Tagged: Carlos Beltran

Help Wanted: Managers for Houston, Boston, and Queens…

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Managerial Dismissals in Triplicate…

This has been quite the week in the Major League Baseball. I thought Januarys were for the ‘quiet calm’ before players begin heading to their respective Spring Training homes in Florida and Arizona next month.

In the span of four days this week, three Major League managers had lost their jobs.

Jim Crane, owner of the Houston Astros, fired manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow almost immediately after MLB announced the penalties on Monday against the Astros for their involvement with the electronic sign stealing cheating scandal. Like New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, who sat out the 2012 NFL Season as punishment for his role in the infamous bounty scandal, I thought Hinch would have a one-year vacation and return to the dugout in 2021. Fortunately, Crane stepped up to do the right thing. Sever ties. I have no doubt Hinch is a good manager, but he allowed cheating on his watch and that’s inexcusable. Perhaps he’ll get another shot to manage one day but for now, it’s time to pay the piper.

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Photo Credit: David Zalubowski, AP

On Tuesday, before MLB has completed their investigation of the Boston Red Sox for cheating allegations, the team announced they had mutually agreed to part ways with manager Alex Cora. Credit to the Red Sox for getting in front of this. Based on the MLB report, Cora was a ringleader for the electronic cheating conspiracy. Unlike Hinch, who simply knew about it and did nothing, Cora’s fingerprints were all over the ideas and actions that led to the cheating schemes. I will be very disappointed if Cora’s suspension does not exceed the one year suspension given to Hinch. Many are calling for a lifetime ban. I might not go that far but it should be for multiple years.  We do not yet know the details of how he implemented his dishonest policies with the Red Sox during their championship run in 2018 but clearly Cora has brought great shame to the game of Baseball. Say what you will about Red Sox owner John Henry but like Crane, I am glad he took action against a guy who was very popular with the Boston players and fans. Singling Cora out, his actions are worse than anything Pete Rose ever did and we know that Pete received a lifetime ban. I think Rose is a miserable human being but I guess if Cora does not receive a lifetime ban, MLB should perhaps reconsider their ban on Rose. Personally, I am okay if Rose, one of the best players I’ve seen play, does not make the Hall of Fame until the year after his death, but maybe this whole electronic cheating scandal is causing me to soften on my hardline stance against Rose. Cora is clearly the worst of the two.

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Photo Credit: Jim Davis, Boston Globe Staff

For a couple of days, there was speculation about whether or not New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran would retain his job. Holding the position for only two months, I am sure Beltran had been so excited to go to Spring Training with the Mets as their new manager, achieving a huge professional goal for his post-playing career. By Thursday, it was over. In another “mutual” decision, the Mets and Beltran parted ways. Some believe that Beltran could have kept his job if he had come out publicly to explain his role in the cheating scandal and to plead for contrition and absolution. As much as I had admired Beltran, the player, I felt it was impossible for Beltran to continue in a leadership role. As the only player identified in the MLB report, he was heavily involved with Cora in developing the schemes that have compromised the integrity of the game. If a manager cannot uphold trust and integrity, there’s no place in the game for him. As such, I felt Beltran had to go. I am glad the Mets reached the same conclusion even if they somewhat bungled their telephone press conference in making the announcement.The Mets will be the Mets. On one hand, you do feel bad for Beltran who was stripped of a dream of a lifetime, but on the other hand, he is responsible for his own actions.

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Photo Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images

The biggest losers of this mess might be the Mets. The Mets organization was not an active participant in the cheating scandal like the Astros and Red Sox. During the off-season, they had a chance to get a good manager in former Yankees manager Joe Girardi who preferred to stay in New York. But for whatever reason, they opted to take a chance on the inexperienced Beltran and now they’ve paid dearly for it. I’d like to see Mets bench coach Hensley Meulens finally get his managerial opportunity but Buck Showalter would be a great choice too. While I am 100% on Team Aaron Boone now, Meulens was the guy I had wanted for Yankees manager when it was announced after the 2017 season that Girardi and the Yankees would be parting ways. In retrospect, particularly with how this off-season has played out, I am so very glad that Aaron Boone is manager of the New York Yankees. But I digress. Meulens is a great baseball man and deserves an opportunity. I think he would be very good for the Mets or any other MLB team as their leader.

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While I look back at 2017 as water under the bridge at this point, I totally get the fans who feel the Houston Astros should be forced to vacate their World Series championship. At this point, there’s no way to say the Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers should be anointed champions. It would be very hollow at this point. I feel bad for the guys who lost chances for a legitimate championship like CC Sabathia and Clayton Kershaw. Even Todd Frazier expressed regret this week for what could have been with the 2017 Yankees. But over two years later, there’s no way to settle a debate about who should have been the champions. At the very least, MLB should have taken the championship away from the Astros since it was dishonestly achieved. I know there is not a precedent in MLB for the removal of a championship, but this is a special circumstance that showed the Astros used an unfair advantage to claim the crown.

I will be glad when MLB completes its investigation of the Red Sox and we can move on. I am hopeful MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred makes it clear that future violations will not be tolerated and will automatically result in lifetime bans. It is very important to bring the trust, confidence, and integrity back into the game. No man, no team is bigger than the sport. This has been the darkest chapter of Major League Baseball in my lifetime which is significant considering many of us lived through the era of PEDs and steroids. Baseball is better than this, and we shall overcome.

In other news, the report about the possible renaming of East 161st Street for the one block in front of Yankee Stadium to Jeter Street received some buzz this week before all hell broke loose about the cheating scandal.  I am not sure what I think about this. There have been so many great Yankees. I know Derek Jeter ranks among the greatest Yankee legends but he’s not bigger than a few of the names. I also see him as the CEO of the Miami Marlins. I don’t really care to name a street after the CEO of another team regardless of what he did for us.  Jeter is going into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee.  His number is retired by the Yankees and he has his place in Memorial Park. It should be enough, in my opinion.

I still have my doubts that Jeter will be an unanimous selection like Mariano Rivera last year. He may be leading the vote with 100% right now, but I think the final votes will bring at least one voter opting to exclude Jeter. Sure, I get the decision to re-name River Ave after Rivera. He was the greatest closer in MLB history and the first unanimous Hall of Fame selection. However, let’s face it, Jeter was not the greatest to ever play his position. We owe him very much for the great years he gave us and what he meant to so many Yankee teams and championships, but I don’t feel that it extends to naming the street by Yankee Stadium after him. I know, I was never Jeter’s biggest fan and most of you feel that he is a God, but I simply feel the Yankees are more important than any single player. Jeter was great but today we have Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge who both have chances to chisel their names alongside the great legends who have worn pinstripes. I appreciate what they mean today and can do for the Yankees going forward.  Are we going to name future streets after them when all is said and done? Where does it end? I already think the Yankees have retired too many numbers.

Outside of signing Gerrit Cole and bringing back Brett Gardner, it’s been a very quiet off-season for the Yankees. LHP Stephen Tarpley is the latest ex-Yankee after he was designated for assignment when Gardy’s deal was officially announced and subsequently dealt to the Miami Marlins for third baseman James Nelson. Nelson has had a few disappointing years in minor league ball since opening some eyes in 2017. Last year, he hit .228/.279/.296 with four homers and 36 RBIs for the Marlins’ Class-A affiliate in Jupiter, FL. He may never amount to anything but the guy is only 22. I am interested to see if the Yankee instructors can help him tap into some of the potential he showed a few years ago. It’s not like the Yankee Farm System is overflowing with great third base prospects. I’d love for Nelson to achieve success with the Yankees. The organization has certainly been good for former Marlins prospect Michael King. I’d include Domingo German but for obvious reasons, I will abstain.

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Nelson was Miami’s 2017 Minor League Player of the Year but hasn’t been the same since he suffered a meniscus injury prior to the 2018 season. Nelson has ties to a former Yankee. He is the nephew of Chris Nelson who played 10 games at third base for the Yankees in May 2013.

The Yankees get credit for the first full-time woman coach when they brought in minor league hitting coach Rachel Balkovec, but the San Francisco Giants one-upped them they announced the hiring of Alyssa Nakken as the first full-time female coach at the Major League level. Nakken and Mark Hallberg, who also was promoted by the Giants to MLB assistant, will not be in the dugout during games, but they’ll assist the other coaches during pre-game and will help foster “a clubhouse culture that promotes high performance through, among other attributes, a deep sense of collaboration and team”, according to Giants manager Gabe Kapler. Congrats to Alyssa and I look forward to the day that she is in uniform during games as part of Kapler’s staff if she proves to be successful in her role.

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As for former Giants player Aubrey Huff who criticized the team for Nakken’s promotion, STFU. I think this is a great step forward for MLB and I am excited to see what groundbreakers Balkovec and Nakken can do and hopefully open doors for others through their achievements.

As always, Go Yankees!

Much Ado, Machado, About Nothing…

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Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson-Associated Press

Manny Machado and the Pinstriped Dreams Vanish…

After waiting all off-season with the hope that Manny Machado would wear the famed Pinstripes, it was not meant to be. C’est la vie. I’ve heard people say they can’t believe Hal Steinbrenner was outbid by the small market San Diego Padres. But that would imply the Yankees made a bid which they apparently did not.  I can’t blame the Yankees for passing on a 10-year, $300 million deal. Manny’s a great player but he’s not the best player in baseball. I don’t blame Hal Steinbrenner or the Yankees for passing on Manny at that price. I thought he made sense in the low 200’s or on a short-term deal with high AAV but not $30 million per year for the next ten years. He’s not exactly Alex Rodriguez in his prime.

Best case scenario, if he was not coming to the Yankees, was for Manny to sign with the West Coast Padres. I am glad that he’s out of the American League and away from any Northeastern city. I didn’t really want to see him go to the Chicago White Sox or the Philadelphia Phillies. It is kind of funny that Machado will have to visit Yankee Stadium this year. The Padres will be in New York on Memorial Day, May 27th, for three days. There’s no doubt Machado will receive more than a few Bronx cheers. Even though the Yankees never really made a formal offer, I expect the home crowd to treat Machado something like Oakland did when their former star Jason Giambi returned to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum wearing Pinstripes for the first time, only worse.

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Photo Credit: Associated Press

While I feel Manny would have made the Yankees better, they are still a very, very good team. I am fully anticipating a dog fight with the defending champion Boston Red Sox again this season and would have liked every conceivable advantage or edge over the Beantown Bunch, which Machado certainly would have provided. But, he’s not here, and we move on. In the AL East, I feel the Yankees are the better team but I’d be foolish to think the Red Sox are going away, even if nobody likes their bullpen on paper.  At the end of the day, the Yankees bullpen might not be as great as everyone thinks (there will be the inevitable bumps in the road) and the Boston pen might not be as bad. Regardless of what happens, I am sure the Yankees and Red Sox will be jockeying for position deep into September.

The most attractive free agent on the market, Bryce Harper, remains available but the Yankees have never been connected to him this off-season at any point like they were with Machado (much to the chagrin of the Yankees fan base). Not only is Harper an excellent player, he has that star quality about him (the “it” factor). Bryce is deserving of a contract equal to or greater than the one Machado received from the Padres. Given that Giancarlo Stanton’s huge deal with the Miami Marlins a few years ago (13 years for $325 million) was an extension, Machado’s contract is considered the most lucrative free agent contract in MLB history. Still, I am sure Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, has every intent to beat the dollar value of Stanton’s deal. While it would make sense for Harper to receive a 10-year, $325 million contract, I’ll take the over with the involvement of Boras. Perhaps Bryce signs a deal for $330 or $335 million or even a little higher. I’d argue that even these dollars make sense for the Yankees. They can certainly afford it while still paying its pending free agents and extending other young players as they reach arbitration like they did with ace Luis Severino. The Yankees are not exactly tapped out on capital like the Chicago Cubs apparently are.  I am not getting my hopes up about Harper or any last-minute play by the Yankees but signing him does make sense to me.  Drop Harper in the batting order between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and let’s go. I’d love to see what that lineup could do to the American League.

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Photo Credit: Katherine Frey

The Steamer projection for Harper in the 2019 season is 34 home runs and 93 RBIs with a batting line of .267/.399/.528 and .927 OPS. His WAR is projected at 4.8, which is well below guys like Mike Trout (8.5) and Mookie Betts (7.2) but above Stanton (4.4) and Judge (4.6). Steamer projects Harper to have the second best wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus) at 148, trailing only Trout (180). I don’t need to lay out Brett Gardner’s projected stats to say those numbers would represent a huge upgrade in left field. Probably the only way that Harper doesn’t make sense is if the plan is play Stanton in the field more this year. All I know is we need a better option than Brett Gardner.  It would be wonderful if Clint Frazier shows that he is up for the task and can stay healthy. I’d love for him to grab the position from Gardy, who fits this roster best as its fourth outfielder. Given the players in camp right now, Frazier is the best option. The downside, if Frazier misses any time with injury, there’s not much in the way of a backup plan other than start Gardy every day or play Stanton in the field (which is always a risk for a player that carried the injury label until his huge 2017 NL MVP season).

The current players on the projected 25-man roster that scare me the most are Frazier (for health concerns), Troy Tulowitzki (health concerns, rust, age regression), Greg Bird (health concerns, inability to hold sustained success), and Luis Cessa (not very good, self-explanatory). If Tulo is not up to the task and shows that he cannot recapture past success, the Yankees can easily move Gleyber Torres to shortstop and insert DJ LeMahieu as the starting second baseman. The downside is the lack of a strong utility player under that scenario. The best roster option appears to be Tyler Wade who, to date, has not really shown much at the Major League level. I had hoped for a strong glove-first signing like Adeiny Hechevarria but the New York Mets scooped him up a few days ago. Maybe Wade can prove to be the guy or perhaps Thairo Estrada can show something in camp now that he’s healthy. If Bird fails, I am not too concerned. I think Luke Voit will hold his own at first base. The ideal scenario, to me, is for Bird to outperform Voit and get his left-handed bat into the lineup. For as critical as I’ve been of Bird, there’s no question he has a beautiful swing.  Bird has the talent to succeed even if we’ve grown impatient waiting for it to happen but Voit is no slouch and I do feel that he’ll build off his successful late season run last year and not turn out to be the latest incarnation of Kevin Maas. I am not crazy about going into the season with Cessa as the designated swingman in the bullpen. I’d prefer for Jonathan Loaisiga to overcome the health concerns that engulf his potential and have him break camp as part of the Opening Day roster. I’ve seen enough of Cessa and I’m ready to move on. While I think Cessa could be better in short relief, I don’t really want to see him as the team’s emergency starter. Since he’s out of options, Cessa either must make the team or pack his bags. Despite his faults, he would be claimed on waivers by another team. I’d prefer a trade to at least get something for him. The Yankees are expected to made trades for additional bonus pool money so it’s possible Cessa could be part of that quest. It wouldn’t break my heart.

I am enjoying the Danny Farquhar story like everyone else but it seems to me his only hope to make the Opening Day roster is to outperform Tommy Kahnle.  Farquhar is a short reliever so he’s not an option for the last bullpen spot (long man/spot starter) which presently appears to be Cessa. With nothing against Farquhar, I really hope Kahnle proves during spring training that he can be the dependable reliever he was in 2017. Sure, if Kahnle is a disaster again like last year, let Farquhar take his job but I really hope that’s not the case. I’ve been a Kahnle fan since his early days in the Yankees’ farm system and I’d really like to see him be a valuable and contributing member of Baseball’s best bullpen.

As tough as it was to see former Yankees great Jorge Posada in Marlins camp wearing their new gear, I am grateful Carlos Beltran is in Yankees camp. He has so much to offer the young players. I can’t help but think top prospect Estevan Florial benefits the most from Beltran’s presence and that’s a wonderful thing. Clint Frazier is certainly another player who would be wise to pick Beltran’s brain. Beltran may not have the Yankees pedigree like Posada, but he’s an invaluable resource and the game is better with his involvement in any capacity.

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I am really looking forward to Saturday’s exhibition opener against the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, FL.  The downside is that we’ll see names like Ryan Lavarnway, Billy Burns and/or Matt Lipka but at least it will be “Yankees” on the field playing the game of baseball as opposed to us watching videos of PFP or the coaches playing fungo with the infielders on practice fields.

Lastly, I was saddened to see the passing of former Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers great Don Newcombe yesterday. The Dodgers announced Newcombe died Tuesday morning at age 92 following a lengthy illness.  Newcombe was MLB’s first black pitcher to win 20 games. He accomplished the feat in 1951, after winning 17 and 19 games the preceding two years (including earning NL Rookie of the Year honors for the 17-win campaign in 1949). He helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1955 but his greatest season was the next year when he finished 27-7 with 3.06 ERA. He had 12 complete games and 5 shutouts. He won the NL Cy Young and MVP Awards that year, but lost the deciding Game 7 of the 1956 World Series to the Yankees, giving up two early home runs to Yogi Berra. For his career, “Newk” was 149-90 with 1,129 strikeouts and a 3.56 ERA over a 10-year MLB career.  Missed two seasons in the early 1950’s to serve our military in the Korean War. He was a great Dodger and a better man. May he rest in peace.

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Photo Credit: Luis Sinco-Los Angeles Times

As always, Go Yankees!

2019 MLB Hall of Fame & The Right to Vote…

Regardless of %, Mariano Rivera is a Hall of Famer…

Bill Ballou of the Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette caused a furor over the weekend when he, as a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), wrote his intention to not to cast a Hall of Fame vote for former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera, the all-time saves leader, is in his first year of eligibility and has been on all ballots cast so far although it’s still very early in the process (according to Ryan Thibodaux, Rivera has appeared on all 88 known ballots out of 412 total to be cast, or 21.4%).

I am not trying to condone or defend Mr Ballou but I respect his rights as a qualified voter for MLB’s Hall of Fame. It’s possible he is taking his stand against saves as an entry qualifier into the Hall as an act of moral conscious or perhaps he’s just looking for clicks on Social Media. Regardless of his reasons, good or bad, it is his right.  For the record, he has indicated that he does not intend to vote this year so it won’t be his vote that keeps Mariano Rivera from being unanimously selected. My opinion is it does not really matter.  I could really care less how Mr Ballou does or does not vote.

I know this, Mariano Rivera is a Hall of Famer. He is a Yankees legend and he left the game as the greatest closer it has known. My concern is for Rivera to get at least the required minimum (75% of the ballots cast) to gain entry. Other than that, I really do not care what the final percentage is. There is no added prestige for getting 100% of the vote versus 75%. If you’re in, you’re in. I bet if you asked Rivera himself, he’d only be grateful for the opportunity to be considered.

Photo Credit: SI.com

 

For those getting worked up because Rivera may not be the first unanimously selected player to gain entry into the Hall of Fame is flawed logic because it’s a flawed process. People bring personal biases into the voting, we’re all human, and it’s nearly impossible to get 412 people to agree on anything. So, I’ve never once thought Rivera should be an unanimous choice. Maybe he deserves it but there are plenty of other guys in the Hall who weren’t unanimous selections but should have been. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter. Babe Ruth and others are Hall of Famers. Ty Cobb, who by all accounts was a despicable human being and played the game dirty, made the HOF with 98.2% of the vote, yet Babe Ruth only received 95.1%. Does that make Cobb a better baseball player than Ruth? No, it does not. The waiting period was waived for Lou Gehrig in 1939 after his career ended prematurely due to ALS. Although the results of the vote are not known, it still would have been a major surprise to me if he had been unanimously selected and he was, in my mind, the greatest player to ever play the game.

Photo Credit: Charles Conlon/National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

So Bill Ballou is not going to vote for Mariano Rivera. No worries. It is not going to detract from or prevent Mo’s presence in Cooperstown, New York next summer.

I’m sure we’ll probably go through this again next year with Derek Jeter and I’ll feel the same way. As long as he receives at least 75% of the vote (which he will), I’ll be very happy and proud of the former Yankee and look forward to his induction ceremony in the summer of 2020.

On to some current Yankee thoughts…

It’s been very quiet in the Yankees Universe while we await Manny Machado’s decision after the first of the year. The Yankees signed a couple of pitchers, LHP’s Rex Brothers and Danny Coulombe, to minor league deals. Nothing earth shattering. They also lost Parker Bridwell on waivers to the Los Angeles Angels. Bridwell had been claimed on waivers by the Yankees in November (from the Angels) in a move that had cost utilityman Ronald Torreyes his job with the Yankees. Not sure why the Yankees ever put in the claim for Bridwell since he lost his spot when the Yankees re-signed J.A. Happ. I probably would have sent A.J. Cole packing.

The Yankees also announced they’ve hired Carlos Beltran as a special adviser to GM Brian Cashman. Beltran had interviewed last year in the managerial interviews that led to the hiring of Aaron Boone as Joe Girardi’s replacement. After not getting selected as manager, Beltran rebuffed any front office appointments with the desire to take a year off following the completion of his playing career. The year’s up so Beltran has resumed his career in a non-playing capacity. He participated in last week’s dinner in Manhattan for Manny Machado and his wife, and their shared agent, Dan Lozano. Perfect timing for Beltran but I think his addition to the Yankees’ front office would have happened regardless of where the team stood in its chase of Machado. I see Beltran as an eventual manager. Maybe not with the Yankees, but this is a start for him. Glad to see him back in the game.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

With Machado looming as an early 2019 decision, I’d really like the Yankees to pursue their bullpen options. They have two major holes to fill, and I really want one of David Robertson, Adam Ottavino or Zach Britton locked up by year’s end. I’ve been saying this for awhile but I’ll keep saying it until it happens. The Yankees cannot shortchange the pen given the questions with the health of the starting rotation. Another super bullpen is a must.

I have no idea how the Manny Machado sweepstakes will turn out. I know the Yankees want him, but I think the likelihood they don’t make an offer if another team goes all-in crazy like the Washington Nationals did with Patrick Corbin is strong. If that proves to be the case, I hope there are still good potential Plan B options on the market, like free agent Marwin Gonzalez or others who can help man the ship during the absence of shortstop Didi Gregorius.

Have a very happy and safe Christmas Eve and the very merriest of Christmases!

As always, Go Yankees!

Aaron Boone, Manager, New York Yankees…

Credit:  MLB.com

And Then There Was One…

Although no official announcement has been made, the Yankees have an agreement in place with Aaron Boone to serve as the successor for former Yankees Manager Joe Girardi.

 

I am surprised. Since he retired, Boone has served as a broadcaster with ESPN. He has not managed or coached at any level. I have not heard a single complaint about Boone’s personality or baseball knowledge, but like Michael Kay said, it’s handing the keys of a Lamborghini to someone who just got their driver’s license.  The Yankees job is the best in Baseball. The Yankees are the most storied, most prestigious team in the most powerful city in America. Expectations entering the 2017 season were fairly low, but the team finished the season a single game away from the World Series. Needless to say, expectations will be substantially higher as we enter the 2018 season. No pressure, Boonie!

I do not dislike the choice of Boone and had previously said I’d be okay with him as manager if Hensley Meulens was not selected. But Boone does need a very strong supporting cast (i.e., coaching staff). We know that pitching coach Larry Rothschild will be returning and he is perhaps one of the greatest components of the coaching staff but bench coach will be very critical. After not being selected as manager, Rob Thomson left the Yankees organization after 28 years and will become bench coach for inexperienced manager Gabe Kapler in Philadelphia. I’ve already heard Eric Wedge’s name mentioned as a possible bench coach for Boone (Wedge managed Boone in Cleveland after Boone left the Yankees). I continue to preach Al Pedrique. No one has the level of relationships with the young Baby Bombers like Pedrique does. He is an experienced successful manager. Granted, his managerial success has largely been in the Minor Leagues, but he knows how to run a game to win. He did manage the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004 for 83 games after Bob Brenly (who had managed the D-Backs over the Yankees in the 2001 World Series) was fired. Pedrique’s MLB managerial record is an uninspiring 22-61 but it’s not his fault. He was trying to do the best he could with a team that had gotten a World Series manager fired. Pedrique later served as bench coach for the Houston Astros and we all know that he won a Triple A championship with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in 2016.

In retrospect, It appears the Yankees had no plan when Girardi was dismissed. At the time Girardi was told his services were done, I had felt that GM Brian Cashman had a clear idea whom he wanted to occupy the manager’s chair. The Boone choice shows that he most likely did not enter the equation until he aced his interview with Cashman. Of course, he had to get his foot in the door for the interview so he was obviously on Cashman’s mind but most likely wasn’t the clear choice when this thing started.

Credit:  Patrick E McCarthy

I remember being a little upset when Boone suffered the knee injury in a pickup basketball game in January 2004 which ended his season and his Yankees career. It set in motion the trade which brought Alex Rodriguez to the Bronx. No disrespect to those of you who love A-Rod but that’s one trade I wish never would have happened. But from a character-standpoint, Boone was honest with the team about the injury which caused the forfeiture of his 2004 contract (receiving only $917,533 in termination pay on the $5.75 million deal). I am sure that earned him brownie points with Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner.

As for Hensley Meulens, he will return to the San Francisco Giants to become bench coach for Manager Bruce Bochy. I really hope that he gets an opportunity to manage in the not-so-distant future. For all we know, he could very well be Bochy’s replacement if the present Giants manager decides to step down in the next few years. I was very impressed with Meulens and I feel that he’ll be an outstanding manager one day.

Carlos Beltran didn’t get the job since the leap from player to manager with no break was viewed as too much, but I hope that Beltran gets another opportunity to serve within the Yankees organization. Like Meulens, he has the potential to be a great manager one day.  For now, it would be great to have him on the coaching staff. If not, his presence in the front office and/or as a spring training instructor would be invaluable.

Welcome back to the New York Yankees, Aaron Boone! We hope your learning curve is small and the team prospers under your leadership. Feel free to go ahead and hit another one out of the park for us.

Credit:  Allen Kee, Getty Images

The Hidden Ball Trick…

We know the Yankees tendered contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players prior to last evening’s deadline, but a number of MLB players were not so fortunate.

A name that jumped out at me without looking at the entire list was Ryan Goins of the Toronto Blue Jays. It is not so much about the player’s ability but rather he is the one who pulled off the sneaky hidden ball trick to record an out on Todd Frazier at second base back in September. In 2017, he hit 9 homers and 62 RBI’s in 143 games with a .237 batting average. Not a great player but he’s been pesky over his career. I guess he was unable to pull off a hidden ball trick on Toronto to entice them to extend his Blue Jays career.

Credit:  Associated Press

Another name that surprised me was first baseman Matt Adams. Adams, the former St Louis Cardinal who was acquired by Atlanta to fill in during Freddie Freeman’s time on the DL last year, was non-tendered by the Braves. I didn’t expect Adams to be part of the 2018 Braves Roster but I thought he had some value as a trade candidate for an organization that was recently stripped of multiple international prospects. Instead, he’ll hit the open market to find a new home. I’d take a flyer on him as a potential hedge for the health of Greg Bird.

This year, I hope the Yankees can reach deals with their arbitration-eligible players before their scheduled hearings. I’d hate to see a repeat performance of last year’s contentious  hearing between Dellin Betances and the Yankees that brought ugly remarks by Yankees President Randy Levine. The fade by Betances last season supported the Yankees position but last year’s hearing did nothing to help the confidence of the pitcher (hurting his psyche more than anything).

Well, yesterday was a busy start to the new month. The Yankees have their manager and team officials are probably headed to Los Angeles to meet with the agents for Japanese superstar Shohei Otani who was officially posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters yesterday. Representatives for both the San Francisco Giants and St Louis Cardinals have met with Giancarlo Stanton in Los Angeles so we could see a trade of the big slugger to either the Giants or Cards by early next week. Unlike November, December should prove to be a wild and exciting ride.

Go Yankees!

The Hot Stove League is Starting to Bubble…

And Then There Were Six…

The Yankees managerial interviews are over. According to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, there will be no further interviews nor will there be second round interviews in Tampa with the Steinbrenner family. According to sources, a clear frontrunner has emerged from the band of six although no speculation to who it might be.

As we know it, the following individuals interviewed for the job:

  • Rob Thomson 
  • Eric Wedge
  • Hensley Meulens
  • Aaron Boone
  • Chris Woodward
  • Carlos Beltran

My personal preference remains Hensley Meulens for manager (I like his championship pedigree as part of the coaching staff for three World Series champions in San Francisco and his strong communication skills and ability to converse in multiple languages).

Hensley Meulens

My choice for bench coach would either be Rob Thomson or Al Pedrique. But if Meulens does not get the job, I’d like to see either Aaron Boone or Carlos Beltran emerge as the choice.

With today’s announcement about the end of the interview process, it would seem that an announcement about the new manager is imminent. However, I am sure that there is still the small matter of ‘offer and acceptance’ before any official statements are made. Credit the Yankees for keeping this process, outside of the post-interview interviews, very mum.

I might be writing this post too soon as things could start moving very quickly for the next Yankees manager.

Player of Unique Abilities…

The MLB Owners met today (via conference call) to ratify the Posting Agreement with Nippon Professional Baseball. The agreement was met with unanimous approval. Otani is expected to be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters later today. Once posted, teams will have three weeks to sign the two-way superstar. If he is posted today as expected, the deadline for signing will be December 22nd. Merry Christmas to us! All I want for Christmas is Otani. They are reporting that Otani is already in Los Angeles and preparing to meet with teams next week.

Shohei Otani

The Yankees made their public comment about Otani today when Brian Cashman said that Otani would be a “perfect fit” for the Yankees. However, there have been some unconfirmed reports that Otani would prefer to sign with a team that does not currently have a Japanese superstar (which seemingly would rule out the Yankees with the presence of Masahiro Tanaka). I personally think that Tanaka’s presence should be viewed as a plus to help Otani make the transition to life in the United States. After months of talking about Otani, it’s great that we are finally moving to the next phase. Cashman, in Stamford, CT for his annual rappel down the Landmark Building, said, “Obviously, he’s a player of unique abilities. I am certainly hopeful that he sees all the characteristics that the New York Yankees would have to offer.” Cash, we’re hopeful too.

Austin Romine Day…

This might not have the same impact as Shohei Otani, but the Yankees had a decision to make today on backup catcher Austin Romine. They had to decide if they would tender a 2018 contract by tonight’s 8 pm ET deadline for clubs. There had been some speculation the Yankees could non-tender the 29-year-old Romine, making him a free agent. But fear not, the Yankees have made the decision to tender 2018 contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players which includes Romine.  The other no-brainer decisions were Dellin Betances, Sonny Gray, Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Tommy Kahnle, Chasen Shreve, and Adam Warren.

There have been calls on this blog site for the Yankees to sign Alex Avila to back up Gary Sanchez. There’s no guarantee that Romine retains his backup job next Spring, even though he was tendered a contract today, so Avila is not out of the question. Another option, Kyle Higashioka, was hitless in 18 MLB at-bats last season and he played in only 21 minor league games due to injury. It’s anybody’s guess what he will bring in 2018 but he did hit .338 with nine dingers in his limited minors play. It would be nice if he comes to Spring Training happy and healthy, and shows that he can be the primary support for El Gary…with no offense to Romine (who, of course, has none).

Kyle Higashioka

One ex-Yankee has already been non-tendered today. Chase Whitley, who spent the last couple of years in Tampa, was waived by the Rays and claimed by the Atlanta Braves.

Happy Belated Birthday, Mo…

I know that Mariano Rivera pitched at an elite level into his 40’s but it was still hard to believe that Mo turned 48 years old on Wednesday. Man, I loved that guy! He was by far my favorite Yankee during the Dynasty years.  We wish him a very Happy (Belated) Birthday!  And,  yes, we still miss that amazing right arm on the Yankee Stadium mound.

Mariano Rivera (Credit:  Jim McIsaac, Getty Images)

The Hot Stove League has been simmering for the last month, but we are now on the edge of rapid fire. Let’s hope it brings great news for the 2018 Baby Bombers.

Go Yankees!

Turn the Page to December, Please…

Credit:  David Dermer, AP

The Yankees continue to search for their new manager and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead…

I think my stance against Carlos Beltran and his lack of coaching experience is weakening. After his post-interview comments, I felt that he provided the best responses of the candidates interviewed to date. You can find his words on other sites but in my opinion, he gave very knowledgeable and insightful answers for a guy who has never managed or coached in the Major Leagues. I am still not crazy about handing the keys to the kingdom to a “green” manager but if he proves to be the one, I’ll get behind the choice.  Beltran clearly has much to offer any MLB team and I feel that he’d be a wonderful addition to the coaching staff. As manager, there’s no doubt he’d need a very strong and seasoned former manager to assist as his bench coach. Beltran has the support of his former teammates and the local media plus it’s apparent he has a good working relationship with GM Brian Cashman. There really isn’t any candidate that stands head and shoulders above him.

Jennifer Lopez apparently feels strongly that Alex Rodriguez should be the next Yankees manager. She tweeted today:  “It couldn’t be clearer…#arodforyankees manager” while forwarding an article written by Merritt Rohlfing for BTBS entitled “The best and only choice for Yankees manager is obvious”.  While I personally would not want to see the circus that would ensue if A-Rod was named as the new manager, good for him that he got his girlfriend’s endorsement. Maybe she just wants to get him out of the house more often.

I felt bad for managerial candidate Aaron Boone when his brother Bret came out with the jokes about sexual misconduct after NBC’s dismissal of TODAY host Matt Lauer. Aaron quickly distanced himself from his brother but unfortunately the unwanted attention is hard to ignore. Bret’s timing could not have been any worse. Still, I think Aaron and Carlos Beltran will make the cut to the next round for a visit to Tampa, Florida to meet with the Steinbrenner family. I don’t always share my brothers’ opinions and I am sure that holds true for Aaron and his brother.

I keep seeing the name of David Ross thrown around as someone the Yankees should talk to. Nothing against Ross (I personally think that he is a very knowledgeable and professional guy) but I don’t really want to see a former Red Sock as Yankees manager.

Speaking of Red Socks…

Former Yankees Kevin Youkilis, Derek Lowe and Mike Lowell have been elected to the 2018 Red Sox Hall of Fame, along with John Frank “Buck” Freeman. Congrats to all of them. Lowell is the Yankee who should have never gotten away.  The 1999 trade that sent him to the then Florida Marlins for the forgettable trio of Todd Noel, Mark Johnson and Ed Yarnall felt like a huge mistake at the time of the trade.  

Youkilis and Lowe obviously came to the Yankees after they had finished their successful runs in Boston. Buck Freeman played for the Red Sox when they were known as the Boston Americans from 1901 to 1907.

The Van Dusen Bandwagon…

I keep trying to dismiss Bryan Van Dusen’s continued pitch for Giancarlo Stanton under the primary assumption that there’s no room for him in Hal Steinbrenner’s 2018 Yankees Team Budget. But then I see reports like today (unsubstantiated or not) that state the Miami Marlins would accept second baseman Joe Panik and two prospects for Stanton if the San Francisco Giants are willing to pay $250 million (of $295 million) left on his contract.  That’s a trade the Yankees could easily beat.  

I agree with Van Dusen that I’d hate to see Stanton go to the Red Sox but I am resigned to the fact the Red Sox will acquire another slugger this winter. It may not be Stanton but it will be someone like Jose Abreu or Eric Hosmer. Plus, it wouldn’t surprise me if Dave Dombrowski swings a deal that is completely out of the blue as Boston tries to hold off the hard-charging Yankees. On the bright side, Dombrowski is ravaging Boston’s farm system.

For as fearful as we are to see Stanton playing home games at Fenway Park, I’d love to see the Red Sox Nation watch Stanton join the Baby Bombers on the verge of a dynasty run…

Go Yankees!

Turkey Leftovers Are History, Bring On Some Baseball Action!…

Waiting for Otani…

Given every other writer (or blogger in my case) has written that this has been the slowest off-season in recent memory, I will do my obligatory part to say that it’s been so slow.  November 29th and the best we can say is that former Boston Red Sox starter Doug Fister has signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers. The Red Sox picked Fister up off the scrap heap last summer and he gave them some decent starts down the stretch when they had holes popping up in other parts of the starting rotation. Good for him that he parlayed it into some sense of short-term job security in Texas.

I expected the Thanksgiving weekend to be quiet and it was. No Yankees news other than the preparation by all teams for the much anticipated posting of Japanese superstar Shohei Otani which should occur shortly after Friday when the MLB Owners ratify the new posting agreement. The Yankees are obvious favorites but of course some teams have been very vocal about their intent to pursue the two-way star.  The loudest has been the Seattle Mariners. We know that this move is not about money so the fact the Yankees can offer the second highest amount of green does not necessarily mean anything. I’ve felt all along that this move, for now, is about the endorsement dollars. I read one writer say Otani could make up to $20 million per year in endorsement deals between the United States and Japan. I realize that Otani played in a smaller market in Japan for a “ham company” but I feel that if he wants to be the best, there is none other than the New York Yankees for him. He’d have the opportunity to play in the greatest city (highest potential for endorsement deals) and he’d join a young team on the verge of something truly special.  His age would fit nicely with the other Baby Bombers to ensure an extended competitive run for the duration of his stay. He’d have a pitcher on the Yankees pitching staff that could help serve as a mentor (Masahiro Tanaka) and he’d have access to one of Japan’s greatest baseball players with Hideki Matsui (who knew a thing or two about incredible clutch hitting), currently special assistant to GM Brian Cashman.

I think it is an easy decision for Otani but of course, at this point, it is anybody’s guess where he ends up. In the end, I do hope it is Team Yankees while recognizing there are risks with a player attempting to both pitch and hit on a regular basis. Otani is a special talent and there may never be an opportunity to get a player of his caliber for only $3.5 million under team control for multiple years. No question that fits into Hal Steinbrenner’s 2018 budget.

Next Up, Carlos Beltran…

Carlos Beltran will become the sixth man interviewed for the Yankees managerial opening today. I like Carlos and I value his ability to communicate with players and the media, but I struggle with the idea of the player-to-manager path with no coaching experience. I wouldn’t mind seeing Beltran as part of the Yankees coaching staff but I’d really prefer someone who at least has coaching experience as its new manager. I saw a bunch of tweets yesterday that compared Beltran to Joe Torre as a player who successfully made the transition. But no one was mentioning that Torre’s record with his first team, the New York Mets, was a .405 winning percentage (286-420). He didn’t experience post-season success until he managed his fourth team, the Yankees. Beltran may prove to be an excellent manager one day but for a team that is positioned for success now, I’d rather not have a guy learning on the job.

Credit:  MLB.com

Yankees fan yesterday, Yankee today…

Credit to Peter Gammons for this piece that I found interesting. Newly acquired RHP Michael King (who joined the Yankees in the trade that sent LHP Caleb Smith and 1B Garrett Cooper to the Miami Marlins) was a second team All-State performer for Bishop Hendricksen High School in Warwick, Rhode Island in 2012. That summer he played in the Annual Summer Rivalry Classic held for Northeastern high school kids at Yankee Stadium. Among the free offerings that day was bubble gum that King was very fond of, stuffing perhaps 6 or 7 sticks of gum into his mouth at one point. Asked what he did with that big wad of gum, King indicated that he stuck it under the bench. According to Gammons, King, a childhood Yankees fan, said, “I figured I’d get it back when I get back there to the bullpen as a Yankee.” I love that story and the optimism. I look forward to the dream being fulfilled.

The Bronx, Home of MLB’s Best Executive…

Congratulations to Brian Cashman for being named as Baseball America’s 2017 Major League Executive of the Year! It was a much deserved honor for the great GM. It probably doesn’t hurt the contract negotiations for his new deal either. Hal Steinbrenner issued a statement that read, “Brian plays a crucial role in our success, and I’ve known for quite some time how fortunate we are to have him leading our Baseball Operations Department. He cares deeply about this franchise and our fans, and he skillfully navigates the many challenges that come with holding the position he does in the media capital of the world.” Not bad for a kid who grew up as a Dodgers fan. He is ensuring that his name will be forever marked in Yankees history as one of the great pillars of success. Next stop, World Series!

Credit:  Stan Grossfield, Boston Globe Staff

Like everyone else, I am ready for some real off-season baseball action. But I am sure that once the calendar page turns to December, we’d better hold on. It should be a fun ride!

Go Yankees!

Hearing Crickets at Yankee Stadium…

Waiting for breaking Yankees news…

We are moving into Day 3 of the GM Meetings but not much is happening in the Yankees Universe.

Managerial interviews were suspended while GM Brian Cashman participates in the Orlando, FL meetings.  But we do know that Hensley Meulens, currently the bench coach for the San Francisco Giants (formerly their hitting coach in the most recent season), will be interviewed when Cashman gets back to New York.  Meulens has managed Team Netherlands in the WBC Classic several times and the former Yankee has a good relationship with shortstop Didi Gregorius (both guys are from Curacao).  Meulens, like Didi, speaks multiple languages.  He is thought very highly of by the Giants organization and many believe that he is being groomed to eventually replace manager Bruce Bochy.

 

Aaron Boone is also thought to be on the candidate list but no word when he’ll interview.  The latest name to be added to the list is Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward.

The interest expressed by YES broadcaster John Flaherty and the very recently retired Carlos Beltran do not appear to be gaining any traction.  Among the potential candidates with no prior managerial experience, Beltran does seem to be a viable option.  He wants to manage one day and his leadership was evident during his time with the Yankees.  Perhaps he should take a coaching job first, but I’ve always believed that managerial experience is not necessarily a prerequisite for the right person.  The Boston Red Sox took a chance on a first-time manager with Alex Cora, but they ensured that Cora had a wealth of experience when former Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was named as his bench coach.  Beltran enjoys a good relationship with the New York media which is one of the requirements for the job.  He wouldn’t be my first choice as manager, but I wouldn’t object if he is hired.

Credit:  Noah K Murray, USA TODAY Sports

The word is that Cashman has not yet reached out to everyone that he wants to talk to.  I still find it hard believe Cashman didn’t already have a plan when he made the decision to part ways with Joe Girardi.  Girardi, by the way, showed up at the GM Meetings yesterday as part of the MLB Competition Committee.  That must have been very weird for him, especially if he encountered any of the representatives for the Yankees.  I am sure that he and Cashman didn’t go grab a beer together after the day’s activities were over.

I thought it was interesting that the Yankees had asked for and were denied permission to speak with Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin.

Even though a new manager has not been named, I was glad to see that the Yankees will be bringing back pitching coach Larry Rothschild for the 2018 season.  I’d like to see RailRiders manager Al Pedrique on next year’s coaching staff given his strong relationships with the Baby Bombers.

Credit:  Jackie Shear, The Trentonian

Cashman did indicate this week that the future in the outfield is Aaron Hicks and not Jacoby Ellsbury.  With no apparent trade talks in play, it looks like Ellsbury will once again be Baseball’s highest paid pinch-runner. Hopefully things change and Cashman is able to use to cash to entice another team to take Ellsbury.  At this point, it would be addition by subtraction even if the Yankees have to pay the freight (a bulk of the remaining monies due on Ellsbury’s contract).  Cashman also stated that Gleyber Torres could make a run at the third base job next Spring.  That talk leads me to believe there will be absolutely no attempt to re-sign Todd Frazier.  We didn’t really expect Frazier to return but until he actually signs with another team, there’s always hope.  Unfortunately, those are odds that I’d never take despite how great the Toddfather fit with the Baby Bombers.

The Yankees did have one free agent signing this week.  Well, it was a minor league free agent signing that may never have an effect on the Major League roster.  They signed former Phillies prospect, catcher Chace Numata, 25.  The organization has lost some catching depth through free agency this off-season and of course the Yankees parted ways with the great Erik Kratz.  Numata has never advanced above Double-A for the Phillies.  He was selected in the 14th round of the 2010 MLB Draft.  For AA-Reading this year, Numata batted .249 with 4 HRs and 28 RBIs in 84 games.  Even though Numata might not ever make it to the Bronx, the Hawaiian native will play a valuable role in the development of Yankees pitching prospects in the upper levels of the farm system.

The Cincinnati Reds have signed lefty Joe Mantiply to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.  Mantiply spent the 2017 season with the Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

Entering the off-season, my favorite managerial candidate was Dave Martinez, formerly bench coach for Joe Maddon in Chicago and my favorite general manager choice was Alex Anthopoulos, formerly an executive for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Martinez was hired by the Washington Nationals as their new manager, replacing Dusty Baker, while the Atlanta Braves this week hired Anthopoulos as their new GM (with President John Hart rumored to have a lessened voice in the organization).  I had thought Anthopoulos would have been a great choice for the Yankees if they had decided to make a change.  I think both guys will do very well with their new jobs.

Earlier it had been reported that the Boston Red Sox had interest in trading for Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton but it sounds as though Stanton does not want to play in Boston.  The Los Angeles Dodgers are now rumored as a possible destination.  The Dodgers certainly have the financial strength to absorb Stanton’s contract but the human cost to acquire him will be huge.  You can be assured that Marlins CEO Derek Jeter is not going to give Stanton away.  Stanton, protected by Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner, would be very scary in the Dodgers lineup.  But I wouldn’t rule out the Red Sox until if/when a trade for Stanton actually happens.

How many more days until Spring Training?  I’m ready.  Go Yankees!

Houston Astros, 2017 World Series Champions…

Credit:  Wally Skalij — LA Times

2017 World Series

Astros 5, Dodgers 1…

Astros Win Series, 4-3

In the words of the former Yankees manager Joe Girardi, it’s not what you want. Sadly for me and those who were pulling for the Los Angeles Dodgers, it was a very long night. From the second consecutive horrific start by Yu Darvish to Cody Bellinger shattering Aaron Judge’s post-season strikeout record, it was a forgettable night for the Dodger Blue as the Houston Astros claimed their first ever World Series Championship.

Credit:  Robert Gauthier – LA Times

This should have been a special and magical season for the Dodgers. Their start to the season created much talk about surpassing the tremendous accomplishments of the 1998 Yankees, then came the extended losing streak. They rebounded but in the end, they were just another World Series loser. It was a good Dodgers club, but not quite good enough.

As for me, I am kind of tired of the Houston Astros after losing two seven-game series in a row to them…first the Yankees in the ALCS and now the Dodgers in the World Series. Plus, word started popping last night that Yankees third base coach Joe Espada has decided to join the Astros as their new bench coach (replacing Alex Cora who will become the new manager for the Boston Red Sox). I guess it was just adding salt in the wound.

Nevertheless, congratulations to the Astros for the championship! It was a hard-fought win for them and the city of Houston.

The Astros controlled the game from the start. It took three pitches for Houston’s George Springer, leading off the game, to double into the left field corner off Dodgers starter Yu Darvish. Alex Bregman reached base on an error, making it to second on first baseman Cody Bellinger’s throwing error. Bellinger had moved toward second in front of the second baseman in shallow right to scoop up the grounder, but his throw back to first sailed past Darvish. It probably would have been easier for second baseman Logan Forsythe to make that play. 

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

While Bregman advanced to second, Springer scored the game’s first run. Bregman stole third to put himself in prime scoring position.  It played to perfection when Jose Altuve grounded out to first, with Bregman racing home to score the second run for the Astros. Darvish settled down and retired the next two hitters to get out of the inning and finally bring the Dodgers to bat.

The Dodgers looked like they were going to answer the bell in the bottom of the 1st. Chris Taylor led off for the Dodgers with a double to deep right center. Corey Seager struck out swinging, but there was still hope with the heart of the Dodgers batting order coming up. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch when he took a ball off his forearm, the first of four batters that Astros starter Lance McCullers, Jr would plunk. Cody Bellinger struck out for the second out. Yasiel Puig was next and he, like Turner, was hit by a pitch, on the arm, to load the bases. The reinvigorated Joc Pederson came to the plate, flashing a smile, with the chance to bring momentum back to the Dodgers. Unfortunately, he grounded out to second baseman Jose Altuve for the final out.  No runs for the Dodgers. A missed opportunity for them.  In retrospect, one of the game’s key moments.

Yu Darvish was back out on the mound for the 2nd inning but he would not survive.  He started the inning by walking Brian McCann. Marwin Gonzalez doubled to the right field wall, with the slow-footed McCann moving to third. Josh Reddick grounded out to second for the first out. Then, in one of the game’s critical moments, McCullers, who should have been an easy out, hit a slow grounder between first and second. The only play for the Dodgers was to throw out McCullers at first. McCann was able to easily jog (sorry, it is hard to use the word “run” when it comes to the former Yankees catcher) home to pick up an RBI for McCullers. George Springer was next and he put an exclamation point on the Astros’ early performance with a two-run homer high over the center field wall. The Astros led, 5-0. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts came out and pulled Darvish in favor of Brandon Morrow. It may have been the final Dodger appearance for Darvish, a free agent to be. Morrow struck out Alex Bregman to end the inning but using one of your best relievers in the second inning is not exactly a blue print for success.

The Dodgers looked like they had another opportunity in the bottom of the 2nd. Logan Forsythe started things with a single to left. Austin Barnes grounded out to third (great defensive play and throw by third baseman Alex Bregman), but Forsythe was able to advance to second to put himself in scoring position. Kike Hernandez pinch hit for Morrow and was hit by a pitch (ball grazed his shirt but it would have been Ball 4 anyway). Runners at first and second. But it was not the Dodgers’ night. Chris Taylor lined a shot directly to shortstop Carlos Correa and the Astros were able to double Forsythe off second to complete the double play. Again, no runs for the Dodgers and yet another missed opportunity.

Clayton Kershaw took over for the Dodgers in the top of the 3rd inning. Kind of makes you wonder why the Dodgers didn’t go to Kershaw sooner but he did his job, retiring the Astros in order. There was still time for the Dodgers to claw their way back into the game. In the bottom of the inning, Corey Seager led off with a single to center over Jose Altuve’s head. I tried to think of a humorous line about that but I came up short. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch for the second time, this time under his left shoulder blade, and the fourth hit batter by McCullers. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

After McCullers struck out Cody Bellinger, Astros manager A.J. Hinch removed him and brought in Brad Peacock. Yasiel Puig flied out to center but Seager was able to tag and move to third. Two outs for Joc Pederson with a runner just 90 feet away. Pederson went down swinging.  Still no runs for the Dodgers.

Meanwhile, with Kershaw pitching strongly, the Dodgers had their next chance in the 5th. Corey Seager took a one-out walk and moved to second when Justin Turner singled to left. Alex Bregman dove for the ball and knocked it away from Carlos Correa, allowing the ball to roll into left field. The Astros pulled Brad Peacock and brought in Francisco Liriano. Cody Bellinger hit a fielder’s choice to Jose Altuve and the Astros were able to force Turner out at second with Seager moving to third. 

Credit:  Wally Skalij – LA Times

Another pitching change which brought Chris Devenski in to face Yasiel Puig. Devenski won the battle when Puig lined out to first for the final out.

The Astros were able to load the bases in the top of the 6th against Kershaw on only one hit but Kershaw was able to get out of the jam unscathed.

In the bottom of the 6th with Charlie Morton taking over the mound for the Astros, Joc Pederson singled to center…a hit that would have been more useful in his earlier at-bats. Logan Forsythe walked and the Dodgers looked like they might be in business. After Austin Barnes popped out to Carlos Correa in shallow left for the first out, Andre Ethier, pinch-hitting for Kershaw, singled to right on a roller past Jose Altuve, scoring Pederson. Forsythe moved to second.  A home run now, and it would have been a one-run game. Unfortunately, like the earlier innings, the Dodgers couldn’t move the runners. Chris Taylor struck out and Corey Seager grounded out to short. It had seemed like it might be a big inning for the Dodgers but all they had to show for it was a single run. 5-1, Astros.

From there, Morton shut down the Dodgers, retiring the next nine batters in order. When Corey Seager hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve who, in turn, threw the ball to first baseman Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the 9th, the Houston Astros were World Series Champions.  

Credit:  Luis Sinco – LA Times

I am happy for Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. For them, it was good to see the elusive World Series championship come their way.  It might be the final hour for Beltran’s career so if it is the end, he gets to go out the right way.

Credit:  Jason O Watson, Getty Images North America

George Springer was rightfully named the Series MVP.  His five home runs tied a World Series record and he was seemingly at the heart of every big Astros rally in this series.

Credit:  Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG

For as much as I ripped Yuli Gurriel for his offensive gestures directed at Yu Darvish and his subsequent 2018 suspension for same, it was a very nice touch by Gurriel to tip his cap to Darvish when he came to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning.

Credit:  John McCoy, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

The first pitches for the game were thrown by Dodgers legends Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe, with Steve Garvey and Rick Monday on the receiving ends, respectively. It was a very nice moment for the Dodgers and their fans.

Credit:  David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG

Now, the MLB season is over and the Hot Stove League begins. Time for the Yankees to find a new manager and begin preparations for the path that hopefully leads to the 2018 World Series championship.

Odds & Ends…

Now that the World Series has ended, Masahiro Tanaka has three days to decide if he’ll opt out of his contract. So, we’ll know by Saturday where we stand with the right-hander. I am hopeful that either he decides not to opt out or that he and the Yankees are able to come together for an extension. I would prefer to see Tanaka stay.

Credit:  Anthony Causi, New York Post

It looks like the Yankees have found their replacement for former VP of Player Development, Gary Denbo, who recently departed to join Derek Jeter in Miami. Kevin Reese, most recently Director of Professional Scouting for the Yankees, will apparently take Denbo’s former role. There has not been an official announcement yet by the Yankees but it is expected shortly.

The New York Mets did not retain hitting coach Kevin Long when Long’s contract expired so there are rumors that Long could return to his former role as hitting coach for the Yankees. Nothing against Alan Cockrell or Marcus Thames, but I’d like to see Long back in Pinstripes. He is one of the many rumored names for potential Yankees manager. I do not really want to see him as the manager, but as part of the coaching staff, he’d be a great fit.

The coming days should be interesting for the Yankees and the managerial search. I find it very hard to believe that they did not have a specific choice or choices in mind when they made the decision not to retain Joe Girardi. So I don’t buy they are in the process of gathering names. I think they’ll go with an outsider rather than someone with immediate Yankee connections but we’ll see. Things should become more transparent as we move forward.  I would not be at all surprised if the new manager is Jerry Hairston, Jr.  

Credit:  USA TODAY Sports

Have a great Thursday! It was a wonderful season and a successful one for the Pinstripers.  They are only going to get better.  Go Yankees!

Not Ready for Prime Time…

The latest Yahoo Sports MLB Power Rankings that pushed the New York Yankees to #1 were a bit premature.  These Yankees are not quite up to par with the high flying Houston Astros (who were ranked #3).  Two games does not a season make, but the Yankees haven’t exactly shown they can hang with the Astros so far in this series.  

The Astros seem to have every answer and it appears that both Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran have found themselves on the right side of the equation.

Credit:  Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Right now, the two best teams in Baseball are the Astros and the Washington Nationals (even with their bullpen problems).  

The Yankees have two games to right the ship.  They can prove that they can play with the Astros, just not with pitchers named Keuchel or McCullers.  Today’s game has been postponed due to inclement weather so the Yankees will play a double-header tomorrow for the joint Derek Jeter’s and Mother’s Day.  It’s single-admission entry so only Sunday’s ticketholders have seats for the Derek Jeter ceremonies.  Saturday’s ticketholders will be able to exchange their tickets for future games. The Bronx weather forecast calls for a 60% chance for rain tomorrow which falls to 20% by evening.  The first game is expected to start at 2:05 pm.  Hopefully we’ll be listening to Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York by the end of the day.  

Yesterday’s game was not pretty.  Brian McCann set the tone early with his three run homer off Jordan Montgomery in the fourth inning.  The ball traveled just inside right-field foul pole into an area that McCann has frequently deposited pitches.  As a guy we once cheered for, McCann is becoming a thorn.  He caught the pitch that nailed Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate to end Thursday’s game, then he launched the deciding blast yesterday. Lance McCullers, Jr showed why he is one of the great young talents in the game.  It was eery when the TV telecast showed a comparison of his dad pitching for the Yankees and then the younger McCullers.  They are very similar with their pitching motions and release.  Young Lance went six innings, holding the Yanks to four hits and no runs.  He showed excellent control with no walks, and struck out seven Bombers (although Gary Sanchez was the most frequent contributor to those K’s).  

The Yankees scored a run in the ninth inning on a two-out RBI single by Didi Gregorius, but it was too little, too late.  Ronald Torreyes struck out to end the game.

I felt bad for Jordan Montgomery.  Remove the McCann homer, and he didn’t pitch that badly.  He did register 7 strikeouts, but the final line in six innings was not pretty.  8 hits and 4 runs saw the elevation of Montgomery’s season ERA from 3.81 to 4.19.  As for the bullpen, Jonathan Holder and Tyler Clippard continue to show that the arms in front of Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman are very strong.  Aroldis Chapman, on the other hand, is cause for concern.  Chapman only lasted two-thirds of an inning in the ninth when he allowed three hits, including a two-out RBI single to Josh Reddick.  With shades of his poor performance in Cincinnati earlier in the week, Chapman couldn’t finish the inning after he gave up a single to Jose Altuve.  Giovanny Gallegos, making his Major League debut, had to be called on to retire the Astros (he induced Yankee killer Carlos Correa into a fly out to center).  Hopefully this is just a temporary funk for Chapman and he is not seriously injured.  

Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

Despite the loss (their third in a row), the Yankees (21-12) remain a half-game behind the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East as the O’s fell to the Kansas City, 3-2.  The Boston Red Sox tried unsuccessfully to rally against the Tampa Bay Rays and lost 5-4, so there was no movement at the top of the division standings.

Chance Adams is getting closer to New York.  You can feel the rumble.  On Friday, the Yankees promoted the 22-year old right-hander from AA-Trenton to AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  In six games for the Thunder, Adams was 4-0 with a 1.03 ERA.  In 35 innings, he has only given up 23 hits, 6 runs (4 earned), 2 HR’s, and 15 walks.  He has also sent 32 batters muttering to themselves as they walked back to the dugout after strikeouts.  There’s no doubt we’ll soon be taking a chance on Adams in the Big Apple in the not-so-distant future if he keeps pitching like this.  Given that he’s dominated every level, there’s little doubt that AAA is his next victim.

Credit:  MiLB.com

The word is that Tyler Austin will begin playing rehab games soon.  So, when he is ready, the Yankees have decisions to make.  They can send Austin to AAA or they can bring him to the Bronx.  If he arrives at 161st and River and starts making solid contributions, Chris Carter is going to become obsolete.  I do not see a need for Carter once both Austin and Greg Bird are healthy.  If Carter was at least demonstrating some of the power that led to 41 home runs last year, it would be one thing but he’s not.  He’s a one-dimensional player that isn’t exactly tearing it up in his one dimension.  I think Carter needs regular at-bats to get into a groove but the Yankees are not going to afford him that opportunity (nor should they).  The team would be best served by flipping Carter to another team for some spare parts.

Have a great Saturday!  Stay dry and keep your fun and excitement at an all-time high!