Tagged: Gerrit Cole

Now Batting, I Have No Friggin’ Clue…

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Yankees struggle to stay healthy…

With no offense to Aaron Judge, I think I am starting to prefer having outfielders who are 6’4” or less. The big guys just seem to have too much trouble staying on the field. It was a little disheartening yesterday to learn Judge has a stress fracture in his right first rib. He apparently suffered the injury last September while making a diving catch. After weeks of not knowing what was wrong, I am glad they were finally able to diagnose the issue with Judge. But on the other hand, it’s a bit frustrating that the team has suffered multiple injuries that occurred last year, only to find out about them this Spring and not earlier.

Whether we are talking about Luis Severino, James Paxton, or Aaron Judge, it seems like earlier diagnosis or action would have been better but I am not a doctor and I only know what I can see from afar.  I hope medical treatment and rest will help Judge overcome the latest setback. Surgery has been mentioned as a possibility but I really hope it doesn’t come to that. If so, it will be more significant lost playing time for one of the team’s best players. If Judge can’t stay healthy, he’ll hit the proverbial fork in the road in a few seasons when the team no longer has control and the Yankees could choose to walk away. It’s not like we’ve never seen popular guys leave before.  Judge is one of my favorite Yankees and I really hope that he overcomes the rash of injuries to be the productive player we know he can be.

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Photo Credit: CBS Sports

This probably almost guarantees Miguel Andujar will be primarily an outfielder and DH this season. Granted, Mike Tauchman is going to be a busy man but he’ll be needed to spell Brett Gardner in center. I am sure the Sock Man will play corner outfield positions too (obviously) but I think I am excited about Miggy’s potential. The caveat is that Gio Urshela must prove that last year was not a fluke, otherwise, MIggy will be back at third which, admittedly, I’d prefer not to see. I’d rather have Andujar as the full-time DH if he can’t master the outfield. The Yankees do need his bat in the lineup and I am glad he’s there at time when Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are not.

This probably also ensures Clint Frazier will head to Baltimore with the team in less than three weeks rather than making the trip to Moosic, PA. I’ve long stated Frazier needs to play at the Major League level. I am firm in my opinion the Yankees either need to play him or trade him. He gets a chance to either prove the Yankees need him or he can showcase himself for other teams. Frazier is probably my early candidate for ex-Yankee by the time the July trading deadline rolls around. But honestly, I’d prefer watching him excel with the Yankees. The problem is the crowded outfield once Stanton and Judge return.  Granted, the Yankees will probably put Stanton in bubble wrap and house him at DH but still. There’s no scenario that I see which benefits sending Frazier to Triple A again. It’s not good for him and it’s not good for the Yankees (a waste of Frazier’s talent and potential).

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

It is good to hear James Paxton is getting close to resuming baseball activities after his successful recovery from back surgery. It does give hope he’ll return in May rather than June which is best case scenario. As for the role of fifth starter while Big Maple is out, I had been pulling for Mike King with the belief Jonathan Loaisiga should be in the pen. However, Loaisiga has been one of the Yankees’ best pitchers this Spring and he’s starting to change my mind. I continue to harbor fear the injury risk is greater as a starter for him, but there’s no doubt Loaisiga can play a huge role for the Yankees this year. I am pulling for him.

I received my copy of the latest Yankees Magazine in the mail yesterday. I think it was a twisted joke that one of the headlines at the top reads “SEVY’S READY FOR 2020”. Oh my, wondering what could have been with Sevy and Gerrit Cole at the top of the rotation this year. I guess we have something to look forward to in late 2021 or for the 2022 season when Sevy returns at full strength.

I was a little disappointed to see the Boston Red Sox sign former Houston pitcher Colin McHugh. I thought McHugh might be a good option for the Yankees with his ability to pitch effectively in both starting and relief roles. The Yankees seem committed to their in-house options, although there has been some smoke lately about other pitchers they might be looking at on the trade market. Miguel Andujar for Steven Matz? No, thank you. The downside is the lack of motivation for teams to make March or April trades when everybody thinks they have a chance. Well, except for the Baltimore Orioles.

I remain optimistic Gary Sanchez will have a good season and it is disappointing to hear the boos for him, especially after last night’s loss to the Orioles. Gary isn’t exactly helping his own cause with one hit in 17 Spring at-bats, but I am not going to fret about Spring Training. If I did, I’d be on the ledge for all those home runs Gerrit Cole gave up the other day. This is probably where I miss Austin Romine. I’ll never be one of those who thought Ro should start over El Gary, but it was nice having him as a safety net. I like Kyle Higashioka but he hasn’t proven himself yet so I just don’t have the same confidence in Gary’s backup as years past. Chris Iannetta has carved out a nice little Major League career over the years but there’s not really anybody behind Higgy that provides more comfort. I really hope Gary hits the ground running in three weeks and doesn’t look back. Higgy playing the role of a backup quarterback with baseball cap turned around, holding a clipboard, is ideal. I know, you can’t wear your caps backwards in baseball and you can’t hold a clipboard but you know what I mean.

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Photo Credit: J Conrad Williams, Jr, Newsday

Although I do not follow the Kansas City Royals, I read this morning that former Yankees farmhand Ryan McBroom is expected to play in a first base platoon for the Royals to open the season. Good for him. I will always think of McBroom as the guy we got for Robert Refsnyder. Sitting here without looking it up, I have absolutely no clue who the Yankees got for McBroom but he’ll be forever connected to Refsnyder, at least in my mind. For the record, the Yankees didn’t get anybody for McBroom. He was purchased from the Yankees (“international bonus pool money and a player to be named later or cash considerations”). Money talks.

After living in Denver for the past four years and having to watch National League baseball at Coors Field, I am glad to be returning to Los Angeles and the American League. I’ll be in Orange County near Angel Stadium so, unlike the Angels, I guess I can’t say I am from Los Angeles but close enough. All things considered, I prefer to be closer to Dodger Stadium (lived two miles away the last time I lived in LA) but it’s just a train ride and bus trip away. I am looking forward to getting a firsthand look at Mike Trout and already have tickets for multiple games. I’ve seen a lot of games at Angel Stadium over the years so that part is not a new experience, but I am anxious to see what Joe Maddon can do with the Halos even if the Angels are still short in the starting pitching arena. Anthony Rendon helps give the team some optimism and Jo Adell looks like the real deal in the not-so-distant future. Nevertheless, I am not suddenly going to become an Angels fan. I never embraced the Colorado Rockies, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy good baseball.

As always, Go Yankees!

The New York Yankees & Elusive Good Health…

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Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, Associated Press


Starting Rotation missing its spots…

Silly me. I had hoped the “Next Man Up” tag line was the theme of the 2019 Yankees, not this year.

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Credit: Randy Glasbergen

The Yankees are not off to a great start in 2020 with the injuries that have surfaced. James Paxton is not expected back until May at the earliest, possibly June, after recent back surgery, Aaron Judge is being held back over caution with his shoulder, and Luis Severino is headed to New York for further tests regarding the forearm tightness he experienced this week.

I am not ready to throw in the towel and concede the AL East to the Tampa Bay Rays, but no doubt the Rays see blood in the water.  The Yankees didn’t have Severino for most of last season and they still won 103 games so it’s not like they’ll fold without him. I am very thankful the Yankees were successful in signing Gerrit Cole last December and the team’s offense, even without Judge at 100%, remains one of the best in the game.

I went from wanting J.A. Happ traded after his disappointing performance last season (primarily to eliminate his $17 million contract and his potential for reaching the milestones to trigger another $17 million for 2021) to the realization that he is a major cog in the starting rotation, at least for now. With the absences of Paxton and Sevy, Tanaka becomes the second to Cole, and Happ is your third starter. It does not exactly instill confidence (at least not for me).Yet, I am hopeful we’ll see Happ’s return to be a stable and consistent force in the rotation like he was in the latter half of the 2018 season. Although nobody has handed him anything, Jordan Montgomery is expected to be the fourth starter. From there, it is anybody’s guess.

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If GM Brian Cashman knew about Paxton’s troublesome back and some potential concern with Sevy’s forearm (if it has been bothering him since the playoffs last year this past off-season, I am surprised the best pitching options brought in from the outside were former Angels starter Nick Tropeano and former Rockies starter/reliever Chad Bettis. In retrospect, it seems like Cashman had the time to bring in a potentially stronger hedge for the starting rotation.

Most likely, the fifth starter role will be filled either by an opener or we’ll see one of the young guys (like Deivi Garcia or Michael King) step forward. There’s been a lot of hype for Clarke Schmidt but asking him to jump from Double A seems to be a big leap. Then, there’s the usual suspects, Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa. I am not trying to be critical of them but I see both as better arms for the pen. As much as we may like Loaisiga’s arm, he always seems to be an injury waiting to happen. I think the Yankees are better using Chad Green as a late inning bullpen specialist, especially after the departure of Dellin Betances and despite Green’s success as an opener last year.

It’s always possible the Yankees swing a trade for a starter but teams are less motivated to trade in March than they will be in July when they know whether or not October is in their future.

I’d love to see one of the young guys grab the starting spot and run with it.  Maybe that’s what the Yankees see. If it were my team, I’d probably be less willing to gamble with the fifth spot when there are questions with the third and fourth starters. But Cashman and his team know much more than I ever will and I trust them to make the right decisions. The Yankees have heavily invested in the 2020 season and they’re not going to throw it away now. Championship windows are not open for long and the Yankees know it. Trust the process.

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Photo Credit: Andrew Mills, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

I am glad we’ll have Yankees Baseball back on TV today when the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field. Or if you are fortunate enough to be in Tampa, all the better. J.A. Happ takes the pitching mound for the Yankees in their Spring debut. The game will also see Michael King, Luis Cessa and Nick Tropeano with turns behind Happ. We won’t have the joy of Troy Tulowitzki’s homer off his former team last Spring (the career highlight of his brief time in Pinstripes), but maybe Gio Urshela, the scheduled third base starter, can deposit a pitch over the outfield wall while facing some of his ex-teammates. Gerrit Cole, in a non-televised game, will make his debut on Monday against his original team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bummer, I would have really enjoyed to see Cole facing live opposing hitters. The first few Spring games are always fun until the monotony sets in during the upcoming weeks. While I am anxious and excited for the March 26th opener in Baltimore, I am hopeful we’ll have greater confidence in the starting rotation behind Cole and Tanaka when the season starts. So I want the regular season to start soon, but not too soon. May the best possible 26 men head north to the great state of Maryland next month.

I think the inner George Steinbrenner in me wants the Yankees to grab whatever star players they can (Nolan Arenado, Josh Hader, etc.) so they can crush the World, but I know the Yankees have the healthy guys in camp right now that can bring home the “piece of metal” by season’s end. I was probably a little envious of the Los Angeles Dodgers fan base and how energized they became with the trade that brought Mookie Betts to their team. They seem to be beating their chests about this being “the year”. There’s still a lot of baseball to played between now and October, but I’ll happily take my chances with this collection of Yankees and how they stack up against the Dodgers assuming the teams are fortunate enough to advance to this year’s World Series.

MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days will feature the Yankees on Tuesday, March 3rd. I always enjoy the exclusivity of interviews with the Yankees players and coaches but those shows always seem like the fastest hour in Sports or at least the player interview segments seem too short. The YES Network is good about the Hot Stove shows early in the off-season but there’s always a sense of loss when the shows come to an end. It’s too bad they can’t have weekly shows from Tampa to give us insight into the players. I guess there’s Yankees Magazine but it doesn’t have the same real time effect like the Hot Stove shows.

They are saying Greg Bird has a legitimate shot to earn the starting first base job with the Texas Rangers as they break in their new stadium this season. I have to say it will suck if Bird has a happy and healthy season for the Rangers. I know, I shouldn’t say that. I do not regret the Yankees’ decision to cut Bird loose, but after so much false hope each season with Bird, it would be disappointing to see him give Texas what he never gave the Yankees (good health). I guess I turn the page on ex-Yankees faster than I should. I loved Didi Gregorius as a Yankee but now I find the fans who are still posting comments about how much they miss him to be annoying. I couldn’t care less about the Philadelphia Phillies and their manager. I feel the same about Bird and former Yank Todd Frazier (I see him as more of an ex-Met these days) in Texas. I am not going to root for them just because they once played for the Yankees. Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly is the lone exception to my personal rule.

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Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, Associated Press

I’ve tried to avoid talking about the cheating scandal for this post but I want to say I feel David Ortiz is wrong for calling Mike Fiers a “snitch”.

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Photo Credit: The New York Post

I respect Big Papi but Fiers, a guy none of us are enamored with as Yankee fans, did the right thing to bring attention to the Houston cheaters. While I understand Papi’s criticism that Fiers should have said something while a member of the Astros, I also get team camaraderie holding players back from being divisive forces in the clubhouse and the fact Fiers tried to follow proper channels through the Oakland A’s and the MLB office before stepping forward on the public stage. I support Fiers for his critical role in bringing to light the shame and scandal of the Houston Asterisks. I still do not like Fiers the pitcher, but I will always respect him for stepping forward and revealing the unethical play of the Astros.

Let’s enjoy some baseball today.

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As always, Go Yankees!

Dear Astros, Please STFU…

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Someone, please, take out the trash…

I am tired of the Astros cheating scandal and I am ready to move on.

Borrowing from an old lawyer joke, how do you know when an Astros player is lying? His lips are moving.

After giving some praise to Carlos Correa in my last post, he subsequently opened his mouth in front of a camera in an interview with Ken Rosenthal and let the trash continue to spew. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has proven to be a very weak leader in the face of this adversity, and the entire ordeal, in my opinion, is a farce.

The players will never admit to anything that is not in the Commissioner’s report and the Commissioner does not have the power his predecessors may have had. He’s basically an employee of the owners and there was no way Jim Crane, despite his role into turning the Astros into a trashy organization, was ever going to be implicated. He was given the perfect way out by making GM Jeffrey Luhnow and Manager A.J. Hinch the scapegoats when he fired them.

I don’t want to belabor the issue. What’s done is done. The Commissioner has taken action, regardless of how we may feel was too light, and need to move on. The Astros players have had their time to talk but I wish they’d just shut their pie holes because no good is coming from their words. MLB needs to closely monitor teams to ensure this never happens again with the Astros, the Boston Red Sox or any other team in Major League Baseball. I am frustrated the Astros weren’t forced to vacate their fraudulently earned 2017 World Series championship but the time for proper penalty, unfortunately, has passed.

There is word we’ll hear about the Red Sox investigation by the end of the week. Although the Sox were led to the 2018 World Series championship by Cheat Leader Alex Cora, I have yet to see anything that leads me to believe any possible violations by their organization were on par with the schemes in Houston. As such, I expect any penalties to be very light relative to the penalties received by the Astros.  It’s possible there will be revelations that we have not heard  and it may change the situation but at this point, I think the Red Sox disciplinary action will be minimal and fairly quiet compared to the experience of the last few weeks. I am not defending the Red Sox but conversely I am not going to crucify them without cause.

My greatest hope for the 2020 MLB season is the game is played honestly and ethically. Let the chips fall as they may. Maybe the Yankees win a championship, maybe they do not. But in the end, we can hopefully say no one was cheating behind the scenes to change the outcome.

Moving on to other topics, it was announced today the Atlanta Braves promoted their GM, Alex Anthopoulos, to President of Baseball Operations. Not that I care about the Braves (although I have long respected Anthopoulos), the only point I raise by saying this is I continue to feel strongly the Yankees should do the same for GM Brian Cashman. As the long-tenured general manager for our favorite club, he is more deserving of the title of President of Baseball Operations than most of the guys who now hold it for their respective clubs.  Cash should be the President of Baseball Operations (or Executive Vice President, as long as he holds the top Baseball Operations position), and they should promote Tim Naehring to GM. I’d say Jean Afterman but I know that she has no interest in a greater role, particularly after her move to the Wine Country in Northern CA. That makes Naehring the next best candidate to step up. Perhaps you can say Cashman already holds the role despite his title and maybe that’s true. But for the optics, I’d like to see the title match the authority. I’ve been critical of Cashman at times, but there is no one more qualified to lead the baseball side of the house than him. Keep Randy Levine on the business side (or lock him in a closet, I don’t care).

The Yankees announced this week they have signed former Colorado Rockies RHP Chad Bettis to a minor league contract with invitation to Spring Training. I was a little surprised. It’s not that I don’t think Bettis can pitch, I just feel the opportunity is better elsewhere. Then again, if you want to get noticed, play for the Yankees (even if it is only Spring Training). If he doesn’t make the Yankees, perhaps another team sees enough to reach out to him.

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Photo Credit: Chris Carlson, Associated Press

It’s easy to look at Chad’s 2019 numbers and scoff. Pitching mostly out of the bullpen, the former starter had a 1-6 record with 6.08 ERA in 63 2/3 innings. Those numbers won’t inspire confidence in anyone except opposing hitters, but Bettis has had a very hard road. Bettis, who will be 31 on April 26th, was 14-8 with 4.79 ERA in 186 innings in 2016 before a diagnosis of testicular cancer which he successfully defeated. Last season, he was converted to the bullpen after three starts, and was one of the Rockies’ most effective relievers in May (tied a franchise record for five consecutive scoreless outings, pitching more than an inning in each appearance without yielding any runs despite calling Coors Field home). Subsequently, a right hip impingement that eventually became a torn labrum ended his season and resulted in bilateral surgery in late August. The Colorado Rockies subsequently cut him loose after the season.

Last fall, Bettis was quoted as saying, “I’m going to build up again to being the best reliever that I can possibly be”. I don’t know where his road in Pinstripes will lead but I know that I will be cheering for him. If he doesn’t make the Yankees, I hope another team sees value and brings him to their active MLB roster for the season. Life has dealt Bettis a difficult hand and yet he has continued to overcome the obstacles and I don’t see that stopping now. Here’s to you, Chad. Our wish for much success with your continued MLB journey!

I thought it was great Yankees ace Gerrit Cole received a standing ovation yesterday after throwing to live hitters for the first time this Spring yesterday. This is just a prelude to what we’ll experience when Cole takes the mound in real game action. Very exciting times in the Yankees Universe and suffice it to say we’re all very happy Gerrit Cole is a Yankee. I know, there will be a complete Yankee fan meltdown the first time Cole gives up a homer, but, man, I love our chances for October with Cole leading the charge.

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Photo Credit: Twitter, via @ByKristieAckert

I think James Paxton should keep the mustache. After his scruffy look in Seattle, I didn’t think the shaved version last season fit him very well.  While I am not generally a fan of “porn star” ‘staches, I think it gives the Big Maple some character and he should stay with it.

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Photo Credit: SNY

Sadly, the Yankees Universe lost a one-time member of the family when former Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Tony Fernandez, 57, died this past weekend. He fought polycystic kidney disease since 2017 and had suffered a stroke earlier this month. Fernandez played in 108 games for the Yankees in 1995. He was the starting shortstop entering Spring Training in 1996 when a broken elbow opened the door for Derek Jeter’s Hall of Fame career. Rest in Peace, Tony. Your time with us was too short but we are glad you are no longer in pain.

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As always, Go Yankees!

Astros Sorry They Got Caught…

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY

Fake Remorse by the Cheaters…

Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is trash.

It’s no wonder the Astros players resorted to a cheating system that included beating on trash cans to signal stolen pitching signs. Crane set the example from the top of the organization and the trash rolled downhill.

I was angered after listening to the Astros’ poorly organized press conference this week. Despite their preparation a day before, I knew there probably was not anything the Astros could have said or done to gain forgiveness but I felt the entire charade was botched. From the canned brief statements from cheating leaders Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve to Crane’s use of new manager Dusty Baker as a shield, it was truly a clown show. It was absurd when Crane said the cheating did not impact the 2017 ALCS against the Yankees and then turned around less than a minute later to say he never said those words. Huh?

I’ll give the players after the press conference some credit. Carlos Correa, in particular, sounded much better and more remorseful than his teammates.

I think Major League Baseball butchered this by not taking away the deceitfully-gained 2017 World Series championship from the Houston Astros. At this point, you can’t give it to the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Yankees, but, in my opinion, the championship should be vacated. I don’t care there is no precedent for this. Considering we did not personally experience the great Black Sox Scandal a century ago when eight players were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, this is the worst stain of the game in our lifetimes. The players were granted immunity. They should not be allowed to represent themselves as champions.

I am ready to close the book on the Astros and move on. MLB is not going to do anything further to the Astros organization and we can only look forward at this point. However, I do think there will be some residual anger and frustration as players gather in Arizona and Florida.

Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers was very hard on the Astros yesterday when interviewed at Camelback Ranch, the Dodgers’ spring training home in Arizona. Per the LA Times, Bellinger said, “I thought the apologies were whatever. I thought Jim Crane’s was weak. I thought Manfred’s punishment was weak, giving them immunity. I mean these guys were cheating for three years. I think what people don’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from (Aaron) Judge in ’17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.”

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Photo Credit: ESPN

Despite the Astros’ claims the cheating was isolated to 2017 and a small part of ’18, Bellinger feels the cheating extended into the 2019 post-season. Bellinger probably said it best, “I know I personally lost respect for those guys. I think I would say everyone in the show, in the big leagues, lost respect for those guys.” I’ll take it further and say baseball fans everywhere, except perhaps for those in Houston, have lost respect for the Houston Astros.

I am not sure we’ll ever get over this, but we do need to move forward. However, I know I’ll enjoy watching the reception the Astros get when they visit different cities this season. They deserve everything headed their way. I am not endorsing physical harm, but let the verbal abuse begin. They created this mess and now they must face the music. I can’t wait for the Yankee Stadium reaction in September when the Cheaters come to the Bronx for a four-game series.

The Houston Asterisks, the Houston Cheaters, the Houston Asstros, the Houston Trashtros, whatever you want to call the worthless collection of scum, are coming to a city near you. Let the booing begin…

Moving on to other topics. The long awaited trade of Mookie Betts and David Price was finally made official this week after the Dodgers had to re-structure the deal. I still feel it wasn’t so much about the medical records of former Twins reliever Brusdar Graterol but more about Boston’s knee-jerk reaction to the poor reception over trading their homegrown superstar and getting minimal in return, thanks to the salary dump of Price. In the restructured trades, the Dodgers kept Graterol, who will fit nicely into the Dodgers’ bullpen with his 100 mph heat, after sending starting pitcher Kenta Maeda to the Twins. Replacing Graterol in the trade to Boston, the Dodgers added prospects Jeter Downs, a childhood Yankee fan named after a recently named Hall of Fame player, and catcher Connor Wong, to accompany the previously agreed upon outfielder Alex Verdugo. Downs, a shortstop/second baseman, was blocked in LA with Corey Seager at short and highly ranked prospect Gavin Lux in line to take over at second. Wong profiles as a backup catcher and the Dodgers have stronger catching prospects in Keibert Ruiz and Diego Cartaya.

I am sure Verdugo and Downs will have their moments against the Yankees in upcoming seasons, but I am glad to see Mookie Betts out of the division. Yankee fans have been moaning how they’ll miss beating up on Price, but I actually think the move to the NL West will be good for him. Regardless of how you feel about him, David Price is a good pitcher. If healthy, I think he has a chance to be much better for the Dodgers. Although Price was a reason the Red Sox celebrated a World Series championship in 2018, his overall tenure in Boston was not favorable. I don’t really buy into the Yankee fans who say they can’t wait to face Price in the 2020 World Series. First, we need to get to the World Series and there is a long road between now and then, but if we are fortunate enough to get there and face the Dodgers, it’s not a guarantee the Yankees would dominate Price. Just because they’ve enjoyed past success against him does not mean that they’ll forever own him. Price is a quality Major League pitcher and he’s motivated to improve. Therefore, you’ll find no disparaging words from me about him. As for Mookie, I am excited that I can finally root for the supremely talented outfielder. I appreciate his play and by all accounts, he is a fantastic person both on and off the field. I have no idea if Betts will be a Dodger for only one season or if he’ll re-sign with them when he hits the free market next off-season, but for now, I look forward to going to Dodger Stadium this season to see two great players sharing the outfield for the Dodgers.

There’s no question the Red Sox are a weaker team today than they were last week.  I think they realize they can’t compete with the Yankees or even the Tampa Bay Rays at the top of the division but I’d say they remain a dangerous team that can make some noise. They need many things to go right, but I wouldn’t totally discount Boston’s ability to snag a Wild Card spot. Once in the playoffs, anything can happen (as long as you aren’t cheating).

This week has been fun, as far as the Yankees go. It was great to see Gerrit Cole wearing Yankees gear, throwing to Gary Sanchez. I love the perfectionist on the mound and it’s clear he is a notch above anything we’ve seen in recent times with no disrespect to Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton or Luis Severino. I thought his words during the Thursday press conference were exemplary, as usual. Cole is quickly becoming one of my favorite players to listen to. No doubt he’s already there with his pitching.

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Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

As one who preached all winter for the Yankees to trade J.A. Happ, it was good to hear Happ say this week that he wanted to stay with the Yankees when he heard the trade rumors. He recognizes his shortcomings in last year’s juiced ball environment and he has been working on making the necessary adjustments. Given we need Happ with Paxton on the shelf for the first couple of months of the season, I’ve warmed up to the idea of keeping Happ for now. It’s possible he’ll be stronger this year than last. I still think he’s a trade candidate at some point depending upon how it goes with Jordan Montgomery, in addition to the eventual return of the suspended Domingo German and maybe a breakout by Deivi Garcia at some point. But as long as he is in pinstripes, I’ll cheer for him. As long as he puts the Yankees in position to win every fifth day, life will be good.

Gary Sanchez’s comment that you could rip his pants off if he hit a homer to send the Yankees to the World Series was priceless with its statement clearly direct at Jose Altuve’s obvious attempt to protect his jersey after last fall’s homer off Aroldis Chapman to end the ALCS.

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The Spring has brought a few more number changes. In addition to J.A. Happ’s recent switch from 34 to 33, Mike Ford dropped 36 in favor of 72 and Thairo Estrada took the departed Stephen Tarpley’s 71. With Luke Voit now wearing 59, the Yankees have a linebacker and an offensive lineman at first base. Probably because of David Cone, 36 seems more like a pitcher’s number to me so I am glad to see Ford grab a power number.

It was funny to see Greg Bird and Austin Romine, in Rangers and Tigers camps, respectively, sporting beards. It seems like the first thing players do when they leave the Yankees is toss the razor.

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Photo Credit: Smiley N Pool, The Dallas Morning News

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Photo Credit: Kimberly P Mitchell, Detroit Free Press

Now that pitchers and catchers are in camp, we anxiously await the arrival of all position players on Monday. Most are already in Tampa, but the band will officially be together again when President’s Day rolls around. I am looking forward to the first of the exhibition games until the monotony sets in a few weeks from now.  On the bright side, the regular season will soon be here as March 26th is not really that far away anymore. My expectations for the upcoming season are reasonable…total domination and obliteration of the American League (and the NL’s October representative)  by the Yankees will suffice.

As always, Go Yankees!

A Hinch In Our Step…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Hinch makes first public appearance…

A.J. Hinch will get another opportunity to manage in Major League Baseball.

This is not an endorsement or a belief he said the right things during his interview by Tom Verducci of the MLB Network. In fact, the interview might have raised more questions than answers but I do feel it was the critical first step for Hinch as he tries to rebuild his image and position himself for a job in 2021.

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There is no doubt Hinch is still very protective of his Astros players even though he is no longer their leader. On one hand, it’s an admirable trait that he’s willing to be the sacrificial lamb for his guys but on the other, his players showed no respect for their manager when they continued their deceitful and illegal practices despite Hinch’s displeasure as evidenced by his use of a baseball bat to two monitors. Hinch should have said something, done something (beyond taking batting practice on the monitors), but I am glad to know he was not in favor of the cheating. His inaction to stop the cheating is not an honorable quality.

I am not really trying to dissect Hinch’s interview. I’ve never been a big fan of his and the perspectives of the fans will be based on our own individual biases. When I think of the smug answers he gave at Yankee Stadium during the ALCS last fall, it does infuriate me. Yet, on a human level, it’s hard to watch a man stripped of the game he loves. I don’t know if he has the proper remorse. He said the things he needed to say to take responsibility and accountability, which I appreciate. However, there are many unresolved questions. Ultimately, it comes across as ‘I am sorry I (we) got caught’.

The 2017 World Series Championship is forever tainted. There is nothing that can be said or done that will absolve the Astros of the sins they committed to take away a potential championship from two teams that, as far as we know, played the game the right way…the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. Championships are very hard to come by and we were deprived of the joy and excitement of potentially winning the World Series in 2017.

When the one year suspension is over, I am confident Hinch will be given consideration for a MLB job. Maybe he has to serve as a bench coach first but eventually he’ll be given a managerial post again. I’ve wondered if the opportunity could present itself with the team that fired him, the Houston Astros. There is nothing in the rule book that says he can’t manage the Astros again. Dusty Baker may be the current manager but there’s really no doubt he does not represent the long-term future as the team’s leader. He’s on the last stop of his long career, armed with only a one-year contract. He serves a purpose today, but it could open the door for Hinch’s return. The upcoming season gives owner Jim Crane a year to say they did the right thing by parting ways with Hinch and GM Jeffrey Luhnow but a year from now, there will be talk about how Hinch has served his punishment and his time away has given him the necessary introspection and redemption to resume his role as the Astros manager. If the Astros have a winning season this year without the trash can banging and other illegal practices, it helps Hinch’s case to return. I am not defending Hinch. This is just the reality of the situation. I firmly believe that he’ll see a Major League dugout again regardless of what we think or feel.

I want to see the Astros players take accountability. So far, only former Astros Mike Fiers, the whistleblower, and Dallas Keuchel have stepped forward. Houston pitchers report to Spring Training next Thursday, and the players (the heart of the conspirators) report a week from Monday. We’ll be watching closely as the players are asked about their involvement and I think it behooves the Astros organization to hold a press conference with key team players to address the elephant in the room sooner than later.

The Astros play their first Spring game on Saturday, February 22nd in West Palm Beach, FL against the team they share FITTEAM Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, the defending World Champion Washington Nationals. It will be interesting to see what type of reception they receive from the crowd. It’s too bad the Astros don’t come to Steinbrenner Field for any games during the exhibition season. The first regular season road crowd the Astros will face is the Oakland A’s on Monday, March 30th (they open the season at home against the Los Angeles Angels). I really hope the Oakland crowd, not one to hold back their feelings, lets the Astros players have it with their vocal displeasure.

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Photo Credit: Scott Strazzante, San Francisco Chronicle

Baseball continues to sit in limbo with the Mookie Betts trade. I feel badly for the players involved. Spring Training opens this coming week and Mookie has no idea if he needs to head for Arizona or Florida. On Tuesday night, it was reported the Boston Red Sox had agreed to send Betts, a free agent next off-season, and part of David Price’s contract (with the pitcher attached to it) to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return, the Red Sox would receive young Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo and Minnesota Twins pitcher Brusdar Graterol. For Graterol, the Dodgers dealt pitcher Kenta Maeda to the Twins. Standing behind this pending trade is the Dodgers’ pending trade of outfielder Joc Pederson and pitcher Ross Stripling to the Los Angeles Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo and prospects.  Four days later and the trades have yet to be finalized due to Boston’s concerns about Graterol’s health. The Dodgers got to go to arbitration to make their negative arguments against Pederson on Thursday, winning the case, so it’s hard to think Joc has warm, fuzzy feelings about his present/former team after a week of limbo and negativity.

The Red Sox, based on Graterol’s medical evaluation, are pushing for additional compensation. The Twins are resisting and the Dodgers do not seem willing to send any of their prospects to close the deal. It seems like the deal will eventually go through, perhaps as soon as today with the Player’s Union and agent Scott Boras coming out publicly to demand closure. So long as the Twins did not “hide” any medical knowledge about Graterol, I think the Dodgers should step up and send a quality prospect to Boston if they truly want Betts.  In no way should they send a top prospect like second baseman Gavin Lux, catcher Keibert Ruiz, or pitcher Dustin May, or even the well-named infielder Jeter Downs, for only a year of Mookie.  But a prospect with some potential makes sense.

When the trade finally goes down, the Red Sox, for the short-term, will be worse. Perhaps they’ll be stronger for the long run. The elimination of a significant chunk of Price’s contract and the money owed to Betts for the 2020 season will allow them to reset luxury tax penalties.  For me, it’s hard to fathom trading one of the game’s best players. I get the fear of losing a top player to free agency without a quality return but you have to look no further than the Washington Nationals to see a team that kept star players through the end of their contracts in two successive years, only to watch them leave (Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon). For the Nats, it paid off with the latter who helped deliver a World Series championship to the Capitol City.  Not that the Red Sox are a legitimate World Series contender this year, with or without Mookie, but it does seem odd when a big city team screams small market poverty.

There’s a chance the Betts trade could fall apart altogether. I doubt it and it would be very awkward if Mookie and Price have to show up in Fort Myers, FL.  Hopefully the trade gets done today or tomorrow at the latest.

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Based on MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s words this week, we should expect news of the Red Sox investigation before teams start reporting to camp on Thursday.  I am not expecting much in the way of penalties against Boston but I hope their former manager Alex Cora receives no less than a two-year suspension. A lifetime ban would be better. Unlike Hinch who did not support the cheating but did nothing about it, Cora was an active conspirator with the players, perhaps its ring leader, and the proven liar should receive harsher treatment than Hinch. How the Commissioner handles Cora’s involvement as an active participant in the cheating scandal sets the tone for MLB’s future tolerance of dishonest play. Be a man, Manfred. Eliminate the game’s cancer.

I guess I should touch on the Yankees since this is a Yankees blog. Like all of you, I was disappointed to hear the news about James Paxton and how the lower back surgery to remove a cyst will keep him out of action until late May or early June. It certainly shows why J.A. Happ, now sporting number 33, has remained on the Yankees roster. I had expected Happ to be traded before Opening Day but at this point, he will accompany the team to Baltimore for the March 26th opener.  I have my doubts whether he’ll end the season as a Yankee.  I can’t see the Yankees allowing him to reach the milestone to kick in the 2021 option on his contract (165 innings pitched or 27 games started). I also can’t see the Yankees sitting Happ to keep him from reaching those milestones. I think they’ll find a way to move Happ at some point without sacrificing his ability to trigger the 2021 option. It makes too much sense to eliminate all or part of the money owed to Happ to create opportunity for younger, cheaper arms.

For the short-term, keeping Happ is fine. It opens the door for Jordan Montgomery to grab a spot in the rotation. If everyone was healthy and Happ still on the roster, it most likely would have meant a trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for Monty. But now, he seems to be the odds-on favorite to head north with the big league club. While it is possible that we’ll see Deivi Garcia, Michael King, and/or Clarke Schmidt make their Major League debuts this season, I feel their time will come later in the summer.

I do hate the talk that James Paxton (and the suspended Domingo German) will be like ‘trade deadline acquisitions’. The team will be better when they return but they are not deadline acquisitions…just like Gleyber Torres is no longer 22. The downside or risk is potential injury to other starters before or when Paxton and German return, making them replacements instead of additional starters.  Paxton will easily slide back into the rotation (obviously), but German’s future probably depends upon how well Montgomery does. I am hoping Monty grabs his rotation spot and does not let go.

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Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky, AP

As teams are scurrying to bring in veteran players on minor league deals, I thought the Yankees would be more active than they have been. The latest veteran receiving a MiLB deal from the Yankees with Spring Training invitation is former Cleveland Indians reliever Dan Otero. Not exactly a name to get excited about. With Paxton headed to the 60-day Injured List to start the season, it seems like now would be a good time to ink Taijuan Walker or Aaron Sanchez to a minor league deal. The bloom is off both pitchers but they once held great promise and are still young. Both are summer of ’92 babies, making them 27 years old to start the season. I like the upside potential, especially if they come to camp on a minor league contract. As The Greedy Pinstripes’ Daniel Burch likes to say, there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal.

It was great to see Gary Sanchez, Adam Ottavino and Gio Urshela on The Michael Kay Show yesterday. I am ready to see our favorite Pinstriped players voice their words and thoughts from the grounds of Steinbrenner Field in Tampa and watch them prepare for the championship 2020 season. And, oh yeah, Gerrit Cole is a Yankee.

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Photo Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran, USA TODAY

As always, Go Yankees!

The Sights and Sounds of Spring Training…

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Nearing the End of the Off-Season…

Two months from tomorrow, Gerrit Cole will be taking the mound in Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, wearing the Yankee road grays and ready to throw his first official pitch as a member of Major League Baseball’s most storied franchise. Life is good.

I guess I should slow down and just be excited for the opening of Spring Training in less than three weeks. It will be fun to see activity at Steinbrenner Field again. I always love the first televised games of the Spring even if we don’t get to see very much of our favorite players. The interviews with players as they arrive at camp. The informal and subsequent formal workouts as the players get ready for the 2020 season. It’s just great to see those Spring pics of the Yankee rotation starters throwing bullpen sessions side-by-side. I look forward to the first pic featuring Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka. Yankees baseball, I love it.

But first, congratulations to Derek Jeter for his election to MLB’s Hall of Fame. Although expected, the announcement of his election this week was very exciting and it was so great to hear Jeter talk as a former Yankee great rather than as the CEO of the Miami Marlins.  I was convinced prior to the announcement there would be voters who would choose not to vote for Jeter so I never held the expectation he should be a unanimous selection but I’ll admit it was a bit disappointing there was just a single dissenting vote. Honestly, I don’t really care to ever find out who the voter was. I hope he had legitimate reasons for his choices although I cannot imagine what they would possibly be. Jeter was clearly the best candidate on this year’s ballot. Regardless, Jeter goes in with the second highest percentage (99.7%) ever with 396 of 397 votes. Once you’re in, it doesn’t matter if you got in with 99.7% or if you barely did it with 76.6% like Larry Walker. Walker (I am very happy about his election) is no less a Hall of Famer than Jeter. For Jeter, it has been great to hear his stories and how he still feels today that Yankee fans are the best in the World. There’s a part of me that kind of wishes the Steinbrenner family could have found a place for Jeter in the Yankees organization for his post-playing career but I suppose they were never going to sell him a stake in the team like he has in Miami. Jeter has reminded us this week of why he was such a special player in New York.

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Credit: Mark Ulriksen, The New Yorker

It will be exciting this summer (July 26th) when Jeter is officially inducted into the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York. No doubt guys like Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will be there. An encore musical performance by Bernie Williams, who played last year, would be nice.

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Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews, AP

I am probably softening on my stance against Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. I am not condoning PED use, but they were two great players before the suspected PED involvement. There are worse guys in the Hall of Fame. Clemens and Bonds are running out of time and did not really make up much ground this year. With Clemens and Bonds receiving 61.0% and 60.7% of the votes this year, they would have needed 156 and 157 more votes, respectively, to have made it into the Hall of Fame. That seems like a tall order with just two years of eligibility left. But if these two can’t get in, there’s no way for Alex Rodriguez who becomes eligible in 2022.

Nice recovery by the New York Mets who stayed in-house when they named Felipe Alou’s son Luis Rojas as their new manager replacing Carlos Beltran. Although Rojas is not the “name” Beltran was, I think he is better positioned to be a successful manager. As a long-time member of the Mets organization, he has extensive minor league managerial experience. Assuming Hensley Meulens does not get the Boston job, he’ll provide good experience for Rojas as the team’s bench coach. For as dysfunctional as the Mets can be, this was a good move, in my opinion. I am not really sure why Meulens keeps getting bypassed. I think he’d be a good manager but it would suck to see him go to the Boston Red Sox so I hope he gets bypassed one more time before getting his opportunity.

I have no clue what the Red Sox are going to do. On paper, they still have a very good team. Everybody seems quick to dismiss them but they have the players capable of making noise in the AL East. They’d be weakened if the rumored trade of Mookie Betts happens but if they hold onto him, the AL East will be no cakewalk for the Yankees. Boston’s famed Truck Day is February 3rd so you’d think they would have a manager in place by then. I think Buck Showalter would be an outstanding choice for them but like Meulens, I’d hate to see Buck go there. Even though he’d be a good manager, I am hopeful the Sox elevate bench coach Ron Roenicke to the post. Jason Varitek seems like the eventual manager so it would be wise for them to open a spot on the coaching staff for Tek and let Roenicke groom him for the position.

I thought it was funny this week to see the Houston Astros are going to interview Brad Ausmus. After stints in Detroit and Anaheim, he has proven he is not a very good manager. I know he was a long-time Astro but his selection as manager would probably be a great thing for Yankee fans. The Astros, if they are serious about putting the cheating scandal behind them and naming a guy who can rebuild their credibility, should go with either Showalter or Dusty Baker.

Back to the Yankees, I think we’re ready to go. There will be no trades for Josh Hader, Francisco Lindor or Nolan Arenado. I’ve been hoping for some under-the-radar minor league signings of high upside players but even that is probably not going to happen. They signed a few catchers to minor league deals (Erik Kratz, Chris Iannetta, and John Mazza) to bring catching depth to camp. Former Mets reliever Luis Avilan, 30, was signed to a minor league contract and is presumably a potential replacement for the departed Stephen Tarpley although the significance of a lefty specialist was diminished with this year’s installation of the minimum three batter rule.

The only change I see with the roster between now and Opening Day is the potential trade of J.A. Happ. I still think it happens.  I can’t see the Yankees taking Happ and his contract into the regular season with a chance to reach the innings threshold to activate his 2021 option. If they mess with his innings pitched by pulling him out of the rotation at times, that’s not really fair to Happ. I think best case scenario, which would help the team from a luxury tax standpoint, would be to move Happ now rather than wait. The deeper we go into the season with Happ, the greater percentage of his 2020 salary, $17 million, going against team payroll for luxury tax purposes. I suppose the Yankees want to see where Jordan Montgomery is at in Spring Training but I continue to believe Happ will be wearing another uniform by Opening Day.

The other guy who has to go is Clint Frazier. Now with the talk about Miguel Andujar being asked to learn first base and left field, it would further diminish opportunities for Frazier. There are things I don’t like about Clint but he remains a talented player and I think he would strongly benefit from a change of scenery. I get the argument you’d be selling low on the player but I do not see any positives for stashing Frazier in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for another year.  You want to see players in the best possible position to succeed and sadly I feel that time has passed for Frazier with the Yankees.

It’s funny but in interviews, I think I’ve heard Manager Aaron Boone talk more about “Mendy” (new bench coach Carlos Mendoza) than he ever talked about his friend and former bench coach Josh Bard (who returned to his role as bullpen coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers). I am excited about what Mendy brings to the bench in his new role. He also inherits the role as organizer of Spring Training activities (which always reminds me of former Yankees coach and now Phillies bench coach Rob Thomson who ran Yankees camp for years). A popular coach, I think this is an underrated and very positive move for the Yankees.

Speaking of the Phillies, I have to say it sucked this week when I saw this image on Sir Didi’s Twitter account courtesy of MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

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Lastly, I want to say thanks to Mike Fiers. I know he is going to take much heat this year as the whistleblower of the Houston Astros cheating scandal but if he had not stepped forward, it’s not like the Astros were going to self-police and report themselves. Houston cost the Yankees potential opportunities to advance to the World Series through fraudulent measures. Fiers was the guy Yankee fans loved to hate. His infamy grew as the guy who threw the pitch in September 2014 that shattered Giancarlo Stanton’s face. But I honestly hope he gets cheers from the fans for his role in bringing light to the Houston cheaters. Also, congrats to Dallas Keuchel for taking accountability yesterday. I know his words were a little watered down but I appreciate his proactiveness and accountability, something that guys like Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve seemingly cannot comprehend.

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When Spring Training opens, I do feel that former Astro Gerrit Cole needs to address the media regarding any knowledge he may have had. While I do not feel the pitchers were directly involved (including the despised Justin Verlander), the topic is the elephant in the room and Cole needs to be open and honest about what he does or does not know. I remain very excited that Cole is a Yankee but he does not get a free pass simply because he is a Yankee.

As always, Go Yankees!

The Dawn of Yankees Championships…

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

New Decade: Great Hope for Pinstripes…

It’s been an interesting year. When January opened, many of us (okay, namely me) wanted the Yankees to sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. The thought of ‘excite the Fan Base, Hal Steinbrenner’ keep reverberating through my head. On January 14th, the Yankees signed free agent second baseman D.J. LeMahieu, and the Yankees, for all intents and purposes, were out of the Harp-Chado Sweepstakes. The signing of the former Colorado Rockies second baseman was met with general indifference from the Yankees fan base, but it would prove to be a much bigger acquisition than Machado would be for San Diego or Harper for Philly. Both of those teams did so well with their new $300+ million men that they fired their managers. LeMahieu’s manager wasn’t the AL Manager of the Year but he should have been.

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Photo Credit: Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports

By now, we know the Yankees won 103 games during the regular season despite a historic number of men (30) who found their way to the Injured List. The ALDS was a success against the homer happy Minnesota Twins, but the season came to an abrupt end in the ALCS playing against a team that subscribes to the theory ‘if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying’. Okay, that’s a Jim Rome quote but it fits the eventual AL Champions and then some. Someone bang on a garage can for the Houston Astros.

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I keep hearing the reason the Yankees failed in the ALCS was because of the hitters. In the playoffs, you face the best of the best. No team is throwing a #5 starter at you to see if they can beat you. With Houston, they had three aces. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke. There’s a reason the Yankees couldn’t buy a hit when they needed it. Fortunately, the Yankees, after the season was over, recognized the primary goal of this off-season was to get an ace.

James Paxton, after a rough start (it seemed like the first inning was never his friend for the longest time), settled into his role as the best Yankees pitcher. I like Paxton a lot but he is not an ace. While he can be, he is more of a #2. I’ve seen countless people post on Social Media that Luis Severino is an ace. He’s not but can be (maybe even more so than Paxton). Sevy needs to prove it over the course of a long season. Consistency and good health are the two primary ingredients needed before Sevy can call himself an ace. The potential is there but it has yet to be realized.  Masahiro Tanaka can be very good but he’s not an ace.  The regular season is filled with those dang obligatory homers. Once the playoffs start, he pitches with laser-like focus and like Andy Pettitte, is a man you want on the mound in October. Three very good pitchers, but no current ace among them.

The problem was solved on December 18th, ten days ago, when the Yankees officially signed Gerrit Cole to the largest pitching contract in MLB history (9 years for $324 million). If the opt out after 5 years is exercised, the Yankees can add an additional year to the deal, making it worth $360 million.  I’d say that Hal Steinbrenner has excited the Yankees fan base. With an ace, the Yankees suddenly have one of the best starting rotations in baseball after seasons where the rotation was viewed as the primary weakness. Weakening the lying, cheating Houston Astros was an added bonus.

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Photo Credit: AP

The cautionary tale is the Boston Red Sox. A couple of years ago, Sox fans were beating their chests over a starting rotation headlined by Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello. Porcello is now a Met, Price’s name is regularly among trade rumors as a potential salary dump and Sale can’t stay healthy. If the Yankees have an advantage over the Red Sox, it is a much deeper farm system with talented young pitching prospects to provide a hedge. The Cleveland Indians have proven an ability to grow aces on trees, and of course, the Yankees now have one of those architects on the coaching staff with Matt Blake as the new pitching coach. To Boston’s credit, they have a World Series championship to show for their collection of starters and the Yankees have not.  But if I had to place a bet on which team would win more World Series in the next five years, I can assure you it would not be Boston. If the Yankees can bring the World Series championship total to at least 30 over the next decade, I’d call Cole’s contract a smashing success and those Red Sox championships of 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018 will be nothing but a forgotten memory.

Even though 2019 did not bring a championship to the Bronx, it has set the stage for a very strong Yankees squad in 2020. A more complete team that is ready to take the next step. Even though 2010-19 is the first decade in a century that did not feature at least one World Series appearance by the Yankees, it figures to change in 2020-29 with restoration of appearances AND victories.

I look forward to 2020 with great optimism and I know it will be a great year for the Yankees and all their fans.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

In other news, the fan-created trade speculation for Josh Hader continues. Yet, not one reputable baseball writer with genuine sources has indicated the Yankees are close on any trades. Miguel Andujar’s name keeps getting mentioned by fans as expendable. As much as I love Gio Urshela’s glove at third base, I am fearful about a regression in Gio’s offense after last year’s breakout. The Yankees need Andujar. I know his defense is often criticized, but moving D.J. LeMahieu from second to third would force the Yankees to use Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada at second.  I’d rather keep LeMahieu, an elite defender, at second, and use Andujar at third if Gio fails. I wouldn’t be so quick to trade him. Andujar also has the potential to see some time at first and perhaps in left field with additional work in the Spring. He is trying to get better defensively and his workout videos show a man who is trying to improve his game. Personally, I wouldn’t trade Andujar for a reliever regardless of how good the reliever is. Third base is simply not a position of strength in the farm system and Urshela, as I’ve mentioned, is no sure thing.

The latest name circulating among the Twitter GM’s is Nick Castellanos. Castellanos may be a good hitter but where does he fit on the Yankees?  The Detroit Tigers moved him off third base because of subpar defensive skills. I’d rather have Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Garder, and Mike Tauchman in left field. Castanellos, who became a right fielder, cannot play center and he’s certainly not going to take Aaron Judge’s spot in right. Make him a DH? It wouldn’t allow the Yankees to maximize the potential of the DH slot with the rotation of great hitters already on the team. I see no fit for Castanellos on the Yankees roster. The bat’s nice but it is not enough to make his addition a roster upgrade. In fact, you could argue it would be a detriment because of the lineup inflexibility it would cause. Personally, I like Joc Pederson, a left-handed hitter, and think he’d fit better on the roster if the Yankees could swing a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’d love to see Joc taking his shots at Yankee Stadium’s short right porch. He may be a platoon bat to face right-handed pitching but he’d mesh well with the other Yankee outfielders or at least better than Castellanos would. Steamer has projected Joc to hit 31 home runs and 76 RBIs in 2020 with .255/.345/.537 batting line and .364 wOBA and 129 wRC+ in approximately 500 plate appearances. Unlike Castanellos, Pederson is a solid defender.

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Credit: FanGraphs.com

It’s always nice to see the calendar page turn to January. The last full month with no Yankees baseball. There could still be a surprise addition or two before pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 12th. It continues to be speculation the Yankees will unload J.A. Happ’s contract (all or part) to reduce luxury tax penalties. I, for one, look forward to seeing how Jordan Montgomery will do in Spring Training even if he’ll be on an innings limitation this year.  With no expectation to be more than the fifth starter, I think Monty could serve the role well.  I think we’ll begin to see the work of Sam Briend, Director of Pitching for the Yankees, come to fruition. With guys like Briend and Matt Blake, the organization’s great young pitching talent will only get better. Soon, we’ll be growing our own Mike Clevingers and Shane Biebers.

Happy New Year, Everybody!  From all of us to all of you, we hope this is your (our) best year yet. Hopefully this time next year we’ll be relishing in the Yankees’ 28th World Series Championship.

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As always, Go Yankees!