if he becomes skipper of the Halos.

I wonder if there are any Yankee fans that are actually pulling for the Red Sox over the Astros? None that I am aware of, but I am sure there are a few fair weather fans out there.

Let’s hurry up and fast-forward through the World Series so that we can get the Hot Stove League started. I am ready for the off-season planning to begin.  Nothing better than getting Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and other key executives together in one room to map out strategy for 2019. We can speculate. They can decide. But one thing’s for sure, we are united in our desire for a World Series championship next year.

As always, Go Yankees!

Premature End to Promising Season for Yankees…

Photo Credit: AP (Julie Jacobson)

On the bright side, greater things await the team next year…

It was a disappointing end to a promising season. I know, we should be grateful for a season that saw the Pinstripers win 100 games and advance through the Wild Card game to the AL Divisional Series. Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox were the better team. They won 108 games over the course of the season, and did not run into the roller coaster ride that we felt at times as Yankee fans. I did feel the Yankees had the talent to beat the Red Sox but, for whatever reasons, it was not meant to be. So, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox and their fans.

The days following the ALDS loss have been difficult. I couldn’t bring myself to watch or listen to the MLB Network or ESPN the next day. It’s always hard when your favorite team’s season is abruptly ended. But if there is a takeaway, I hope that the bitterness of the loss motivates Yankees leadership to make the necessary enhancements to turn this team from very good to great. For several years, we’ve looked at 2019 as the arrival of the latest and greatest edition of Yankees championship baseball. 2017 was a little premature but it gave us a glimpse of what this team could do. Maybe it set expectations for 2018 higher than they should have been, but at this point, 2018 is water under the bridge. Time to look ahead and get excited about the future which will very soon be the present.

Everybody is writing posts about what the Yankees should do. Ultimately, those are the decisions that Hal Steinbrenner, the Steinbrenner Family, and the Yankees executive management team must make. We can say what we’d like for them to do, but if any of us feel that we could do a better job than Brian Cashman and Company, we’re delusional. I can say what I think the Yankees should do and will below, but these are really just personal wishes that may or may not come true. I trust Brian Cashman to make the right decisions.

We know going into the 2019 season the starting pitching staff will be led by Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. I fully expect Severino to make the necessary adjustments this winter to ensure greater consistency next season. I don’t think Sevy wants to settle for being a good pitcher. He wants to be one of the best in the game. I’ve been saying for months the Yankees should part ways with CC Sabathia, but now that the season is over and I’ve had time to re-think the position, the Yankees should try to sign CC on a one-year deal to bring him back as their fifth starter. There are some young, talented pitchers in the organization, like Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, Mike King, Albert Abreu, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German, but let them battle for the sixth man position. We know that the five-man rotation you start the season with is rarely the rotation you have at the end. I think the chance of injury increases significantly each year with Sabathia, but his value in the clubhouse cannot be dismissed. I think one or more of those young pitchers will have their opportunity to shine at some point next season, but let’s break camp with the ball in CC’s hand at the back end of the rotation. For the other two spots, I’ve held the third position, like many Yankee fans, for lefty Patrick Corbin. He seems destined for the Bronx. It will be a major disappointment if the Yankees are unable to sign him. For the fourth position, I’d try to re-sign J.A. Happ. We should get Jordan Montgomery back sometime in mid-2019, but these rotation “problems” (i.e., too many starting pitchers) have a tendency of working themselves out. Clearly, Corbin is a higher priority than Happ so if I can only have one, I’ll take the Arizona Diamondback.

In the bullpen, we may be potentially losing both Zach Britton and David Robertson. Sentimentally, I’d like to see the Yankees re-sign Robertson. I hated the years he was away with the Chicago White Sox. I really enjoyed getting him back into Pinstripes. There’s no doubt Aroldis Chapman is the undisputed Closer for the Yankees, but it’s nice to have a proven top closer in reserve for those times when/if Chappy goes down or not available. I’ve never been a fan of Dellin Betances closing games, despite his late season success. I prefer to keep the big guy in the primary setup role where he excels. If both Britton and Robertson leave, there’s no doubt Chad Green moves into a later inning role unless the Yankees sign a guy like Andrew Miller (which, as much as I hate to say it because I love the guy, would be a mistake given Miller’s recent history of injury struggles and ineffectiveness). I really liked having Britton on the team. Down the stretch, he was great. I have as much confidence in him closing games as I do Chapman or Robertson. Unfortunately, I think some team will throw too much money at him to be their primary closer so I think the odds of Britton’s return are very slim to non-existent.

I don’t want to trash Giancarlo Stanton and don’t feel that he should be judged solely on his performance in the ALDS, but if I could trade Stanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers and sign Bryce Harper, I’d do it. Realistically, I don’t think it will happen and I am convinced Stanton is here for the long haul regardless of the opt-clause in his contract. I think Stanton will be better next year after a year in the Bronx.

Miguel Andujar is everybody’s choice for AL Rookie of the Year. Well, at least among the Yankees Universe any way. No offense but the Yankees need to improve their defense at third. Many have called for moving Andujar to left. I’d support it. He has a very strong arm and I think his defensive flaws would not be as exposed in left as they are at third. Moving Andujar to left opens a spot in the lineup for everybody’s favorite free agent, Manny Machado. Not only is Machado a great young superstar, but his bat in the lineup would go a long way toward helping to solve the Yankees’ ongoing RISP problems. For the year (with the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers), Manny hit .297/.367/.538 with .905 OPS. He slugged 37 homers and drove in 107 runs. It is assumed that he’d be willing to move back to third for the Yankees, and he’d greatly improve the team’s defense at the position. Unfortunately, I think the Philadelphia Phillies will be very aggressive in trying to sign Machado so if the Yankees want him, they’ll have to work hard to make it happen.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Gary A Vasquez)

I am not ready to give up on Gary Sanchez. I have no interest in the ‘dump Sanchez, trade for J.T. Realmuto’ arguments. I fully expect El Gary to work on his game during the off-season and come back much stronger, with a chip on his shoulder, next season. We know what his bat is capable of when it’s right. I think he will be improved defensively as well. I would not make any changes with the catching position. I am fully in favor of Austin Romine returning as El Gary’s caddy.

I really enjoyed the late season work of Luke Voit at first base. But there’s no way I’d go into training camp next Spring simply handing Voit the job. Greg Bird, while he didn’t deserve to start after his demotion, should be given every opportunity to compete with Voit. If the Yankees encounter a surprising chance to upgrade the position (someone like Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt), they should do it. In the end, I think Voit will be the team’s first baseman but until the regular season starts, I think it should be open competition to decide.

Right field, second base, and shortstop are firmly set so the only other position that could be potentially upgraded, excluding those I’ve mentioned above, would be center field. To trade or not to trade Aaron Hicks. That is the question. I don’t have a center field solution. Estevan Florial is not ready yet. I’d probably prefer to see Hicks stay, but I’d have no problem if the Yankees decide to trade him to improve other areas so long as they identify a strong option to replace him.

Brett Gardner has been a great Yankee but the team should not exercise his option. Some have mentioned declining the option and then re-signing him for less money, but he is a fourth outfielder at best at the stage of his career. I guess it really boils down to whether or not the Yankees think Clint Frazier can stay healthy. Plus, the albatross contract (Jacoby Ellsbury) should be back next year ready and, gulp, healthy. If there is one player that I’d love to see the Yankees dump regardless of the dollars lost, it would be the King of the DL. Sadly, I think we’re stuck with him for now and his presence could very well spell the end of Gardner’s time in Pinstripes.

Photo Credit:  USA TODAY Sports (Adam Hunger)

When Aaron Boone was named manager of the Yankees, I had really wanted him to hire an experienced bench coach. I would have loved to have seen Rob Thomson stay in the role, but I get his reasons for leaving after he was passed over for the manager’s job after years of service in the organization. Given Boone’s inexperience, I had really felt that he would have benefited from a seasoned manager serving as his bench coach (much like the role Ron Roenicke played for Boston’s Alex Cora). Boone opted for “smart and confident”, foregoing experience, when he went with Josh Bard. Bard is working his name to the short list for potential managers and he may very well turn out to be one of the game’s best eventually, but I think an experienced bench coach would have been better for Boone this past season. Next season, both Boone and Bard will be stronger for this season’s experience so maybe there’s no need to make any changes with the coaching staff. I trust Boone enough to know that he’ll reflect upon this season and identify areas of improvement to make the necessary corrections. There’s no doubt that Brian Cashman and his team will be working with Boone in the off-season too. I don’t think we’ll see the same level of bullpen management (or if you will, mismanagement) next season. Boone continues to have my support.

I am anxious to see what Brian Cashman has in store for us. He knows that this team is very capable of being great and does not need too many tweaks to position themselves among MLB’s elite. I am sure that we’ll feel a sense of loss for those players who depart via free agency or trade, but when the 2019 season rolls around, the Yankees will be ready to play. I am excited and I think the team is well positioned to go deep into October next year. I am convinced the Yankees will be improved while the Red Sox, after career years from multiple players, will regress.

I am looking forward to hearing what Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman have to say in their press conferences later today. I am so ready for the Hot Stove League to begin. But first, we still have some baseball left even if the beloved Yankees are at home with their families. Nonetheless, I am anxious to hear the first words for the 2019 blueprint when Boonie and Cash took the podium at Yankee Stadium. Then we have to wait a couple of weeks before Operation Win 2019 World Series begins with full steam.

For now, it is the NL and AL Championship Series, with the NL kicking things off tonight. The only team left in the playoffs that interests me are the Los Angeles Dodgers. If the Dodgers lose the NLCS to the Milwaukee Brewers, I probably won’t be watching the World Series. Credit to the Brewers for acquiring the most valuable outfielder from the Miami Marlins (Christian Yelich) last off-season. It’s been a magical season for them. I think the Dodgers will prevail but the Brewers certainly have a good chance for altering the outcome. I really hate the Houston Astros but I am hopeful they are the AL representative in the Fall Classic. I am so ready for the end of Boston’s season now, not later. So, my picks for the World Series are a repeat performance by last year’s participants, the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the Houston Astros, with the same outcome.

As always, Go Yankees!