Tagged: Hall of Fame

CC Sabathia and the Hall of Fame…

cc-sabathia-2
Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun, NY Post

Resume now includes 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts…

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

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

cooperstown

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

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

The pitching matchups are set:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, Go Yankees!

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Yankees Close to Sonny Gray Trade…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Noah K Murray)

Right-hander Appears Headed to Cincy…

It has not yet been finalized but it appears the Yankees are finally close to trading right-hander Sonny Douglas Gray to the Cincinnati Reds. Hopefully there are no last minute snags and this one gets pushed across the finish line.

For Gray, he’ll get a chance for redemption with Cincinnati, which is less than 300 miles from his Nashville, Tennessee home. The Reds have been one of MLB’s most active teams this off-season, having already rebuilt their pitching staff with the acquisitions of Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals and Alex Wood, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They’ll join holdovers Anthony DeSclafani and Luis Castillo to provide the Reds with a solid starting rotation. Maybe not good enough to win the NL Central over the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers or St Lous Cardinals, but they’ll be better. Gray will also reunite with his pitching coach at Vanderbilt, Derek Johnson, who was named the Reds’ pitching coach in November. Maybe Johnson can do what Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild was unable to do.

While I wanted Gray to leave, there is some sadness that it did not work out for him in New York. I think all of us were excited when the Yankees acquired him from the Oakland A’s in the summer of 2017. We thought he was the missing ace that could be paired with Luis Severino to provide the Yankees with two young stars atop the rotation. Unfortunately, it was never meant to be and now Gray gets a change of scenery that will hopefully benefit him and help restore some of his luster as he heads into his walk year at the age of 29. I wish him the best and I do hope that he pitches more like the ace he once was in Oakland.

The Yankees will reportedly receive second base prospect Shed Long from the Reds. The 23-year-old Long, only 5’8” and 184 lbs, is rated as Cincinnati’s seventh best prospect per MLB.com. He is recognized as an excellent lefty hitter who has worked hard to bring up his defense to at least average. He spent last year in Double A with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos where he hit .261/.353/.412, .765 OPS and 120 +wRC+, with 12 home runs and 56 RBIs. Long has a little speed in those short legs, picking up 19 steals in 25 attempts. I probably would have preferred catching prospect Tyler Stephenson but the Reds resisted the Yankees’ attempts to pry him loose. Regardless, Long is a legitimate prospect and presumably will begin the year with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. His defense leads to speculation that he may need to be moved to a corner outfield position but all reports indicate he is working hard to improve his defensive game.

Photo Credit: Cincinnati Enquirer (Kareem Elgazzar)

The Yankees will also apparently receive a competitive balance draft pick and a lesser minor league player. I doubt the second minor leaguer will be much but I will be anxious to see who the Yankees draft next summer with the draft pick.

Many fans are calling this a heist for Yankees GM Brian Cashman. I guess my expectations are a bit more tempered. I need time to see how this plays out. There’s a good chance that Gray recaptures his magic in Ohio and until the prospects reach the Show, they’ve proven nothing.

Since Long was on the Reds’ 40-man roster, the trade does not free up a spot for newly signed reliever Adam Ottavino. My hope is that we’ve reached the end of the line for RHP Luis Cessa, but the realist in me believes it will be RHP Ben Heller who continues to recover and rehab from last summer’s Tommy John surgery. The Yankees would hold out hope Heller goes unclaimed so that they can outright him to Triple A, but if I was a team with roster space, I’d make a claim to add Heller.

Now that Gray is nearly out of the picture, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German represent the insurance for CC Sabathia in the starting rotation. The Yankees also are bringing non-roster invitee RHP Drew Hutchison to Spring Training. There’s still time for Cashman to find another arm to bring to camp which is the current expectation.

Let’s hope Cashman can seal the deal with the Reds today so that we can move on.

The upcoming week looms big for the Yankees. On Tuesday, the latest Hall of Fame selections will be announced. Leading the charge is the legendary Mariano Rivera who will make the Hall on his first ballot as the greatest Closer in Major League history.

Photo Credit: Newsday (Thomas A Ferrera)

I am not setting myself up for the expectation that Mo will be unanimously voted in even though he should be. While he has appeared on all publicly revealed ballots, I expect someone to exclude him on the undisclosed ballots. While we may want Rivera, my favorite Yankee during his playing days (sorry Derek Jeter fans), to be unanimous, the bottom line is the guy will be a Hall of Famer. I don’t care about the final voting results as long as they ensure Rivera will be Cooperstown, New York this summer. Hopefully Mike Mussina will be there as well even if he has to wear an Orioles cap. I’d prefer he wears a Yankees cap but there is no dispute he was a great pitcher in Baltimore, his original team. I know I always hated it when the Yankees faced him. Generally-speaking, it did not go well for the Yankees.

Today is a big football day with the AFC and NFC Championship Games. It’s time for some disappointment in Boston so hopefully Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs punch their ticket for the Super Bowl and send the New England Patriots home for the off-season. On the NFC side, I’m pulling for the Los Angeles Rams although it won’t be a disappointment if the New Orleans Saints advance. My only hope for today is a Boston loss…and for the Gray trade to be finalized.

As always, Go Yankees!

2019 MLB Hall of Fame & The Right to Vote…

Regardless of %, Mariano Rivera is a Hall of Famer…

Bill Ballou of the Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette caused a furor over the weekend when he, as a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), wrote his intention to not to cast a Hall of Fame vote for former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Rivera, the all-time saves leader, is in his first year of eligibility and has been on all ballots cast so far although it’s still very early in the process (according to Ryan Thibodaux, Rivera has appeared on all 88 known ballots out of 412 total to be cast, or 21.4%).

I am not trying to condone or defend Mr Ballou but I respect his rights as a qualified voter for MLB’s Hall of Fame. It’s possible he is taking his stand against saves as an entry qualifier into the Hall as an act of moral conscious or perhaps he’s just looking for clicks on Social Media. Regardless of his reasons, good or bad, it is his right.  For the record, he has indicated that he does not intend to vote this year so it won’t be his vote that keeps Mariano Rivera from being unanimously selected. My opinion is it does not really matter.  I could really care less how Mr Ballou does or does not vote.

I know this, Mariano Rivera is a Hall of Famer. He is a Yankees legend and he left the game as the greatest closer it has known. My concern is for Rivera to get at least the required minimum (75% of the ballots cast) to gain entry. Other than that, I really do not care what the final percentage is. There is no added prestige for getting 100% of the vote versus 75%. If you’re in, you’re in. I bet if you asked Rivera himself, he’d only be grateful for the opportunity to be considered.

Photo Credit: SI.com

 

For those getting worked up because Rivera may not be the first unanimously selected player to gain entry into the Hall of Fame is flawed logic because it’s a flawed process. People bring personal biases into the voting, we’re all human, and it’s nearly impossible to get 412 people to agree on anything. So, I’ve never once thought Rivera should be an unanimous choice. Maybe he deserves it but there are plenty of other guys in the Hall who weren’t unanimous selections but should have been. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter. Babe Ruth and others are Hall of Famers. Ty Cobb, who by all accounts was a despicable human being and played the game dirty, made the HOF with 98.2% of the vote, yet Babe Ruth only received 95.1%. Does that make Cobb a better baseball player than Ruth? No, it does not. The waiting period was waived for Lou Gehrig in 1939 after his career ended prematurely due to ALS. Although the results of the vote are not known, it still would have been a major surprise to me if he had been unanimously selected and he was, in my mind, the greatest player to ever play the game.

Photo Credit: Charles Conlon/National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

So Bill Ballou is not going to vote for Mariano Rivera. No worries. It is not going to detract from or prevent Mo’s presence in Cooperstown, New York next summer.

I’m sure we’ll probably go through this again next year with Derek Jeter and I’ll feel the same way. As long as he receives at least 75% of the vote (which he will), I’ll be very happy and proud of the former Yankee and look forward to his induction ceremony in the summer of 2020.

On to some current Yankee thoughts…

It’s been very quiet in the Yankees Universe while we await Manny Machado’s decision after the first of the year. The Yankees signed a couple of pitchers, LHP’s Rex Brothers and Danny Coulombe, to minor league deals. Nothing earth shattering. They also lost Parker Bridwell on waivers to the Los Angeles Angels. Bridwell had been claimed on waivers by the Yankees in November (from the Angels) in a move that had cost utilityman Ronald Torreyes his job with the Yankees. Not sure why the Yankees ever put in the claim for Bridwell since he lost his spot when the Yankees re-signed J.A. Happ. I probably would have sent A.J. Cole packing.

The Yankees also announced they’ve hired Carlos Beltran as a special adviser to GM Brian Cashman. Beltran had interviewed last year in the managerial interviews that led to the hiring of Aaron Boone as Joe Girardi’s replacement. After not getting selected as manager, Beltran rebuffed any front office appointments with the desire to take a year off following the completion of his playing career. The year’s up so Beltran has resumed his career in a non-playing capacity. He participated in last week’s dinner in Manhattan for Manny Machado and his wife, and their shared agent, Dan Lozano. Perfect timing for Beltran but I think his addition to the Yankees’ front office would have happened regardless of where the team stood in its chase of Machado. I see Beltran as an eventual manager. Maybe not with the Yankees, but this is a start for him. Glad to see him back in the game.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

With Machado looming as an early 2019 decision, I’d really like the Yankees to pursue their bullpen options. They have two major holes to fill, and I really want one of David Robertson, Adam Ottavino or Zach Britton locked up by year’s end. I’ve been saying this for awhile but I’ll keep saying it until it happens. The Yankees cannot shortchange the pen given the questions with the health of the starting rotation. Another super bullpen is a must.

I have no idea how the Manny Machado sweepstakes will turn out. I know the Yankees want him, but I think the likelihood they don’t make an offer if another team goes all-in crazy like the Washington Nationals did with Patrick Corbin is strong. If that proves to be the case, I hope there are still good potential Plan B options on the market, like free agent Marwin Gonzalez or others who can help man the ship during the absence of shortstop Didi Gregorius.

Have a very happy and safe Christmas Eve and the very merriest of Christmases!

As always, Go Yankees!

‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in the Yankees Universe…

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!

‘Twas the Day Before Christmas…

Coming Soon:  Salinas & Cabello, playing at a stadium near you… 

The more I read about the two international prospects signed by the Yankees, OF Raimfer Salinas and C Antonio Cabello, the more excited I get. These are the guys that will be viewed as the new Baby Bombers when Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez and others will be the “thirty-something” players on the roster.

Antonio Cabello (l) and Raimfer Salinas (r)

Per MLB.com:

RAIMFER SALINAS

Salinas will turn 17 next week. He’s 6’0” and 175 lbs, and was born in San Felix, Bolivar, Venuzuela. Salinas bats and throws right-handed.

Scouting Report: “For now, Salinas might be best known for his bat, but the rest of his tools are not far behind. In fact, there’s a belief the young outfielder has the potential to be a legitimate five-tool player and an impact player in the near future. For starters, scouts like Salinas’ body frame and its potential. He’s also a sound defender and his plus arm is already an asset. Salinas is already a decent runner, whether it’s on the basepaths or roaming the outfield, and there’s a belief he will get faster. At the plate, Salinas has shown an advanced approach and good bat speed. He’s been able to hit to all fields while also showing some home run power. Salinas’ overall tools package could land him in the middle of the lineup one day as a possible run producer. Scouts like his makeup and his overall confidence in his abilities.”

Salinas is ranked sixth on MLB.com’s list of Top International Prospects.

ANTONIO CABELLO

Cabello turned 17 last month. He’s 5’10” and 160 lbs, and was born in Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar, Venezuela. Cabello bats and throws right-handed like Salinas.

Scouting Report: “Cabello could be the most athletic prospect on the international market this year. The teenager is known primarily as a catcher, but Cabello could also play second base and center field. He has a strong body and has been clocked at 6.45 seconds in the 60-yard dash. Cabello also hits in games and his makeup is considered off the charts. He has built a reputation as a tough and hard-nosed competitor who hates to lose. Fellow Venezuelan catcher prospect Daniel Flores* might be a better defender, but Cabello has also earned praise as a good receiver with solid catching and throwing abilities. Cabello has been praised for his ability to block balls and a quick release that gives him a chance to throw out even the best of potential basestealers. Cabello is still working on fine-tuning his overall offensive game, and like most prospects his age, he is working on his approach against secondary and offspeed pitches.”

*Sadly, Daniel Flores, signed by the Boston Red Sox, died in November due to complications from treatment for cancer. Flores was the highest rated 2017 international catching prospect.

Cabello is ranked eighth on MLB.com’s list of Top International Prospects.

These were great signings by the Yankees. It will be a few years before they potentially start making noise for advancement to the Bronx but as the saying goes, ‘the future is so bright, I’ve got to wear shades’…

Moose Call…

Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com posted a good story this morning reporting the early results of 2018 Hall of Fame Voting. Presently, 101 votes out of an estimated 416 votes have been made (24.3%). The results show that it is very likely that Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, and Vlad the Great, Vladimir Guerrero, are blazing their path to Cooperstown. These three have 95% or better of the votes cast so far.

I do not dispute any of the above three. They are all Hall-worthy and I am glad to see the odds are on their side for next year. The votes that really bother me come down to former Yankees pitchers Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina.

Mike Mussina, who strongly deserves a place in the Hall of Fame in my opinion, has received 72 of 101 votes (71.3%). This is Mussina’s fifth time on the ballot. 75% is needed for induction. Roger Clemens, suspected of PED use, has the same number of votes as Mussina. That’s so wrong. I don’t care what numbers Clemens put up, he cheated.  Mussina played the game right and was good from beginning to end of his career. Moose was 270-153 in 537 games played, with 3.68 ERA. He struck out 2,813 batters in 3,562 2/3 innings pitched with 1.192 WHIP. Unlike Clemens, Moose does not need to make any apologies for his career. I am hopeful that the remaining voters provide Moose with the necessary 75%.

Credit:  Joy R Absalon, US Presswire

Clemens can rot in Texas.

That right hand is going to get sore…

Phil Nevin appeared on the MLB Network on Friday. The new Yankees third base coach is looking forward to training camp. “We’ve got a good group of guys. We’re energetic, really excited about getting going. The conversations we’ve all had as a group, we’re all excited about it. We’re all going to work well together. I think that’ll feed down into the players and create excitement amongst them as well.”

For Yankees fans, Nevin is best remembered as the first pick of the 1992 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros. The year the Astros bypassed a young shortstop out of Kalamazoo, Michigan by the name of Derek Jeter. He had an unremarkable overall career, with a few very good seasons with the San Diego Padres. Nevin accumulated 208 home runs. In the 2018 season as the third base coach, he’ll slap the hands of Yankee players on home run trots more than 208 times.

Credit:  Zimbio

I was kind of surprised that Yankees manager Aaron Boone didn’t name someone like Nevin as his bench coach, opting for the inexperienced Josh Bard. The San Francisco Giants apparently were ready to name Nevin as their bench coach had current bench coach Hensley Meulens gotten the Yankees managerial job. Nevin served as a Triple A manager from 2014 to 2016. During the MLB Network interview, he talked about how much he likes working third base and his perception that it is the closest thing to being on the field as a player.

Welcome to Pinstripes, Phil!

Now batting, Number 27…

Looking ahead to the 2018 schedule, there are a few dates that stand out. The Miami Marlins come to Yankee Stadium for two games in April (Monday, April 16th and Tuesday, April 17th). The Yankees will also visit Marlins Park on Tuesday, August 21st and Wednesday, August 22nd. It will be interesting to see how the Marlins fans react to the introduction of Giancarlo Stanton. Given the current adverse feelings toward Marlins ownership, I suspect that Stanton will get a rousing ovation.

Credit:  SunSentinel

The Yankees also visit Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA for three games with the Phillies beginning Monday, June 25th. The game will feature a reunion with former Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson, now the bench coach for new Phillies manager Gabe Kapler. It will be odd to see Thomson wearing Philly red.

The toughest stretch of the schedule appears to be very early. From Monday, April 23rd through Thursday, May 10th, the Yankees play 17 games against the Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, and Boston Red Sox. None of those games will be easy. The Yankees also have series against the Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, Angels and Astros later in May. We will find out very quickly how strong the 2018 Yankees will be.

A Heller of a Good Time…

Here’s a shout out to Yankees reliever Ben Heller for his recent humanitarian trip to Guatemala with Forever Changed International. It was exciting to watch Heller’s daily tweets  (@BenHeller21) about helping the poverty-stricken youth of Guatemala. His last tweet from the trip read: “Thanks for following our trip and for all the support! I never expected to fall in love with these kids as much as I did – it was definitely a life changing experience. If you are interested in supporting them more, or going on a trip yourself – foreverchangedinternational.org

Thanks for making a difference in the lives of so many, Ben!

To all of the Yankees family, here is our wish for a very Merry Christmas and a most joyous Holiday Season! 

Go Yankees!

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

I was never a fan of good-byes…

Sadly, the 2013 Major League Baseball Season has come to an end.  Well, at least for the New York Yankees.  It was an eventful final week that saw a farewell to the great Mariano Rivera that was unmatched by any I have seen in recent years or even during my lifetime.  Mo’s final game at Yankee Stadium turned out to be the final game of his professional career as he chose not to pitch during the season-ending series in Houston to preserve his Bronx goodbye as the final exit for a storied and soon to be Hall of Fame career.

I have been a Mariano Rivera fan since the days when he set up John Wetteland in the bullpen.  His 7th and 8th inning appearances before the cardiac appearances by Wetteland were electric.  The ball seemed to come screaming with blazing speed yet Mo seemed so effortless in letting the ball leave his hand.  He made it look easy, and for the length of his career, he proved he was just a little better than everyone else.  Sure, there were a few hiccups along the way.  A couple of key blown saves in critical games, but these were few and far between.  His success rate was far superior to any failures, and in those failures, you knew that Mo had left his all.

Looking back, I certainly have no regrets.  It was an honor and privilege to be a Yankees fan and to witness the career of the latest Yankees legend.  He’ll be someone that my grandchildren will be talking about, and I can say that I saw him pitch from the beginning to the end.  Mo showed how special it was to play for one team, and he is forever embedded into Yankees lore.  Ichiro Suzuki will be immortalized in Cooperstown one day as a Seattle Mariner, but Seattle will never be able to call Ichiro exclusively their own.  They may have had his best years, but he still is playing his final years as a Yankee, not a Mariner.  Fortunately, we never had to see Mo in another uniform or his former catcher, Jorge Posada.

I have been a Yankees fan since 1974 when free agent Jim “Catfish” Hunter, then my favorite pitcher, signed with the Yankees.  I had grown up very intrigued by the Yankees with their great history and tradition.  Those early 70’s were still a tough time for the Yankees organization, but they were about to turn the corner following the acquisition of the team by George Steinbrenner and his partners.  To digress, I always loved the quote “There is nothing in life quite so limited as being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner”.   This quote is attributed to former Yankees minority owner and later Houston Astros owner John McMullen.  The first baseball biography I recall reading when I was little was a book about Lou Gehrig, and I’ve been a fan of his ever since.  So, when Catfish made the decision to join the Yankees, it was very easy for me to follow.

During the course of my Yankees fandom, I’ve considered the following players to be my favorite Yankees.  Hunter, Thurman Munson, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Don Mattingly, and Mariano Rivera.  All those years and I can still count my favorite active Yankees on one hand, well until today with Rivera’s retirement.  That doesn’t mean I don’t respect other Yankees over the years, these guys just happened to be my personal favorites at the time they played.

Being someone who appreciates history and tradition, I’ve always felt that Rivera was the perfect man to take Jackie Robinson’s number to retirement for the final time.  Mo proved that he had the character to stand with greatness, and he served the legacy of Jackie Robinson very proudly and understood its significance.  I am glad that the last guy out of baseball with #42 wasn’t some thug just trying to hang on to a lost career, with rumors of a steroid past.  He wears #13.  Okay, sorry, I didn’t mean that, or maybe I did, but you get the point.  Jackie Robinson was a great man who dealt with more adversity than any of us will ever knew.  He did it while turning the other cheek and proving he was the better man.  He did this while carving out a Hall of Fame career on the field.  If there was a man who deserved to have his number retired across baseball, it was Robinson, and if there was a man who deserved to be the final one to walk off the field with it, it was Mo.  The Baseball Gods made sure this one played out like it was supposed to.

Mo, we thank you for simply being you.  You did it your way, and you never strived to be anything other than what you were.  You proved better than most in shaking off the game’s failures and you never gloated in its successes.  You were proud of your teammates and respectful of your opponents.  Baseball needs you, and I hope that this is just the beginning as you move into the next phase of your career.  I am proud, very proud, when I say that I am a Mariano Rivera fan.  He exceeded my wildest expectations and he leaves as the best ever at his position.  He deserves to be a first ballot entry to the Hall of Fame.  Anything less is unacceptable.  He was ours and he proved he belongs to the Hall like no other that I’ve personally witnessed during my lifetime.  Farewell, Mo.  This is not the end, but simply the closing of one chapter and the opening of the next.

 

Mariano Rivera

 

AP Photo (courtesy of LoHud Yankees Blog)

The gaze from under the brim of his cat…

While the focus of this post is Rivera, I would be remiss for not saying thanks to Andy Pettitte.  Time and again, he stopped losing streaks and he was clutch when it mattered most (October).  He never had the brilliant stuff of Felix Hernandez or Roy Halladay, but he was a winner.  His passion showed and he was a champion.  It was tough watching him leave via free agency for those three years in Houston, but I am glad he came back.  Even during his time in Houston, you’d hear stories about how Andy still followed the Yankees.  He is part of the Yankees family and history and always will be.  It was so very fitting that his final game was a complete game win in his hometown of Houston.  A bit ironic that the opponent was named Clemens (Paul Clemens, no relation to Roger).  For the final game of the season, Roger Clemens did make an appearance to wish farewell to Mariano, and he gave Andy a hug.  There has been a lot of mudslinging between the former close friends and regardless of what Roger may have or have not done, I was glad to see the small reconciliation.  Baseball is greater than any one of us, and at the end of the day, Clemens, Pettitte, and Rivera were teammates and they represented the our team.  I fully expect to see all three at future Old Timer’s Day games and I am hopeful that old scars can be healed and that the game itself can move forward.

Back to Andy, he will be a hard act to follow.  When you look at the Yankees pitching staff, there is not one that can match Andy’s heart.  CC Sabathia appears to be on the downside of his career, Hiroki Kuroda could very well head to Japan for his final season or two, Phil Hughes has worn the pinstripes for the last time, Ivan Nova is a roller-coaster and the jury is still out on David Huff.  Next season will be one of transition and it is unfortunate that we’ll no longer have Andy as an anchor to the rotation.  Andy’s ceiling was never as a #1 pitcher.  He came to the major leagues with question marks, but he left as one of its greatest post-season performers.  We were lucky to call Andy one of our own, and I am glad that he was never dealt away in one of those knee-jerk type of trades that we saw during the George Steinbrenner regime.  Sorry, George, I miss you but you gotta admit that some of those trades left a little bit to be desired…

Getting back on track, Andy leaves the game being able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest lefty in Yankees’ history, the Chairman of the Board, Whitey Ford.  The Core Four (Rivera, Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Derek Jeter) did an excellent job in reaching the pinnacle of their positions in franchise history.  Posada may not have matched Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey or Thurman Munson, but he can stand in the same room.  DJ is obviously one of the greatest shortstops in the team’s history (along with Phil Rizzuto).  For a team so stacked in history and tradition, four contemporary players reaching the upper echelon is amazing.  It is the end of a terrific Yankees era, and as much as I hate to see Derek Jeter go out with an injury filled career, I would prefer for him to leave now rather than to come back next year for what most likely will be a year of reduced relevance on the roster.

What does the future hold?…

I really do not know what to expect next year.  At the moment, it is uncertain if Robinson Cano or Curtis Granderson will be back.  Joe Girardi is talking about needing time to decide if he wants to come back which is not a good sign in my opinion.  Mark Texeira will be back next year, but he is deteriorating as he ages.  I am not sure that CC can get back to being the dominant pitcher he once was, and the line-up is filled with age and injury-susceptible players.  The farm system at the upper levels is weak, at best.  While many of said that this has been a great year of managing by Joe Girardi, I’d argue that it has not been one of Brian Cashman’s best years.  I do not know how much he has been constrained by ownership, but the 10 wins that the team could have used this season could have been acquired through smart and strategic moves.  The farm system is very lacking at the upper levels and I know that injuries have played a part, but at some point, Cashman has to be held accountable.  Like fine wine, it is harvest season except the Yankees do not have anything to harvest.  They’ll have to overpay and to give up too much young talent to field a championship squad next season.  Unfortunately, neither makes sense even for the Yankees, so it feels as though we are in the midst of an era of transition.  Hopefully, greatness will be waiting on the other side…

–Scott

 

A sad day, indeed…

 

Sadly, the fear is confirmed…

Today brought the news that this is the final season for Andy Pettitte.  I knew we were getting close to the end and of course, a disappointing season does not help.  If the Yankees were a cinch to make the play-offs, this might be a different story.  Winning seems to make those aches and pains hurt a little bit less.  Nevertheless, I am grateful for the time that Andy gave us.  I missed him those three years he was in Houston and of course the prior year of retirement.  But I am glad he came back both times and there’s no doubt that he’s a Yankee for life.

As much as I dislike and disrespect a certain third baseman on the active roster, I forgave Andy for the mistakes in his past.  He came clean (unlike the “Fraud” or Roger Clemens) and he proved to us that his words were truthful and from the heart.  Andy may never get into the Hall of Fame due to the steroid use, but he deserves a place in Memorial Park.  Like Mariano Rivera, I truly enjoyed Andy in pinstripes and knew that he gave us his “all” with every performance, win or lose.

I hope the team is smart enough to give him an invitation to come to spring training as an instructor and of course his presence at Old Timer’s Day is a must.  With Sunday being Mariano Rivera Day, it is so appropriate that the scheduled starting pitcher is Andy.  There would be nothing better than to watch Andy hand the ball to Mo with the appearance of no other Yankee relievers.  Hopefully, the game plays out to that form.  I love that Andy’s final two games are the aforementioned Mo Rivera Day and the final game against his former team, the Houston Astros.  There’s probably not a better away city for Andy to pitch his final game in than his home city.  As George Strait would say, “The Cowboy Rides Away”…

Thanks, Andy.  You gave us very memorable years and we always, without exception, were pleased when you took the ball.  You brought your heart and soul to every game and as a fan, there is nothing more that I could ask for.  Time and again, you stopped losing streaks and you were money in October.  The pickoff move was simply the best.  The guy from Deer Park, Texas proved that he bled pinstripes and you’ll always be remembered as one of the greatest lefties in Yankees history.  There will never be anything that we could give to you that would approach what you gave to us.  We will be forever your fans.

On the other hand…

While I was glad the Yankees emerged victorious against the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants (as a Bay Area resident, I might add), it was disturbing to see Alex Rodriguez eclipse the legendary Lou Gehrig for the all-time record for career grand slams.  Man for man, there is no way that A-Fraud could even stand in the shadow of the Iron Horse.  This is a travesty and in my opinion deserves an asterisk.

I will be glad when the day arrives that A-Fraud is a “former” Yankee.  I never want to see this loser on Yankee Stadium turf ever again when that happens.  Too bad the Yankees can’t trade the Fraud back to Seattle so that they can disassociate themselves from the worst mistake of the post-George Steinbrenner regime.

–Scott