October Baseball On Our Minds…
Everyone is talking like the New York Yankees are already in the World Series but I do not view (potentially) two games in Houston against the Astros to be a cakewalk. Tonight, the Yankees send their best (Luis Severino) against crafty veteran Justin Verlander who is very clearly a big game pitcher. If the Astros win tonight, they have to be viewed as the favorite for Game 7 in Minute Maid Park. We’re not in the Bronx anymore. But the Yankees have already defeated the best team in the American League in a best-of-five series and they are a single game away from reaching the Fall Classic. This Yankees team has incredible heart and a ‘no-quit’ drive like none other.
Regardless of what happens, I am very proud of the 2017 Yankees. Going into the season, it seemed like the experts were forecasting a .500 season at best. It was unclear if Aaron Judge or Aaron Hicks would win the right field job. Questions were abound about whether Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia had seen their better days. Or if Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius could continue their development in the middle infield. I was one of many uncertain if Luis Severino’s stronger future was in the starting rotation or the bullpen. The Yankees answered those questions (and more) and now stand one game away from the World Series. There is nothing that the Houston Astros can do to take away from the huge accomplishments achieved by the Yankees. This is a young team that is only going to get better. As the saying goes, ‘the future is so bright, I’ve got to wear shades!’
If the Yankees do make it to the World Series, they’ll be heading to Los Angeles next week. The Los Angeles Dodgers dethroned the Chicago Cubs last night to win the NLCS, 4 games to 1. The Dodgers throttled the Cubs, 11-1, behind the power of their utility outfielder. Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez put his name into the history books with three home runs and seven RBI’s as the Dodgers coasted to the victory behind the three-hit, one-run pitching of the great Clayton Kershaw over seven innings and three innings of scoreless relief from the bullpen. Kenley Jansen, the closer, is a stud, but where did Brandon Morrow come from? The one-time former closer of the Seattle Mariners and ex-Blue Jay has been ‘lights out’ for the Dodgers. He was 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 45 games this year, and in 4 games against the Cubs in the NLCS, he allowed only one hit, a walk, and no runs over 4 2/3 innings while striking out seven. There won’t be too many late inning rallies against the Dodgers.
For the Dodgers, their ten consecutive appearances in the post-season without a championship is the longest streak in MLB history. During that time, the Dodgers have been defeated in the NLCS four times, including last year on the very field they spilled champagne last night. This makes their eleventh appearance in post-season play since they defeated the Oakland A’s in the 1988 World Series.
The Managerial Musical Chairs…
Growing up watching the Yankees-Dodgers World Series (three times over five years from 1977 to 1981), it is very exciting and intriguing to think the Yankees might finally have the chance to avenge their loss in the 1981 World Series. Ironically, the 1981 Dodgers also had to get past the Houston Astros (in the NLDS) to reach the World Series. They defeated the Montreal Expos in the NLCS that year. The 1981 World Series was also the time when Owner George Steinbrenner allegedly got into an altercation with two Dodgers fans in the elevator of a Los Angeles hotel. Steinbrenner told reporters, “I clocked them. There are two guys in this town looking for their teeth and two guys who will probably sue me”. Steinbrenner was not sued and the two guys were never identified. Who knows if Steinbrenner really faced anyone in that elevator but the Yankees finally have the chance for redemption in the City of Angels if they can win one more game against the Astros (just one, let’s do it!). I am sure that the Boss would be very pleased.
The MLB Post-Season has certainly not stopped other teams from taking action, or at the very least, talking action.
The Detroit Tigers are expected to announce former Twins manager and current Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire as their manager later today (replacing the fired Brad Ausmus).
Ausmus remains a candidate for the job to replace John Farrell in Boston as the Red Sox manager, however, all reports indicate that current Astros bench coach Alex Cora is the likely choice. Cora is certainly getting a firsthand view of what he may be facing next year.
I personally think that it is a shame for current Chicago Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez hasn’t gotten stronger consideration for managerial openings.No word on the open jobs with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets, but former Yankees and current Mets hitting coach Kevin Long has emerged as a favorite for the post in Queens.
It remains to be seen if Yankees manager Joe Girardi returns next year. While one would think that it is a foregone conclusion that Girardi will be back with a new agreement in hand, it is also possible that family considerations could cause Girardi to walk away. I think the latter is a greater possibility if the Yankees lose the ALCS to the Astros. I continue to hope that Girardi and the Steinbrenner family come together on a new deal. I honestly do not see a better alternative currently available.
Have a great Friday! Like last night, let’s hope the road team is pouring champagne in the visitor’s clubhouse after the game. Go Yankees!
But at least it wasn’t for BIG money…
Good for Ivan Nova to get his new contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. All things considered, I am still glad that he is an ex-Yankee. Even though the Yankees are in desperate need of help in the starting rotation, I wasn’t looking for a reunion with the right-hander.
One headline I saw did strike me as odd. It basically said that Nova had signed but not for big money. 3 years, $26 million. Maybe it’s just me, but $26 million is definitely “big money”. Okay, if Nova pitches for Pittsburgh like he did after the trade from the Yankees last year, he’ll be a bargain. But still, receiving more than $8 million per year is still a heck of a lot of money for a historically inconsistent pitcher.
But the more telling headlines are about how great Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is. The so-called “Pitch Doctor” is getting the credit for Nova’s turnaround performance in Pittsburgh last year. The underlying tone of the message is that the Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild is inadequate. If Searage is so great, perhaps the Yankees should find a way to pry him from the Pirates.
I know that Rothschild has a good reputation, but at some point, someone has to be held accountable for the inconsistencies of the Yankees starters. Masahiro Tanaka rebounded to have a very solid 2016 campaign but the work put up by Michael Pineda continues to be frustrating to say the least. Luis Severino was dreadful as a starter. I can’t say that I’ve ever looked at Rothschild as an “amazing” coach. It would be nice to have one of those for a change.
Kevin Long is an excellent hitting coach. Yet, when Yankees hitters couldn’t hit, he lost his job and now flourishes in Queens. He remains better than the Yankees current array of hitting coaches. I personally felt that Long was a better hitting coach than Rothschild is a pitching coach. Long was held accountable and so too should Rothschild. The Yankees have too much at stake with their young, unproven starters to fail miserably because they didn’t have the right guy at the helm.
The Element of Surprise…
The World Series is not yet over, but the 2014-15 Hot Stove League is already well under way.
The biggest shocker was the announcement that Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon had opted out of his contract to become a free agent. While I knew that there was a financial gap between what Maddon would require upon the conclusion of his contract next year and what the Rays would be willing to pay, I certainly didn’t expect Maddon’s sudden availability. Interesting that he had to be told about the two week clause to opt out of his contract should former GM Andrew Friedman depart, but clearly a signal that the Rays organization wants to show that they are more than the Friedman-Maddon show. I’ve read that the Rays didn’t want Maddon playing as a lame duck manager next season and that makes sense. Still, he is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, manager in baseball.
Tampa Bay Times
I had expected Maddon’s availability to put Don Mattingly on thin ice in Los Angeles, but publicly the Dodgers have stood behind Mattingly as their manager for 2015. While I don’t think that Mattingly is the manager that Maddon is, I do believe that he eventually will be. Mattingly has continued to improve in my eyes, and he deserves the opportunity to succeed with the Dodgers. But it must be hard for new Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman sit idly by while his close friend is available to the highest bidder. With the only remaining managerial opening being in Minneapolis, it’s a given that if Maddon manages in 2015, a team will make a late decision to jettison their current manager. Speculation that it will be the Chicago Cubs certainly makes sense, but I feel bad for Rick Renteria who did a very good job last year with the younger Cubs.
If I owned a baseball team, I’d certainly consider making a change to bring in Maddon. It will be interesting to see where he lands. I really doubt that he’ll sit out a year waiting for the next job.
Meanwhile, I certainly do not feel bad for the Tampa Bay Rays. I am in favor of anything that weakens AL East Rivals, but I am sure that Tampa will be fine.
For the Yankees, they missed their guy when Chili Davis signed a three year deal to be the new hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox. Chili was my personal favorite for the job, and had hoped for his reunion with the Yanks. But it was not meant to be. With Dave Magadan off the board, it’s anybody’s guess who will replace Kevin Long as the Yankees hitting coach. Of the latest names, I do like the idea of the Yankees pursuing Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton or if they stay in house, someone like James Rowson. Without strong clear cut options, it does make one wonder if the Yanks were premature in letting Long go. It certainly didn’t take him long to find a new job in Flushing Meadow. With his reputation, it was a certainty that he wouldn’t remain unemployed very long.
John Munson/The Star-Ledger
In retrospect, the Yankees should have kept Long and brought in an assistant hitting coach. Regardless of who they hire as a replacement, I still think the Yankees should join the many team now employing two hitting coaches. My personal favorite for that role continues to be Hideki Matsui.
A wasted roster spot…
With the World Series now tied up, I am hopeful that it goes the full seven games. While I want the San Francisco Giants to win, I am not ready for the announcement that Alex Rodriguez has rejoined the Yankees active roster. I am not looking forward to his return and I do not feel that he’ll be the productive player that he once was. In my opinion, he’d look better someplace like Miami but the guy has no trade value unless the Yankees are willing to absorb what’s left on his inflated contract. He is definitely the poster child against long-term contracts. This has turned out to be one of the worst that I’ve ever seen. The thought of three more years of A-Rod is so incredibly painful. I sincerely hope that A-Rod’s presence does not deter the Yankees from re-signing free agent third baseman Chase Headley.
There was once a time that I thought A-Rod would never wear pinstripes again but sadly, it appears that I was wrong. Of course, it’s not my money and the Yankees still owe A-Rod too much to just release him.
Assuming the Yankees do bring back Headley, the position that scares me the most next season is first base. It’s hard to count on Mark Teixeira and when he plays, he is a shell of the player he once was. It is looking like A-Rod will be playing some first base which brings its own questions. I remain hopeful that Rob Refsnyder grabs second base in spring training. As for Derek Jeter’s replacement at short, I think the answer is outside of the organization. More than likely, it will be a short term solution. Asdrubal Cabrera probably makes the most sense unless it is determined that his long term future is better suited for second base.
With the World Series set to end either Tuesday or Wednesday, I am sure that the Hot Stove League will start heating up if the last few weeks have been any indication. No offense to either the Giants or the Kansas City Royals, but, outside of A-Rod, I am ready for the rebuilding of the Yankees to begin…
The first swing is a strike…
OK, I am bummed. Today’s news, aside from the fact that my beloved Minnesota Vikings and San Jose Sharks lost games, was the Boston Red Sox naming former Yankee Chili Davis as their new hitting coach. I had really hoped we’d see the return of Davis to New York to replace the departed Kevin Long. However, it is not meant to be. Not sure if Davis decided not to wait on the Yankees, or if they made a lower offer, or if Davis simply looked into the crystal ball and saw greater potential with the 2015 Red Sox hitters.
I wish Chili the best in his new job, and I am sure that he’ll be a huge benefit for Yoenis Cespedes given their prior success together in Oakland.
Where does that leave the Yankees? At this point, Dave Magadan is probably the strongest name on the board. Dante Bichette has been mentioned as a possibility. I have not kept up with Dante’s post-playing career, but he is an intriguing name given his close friendship with Manager Joe Girardi and his son is a prospect in the Yankees system. Another name that intrigues me is Jason Giambi. Not sure if he is ready to pull the plug on his playing days, but he’s obviously already moved into a mentoring role and would be a great guy for the position. With so many teams moving to the two hitting coach approach, I think the Yankees should follow suit regardless of who gets the job. A perfect combo might be Magadan with Hideki Matsui as his assistant hitting coach.
While I am disappointed that Chili Davis is no longer an option, I wonder if the team has already made its decision. Reports are that a new coach could be named by Tuesday which leads me to believe the Yankees have either made their decision or they’ve significantly narrowed the choices.
Hopefully next week brings some good news regarding Joe Girardi’s coaching staff. It’s funny. When your team is not in the World Series, you are anxious for the WS to end so that the Hot Stove League can begin.
Speaking of the World Series, I am pulling for the San Francisco Giants by default. My NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers but sadly they couldn’t make it to the NLCS. As a Bay Area resident, it’s not too hard to default to the Giants even if they are the Dodgers bitterest rival. It doesn’t matter that the Giants have that ‘been there, done that’ feel to them whereas the Kansas City Royals are returning to a stage they haven’t seen since 1985. I am ready for another Orange October…
1-0 to start the 2014-15 Off-Season…
First order of business has been accomplished. With the signing of GM Brian Cashman to a new three year deal, the off-season can officially begin. I am glad that Cashman will be returning, although I certainly would not have been opposed to Billy Eppler stepping into the role.
I found Cashman’s words about Alex Rodriguez to be intriguing. It was a public admission that the team does not plan to rely upon Rodriguez as its everyday third baseman. Granted, I am not an A-Rod fan, but I openly prefer to see the return of Chase Headley or would support the free agent acquisition of someone like Pablo Sandoval. To hear Cashman talk about A-Rod possibly playing first base, I think that’s a great idea as Mark Teixeira is another older veteran who can no longer be relied upon to perform every day. Of course, the use of 1B/DH between Teixeira and A-Rod doesn’t really leave much room for Carlos Beltran on those days that he can’t play the field.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I would still like to see the Yankees find a way to sever ties with A-Rod even if it means eating his contract. Easy for me to say given it is not my money but A-Rod, the 40-year old hip “impaired” DH that has not played in a year will not perform to the level of the money he is still owed. So, filling the roster spot with a younger, more durable player certainly makes sense.
At this point in Cashman’s career, he is building his Yankees legacy as the longest running Yankees GM that I’ve ever known. When his time is over, he’ll be remembered among the best of the all-time Yankees GMs. Rebuilding a winner in the next three years would go a long way toward putting Cashman at the head of the class. Of course, failure could mean his dismissal. After 17 years on the job, he is truly entering “what have you done for me lately?” territory.
The Fall Guys…
I have long agreed that Kevin Long has been a great hitting coach, but for whatever reason, the message didn’t work this year. Perhaps it was the direct product of the available talent on the roster or it was the loss of a vital cog in the heart of the order when Robinson Cano fled for Seattle. But regardless of the reasons, it was time for a change. So, I was not disappointed when I heard that Long and first base coach Mick Kelleher had been fired.
My personal preference for hitting coach would be the Oakland A’s Chili Davis. I know that the A’s offense stalled late in the season, but I’ve always respected Davis and what his bat meant to a lineup.
The Yankees will be competing with the Boston Red Sox in their search since the Sox also need a hitting coach.
For the World Series, after the Yankees failed to reach the play-offs and the Los Angeles Dodgers bowed out in the first round, my latest preference is the San Francisco Giants. Maybe it’s because I am a Bay Area resident but it would be good to see the Giants prevail even if the Giants and St Louis Cardinals have been frequent participants of the Fall Classic in recent years. There’s no way that I’ll pull for the Baltimore Orioles or the Kansas City Royals regardless of how many years it has been since they last won. I had really hoped that Don Mattingly and the Dodgers would have succeeded with arguably the best pitcher in baseball with Clayton Kershaw but his 0-2 mark against the Cards sealed their fate.
The Kid from Kalamazoo rides away…
I hate that I’ve been so pessimistic about the Yankees’ chances of making the play-offs this year, but the realization is slowly becoming a reality as time on the 2014 season draws to a close. For whatever reason, this just has never felt like the Yankees’ season. It had more promise than last year yet the team will actually end up with a worse record. As I write this, the Yankees hold a two game lead for second place in the AL East and that’s the most the team can aspire for.
After losing Martin Prado for the season due to an appendectomy, the latest blow is the potential season-ending loss of Jacoby Ellsbury with a hamstring injury.
It’s sad that the final season for future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter will end so quietly. In a way, it carries the same sadness that saw Don Mattingly’s career end with the 1995 play-off loss to the Seattle Mariners (his only post-season appearance in a tremendously successful Yankees career). Granted, DJ has enjoyed far greater post-season success than Mattingly could have ever imagined, but still, for the man coined as Mr. November, it’s sad that we will no longer be able to see his presence grace October.
Ironically, it is Mattingly who will experience the post-season this year as he has his Los Angeles Dodgers in a good position with a play-off spot secured and a 3 ½ game lead in the NL West over the San Francisco Giants.
With Jeter’s desire to one day be a major league owner, I wonder where his post-Yankees career will take him. It’s tough to see Mattingly wear another team’s uniform after he wore pinstripes for the duration of his Yankees career. I can’t imagine seeing Derek wearing another uniform. I was listening to Cal Ripken on the radio this week and his radio career ensures that he’ll forever be known as an Oriole and nothing else. That’s the way it should be, but Jeter’s aspirations for ownership will inevitably lead him elsewhere. I can’t see the Steinbrenner family selling him a substantial piece of the prized Yankees.
Thank you, Lord, for making him a Yankee…
Hats off to Hiroki Kuroda who has been such a great Yankee. I respected him when he was a starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but never really got a sense of his professionalism and the honor he bestows wearing his team’s colors. He has only been a Yankee for three years, but he made a difference and if this is his last year, he will leave a solid legacy. If he does play another year in the majors, I hope that he does return to the Yankees rather than going back to the Dodgers. But for whatever he decides, I will respect his decision because he has earned that right. If he does pitch for the Dodgers next year, or plays in Japan, or simply calls it a career, I will remain a fan.
My choice…they passed the audition…
I really hope the Yankees move quickly to re-sign Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy, and decide to bring back Chris Young. I think all three can play valuable roles for the 2015 season even with the return of Alex Rodriguez or the potential signing of a frontline starter like Jon Lester. The first order of business when the season ends is for the Yankees to re-sign GM Brian Cashman (or move on and name Billy Eppler as his replacement). The GM situation needs to be settled quickly so that the team can focus on its pursuit of improvement for 2015. I clearly want Cashman back, but I’d be happy with Eppler in the role too. I would not want to see the team bring in an outsider for fill the role.
I am anxious to see if Rob Refsnyder can take second base next spring. He may not be Robinson Cano but I think he’d bring excitement to the position.
A plethora of catchers…
The Yankees will need to do something about the glut of catchers this off-season. Francisco Cervelli is a great back-up and a potential starter, but John Ryan Murphy deserves a chance. Austin Romine seems to have become an afterthought and maybe he’d thrive with a change of scenery (not unlike what happened for his brother, Andrew Romine, who was dealt from the Angels organization and is now starting at shortstop for the Detroit Tigers). One of these days, Gary Sanchez will be knocking at the door and he will force his way onto the roster.
We know who replaced Mariano Rivera…
I guess the predictions that reliever Jacob Lindgren would make the majors by the end of the year after he was drafted in June did not come to pass. But there’s no doubt that he’ll be a contender for the bullpen next season. I really have no clue what the Yankees intend to do with David Robertson. If he becomes a free agent, there is a very real possibility that he will become a former Yankee. I am sure the Yankees are intrigued with the possibility of making Dellin Betances the closer after his All-Star breakout season. I think Betances can be a great closer but Robertson has certainly done everything the team expected from him. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I remember hating to see closer John Wetteland leave via free agency which thrust set up man Mariano Rivera into the closer’s role. I think that situation played itself out correctly (statement of the obvious). Time will tell if the team makes the right decision with Robertson.
Wanted: Clutch hits…
One Yankee that has come under a great deal of heat is hitting coach Kevin Long. Long respected at his craft, I wonder if the team’s offensive failures this year will force the Yankees to change coaches. As great as Long is, if the players are not responding to his message, it’s either time to get new players or change coaches. The latter is the cheaper route and it will most likely be the one the team makes. There are no obvious choices for who would make a better hitting coach. I’ve always liked Don Baylor but I don’t know his current situation. I think Bernie Williams would have made a terrific coach if he had chosen that path, but his musical adventure is his passion. Paul O’Neill? Another one of the hard choices for the Yankees to make.
As Derek Jeter rides off to the sunset, many questions and few answers confront the Yankees as they move forward.