Tagged: CC Sabathia

Gloom, Despair and Agony…

Okay, it was not quite that bad.  Still, it was a disappointing loss.  It would have looked so much different if Greg Bird had homered in the third instead of pulling it foul.  He had another chance to do damage in the fifth, but was unable to push any runs across (although he did reach on a fielding error which allowed Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Judge to score).  He finished the night 0-for-4, dropping his batting average to .122.  When he does start hitting, he’ll quickly become a fan favorite.  

The Yankees lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-3, and fell 1 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles.  The O’s beat the Boston Red Sox, 2-0, behind a stellar pitching performance by Dylan Bundy.  With the Red Sox loss, the Yankees maintained their slight hold on second place.

This was a winnable game.  Even though it was an off-night for starter CC Sabathia, he kept the team in the game and lasted five innings.  We cannot expect the vintage Sabathia every outing.  He is, after all, a 36 year old who had to reinvent himself.  This is not 2009 even if he lulled us into that thinking with his first couple of starts.

It’s hard to put a finger on any single reason for the loss.  Bird’s slow start.  Sabathia’s underwhelming performance.  Chase Headley’s base running skills.  Starlin Castro’s fielding.  Aaron Judge’s six men left on base.  It was just one of those nights.  Shoulda, coulda, woulda…but it didn’t happen.

Oh well, today is a new day.  Michael Pineda takes the mound against Pittsburgh’s talented young righthander, Jameson Taillon.  Pineda will need to bring his ‘A’ game but if he has truly turned the corner, I am sure he will.  With Baltimore and Boston looming next week, the Yankees cannot afford to stumble in the Steel City.  

Let’s re-set this post’s image…

The Yankees need to figure out a way to get Aaron Hicks into the lineup.  Limited to pinch hitting, he did single in the eighth last night.  I hate rehashing why the Yankees should trade Brett Gardner, but I keep watching the San Francisco Giants and their troubles with left field.  Their starting left fielder, Jarrett Parker, is out for a couple of months with a broken right clavicle.  They signed Melvin Upton, Jr to a minors deal following his release by the Toronto Blue Jays, but he had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb so he is down for a couple of months too.  In last night’s loss to the Colorado Rockies, they were playing journeyman Chris Marrero who has struggled to find a home in the Majors for the last few years.  Marrero did homer but he is only batting .152 (5-for-33).  I’ve always thought Gardner would be a good fit in San Francisco.  The Giants have the prospects for a match.  The “reach for the sky” choice would be 23-year-old RHP Tyler Beede, but GM Brian Cashman would have to include more than Gardner to make it happen.  Gardner would be easier to trade if he wasn’t hitting only .192.  His bat will come around so when it does, Cashman should get Giants EVP-Baseball Operations Brian Sabean or GM Bobby Evans on the phone to strike a deal.

Credit:  Getty Images

It’s good to see shortstop Didi Gregorius in rehab games.  On Friday night, he was 2-for-3 with six innings of work for the High A Tampa Yankees.  He’s on track to return to the Bronx the beginning of May.  I am sure that he’s motivated to be back for the two game series in Cincinnati beginning on May 8th as the Reds are his original team.  Of course, that’s also true for a certain flame-throwing closer as well as a YES Network announcer who proudly wore #21 in the Bronx for a few years.

Speaking of numbers, Rickey Henderson, Tino Martinez, and Robinson Cano should be very pleased to hear that their former MLB jersey has cracked the top 10 for most popular jerseys sold…thanks to Gary Sanchez.  According to MLB.com, Sanchez has the ninth most popular jersey, ahead of the Los Angeles Angels star outfielder, Mike Trout.  There were four Cubs, two Dodgers, two Giants, and no Red Sox in the Top 8.  

Have a great Saturday!  Yankees, just bring it!  We want one for the win column!

O Say Can You CC…

I have to admit that I wasn’t a believer.  I did not think that CC Sabathia could make the transformation from a young dominant power pitcher to a crafty veteran at the top end of a starting rotation.  Weight issues, age, injuries, alcoholism…whatever the cause…I didn’t think he could do it.  He has proved me wrong.  

After Saturday’s 3-2 win over the St Louis Cardinals, Sabathia leads the team with a 2-0 mark, compiling a 1.47 ERA in 18 1/3 innings with 11 strikeouts.  While the most dominant single game belongs to Michael Pineda, Sabathia has been the most dominant overall.  

I had gotten to the point where I thought of Sabathia as a five inning starter.  Yet, here he was on the mound on April 15, 2017 at 36 years of age, throwing 7 1/3 innings, allowing only three hits and one run with just one walk.  He punched out six.  THAT was not the Sabathia that we had come to expect in recent years.  

I am so glad that he has been able to make the transformation.  I don’t know if it is the time he has spent with Yankees legend Andy Pettitte but we tend to hear Pettitte’s name come up a lot in interviews with not only Sabathia but other pitchers when they talk about success.  Pettitte’s annual visits to training camp for a few days always seem to have such a tremendous impact.  I think Pettitte is an assistant on a high school coaching staff these days, but I would love for his return to New York as an eventual successor to Larry Rothschild.  

At the beginning of the year, I felt it was obvious this would be Sabathia’s final year in Pinstripes.  With the youth movement in full bloom, I didn’t see a future for Sabathia or a veteran’s salary in Team Hal’s budget for 2018.  If Sabathia expects to make his 2017 salary ($25 million) next year, I still think it’s unlikely he returns.  He’ll have to take a pay cut to stay and perhaps he will.  But for now, I am just enjoying the ride.  I love watching Sabathia’s accomplishments this year, and I know that he is a huge influence on the younger pitchers.  If Sabathia, Pineda and Severino can continue pitching like their most recent starts, this is definitely a team that can outperform expectations in 2017.  Of course, Greg Bird does need to start mixing in a hit or two.

I was reading an interview with Jordan Montgomery this morning.  Or should I call him “Gumby”?  I had to laugh when I saw him refer to the famous Serendipity 3 on 60th Street as “some dessert place”.  Give him time.  He’ll figure the City out.   If he keeps pitching like we know he can, he’ll be here for a very long time.  

With the inability of Matt Holliday to play on Saturday due to lower back stiffness, I hope this is not a sign of things to come.  His final years with the Cardinals, while he was still playing in the field, came with significant DL stints. I had hoped the ‘DH-only’ role would help preserve his health.  Hopefully, this is just an aberration and he’ll back with bat in hand shortly.  The loss of Holliday did show the significance of having Chris Carter on the roster as Carter provided what proved to be the winning run in Saturday’s game with a run-scoring single in the sixth inning.  

As for Greg Bird, he needs to figure this out soon.  His 1-for-26 start is dreadful.  I remain hopeful that he’ll work through the challenge and will start to hit like he did in Spring Training.  He is too much of a professional hitter for the current sample to be representative of his ability going forward. No offense to Chris Carter, but I strongly prefer Bird at first in any scenario.  I wish that Tyler Austin was closer to returning but he’s not an option for now and there’s no one else in the organization that would be superior to the current duo of Bird and Carter.  Rob Refsnyder is only hitting .192 in AAA and Ji-Man Choi is not on the 40-man roster.  Choi is batting .280 but he has only 2 RBI’s and no home runs.  

I hate to be politically-incorrect, but the words of former Arizona Diamondback Mark Grace resonate in my ears when I think of Bird’s slump.  “A slumpbuster is if a team’s in a slump, or if you personally are in a slump, you gotta find the fatest, gnarliest, grossest chick and you just gotta lay the wood to her. And when you do that, you’re just gonna have instant success. And it could also be called jumping on a grenade for the team.”  Bird, just do it…take one for the team.

Have a great Sunday!  Hopefully, it will be a sweeping success for the Yankees!

So Much For Your Promises…

As Jordan Blackmon Montgomery prepares for his first Major League start later today, the Shattered Dreams Award must reside with reliever Tyler Webb.  Webb had been selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates last December.  As a lefty, he stood a decent chance of making the Pirates roster.   His Spring numbers for the Pirates were legit.  In 13 innings pitched over the course of 8 games, he did allow 13 hits and 4 runs (2.77 ERA), but he walked only one and struck out 11.  However, he lost the roster battle to former Yankee (and fellow left-hander) Wade LeBlanc and was returned to the Yankees organization. 

Back with the Yankees and not on the 40-man roster, Webb was assigned to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

On Sunday, in the second game of a double header with the Buffalo Bisons, Webb replaced starter Joe Mantiply for the RailRiders with two outs and two on in the bottom of third inning.  He struck out Rowdy Tellez to end the threat.  So far, so good.  The next inning started nicely, with the RailRiders nursing a 3-0 lead, as Webb struck out the first batter.  Then, unfortunately, the wheels came off.  When Webb was pulled from the game after two outs in the bottom of the fourth, he had allowed six singles and a double.  The Rail Riders had scored 6 runs to take the lead.  Webb did strike out the last batter he faced (Rudy Tellez for a second time).  So, for one inning of work, recording all outs by strikeout, the 6 runs left Webb with an ERA of 54.00.  Oddly enough, he wasn’t the loser as the RailRiders tied the game in the top of the fifth.  His replacement, Tyler Jones, took the loss by allowing three Bison runs over the next couple of innings.  It must be a horrible feeling to stand on the cusp of making a Major League roster, only to see your dream die and then you subsequently get shellacked in the minor leagues. At 26 going on 27, Webb is not going to get too many more opportunities.  Performances like Sunday will not exactly open any doors, except for the one leading out of baseball.  Hopefully, he’ll be more effective next time around and will be ready the next time he gets the call to The Show.  Otherwise, it’s nothing but shattered dreams, shattered dreams…

Credit:  Pete G. Wilcox, Times Leader

So far, the only quality starts thrown by Yankees pitchers are pitchers who stand tall on the mound (6’6” or greater).  We’re on a roll with two consecutive quality  “tall” starts.  Sunday belonged to CC Sabathia (6’6”) with 6 innings of work and two earned runs (three total) even if he didn’t get the decision, and Monday featured the near perfect game by Michael Pineda (6’7”).  He went 7 2/3 innings, allowing only one run.  Jordan Montgomery (6’6”) looks to continue the “basketball pitcher” streak today.  If Montgomery struggles, perhaps Dellin Betances (6’8”) steps in to assist.  I have to admit that I kinda feel like Ronald Torreyes trying to high five Aaron Judge with this pitching staff.  When Aroldis Chapman is brought in behind these guys, it must seem like Tyrion Lannister following Jamie Lannister.  Or me chasing after Aroldis.

I am all for whatever edge the “downward angle” brings for Montgomery.  This is an exciting start and it is one that I am hopeful is very successful.  I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a Yankee-born pitcher since Andy Pettitte. 

According to Forbes Magazine, the New York Yankees are the most valuable MLB franchise, worth an estimated $3.7 billion.  The Los Angeles Dodgers are second, trailing the Yankees by nearly a billion dollars ($2.75 billion).  The others in the “billion dollars behind” category are the Boston Red Sox ($2.7 billion), Chicago Cubs ($2.675 billion), and the San Francisco Giants ($2.65 billion).  I have no problem thinking of a billion reasons why the Yankees are better than the rest of Baseball.  Now the proof is in the pudding.  But as much as I love the Yankees, I would seriously have to consider selling the team if my name was Steinbrenner.  

Happy Retirement to former Yankees outfielder Brennan Boesch.  Boesch was a decent platoon outfielder for a few seasons with the Detroit Tigers at the start of his career.  He played in 23 games with the Yankees during the 2013 season until his release in July of that year.  During his brief Yankees career, he batted .275 (14-for-51) with 3 HR’s and 8 RBI’s.  After his release by the Yankees, he subsequently played for the Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati Reds.  Last year, he was in the Boston Red Sox organization at the AAA Level, but missed the majority of the season with a broken wrist.  He was unable to get a spring invite from a Major League team this year.  Boesch is a player I liked and hoped would succeed but it wasn’t meant to be.  I wish him the very best in his post-playing career.  

Credit:  David Richard, USA TODAY Sports

Happy Wednesday!  Let’s get a win today!

Optimism fades to Pessimism?…

Where did the excitement of the new season go?…

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The season began with so much optimism.  The Yankees had the best Spring of any team in Major League Baseball (24-9-1) which was their best Grapefruit League performance since the 2009 World Championship year.

The Yankees may not be World Series contenders this year, but I expected more than a 1-3 start through four games.  With 157 games to go, there’s still much baseball to be played.  But it’s important to see the team gel with a winning mindset sooner rather than later.  It’s not feasible or possible to win every game, but the attitude for expecting to win should be there.  With a downward spiral, it’s too easy to get caught up in the losses and the negativity spreads like wildfire.

My concern this month is the schedule.  It is not an easy path in April.  With two more games to go in Baltimore, the Yankees will play a total of eleven games this month against the AL rival Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.  The series against the Red Sox is at Fenway Park which isn’t exactly an inviting place for the Yankees (or their fans).  The Yankees also play the St Louis Cardinals in inter-league play.  Mike Matheny’s squad always comes to play.  The Yankees really need to get on top of this, and pull out a few stretches of two or three consecutive wins.

Despite Friday’s loss to the Orioles, it was good to see Gary Sanchez connect for his first home run on the season.  It is unrealistic to expect 20 home runs in 50 games again, but just getting the first one out of the way helps the mental approach to each at-bat.

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Credit:  Ron Sachs, The New York Post

Right now, the young trio of Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Greg Bird are all hitting below the Mendoza Line.  Sanchez has the best batting average of the three (.167).  Judge stands at .133, while Bird, with one hit in 16 at-bats, is a pathetic .063.  You’d expect Judge to be the team’s strikeout leader (given Chris Carter is not an every day starter) but he trails Bird by two.  It’s sad when the team’s best hitter is Chase Headley (7-for-15).

Collectively, as a team, the Yankees need to start hitting.  The formula of a few hitters making contact with the majority of the bats being silent does not work.  A few more pitching performances like the one CC Sabathia delivered in the second game of the season would also be nice.  With no fifth starter needed until April 16th, the Yankees have cycled once through the rotation.  Sabathia gave the only defined quality start.  Tanaka’s start may have been the worst of his Yankees career.  As we proceed into the second run through the rotation, much better results are expected and needed.

Losing is like negativity.  It is very infectious.  If the Yankees can start running out a few stretches of consecutive wins, they can change the attitudes and mindset of the team (and its fans).

Let’s see what the second week of the young season will bring…

Tommy John was a good Yankee but I am tired of hearing his name…

The Yankees received bad news regarding top pitching prospect James Kaprielian this week.  He has been shut down and placed on the Minor League DL.  He underwent a MRI on his pitching elbow (which include dye-contrast).  The results have been shared with the Yankees team physician and Kaprielian will now head to Los Angeles to meet with noted Tommy John surgeon Neal S. ElAttrache, M.D.  Dr. ElAttrache is the team physician for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.  He also is on the Board of Directors for the famed Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic which was co-founded by Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered Tommy John surgery.

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If Kaprielian needs Tommy John surgery, it’s very possible that we won’t see him again until 2019.  With CC Sabathia’s contract up at the end of the year, I had hoped that Kaprielian would be in position to compete for his rotation spot next Spring.  Now, his career is in doubt.  This is starting to feel like the Andrew Brackman situation.  A pitcher with so much promise who was never able to overcome arm injuries, leading to his eventual release and exit from baseball.

With Kaprielian sidelined, the focus will shift to young pitching prospects like Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams, and Justus Sheffield to lead the way for future rotation help.

I remain hopeful that Kaprielian receives the best possible medical opinion from Dr ElAttrache and if Tommy John surgery is the only answer, I wish him much success on the long journey to recovery and hope that the Major League dream is still within his grasp.

He said, she said…

This seems to be the week of fake news.  Two separate reports were leaked, only to be quickly shot down by the Yankees.  News reports spread quickly that Yankees prospect Clint Frazier had asked the Yankees to un-retire Mickey Mantle’s number.  Both the team and the player quickly denied the reports and Frazier stated that he was only concerned with the front of the jersey and not the back of it.  The story obviously got its start from somewhere, whether it was words take out of context or spoken in jest, but I do not believe that Frazier made the request.

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The other report was that the Yankees have no intention of re-signing starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka should he decide to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract at the end of the year.  Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner stated that no discussions have taken place.  The Yankees would be foolish not to consider all their options, and re-signing Tanaka to a new longer term deal does represent risk.  He’ll be 29 in November and the slight tear in his Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL) is not going to improve without eventual surgery.

Both stories sound like writers fishing for stories.  Finding a shred of truth it and then embellishing it for the sake of sensationalism.

Bad trade rising…

The Yankees have made their share of bad trades over the years, but one that doesn’t get much recognition is the trade of infielder Eduardo Nunez to the Minnesota Twins three years ago yesterday.  Nunez was subsequently traded to San Francisco and is now their starting third baseman (hitting .400, 8-for-20 so far this season).  Meanwhile, the prospect that the Yankees received from the Twins for Nunez (23-year-old lefty Miguel Sulbaran), currently with AA Trenton, has been suspended for 25 games due to a drug policy violation.

Miguel Sulbaran

Credit:  Jessica Kovalcin

While it has not been reported what Sulbaran did to lead to the suspension, it’s safe to say that the Yankees would not make this trade if they had a chance to do it over again.

A memorable Opening Day…

In all my years as a baseball fan, I’ve never attended an Opening Day game.  That changed yesterday when I saw the Colorado Rockies open Coors Field for the 2017 season against their division rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Although I am a Yankees fan, the Dodgers are my favorite National League team so I have to admit that I was wearing some Dodger blue yesterday.

But the day belonged to the Rockies and their young starting pitcher, Kyle Freeland, who made his Major League debut.  Freeland, who was born and raised in Denver, delivered a very solid performance while picking up his first Major League victory.  He went 6 innings, giving up only 4 hits and 1 run.  He walked 2 and struck out 6.  He was never on the ropes and seemed in command for the duration of the game.  The Rockies won, 2-1, in a pitcher’s duel (with Hyun-Jin Ryu) which is not something you ever expect to see at Coors Field.  The game’s only home run was delivered by backup catcher Dustin Garneau.  The Dodgers starting lineup was missing two regulars (Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez) although both made their way into the game in later innings.  But it wasn’t enough, and Freeland departed with the win.

Colorado Rockies vs Los Angels Dodgers

Credit:  The Denver Post

I remember seeing Jake Peavy make his Major League debut in San Diego years ago (against the Yankees) and it always stuck with me throughout Peavy’s career that I was there at the start.  I guess I can now say that about Freeland too.  Time will tell if he is as successful as Peavy.

Despite pulling for the Dodgers, it was a fun day in the Mile High city.  The weather was uncharacteristically warm for this time of year (mid 70’s) and the stadium was energized by its fans.  I expected to see more Dodger Blue but Purple was clearly the color of the day.

Warp Speed to Opening Day…

At the conclusion of the World Series, the off-season seems like it will be so long.  We wait for the opening of free agency, then the winter meetings  which generally brings a short frenzy with signings and trades.  Then we wait through the holidays, and go through a quiet January.  Finally, around Valentine’s Day, we are able to get our baseball fix as training camps begin to open.

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Then, we blink, and here we are a week away from Opening Day.  Cubs fans are probably still trying to recover from the hangovers, but the rest of us are anxious to begin the new year and at this point, everyone is optimistic.

The Yankees’ off-season was relatively quiet.  The major move, aside from the return of Aroldis Chapman, was to sign free agent Matt Holliday, now the team’s starting DH.  Matt’s days in the field, at age 37, are over but the bat remains effective and so do the leadership abilities.  I’ve been very pleased this spring with the impact that Matt has had on the younger players, most notably Aaron Judge.  With only a one-year contract, it is possible that this is Matt’s only year in pinstripes.  Time will tell, but given what I’ve seen so far, I hope the team is able to find a way to bring him back next year.

Matt Holliday

Credit:  Matt Rourke, AP

I am not sure what can be said about Masahiro Tanaka other than he’s been amazing this spring.  Through five starts and 18 2/3 innings, he’s only surrendered six hits while striking out 22 to go with a sparkling 0.00 ERA.  I realize that spring stats do not mean a great deal but Tanaka appears to be setting himself up for a career year.  Of course that carries good news/bad news as Tanaka can opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but that’s something to worry about after the season.  For now, let’s just enjoy what could be a tremendous year for the young right-hander.

Manager Joe Girardi has announced that CC Sabathia, rather than Michael Pineda, will slot in the rotation behind Tanaka.  It was something of a surprise given CC was fighting for the fifth spot last spring.  Girardi gave the ‘right-left’right’ strategy as his logic for the move, putting the left-handed Sabathia between two righties.  He also referenced Sabathia’s numbers last year…3.91 ERA in 30 starts.  His record was only 9-12 but wins and losses are deceiving for pitchers as they are dependent upon run support.

I am not sure how Pineda will react to the move back to third in the rotation.  If it motivates him to overcome his inconsistency, I am all for it.  The starting rotation needs a solid year from Pineda if it is going to be successful.

The fight for the last two spots in the rotation has been interesting.  At the start of training camp, I felt the favorites were Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  Severino started strong and then has struggled with starts recently (although he did throw three hitless innings in relief yesterday).  Mitchell has been good but not great.  Chad Green has probably pitched the best among the contenders but the dark horse that is emerging is tall left-hander Jordan Montgomery.  Luis Cessa, one of the early hopefuls, has already been sent to minor league camp for re-assignment.  At 6’6” with an ability to pitch inside, I am very intrigued by Montgomery. He has proven himself at both the AA and AAA levels, and I think the 24-year-old is ready for the major leagues.

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Credit:  Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports

In the right field competition, I think Aaron Judge has done enough to hold off Aaron Hicks.  The stats are fairly comparable.  Judge is batting .300 (15-for-50) with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Although he is still among the leaders in strikeouts (with 12), he is striking out less than he did last season in the Bronx.  Hicks is batting .279 (12-for-43), also with 2 HR and 4 RBI.  Hicks has struck out seven times.  Judge has also displayed a terrific arm in right.  For me, Judge has done what he needs to this spring and deserves the opportunity to take right field.

Greg Bird has been named the starting first baseman to the surprise of no one.  Bird currently carries a .432 BA (19-for-44) with 6 HR and 11 RBI.  I don’t think there was any chance that Chris Carter was going to beat out Bird, but Carter has been almost non-existent during training camp.  He is currently batting .136 (6-for-44) which is actually up from where it was a few days ago.  He only has one home run to go with 22 strikeouts.  I think there’s a very strong argument for why Carter should be DFA’d when Tyler Austin returns from his foot injury.

With the final days of training camp winding down, the greatest uncertainty lies with shortstop.  Didi Gregorius is out for the next month after suffering the shoulder sprain in the World Baseball Classic, so the question is who will replace Didi at short.  The most logical move would be to slide Starlin Castro to short, and use a platoon of Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder at second.  For me, it’s not ideal because Castro is still learning the nuances of second base and it should remain his focus.  The only problem is there are no other true shortstops on the 40-man roster.  Prospect Tyler Wade is the most advanced shortstop in the system and he’s probably my favorite for the temporary replacement but he’s young (only 22).  He’s batting .342 in Grapefruit League action (13-for-38) but doesn’t have much power.  Other possibilites are non-roster invitees Pete Kozma and Ruben Tejada.  Didi’s bat will certainly be missed while he is away.

With the latest minor league re-assignments, the Yankees have 39 players remaining in camp.  This includes the injured players (Tyler Austin and Didi Gregorius).  With Opening Day just a week away, there will be more cuts this week as the Yankees pare down to 25 for the trip to St Petersburg to face the Tampa Bay Rays on April 2nd.

This has been a fun spring.  The Yankees have the best record in the Grapefruit League (or the Cactus League for that matter).  I know that spring stats mean nothing when the regular season starts but winning is always fun.  We’ve seen some great stuff from the talented super-prospects in the organization like Gleyber Torres and James Kaprielian.  Although they won’t be heading north with the big league club, they’ve given us glimpses of their incredible futures.  Gary Sanchez has continued to impress and Greg Bird has shown that last year’s shoulder injury is no longer an issue.  I am anxious and ready for the season to start.  The Cubs are yesterday’s news.

The March to Opening Day…

How will the Yankees “manage” potential change?…

Will Joe Girardi be the Yankees manager this time next year?  As the manager enters the final year of his contract, the expectation is that he’ll re-sign with the Yankees in October or November.  But anything is possible.  The Steinbrenner family might have a change of heart and decide that a change is needed.  Girardi has held the job for a long time (this will be his 10th season as Yankees skipper).

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Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

I get frustrated with Girardi at times.  He’s never been one of my favorite managers.  I had greater confidence in Joe Torre’s ability to lead.  Among current managers, I hold Don Mattingly and Terry “Tito” Francona in highest regard.

Mattingly was my favorite player so sentimentally that’s probably why he is my favorite manager.  In 2008, when the Yankees hired Girardi over Mattingly, I did think it was the right decision given Mattingly’s lack of managerial experience at the time.  Mattingly was not able to succeed in Los Angeles for the Dodgers, but I’ve felt he has continually improved each year.  Today, I’d easily take Mattingly over Girardi.  My only reservation with hiring Mattingly as Yankees manager (assuming the Yankees could pry him from Miami) is preservation of his Yankees legacy.  Managers are hired to be fired or so the saying goes.  I wouldn’t want my final memory of Mattingly in pinstripes to be him walking away after being fired.

I have admired Francona since he was manager of the Boston Red Sox.  I had great respect for the champions he built and of course he was responsible for ending The Curse of the Bambino, along with then general manager Theo Epstein.  I doubt that Francona would ever leave the Cleveland Indians (by his own choice).  The Yankees could have hired him after he was fired in Boston but they did not express any interest.  Francona has history with the Cleveland Indians franchise (pre-dating his time in Boston), and after taking the team to the World Series last year, he is very beloved in the city.

If the Yankees do decide to make a managerial change at the end of the season, I just don’t see any overwhelming candidates who could do a better job.  Mattingly would be great, but he is under contract, so it would take a trade to make it happen.  I am not enthused by simply elevating one of the coaches (Rob Thomson or Tony Pena).

This situation bears watching over the course of the season.  I think the odds are much better that GM Brian Cashman, also in the final year of a contract, re-signs with the Yankees than Girardi.  Time will tell.

Let the competition be Judged…

The Yankees have various degrees of competition at certain positions this spring.  The most obvious is the two open spots in the pitching rotation behind Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.  The early leaders, in my opinion, are Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell.  But there is still time for Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and perhaps Adam Warren to state their case.  I am anxious and excited for Jordan Montgomery and James Kaprielian but it does not appear to be their times yet.  Kaprielian has the higher ceiling but he won’t make an appearance at Yankee Stadium, barring injuries, until September at the earliest.  Montgomery could show up sooner and might be the first or second option if someone gets hurt.

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The competition at first base evaporated somewhat when Tyler Austin broke his foot.  Greg Bird clearly holds the advantage over Chris Carter despite the latter’s 41 home runs last season.  Unlike Carter, Bird is good defensively (even if he’s not on par with former first baseman Mark Teixeira’s glove) and hits for average.  As Bird has shown this spring, he still has his power following last year’s injury.

Right field was also a speculated position of competition.  Most assume that Aaron Judge will get the job, but technically, he is in competition with Aaron Hicks.  Judge has a much greater upside, but he did strike out 42 out of 84 times late last season.  If he is not able to make the necessary adjustments at the big league level, it could open the door for Hicks to take the job.  I personally hope it does not happen.  I am hopeful that Judge figures it out at this level like he has at every level thus far.

The flaming red hair is left on the barbershop floor…

Kudos to OF Clint Frazier for cutting his bushy red hair this week.  While I personally feel that the Yankees current hair policy is outdated, I thought it was a good move by Frazier to cut his hair after a talk with Manager Joe Girardi.  Girardi felt that the hair had become a distraction.  It was a mature statement by Frazier in saying that he loved playing for the organization more than his hair.

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Credit:  AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Frazier won’t break camp with the Yankees, but he’ll be there soon enough.  This is all part of his maturation into a dynamic young future star outfielder for the Pinstripers.

There’s other baseball on TV…

I should probably watch the WBC more but I’ve never been into it.  Still, I fully understand the importance of placing Baseball on the World Stage and should reconsider my complacency.  I guess I am just get tired of seeing the Dominican Republic or Japan always win the competition.

Regardless, it was fun to see the USA defeat Columbia, 3-2, on a run-scoring single by Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles.  Yankees reliever Tyler Clippard picked up the win.  The game featured a very strong start by Jose Quintana for Columbia.  The rumors continue to swirl about Quintana’s future and the Yankees remain one of the potential destinations.  His WBC performance yesterday did nothing to dispel those rumors.

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Credit:  Logan Bowles, USA TODAY Sports

Have a great weekend, everyone!

—Scott

Is Status Quo enough?…

Waiting for Spring…

This is the time of year when there is not much activity in the way of baseball news.

Soon, MLB teams will be preparing for the journeys to Florida and Arizona (ala the Boston Red Sox infamous “Truck Day”).  There is still a number of free agents searching for new homes, but the Yankees have not engaged any players in known, substantive talks.

I remain convinced the Yankees need to bring in a veteran arm to compete with the young talent that will be auditioning for the two open spots in the rotation.  Jason Hammel remains available and that’s the arm I feel the Yankees should bring to camp.  But there are others.  I know that he’s not the pitcher he was earlier in the decade, but I liked San Diego’s move to sign Trevor Cahill.  A reliever for the Chicago Cubs, Cahill will get an opportunity to start again for the Padres.  Who knows if he’ll be successful or will ever be the starter that he once was, but the Padres are taking the chance.

Regardless of who the Yankees bring in, it’s a certainty that there will be a Scranton/Wilkes Barre shuttle for starters as well as relievers.  I have no doubt that names like Jordan Montgomery and Chance Adams will make their major league debuts in 2017.  The likelihood of Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia staying healthy all season long is remote.  This is why I feel that it is a very good idea to bring in a stable, consistent veteran influence like Hammel.

GM Brian Cashman would make the trade for Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox today if the price was right, but odds are it will be too high for the Yankees (leading to Cashman’s statement that it is 99% the Yankees will not be adding a pitcher before heading to Tampa).  I still expect the Houston Astros to pony up the prospects necessary to pry Quintana from the White Sox.  There’s no doubt Quintana would great in the Yankees rotation, but the time is not right.

There is a genuine concern that Masahiro Tanaka will have a great season and opt out of his deal next fall.  Without Tanaka, the Yankees rotation is looking very scary unless the young arms make major advancements during the season.

Here’s how the Top 3 rotations currently stack up in the AL East:

Baltimore Orioles:  Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy

Boston Red Sox:  Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello

New York Yankees:  Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia

Tampa Bay Rays:  Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, and Jake Odorizzi

Toronto Blue Jays:  Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, and Marcus Stroman

Clearly, Boston is the class of the division, with the Blue Jays not far behind.  There’s talent with the Orioles and Rays rotations.  The Yankees clearly hold the most questions heading into the season.  This is even more reason to shore up the back end of the rotation.

It’s tough thinking about giving up top prospects to bring in a much needed top starter.  The Yankees need an ace to pair with, or potentially replace, Tanaka.  2B/SS prospect Gleyber Torres seems to have that “It” factor that separates the great players from the good ones.  OF prospect Clint Frazier is guaranteed to be a hit in the Bronx if he gets the opportunity with a huge personality that matches the talent.

Hard decisions will need to be made as the team prepares for World Series contention within the next couple of years.  For now, Cashman needs to ensure that he gives Manager Joe Girardi the best possible arms for 2017.  It may be the best move is no move, or it may be bringing in a veteran arm or two to compete.  Either decision is a hard one.  It is time for the young guys to step up their game…

—Scott