Tagged: Danny Farquhar

CC Sabathia and the Hall of Fame…

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Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, NY Post

Resume now includes 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts…

Many of us fans were getting discouraged with the June Yankees after the May Yankees had made baseball fun again, but it’s funny how a nice little five-game win streak quickly changes one’s perspective.  I was a little late tuning into yesterday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, and it was already 6-0 in the first inning and the Rays were on their second pitcher after AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell had been pulled after one out and 39 pitches. Yikes! That’s the Yankee Juggernaut this team is capable of.

Congratulations to CC Sabathia for the achievement of his 250th Major League victory with the 12-1 win.  I know it took a few tries and CC was more worried about getting the Yankees their 46th win this year than the 250th of his career, but it’s an amazing achievement for the big guy from Vallejo, California.  With a career record of 250-157, 3.71 ERA, and 3,043 strikeouts, he seems like a shoo-in for Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  As an eleven-year member of the team, it seems natural that he should go into the Hall as a Yankee despite his early years in Cleveland.  I suspect in five years, CC will need to make travel arrangements for Cooperstown, New York. He’s been a great Yankee.

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The sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays couldn’t have come at a better time.  Entering the series, the Yankees held a slim ½ game lead over the Rays and had been scuffling for a few series until they finally won the last two games of the four-game set in Chicago with the White Sox to earn a split.  Now, three days later, the Yankees have a more comfortable 3 ½ game margin on the Rays and barring another tailspin should enter the month of the July atop the AL East Standings.

Now the challenging part. The Houston Astros are in the Bronx for a four-game series starting this evening. Yes, the Cincinnati Reds just swept the Astros and Houston is on a four-game losing streak but they still have the second-best record in the American League behind the Minnesota Twins at 48-27 (two wins more than the Yankees but the same number of losses).  Regardless of what happened in Cincinnati, playing in Yankee Stadium will energize the Astros and it will almost certainly be a playoff-like atmosphere. I expect it to be a very tough series, more challenging than the last three days.  Not taking anything away from the Rays, they are a very good team, but in my mind, the Astros, who many predict to advance to the World Series this year, are the team to beat.  They are boosted by the return of second baseman Jose Altuve who was activated off the IL yesterday. Similarly, the Yankees benefit from the returns of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge (the latter played his last rehab game for the RailRiders last night and should be activated for Friday night’s game).  It feels like the Yankees are catching the Astros at the right time, and I am glad the series is in New York and not Houston.  If the Yankees continue to get the pitching performances they’ve seen the last few games, I like the Yankees’ chances of taking at least three of four from the Astros.  After getting swept in Houston earlier this season, it would be fun if the Yankees could return the favor.

The pitching matchups are set:

Thursday:  Houston’s Framber Valdez (3-2, 2.77 ERA) vs Chad Green, Opener (1-2, 7.54 ERA) who will most likely be followed by Nestor Cortes Jr (1-0, 3.79 ERA).

Friday: Houston’s Brad Peacock (6-4, 3.67 ERA) vs James Paxton (4-3, 3.93 ERA)

Saturday: Houston’s Wade Miley (6-4, 3.30 ERA) vs Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 3.23 ERA)

Sunday: Houston’s Justin Verlander (9-3, 2.59 ERA) vs J.A. Happ (7-3, 4.59 ERA)

I am kind of glad the Yankees will be missing future Yank Gerrit Cole this series.  I think the only matchup that truly concerns me is Verlander-Happ.  Hopefully Happ can go toe-to-toe (or maybe I should say arm-to-arm) with Verlander with the Yankees’ offense providing the difference.

The Cameron Maybin decision. I agree with those who say the best course of action after tonight’s game is to option Cortes Jr to Triple A to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Aaron Judge.  If Cortes Jr can pitch at least five innings tonight, he won’t be ready to pitch again for five days so it buys more time for Maybin on the Yankees roster.  Sadly, if Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge stay healthy, I do not see room on the roster for Maybin.  It sucks because I think he’s been a fantastic addition and he fits so well into the clubhouse, but inevitably, the Yankees will need his roster spot.  Brett Gardner will provide the necessary outfield insurance so at that point, Maybin becomes a redundant part and one not likely to play much.  Hopefully Brian Cashman can work his magic and get a little something for Maybin rather than just lose him on waivers.  Of course, an injury could change this in a heartbeat.  I do not wish injury upon anyone, but I am in favor of buying as much time with Maybin as we possibly can before the inevitable guillotine falls.  That’s why I feel the Yankees should drop to a 12-man pitching staff at least temporarily.

I really do not get the adverse reaction Giancarlo Stanton has gotten from Yankee fans.  I feel it is unrealistic to expect players who have missed so much time to immediately hit to normal standards.  Recapturing one’s timing is a process. Facing Triple-A pitchers is not the same as MLB pitching.  Stanton missed 68 games until he was activated earlier this week.  I had absolutely no problem with Aaron Boone’s decision to rest Stanton yesterday. If Boone wants to take his time working Stanton back into form, he certainly knows more about the situation (where Stanton is physically and mentally) and it’s his right to make those decisions.  I know Stanton will eventually hit and I am not going to get on him for every strikeout until it happens. He deserves our patience and support, not our abuse.  I am glad Giancarlo Stanton is a Yankee and if the Yankees win the World Series this year, I have no doubts Stanton will be a huge reason why.  If you choose to boo him, I don’t consider you to be real fans anyway.

The Yankees had a couple of minor league transactions of note yesterday.  Pitchers Drew Hutchison and Danny Farquhar were released.  I never really expected Hutchison to last in the organization.  He wasn’t going to get a chance at the Big League level and apparently he had an opt-out in his minor league contract.  There was a time when I thought the one-time Blue Jay had potential but that time passed years ago.  Farquhar is the sadder story.  After his life-threatening brain aneurysm with the Chicago White Sox last year, he was the feel-good story of the Spring as he attempted his comeback with the Yankees.  While I didn’t think he’d crack the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen, there was a part of me that kind of hoped he would.  I wish him nothing but the best as he continues his journey back to the Major Leagues.  I hope he has better luck with his next organization and I look forward to the day he stands on a Major League mound again.

Lastly, a quick note on the starting pitching speculations for our favorite team.  As much as I would love to have Max Scherzer and there’s probably no untouchable prospects to get him (in my mind), he will never be a Yankee.  Primarily, I don’t think the Washington Nationals will trade him.  They’ve won 16 of 23 games and are only 4 games out in the NL Wild Card hunt.  Sure, much can happen between now and July 31st, but I don’t see the Nationals in seller’s mode (at least not as far as Scherzer is concerned).  But even if the Nats were willing to trade him, I honestly do not feel the Yankees would take the contract, even if Washington was willing to include a few dollars in the deal.  I know Hal Steinbrenner is on record saying that he’d be willing to surpass the highest luxury tax threshold if necessary to improve pitching but what he says and what he does are often two different things.  There always seems to be the eye on the bottom line and truthfully Scherzer is probably the only pitcher worth paying the highest tax but I don’t see it happening.  I guess you can never say never, but as much as I like Max Scherzer, I don’t think we’ll ever see him calling Yankee Stadium home.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Dismissing Arbitration, Everybody Wins…

Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky-Associated Press

Severino Signs 4-Year Extension w/One-Year Club Option…

It took until the final day of MLB arbitration hearings and the day Luis Severino was scheduled to debate his worth in front of a mediator but the Yankees did the right thing securing a four-year extension and club option for a fifth year with the very talented right-hander. The money reportedly is $40 million with the potential  for $12.25 million more if the club exercises the option.

    • 2019: $4 million plus $2 million signing bonus for $6 million total
    • 2020: $10 million
    • 2021: $10.25 million
    • 2022: $11 million
    • 2023: $15 million if option exercised by club or $2.75 million buyout

I feel it is a very good deal for the Yankees and it provides certainty and financial security for Severino and his family even if he could have gotten more by going to arbitration every off-season until his free agent year. While many defend the arbitration process, I view it as the unfortunate opportunity to sit in a room while your employer basically tells you, “You suck!”. Not literally, but the employer is trying to show why the player is not worth the amount of money he is requesting so negatives are embellished to help build their case for the lower club-offered salary.

Cleveland Indians Trevor Bauer won his arbitration case earlier in the week but he described it as a “character assassination”. It seems to me the negativity stemming from the arbitration hearing will have residual impact on the player. I’ve heard people say they (the players) get over it. Maybe some do but we’re all human and it probably affects everyone differently. It’s hard not to forget criticism (justified or not). Regardless of how Sevy may have dealt with it, I am glad that he didn’t get to that point. He’s young and he is the team’s ace. We need to do everything possible to build him up, not tear him down. The extension buys peace of mind for Sevy and that’s invaluable.

Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

The urgency now moves to the primary three pending free agents: Aaron Hicks, Dellin Betances, and Didi Gregorius. I don’t really want to lose any of these guys.  I’d prefer to see the Yankees lock them up on extensions before they ever hit the open market. That’s probably wishful thinking on my part but I am hopeful. With Hicks, I’d probably feel better if Estevan Florial was closer to The Show but he’s still a couple of seasons away so the Yankees cannot afford to lose their current starting centerfielder. The Yankees obviously have other elite arms in the bullpen but losing Betances would still hurt. Didi, to me, is part of the heart of this team with the talent to match. He’s my shortstop and I want it to stay that way. Sorry Tulo.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

CC Sabathia will be holding a press conference today to formally announce his retirement at the end of the season. I guess I hadn’t really thought about it until someone mentioned it recently but CC is a Hall of Famer. In my mind, with no offense and regardless of whether or not you agree, he is a better pitcher than recently selected HOF-er Mike Mussina. Entering the year, he is 246-153 in 538 starts covering 3,470 innings. His K/9 is 7.67 and BB/9 is 2.75.  His career ERA is 3.70 with 67.8 WAR per FanGraphs. He currently sits at 2,986 strikeouts so he’ll notch a very significant milestone early in the season. His number 52 should be retired with a plaque in Monument Park when his playing days are finished. I am hopeful the Yankees find a way to keep Sabathia part of the organization when he hangs up his jersey. He’s been a great Yankee. It would be incredible for him to begin AND end his Yankees career with World Series championships. For his sake (and ours too), I hope it happens.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Congratulations to Dellin Betances and his wife, Janisa, on the birth of their son, Dellin Jr, this week (Wednesday). “With their first pick of the 2037 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees select…” The boy is certainly getting tremendous genes to start his life’s journey. Dellin is scheduled to arrive in Camp on Monday for the team’s first full team workout.

Susan Slusser, a long-time and very respected beat writer for the Oakland A’s, caused a stir on Twitter yesterday when she reported that Chien-Ming Wang had a minor leg strain and would not be throwing today. After an avalanche of ‘what?’ from many people, Slusser acknowledged that she meant Wei-Chung Wang, a non-roster invitee in camp for the A’s. The 38-year-old former Yankee is not attempting a comeback, to the best of my knowledge, but it was funny to see his name in strong circulation yesterday. Wang was featured in a 2018 documentary called Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story. I know I’ve never been a fan of pitchers hitting since Wang suffered the torn Lisfranc ligament in his right foot while running the bases against the Houston Astros during the 2008 season. I’ve always wondered what could have been if Wang had not suffered that freak injury.

I love the story of Yankees hopeful Danny Farquhar. While I do not currently see a spot in the Yankees bullpen for Farquhar, it’s easy to root for a guy who had a life-threatening brain hemorrhage last summer yet has battled his way back to Major League Camp with Baseball’s greatest team. He is very appreciative of the opportunity with the Yankees and it shows. Barring injuries, it seems most likely that he’ll go to Triple A for depth or open eyes for another MLB team. Regardless of what happens, I wish him the best for much success in his journey back to the Major Leagues.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg-The New York Post

The first exhibition game is a week from today. While the sights and sounds of the practice fields around Steinbrenner Field have been great, I am ready to see the guys playing some actual baseball. Of course, the starters will be guys like Matt Lipka but it will be fun to see the Yankees on the field against the hated Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL. Hopefully this is the year the Yankees end the Red Sox season prematurely.

Steinbrenner Field will be buzzing tomorrow with the formal arrival of position players in camp. Up to this point, the players in Tampa have had to work out at the minor league facilities so it will be good to see everybody together again. Nothing like an Aaron Judge smile to brighten the World. On a side note, it was so awesome yesterday to see Gleyber Torres greeting pitchers and catchers after the completion of their workouts. I am so excited to see what the new season has in store for Gleyber. Whether he is at second base or shortstop, he’s such a vital cog to the success of this team. He truly embodies the spirit of “there is no ‘I’ in team” and is becoming one of its leaders despite his youth.

As always, Go Yankees!

Happy Reporting Day for Yankee Pitchers and Catchers…

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Photo Credit: Bryan Hoch via Instagram

The Dawn of the 2019 MLB Season…

After a painfully long off-season filled with too many rumors and rampant speculation, Yankee pitchers and catchers officially report to training camp in Tampa, FL today to begin preparations for the upcoming season. Granted, many of the Yankee players are already in Tampa, working out informally, but Spring Training officially gets underway today with the first scheduled workout for pitchers and catchers tomorrow.

Meanwhile, position players can spend Valentine’s Day with their loved ones although many, like Aaron Judge, Troy Tulowitzki, Didi Gregorius, Clint Frazier and others, are already in camp in advance of Monday’s reporting date. The first full team workout will be next Tuesday.

I really thought there would be movement with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper this week. Of course, I’ve been thinking that every week since the start of the new year.  At this point, I don’t really know when they’ll sign. I still think they’ll be in some team’s camp, either in Florida or Arizona, before Opening Day but who knows. I feel so bad for the other guys. The free agents not named Machado or Harper. So many guys who can make a difference on a Major League roster, like Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, and they can’t find work. Clearly something has to change. For the Yankees, they appear to have the guys who will compete for the Opening Day roster barring any last-minute additions. Even if the Yankees didn’t sign Machado or Harper, they’ve been one of the more active teams this off-season.

The biggest battle to watch this Spring is the first base competition between Luke Voit and Greg Bird. By the way, Happy Birthday to Luke!  He is 28 years old today. DJ LeMahieu will apparently also see time at first in his role as the utility player for the team (which makes no sense to me). I’d like to see Voit win the job outright, continuing his late season run from last year.  I like his energy and excitement.  It’s infectious and spreads to his teammates. I would love to see Greg Bird hit the way we know he can but, like many people, I am tired of waiting. My guess is Bird goes to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to find himself if Voit wins the job. Bird’s sweet left-handed swing would look beautiful in Yankee Stadium but I am losing confidence we’ll ever see it consistently. For as much as I want Voit to win the job, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Bird killed it this Spring to reclaim the position for himself. That would be a great problem to have.

I just can’t wrap my head around the thought that Troy Tulowitzki is the starting shortstop. In my mind, he’s done. If he shows anything in camp, great, but realistically, I am not expecting anything from him. Team defense, in my opinion, is better served with Gleyber Torres at short and DJ LeMahieu, and his gold glove, at second until Didi Gregorius returns later this summer. Tulo is such a Wild Card at the moment. He could make the Opening Day roster and be the starting shortstop or he could by cut by the end of March when the team identifies its best 25 players. Honestly, neither would surprise me. But I think LeMahieu is the better player at this point and the Yankees have a greater investment in him. I find it very hard to believe that LeMahieu is simply the new Ronald Torreyes. He is better and deserves better.

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Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Out in left field, dependence on Brett Gardner as the starter is flawed logic. A fourth outfielder at best at this stage of his career, it would be better for Clint Frazier to win the job (unlikely) or put Giancarlo Stanton in left more often which is always a risk since he carried the injury-risk label until his monster 2017 season when he won the NL MVP Award for the Miami Marlins. DH is the best way to keep Stanton healthy and hitting the way he did during his MVP year. Jacoby Ellsbury, if healthy, looms as a threat to take a roster spot away from Frazier for Opening Day. I anxiously look forward to the day when Ellsbury and the Yankees part ways. While I don’t expect him on the field Opening Day, the possibility exists he is there if healthy.  The problem with Ellsbury is even if he is healthy, it won’t stay that way. The King of the DL will become the King of the new IL (“Injured List”). Let those insurance checks keep rolling in for Team Hal.

The only other real competition will be the last spots in the bullpen. Tommy Kahnle is expected to take one of the jobs, assuming he can pitch like he did in 2017. I really hope that the last man in the pen is not Luis Cessa. That’s another guy I’d like to see leave. I would prefer the last spot go to either Domingo German or Jonathan Loaisiga as the swing man/spot starter assuming the Yankees do not bring anyone else into Camp.  Let German and Lasagna duke it out in the Spring with the best arm heading north to the Bronx in late March. Danny Farquhar probably looms as a sentimental favorite for many after last year’s brain hemorrhage. If Kahnle fails to win a job and Farquhar proves he should be one of the bullpen finalists, I’d like to see him get it.

It’s an exciting time in the Yankees Universe. We have one of the best teams in Baseball right now. If this team can perform to its expectations, we should be watching Yankees baseball deep into October. Hopefully, this season will not see the Boston Red Sox spilling champagne on Yankee Stadium soil. It would be much better for the Yankees to return the favor with celebrations at Fenway Park while sounds of New York, New York reverberate through its halls. I know, it would be better for the Yankees to celebrate at home, in front of Yankee fans, but there’s a part of me that wants to see the Yankees in googles and bubbly in the very heart of the Red Sox Nation.

I was a little disappointed to see Jorge Posada is joining the Miami Marlins organization as a special adviser.  I know, it was destined to be considering Jorge’s close relationship with Marlins CEO Derek Jeter but it’s still tough now that it is actually happening.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

It’s difficult to watch 50% of the Core Four representing another MLB organization. Plus, a third Yankees retired number currently manages the team. I guess we should be thankful the Marlins are in the National League so the Yankees do not play them very often. Credit to Alex Rodriguez for maintaining his alliance with the Yankees after the end of his playing career.  I know part of it was the renegotiation of his playing contract into special services for Hal Steinbrenner, but A-Rod could have severed ties as he pursued his broadcast career with FOX and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. Posada’s move makes me very thankful for Mariano Rivera, my favorite member of the Core Four. Rivera recently announced his intention to be a pitching consultant for the Yankees (teaching pitching in the organization in a to-be-determined role).  I’d really like to see the Yankees get Andy Pettitte back in the family. I’ve always thought he’d be a tremendous pitching coach and I’d love to see him transition back into pro coaching as an eventual successor for Larry Rothschild. We may have lost Jeter and Posada for now, but I don’t want to lose either Rivera or Pettitte. Eventually Don Mattingly will get fired.  Not that I want him to lose his job, but when the inevitable parting of the ways occurs, I am hopeful that Mattingly can find his way home.  Maybe not as a manager, but I look forward to the day when Donnie Baseball is a frequent visitor to Yankee Stadium again even if it is only for Spring Training and Old Timer’s Day.

It’s exciting to see the images of Spring Training. I am glad we’re getting the band together again and look forward to the first exhibition game a week from Saturday in Fort Myers, FL against the hated Boston Red Sox. This is the year we take them down. AL East Championship, American League Championship, World Series Championship. The time is now. Let’s end Boston’s reign.

As always, Go Yankees!

Baseball Talk During Super Bowl Week…

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Who Cares About Tom Brady and the New England Patriots…

Yankee pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training two weeks from today. Finally, the end is in sight for the long, often grueling, off-season. Well, maybe not for the high number of MLB free agents including two “generational talents” but for the rest of us and those players signed, we’ll be hearing the sounds of baseballs popping in catching mitts soon.

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I don’t think any of us expected utility man Neil Walker to return but any chance was eliminated last night when it was announced that he had signed with the Miami Marlins. Walker is expected to platoon with former Yankees prospect Peter O’Brien at first base. Not sure where Garrett Cooper is in the mix (maybe the outfield?) but I think he’s healthy now so there should be a few ex-Yankees roaming the training fields with holdovers Starlin Castro and Caleb Smith for Derek Jeter’s team this Spring. I think I’d be hesitant to wear the Number 14 for the Yankees this year. The last two guys who wore it during the regular season now reside in Miami. Personally, I’d prefer to see Tyler Wade wear the number, giving up 12 for Troy Tulowitzki who obviously cannot wear his Number 2 (as worn in Denver and Toronto) for obvious reasons.

Speaking of numbers, I have no clue what number DJ LeMahieu will wear. If he wants to keep his Colorado Rockies 9 in his number, I suppose he can wear Todd Frazier’s old Number 29. If it were up to me, I’d go with David Robertson’s number (30). James Paxton should wear 65 so that means Domingo German will be part of the number-searching brigade.

I am surprised that we are at the end of January and neither Bryce Harper nor Manny Machado have signed. It was funny watching the unofficial reports yesterday in Philadelphia that had the Phillies signing Harper. Turned out to be fake news like so many of the Harper-Machado rumors we’ve heard this winter. I think I’ve gotten to the point that if Ken Rosenthal is not talking about it, there’s nothing to it.

Despite the infield additions, I would still like to see the Yankees bring in another shortstop. I think they need to plan for the ‘what if’…what if Troy Tulowitzki is unable to recapture his past form? No doubt we’ll see DJ LeMahieu starting at second and Gleyber Torres covering short until Didi Gregorius returns (which is the way it should be anyway with the current roster makeup). But I’d like a strong fallback plan for the Tulo experiment. The Yankees lost one option yesterday when Freddy Galvis signed a one-year deal with the division rival Toronto Blue Jays (who will compete with Lourdes Gurriel, Jr for Tulo’s old job). Adeiny Hechevarria remains available and he’s certainly a guy I’d try to bring back. I think the ship has sailed for someone like Marwin Gonzalez but the former Astro fits the roster so well given his versatility. Jose Iglesias is the only other name out there that seems like a decent possibility. As it stands, it seems as though the Yankees will roll with the tandem of Tulo and Gleyber at short, backed by Tyler Wade. If there was ever a time for Wade to step up big, now is it. I wish I had more confidence in his ability to do it. Maybe the Yankees do. We’ll see.

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The Yankees are continuing their search for another starter as a hedge against the health of CC Sabathia which I feel is a very good idea. None of us want to see Luis Cessa starting on a consistent basis. Most likely Jonathan Loaisiga, if he can stay healthy, represents the best in-house insurance backed by Domingo German.  I fully expect to see Chance Adams and Domingo Acevedo given their chances this year. If the Yankees do bring in another starter, I see someone like Brett Anderson, not Dallas Keuchel.

I was surprised to see the Boston Red Sox sign former Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia to a minors deal. The three-time PED offender who received a lifetime ban a few years ago which was subsequently lifted by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred last summer, gets a fourth chance. The minor-league contract does not include a provision to attend Major League camp but no doubt if Mejia shows anything, he has a chance to make the Red Sox roster at some point this season. Mejia represents a shot in the dark for the Red Sox who have seen their bullpen depleted with the departure of Joe Kelly and the potential Craig Kimbrel does not return. Mejia was once a decent receiver. He’s been away from the game for a long time, yet he is only 29 and could certainly surprise some people. I am sure Boston loves the price tag (Mejia would make $625,000 if he is on the Major League roster) but Mejia’s character is enough for me to pass. Better Boston signs him than the Yankees. Boston fans can stop trashing Alex Rodriguez for his PED use now.

To flip the coin, I hate to defend the Red Sox but I’ve seen so many Yankee fans quick to rip Boston about their bullpen and how the Red Sox cannot match last year’s 108 wins due to career years by a few players. The Red Sox have won three consecutive AL East division championships in a row and four overall since the Yankees last won the division. Boston’s bullpen may not match up with the Yankees at the moment but as we’ve seen, relievers can be the most unpredictable in the sport. The Tampa Bay Rays, historically, have been very good at throwing together very effective bullpens with a cast of no-names. Conversely, even the great Yankee relievers are prone to blow a game now and then. The Yankees’ super-pen may look much better on paper right now but there is still time for the Red Sox to re-sign Kimbrel even if his level of play may be slipping. I know there are some young guys coming up in the Red Sox system that can be effective arms and there are a few holdovers that should not be dismissed like Tyler Thornburg, Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes. I don’t think we should be so quick to discount the Red Sox this year. They are the defending World Champions and they made their AL Division Series with the Yankees last October look like a total mismatch. They still have many of the very talented players that made the Los Angeles Dodgers look like a minor league team in the World Series. Based on their first seasons, Alex Cora was a better manager than Aaron Boone. It doesn’t mean that Boone can’t get better but the Red Sox are simply not going away. I see the division as a total dogfight. The Tampa Bay Rays, with their pitching staff, have the potential to be the surprise team of 2019 like the Oakland A’s were last year.  I’ve gotten to the point where I am tired of people saying that Harper and Machado are “luxuries, not necessities”. Until the Yankees can win the division and advance to the World Series to claim the championship, better players are a necessity. The Yankees haven’t won the World Series since 2009 (ten years ago) and have not sat atop the AL East since 2011.  Yes, the 2019 Yankees, with no further additions, are arguably the best team we’ve seen since the 2009 Yankees, I agree. It does not mean that we cannot or should not strive to be better. No team is going to roll over for the Yankees, not even the lowly Baltimore Orioles. If anything, teams play harder, try harder against the Yankees than any other team. With or without Harper or Machado, the Yankees have much to prove before we can start beating our chests.

Congratulations to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for the selection of their new manager, Jay Bell.  Bell, known as a player’s manager and referred to as the GOAT by his teams, has managed in the Yankees’ minor league system since 2017. In two years, he has taken High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton to the playoffs and will be looking to make it to the post-season for the third consecutive season with the RailRiders. I know that Aaron Boone likes ‘smart and confident’ which is the reason he chose Josh Bard, most likely a future manager, as his bench coach, but I can’t help but think Boonie would have benefited from someone like Bell at his side. Nevertheless, Bell is now coaching the guys who are just a phone call (and a bus ride) away from the Bronx and guys he has watched grow and develop over the last few years. The former Arizona Diamondback, who scored the winning run on the World Series-winning walk-off single by Luis Gonzalez in 2001 off legendary Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, is making a huge contribution to the Yankees organization. I guess it’s his payback for breaking our hearts so many years ago although I am sure that he’d gladly step on home plate again to defeat the Yankees if given the opportunity. I think Bell’s promotion from Trenton was an excellent move. Nothing against former RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell but he didn’t really excite me as a manager. Bell does. He seems to have the presence or aura held by former RailRiders manager Al Pedrique, maybe even more so. He’ll do well with the top Yankees farm team and the fruits of his efforts will be highly visible in the Bronx this coming season and for years to come.

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The Yankees should be commended for their decision to sign lefty reliever Danny Farquhar to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League camp. Last summer, it appeared Farquhar’s career was over with his brain hemorrhage. He survived the life-threatening ordeal and is pitching again.  It’s a tall order for him to make the Yankees roster but I don’t think anybody is rooting against him. It would be a great story if he does deliver this Spring and finds his moment to step out on the Yankee Stadium turf wearing the famed Pinstripes.

If I was a Major League player, I think I’d want to know where I’d be reporting in two weeks. It seems like maybe we’ll see a flurry of signings in the coming days. Starting to see reports this morning that reliever/closer Greg Holland has signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks so there’s another relief option off the board for Boston. I really hope the next week or so finally brings closure to the Harper-Machado saga, wherever they may land. It would be great if one (or both) fell into the Yankees’ lap but I am done with them, and just want to move on.

As always, Go Yankees!