Tagged: Joe Girardi

Can’t Even Get a Lump of Cole for Christmas…

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.

Go Yankees!

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The Changing of the Guard…

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!

All Talk and No Action…

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.

Credit:  SI.com

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!

Hearing Crickets at Yankee Stadium…

Waiting for breaking Yankees news…

We are moving into Day 3 of the GM Meetings but not much is happening in the Yankees Universe.

Managerial interviews were suspended while GM Brian Cashman participates in the Orlando, FL meetings.  But we do know that Hensley Meulens, currently the bench coach for the San Francisco Giants (formerly their hitting coach in the most recent season), will be interviewed when Cashman gets back to New York.  Meulens has managed Team Netherlands in the WBC Classic several times and the former Yankee has a good relationship with shortstop Didi Gregorius (both guys are from Curacao).  Meulens, like Didi, speaks multiple languages.  He is thought very highly of by the Giants organization and many believe that he is being groomed to eventually replace manager Bruce Bochy.

 

Aaron Boone is also thought to be on the candidate list but no word when he’ll interview.  The latest name to be added to the list is Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward.

The interest expressed by YES broadcaster John Flaherty and the very recently retired Carlos Beltran do not appear to be gaining any traction.  Among the potential candidates with no prior managerial experience, Beltran does seem to be a viable option.  He wants to manage one day and his leadership was evident during his time with the Yankees.  Perhaps he should take a coaching job first, but I’ve always believed that managerial experience is not necessarily a prerequisite for the right person.  The Boston Red Sox took a chance on a first-time manager with Alex Cora, but they ensured that Cora had a wealth of experience when former Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was named as his bench coach.  Beltran enjoys a good relationship with the New York media which is one of the requirements for the job.  He wouldn’t be my first choice as manager, but I wouldn’t object if he is hired.

Credit:  Noah K Murray, USA TODAY Sports

The word is that Cashman has not yet reached out to everyone that he wants to talk to.  I still find it hard believe Cashman didn’t already have a plan when he made the decision to part ways with Joe Girardi.  Girardi, by the way, showed up at the GM Meetings yesterday as part of the MLB Competition Committee.  That must have been very weird for him, especially if he encountered any of the representatives for the Yankees.  I am sure that he and Cashman didn’t go grab a beer together after the day’s activities were over.

I thought it was interesting that the Yankees had asked for and were denied permission to speak with Oakland A’s manager Bob Melvin.

Even though a new manager has not been named, I was glad to see that the Yankees will be bringing back pitching coach Larry Rothschild for the 2018 season.  I’d like to see RailRiders manager Al Pedrique on next year’s coaching staff given his strong relationships with the Baby Bombers.

Credit:  Jackie Shear, The Trentonian

Cashman did indicate this week that the future in the outfield is Aaron Hicks and not Jacoby Ellsbury.  With no apparent trade talks in play, it looks like Ellsbury will once again be Baseball’s highest paid pinch-runner. Hopefully things change and Cashman is able to use to cash to entice another team to take Ellsbury.  At this point, it would be addition by subtraction even if the Yankees have to pay the freight (a bulk of the remaining monies due on Ellsbury’s contract).  Cashman also stated that Gleyber Torres could make a run at the third base job next Spring.  That talk leads me to believe there will be absolutely no attempt to re-sign Todd Frazier.  We didn’t really expect Frazier to return but until he actually signs with another team, there’s always hope.  Unfortunately, those are odds that I’d never take despite how great the Toddfather fit with the Baby Bombers.

The Yankees did have one free agent signing this week.  Well, it was a minor league free agent signing that may never have an effect on the Major League roster.  They signed former Phillies prospect, catcher Chace Numata, 25.  The organization has lost some catching depth through free agency this off-season and of course the Yankees parted ways with the great Erik Kratz.  Numata has never advanced above Double-A for the Phillies.  He was selected in the 14th round of the 2010 MLB Draft.  For AA-Reading this year, Numata batted .249 with 4 HRs and 28 RBIs in 84 games.  Even though Numata might not ever make it to the Bronx, the Hawaiian native will play a valuable role in the development of Yankees pitching prospects in the upper levels of the farm system.

The Cincinnati Reds have signed lefty Joe Mantiply to a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training.  Mantiply spent the 2017 season with the Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

Entering the off-season, my favorite managerial candidate was Dave Martinez, formerly bench coach for Joe Maddon in Chicago and my favorite general manager choice was Alex Anthopoulos, formerly an executive for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Martinez was hired by the Washington Nationals as their new manager, replacing Dusty Baker, while the Atlanta Braves this week hired Anthopoulos as their new GM (with President John Hart rumored to have a lessened voice in the organization).  I had thought Anthopoulos would have been a great choice for the Yankees if they had decided to make a change.  I think both guys will do very well with their new jobs.

Earlier it had been reported that the Boston Red Sox had interest in trading for Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton but it sounds as though Stanton does not want to play in Boston.  The Los Angeles Dodgers are now rumored as a possible destination.  The Dodgers certainly have the financial strength to absorb Stanton’s contract but the human cost to acquire him will be huge.  You can be assured that Marlins CEO Derek Jeter is not going to give Stanton away.  Stanton, protected by Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner, would be very scary in the Dodgers lineup.  But I wouldn’t rule out the Red Sox until if/when a trade for Stanton actually happens.

How many more days until Spring Training?  I’m ready.  Go Yankees!

Disliking Off-Season Inactivity…

Baseball is such a rush. It starts in February when pitchers and catchers report, and then slowly builds over the course of the next eight months, reaching the adrenaline rush of the post-season, capped by the exhilarating World Series. Then, nothing. We can only wait and watch as the Yankees beat writers jump from one potential story to another without yielding much fruit.

Things will pick up in a few weeks as we approach the Winter Meetings, but for now, we just have to sit around wondering when the Yankees will give us an indication who they might be considering for the job to lead the 2018 Yankees.

Without much to really think about, here are some of my random thoughts…

Alex Rodriguez, Just Say No…

I can honestly say that I have no desire to see Alex Rodriguez named as Yankees manager. I do not dispute A-Rod’s baseball knowledge and I know that he’s been a positive influence on the younger players during Spring Training but neither of those attributes qualify him as a Major League manager. This is a man who was suspended an entire year for PED use after he had already been implicated with earlier use of performance-enhancing drugs. I was glad to see A-Rod’s time as an active member of the Yankees end and I have no interest in watching him don the pinstripes again (outside of brief Spring Training appearances).  As it is, I am tired of the daily “J-Rod” updates.  If Alex became the Yankees manager, those daily sightings of Jennifer Lopez and A-Rod would only worsen.  I lived through the Bronx Zoo of the 1970’s.  I am not willing to entertain the thought of The Bronx Zoo, Part II. So count me among those with no interest in seeing A-Rod become manager of the Yankees.

Jake Cave, Member of the 40-Man Roster…

It took awhile and included a detour through Cincinnati, but Jake Cave finally earned a spot on the Yankees 40-Man Roster when he was added on Monday.

Cave was drafted by the Yankees in the 6th Round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, VA.  He was left unprotected when he became Rule 5 eligible after the 2015 season and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.  He started 2016 Spring Training very hot for the Reds but by the end of camp had cooled considerably.  In the end, the Reds opted to keep a 30-year old outfielder (Jordan Pacheco), who was released by the Reds in June 2016, over the then-23 year old Cave. At the time of his return to the Yankees, Reds manager Bryan Price offered the following comments:  “He was and is a terrific young player, and we all saw him as a big-leaguer. There was just some limitations on how much playing time I thought I could get him over the course of this year. My big concern was the history with Donald Lutz and Neftali Soto, guys that have come up and really not played much at a very young age and how they were able to deal with that and when they returned to the minor leagues how they performed afterwards, and I would hate to see that happen to Jake as a guy who really got limited playing time early in the season and how that would have affected his long-term development.”

Cave returned to the Yankees but rather than sulk, he continued to work on his craft.  He was left unprotected again in 2016 but was not selected in that year’s Rule 5 Draft.  His performance in 2017 exceeded expectations as he finished with 20 home runs and 56 RBI’s at AA/AAA combined.  His batting line was .305/.351/.542 with .893 OPS in 103 total games.  His hard work has been acknowledged by the Yankees and he’ll get an opportunity to go to the Major League Camp with the Yankees in February for the first time.

Cave profiles as a fourth outfielder but he is clearly a success story among Yankees prospects.  With guys like Cave and Billy McKinney chomping at the bit, the Yankees need to clear out Jacoby Ellsbury and/or Brett Gardner to make way for the younger guys. I’d hate to see Gardner go but it is Clint Frazier’s time for left field.  Aaron Hicks is a better center fielder than Ellsbury.  So, I’d prefer to see Hicks and Frazier in the starting outfield with Aaron Judge, and guys like Cave and/or McKinney backing them up.

The Yankees also added reliever Nick Rumbelow to the 40-man roster. Rumbelow had Tommy John surgery in 2016 and missed part of the 2017 season with his recovery. After pitching briefly for the Double-A Trenton Thunder, he was lights out for the Triple A-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. In 17 games (covering 29 innings) for the RailRiders, Rumbelow was 5-1 and had a sterling 1.12 ERA with 5 saves. He struck out 30 batters, while walking only 8.  Rumbelow, like Cave, is a success story.  He was released by the Yankees in November 2016 (free to go anywhere like Nathan Eovaldi did when he signed with the Tampa Bay Rays).  Rumbelow opted to re-sign with the Yankees on December 15, 2016 and we’re glad he did.

The Yankees still have a number of Rule 5 decisions to make but these were a couple of easy ones.  I have no doubt the Yankees will be forced to leave quality talent unprotected for this year’s Rule 5 Draft.  GM Brian Cashman, between his managerial interviews and negotiation of a new contract, has his work cut out for him.

Free Agency is Upon Us…

Free Agents became available to talk to other teams on Monday afternoon. Most forecasts show the Yankees to be very limited players in the FA arena as they attempt to avoid MLB’s competitive balance tax and reset future penalties for going above the payroll threshold.  Sadly, the Boston Red Sox were able to do that this year, so they’ll be more aggressive this off-season. During the press conference yesterday to announce new Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Dave Dombrowski, President of Baseball Operations, was asked if the luxury tax would be limitation. He responded, “No, I do not”. The same question was posed to Red Sox owner John Henry and he replied with, “Well, (Dombrowski) answered the question. He said he could go over.”  I would not be surprised to see the Red Sox go hard and heavy after Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.

Most forecasts that I have seen only show the Yankees signing Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani and CC Sabathia. Without too many moves necessary, I’d be very happy to see the Yankees acquire Otani. There is uncertainty with the current dispute in negotiations between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball for a new posting agreement. However, Otani took a step in the positive direction by hiring Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to represent him if he is posted and made available to MLB teams this off-season.

I am not overly excited about the anticipated return of Chase Headley to third base for the 2018 season. The question will be whether Gleyber Torres or Miguel Andujar will be ready. I doubt either one breaks camp as the starter but it could happen sooner rather than later.  Headley runs too hot and cold for me. I’d prefer to see greater consistency out of the position to protect the big bats in the lineup. I’d love to see the return of Todd Frazier, but the timing is not right and the Yankees are not in a position to offer a free agent multiple years at third base. For the short-term, we’ll have to deal with Headley.

Dueling Airwaves…

It was funny yesterday that both Yankees GM Brian Cashman and former Yankees manager Joe Girardi were giving interviews at the same time. It’s tough listening to Girardi as he really sounds like a guy who wanted to be a part of the next great Yankees dynasty. I am surprised that the Washington Nationals didn’t make a run at Girardi with their World Series-caliber roster. But then again, the Nats aren’t known for spending cash on the managerial position and perhaps they were too far down the road with new manager Dave Martinez.

At this point, it appears that Girardi will sit out a year (perhaps taking a broadcasting position) and will emerge as a viable managerial candidate in the 2018 off-season.

The more Cashman talks about communication as a primary reason that Girardi was not re-hired and in particular his relationship with the younger players, it leads me to believe that there are reasons at play that we will never know. Maybe one day when Cashman retires and writes his memoirs.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready for some genuine Yankees news. These quiet days leading up to the Baseball Winter Meetings next month are tough. I am getting a little tired of watching Houston Astros show up on Saturday Night Live or Carlos Correa discussing how he decided to propose to his girlfriend immediately after the World Series had ended on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Justin Verlander’s wedding pics in Italy are nice, but I want to know about our guys.  It is time to get the Yankees back in the news.

As always, Go Yankees!

Dodging Their Way to Game Seven…

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

2017 World Series 

Dodgers 3, Astros 1

Series tied, 3-3

The Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers, okay I am not quite that old…the Los Angeles Dodgers…forced the first World Series Game 7 in Dodger Stadium history with their win over the Houston Astros in Game 6 on Tuesday night. We’re a week into this World Series and we now stand in the month that Derek Jeter made famous. Who will be the latest November hero?  We’ll find out later today.

The game was expected to be a pitching duel with veteran ace Justin Verlander pitching for the Astros against the resurgent Rich Hill for the Dodger Blue. Unlike the slugfest the broke out between Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw match-up, Verlander-Hill did not disappoint.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

The Dodgers started the game by having former Dodgers greats Tommy Lasorda and Orel Hershiser, champions in 1988, throw out the first pitches. Hershiser is regularly seen by Dodgers fans on SportsNet LA but it was wonderful to see Lasorda on Dodger Stadium turf again. It’s always good to see the legendary Lasorda whenever he makes an appearance. I didn’t love the guy back during those World Series against the Yankees in the late 70’s, but he grew on me over time and I appreciate his role in Dodgers history.

Credit:  Los Angeles Daily News:  John McCoy/SCNG

Once the game began, it was a scoreless affair until George Springer’s solo shot to right into the front row seats with two outs in the top of the 3rd broke the ice. On a team with multiple offensive stars, Springer and teammate Alex Bregman have really stood out for the Astros. If the Astros ultimately win this World Series, there’s no doubt that one or both of these guys will be in the thick of the action.

 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Bregman followed Springer’s homer with a sharply hit ball to short that Corey Seager booted but Seager was able to recover quickly with his throw just beating Bregman to the bag for the final out.

While Verlander was cruising through the early innings, allowing only a meaningless single by Yasiel Puig in the second inning, the Astros finally got to Hill in the top of the fifth. Brian McCann led off the inning with a single to deep right which Yasiel Puig cut off in the corner. Marwin Gonzalez was next and he doubled down the left field line into the corner, moving the huffing and puffing McCann to third. After Hill struck out Josh Reddick and Verlander, Springer was intentionally walked to load the bases. 

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

Much to Hill’s disappointment, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts made the call to the bullpen and brought in reliever Brandon Morrow who had imploded during his previous outing in Houston. The day of rest helped for the former Blue Jay. He was able to get Alex Bregman to ground out to short, through the runner’s legs, on the second pitch of the at-bat to end the inning with the bases overflowing with Astros.

The Astros threatened again in the top of the 6th, while Verlander was still pitching a one-hitter at that point. With two outs, Yuli Gurriel singled to center off Morrow. Dave Roberts then made a double switch, bringing in former Pirates closer Tony Watson to replace Morrow and second baseman Chase Utley to replace Logan Forsythe. Watson promptly hit Brian McCann with a pitch in the back of the right arm that I am sure was not part of the plan. Runners at first and second. Fortunately, Marwin Gonzales hit a liner to second, with Chase Utley jumping up for the catch, for the final out. Another missed scoring opportunity for the Astros (bummer for them, for me…not so much). 

In the bottom of the 6th, Austin Barnes led off with a single to left. Chase Utley, batting in the pitcher’s spot thanks to the double switch, was hit by a pitch on his right foot with a bouncer in the dirt. Chris Taylor, who probably makes Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto lose sleep everytime he revisits that trade in his head, came up big…again…when he doubled to right, scoring Barnes and advancing Utley to third. The game was tied.  

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Corey Seager hit a high fly to right that died in front of the wall but it was deep enough to score Utley on the sacrifice. Verlander was able to get Justin Turner to foul out on the first base side and he struck out Cody Bellinger, but the Dodgers had taken their first lead of the game, 2-1.

The Astros made noise again for the third consecutive inning in the top of the 7th. After Tony Watson walked the lead off hitter, Josh Reddick, Dave Roberts took the ball from him and brought in Kenta Maeda to face Evan Gattis, pinch-hitting for Justin Verlander. Gattis hit into a fielder’s choice at short that erased Reddick at second but the Dodgers were unable to turn a double play. Gattis clearly reached first base before the throw but the Dodgers challenged and lost the play at second when they argued unsuccessfully that Reddick had purposely tried to take out Chase Utley (on the appropriately named Chase Utley rule). Mets fans were probably snickering as they recalled the time in the 2015 NLDS when Utley  slid into Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada rather than the base, breaking Tejada’s leg and sending the shortstop’s career on a downward trajectory. Not snickering because of Tejada but because Utley was the victim of an aggressive play. 

Credit:  Pasadena Star-News:  Keith Birmingham/SCNG

George Springer hit a grounder to short but the ball got by Corey Seager and rolled into left field. Gattis moved to second and was replaced by pinch-runner Derek Fisher. Alex Bregman flied out to center, with Fisher tagging and moving to third. It brought Jose Altuve to the plate. Altuve hit a hard grounder to third, but Justin Turner made a great play in throwing the ball to first for the out to end the inning.

Joc Pederson added an insurance run in the bottom of the 7th when he took reliever Joe Musgrove deep with a solo blast to left. There was some initial doubt if he had hit the ball far enough but it carried over the wall much to the excitement of Pederson and his teammates.  

 

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

From there, the Dodgers not to take any chances and brought in ace closer Kenley Jansen for the top of the 8th to get the six-out save. He easily retired the three batters he faced to send the game to the bottom of the inning. The Dodgers had a chance for more runs when they had two on with two outs for Cody Bellinger, but Clay’s son struck out swinging in an extended 9-pitch at bat against Francisco Liriano (who was making his first appearance in the World Series).

Kenley Jansen came back out for the top of the 9th (obviously). Marwin Gonzalez had the first chance to get the Astros back into the game. He popped out to first baseman Bellinger in shallow right. Next up, Josh Reddick. He struck out, swinging and missing the last two pitches. One last man stood between the Dodgers and victory…former Yankees slugger Carlos Beltran. Jansen threw a 94 mph Cutter with the count at 0-2 in favor of the pitcher. Beltran took a big swing  at the high pitch and missed. 

Credit:  Houston Chronicle:  Michael Ciaglo

Game over. Dodgers win!

Credit:  LA Times – Gina Ferazzi

Dodgers Legend and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax was in attendance as a spectator, looking like he could be the Game 7 starter if necessary.  Of course, it’s Los Angeles so there were more than few celebrities in the house, such as former Los Angeles Lakers star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

 

Credit:  Houston Chronicle:  Karen Warren

I have no clue who is going to win the World Series, but it comes down to one game. Winner take all. The matchup will feature Lance McCullers, Jr on the mound for the Astros. He’ll face Yu Darvish. If the game was to be the played in Houston, you’d have to like the Astros chances. But we are not at Minute Maid Park anymore. Darvish will have the support of the partisan crowd and Chavez Ravine will be rocking tonight. It should be another World Series classic.

Credit:  Pasadena Star-News:  Keith Birmingham/SCNG

Editor’s Note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers (if you didn’t notice already).

Odds & Ends…

It was sad to read the words of Ken Rosenthal’s interview with former Yankees manager Joe Girardi on yesterday’s The Athletic. I refuse to pay a subscription fee to Rosenthal but fortunately the article was available in full. Girardi clearly sounded like a guy who wanted to be a part of the next great Yankees era. I was glad to read that Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner left the door open for Girardi’s eventual return to the organization in some capacity if he so chooses. I personally doubt Girardi returns, but I thought he handled his first interview since the dismissal with style and grace.

Credit:  Getty Images

As expected, Gabe Kapler was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. So the Yankees are the only team without a manager. Unless there is a secret deal already in place (probably), today brings an unsigned general manager too as Brian Cashman’s deal expired last night. I think it’s a given that Cashman will return but I’ll be anxious to get his new contract behind us so that the Yankees can truly begin their off-season strategy and preparation to bring us their 28th World Championship.

Have a great Wednesday! This is it…the final day of Major League Baseball for 2017. Let’s Go Dodgers, but more importantly, Let’s Go Yankees!

Astros Win in Sudden Death Overtime…

Credit:  LA Times:  Wally Skalij

2017 World Series

Astros 7, Dodgers 6…

Series tied, 1-1

Wow! The Dodgers may have lost but that was one heck of a game! A low-scoring affair until the Astros tied it at 3 in the top of the 9th inning, the game became a battle of home runs in extra innings with George Springer’s two-run homer in the 11th inning providing the final margin of victory for the ‘Stros.

This was a magical game from the start. The first pitch was “thrown” (I use that term loosely) by legendary former Dodgers announcer Vin Scully with an assist from Fernando Valenzuela. I miss the days of Scully calling Dodger games but it was so incredible to have him on the Dodger Stadium turf. Great call by the Dodgers to have Scully, one of the greatest announcers of all-time if not THE greatest, throw the first pitch. It’s time for Dodgers baseball!  Damn, love that guy. It was so wonderful to hear his voice again. Valenzuela, in relief of Scully (who suffered a “rotator cuff” injury on his attempted throw…wink, wink), threw the pitch to former Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager.

Credit:  LA Times:  Robert Gauthier

With veteran Rich Hill pitching for the Dodgers and former Tigers ace Justin Verlander on the mound for the Astros, the game remained scoreless until the top of the 3rd inning. Josh Reddick hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Chase Utley in shallow right that got away from the former Phillie when the ball bounced off the palm of his glove. No error on the play but Reddick safe at first with a hit. Inexperienced batsman Justin Verlander was next in the obvious bunt situation. His first attempt resulted in a foul fly off the backstop net. He looked like an American Leaguer trying to bat. But then on his second attempt, he laid it down perfectly with a slow roller back to the pitcher. Verlander took five steps in the California heat before giving up for the out, but he did his job pushing Reddick to second. George Springer followed with a single to left to put runners at the corners. Alex Bregman’s single to center scored Reddick and the Astros led 1-0. It may have been an extra-base hit if not for centerfielder Chris Taylor’s hat. The ball went up on the diving Taylor but was re-directed toward left fielder Joc Pederson thanks to the bill of his cap. Hill prevented further damage when he struck out Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa to end the inning. I thought the Dodgers did an excellent job limiting the Astros to only one run in that situation.

The Dodgers tied the game in the bottom of the 5th when Joc Pederson took Verlander deep with a shot over the wall in right field.

Things were looking good for the Dodgers in the bottom of the 6th inning. Chris Taylor took a two-out walk. Corey Seager was next and he belted a Verlander pitch over the left field wall into the first row to give the Dodgers a two run advantage.

Credit:  LA Times:  Gina Ferazzi

Moving into the 8th inning with Dodgers setup man Brandon Morrow on the mound, Alex Bregman led off with a ground-rule double to right. Right fielder Yaiel Puig made a running dive in an attempt to get to the ball but it hit the end of his glove and bounced up into the stands, much to the chagrin of the visibly upset Puig. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decided to take no chances and brought in closer Kenley Jansen. Jansen had only blown one game all season and the Dodgers had a ridiculous stat of 98-0 when leading after eight innings. Jansen got the first batter he faced (Jose Altuve) to ground out to second, but Bregman moved to third. Carlos Correa singled to center on a chopper that got by second baseman Chase Utley, making it a one run game, 3-2. After Yuli Gurriel flied out in foul territory near first base, Jansen got Brian McCann with a huge strikeout to end the inning.  

Normally, a one-run lead at Dodger Stadium in the 9th inning is a guarantee for victory. Unfortunately, Marwin Gonzalez had other ideas. On an 0-2 count while leading off for the Astros, Gonzalez turned on a Jansen cutter (an unusual bad pitch from the All-Star Closer) to deposit it over the wall in left center to tie the game.

Credit:  LA Times: Robert Gauthier

The Astros had the go-ahead run at second when George Springer hit a two-out double down the left field line, but he was left stranded when Alex Bregman grounded out to short.

The Dodgers were unable to score in the bottom of the 9th against Astros closer Ken Giles when they were retired in order. I was really hoping that Cody Bellinger, who made the final out, could have come up huge in that situation but it was not to be. So, off to extra innings we went…

Top of the 10th and Jansen was gone. Dodgers reliever Josh Fields was on the mound in his place. The Astros decided it was time to play Home Run Derby.  Jose Altuve led off with a blast to the front row of the center field stands to give the Astros the lead, 4-3. Carlos Correa said ‘I can do that, only better’ and sent the ball fourteen feet further into the left center field seats. 5-3, Astros.

Ken Giles was still pitching for the Astros in the bottom of the 10th. Yasiel Puig led off with a towering shot to left to make it a one-run game. After Giles struck out Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes, Logan Forsythe drew a walk on a full count. With Enrique “Kike” Hernandez at the plate, a wild pitch by Giles moved Forsythe to second. Hernandez, the hero of the NLCS with three home runs in the final game to send the Dodgers to the World Series, singled to right to score Forsythe. Astros right fielder Josh Reddick made a perfect throw to catcher Brian McCann but Forsythe’s speed was too much as he safely slid into home.  

Credit:  LA Times: Robert Gauthier

The game was tied once again. Hernandez advanced to second on the throw but the Astros made a pitching change to bring in Chris Devenski who retired Chris Taylor on a fly out to center to push the game into the 11th inning.

The Dodgers made another pitching change, bringing in their ninth pitcher of the game…former Yankee Brandon McCarthy. It wasn’t McCarthy’s finest hour (or maybe I should say minutes). Cameron Maybin led off with a single to center, just past the outstretched glove of Corey Seager. He subsequently stole second on a close play at the bag. George Springer handed the Astros another two-run lead when he homered to right center. 7-5, Astros.  

Credit:  LA Times:  Wally Skalij

McCarthy was able to retire the next three Astros to give the Dodgers, as Michael Kay would say, “their last licks”. 

Houston’s Chris Devenski came back out to the mound for the bottom of the 11th. He got the first two hitters when Corey Seager lined out to center and Justin Turner lined out to third. Charlie Culberson, who had just entered the game in the top of the 11th when he took over in left field, homered to left center, making it a one-run game for Yasiel Puig. Trailing by one run with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, it was a huge opportunity for Puig who clearly loves the limelight. Not this day. After battling Devenski, Puig swung and missed on Devenski’s ninth pitch of the at-bat to end the game. Astros win, 7-6.  

Credit:  LA Times: Wally Skalij

I know there is no “overtime” in baseball but that was as close to a hockey shootout as I’ve seen (especially in a World Series game).

The two teams take a break today to travel to Houston for Game 3 on Friday night at Minute Maid Park. The pitching matchup is currently scheduled to feature the Dodgers’ Yu Darvish against the Astros’ Lance McCullers, Jr. For Darvish, it is a homecoming of sorts with the return to Texas.  Although when you are from Dallas, anything from or in Houston sucks. I am sure that the former Texas Ranger will thrive back in the Lone Star state. It should be a fantastic pitcher’s duel, particuarly if McCullers, Jr can pitch as well as he did against the Yankees.  

Credit:  LA Times:  Allen J Schaben

I will be watching with my Dodgers gear in hand…

Editor’s note:  This writer is pro-Dodgers.

Odds & Ends…

It is funny watching the daily tweets about Joe Girardi’s appearances at Yankee Stadium. The fact that I know Girardi left the stadium at 1:10 pm yesterday shows how much New York writers are seeking to find stories about whether or not Girardi will return to the Yankees next season. So far, those writers have been disappointed. Girardi may not be giving away any signals of what is on his mind, but at least he’s talking with the team.  I remain hopeful that it leads to a new deal for the long-time manager. Honestly, who is out there that can do a better job than Girardi? I know that we’ve been frustrated with some of his decisions but I seriously doubt that any of us could do a better job. Hopefully Hal Steinbrenner moves quickly to re-sign both Girardi and GM Brian Cashman so that the team can start its off-season strategy to bring the 28th World Championship for the Yankees next season.    

Credit:  NY Post:  Richard Harbus

Saw the pic of Dellin Betances, Aaron Judge and CC Sabathia taking in a Brooklyn Nets game last night. Admittedly, I would have preferred to have seen these guys playing in Los Angeles. Or maybe Judge should have been in a batting cage working on those breaking pitches. Ha!  Next year, guys, next year…

Credit:  Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Have a great Thursday! I wonder what time Girardi will show up at Yankee Stadium today or when he will leave. Go Yankees!