The Holiday Season Slowdown…
As the final days of 2017 burn away, there’s not much happening in the Yankees Universe…at the moment. Granted, this has been one of the quieter off-seasons for all MLB teams with so many unsigned free agents. I know, we already got our shiny new toy (Giancarlo Stanton) but there is still work to be done.
|Credit: Stan Grossfield, Boston Globe|
The Yankees finally announced the one-year, $10 million deal for CC Sabathia this week. Realistically, I am expecting some regression from Sabathia at this point (it would be hard to replicate last year’s statistics considering he turns 38 in late July), but he means so much to the clubhouse. I always thought Mike Mussina finishing his career with a 20-win season was the best way to go (short of winning a World Series championship). I doubt Sabathia’s knee will allow him the former but he certainly has a shot at the latter. The value of veteran leadership is understated. I don’t think Matt Holliday gets enough credit for his “behind-the-scenes” work with Aaron Judge last season. With new coaches on board, Sabathia brings a wealth of consistency and mentorship that would otherwise be missing. I am not trying to sell the other team veterans short, but Sabathia has been such a leader in the clubhouse and a guy that the team loves. I am glad to see him back in Pinstripes.
Speaking of Mussina, I think it is a travesty that he currently trails Roger Clemens in the Hall of Fame voting. According to MLB Network, with 27.9% of the votes completed, Clemens currently has 71.6% (75% is needed for induction into the Hall of Fame). Mussina trails Clemens by nearly a percentage point (70.7%). Granted, Clemens has the better stats but he also cheated. Moose played the game cleanly and spent his entire career in the highly charged AL East. I feel that Moose deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame ahead of Clemens. It’s inevitable that Clemens and other Steroid-users like Barry Bonds will eventually make the Hall but I’d prefer that it takes a few more years.
Brendan Kuty of NJ.com is reporting that a reunion between the Yankees and third baseman Todd Frazier is unlikely. With the Sabathia signing, the projected Yankees payroll currently stands at $178 million. Frazier made $12 million in 2017. The Yankees still desire to add a cost-controlled pitcher and need room for trading deadline additions and roster call-ups. This is where the pain of Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract really hurts. I remain hopeful that the Yankees can move Ellsbury. One writer recently suggested that the Yankees pay all but $15 million still owed to Ellsbury (which equates to nearly $53.5 million including $5 million buyout in 2022). The writer (I do not recall who) correctly stated that Ellsbury, still a good player, should be worth at least $5 million per year for another team. He doesn’t steal as many bases as he used to and he’s always an injury risk whenever he takes the field, but if healthy, he can help a team. Of course it has to be a team that he’d waive his no-trade clause for. I keep watching the San Francisco Giants and hoping their efforts to acquire Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton fail. An additional $5 million for payroll would certainly help the Yankees achieve their objective of adding another pitcher while bringing in quality veteran talent at third. I remain hopeful the Yankees can find a way to bring Frazier back but the optimism has faded.
While the Yankees are the early favorites to sign 2018 free agent-to-be Manny Machado, there is no certainty that he will sign with the team. As such, I think a two-year offer for Frazier makes sense if the Yankees can find the payroll room to stay under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million. If the Yankees do sign Machado next year, Frazier is still a valuable roster component, especially if he can play more first base during the upcoming season. If the Chicago Cubs or St Louis Cardinals make a trade with the Baltimore Orioles for Machado, there’s a good chance one of those teams could entice Machado to sign a long-term deal. The cost to acquire Machado, even with just one year left on his contract, will be high so any team parting with the level of talent necessary to acquire the premium player will make every attempt to lock up Machado. Pulling the trigger on such a deal would indicate some willingness or optimism on the receiving team’s part that they could sign Machado. There is no guarantee that Miguel Andujar will be successful at the Major League level or defensively-speaking, that he is even ready. With youth at second base (should Gleyber Torres win the job as expected), I feel that it is too risky to have MLB inexperience at third base too for a team with heightened expectations.
More Cash for Cash…
By now, we all know that GM Brian Cashman has received a 5-year extension worth approximately $25 million. Even the most fervent Cashman critics have acknowledged the good job that Cash has done to rebuild the Yankees farm system. If I owned the team, I would re-structure the front office to model the Chicago Cubs arrangement with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Under that structure, Cashman would become President, Baseball Operations. Randy Levine’s title (President) would be realigned to show his status on the business side of Operations. Actually, he wouldn’t have a job if I owned the team, but I guess that’s another matter. With Cashman’s promotion, I would appoint Tim Naehring as Executive Vice President, General Manager. Naehring would get the job since he is currently viewed as Cashman’s right-hand man although an argument could certainly be made for either Jean Afterman or Damon Oppenheimer.
I hate seeing good people like Billy Eppler and Gary Denbo leave the organization for “better” opportunities and feel that there are ways to reward current Cashman underlings.
2017 Pinstripe Bowl Champions…
Congratulations to the Iowa Hawkeyes for their 27-20 victory over Boston College in the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium yesterday. I have been a lifelong fan of the University of Iowa (perhaps even longer than I’ve been a Yankees fan which dates back to my childhood). It was weird seeing a football field placed in the middle of Yankee Stadium, but for my Hawkeyes, it was their first bowl win since 2010. The Hawkeyes finished 8-5 this year, however, it did include a victory over Ohio State which was the highlight of the season for me.
I can’t really think of a better way to end the year than for one of my favorite teams to win within the confines of the home of my favorite MLB team. Beating Boston was a bonus. Nice job, Hawkeyes!
|Credit: Bryon Houlgrave, The Register|
Now that the Hawkeyes have won their bowl game on hallowed grounds, it is time to bring back the baseball diamond to Yankee Stadium.
I can’t believe the calendar page is getting ready to turn to 2018 but the new year brings great hope and optimism for Yankees fans. I am ready for training camp. We’re only about a month and a half away before pitchers and catchers report. Tampa will soon be rocking with excitement! Now batting, Number 27 (sorry, this never gets old)…
|Credit: Andrew Theodorakis, New York Daily News|
The reunion seemed inevitable but the longer time passed, I was fearful that another team would entice CC Sabathia to trade in his pinstripes. He spoke with the Los Angeles Angels (a team desperate for starting pitching) and the Toronto Blue Jays. He never expressed an interest in the Oakland Athletics or the San Francisco Giants but I always felt that if they reached out to Sabathia, the appeal to return to his native Northern California would have been very strong. In the end, Sabathia opted to return “home” for some unfinished business.
Mark Feinsand of MLB.com broke the story first yesterday that Sabathia had signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Yankees subject to a physical. Jack Curry of the YES Network reported later in the day that Sabathia had taken and passed the physical yesterday afternoon, thereby making the deal official. Welcome back, CC! We’re very glad to have you.
The move presumably does not alter the Yankees plans to add another quality starting pitcher although they now have five starters on staff. Realistically, I do not expect Sabathia to match his 2017 season when he went 14-5 with 3.69 ERA. He’ll turn 38 in July. But the veteran knows how to win and is a team leader. With an inexperienced manager and bench coach, the value of Sabathia’s leadership cannot be understated.
It’s very interesting that the 2005 Cleveland Indians roster featured the Yankees manager (Aaron Boone), the Yankees Bench Coach (Josh Bard), the Red Sox manager (Alex Cora), and a very young Sabathia. Boone was there for the early years (CC was only 24 during that 2005 season) and now he’s back for what may very well be Sabathia’s final year. If the Yankees win the 2018 World Series, I have no doubt that Sabathia will ride off into the sunset. I cannot imagine a better Yankees career than starting and ending with World Series championships.
Competition for the 2018-19 Free Agent Market…
Yesterday, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ front office showed their brilliance when they unloaded the bloated contracts of Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, and Adrian Gonzalez plus infielder Charlie Culberson on the Atlanta Braves. It is the same trio that the Dodgers tried to pawn off on the Miami Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton. Sure, they had to take back former Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, but the deal effectively reduced Dodgers payroll for the coming season by approximately $23 million which helps the team get under the $197 million threshold to reset luxury tax penalties. Gonzalez will never wear an Atlanta uniform. As part of the negotiation to waive his no-trade clause, Atlanta will release Gonzalez tomorrow, making him a free agent. It is also very questionable if Kemp will ever wear the Dodgers uniform again.
The move helps to ensure that the Dodgers will be prime players next off-season when Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Clayton Kershaw, Dallas Keuchel, Josh Donaldson and others hit the open market. Everybody had presumed the Yankees would sign Harper but the Dodgers have emerged as the leader for Harper’s services. Fortunately for the Yankees, they were able to acquire Giancarlo Stanton which gives them reason to pass on Harper and the $400-$500 million that it will take to sign the Las Vegas native.
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Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi can thank Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos, who served in the Dodgers front office last season. From the Braves perspective, they are free of the two-year obligation for Kemp, and the heavy contracts they acquired expire at the end of the upcoming season (making Kazmir and McCarthy desirable “rentals” at the trade deadline next summer).
While I don’t believe that the Dodgers sudden emergence as a major player in the 2018-19 free agent market will adversely impact the Yankees desire to add Manny Machado (the Dodgers have great players at third and short, Justin Turner and Corey Seager), it will add significant competition for other players. I’d really love to see the return of Andrew Miller to the Bronx but the Dodgers almost certainly will be aggressive in their pursuit of quality bullpen arms.
If at Third…
With no offense to Miguel Andujar and his questionable defensive skills, I remain hopeful the Yankees can find a way to bring back third baseman Todd Frazier. Andujar would benefit from another year at Triple A. Frazier was signing autographs in Toms River, New Jersey yesterday. Every time I see off-season pics of Frazier, it reinforces to me how much I’d like to see him back in Pinstripes.
Hey Cash, make it happen!
The MLB Network has been replaying past Home Run Derbys and I have to say…man, I love watching Giancarlo Stanton hit home runs.
|Credit: Denis Poroy, Getty Images|
If you are going to dream, dream BIG…
Such a tease! For the last month, Yankees fans have dreamt of the idea of Giancarlo Stanton wearing Pinstripes. But with Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner’s budget and his drive to reset luxury tax penalties this year, the likelihood of Stanton coming to the Bronx appears to be about as strong as Shohei Otani changing his mind and deciding that he loves New York after all.
Still, it’s tough to hear that the Yankees are one of four teams that Giancarlo Stanton would openly waive his no-trade clause for. The list includes the Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers (his hometown team and favorite growing up), the Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs. I am mildly surprised that the Los Angeles Angels didn’t make the cut for the LA native (I know, they are not really in Los Angeles). It’s hard because the timing isn’t right for a team that is trying desperately to stay under $197 million for the payroll this year.
It’s possible that Stanton eventually accepts a trade to either the San Francisco Giants or the St Louis Cardinals but the longer this drags out, the more likely it is those teams will move on. If the Giants land Otani, it would seemingly improve their chances for getting Stanton to accept the already negotiated trade to the Giants. I tend to side with the majority that believe Otani will end up in Seattle, particularly now that they’ve gained an edge in international bonus pool money. Could this help the Yankees snag Stanton? I guess time will tell as it often does.
For the Yankees, the decision to sign Jacoby Ellsbury four years ago yesterday to the seven-year, $153 million contract is the gift that keeps giving (in a negative way). Ellsbury, now Baseball’s highest-paid pinch-runner, is an albatross for Team Hal. As long as Ellsbury’s contract hangs around the neck of the Yankees, it will be difficult for them to find the creative way to bring Stanton to the Bronx even though they have the resources to pull it off.
The Seattle Mariners had looked like a strong potential trade partner for the Yankees depending upon how much of Ellsbury’s contract the Yankees were willing to eat. But the Mariners removed themselves from the conversation with their trade acquisition yesterday of second baseman Dee Gordon, whom they intend to move to center field. The Boston Red Sox just look at the Yankees, stuck with Ellsbury, and laugh. There were no tears shed in Boston when Ellsbury signed with the Yankees. My closest Red Sox friends were glad to be free of the King of the DL four years ago.
It’s incredible to imagine Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in the same lineup. It will never happen (will it?) but the protection in the batting order the Yankees could offer Stanton would be immense. It would be fun to watch all of those balls flying out of Yankee Stadium.
I keep hoping that GM Brian Cashman and his team, against all odds, can find a way to get creative while staying in line with Hal Steinbrenner’s budget. By self-admission, Cashman is paid to think outside of the box. Here is his latest opportunity. Make it happen! The realist in me knows that it will not come to fruition but it is fun to dream about. Taking on Stanton’s contract would be far better than paying over a half-billion dollars to Bryce Harper next off-season.
I feel bad for Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly who now gets to watch as his team is stripped of its best Major League talent. Donnie Baseball deserves better. Marlins CEO Derek Jeter is obviously finding that it is not so easy sitting on the other side of the table with a strict budget in hand.
The Bronx Coaching Staff…
Now that the Yankees have their manager (Aaron Boone) and the return of the pitching coach (Larry Rothschild), the focus is on the remainder of the coaching staff. I have not heard Tony Pena’s name at all. He is a valuable coach and I’d like to see his return. We’ve heard the names of Yankees ‘thirty-something’ minor league coaches Reggie Willits and Carlos Mendoza as possibilities. We know that Rob Thomson, Josh Paul and Al Pedrique are no longer options, having found MLB employment elsewhere. It was odd that the first name drawing attention is current Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen coach Josh Bard. A former catcher, the possibility of adding Bard leads me to believe that there is no interest in bringing back Pena. Bard and Boone played together briefly in Cleveland. I seriously hope that Bard is not under consideration for Bench Coach. At Boone’s press conference, when asked if managerial experience was a prerequisite for the bench coach, Boone responded that he wanted smart and confident sitting next to him. Sounds like a possible setup for Bard. I guess it’s not like there is no managerial experience on the bench. Larry Rothschild was the original manager for the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays when they entered the league in 1998. But regardless of Rothschild’s presence, I personally would prefer to see experience sitting with smart and confident to offer suggestions to the new first-time manager.
Bard played for five teams over 10 seasons during his pedestrian career as a backup catcher, yet I think of him as a Red Sock. That’s kind of funny considering that he only played 7 games in 2006 for the Red Sox. The intent was for Bard to catch knuckle baller Tim Wakefield, who ironically gave up Boone’s 2003 ALCS Game 7 home run. But 10 passed balls in those 7 games ended his time in Boston.
Based on GM Brian Cashman’s words, they’ve provided a list of names to Boone and Boone has provided names to them and they are going through the vetting process. So, it’s highly probable that other guys, beyond Bard, have been or will soon be interviewed. Boone talks about having a world-class coaching staff, but it’s tough when we’ve seen a few world class guys like Thomson, Paul and Pedrique walk away from the organization. I hope that Boonie is right. The team’s leadership will be very instrumental in the success of the young Baby Bombers as we move forward.
Note to Brian Cashman…
Please re-sign CC Sabathia. What are you waiting for?…
I am always anxious to see what the Baseball Winter Meetings will bring. Those few days bring the most excitement of the off-season. It’s very possible that nothing happens for the Yankees but it should be a fun week anyway. With such a large concentration of media gathered in Orlando, Florida beginning this weekend, rumors of trades and signings should soon start flying fast and furiously.
I’d love to be working on a post next week entitled ‘How the Yankees Made the Stanton Dream a Reality’…
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Like it or not, Aaron Boone will be the new Yankees manager…
The reaction to the impending announcement that Aaron Boone will be named the next manager of the New York Yankees has met with a broad range of emotions. I don’t think he was the first choice for any of us, but he is NOT a bad choice. I am getting a little tired of the ‘we should have kept Joe Girardi…’ comments. That ship has sailed. For whatever reasons, GM Brian Cashman and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner determined that a new voice is needed for the next era of Yankees Baseball. Girardi had a good run but times change.
Yesterday, I was perusing YouTube for Aaron Boone video clips (for personal research). This morning, I woke to find that NJ Advance Media for NJ.com’s Randy Miller had been doing the same thing and he posted a few clips on their website. I love the imitations of Joe Torre’s walk and Alex Rodriguez at bat. There’s no question that Boone is going to bring a humorous, relaxed vibe to the Yankees clubhouse. Tough when necessary, but supportive and collaborative at other times. Former Yankees manager Joe Torre brought such warmth to the position, which was lacking under Girardi’s leadership. I see more shades of Torre in Boone. I think he brings the right leadership to a young team at the right time. I am onboard with Boone’s selection and feel strongly that he deserves to be given a chance by the Yankees Universe.
I realize that Boone has never managed or coached at any level, but he deserves our support. He successfully sold Cashman (and ultimately the Steinbrenner family) on the reasons why he should be the next manager of the New York Yankees. They know the Yankees better than any of us and we should trust their decision.
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Boonie will have to choose a new number since his old number (19) is currently occupied by Masahiro Tanaka. His dad’s number and the number Aaron wore at the end of his playing career with the Houston Astros is also out due to the retirement of the number for Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra (8).
I look forward to the formal announcement of Boone as the new manager. Hopefully it will happen this week. I also look forward to the composition of the new coaching staff to join holdover pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
Go Boonie! Bring us World Championship #28! We have faith and confidence in you…well, most of us anyway…
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Making the Cut…
It’s nice to know that the Shohei Otani talk will be finished by December 22nd…except for whatever city lands the two-way superstar. All 30 teams were given an opportunity to make their presentation plus answering a questionnaire for the highly talented 23-year-old. Apparently, Otani will be working with his agents to make a cut by weekend’s end to determine which teams will have an opportunity to talk with Otani’s agents this week.
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It’s a certainty the Yankees will make the cut, but where Otani ultimately lands is really anybody’s guess despite reports the Yankees are the favorites. There are too many variables at play. While I am sure the Yankees have full resources in Los Angeles, I hope they do not lose sight of re-signing free agent pitcher CC Sabathia.
One Week and Counting…
The annual Baseball Winter Meetings always represent the height of excitement for the baseball off-season and we are a week away from the drama. All eyes will be on Orlando, Florida this time next week. The Yankees are not expected to be big players in free agency (aside from the Shohei Otani sweepstakes) but there’s always the potential for a significant trade or two.
One of the early decisions for new manager Aaron Boone next year will be where to play top prospect Gleyber Torres when he is ready.
There’s no doubt we’ll see him make his Major League debut at some point in the 2018 season…the only question is when. No one really expects him to break camp with the big league club but it won’t be too deep into the season. The easy answer is to play him at third base in place of Chase Headley but there is speculation that he might be better suited for second base (particularly given how close third base prospect Miguel Andujar is to being Major League-ready). Therefore, it would not surprise me if the Yankees moved Starlin Castro. I don’t think they will, but the possibility is certainly there.
The Winter Meetings would be a tremendous success if the Yankees could somehow find a taker for Jacoby Ellsbury and boatloads of cash. I would not be disappointed to see Chase Headley go either. I’ve heard David Robertson’s name mentioned but I’d really hate to see D-Rob go. It was so great having him back in the Bronx last year. He was a Yankee that I missed when he left and I don’t want to see his departure any time soon.
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I know the Yankees have no plans to re-sign Matt Holliday but I really liked the veteran leadership that he brought to the team last year. I really wish that we could have seen a full healthy season for Holliday. He’d be great for a coaching staff one day.
The Giancarlo Stanton talk has centered on the San Francisco Giants and the St Louis Cardinals, but the latest rumors indicate that Stanton has no desire to go to the Midwest. So far, his preferred destination, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have not entered the conversations. With the Giants appearing to be the frontrunner, I am a little surprised the Dodgers would let the big slugger go to their chief division rival especially since the motivation for the Miami Marlins is more on salary relief than it is prospect/talent return. I keep expecting Andrew Friedman and company to rise up late in negotiations to snag Giancarlo. I’d love to see Stanton in the Bronx but I just don’t see the Yankees taking on that contract this year.
Given their luck with Yankees catchers, maybe the Pittsburgh Pirates should make a run for Austin Romine…
It is nice to see that things are picking up for the Hot Stove League. Every year, I am excited about the Baseball Winter Meetings. As a Yankees fan, they are not always fruitful (not like they were under the reign of George Steinbrenner) but it is a very fun and exciting time for baseball in general.
For now, let’s see what this week brings. Go Yankees!
Baseball is such a rush. It starts in February when pitchers and catchers report, and then slowly builds over the course of the next eight months, reaching the adrenaline rush of the post-season, capped by the exhilarating World Series. Then, nothing. We can only wait and watch as the Yankees beat writers jump from one potential story to another without yielding much fruit.
Things will pick up in a few weeks as we approach the Winter Meetings, but for now, we just have to sit around wondering when the Yankees will give us an indication who they might be considering for the job to lead the 2018 Yankees.
Without much to really think about, here are some of my random thoughts…
Alex Rodriguez, Just Say No…
I can honestly say that I have no desire to see Alex Rodriguez named as Yankees manager. I do not dispute A-Rod’s baseball knowledge and I know that he’s been a positive influence on the younger players during Spring Training but neither of those attributes qualify him as a Major League manager. This is a man who was suspended an entire year for PED use after he had already been implicated with earlier use of performance-enhancing drugs. I was glad to see A-Rod’s time as an active member of the Yankees end and I have no interest in watching him don the pinstripes again (outside of brief Spring Training appearances). As it is, I am tired of the daily “J-Rod” updates. If Alex became the Yankees manager, those daily sightings of Jennifer Lopez and A-Rod would only worsen. I lived through the Bronx Zoo of the 1970’s. I am not willing to entertain the thought of The Bronx Zoo, Part II. So count me among those with no interest in seeing A-Rod become manager of the Yankees.
Jake Cave, Member of the 40-Man Roster…
It took awhile and included a detour through Cincinnati, but Jake Cave finally earned a spot on the Yankees 40-Man Roster when he was added on Monday.
Cave was drafted by the Yankees in the 6th Round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, VA. He was left unprotected when he became Rule 5 eligible after the 2015 season and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. He started 2016 Spring Training very hot for the Reds but by the end of camp had cooled considerably. In the end, the Reds opted to keep a 30-year old outfielder (Jordan Pacheco), who was released by the Reds in June 2016, over the then-23 year old Cave. At the time of his return to the Yankees, Reds manager Bryan Price offered the following comments: “He was and is a terrific young player, and we all saw him as a big-leaguer. There was just some limitations on how much playing time I thought I could get him over the course of this year. My big concern was the history with Donald Lutz and Neftali Soto, guys that have come up and really not played much at a very young age and how they were able to deal with that and when they returned to the minor leagues how they performed afterwards, and I would hate to see that happen to Jake as a guy who really got limited playing time early in the season and how that would have affected his long-term development.”
Cave returned to the Yankees but rather than sulk, he continued to work on his craft. He was left unprotected again in 2016 but was not selected in that year’s Rule 5 Draft. His performance in 2017 exceeded expectations as he finished with 20 home runs and 56 RBI’s at AA/AAA combined. His batting line was .305/.351/.542 with .893 OPS in 103 total games. His hard work has been acknowledged by the Yankees and he’ll get an opportunity to go to the Major League Camp with the Yankees in February for the first time.
Cave profiles as a fourth outfielder but he is clearly a success story among Yankees prospects. With guys like Cave and Billy McKinney chomping at the bit, the Yankees need to clear out Jacoby Ellsbury and/or Brett Gardner to make way for the younger guys. I’d hate to see Gardner go but it is Clint Frazier’s time for left field. Aaron Hicks is a better center fielder than Ellsbury. So, I’d prefer to see Hicks and Frazier in the starting outfield with Aaron Judge, and guys like Cave and/or McKinney backing them up.
The Yankees also added reliever Nick Rumbelow to the 40-man roster. Rumbelow had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and missed part of the 2017 season with his recovery. After pitching briefly for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, he was lights out for the Triple A-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. In 17 games (covering 29 innings) for the RailRiders, Rumbelow was 5-1 and had a sterling 1.12 ERA with 5 saves. He struck out 30 batters, while walking only 8. Rumbelow, like Cave, is a success story. He was released by the Yankees in November 2016 (free to go anywhere like Nathan Eovaldi did when he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays). Rumbelow opted to re-sign with the Yankees on December 15, 2016 and we’re glad he did.
The Yankees still have a number of Rule 5 decisions to make but these were a couple of easy ones. I have no doubt the Yankees will be forced to leave quality talent unprotected for this year’s Rule 5 Draft. GM Brian Cashman, between his managerial interviews and negotiation of a new contract, has his work cut out for him.
Free Agency is Upon Us…
Free Agents became available to talk to other teams on Monday afternoon. Most forecasts show the Yankees to be very limited players in the FA arena as they attempt to avoid MLB’s competitive balance tax and reset future penalties for going above the payroll threshold. Sadly, the Boston Red Sox were able to do that this year, so they’ll be more aggressive this off-season. During the press conference yesterday to announce new Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Dave Dombrowski, President of Baseball Operations, was asked if the luxury tax would be limitation. He responded, “No, I do not”. The same question was posed to Red Sox owner John Henry and he replied with, “Well, (Dombrowski) answered the question. He said he could go over.” I would not be surprised to see the Red Sox go hard and heavy after Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Most forecasts that I have seen only show the Yankees signing Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani and CC Sabathia. Without too many moves necessary, I’d be very happy to see the Yankees acquire Otani. There is uncertainty with the current dispute in negotiations between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball for a new posting agreement. However, Otani took a step in the positive direction by hiring Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to represent him if he is posted and made available to MLB teams this off-season.
I am not overly excited about the anticipated return of Chase Headley to third base for the 2018 season. The question will be whether Gleyber Torres or Miguel Andujar will be ready. I doubt either one breaks camp as the starter but it could happen sooner rather than later. Headley runs too hot and cold for me. I’d prefer to see greater consistency out of the position to protect the big bats in the lineup. I’d love to see the return of Todd Frazier, but the timing is not right and the Yankees are not in a position to offer a free agent multiple years at third base. For the short-term, we’ll have to deal with Headley.
It was funny yesterday that both Yankees GM Brian Cashman and former Yankees manager Joe Girardi were giving interviews at the same time. It’s tough listening to Girardi as he really sounds like a guy who wanted to be a part of the next great Yankees dynasty. I am surprised that the Washington Nationals didn’t make a run at Girardi with their World Series-caliber roster. But then again, the Nats aren’t known for spending cash on the managerial position and perhaps they were too far down the road with new manager Dave Martinez.
At this point, it appears that Girardi will sit out a year (perhaps taking a broadcasting position) and will emerge as a viable managerial candidate in the 2018 off-season.
The more Cashman talks about communication as a primary reason that Girardi was not re-hired and in particular his relationship with the younger players, it leads me to believe that there are reasons at play that we will never know. Maybe one day when Cashman retires and writes his memoirs.
I don’t know about you, but I am ready for some genuine Yankees news. These quiet days leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings next month are tough. I am getting a little tired of watching Houston Astros show up on Saturday Night Live or Carlos Correa discussing how he decided to propose to his girlfriend immediately after the World Series had ended on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Justin Verlander’s wedding pics in Italy are nice, but I want to know about our guys. It is time to get the Yankees back in the news.
As always, Go Yankees!
American League Championship Series
Astros 4, Yankees 0…
Astros win series, 4-3
“The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow.”
–Jonathan Lockwood Huie
Sure, it was very disappointing to see the Yankees come so close to making the Fall Classic but the future is so bright for this young Yankees team. This is only the beginning of the wonderful ride they are embarking upon and we’d better hold on tight because it’s going to be one helluva ride. I am very proud of the accomplishments of the 2017 New York Yankees. They achieved far more than anyone expected and are only setting themselves up for loftier heights as we advance forward. Congratulations, Yankees! Thumbs down, you are an incredible group of ultra-talented players and you are champions to us.
You have to give credit to the Houston Astros. They earned home-field advantage by winning 101 games over the regular season and it positioned them for success in a series dominated by the home teams. On Saturday night, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers, Jr held the Yankees to three hits and no runs to send the Astros to their first World Series since 2005 and only their second overall.
I was afraid that it would be asking a lot for CC Sabathia to be the savior for Game 7. I know that he had been undefeated in his role as a stopper following Yankee losses this year but this game obviously had heightened magnitude. With no offense to Sonny Gray, the Yankees paid a very high price to get him and this should have been his spot to be the team’s post-season savior. He may ultimately have a fantastic Yankees career but he was a non-factor this post-season.
After trading scoreless frames to open the game, Houston’s Yuli Gurriel lined a shot to right that looked like it had a chance to clear the wall. Aaron Judge, on the run, leaped up to make a terrific catch to deny Gurriel.
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I was hopeful that it was a sign for great things to come. Unfortunately, it was not.
The Astros, getting at least a single each inning against Sabathia, finally broke through in the 4th inning. Evan Gattis led off the bottom of the inning with a powerful home run to left center. Sabathia walked Brian McCann on a full count. Marwin Gonzalez hit a grounder to short which Didi Gregorius zipped to Starlin Castro to force McCann, but they were unable to turn the double play. Josh Reddick singled to left and Manager Joe Girardi had seen enough. He went to the mound to take the ball from Sabathia, perhaps for the last time in either individual’s Yankees career. Enter Tommy Kahnle who quickly induced George Springer, on one pitch, to ground into an inning-ending double play, short to second to first.
The top of the 5th brought a great chance for the Yankees. Greg Bird led off with a double to the right field corner. Starlin Castro was next but he struck out. With Aaron Hicks at the plate, a wild pitch on ball four allowed Bird to fly to third and Hicks to take first. Runners at the corners and one out for Todd Frazier. Frazier hit a chopper to third baseman Alex Bregman and Yankees third base coach Joe Espada made the decision to send Bird home. It would take a perfect throw to nail Bird at the plate. Sadly for us, that’s exactly what happened. Bregman’s throw to Brian McCann could not have been any better and McCann easily applied the tag on Bird’s foot.
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Chase Headley grounded out to second and it was an inning of missed opportunity for the Yankees.
The Yankees lack of scoring hurt as the Astros padded their lead in the bottom of the 5th. With Tommy Kahnle still on the mound for the Yankees, Jose Altuve blasted a one-out home run to right (too high for Judge to make another leaping catch). Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel followed with singles to put runners at the corners. Kahnle struck out Evan Gattis for the second out, but then Brian McCann doubled to the corner in right, scoring both Correa and Gurriel. Girardi pulled the plug on Kahnle and brought in Adam Warren to get the final out. The Astros had increased their lead to 4-0.
The Astros made a pitching change for the top of the 6th. Lance McCullers, Jr was brought in to replace Charlie Morton who had held the Yanks to two hits. Brett Gardner greeted McCullers with a single to left down the line and there was optimism that the Yankees could get back into the game. The optimism started to dissipate as McCullers retired the next three batters end the inning. Gardy’s hit was the last one that McCullers, who finished the game, would allow.
The Yankees went down quietly in the 9th and when Greg Bird’s fly to center was caught by George Springer, their season was over. As the Astros celebrated on the field and later in the clubhouse, the Yankees could only gather their things and begin preparations for the flight home to New York City.
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Last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers watched the Chicago Cubs celebrate on Wrigley Field turf when the Cubs won the NLCS to advance to the World Series. They remembered that feeling and it helped fuel them to the NL Championship this year and a role as the host for Game 1 of the 2017 World Series. I am hopeful that the Yankees take the same sense of disappointment to fuel their hopes and aspirations for the 2018 season.
Hopefully, the Steinbrenner Family moves quickly to re-sign both GM Brian Cashman and Manager Joe Girardi so that the team can begin its off-season planning to bring the 2018 championship back to the Bronx.
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As always, Go Yankees!
Odds & Ends…
Friday, I was surprised when the Washington Nationals fired manager Dusty Baker. Yesterday, I was equally surprised when the San Francisco Giants dismissed Dave Righetti as the team’s pitching coach. Righetti, the former Yankees closer, was the longest tenured pitching coach in the Major Leagues, having served under three managers since 2000. During that time, Rags was part of three World Championships. Righetti, a Bay Area native, will remain in the Giants organization as a special assistant to GM Bobby Evans. Righetti is one of the most respected pitching coaches in the game but I guess the age-old question ‘what have you done for me lately?’ gets the best of us. Rags is too good not to get another opportunity elsewhere if he wants it.
|Credit: Brian Rothmuller-Icon Sportswire|
The Chicago Cubs fired their pitching coach (Chris Bosio) too. Bosio had held the position since 2012 and he’s fresh off a World Series Championship from last season. I guess those three home runs by Kiké Hernandez last week to send the Los Angeles Dodgers to the World Series and the Cubs home for the holidays were Bosio’s fault.
It sounds as though the Boston Red Sox will be offering a three-year deal to Astros bench coach Alex Cora to be their new manager. Cora will most likely accept once the World Series is over. The initial reaction from my Red Sox friends is lukewarm but I think Cora is a sound option for the Sox. For Cora, it will be about the right coaching hires to help him succeed. He will already have a strong team in place and he’ll be gaining front row World Series experience this year.
I will watch the World Series with interest. As a former resident of Los Angeles, it’s hard not to cheer for the Dodgers. They’ve been my favorite NL team, despite my love for the Yankees. So, I’ll be rooting for Blue and hoping they send the Astros home with saddened faces.
Have a great Sunday! Remember the magic of the 2017 Yankees and dream of the potential for the 2018 club. Go Yankees!
American League Championship Series
Yankees 8, Astros 1
Astros lead Series, 2-1
CC Sabathia is proving, again and again, that he is the team’s prime stopper in 2017. I almost feel bad since I was among those who left CC for dead. I started to buy into Sabathia early in the season, but when he ran into his bump in the road and time on the DL, I was burying the guy again. Yet, here he is on the main stage, being trusted with the ball in the most dire situations and he has not disappointed. Monday, backed by home runs from Todd Frazier and Aaron Judge, Sabathia reeled off his 10th win (against no losses) following a Yankees loss with an elite 1.69 ERA in those situations as the Yankees put the brakes on Houston’s march to the World Series.
Aaron Judge draws the most attention when going yard, but the biggest hit was provided courtesy of Todd Frazier. At the trading deadline when the Yankees acquired Frazier, it felt like he was going to be a two month rental before moving on. However, Frazier is showing how much he enjoys playing in the Bronx and seems to be tailor made for Yankee Stadium. I recognize that Miguel Andujar (or perhaps a free agent signing of Manny Machado after the 2018 season) represents the future at third, but Frazier deserves an encore performance in the Bronx next season.
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
While the final line for Astros starter Charlie Morton was not pretty, he was pitching great early. After two strikeouts by Morton to start the game, Didi Gregorius got the first hit for the Yankees with an infield grounder to third, but he was quickly erased for the final out when Morton’s pickoff throw to first was a little faster than Didi’s sliding hand.
It looked like Morton, who grew up as a Yankees fan in Connecticut, was going to have a very good game in this pitching-strong series. Like the first inning, Morton got two quick outs to start the second inning…a line out to center by Gary Sanchez, who jumped on the first pitch, and a strike out of Greg Bird. Then, Starlin Castro hit a weak squibbler toward third that third baseman Alex Bregman tried unsuccessfully to barehand. Carlos Correa retrieved the ball and threw to first, but Castro had already crossed the bag. Aaron Hicks followed with a high fly to left that dropped in for a single. The Yankees had runners at first and second, but those were two hard earned hits so you couldn’t really fault Morton. On Morton’s third pitch to Todd Frazier, he threw a good outside fastball but Frazier reached out and got enough of the bat on the ball with a one-handed swing to power it over the right field wall. The Yankees were up, 3-0.
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Staked to a three-run lead, CC Sabathia appeared to wobble in the top of the 3rd inning. After getting two outs, he walked George Springer. Alex Bregman singled to deep left, but a great throw by Brett Gardner to second base held the runners at the corners. The very dangerous Jose Altuve was up next and Sabathia pitched very cautiously to him before losing him on four balls. The bases were loaded for the Astros, the best hitting team in baseball with runners in scoring position. However, Sabathia got Carlos Correa to pop out to short for the final out. Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down. Excellent job by Sabathia to get out of the inning unscathed.
Greg Bird led off the bottom of the 4th with a fly to left that bounced over the wall for a ground rule double. Left fielder Cameron Maybin came running up to catch the ball but then pulled up at the last moment before the ball hit the ground and became a souvenir in the seats. After Starlin Castro grounded out to third, Aaron Hicks hit a fly to right which Josh Reddick caught on the warning track but Bird was able to tag and move to third. Todd Frazier walked to bring up Chase Headley. Headley hit a grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve in shallow right and reached when Altuve bobbled the ball. Frazier was safe at second and Bird scored on the play. Brett Gardner was hit by a pitch on the left knee to load the bases, which brought Astros manager A.J. Hinch out of the dugout with a call to the bullpen. He brought in Will Harris to replace Morton. With Aaron Judge batting, Harris threw a wild pitch and the runners advanced, pushing Frazier across home plate to score the Yankees’ fifth run. Judge finally broke out of his ALCS slump when he blasted a line drive into the left field seats for three more runs. The Yankees had increased their lead to 8-0.
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
The Astros threatened again in the top of the 6th inning. Carlos Correa started the inning with a hard grounder that deflected off the glove of Didi Gregorius to safely reach first base. After Sabathia recorded two outs, Marwin Gonzalez hit a grounder to Gregorius and reached base when Didi lost his footing and overthrew Greg Bird at first. Correa moved to third. After a visit to the mound by Larry Rothschild, Sabathia got Josh Reddick to hit a soft grounder back to the pitching mound that CC was able to field and throw to first for the final out. The shutout remained intact for the great 37-year-old Yankees lefty.
For Sabathia, his day was finished. Adam Warren took over in the top of the 7th. It didn’t start well when he walked his first batter, but he settled in and retired the next three batters to push the game to the 8th inning. Warren was back out for the 8th and retired the Astros in order.
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
It was inevitable that we’d see Dellin Betances at some point and Joe Girardi decided his time was the top of the 9th inning to seal the deal for the Yankees. It was a great opportunity for Betances to earn redemption and show that he can be a trusted arm for the duration of the playoffs. Unfortunately, it was a missed opportunity for Betances who walked the first two batters he faced and was pulled.
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Tommy Kahnle was brought in. Cameron Maybin greeted Kahnle with a single to left to load the bases. Kahnle struck out George Springer for the first out but then he walked Alex Bregman which pushed Marwin Gonzalez across the plate for the Astros’ first run (a run charged to Betances). Bases still loaded for likely AL MVP Jose Altuve and only one out. Kahnle came up big when Altuve hit a grounder to second baseman Starlin Castro who stepped on second and threw to Greg Bird at first to complete the double play. Game over. Yankees win!
Granted, Judge’s home run was huge. While I still feel that Frazier’s bomb was the difference-maker (offensively), the play of the game occurred in the top of the 4th inning when Marwin Gonzalez led off with a fly to right that took Aaron Judge to the wall. Judge reached up to catch the ball as he crashed into the wall and fall to the ground. It was an incredible catch to rob Gonzalez of a potential home run. Of course, it brought the obligatory questions of who was hurt the most…Judge or the wall…but it was the play of the game in my opinion. The Yankees were holding the three-run lead at that point courtesy of the Frazier home run, and a rally by the Astros in that spot would have made it a much different game.
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Judge, proving his glove is as powerful as his bat, also made a diving catch of a line drive hit by Cameron Maybin in the fifth inning.
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I can’t say enough great things about CC Sabathia. Time and again, he has proven to be a crafty veteran who simply knows how to win. He’s faced his share of adversity but continues to overcome. Like Frazier, I think that CC Sabathia was earned a spot on the 2018 Yankees.
|Credit: John Munson-NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
The Yankees now turn Game 4 over to the forgotten Sonny Gray. Like Betances (who failed his ALCS audition), this is a chance for redemption for Gray. We know that he will be a huge part of future Yankee teams but this is his time to grab the moment and make his mark in New York. Gray (10-12, 3.55 ERA) will be opposed by Lance McCullers, Jr (7-4, 4.25 ERA). Don’t let the ERA fool you, McCullers, the son of a former Yankee, has been very tough on the Pinstripers. This game should be a classic. Hopefully, Sonny Gray rises to the challenge to craft an exciting first chapter of his Yankees post-season career.
Odds & Ends…
I missed the weekend game (Game 2) due to a preplanned trip. The Yankees failed to tell me that they were going to make it to the American League Championship series earlier in the year when I made plans. A heartbreaking loss is not fun to write about, but I really appreciated the way that Astros catcher stood up for Gary Sanchez after the game. McCann could easily join the throngs who love to bash the Yankees but he’s been nothing but the professional that we came to love during his days in the Bronx.
I keep reading so many articles that speculate whether or not Manager Joe Girardi will return and how he seems to be edgier around friends and family. Personally, I think he’d be foolish to leave at the dawn of a new era in Yankees baseball. I think he’ll come to an agreement with the Yankees after the season is over to help the Baby Bombers strive for greater heights over the next few years. Honestly, I do not see any viable alternatives and nothing against Yankee coaches like Tony Pena or Rob Thomsen but I think, despite his faults, Joe Girardi is the best man for the job.
Have a great Tuesday! Like Joe Girardi and Joe Torre before him have said, let’s just win one game today. We believe. Go Yankees!