|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports, via Reuters (Adam Hunger)|
Yanks kick off final regular season home stand with an easy win…
For all of the struggles by the Yankees this month, last night was fun. The Yankees were in charge from the start and never looked back en route to the 11-0 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays behind the stellar pitching of restored staff ace Masahiro Tanaka.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)|
After a disappointing nine-game road trip that saw the Yankees drop series in Oakland and Minneapolis to finish 4-5, allowing the A’s to close the gap in the AL Wild Card standings, the Yankees needed a strong game with contributions across the roster. I suppose it was a good sign when it was announced Aaron Judge had been activated off the disabled list prior to the game, even if his bat wasn’t activated with him. Judge will serve as a pinch runner and defensive specialist until it is time to take a few swings in simulated games in Tampa before he gets an opportunity to seek his 27th home run for the Bombers. Given that Judge is the obvious heart and soul of this team (and its future Captain if the Yankees do what’s right), I am glad to see him on the active roster even with his limitations.
I am resigned to the fact that this has been a special season for the Boston Red Sox. I hope they fail in the post-season (like the 2001 Seattle Mariners) but there’s been no doubt they’ve owned the regular season. Unlike the Yankees, they’ve been able to limit the slumps and no opposing lead seems safe against J.D. Martinez and Company. I remain hopeful that they’ll fail in the post-season with their questionable bullpen but at the moment they are the best Red Sox team of my lifetime (well, anybody’s lifetime for that matter). I hate the Houston Astros but if the AL Championship comes down to the Astros and the Red Sox, I’d have to pull for a repeat World Series appearance for the defending champs.
There’s been so much talk about which pitcher should get the call in the inevitable Wild Card game against the Oakland A’s. Right now, it would seem that Tanaka is the man of the hour. Many have mentioned J.A. Happ as a possibility but as good as he has been as a Yankee, I really think the choice should be limited to Tanaka or Luis Severino. I guess I can still remember the times when the Yankees had their way with Happ when he was wearing a Blue Jays uniform. In his last game against the Yankees in July, he was pounded for six runs in 2 2/3 innings in Toronto’s 10-5 loss to the Yanks. Although Severino has been struggling for awhile, he pitched much better in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins when the Yankees didn’t get their first hit until the eighth inning. He held the Twins to only one run on four hits in 5 2/3 innings and didn’t walk anybody in the tough luck loss. He struck out five. It’s a start, both literally and figuratively.
As the Yankees begin their final home stand, it is a little sad that it could be the last regular season games at Yankee Stadium for a few of the guys. Brett Gardner, CC Sabathia, and David Robertson are the names that stick out the most to me. Several guys, like Sonny Gray and maybe even Greg Bird, may have played themselves off the roster after the season. It’s doubtful the Yankees will re-sign Andrew McCutchen or Zach Britton so their brief Pinstriped careers could soon be coming to an end and there is no certainty the Yankees will re-sign J.A. Happ. MLB Trade Rumors speculated this morning that Happ could earn more than a guaranteed $40 million for three years on his next deal when he becomes a free agent after the season. That’s a lot of money for a guy who turns 36 next month. Hopefully the Yankees hang on to their Wild Card lead so that there is at least one more game at Yankee Stadium for the impending departees after the current home stand ends.
I am not sure how I feel about the Yankees’ chances for October. If they play like the team we’ve seen in recent weeks, it will be ‘one and done’ in the Wild Card game. If they can capitalize on the momentum of last night’s game and propel themselves into the playoffs on a roll, anything can happen. We know this team is capable of beating anybody including the Red Sox. But we also know that the bats can go into silent mode with runners in scoring position at times (more often than I would like). I guess I could say that while I am hopeful for the best, I am braced for the worst. I do know the Yankees need a healthy Aaron Judge and Aroldis Chapman before we play the final regular season series in Boston at the end of the month. We need both guys firing on all cylinders for the team’s hopes to advance deep into October.
Like many Yankee fans, I am very pleased with the production and energy that we’ve seen from first baseman Luke Voit. I certainly never dreamed that GM Brian Cashman would be able to flip relievers Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos for a guy who has become such a big part of the Yankees offense. I don’t know what the future holds for Voit but I am enjoying the current ride. I think the Yankees will look to upgrade the position in the off-season but Voit has certainly earned the right to battle Greg Bird for the starting position next Spring.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jim McIsaac)|
I’ve seen so many people call for the head of Aaron Boone. Sure, he’s made his share of rookie mistakes in his first year as Yankees manager but I think he’ll be stronger for it in 2019. There’s not anybody out there I would prefer to see as the team’s manager at this point and I am certainly not pining for the return of Joe Girardi. When Boone was announced as the Yankees manager last off-season, I had been hopeful that he’d select a veteran manager as his bench coach. So I was a little disappointed when he went with Josh Bard who has not managed at any level. Bard may be smart and confident, but I really preferred a battle tested veteran manager in the role as lead consultant for Boone. Boone does have managerial experience on his staff with Larry Rothschild who was the original manager for the Tampa Bay Rays (then Devil Rays) when they entered the American League. Third base coach Phil Nevin has minor league managerial experience. But that’s not the same as your right hand guy. The best case scenario would have been for the Yankees to have retained former bench coach Rob Thomson who now serves in the same role for the Philadelphia Phillies and their infant manager, Gabe Kapler. Another veteran manager who left the organization last off-season will most likely be coaching first base for the Yankees’ Wild Card opponent. Al Pedrique, the former manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, is presently first base coach for the Oakland A’s. In my opinion, Thomson or Pedrique would have been much better options to sit (or rather stand) beside Boone in the Yankees dugout than Bard.
Speaking of Joe Girardi, I am not sure where he’ll get his next opportunity. I had thought St Louis was an obvious destination but the Cardinals have committed to their interim manager, Mike Shildt, by dropping the interim tag. Shildt has made the Cardinals relevant again after their disappointing performance under former manager Mike Matheny. I thought Washington might be another possibility but it sounds like first-year manager Dave Martinez will get another shot in 2019 even if the team will be Bryce Harper-less. The Toronto Blue Jays have been mentioned as a possibility given the speculation that their manager, John Gibbons, is managing his final games in a Blue Jays uniform. It would be weird to see Girardi in the AL East with another team. But when you look at teams with great young prospects on the horizon, the Blue Jays would be near the top of the list with the highly rated sons of former Major Leaguers Vladimir Guerrero, Dante Bichette, and Craig Biggio among others. All things considered, I am hopeful Girardi likes his job with MLB Network well enough to wait for a Chicago job to open at some point in the future.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders beat the heavily favored Durham Bulls last night to send the International League’s Governors’ Cup Finals to the winner-take-all Game Five to be played in Moosic, PA later today. Domingo German will start for the RailRiders against Durham’s Kyle Bird (part of the Bulls planned bullpen day). The Bulls are the defending IL champs, while the RailRiders were the Wild Card entrant and last year’s championship series loser. Win or lose, this has been a great season for the Yankees’ top farm team. The Bulls have been at a disadvantage for the series since all of the games have been played at PNC Field in Moosic due to the weather conditions in the Carolinas.
Entering play today, the magic number for the Boston Red Sox to win the AL East championship is six games. The Yankees (91-56) currently trail the Red Sox by 9 1/2 games so at this point it is only a matter of time until the Red Sox are sipping champagne. My hope is that they do not do it next week on Yankee Stadium soil. The Yankees lead the AL Wild Card by a game and a half over the Oakland A’s but hold the tie-breaker. The Seattle Mariners trail the A’s by 8 1/2 games so barring any miracle comebacks, the AL Wild Card will be Yankees-A’s with location being the only question.
For today’s game, the Yankees send CC Sabathia (7-6, 3.54 ERA) to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Sean Reid-Foley (1-3, 6.86 ERA). Sabathia has not looked good in his recent outings and he really needs to step his game soon. Hopefully today is the start. We want a win, we need a win, let’s get a win. Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)
Yankees survive Tribe on odd play and stellar bullpen…
If it takes a little league homer to beat the Cleveland Indians, so be it. A day after a Yankees rally fell short by one run against the Tribe, I had no issue with the deciding run in yesterday’s tilt being decided on Austin Romine’s lead-off double in the seventh inning that resulted in a run thanks to a couple of errors. Romine’s hit to the gap in the right center was bobbled by Brandon Guyer for the first error as Romine slid safely into third. The relay throw ended up bouncing past Jose Ramirez at third and Mike Clevinger back up the play into the dugout and the umpiring crew awarded Romine home plate for the go-ahead and eventual winning run.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (David Maxwell)|
For two teams with great hitters and defenders, it was an odd way for a game to be decided. The win allowed the Yankees to go up two games to one in the current series, putting them in position to take the series today before most of the players head for their homes and families for a few days of rest and relaxation.
It wasn’t the greatest outing for CC Sabathia, giving up four runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings against his original team but credit him for keeping it close. Didi Gregorius had staked CC to an early lead with his three-run homer in the first inning. It was Didi’s 17th home run of the year.
The Indians chipped away at the Yankees’ lead, tying the game at four in the bottom of the sixth when Brandon Guyer, who entered the game with a .162 batting average, hit a two-out infield single to third to score runners at second and third. Miguel Andujar’s wide throw pulled Greg Bird off the bag at first to allow Guyer to reach base safely and Bird’s subsequent throw home glanced off the glove of Austin Romine, allowing the second and tying run to score. The hit chased Sabathia, but David Robertson came in to restore order. He walked the first batter he faced but then struck out Yan Gomes to end the inning.
D-Rob pitched a clean seventh inning and Dellin Betances did the same in the eighth.
The ninth inning was filled with a bit of drama. It started when Brandon Guyer led off the bottom of the inning with a pop up in foul territory. Austin Romine went back for the ball and Miguel Andujar came charging in and neither player came up with the ball, with an error charged on Andujar. It looked like it should have been Romine’s ball but the ball drifted toward Andjuar who couldn’t get out of the way.
|Photo Credit: NJ Advance Media for NJ.com|
It didn’t matter when Guyer grounded out to short, but then Aroldis Chapman walked Cleveland’s top prospect Francisco Mejia, who represented the tying run. Mejia had just been recalled earlier in the day to make his 2018 MLB season debut. After striking out Yan Gomes, it set up a rematch of the 2016 World Series with Chapman facing Rajai Davis. As the announcing crew reminded us again and again, Davis had homered off Chapman to tie that game, the seventh and deciding game, although the Chicago Cubs eventually won it and the series with Chappy picking up the win. There would be no Davis home run this time around. His fly out to right field ended the game, giving the save to Chapman, his 26th of the season, and the win to David Robertson (7-3). With seven wins, D-Rob has as many wins as Masahiro Tanaka and more than any other Yankees pitcher not named Luis Severino.
Greg Bird continued his recent hot hitting with a sixth inning solo blast off Indians starter Mike Clevinger that had briefly given the Yankees and Sabathia a two-run cushion. It was Bird’s eighth home run of the year.
The game also featured the ejection of Manager Aaron Boone who showed some fire in the top of the sixth inning. After Giancarlo took a called third strike on a ball that hit his hands as he swung, Boone argued that the ball should have been ruled foul but to no avail. The umps were right but it was fun to see Boone fired up. It was Boonie’s second ejection of the season.
|Photo Credit: AP (Ron Schwane)|
There was some good defensive play by second baseman Tyler Wade in the game (can we DFA Neil Walker already?) although he was unable to make a difficult play in the bottom of the sixth that led to the first baserunner who would eventually score on Brandon Guyer’s two-run single.
The Yankees (62-32) remained 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. The Toronto Blue Jays took the Red Sox into extra innings before losing the game in the 10th on a walk-off grand slam home run by Xander Bogaerts.
With the Manny Machado rumors subsiding, it appears most likely that he’ll be traded to a National League team which, all things considered, is probably for the best. The rumors involving the Philadelphia Phillies seem the most fervent at the moment, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers remain in the chase. It does seem odd to me that some teams would be willing to part with top prospects for a player they may have no chance to re-sign in the off-season. But then again, if you think you have a chance for the World Series, it might be worth it if you feel that Machado is the difference-maker. I am sure the Dodgers would hate to see Machado end up in Philly. My biggest fear is Machado being traded to the Red Sox so I am anxious for the O’s to send their star shortstop to the NL as soon as possible. Given how much Orioles owner Peter Angelos hates the Yankees, I could see him sending Machado to Boston just to spite the Yankees even if the return for their team was less.
We may soon see Joe Girardi back in a dugout. The St Louis Cardinals surprisingly fired their manager, Mike Matheny, yesterday. Matheny was expected to be dismissed in the off-season but apparently the Cardinals organization became impatient (an uncharacteristic trait for them) as Matheny seemingly lost control of his clubhouse. Joe Girardi has emerged as a favorite to replace Matheny. The Cardinals are currently 47-46 and 7 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and six games behind the second-place Milwaukee Brewers. they are just four games out in the Wild Card hunt. The last time the Cardinals fired a manager during the season was Joe Torre in 1995. I’ve seen the names of Jose Oquendo, Carlos Beltran, and even Jason Giambi mentioned, but Girardi would seem to make the most sense for a team trying to rebound from first half turbulence. Mike Shildt, the Cardinals bench coach, has been named interim manager. Girardi has some connection to the team as he finished his playing career in 2003 with the Cards.
While I realize the sexy names like Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Madison Bumgarner, and Blake Snell are beyond reach for the Yankees, the most likely names that are available just plain scare me (not in a good way). Michael Fulmer, a name that has been connected to the Yankees for months, has been awful this year. I’ve tried to rationalize his performance by the fact that he plays for a bad team, but he was hit hard by the Houston Astros yesterday. He failed to complete five innings, giving up ten hits and seven runs, as his season record fell to 3-9. There’s no way that I’d want to see the Yankees give up Clint Frazier and/or other top prospects for Fulmer despite his youth, potential and cost-controlled status. Cole Hamels and J.A. Happ have been awful. TGP’s Daniel Burch cites Zack Wheeler as a possibility but that one doesn’t excite me. Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney of the Los Angeles Angels are the most recent names mentioned. There is a very real possibility that the Yankees are unable to find a match for a top starter or two. Other teams are willing to overpay but the Yankees are not. I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I want to see Frazier, Justus Sheffield and Estevan Florial thrive as Yankees, but on the other hand, something needs to give if the Yankees intend to catch the Red Sox in the second half. Boston shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Hopefully the Yankees can win today to send us into the All-Star Break on a positive note. Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.68 ERA) makes the start against Trevor Bauer (8-6, 2.23 ERA). It should be a good game and a great day for a victory.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Greg Joyce)|
Frosty the Snowman punches out the Yankees…
As I type this post, it is in the low 30’s and snowing in New York for today’s now-postponed Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Snow and baseball do not mix. I love baseball at Yankee Stadium but admittedly it would be more enjoyable facing the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida right now. The game has been re-scheduled for Tuesday. Tomorrow will be a little warmer…temps in the 40’s…but rain is expected in the afternoon (there is a 95% chance at the expected 4 pm Eastern game time, according to Weather.com). April in New York, you gotta love it…
I was really hoping the Yankees could have won three of four heading back to the Bronx, but it was not meant to be. I am not ready to crucify Manager Aaron Boone but the same could not be said about the Yankees Universe on Twitter. You would have thought Boone burned Derek Jeter’s famed #2 jersey after yesterday’s loss. Give Boonie a break. He’s going to make mistakes. Outside of Giancarlo Stanton’s two home runs last Thursday, the Blue Jays did a great job shutting down our best hitters. Credit to them for a job well done. When we are forced to rely upon the bats at the bottom of the lineup, we put ourselves into situations where the bullpen has no safety net.
Four games into the season, I know two facts. The bullpen is going to perform better than this and the big sluggers are going to hit. Aaron Boone is a smart man and I think he grows stronger by the day. I don’t want the return of Joe Girardi even if it was possible. That ship has sailed and Girardi awaits his next managerial gig in Chicago or St Louis. For better or worse, I am behind Boone as the manager of this team. The last two losses were agonizing, to say the least, but there are better days ahead. In the coming weeks and months, Boone will prove himself to be a master strategist and will be a worthy foe to the game’s best.
The next seven games will be at home against the Rays and the Baltimore Orioles.These are the games to win. The Yankees need to take both series before heading to Boston a week from tomorrow. The O’s series will be a big test for Boone as he’ll be going against one of the greater managerial minds in the game. Buck Showalter may not have the talent on the field to match the Yankees but one must never underestimate the power of the former Yankees manager. This will be a series of the student against the master. One game at a time. I am confident that Boone will use these games as building blocks for his managerial greatness.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mark Brown)|
Until further notice, I’d like to avoid hearing the Yankees have the best bullpen in baseball. At the moment, the only trustworthy guy appears to be Chad Green. Regardless, I am convinced the bullpen will be dominant but it gets old to continually hear they are the best, followed by another implosion. The most disappointing aspect of yesterday’s game for me was the inability of Sonny Gray to get out of the fifth inning. It put too much pressure on the pen, after several days of early starter departures. The bullpen will get better and Boone will make stronger choices. The current mood of disappointment can easily be swept away by a nice seven-game winning streak.
I know that many of you were glad GM Brian Cashman didn’t blink during the failed off-season trade talks with the Pittsburgh Pirates and RHP Gerrit Cole ended up moving to Houston to play for the World champions. I was in favor of the trade even if it meant losing Clint Frazier and a top pitching prospect so it was kind of tough to see Cole’s strong debut for the Astros yesterday. He was the winning pitcher in Houston’s 8-2 win over the Texas Rangers. He pitched seven strong innings, allowing only two hits and a run. He walked three and struck out eleven. His only mistake pitch was a slider to the second batter he faced to start the game, Joey Gallo. Gallo homered to left on Cole’s second pitch to give the Rangers an early lead, but former Pirate and childhood Yankees fan was dominant from there. I suspect that there will be more than a few AL pitchers who watch their offerings deposited into the outfield seats by Gallo, including a few Yankee pitchers, before this season is done. Now let’s see if Cole can continue to pitch at this level, particularly as AL hitters gain familiarity. The verdict is still out on that one, but for one day, Cole pitched like an ace and would have looked awfully nice in Pinstripes.
|Photo Credit: Houston Chronicle (Karen Warren)|
Let’s hope that the Weather Gods decide to smile upon New York tomorrow so that we can get Opening Day at the Stadium underway. Rain, rain, go away, come again when we’re on the road. I know, that doesn’t rhyme but I never said I was a poet. I just want to watch some Pinstriped Baseball.
Enjoy the snowy day. Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)|
Shhh, the Yankees are playing…
The primary takeaways from Friday’s exhibition opener at Steinbrenner Field which saw the Yankees defeat the Detroit Tigers, 3-1, were how great Giancarlo Stanton looks in pinstripes and how comfortably Aaron Boone fits into the manager’s chair. Sure, I was carefully watching Gleyber Torres and I held my breath when he laid out for the first inning grounder he was unable to handle, but overall he was solid for his five innings of work after missing so much time last year following Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing arm.
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
Stanton didn’t really do anything with the bat in the meaningless game but he has such a presence at the plate. You get the sense that when the games matter, this guy is going to be such a huge part of the team’s offense (in a classic statement of the obvious on my part). I watched parts of the Miami Marlins home game against the St Louis Cardinals later in the day and there is clearly a major difference in the vibe and energy generated by the home crowds (Tampa versus Jupiter). Starlin Castro hit a solid single to right before he was lifted for a pinch-runner in the Marlins game but maybe because I have no interest in the Marlins or the Cardinals, the overall mood of the game felt lethargic. Steinbrenner Field, by comparison, was buzzing with enthusiasm.
|Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)|
I couldn’t help but think of Joe Girardi when Austin Romine was batting, wearing Girardi’s #28 jersey. I am sure in time Romine will make it his number but for as much as I like Aaron Boone, I did sentimentally think of Girardi and what he meant to the team for ten years.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jeff Zelevansky)|
The pitcher I am watching closely this Spring is Ben Heller. I think he’s capable of being the breakout reliever of the year for the Yankees. The right-hander is 26 (27 in August) and was 5-4 with 2.88 ERA last season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He struck out 82 batters in 40 games covering 56 1/3 innings. He spent limited time with the big league club, striking out 9 batters in 11 innings, while giving up only 5 hits and 1 run. In yesterday’s game, Heller followed starter Luis Cessa and gave up 2 hits but no runs in 2 innings of work, while striking out 3. Heller is a high character guy and I am really pulling for him to succeed with the big league club this year. He was acquired in 2016, along with Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield and J.P. Feyereisen, from the Cleveland Indians in the deal that sent Andrew Miller to the Tribe. He may not break camp with the Yankees when they head north in late March but I am sure that we’ll be hearing his name frequently this season.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Kathy Willens)|
Waiting for J.D. Martinez and Scott Boras…
I haven’t been closely following the situation with J.D. Martinez in Fort Myers, FL with the Boston Red Sox but it’s funny that the team hasn’t announced the contract signing yet. Martinez took his physical on Wednesday but there’s been no word, good or bad. It is causing angst in the Red Sox Nation. I’ve heard things like the delay is normal in the off-season for free agent signings and that the team’s doctors are in Boston and not Fort Myers where Martinez had the physical. Manager Alex Cora has made comments that he is not concerned and I still fully expect Martinez to be in the heart of the Red Sox lineup this year but the drama surrounding his signing is enjoyable from afar. For the record, I find no humor in any potential physical issues that may be causing the delay. I do hope this works out for Martinez.
Help Wanted: Baseball Players to play for alleged MLB team in St Petersburg…
I really feel badly for the Tampa Bay Rays and their fans. It’s become worse than the Marlins situation as they continue to unload their best players. Days after being designated for assignment, the Rays traded their lone 2017 All-Star representative, outfielder Corey Dickerson, to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dickerson will help make up for the loss of offense when the Pirates traded star Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants. The Rays received reliever Daniel Hudson, a minor league prospect and cash considerations from the Pirates for Dickerson. The Rays will also be without the services of top pitching prospect Brett Honeywell, one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, after it was revealed he has a torn ulnar collateral ligament and will require Tommy John surgery. Looks like the Rays will be leaning very heavily on Chris Archer and “Nasty Nate”, Nathan Eovaldi, this season.
|Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Times|
Spring Training, Game 2…
The Yankees take on the Pittsburgh Pirates today at 1:05 pm for their second exhibition game. They’ll be at Lecom Park in Bradenton, FL. The lineup for today’s game is:
Tyler Wade, 2B
Brandon Drury, 3B
Tyler Austin, 1B
Clint Frazier, LF
Danny Espinosa, DH
Ronald Torreyes, SS
Estevan Florial, CF
Erik Kratz, C
Shane Robinson, RF
The starting pitcher will be Domingo German.
Credit to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com for this Aaron Boone quote, “I want us to be obsessed with controlling the strike zone. That’s one of our bumper stickers.”
|Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Kim Klement)|
Hats off to the Yankees and Major League Baseball for the very classy decision to wear the Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps to honor the victims of the senseless tragedy in Parkland, Florida for the exhibition openers.
|Photo Credit: Associated Press (Lynne Sladky)|
It’s fun to watch the Yankees back on the field against live pitching even if the games mean absolutely nothing. Good times.
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…
Most families are preparing for Christmas and the Holiday Season, and I am sure that the Yankees family is no different. The likelihood of any major Yankees news over the next few days is about as realistic as Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos graciously handing Manny Machado over to the Yankees. In other words, it is going to be very quiet as we try on our new Giancarlo Stanton jerseys.
I admit it. I reacted like a lemming to all of the rumors that percolated on Thursday night about renewed talks between the Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates about starting pitcher Gerrit Cole. It turned out to be nothing, and it would appear the Pirates are still trying to aim high (too high) with their asking price. I’ve seen suggestions of OF Clint Frazier, 2B/SS Tyler Wade, 3B Miguel Andujar, and LHP Jordan Montgomery for Cole. That’s ridiculous and not something that should be considered. To me, that’s akin to asking for Yankees soon-to-be starting second baseman Gleyber Torres. I strongly believe the latest Cole rumors had their origin in the Pirates camp as the Pirates attempt to gain some leverage in talks. It’s not like GM Brian Cashman or his team to leak proposed trade details. Of course, it could also just be the Red Sox Nation trolling Yankees fans.
At this point, I am so tired of the Cole rumors that I wish the Yankees would either pull the trigger (but not to the point they overpay) or walk away. There are things that I like about Cole but conversely I recognize the faults of a pitcher that has never lived up to his potential. We did not like it during the stretch last year when Masahiro Tanaka was serving up batting practice during games and it wouldn’t be well received to watch Cole as a gopher ball pitcher in Yankee Stadium. Cashman should give Pirates GM Neal Huntington a ‘take it or leave it’ offer (perhaps throwing in Austin Romine for no other reason than the Pirates seem to like our catchers, ala Francisco Cervelli and previously Russell Martin and Chris Stewart) and be prepared to move on if Huntington responds negatively. I’ve felt all along that a package of Clint Frazier and Chance Adams is very, very fair, but many argue that’s too much. Anything more, for Cole alone, is too much.
I’ve wondered what the Yankees will do with their international bonus money that was accumulated for a failed run at Japanese superstar Shohei Otani. The Yankees didn’t sign any of the top international prospects that were recently released by the Atlanta Braves as part of their punishment by MLB so the obvious choices were the remaining unsigned players on Baseball America’s ranking of top international prospects, most notably tenth-ranked outfielder Raimfer Salinas, 16, and fifteenth-ranked catcher Antonio Cabello, 17. Sure enough, the two Venezuelan players have been signed by the Yankees according to Baseball America. The signings give the Yankees a total of five of the top 20 international players as ranked in the 2017 signing period. The Yankees had previously signed fifth-ranked OF Everson Pereira, eleventh-ranked SS Ronny Rojas and twentieth-ranked SS Robinson Chirinos. We’ll soon learn more about Salinas and Cabello in future editions of Meet a Prospect by TGP’s own Daniel Burch I am sure, but for now, welcome to the Yankees family, Raimfer and Antonio!
Speaking of prospects, I was saddened to see the departure of Dante Bichette, Jr. He had six years to progress through the Yankees farm system, but the third baseman, 25, was unable to advance past Double A. If he had been able to develop into a Major League player, his timing would have been perfect to take over third base for the Yankees next season. But alas, it was not to be. Young Dante became a minor league free agent in November and has signed with the Colorado Rockies, the team his father once starred for. The Bichette family is very close to former Yankees manager Joe Girardi and young Dante grew up calling him “Uncle Joe”. Girardi named his own son Dante after the elder Bichette. I wish Dante Jr the best as he tries to achieve his elusive MLB dream in the Mile High City.
|Credit: Martin Griff|
For every Yankees blogger (myself included) that suggests the Yankees should find a way to unload Jacoby on the San Francisco Giants, there’s a Giants blogger writing why Ellsbury would be a very bad fit for the Giants. Bottom line, the Giants want no part of Ells. I hate it, but I think we’re stuck with #22 for the long haul. The biggest waste of a roster spot in my opinion. At some point, the Yankees will choose to cut bait but that’s probably not this off-season. I keeping hoping for a Christmas Miracle that takes Ellsbury away but I think I’ll be disappointed with that one.
I was listening to MLB Network’s interview yesterday with former Marlins second baseman and now Mariners center fielder Dee Gordon. He was asked if he had spoken with the other recently traded Marlins (Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna). We know that Stanton is now the big slugger in the lineup of big sluggers, while Ozuna went to the organization that holds the most World Series titles not named the Yankees, the St Louis Cardinals. The reactions conveyed by Gordon were very different. While Ozuna was saddened by the trade (despite the fact that he is going to a storied franchise with a long-standing history of baseball tradition), “G” is excited and ready to get after it. I love it. I can’t wait to watch Stanton in spring training wearing the perfect shade of blue.
Thoughts While We Wait for the Press Conference…
Aaron John Boone officially takes the reins as the 33rd Manager of the New York Yankees today at Noon ET. I continue to see so many opinions, both strongly tilted toward the pros and the cons. Being upset or taking a strong position that Boone is not the right guy serves no purpose. Regardless of how you feel, Boone will be the guy delivering the lineup card on Opening Day, March 29th, at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada. There is nothing that you can do or say that will change Boone from taking that walk. So, it is in our best interests to unite and support the next manager of the Yankees.
|Credit: Sporting News Archive/Getty Images|
Personally, I am excited to see what Boone can do. Admittedly, I wasn’t crazy about the lack of managerial or coaching experience but Boone has so many other positive attributes. We’ve heard about his unique ability to relate with everyone, his sense of humor, his immersion into Major League Baseball as a youngster due to his grandfather, Ray Boone, and father, Bob Boone, both Major Leaguers. Boone has said that he has prepared for 44 years for this job. Boone’s predecessor, Joe Girardi, won a Manager of the Year Award in his first season as a manager with no coaching or managing experience (2006 with the then-Florida Marlins). Granted, he was fired after the season, but still, there’s no reason that Boone can’t reach the same accomplishments (excluding the end of the year firing).
The immediate decisions that face Boone is the composition of his coaching staff. Larry Rothschild is returning as the team’s Pitching Coach but so far, that’s the only official announcement. The bench coach will be a critical hire and needs to be someone with strong managerial experience. The Yankees lost very strong in-house candidates when Josh Paul, Rob Thomson, and Al Pedrique left to join the coaching staffs of other MLB teams. Eric Wedge’s name has been thrown out as a possibility but so far, there have been no strong indications who might take the role. Yankees minor league coaches Reggie Willits and Carlos Mendoza have been cited as possibilities for the staff but neither has the experience to serve as bench coach. I am expecting the return of Alan Cockrell, Hitting Coach, and Marcus Thames, Assistant Hitting Coach, although they could just as easily walk away. It’s been mentioned that Mike Harkey, the bullpen coach and a Girardi buddy, could return. That one does surprise me a little since he was a Girardi friend and hire. Tony Pena is someone the Yankees should bring back. He’s certainly qualified to serve as bench coach despite his years as the first base coach.
Perhaps Boone addresses the coaching staff during today’s press conference or the staff is assembled over the next few weeks. Either way, I will be watching and listening with interest.
Al Pedrique’s departure (to join the Oakland A’s as first base coach) creates an opening at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. A replacement has not been named but I could easily see the elevation of High A-Tampa Yankees Manager Jay Bell to the position. I really hated to see Pedrique go. I felt he would have been the ideal bench coach…an experienced manager who has strong relationships with the younger Yankees. The A’s denied the Yankees permission to talk to their manager, Bob Melvin, but then stole one of the Yankees’ best coaches. Almost immediately, the A’s fans talked about the excitement of a coach who could help mold Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian based on his past experiences with them. Ouch! He could have been doing that with the Baby Bombers.
|Credit: Jason Farmer, Scranton Times-Tribune|
It was sad to see Rob Thomson take a lateral position with the Philadelphia Phillies, leaving the Yankees after 28 years in the organization. He will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge for Phillies rookie manager Gabe Kapler. Thomson must like sitting next to very physically-fit managers. It’s too bad he won’t be there for Aaron Boone but it’s probably hard to stay with an organization when you are passed over for a job you felt should be yours.
It’s a tough time to fill a coaching staff considering most other teams have finalized their respective staffs. I keep half-expecting Bret Boone to added. No idea what qualifications he has other than being a former Major Leaguer but like Aaron, he obviously grew up in a baseball family. His recent jokes about sexual harassment probably nixed the possibility he’d join his brother’s team.
|Credit: Alan Berner, The Seattle Times|
The Yankees have cash to spend on the international market ($3.5 million) with the rejection by Shohei Otani but so far, the Yankees have been idle while Billy Eppler and the Los Angeles Angels have been very aggressive. Yesterday, the Angels signed two former Braves prospects including the top-rated shortstop Kevin Maitan and another shortstop, Livan Soto. The Yankees need to bring in more catching prospects but the Phillies grabbed former Braves catching prospect Abrahan Gutierrez.
Baseball activity seems to be picking up in general. The minor free agent signings are picking up so there should be major movement with the free agent market over the coming days. The Baseball Winter Meetings start Sunday in Orlando, Florida so next week should be a wild ride. Clint Frazier’s latest tweet (@clintfrazier) was “my cat has been staring at my shower drain for three straight hours and i’m freaking out”. We really need more excitement with the Yankees!
Today should be a fun day. Welcome (back) to the Bronx, Aaron Boone! Go Yankees!
|Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images|
Moving on to the Next Round?…
The Baseball off-season continues to move at a snail’s pace. Of course, things will change as we get past the Thanksgiving holiday and move into December and closer to the Baseball Winter Meetings.
In the meantime, we continue to pick apart every little thing that happens ad nauseum. We learned this week that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner not only supported GM Brian Cashman’s decision to sever ways with former manager Joe Girardi, he agreed with it and it has been something that they’ve had talks about for the past several years. Of course, that leads me to believe that it was Steinbrenner’s call and there are details that we may never really know. We do know there were perceived communication issues and that Girardi had failed to connect with the clubhouse, particularly over the last couple of seasons. Given how vocal both Cashman and Steinbrenner have been about the Girardi situation, it seems like there are more issues at play than just communication and connectivity to players. Steinbrenner implied that the Yankees would have made this decision even if the Yankees had won the World Series.
Although Girardi lasted a decade in the Bronx, he’s now been fired twice by ownership groups that gave scathing departing remarks. Girardi was NL Manager of the Year for the Florida Marlins in 2006, yet he was fired after the season. Then-owner Jeffrey Loria almost fired Girardi on the spot during an August game when Girardi told Loria to stop heckling the home plate umpire. Girardi may have done a decent managing job for the Yankees but you have to think that future teams will take a more cautious approach when/if considering him for managerial openings. I don’t know Girardi so I cannot attest to his personality beyond what I’ve seen during his pre- and post-game interviews but there’s something there, if I was an owner, that would give me pause about Girardi. I have no hard feelings against the man and I hope that he gets another opportunity in MLB but it was clearly time for a change.
|Credit: John Raoux, Associated Press|
Upon the conclusion of the GM Meetings in Orlando, Florida, this week, GM Brian Cashman resumed his managerial interviews.
Former Yankee Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens was in the Bronx on Thursday. I really like Meulens. I know that a lot of people have scoffed at the guy and he has no managerial experience, but I like his communication style (handles himself very well in interviews) and he is clearly a guy that knows baseball and relationships. He is fluent with multiple languages including a little bit of Japanese which gives him the ability to talk directly to the majority of players without the assistance of interpreters. He enjoys a great relationship with shortstop Didi Gregorius, whom he managed in the WBC Classic. Meulens has been part of three World Series championships in San Francisco.
|Credit: ESPN Internet Ventures|
Cashman also spoke with former Yankee Aaron Boone on Friday. Boone is best remembered for his home run to the beat the Boston Red Sox in the 2003 American League Championship Series, a year before the Sox finally ended the Curse of the Bambino. It was Boone’s 2004 knee injury, suffered in a pre-season basketball game, that led the Yankees to their acquisition of Alex Rodriguez and the drama that ensued. Boone, as everyone knows, comes from a family rich in MLB tradition, with a grandfather, father and brother that were all Major Leaguers. There’s no doubt he is an intelligent guy but like Meulens, no managerial experience, and unlike Meulens, no coaching experience.
I think either Meulens or Boone could do a good job if they are surrounded by the right coaches. I kind of like the idea of using either Al Pedrique or Eric Wedge as the new manager’s bench coach. I would not be disappointed to see Rob Thomson return to that role. It appears that Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward is next up for a managerial interview. I don’t really know much about Woodward so I don’t have any opinions about him. At this point, I clearly prefer Meulens and Boone over him. Not sure if Woodward will be the last of the candidates before we start Round 2 or if there will be more guys paraded through the Bronx. The next round will feature a trip to Florida to meet with the Steinbrenner family. I’d probably take the candidates by Trinity Memorial Gardens in Trinity, FL. If the ground rumbles (the Boss turning over in his grave), you know the candidate is probably not the one.
I am anxious for the Yankees to make a decision, but I understand they are under no pressure to hurry and can afford to take their time. Outside of Shohei Otani, they do not figure to be big players in Free Agency despite the greedy nature of us, the fans. CC Sabathia has already said that he’d return despite not knowing who the next manager will be. So, for now, we wait…
All Rise for the Judge!…
Congratulations to Aaron Judge for being named AL Rookie of the Year, as expected, and his second place finish in the AL MVP voting. I expected the AL MVP vote to be much closer than it really was. Jose Altuve took 27 of 30 first place votes with only two going to Judge. There was some outrage from the media but the class exhibited by Judge was so professional and heartfelt (as we have come to expect with the big slugger). After Altuve won, Judge tweeted: “M-V-P!!! Nobody more deserving than you!! Congrats on an unforgettable 2017!! @JoseAltuve27”. Judge makes me proud that he is a Yankee every day.
Yankee Dreams extinguished…
The Yankees lost a long-time farmhand and one-time top prospect when outfielder Mason Williams signed a minor league free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds. I am sorry that it never worked out for Williams in Pinstripes. I had very high hopes at one point that never came to fruition. Hopefully, for his sake, the change of scenery helps him achieve some the success that had once seemed inevitable for the talented 26-year-old.
|Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images|
Another former Yankees prospect, a few years removed from the organization, pitcher Manny Banuelos, has signed a minors deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when Williams and Banuelos were the top prospects with the Yankees. Of course Banuelos was part of the Killer B’s (the trio of Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman).
The only Killer B that made it was Betances. Like Williams, I hope that Banuelos can find success in Chavez Ravine. He has failed to impress the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Angels so maybe fourth time’s a charm. I really liked Banuelos as a young prospect and had hoped to see him achieve MLB success.
And we continue to wait. Go Yankees!