Yankees Baseball is back!
Okay, it’s only spring training but it’s great to see the Pinstripers take the field again.
Credit: Butch Dill, USA TODAY Sports
Yesterday, the Yankees won their spring training opener over the Philadelphia Phillies, 9-4, at Steinbrenner Field. The game featured a monster home run by right fielder Aaron Judge that bounced off the scorecard. Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa, in competition for rotation spots, both pitched two innings of scoreless, no-hit ball. Granted, spring training games mean absolutely zilch at this point but after a winter that saw Boston gain the premier pitcher in the American League (Chris Sale) and a NFL championship, it is time to turn the page.
The spring opener also featured a triple by Clint Frazier, scoring two runs in the eighth inning. Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t play (the only regular not in the starting lineup), but I couldn’t help but wonder how much better Frazier would look in centerfield than Ellsbury. Patience, young Grasshopper, patience…
It’s early, but Matt Holliday’s veteran influence on the team is showing. When Holliday first arrived in the Major Leagues with the Colorado Rockies, he had guys like Todd Helton and Larry Walker to look up to. He has said that his former teammates Mark Sweeney and Todd Greene were also crucial to his development both on and off the field. Holliday comes from a baseball background. His father, Tom, was a long-time assistant coach with Miami (FL), Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Texas, NC State, and Auburn. Tom Holliday also served as head coach of Oklahoma State from 1997-2003. Matt’s brother Josh is the current head coach of Oklahoma State. Matt understands the value of mentorship and is setting the example that will be replicated and paid forward by the current Baby Bombers for years to come.
When it was the announced the Yankees had signed free agent slugging first baseman Chris Carter, there was some question where he would fit in. The Yankees already have Matt Holliday at DH, with plans to rotate other players through the role as a form of rest. At first, the Yankees have starting favorite Greg Bird and last year’s boy wonder junior in Tyler Austin. One sportswriter (I do not remember who) wrote that these things have a way of working themselves out. Subsequently, Austin broke his foot and will be lost for six weeks. This certainly opens the door for Carter to make an impact at first, even if he isn’t the starter (and is a sub-standard fielder). But, man, those long home runs are going to look beautiful in Yankee Stadium.
Early Season Loss…
I guess there’s a reason the Yankees try to avoid going to arbitration with their players. It is never a joyous process. When the Yankees offered $3 million for Dellin Betances but he wanted $5 million, the gap was too wide for compromise. It set the stage for a contentious arbitration battle between player and team. After Betances had to sit through 90 minutes of hearing about his faults, the arbitrators ruled in favor of the team. Betances is certainly worth $5 million but that’s not how the process works. He’ll eventually get his money. It would have been best if the two sides had said nothing following the arbitrators’ decision, but Yankees team President, bad hair and all, had to hold a press conference to berate the agents for Betances. It was a very poor decision by Levine, an experienced labor attorney.
It’s possible that Levine’s actions will make future contract negotiations with Betances and his agents very difficult and may eventually lead to Dellin’s departure. I am not a fan of Levine, and feel the team would be better served promoting GM Brian Cashman to President, Baseball Operations, and hiring a new general manager.
Off-Topic: Mayans MC…
As a fan of the TV series Sons of Anarchy, I am excited that a pilot spinoff series about SOA’s rival motorcycle club, the Mayans, is currently in development. The pilot episode will be filmed in March. FX has not announced that Mayans MC will be part of its fall lineup but that’s the hope.
After months of only hearing that SOA creator Kurt Sutter was writing the new Mayans MC series with Elgin James, and that Sutter would direct the pilot episode, the casting decisions are starting to be announced.
The first name was Edward James Olmos who will play the father of the protagonist, a young prospect in the Santo Padre Chapter (Mexi-Cali border) of the Mayans MC. Olmos’ character, Felipe Reyes will have at least two sons. The lead character is Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes (the prospect) and will be played by JD Pardo. The other son, Angel, will be played by Clayton Cardenas, and is a full-patch member of the MC.
The President of the Santo Padre Chapter is Esai “Taino” Osorio, who will be played by John Ortiz. The Osorio character has history with original SOA character Marcus Alvarez who was the president of the Northern California chapter of the Mayans (played by Emilio Rivera).
I am excited for this series and hopeful that it reaches its goal of making the fall TV lineup. The casting decisions, so far, have been excellent, and I am looking forward to seeing who they cast in the female roles (primarily the woman that EZ Reyes loves).
After the misstep with The Bastard Executioner, I am glad to see Sutter return to the genre and world that has served him so well. There will never be another show like Sons of Anarchy, but hopefully the Mayans MC can make its own mark.
Some words are better left unsaid…
I was disappointed that the Yankees could not reach agreement with Dellin Betances before proceeding with the arbitration hearings. It’s never good when a player has to sit in a room to hear about his faults. It’s hard to walk away without some residual adverse impact. Once it was determined there was no common ground, the Yankees cannot be faulted for allowing the arbitration to proceed. It is just a very unfortunate situation.
Credit: Andrew Savulich, The New York Daily News
The Yankees, based on prior arbitration cases, were probably fairly confident they would prevail. The gap of $2 million may not have seemed to be great, but in terms of the dollars it could eventually cost the Yankees on new deals with Betances or the precedent it would have set could have been very costly in the grand scheme of things.
Yet, it was absolutely out of line for Yankees President Randy Levine to gloat after the arbitrators announced Betances would be paid the Yankees offer of $3 million rather than his request for $5 million. Levine’s comments that Dellin’s $5 million request was “over the top” and “not based on reality” were unnecessary and ultimately inflammatory. If Betances had any lingering hard feelings before, they’ve multiplied. Given Levine’s extensive background in Labor Law, I am very surprised that he’d make those type of comments. The words do seem out of character for a Labor attorney. I’ve never been a big fan of Levine’s but it’s hard to dismiss his accomplishments which included work at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Reagan administration, former Labor Commissioner for New York City, and MLB’s chief labor negotiator during the negotiations for the 1996 MLB Labor Agreement.
So, maybe that’s why the unnecessary words that Levine spoke yesterday hurt even more. He, more than anyone, should have known better. There was no value in attacking Dellin’s attorneys, and the long-term impact is only harmful. If Dellin eventually walks away when free agency arrives, we’ll be able to look back at this day as the first nail in the coffin.
There are some guys in the Yankees executive management team that you want to keep away from talking to the media. Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner is one, but you can certainly add Levine to the list. Levine has been the Yankees president since 2000 but maybe it’s time to bring in a younger, more open-minded replacement. If I owned the Yankees, I would probably promote Brian Cashman to President, Baseball Operations, hire a new general manager, and show Levine the door.
Goose being Goose…
Every spring, Rich “Goose” Gossage shows up and makes statements that sound like he’s been smoking too much weed in Colorado. His remarks in training camp that he cannot be compared to “one inning” closers like Aroldis Chapman and Mariano Rivera was absurd to say the least.
Nevertheless, I felt Brian Cashman’s comments were perfect when he said that he had more important things to think about like drinking his cup of coffee and working on his tan. That’s exactly how I take anything Goose has to say.
I loved the guy when he was the Yankees closer, and he was arguably my favorite Yankee (after the unfortunate loss of the beloved Thurman Munson).
Goose is only trying to draw reactions with his words. He played during a different time, and it’s very hard to compare the challenges he faced in the 70’s and 80’s to modern times. The game has evolved. Despite nearly 500 more career innings than Rivera, Goose had barely more than half of the total career saves. Goose was a great Yankee for 6 years. Rivera was a great Yankee for 19 years. Rivera’s number (42) would have been retired even if MLB hadn’t retired the number league-wide for the great Jackie Robinson. Last time I checked, Goose’s number (54) is neatly placed on the back of current closer Aroldis Chapman.
Goose just needs to enjoy his time in Florida before he hops on a plane to travel back to his favorite Cannabis shop in Colorado Springs…
Don’t say it!…
As soon as I saw the words that Aroldis Chapman had claimed overuse by Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, I knew it would go viral. Within minutes, the internet was flooded with stories saying Chapman had slammed Maddon.
Given that Chapman has spent time in New York (and Chicago), one would think that he would know the importance of choosing his words wisely. In Cincinnati, he probably could have said those words, generating a few chuckles from the reporters, and never another word. But in New York, everything is magnified. I personally do not think Chapman meant any harm with the words nor does he hold any ill will towards Maddon and the Cubs. He qualified his comments by saying that he was to be ready to do his job. Maddon unnecessarily responded to the comments by saying that he had to win and Chapman always said yes.
Credit: Jamie Squire, Getty Images
I do not blame either man. In the play-offs and particularly the World Series, you leave it on the field. Whatever it takes. Was it foolish to bring Chapman into a game with the Cubs up by 5 runs in the 7th inning of Game 6. Sure, but we weren’t in Maddon’s shoes. How much did he trust his other relievers? Did he sense a potential shift in momentum? Was Chapman simply his best option? That is Joe Maddon’s decision…not ours. I felt Chapman was overused and didn’t blame him for the breakdown in Game 7 based on his workload over the preceding couple of nights. Joe did what he had to do and so did Chapman. The end result was the first World Series championship in 108 years for the Cubs. So if Maddon overused Chapman, so be it. They can cry about it as they collect their World Championship rings.
To me, this is not a red flag. I know that Joe Girardi will be selective in his use of Chapman and I think the pitcher’s presence on the Yankees is a mutual fit. I am glad he’s back. I am sorry for his prior domestic violence issues and while I don’t like what he did, I believe the man is capable of correcting his behavior and deserves the second chance. I always believed in giving Steve Howe second chances and I got burned on that one, but still, I think Chapman has carried himself well during his time in New York and Chicago. I look forward to seeing those 105 mph fastballs flying from #54 on the Yankee Stadium mound.
While I like the job Tyler Clippard did in pinstripes, he is clearly not Andrew Miller. So even with Chapman, the Yankees bullpen is noticeably inferior to last year’s No Runs DMC. I’d like to see the Yankees pick up another reliever to pair with Clippard as the bridge to Dellin Betances. I’d like to see the return of former Yankee Boone Logan but would certainly accept other options.
There’s is definitely still work to be done for the bullpen but I can’t begin to say how much better I feel having Chapman back in the fold.
Say it isn’t so…
I was so saddened to hear that Yankees beat writer Mark Feinsand was leaving the New York Daily News this week. It’s funny how we take the beat writers for granted and we grow to really appreciate the work they do day in and day out. With Feinsand, I loved his columns, tweets, and podcasts. He was always so insightful. But it was a surprising sense of loss when I heard he was leaving the Daily News.
Credit: Corey Sipkin, New York Daily News
I don’t know what’s next for Feinsand but I hope it involves the Yankees.
I don’t follow the Brooklyn Nets so admittedly I don’t know much about Feinsand’s replacement, Mike Mazzeo, but I am looking forward to his work.
Congratulations to Feinsand for his terrific work at the Daily News and best of luck in his next endeavor!
Sanchez had better get extra padding for that mitt…
Before the Yankees re-signed closer Aroldis Chapman, there was very little talk of what they SHOULD do. Now that Chapman is back in the fold after his brief hiatus to win a World Series championship with the Chicago Cubs, the naysayers are out in full force.
Credit: ESPN.com Illustration
For me, I am glad Chapman once again anchors the back end of the bullpen. If the Yankees had not paid him the record-setting 5 year, $86 million contract for a closer, the Miami Marlins were fully prepared to step in and pay him a million more. Like him or not, Chapman was going to get his money.
I know the current Baby Bombers Implementation Plan is in full effect and there are cheaper alternatives available. As great as Kenley Jansen is, he would have cost the Yankees their first round draft pick in the 2017 MLB Draft (then Number 17, but now Number 16 thanks to the Colorado Rockies’ signing of OF, SS, or 1B? Ian Desmond, thereby forfeiting their higher draft selection). In terms of dollars, in addition to the draft pick, Jansen would have cost nearly as much as Chapman.
Free agent and former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland is still available but he carries more questions as he attempts to come back from injury.
A reunion with former Yankees closer David Robertson was a possibility but the Chicago White Sox have shown they demand premium plus in trades.
Signing Chapman did not cost a draft pick or talent…only money which the Yankees have.
Chapman does carry the negative stigma of domestic violence but I do believe in second chances. He has not been convicted and by all accounts no one was seriously injured (or worse). I hope and pray it was a wake up call for Chapman. After 20 years of a Saint in the closer’s role for the Yankees, it’s unfortunate we have to deal with these issues. But give the man a chance for redemption.
I did not believe that Dellin Betances was suited for the closer’s role. My suspicions proved correct when we saw Betances stumble in September after the trades of Chapman and Andrew Miller. It may have been fatigue but I felt it was more mental. Betances is a great setup guy, perhaps one of the best in the game. Being a great bridge does not necessarily equate to being a great closer.
There is no doubt I would have preferred a reunion with Andrew Miller over Chapman but that was not going to happen. The Cleveland Indians recognize they have one of the most versatile and dependable relievers in baseball and possibly one of the most selfless guys you can ever hope to meet. But he is Cleveland property for the next few years under a very reasonable contract. If Cleveland was amenable to trading Miller, they would want no less than the premier talent they paid to acquire him. OF Clint Frazier is either first or second on any given Yankees top prospect list and P Justus Sheffield is a future mainstay in the rotation.
So regardless of the other options, I am glad that #54 found his way back to the Bronx. The trio of Tyler Clipart, Betances and Chapman may not be ‘No Runs DMC’ but they’ll be close. The Yankees still need other bullpen upgrades (I personally would like to see another reunion with the potential signing of lefty Boone Logan) but regardless of what happens, the pen will be a strength in 2017.
Next year’s going to seem like a Holliday…
After talk the Yankees would use the DH role to cycle through its position players as a form of rest, I was glad to see the Yankees make a short-term investment in former St Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday. Any way you slice it, Holliday will be a major upgrade over the now departed Alex Rodriguez. Last year, the Yankees offense was largely dependent upon two major underachievers, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. This year, the center of the lineup features Holliday and rookie sensation Gary Sanchez. If the Yankees can get meaningful production out of new first baseman Greg Bird and right fielder Aaron Judge, this could be a very good offense.
Credit: Google Images / STL Sports View
I am still a proponent of trading Brett Gardner. I feel strongly the team needs to open up left field for other young talent and allow Holliday an occasional start. The Yankees clearly need another starter in the rotation so if Gardner can bring in a solid #5, I’m all for it.
I think P Jason Hammel would be a good signing for the rotation but if that doesn’t happen, I am hopeful GM Brian Cashman gets creative in adding another piece. I would much rather see the team’s young talent fighting for only one rotation spot; not two. I am not convinced Luis Severino can be an effective starter but we know that he can be a very effective reliever. I would rather see Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell in swing roles, serving as the long men out of the pen. It would be much better for Luis Cessa and Chad Green to fight each other for a rotation spot than handing it to both of them.
The heavy lifting is done for the 2017 roster but the coming weeks should bring continued improvement. No major signings or trades are expected but just little tweaks to keep this team in contention while it looks ahead to brighter days in 2019. This is what Brian Cashman gets paid to do it, and so far, he’s been doing it well…
Winter is coming…
The dawn of the Winter Meetings. It’s is always one of my favorite times of the year. Last year was very quiet for the Yankees but still, so much happens in the first few days of the meetings with free agent signings and trades.
I am very relieved that the owners and the players association agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. I didn’t really expect a lockout but of course it was always a possibility until the two sides came to an agreement. I understand why the CBA issue held up the Yankees due to the luxury tax implications and uncertainty associated therewith. Now that both sides have a better understanding of the new deal, it should allow the Yankees to begin shaping the 2017 team.
I fully recognize that there will not be wholesale changes. This isn’t 2009 when the Yankees dumped a half billion dollars on top free agents. Sure, I’d love to have Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista on the team but realistically it is not going to happen. Between the two, I’d take Encarnacion but I still don’t think it will happen. The Yankees have a clear need for a solid, clutch-hitting DH but I think they’ll go with either Carlos Beltran or Matt Holliday. Staying in house is an option but that mean DH will be used as a rotation to rest the regulars.
I would love for the Yankees to find a way to move LF Brett Gardner and 3B Chase Headley but in both cases, age + contract make the players hard to move. Gardner would probably be the easier of the two to move. While the Yankees have in-house options to replace Gardner, they’d probably have to go outside to get a replacement for Headley. Miguel Andujar showed in the Arizona Fall League that he is the future at third, but his arrival is still a few years away. I’ve also seen the projections of Gleyber Torres taking over second base, pushing current second baseman Starlin Castro to third. But Torres won’t see the Bronx until late in the 2017 season or sometime in 2018. Despite the absence of immediate help at third, I am still ready to end the Chase Headley story even if he did recover from a horrendous April to have a very good season last year.
Credit: Getty Images
My wish list for this off-season still begins with closer Aroldis Chapman. I am still very hopeful that he’ll find his way back to the Bronx. Kenley Jansen would certainly be acceptable if Plan A does not materialize. I am probably warming up to the idea of a Bronx return for Mark Melancon but I think he’ll either stay in Washington or go to San Francisco. Greg Holland is also an option. I think the Yankees have to move Dellin Betances back to a key setup role where he is better suited. Mariano Rivera, he is not.
As for starting pitchers, I am not opposed to the potential signing of starter Rich Hill. He is older than I would like for a team in transition to youth, but he obviously has a quality arm and would provide rotation stability. He reminds me somewhat of Hiroki Kuroda. A consistent pitcher who can occasionally throw a gem. Not a frontline starter, but a very dependable one. As for trades, I have no idea. I’d love Tampa’s Chris Archer but I don’t think the Rays would trade inter-division and his cost would probably be too high. I liked the Arizona Diamondbacks’ acquisition of Taijuan Walker. A young pitcher who was not fulfilled his potential but the upside is still there. Those are the types of pitchers I’d try to target. I know, it does fall into the high risk, maybe high reward, possible low reward category but look where Jake Arrieta has taken the Chicago Cubs.
It was tough to see pitcher Nathan Eovaldi cut within the last couple of weeks and today’s non-tender of lefty Jacob Lindgren, both players who will miss the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery. It wasn’t that long ago when Lindgren was tabbed as a can’t miss, fast-track prospect with the potential to make the major league roster the year he was drafted. Injuries have held Lindgren back, but he’s still young enough to recover for a fine professional career. I am hopeful the Yankees find a way to bring both pitchers back into the organization now that they’ve been removed from the 40-man roster.
Next week should be fun. Unlike last year, I am hopeful and optimistic that the Yankees will be active in an attempt to improve the roster and build strength around the emerging young core. We shall see…
Ready or not, here come the 2015 Yankees…
The Yankees have stayed the course and true to their word, they didn’t purchase any big ticket items this off-season. While I am glad to see that they want to end the ridiculous cycle of overbuying for soon to be past their prime ballplayers, it’s an almost certainty that the Yankees will again miss the post-season this year. There’s always the chance that guys like Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew and Brian McCann play to their prior levels, but really, for everything to come together, the odds are against it.
Max Scherzer might have ensured a few more wins but he would not have made the Yankees a World Series contender. So, perhaps the current path chosen by Yankees management and ownership will ultimately mean a World Series caliber team in a couple of years rather than a few years of a team trying to hang on. I am excited for the future when guys like Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Luis Severino begin their ascent to the Bronx.
I thought the Philadelphia Phillies made a good signing with former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley. There’s a good chance that Billingsley never makes it back from his past injuries, but conversely, there is a small chance that he could. It was a shot worth taking. Granted, this is not exactly Clayton Kershaw that we are talking about, but Billingsley, if right, can help a pitching staff. Meanwhile, the Yankees signed former Minnesota Twins pitcher Scott Baker for insurance. I would have preferred to take a flyer on Billingsley.
Another pitcher that I’d probably be interested in for insurance purposes is former Atlanta Braves starter Brandon Beachy. I really liked Kris Medlen but unfortunately so did the Kansas City Royals.
The Yankees need options for the spot in the rotation currently held by Chris Capuano. Of course, Capuano is just a placeholder for the eventual return of Ivan Nova but I don’t really expect Nova to be effective this year when he does. It will probably be 2016 before we start to see the Nova of old. I have heard talk of converting Adam Warren to a starter, but I like the current configuration of the bullpen even with the loss of David Robertson. I expect the Yankees to name Dellin Betances as the closer rather than use a closer committee comprised of Betances and Andrew Miller. Miller should serve as the prime setup guy, with the others, including Warren falling in line.
While I am hopeful that Stephen Drew returns to the player he can be, I still hope that this is the year Rob Refsnyder arrives to take second base.
While former high prospect Austin Romine is out of options, I feel that John Ryan Murphy is better suited to be the Yankees backup catcher. Sadly, Romine will see his Yankees career end in spring training either through trade or release. Hopefully, the Yankees can get something for him when the time comes.
The calendar page is almost ready to turn to February which means that pitchers and catchers will soon be reporting. Even if this will be another disappointing season for the Yankees, the thrill of the spring is always a great time.
Happy New Year!
This has been an odd off-season for Yankees fans. Quietly, the Yankees have made small deals to get younger. The only significant addition of a proven high level performer is lefty Andrew Miller. Didi Gregorius makes sense given the team’s need at short, but he’s hardly proven himself as a top flight shortstop to this point in his career.
It was difficult to see David Robertson leave to sign with the Chicago White Sox, particularly since there were no outward signs the team tried to keep him. Not sure what the team saw that we didn’t, but Robertson has proved he can pitch in the Bronx and that’s not an easy task…especially when you follow the footsteps of a Legend…
Despite the brevity of his Yankees career, I was disappointed when I heard the news that Martin Prado had been traded to the Miami Marlins. While I am hopeful that Rob Refsnyder grabs second base in spring training, there’s always the chance that neither he nor Jose Pirela will be successful. Prado provides great diversity to a roster. While I am not disappointed that Mark Teixeira will have a sorely needed legitimate backup in Garrett Jones, I am not quite sure what to think about starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. I understand the potential is there, but it’s yet to be proven.
Robert Mayer – USA Today Sports
But probably the biggest sadness of the off-season occurred with the New Year’s first trade which saw the Yankees send once top prospect Manny Banuelos to the Atlanta Braves for relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve. I can so remember when the “Killer B’s” (Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman) were so highly touted and viewed as the future of the Yankees. Betances failed as a starting pitcher, but obviously, he resurrected his promise with brilliance in the bullpen and now looms as the likely new closer. Brackman was released a couple of years ago and is now out of baseball. Nevertheless, I still had hope that Banuelos would finally arrive. After Tommy John surgery in 2012/13, I expected him to struggle in 2014. Few pitchers are able to come back at an immediate high level. It takes time. There is still time for Banuelos to blossom. To the Yankees’ defense, there is always the chance he’ll never be what he could have been. I will still root for Banuelos, the Brave, and I do hope that he becomes the pitcher we thought he would be.
Mike James – AP Photo
As a Yankees fan, there are certain guys in the farm system that you follow closely. Granted, there has been a shortage of high level talent in the system, but still, you hold out hope that certain guys will become the next core of the team. Yet, in recent years, it has usually just ended in disappointment, with Banuelos being the latest. I can think of Eric Duncan, Cito Culver, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott as a few who have failed. The successes of players like Dellin Betances have been few and far between. So, perhaps that’s why GM Brian Cashman is shuffling the deck. But it’s hard not to say that this feels like a rebuilding program, rather than re-tooling. So, the two year play-off drought threatens to be more. I know, I know, if CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and, eek!, Alex Rodriguez can return to form, the Yankees will be in the hunt. But that’s not a bet I would take. Of the players, I think, realistically, McCann is the only way who will bounce back. That means, with the roster as-is, the Yankee Stadium lights will be out in October.
I do have to add the usual caveat….I hope that I am WRONG!
So now, I look forward to the next wave of prospects making a difference. I am hopeful that guys like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Jacob Lindgren, Gary Sanchez, Ian Clarkin, and the aforementioned Rob Refsnyder are able to accomplish what so many in front of them have failed to do…wear the pride and pinstripes of baseball’s most storied franchise, the New York Yankees.
Here’s hoping for much happiness and success in 2015 for all!