In two weeks, the doors of Yankee Stadium will open…
Ready or not, Opening Day is a scant fourteen days away. On Thursday, March 28th, at 1:05 pm EDT, Masahiro Tanaka will fire the first official 2019 pitch at Yankee Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles and we’ll be off to the races for 162 games PLUS (heavy emphasis on the ‘plus’). The Orioles have announced RHP Alex Cobb will get the Opening Day nod over Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner.
Cobb signed with Baltimore as a free agent in late March last year and it showed with disastrous April results. He lost his first three starts with 13.11 ERA and 2.83 WHIP. A 6.03 K/9 pitcher for the year, he was unable to strike anyone out in two of those first three games. With the benefit of a full training camp, Cobb should be more prepared for his second season in Birdland. Steamer projects a 9-13 record in 31 starts with 4.89 ERA (4.50 xFIP) and 1.6 fWAR. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long to hear Michael Kay’s first “There it goes! See ya!” of the new season. I don’t think any of the Orioles pitchers strike fear in the hearts of the Yankees, and it should be a good opportunity to get the season started on the right foot.
It was reported this week the MLB Players Association and MLB have agreed upon the elimination of the waiver trading deadline in August which makes the July non-waivers deadline a hard date for player trades. This year’s trading deadline is Wednesday, July 31st. In theory, it should spark more trade activity in July than in years past and will force teams to make earlier decisions about whether they are buyers and sellers. I am probably most concerned about potential injuries in August and the need to fill unplanned vacancies from within the organization. Depth at certain positions can be weak so it will force organizations to work harder to cover depth at all positions in the off-season which I suppose is an intended consequence. The change is effective this year.
Another change is the expansion of roster size from 25 to 26 players in 2020 with a maximum of 13 pitchers. On September 1st of 2020, the expansion of rosters will be reduced from 40 to 28 players and no more than 14 pitchers. At face value, I am glad to see the addition of a bench spot for another position player. The transition of the game to deeper bullpens has left bench roles perilously thin. Hopefully the addition of a player will help keep guys fresher for the long season. While the change is not effective this year, the potential 26th men at the present time are Clint Frazier and the expected loser of the first base competition, Greg Bird.
The new MLB-MLBPA deal is expected to be announced today.
Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, other changes include the three-batter minimum for pitchers although a start of a new inning would allow a pitching substitution. I think back a couple of years and wonder what it would have been like if the Yankees had been forced to use Tyler Clippard for at least three consecutive batters on days when he simply didn’t have it. I can see a pitcher coming into a game with an inability to throw strikes and suddenly the bases are loaded…or worse. I get the pace of play implications but I guess the traditionalist in me would like to see the game decisions in the hands of the managers. Silly me. There’s also a new $1 million bonus for the winner of the All-Star Home Run Derby. Makes me wonder if it will influence a lower paid guy like Aaron Judge to participate. I know Judge makes most of his money through endorsements right now but I am sure that a way to pick up an extra mil is enticing for some.
It was a bummer that last night’s Spring Training game against the Philadelphia Phillies was not televised. Although the game ended in a 5-5 tie, it was Bryce Harper’s first Phillies start against the Yankees. If for no other reason, I am looking forward to the regular season so that every game is televised. Harper was booed unmercifully by the Yankee fans at Steinbrenner Field or so they say since I didn’t actually see it. I don’t really get it. It’s not Bryce’s fault that he is not a Yankee. The Yankees chose not to pursue him in free agency despite the wishes of the fans. Bryce is on record saying the Yankees never reached out to him despite his childhood love for the Pinstripes. If Bryce historically crushed Yankee pitching, then maybe that’s a reason to boo him but he has been largely ineffective in his short body of work facing the Yankees. I would have liked for the Yankees to sign Harper but they didn’t and we must move on. I know I am very excited to see what Year 2 brings for Giancarlo Stanton. Regardless of whether you preferred Harper over Stanton, I think Stanton is going to be more relaxed this year and will more closely resemble the player that dominated baseball in 2017 for the Miami Marlins.
Back to the first base competition, I thought it was funny when it was reported yesterday that Aaron Boone was wearing a Luke Voit t-shirt in the clubhouse. Boone also commented that Voit batting cleanup (as he did last night) could carry into the season, adding that he could see Voit anywhere from third to sixth in the order. In other words, it is Greg Bird and not Voit who should be making living accommodations in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.
Jose Canseco, shut up! Your fifteen minutes of fame came and went. Let it go, Cheater. Alex Rodriguez owes you nothing.
|Credit: Getty Images|
For those of you who are New York Jets fans, my apologies for the Anthony Barr situation but I am glad it worked out the way it did. Granted, Barr, a linebacker, is not a superstar level player but I like his role in Minnesota’s defense. I’ve been a lifelong Vikings fan. I think Barr is capable of so much more and I hope the Vikings use Barr as an edge rusher like the Jets intended to do. For those of you not following, Barr had agreed to a free agent deal with the Jets on Monday, only to renege the next morning and subsequently sign an extension to stay in Minneapolis. I had been dreading NFL free agency, fearful of losing Barr. The Vikings had done a good job of signing their young core players despite the massive overpay for QB Kirk Cousins, but Barr had remained unsigned. With salary cap implications, it appeared Barr would be wearing a different uniform this Fall. For a few hours earlier this week, the Jets fans thought he’d be wearing hunter green and white. For all of Minnesota’s free agents, Barr was the one I wanted to keep. Jets fans were unhappy about his change of heart but I was truly grateful. It kind of reminded me of the time David Wells had a change of heart after agreeing to a two-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and signed with the Yankees on a napkin. There may not have been a napkin involved with Barr but the impact is the same. Glad he’s on my team.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: CBSSports.com|
Will Gleyber-Mania Sweep the Yankees Universe?…
As the gates of Spring Training prepare to open, the Yankees’ 2018 entrant for Rookie of the Year should be Gleyber Torres (with no disrespect to Miguel Andujar, who easily has the talent to walk off with the hardware himself at the end of the year). It would be wonderful to see the Yankees win ROYs in consecutive years, the way the Los Angeles Dodgers used to do it.
Will Gleyber start the year as the starting second baseman or will he spend the first few weeks at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre? Bet on the latter. I’ve seen many say that the Yankees would make Torres the Opening Day starter if he has a tremendous Spring but with literally millions of dollars at stake, I have no doubt the Yankees will delay his MLB service time clock to push potential free agency back one year. With so many young stars, the Yankees will have to spend significant payroll for guys like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorious, Luis Severino, Greg Bird and others in future years. Team Hal is not going to leave dollars on the table when they can send Gleyber to Triple A until mid-April to save money for future payroll. So, the ‘will they or won’t they’ open the season with Gleyber on the Opening Day Roster is moot. We’ll have to wait a couple of weeks.
|Ronald Torreyes, Gleyber Torres and Luis Cessa|
In the interim, I am fully confident that Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes can fill the void.
Torreyes covered for Didi Gregorius for the first month of last season and did a fine job. It helped solidify his role as the utility player for the team. This came at a time when Torreyes was trying to prove that he belonged in the Major Leagues. He’ll come into the season this year with much greater confidence that he does, in fact, belong. The 25-year-old finished the season last year with 3 home runs and 36 RBIs in 108 games and 336 plate appearances. His batting line with .292/.314/.375, with .689 OPS. There will be many more opportunities for the Toe-Night Show.
Tyler Wade underwhelmed us with his performance in 2017 but everyone expects the 23-year-old to play closer to his minor league numbers this year. In 85 games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, Wade hit 7 home runs with 31 RBIs. His batting line, in 386 plate appearances, was .310/.382/.460, with .842 OPS.
The Yankees do not need an offensive beast at second base. There’s plenty of firepower in other areas of the starting lineup. They just need guys that can get on base. I feel either Torreyes or Wade or a combination of both can hold down the fort until Gleyber…and Hal Steinbrenner’s wallet…are ready for him to make his MLB debut.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)|
Gleyber David Torres Castro was born in Caracas, Venezuela on December 13, 1996. He was signed by the Chicago Cubs as an international free agent in July 2013 for $1.7 million. Here is the bio from the year he was signed per MLB.com: “The top player from Venezuela in this year’s class, Gleyber does everything well. He has a smooth compact swing and the ball jumps off his bat. Scouts like that he can spray the ball all over the field with power and believe he has a chance to be a special hitter. A solid defender, Torres has excellent hands, great feet and he’s known to have an accurate arm with above-average strength. He’s impressed scouts with his ability to make all of the routine plays and an occasional great play. He is particularly adept on his glove-hand side and continues to show improvement on all-around defense. Torres isn’t the biggest prospect on the field but he has an athletic build and is strong for his size. Scouts have taken notice of his baseball instincts and his leadership abilities, and he quickly built a reputation as a fundamentally sound player.”
ESPN’s Keith Law recently released his 2018 Top 100 Prospects and rated Torres as the fifth best prospect behind Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves; Vladimir Guerrero, Jr, Toronto Blue Jays; Fernando Tatis, Jr, San Diego Padres; and Victor Robles, Washington Nationals. That’s pretty good company. Law credits a high batting average and OBP as the potential to make Torres an All-Star caliber player.
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Andrew Savulich)|
Torres is still very young, having just turned 21 in December. He’ll have a strong support network with the group formerly known as the Baby Bombers. Giancarlo Stanton, the addition that helped restore the Yankees to their reputation as the Evil Empire, made his MLB debut at age 20 and will have plenty of advice to help Torres cope with life in the Major Leagues. One thing is for sure, Gleyber Torres is going to be in the Bronx for a very long time. We will soon see the start of the next great Yankees career, and I am excited about the future and potential for Gleyber. I have seen too many Yankees fans calling for the return of Starlin Castro. Why? Torres is or at least will be a better all-around player than Castro and will soon have the opportunity to prove it on the field.
|Gleyber Torres and Starlin Castro|
There are exciting times ahead for the Yankees Universe. Prepare for the Gleyber Torres Show. Gleyber Torres, the starting second baseman for the New York Yankees.
Continuing to hear (frozen) crickets at Yankee Stadium…
We’ve made it into the New Year, but it’s still as quiet as a mouse in the Yankees Universe.
I cannot say that I have any bold predictions for the coming year. While I firmly agree that Michael Fulmer would be a substantial upgrade in the starting rotation, I feel that he is cost-prohibitive. Allegedly, the Yankees made an offer in December that included Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada and a couple of minor league pitchers. One of the pitchers was assumed to be Chance Adams. The Tigers did not feel that package was sufficient for Fulmer. Many speculate that it would take the inclusion of Gleyber Torres to motivate the Tigers to make a deal. Sorry, that’s not happening. With no offense to Fulmer, the Yankees should not hand over the farm system to the Tigers to bring the young ace to the Bronx.
During the Winter Meetings, Tigers GM Al Avila made the following analogy: “Let’s say you have an asset. Your house. And somebody likes it. You don’t have it for sale. But if somebody says, ‘Man, I really like your house’ and they keep pursuing you about your house, at some point, you might end up selling it.” With no motivation to sell, the Tigers can afford to demand overpayment for their “house”. They would expect a return that gives them significant pieces that would make them “a much better organization going forward”. In my opinion, the cost is too great and until the Tigers are motivated to make a deal, it is in the best interests of the Yankees to pass.
Like many, I feel that the infield represents a greater need than starting pitching. I like the suggestion of Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs. But to make a move, the Cubs would want help for their starting rotation which means that any deal would start with Jordan Montgomery and other top pitching prospects in the Yankees organization. Happ can play multiple positions and has power, but he’s exactly the versatile kind of guy that Cubs manager Joe Maddon loves. Like the Tigers, the Cubs would have to be blown away to make a deal. If the Yankees could find a reasonable package that makes sense for both teams, I’d be in favor of a deal. However, I suspect the Cubs want more, much more.
My not-so-bold prediction is that we will not see either Fulmer nor Happ in pinstripes anytime soon.
Giancarlo Stanton is going to find out that playing for the New York Yankees will bring media scrutiny like he’s never seen before. Yesterday’s headlines were blazing that Stanton spent New Year’s Eve surrounded by 30 women at famed Miami nightclub, LIV at Fontainebleau. The media immediately singled out Brazilian model Mariana Santana as an object of Stanton’s attention although a Stanton rep quickly dismissed it, saying “The story isn’t accurate. He said he’s not dating her and they were not at LIV together.” The days of living under the radar as a Miami Marlin are over.
|Credit: Seth Browarnik, startraksphoto.com|
ESPN is apparently targeting Alex Rodriguez to replace Aaron Boone as a member of its Sunday Night Baseball team. It would be a great move by ESPN if they can pull it off, but Fox Sports would be foolish to let A-Rod get away. If A-Rod keeps this up, he’ll soon be the highest paid guy in his second career, just like he was during his first career.
When Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Al Pedrique left to join the coaching staff for the Oakland A’s, I wondered who would take over as the leader for the young Baby Bombers. The question has been answered as Double A Trenton Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell, the 2017 Eastern League Manager of the Year, has been elevated to the top minor league managerial position for the Yankees. High A Tampa Yankees (now the Tarpons) manager Jay Bell will take over for Mitchell with the Thunder. We wish both men the very best in their new roles as they help usher the next generation of Baby Bombers into the Bronx.
Did David Cone really turn 55 this week? How did that happen?…
Mike Mussina seems to be moving up slightly in the Hall of Fame voting. The latest results, with 37.5% of known ballots (according to Hall of Fame tracker Ryan Thibodaux), show that Moose has crept up to 73.0% (leaving him two percentage points shy of the minimum required for induction. I really hope the momentum continues to push Mussina upward to carry him past the minimum threshold. Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, and Vlad Guerrero appear to be locks with greater than 90% of the known votes. Edgar Martinez and Trevor Hoffman are also in good position. As it stands, this should be a record-breaking number of inductees. With no disrespect to the others, Moose is the only one that matters to me. The others certainly deserve their place in Cooperstown but the 2018 Class will not feel complete, to me, unless it features the guy from Montoursville, PA.
|Credit: Sabo, NY Daily News|
Maybe we’ll actually hear some Yankees news today. Maybe not. We’ll see what the day brings. Go Yankees!
Mindblowing! That’s how I felt when I saw the news about the ESPN layoffs and the inclusion of veteran Baseball writer Jayson Stark. I have long viewed Stark as the foremost Baseball authority at ESPN. He consistently wrote interesting, objective, and fact-based stories. After 17 years and recognized as a leading Baseball sportswriter, he was given the swift boot by ESPN. Amazing. I am not going to cry for Stark. ESPN’s loss will most certainly be another media giant’s gain. This proves that no industry is immune to economic turmoil. Most likely, all of us, at one point in our lives (or more), have been victimized by financial downturns in the economy. Still, it doesn’t make the losses any easier.
I will be anxious to see where Stark lands. He is too valuable to lose in this chaotic sport. While there were a number of notable names included in the ESPN layoffs, the other that stood out to me was NFL reporter Ed Werder. I’ve been following Werder since his days as the Dallas Cowboys beat writer for The Dallas Morning News. He has been an institution for the NFL. Like Stark, he has spent 17 years at ESPN. Also like Stark, I doubt Werder has any problems finding his next gig but I hope it is one that affords him a national presence as I don’t really follow Dallas area sports anymore.
It was definitely a crazy day…no doubt. Best of luck to all those affected by the layoffs. Hopefully their entries into the free agent market will be very short-lived.
In 2007, the Yankees first round selection (30th overall) was the long forgotten pitcher Andrew Brackman. Once slated to be part of the Killer B’s along with Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, the 6’10” Brackman was never able to realize his potential following Tommy John surgery and was later released. He is now out of baseball. The same year of the draft, the Yankees chose a college player in the 39th round (1191st pick overall) by the name of Eric Thames. Thames didn’t sign and went back to Pepperdine University. Fast forward ten years, and Thames, after spending three years in Korea and now with the Milwaukee Brewers, is the Major League leader in home runs with eleven. He has also scored a Major League-leading 27 runs. Although he was pulled from Wednesday’s game for a tight hamstring, he should be back to increase his homer total on Friday. Wow, where did this come from? In the off-season, the Brewers cut last year’s first baseman, Chris Carter, who tied Nolan Arenado for most homers in the NL with 41, and signed Thames as his replacement. While it is unlikely that Thames will continue at his current pace, the Brewers haven’t missed a beat in getting huge production out of their first basemen. Too bad those scouts who found Thames in 2007 didn’t see the potential in the Korean Leagues. Kudos to the Brewers scouts who did. The year after the Yankees had drafted Thames, he was picked in the seventh round by the Toronto Blue Jays which clearly showed the Yankees had uncovered a potential diamond in the rough. Thames did fail in chances with the Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros before finding his niche in Korea. Still, there’s probably a few Yankees scouts saying “I told you so”.
The Yankees win!…
It was a very laborious 9th inning, but the Yankees beat the Red Sox 3-1 in the opener of their rain-shortened two game series at Fenway Park on a very foggy night. Luis Severino was quite simply…incredible. He did not look like the same pitcher on the mound. I don’t know if it was his best Major League performance but it might be his most impressive. Sevy (2-1) was in charge throughout his seven innings of work, giving up only three hits and no runs. He walked two and struck out six. This is the Severino we have been waiting for. The youngster has grown up. Very exciting stuff. The offense was 100% Baby Bomber-powered. Aaron Judge, celebrating his 25th birthday, slugged a second inning two-run homer to right off AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello (1-3). Greg Bird, showing that a Bird #33 jersey is no longer something to cheer for in Boston, delivered a run-scoring single in the sixth, scoring Judge. Judge also made a highlight reel catch that carried him into right field foul territory stands in the third inning. I was worried that the three runs might not be enough when Aroldis Chapman clearly didn’t have it in the 9th. He gave up a hit and allowed two walks and a run. Boston had the winning run on base but with Chapman’s 33rd pitch of the inning, he struck out Josh Rutledge to end the game. Big sigh of relief…
Credit: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other Yankees to homer at Fenway Park on their birthday are Yogi Berra and Roger Maris. 8, 9, and 99. Very select company for Aaron Judge! By the way, Happy Belated Birthday to him!
Have a great Thursday! Hopefully today is a sweeping success for everyone
It has been a tough week…
The week started on the wrong foot when long-time public address announcer Bob Sheppard died, but it reached its crescendo with the passing of owner George Steinbrenner. Monday morning, I was at the gym running on the treadmill when ESPN broke in with the story that George had suffered a heart attack. With each update, the news got progressively worse. Between 6:30 am (actual time of death) and 7:00 am, other news channels began to report that the Boss had died. ESPN lagged behind with their report of the death. It was difficult to watch the news unfold. At first, you hope for the best, but as each report got progressively worse, the realization that this may be the end began to set in, and of course, the finale was the worst case scenario.
I realize that George’s health had deteriorated significantly in the past few years. But still, I did not expect his demise to come so suddenly. Of course George was not a perfect owner. He clearly had his faults, but you could never fault his desire to win. I do not agree with the way people were treated at times. I became a Yankees fan at the end of 1974 so George had just been the owner of the team for two years. Instability at the manager and pitching coach positions was a given. It was a certainty each year that there would be change at one or both of the positions. I idolized Billy Martin and I was always so thrilled when he was hired and so devastated when he was fired, and it was a cycle that kept repeating itself until Martin died tragically on Christmas Day 1989.
The Star Ledger
By the time that Joe Torre was hired in 1996, I was so ready for stability. I had grown tired over the years of the constant change, and did not like the revolving door for players in the 80’s as the roster was constantly changing. I don’t know if it was George mellowing or if it took special personalities like Stick Michael to allow the core players to develop and management and coaching positions to hold, but whatever the reason, George was still responsible for the great late 90’s championship run that I will probably never experience again in my lifetime.
I admire and respect current Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, but he is obviously much more reserved than his father. I don’t think that Hal will ever gain the love (or the hatred) to the degree his father experienced. Well, I suppose championships are a cure for everything, but at this point, it would be hard to envision the son enjoying the success of the father. Time will tell.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
I wish that the Yankees had been successful in landing Cliff Lee in what turned out to be the final trade negotiation of George’s life. But it was fitting for George to depart with a two-game lead in the AL East at the All-Star break. I also read about how his death was convenient for the family given that there is not an estate tax this year (saving them something like $45 million).
I think it is important that we remember George’s faults while we reminisce about his good qualities, and not try to defend those bad traits. They are what made the man…good, bad or indifferent…and frankly, I really wouldn’t want it any other way. I am glad to have experienced the Steinbrenner Era and I hope that it has helped to make me a better person as a result. I will miss George but I do look forward to the new Steinbrenner regime. They’ve already given us one championship so hopefully the dedication to winning will remain and we’ll see Hal and Hank at the podium accepting future trophies from the Commissioner.