|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
Yankees Legend would have turned 87 today…
Mickey Mantle was born October 20, 1931 in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, a town with a population of 437 (according to 2010 census) in Northeast OK. He died August 13, 1995 in Dallas, Texas at the age of 63. Mickey was taken from us too soon but he’ll never be forgotten. I remember following the news of his liver cancer and other ailments, subsequent transplant, and finally his death, and even attended his funeral in Dallas. My earliest memories of Mantle were late in his career so I didn’t get to see the great Yankees Legend at his best but you didn’t have to be there to know that he was one of the finest Yankees in the history of the organization. He had his faults, but that’s true of us all. Mantle, the baseball player, was one of the greatest to ever play the game.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
A funny thing happened to the Los Angeles Dodgers on their way to the World Series. I’ll have to give Game 6 of the NLCS to the Milwaukee Brewers and especially their fans for getting inside the heads of the Dodgers and Manny Machado. Many on Social Media were referring to the fans as the Milwaukee Booers and there’s no doubt it played a huge role. It will be interesting to see how the Dodgers rebound today for their final chance to win a trip to Boston, Massachusetts to play the Red Sox starting Tuesday night. If the Dodgers lose, I am finished with baseball for 2018 as I have no interest in Brewers/Red Sox even if there are a few former Yankees involved.
I was surprised to see Joe Girardi remove his name from consideration for the Cincinnati Reds managerial vacancy. Girardi apparently had been a frontrunner for the job, in competition with former Detroit Tigers manager, current Los Angeles Angels special assistant and one-time Yankees prospect Brad Ausmus and David Bell, currently VP/Player Development for the San Francisco Giants. I wonder if Girardi has a preference for the American League or if he wants to hold out for a Chicago job should one of the jobs open within the next year or so. Girardi is apparently still under consideration for the job with the Texas Rangers. With no offense to Cincinnatians, I know that I’d prefer to call Dallas/Fort Worth home but that’s me. For now, Girardi will continue his work with The MLB Network. Regardless of what he does, I suspect he doesn’t have to worry about where his next meal is coming from.
I know the Yankees don’t need a superstar at every position. Erik Kratz is proving that you can be one game away from the World Series with a marginal catcher. But the more I think about it, why wouldn’t you want to drop Bryce Harper in the Yankees lineup between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton? I know, money. But I am confident money is not an issue for the Yankees organization. Sure, I believe you don’t need to spend $200 million to win a World Series, but I also believe in putting the best players on the field. TGP’s Bryan Van Dusen made a great correlation earlier this year about how success = money for those who think Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t want to spend money. I don’t just want to beat the Boston Red Sox next year, I want to crush them. Having Judge-Harper-Stanton in the heart of the Yankees order, with so many great bats elsewhere in the lineup would truly be the modern Murderer’s Row. Harper can’t pitch, it’s true, but I fully expect the Yankees to bring in reinforcements to help Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka in the starting rotation regardless of any run for Harper.
The Yankees are apparently going to buy back controlling interest in the YES Network according to reports. The Yankees sold 80% of the network, retaining 20%, in separate deals completed in 2014 to 21st Century Fox. The YES Network, at the time, was valued at $3.8 billion. If the Yankees have the money to buy back the YES Network, they have the money to sign Bryce Harper. Another superstar for YES Network subscribers? Makes sense to me. Remember, Success = Money.
|Photo Credit: New York Daily News Illustration|
If the Yankees were headed for the World Series, non-Yankee fans would be in an uproar about how they are the best team money can buy, yet nobody is saying a word about the nearly $240 million payroll-bloated Red Sox.
After a lost season for Yankees prospect Thairo Estrada (he was shot in the hip during a robbery attempt in Venezuela in late January, missed Spring Training, and then was lost for the season in June due to the hip and a back injury), it’s good to see his participation in the Arizona Fall League. The numbers aren’t there (4-for-25, with no extra base hits and a lone RBI) but at least he’s back on the playing field. Here’s hoping 2019 will be much more productive for the talented shortstop. He still has the bullet lodged in his hip but hopefully he is back stronger than ever next year.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Didi Gregorius. As most of us know, he had successful Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Wednesday morning in Manhattan. At this point, we don’t know when we’ll see Sir Didi again as some reports say he may be out until August, but I wish him much success and a quick return to good health with his post-surgery rehabilitation. I really hope the Yankees move to lock up Didi long-term and don’t allow the surgery, and subsequent lost time, as a reason to non-tender the player. I’d prefer to see the Yankees find shortstop alternatives to hold them over until Didi’s return, keeping Gleyber Torres at second, rather than moving Torres back to his natural shortstop position and bringing in a name second baseman like Joe Panik or D.J. LeMahieu. I love having Didi Gregorius as this team’s shortstop and I don’t want that to change anytime soon. Get well, Didi!
I am anxious to get the playoffs and World Series over so that we can begin the Hot Stove League season. I am excited to see what presents Santa Cashman has in store for us this year. Fans of the Red Sox, Brewers and Dodgers may think differently, but I am ready to begin building the 2019 New York Yankees and starting their run for the Championship. Pinstripes for you, Pinstripes for everyone. Climb aboard the 2019 Victory Train!
‘Stros Send the RSN Home Early in Game 1…
I wasn’t going to watch Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, but I got sucked into it when the Houston Astros took a one-run lead off on the Boston Red Sox, with everybody’s favorite…Joe Kelly…on the mound, in the top of the sixth inning. It was awesome in the top of the ninth when one-time Red Sock Josh Reddick blasted a solo shot against his former team to make it a two-run game. When Yuli Gurriel parked a three-run homer into the right field stands, the Red Sox fans were exiting Fenway Park in droves and their team had yet to take their final swings in the bottom of the ninth. It was such a beautiful sight!
|Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)|
The Astros won the game, 7-2, to ensure they’ll head to Houston with no less than a split pending the outcome of today’s game. They could sweep the games at Fenway Park before jumping on a Texas-bound plane and they do have the good fortune of facing Yankees punching bag David Price later today. Hopefully the Astro bats will enjoy hitting off Price as much as the Yankees do.
|Photo Credit: Boston Globe|
Gerrit Cole draws the Game 2 pitching assignment for Houston. It is easy to look back to last winter and say the Yankees should have been more aggressive in their pursuit of Cole. Ken Davidoff wrote a great piece in The New York Post today regarding the Yankees and Cole. The Yankees were willing to package a deal centered on outfielder Clint Frazier, but the Pittsburgh Pirates wanted the inclusion of Miguel Andujar as a centerpiece too. In retrospect, despite the lost season for Frazier, it’s hard to find fault with the Yankees’ decision to hold onto Andujar even if the Yankees desperately need pitching. Also, there was no guarantee Cole would have pitched as well in New York as he did in Houston. Maybe Andujar eventually gets moved for another frontline starter. Oh well, I am not going to look back and criticize the Yankees for their failure to acquire Cole. The Pirates chose to accept an inferior package from the Astros. It was their decision; not ours. There’s nothing we can do about it. Cole is a good pitcher, but he’s not worth handing over the farm system for. Now if we are talking about Jacob deGrom, that’s a different story.
Many Yankee fans were offended when Alex Rodriguez lost a bet to David “Big Papi” Ortiz and had to wear Red Sox gear on Fox TV, thanks to Boston’s win over the Yankees in the ALDS. Honestly, I could care less. It would have hurt if the player had been one of the core Yankees, but A-Rod’s not in that category. I know he’s done much to rehabilitate his image, but I truly wish the Yankees would have never acquired him. I would have been fine with him wearing a Red Sox uniform for real in 2004. I think A-Rod has done a fine job on the broadcasting side and I know he continues to preach the Yankees are his favorite team, but it doesn’t mean that I have to like him. The fact remains he tarnished the game and he lied to the fans. But aside from that, I’ve lost bets and had to wear Red Sox jerseys or hats before so to me it was no big deal.
|Photo Credit: FS1|
I saw a funny Twitter post yesterday that said Milwaukee Brewers reliever Brandon Woodruff has more postseason homers than Boston’s Mookie Betts. Woodruff hit what would prove to be the eventual difference-maker in Milwaukee’s NLCS Game 1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night off the great Clayton Kershaw. So far in the 2018 post-season, Betts only has 4 hits in 20 at-bats, with no homers and a couple of RBI’s. Betts is a great player but he is not immune to the post-season blues.
Everyone is making their predictions for which pending free agents the Yankees should re-sign or let walk. I hate to say it, but I don’t see the Yankees bringing Brett Gardner back. They’d be foolish to exercise the $12 million option and while declining the option and re-signing him to a lower one-year deal is possible, I am convinced the presence of a healthy Clint Frazier and, ugh!, Jacoby Ellsbury will force the Yankees to move on.
If the Yankees sign free agent Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks (as many expect) and re-sign J.A. Happ, I also do not see the Yankees bringing back CC Sabathia. So, the Yankees could be on the verge of losing their top two veteran leaders. I have no doubt other guys will pick up the void but I am appreciative of the Yankee careers for both Gardner and Sabathia. They’ve worn the Pinstripes proudly and will be missed.
|Photo Credit: MLB.com|
The Yankees face big decisions in the bullpen. With both David Robertson and Zach Britton ready to hit the free market, the Yankees have to decide whether to try and bring both back, just one, or let them both go elsewhere to the highest bidder. I’d love to see both return and I feel that having a super bullpen is so critical. Unless Luis Severino can make major adjustments this winter, the Yankees lack a true ace and signing Corbin does not change that fact. A super bullpen compensates for the deficiencies in the starting rotation. I love D-Rob’s heart, but if I had to make a choice for only one, I’d go with Britton. Unfortunately, I think Britton will get an insane offer from some other bullpen deficient team to be their closer, so it’s probably more likely the Yankees bring back Robertson. I’d really hate to see both leave.
While I think it is possible the Yankees go over the luxury tax threshold next year, the realist in me knows that Managing General Partner will give GM Brian Cashman a defined budget that may not include paying luxury tax penalties. I think some fans are expecting a 2009-like splurge with great young free agent superstars like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but there’s a very good chance the Yankees pass on any extended nearly half a billion dollar contracts. I see many fans predicting both Machado and Harper in the 2019 Yankees lineup and that’s simply not happening.
It’s amazing to think former Yankees third base coach Joe Espada might get a managing job before his former boss, Joe Girardi. Espada, currently bench coach for the Houston Astros, is emerging as one of the favorites for the job in Anaheim which was vacated when long-time Angels manager Mike Scioscia stepped down. Angels GM Billy Eppler knows Espada well from their time together in New York. Espada may be living the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ dream, but his run of consecutive championship series will end if he becomes skipper of the Halos.
I wonder if there are any Yankee fans that are actually pulling for the Red Sox over the Astros? None that I am aware of, but I am sure there are a few fair weather fans out there.
Let’s hurry up and fast-forward through the World Series so that we can get the Hot Stove League started. I am ready for the off-season planning to begin. Nothing better than getting Hal Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and other key executives together in one room to map out strategy for 2019. We can speculate. They can decide. But one thing’s for sure, we are united in our desire for a World Series championship next year.
As always, Go Yankees!
Waiting for Otani…
Given every other writer (or blogger in my case) has written that this has been the slowest off-season in recent memory, I will do my obligatory part to say that it’s been so slow. November 29th and the best we can say is that former Boston Red Sox starter Doug Fister has signed a free agent contract with the Texas Rangers. The Red Sox picked Fister up off the scrap heap last summer and he gave them some decent starts down the stretch when they had holes popping up in other parts of the starting rotation. Good for him that he parlayed it into some sense of short-term job security in Texas.
I expected the Thanksgiving weekend to be quiet and it was. No Yankees news other than the preparation by all teams for the much anticipated posting of Japanese superstar Shohei Otani which should occur shortly after Friday when the MLB Owners ratify the new posting agreement. The Yankees are obvious favorites but of course some teams have been very vocal about their intent to pursue the two-way star. The loudest has been the Seattle Mariners. We know that this move is not about money so the fact the Yankees can offer the second highest amount of green does not necessarily mean anything. I’ve felt all along that this move, for now, is about the endorsement dollars. I read one writer say Otani could make up to $20 million per year in endorsement deals between the United States and Japan. I realize that Otani played in a smaller market in Japan for a “ham company” but I feel that if he wants to be the best, there is none other than the New York Yankees for him. He’d have the opportunity to play in the greatest city (highest potential for endorsement deals) and he’d join a young team on the verge of something truly special. His age would fit nicely with the other Baby Bombers to ensure an extended competitive run for the duration of his stay. He’d have a pitcher on the Yankees pitching staff that could help serve as a mentor (Masahiro Tanaka) and he’d have access to one of Japan’s greatest baseball players with Hideki Matsui (who knew a thing or two about incredible clutch hitting), currently special assistant to GM Brian Cashman.
I think it is an easy decision for Otani but of course, at this point, it is anybody’s guess where he ends up. In the end, I do hope it is Team Yankees while recognizing there are risks with a player attempting to both pitch and hit on a regular basis. Otani is a special talent and there may never be an opportunity to get a player of his caliber for only $3.5 million under team control for multiple years. No question that fits into Hal Steinbrenner’s 2018 budget.
Next Up, Carlos Beltran…
Carlos Beltran will become the sixth man interviewed for the Yankees managerial opening today. I like Carlos and I value his ability to communicate with players and the media, but I struggle with the idea of the player-to-manager path with no coaching experience. I wouldn’t mind seeing Beltran as part of the Yankees coaching staff but I’d really prefer someone who at least has coaching experience as its new manager. I saw a bunch of tweets yesterday that compared Beltran to Joe Torre as a player who successfully made the transition. But no one was mentioning that Torre’s record with his first team, the New York Mets, was a .405 winning percentage (286-420). He didn’t experience post-season success until he managed his fourth team, the Yankees. Beltran may prove to be an excellent manager one day but for a team that is positioned for success now, I’d rather not have a guy learning on the job.
Yankees fan yesterday, Yankee today…
Credit to Peter Gammons for this piece that I found interesting. Newly acquired RHP Michael King (who joined the Yankees in the trade that sent LHP Caleb Smith and 1B Garrett Cooper to the Miami Marlins) was a second team All-State performer for Bishop Hendricksen High School in Warwick, Rhode Island in 2012. That summer he played in the Annual Summer Rivalry Classic held for Northeastern high school kids at Yankee Stadium. Among the free offerings that day was bubble gum that King was very fond of, stuffing perhaps 6 or 7 sticks of gum into his mouth at one point. Asked what he did with that big wad of gum, King indicated that he stuck it under the bench. According to Gammons, King, a childhood Yankees fan, said, “I figured I’d get it back when I get back there to the bullpen as a Yankee.” I love that story and the optimism. I look forward to the dream being fulfilled.
The Bronx, Home of MLB’s Best Executive…
Congratulations to Brian Cashman for being named as Baseball America’s 2017 Major League Executive of the Year! It was a much deserved honor for the great GM. It probably doesn’t hurt the contract negotiations for his new deal either. Hal Steinbrenner issued a statement that read, “Brian plays a crucial role in our success, and I’ve known for quite some time how fortunate we are to have him leading our Baseball Operations Department. He cares deeply about this franchise and our fans, and he skillfully navigates the many challenges that come with holding the position he does in the media capital of the world.” Not bad for a kid who grew up as a Dodgers fan. He is ensuring that his name will be forever marked in Yankees history as one of the great pillars of success. Next stop, World Series!
|Credit: Stan Grossfield, Boston Globe Staff|
Like everyone else, I am ready for some real off-season baseball action. But I am sure that once the calendar page turns to December, we’d better hold on. It should be a fun ride!
The Hot Stove League Begins Play…
There is always a quietness about the days that follow the World Series unless of course you’re a fan of the World Series champion. Teams have five days following the conclusion of the World Series to exclusively negotiate with their own free agents. It’s rare to see much activity and unlike the NFL and other sports, there is not a flurry of immediate activity when the free agents become free to talk to other teams. So, I guess that puts us in the calm before the storm…the days and weeks leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings next month in Orlando, Florida. The meetings will be held from Sunday, December 10th through Wednesday, December 13th. The annual Rule 5 Draft will be held on Thursday, December 14th.
The two biggest opt-out clauses this off-season belonged to Justin Upton of the Los Angeles Angels and Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees. This week, the Angels announced they had signed Upton to a new 5-year deal, apparently worth $106 million. Then on Friday night, Masahiro Tanaka announced that he would not opt out of his contract and will remain with the Yankees. His current contract has three more years, through the 2020 season, at $67 million.
|Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images|
As a Yankees fan, the latter situation is more relevant to me. I am very glad that Tanaka decided to remain in New York. There had been strong speculation that if Tanaka opted out, the Yankees would not aggressively pursue him. Three more years at $22 million plus per year is not chump change and it would have been hard for Tanaka to capture more dollars. Maybe more years but the partial tear of his UCL and the associated risk of eventual Tommy John surgery would have most assuredly scared teams away. Regardless of the risks, the starting rotation for the Yankees is stronger with Tanaka in it than not. He did have an inconsistent 2017 regular season and there was a brief stretch that he looked absolutely awful but he rebounded with a strong finish. He was dominant in the post-season.
So, the front of the Yankees rotation in 2018 will feature Luis Severino, Tanaka, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. There’s a chance the Yankees bring back CC Sabathia on a one-year deal if the two sides can come together on a mutually beneficial contract. But regardless of what happens with Sabathia, the Yankees have Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield, among others, gnawing at the door for opportunities. There had been a fear at one time that the 2018 would be a total rotation rebuild situation but now it appears to be a strength before the off-season strategy even begins.
With the Yankees trying to make a very strong effort to get under the salary cap this year and reset the luxury tax penalties, it is unlikely the Yankees will pursue any high-priced free agent talent. It’s unfortunate that third baseman Todd Frazier will most likely not return, but with another year remaining on Chase Headley’s contract and the near-readiness of prospects Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, there simply is no room for the Toddfather. Bummer. He was a great fit for the Yankees.
|Credit: Adam Hunger, USA TODAY Sports|
There seems to be stronger speculation this off-season that the Yankees could actually move Jacoby Ellsbury. They’ll have to eat a good portion of what’s left on his contract but regardless of the cost, this is a move that has to happen. I do not see the Yankees parting with Brett Gardner, and of course Aaron Judge owns right field after his spectacular season. So the Yankees have to make room in the outfield for Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier without even considering promising young talent like Billy McKinney or Jake Cave. The most likely team with interest (assuming the reports are true) are the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners would allow Ellsbury to return to his native Northwest (he’s from Oregon). The primary problem for the Mariners would be the heavy financial commitments they have invested in other players, most notably Robinson Cano. Therefore, the Yankees would probably have to pay a very significant portion of Ellsbury’s contract to move him to Safeco Field. Hopefully, GM Brian Cashman can figure this one out so that Ellsbury doesn’t become baseball’s highest paid pinch-runner again next year.
Other guys that are vulnerable to potential trades appear to be Chase Headley, Starlin Castro, Austin Romine, and Dellin Betances. With the disappointing end to his 2017 season, the value for Betances is down which probably enhances the potential for him to stay with the team (why try to sell the four-time All-Star while his value is low) but I don’t think the Yankees would hesitate to include him in a deal if it makes sense for the team. The Yankees also seem to be at the crossroads for making a decision about who backs up first baseman Greg Bird. With 40-man roster spots at a premium, it would seem that a choice needs to be made between Tyler Austin and Garrett Cooper. My preference probably leans toward Austin due to his versatility to play the outfield.
The Yankees lost a valuable prospect last year in the Rule 5 Draft when the San Diego Padres kept catcher Luis Torrens on the MLB roster all season. I expect this year’s Rule 5 Draft to be equally painful if not more so. It’s certainly a testament to the strength of the farm system but it is still difficult to see talented young prospects depart.
|Credit: Alex Gallardo, AP|
Now that Tanaka has made his decision to stay in the Bronx, the biggest immediate problem facing the Yankees is finding a new manager to replace the dismissed Joe Girardi. I am surprised the Yankees have not announced a new deal for GM Brian Cashman since his current deal expired at the end of October, but it doesn’t seem like Cash is going anywhere. Neither the team nor Cashman have tipped their hand to show potential managerial candidates but it does seem like the team is looking at outside alternatives. The question is how much they’ll prioritize actual managerial experience. If they want experience, then former Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus seems to be the best possible option. He was drafted by the Yankees in the 48th Round of the 1987 draft, although he never played for the Major League team. I can still remember the sense of loss when he was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the November 1992 Expansion Draft. Nevertheless, he is a Connecticut guy who grew up in close proximity to New York (even if his childhood team was the Boston Red Sox). He was criticized for being out-managed in the 2014 ALDS when the Detroit Tigers lost to the Baltimore Orioles and like Girardi, has a tendency to lean heavily on his veterans. But by all accounts, he is a player-friendly manager (good communicator) and would interact well with the media. For guys who lack managerial (or coaching) experience, Jerry Hairston, Jr seems to stand out. I also like Mark DeRosa of the MLB Network. I have no idea who the Yankees will ultimately choose but you have to believe that Cashman had someone in mind when the decision was made to part ways with long-time manager Girardi.
|Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Daily News|
I am ready for the craziness that will ensue over the next six weeks before we settle into the Winter hibernation that precedes the opening of Spring Training camps next February. The Yankees are a team on the rise and the moves made this off-season will contribute toward the team’s success (or lack thereof) as we move forward. No pressure, Brian Cashman. The goal is simple…bring the Yankees’ 28th World Series Championship to New York City now. Teams like the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim are not going to sit idly by. The job is to do it better so that we can celebrate on the streets of New York this time next year.