Tagged: Mariano Rivera

Opening Day Success for Tanaka & Company…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Yankees Roll behind Tanaka and Voit…

I know, I am late to the party with writing about Opening Day but it was a very exciting day. Great weather, the wonderful presence of unanimous Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera throwing out the first pitch (I loved watching #42 fire one from the Yankee Stadium pitching mound), solid pitching by Masahiro Tanaka despite not having his best stuff, a villainous bullpen and a couple of home runs from people not named Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. It was an awesome day in the Bronx.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/The New York Post

The 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles felt like it could not have been better scripted. It was a great start to the highly anticipated 2019 season by the Yankees. There’s obviously a long ways to go, with 161 more games on the schedule, but it’s better to start with a win than not.

I was around some non-Yankee fans watching the game who took delight when Tanaka gave up a couple of hits in the first inning even if the second infield single hit the lead runner for the final out. They were predicting doom and gloom for Tanaka and the Pinstripers. I know the Yankees were playing MLB’s worst team but I knew Tanaka would persevere. Despite a lackluster Opening Day history, Tanaka seems locked in this year. I certainly wasn’t going to give up hope after a couple of meaningless hits. Tanaka shook off the first inning and never looked back. I think this will be a big season for him.

The Yankees didn’t have to wait long for their first home run of the season. The easy picks would have been Judge or Stanton, but it was Luke Voit who kicked off the 2019 chase to beat the Yankees’ 2018 record of 267 home runs. Granted, the Yankees would end the day six home runs behind the Los Angeles Dodgers but there’s no doubt many balls are going to leave Yankee Stadium this year for the home team. When Luke hit that ball in the bottom of the first inning with Judge and Stanton on base, I wasn’t sure if it was hit hard enough to go out but with his classic hop at the plate, I felt a sense of assurance it did have the necessary distance. Thankfully it easily carried over the center field wall into Monument Park for a 3-0 lead. Miguel Andujar almost made it a four-run game when his fly ball took left fielder Dwight Smith, Jr to the wall but it fell short of clearing the fence.  As many said, that ball would have easily carried out in the heat of August. In cool, crisp March, the ball decided to find Smith’s glove instead.

Aaron Judge may not have hit the first Yankee home run of the season but he did score the first run thanks to Voit’s homer. It was a great game for Judge, who went 2-for-3 with a couple of walks and three runs scored. He only struck out once, showing a very patient eye. Despite the presence of so many great offensive forces in the Yankees’ lineup, Judge is clearly the conductor and the heart and soul of the team’s engine.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

Great game for Luke Voit who also picked up another RBI in the bottom of the fifth when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Voit finished with one official at-bat, the three-run homer, with the HBP and two walks. While I didn’t think last year was a fluke for Luke, he still has a long way to go to prove it was not but this was a very good way to start. I have no desire to underestimate the Yankees’ very talented baseball analytics team. The Chasen Shreve/Giovanny Gallegos trade for the former Cardinals minor leaguer, with minimal Big League opportunities, was/is a steal.

Photo Credit: Chris Pedota/NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY Sports

In a game Luis Severino had been slated to start until rotator cuff inflammation forced a change in plans, Tanaka pitched very well. He lasted until the sixth inning when a two-out run scoring double by Trey Mancini (one of the few recognizable names in Baltimore’s lineup) ended his day. 5 2/3 innings pitched, scattering six hits, yielding a couple of runs with only one earned and striking out five was a good day. From there, the Yankees used a bullpen formula we’ll see frequently this year. Adam Ottavino, who ended the sixth inning threat with a seven-pitch strikeout, to Zack Britton to Aroldis Chapman. I know there was concern with Chapman’s velocity (he was off his usual velocity by 3 to 5 mph) but it’s early. Not time to sound the alarms yet. I’ll go with those who attribute the reduced velocity to the cooler weather and Chapman’s age-induced work to transition from a hard thrower to more of a pitcher. I remain convinced we’ll see triple digits when the warmer weather returns.

Credit to Greg Bird for answering Voit’s home run with a solo dinger in the eighth after three strikeouts.  Bird got the start at first base over Voit, forcing the latter to DH. I really like Voit as the team’s first baseman but I am certainly not going to complain if Bird finally has the year we’ve long waited for. I love Bird’s swing when his bat is happy and healthy.

Although I would have really enjoyed to see David Robertson return to the Yankees for this season, I’ve been excited about the addition of Adam Ottavino since the day he was signed. He had a great Yankees debut with 1 1/3 innings pitched and three strikeouts.  His pitches are wicked. When he’s on, the batters have no chance. If D-Rob has re-signed, the Yankees most likely would not have signed AO. So I am pleased the way things turned out despite how much I liked Robertson.

I think my only disappointment with Opening Day was D.J. LeMahieu sitting on the bench through game’s end. It’s tough being a starter without a position. He is capable of so much more. Hopefully Aaron Boone figures out a good way to keep LeMahieu on the field, with his incredible glove, this season and his productive bat  in the order to help keep runners moving around the bases. LeMahieu is potentially a huge answer to the team’s RISP problem from last season.

Opening Day was a great success particularly considering every AL East team, except for the Yankees, lost. Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox were bludgeoned in Seattle, although they did claw back and win last night’s game after trailing Seattle by two runs in the ninth inning, thanks to a three-run homer by Mitch Moreland off the M’s new closer, Hunter Strickland. Bummer that the Mariners traded their great young closer, Edwin Diaz, to the New York Mets in the off-season. If Diaz had been pitching, the Red Sox most likely would have lost their second consecutive game.

It stunk there was no Bronx baseball yesterday but the Yankees and O’s resume their series today. Woohoo! James Paxton will take the ball for his Yankees debut wearing the Pinstripes in Yankee Stadium for the first time. He’ll be opposed by Baltimore’s Nate Karns, the one-time Tampa Bay Ray. I am looking forward to watching Paxton on our side. Hopefully this will be a much better outing than his last Yankee stadium appearance. Last season, on June 21st, he surrendered two first-inning home runs to Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar and lost a 4-3 decision to Luis Severino and the Yankees. On the bright side, the Big Maple won’t have to pitch to Judge and Andujar today since those guys will be playing behind him.

Poor Chasen Shreve. After being designated for assignment by the St Louis Cardinals, he cleared waivers and was sent outright to Memphis. Shreve may get another chance with the Cardinals if the injury bug hits their bullpen (very possible with the presence of injury-beleaguered Andrew Miller) but I am sure this is not how Shreve had planned for this season to play out. I was a little surprised that no team took a chance on Shreve but his stock has certainly fallen. He’s a good guy so I am hopeful he gets another chance but the game is clearly evolving away from lefty specialists. So if he can’t prove he is capable of more, his future is not bright.

Ronald Torreyes also failed to make the cut with the Twins. With an option left, Toe was assigned to Minnesota’s Triple A team in Rochester. The few times I saw him in Spring Training, I thought he looked good and had a chance to make the MLB roster. Hopefully he’ll get his chance to call Target Field home at some point this season. Former Yankees Tyler Austin, Jake Cave and Michael Pineda were all part of Minnesota’s Opening Day roster. Austin’s spot seems to be the most tenuous as he’ll be the odd man out when Miguel Sano is activated off the Injured List. With no options left, Austin’s future looks murky. The Twins have C.J. Cron at first and Nelson Cruz at DH. Both spots can be backed by Marwin Gonzalez so Austin represents a luxury with no real spot once Sano is back at third. These things have a way of working themselves out so hopefully Austin carves out a significant role with the Twins. If not, he’ll be packing his bags and moving on to the next city.

Bryan Mitchell was another ex-Yank to get the guillotine. Sent to the San Diego Padres in the salary-dump trade involving Chase Headley, Mitchell had been expected to be part of San Diego’s starting rotation this year. He was designated for assignment a couple of days ago and now awaits his fate. Ex-Yank Jose Pirela, a part of the Padres’ MLB roster the last few years, was optioned to El Paso. Nobody ever watches Padres games so I’m not sure anybody will notice. Hopefully Mitchell gets an opportunity with another organization to fulfill the promise he once held as a Yankees prospect. If not, he’ll be catching up with Pirela in West Texas for some Margaritas.

Keeping on track with the ex-Yankees theme, I was glad to see Melky Cabrera get another chance. In camp as a non-roster invitee with the Pirates, he was added to Pittsburgh’s Opening Day roster when outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall was placed on the injured list. I can still remember those great victory celebrations when Melky was a Yankee but Cabrera has traveled through many cities since that time. Hopefully he’ll get to spend some meaningful time in the Steel City. Former Yankees seem to do well in Pittsburgh.

One-time Yankees’ top prospect Mason Williams also gets another chance. After playing with the Cincinnati Reds organization the last couple of seasons, he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles yesterday after being cut by the Reds a couple of weeks ago. He’ll report to Baltimore’s top farm team in Norfolk, VA. It doesn’t seem like that long ago we were hoping for great things in Pinstripes for Williams. I guess if you want an opportunity to play, signing with a talent-devoid organization is the way to go. No doubt he’ll find his way to Camden Yards at some point this year if he proves himself in Triple A.

I continue to be amazed no team has signed either Craig Kimbrel or Dallas Keuchel. I really thought they’d be signed before the start of the season. I had fully expected the Milwaukee Brewers to grab Kimbrel after it was announced closer Corey Knebel would need Tommy John surgery but I guess the presence of premier bullpen shutdown artist Josh Hader lessens the need.  Keuchel can help almost any team win more games. I kept expecting him to be a late training camp sign by his former team, the Houston Astros, but it never happened. The Astros still seem like his best option but for now, he has to throw every five days on his own dime. If I was the GM of the Atlanta Braves, I’d be all over Keuchel to help with the highly competitive NL East. Maybe the baseball analytics are right about the regression of Keuchel, but I have to believe he can still help somebody.

I am very glad the baseball season is back. It’s been a long off-season. Spring training is nice but it gets old after awhile. It’s awesome to see games that count once again. I am hopeful these games lead to an AL East championship and a highly successful October for the Yankees. We’ve waited a very long time for this year. As they say, time will tell but I like our chances.

As always, Go Yankees!

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2 1/2 Weeks to Tampa…

The Yankees’ Migration to Florida Begins…

When the calendar page turns next Friday, we will enter a month WITH Yankees baseball for the first time since last October. It may not be “real games” but we’re getting the band together again in Tampa, FL and the Yankees will be playing their first organized exhibition game in less than a month when they travel to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers on Saturday, February 23rd to take on the bullpen-challenged Boston Red Sox.

I don’t know about you but I am ready to see the guys at Steinbrenner Field and watching the navy blue spring jerseys in full force.

Before pitchers and catchers report to camp in roughly two and a half weeks, I’d really like to see the Yankees formally introduce their off-season acquisitions in a press conference at Yankee Stadium. It doesn’t appear it is going to happen but I always loved it when the Yankees held press conferences at the Stadium followed by photo sessions down on the often snow-covered field. It seems like ages ago when the Yankees acquired James Paxton, yet we’ve only heard his voice in interviews. Most of us have yet to see the smile on his face and the Big Maple tattoo on his arm as he talks about the excitement of being a Yankee.

Photo Credit: The Seattle Times (Ken Lambert)

If I owned the Yankees, I’d pull Paxton, Troy Tulowitzki, DJ LeMahieu, and Adam Ottavino to New York before they head to Tampa. Heck, Ottavino is already there so it would save Hal Steinbrenner some money.

Nice post yesterday by Bryan Van Dusen entitled “Bryce Harper Will Be a Yankee”.  It’s worth checking out if you haven’t already done so. The way the market is playing out seems to be opening the possibility that Harper could find his way to Yankee Stadium. While I’ve long been a Manny Machado guy, I don’t really see the fit with Manny anymore given the infield acquisitions and the optimism Didi Gregorious could be back sooner than expected. Will there be a mid-summer “acquisition” better than Didi? I don’t think so. But as Bryan outlined yesterday, Harper fits the Yankees so many ways. I am sure they’ve heard the words of the newest Yankees talk about the reasons they joined the team. The theme of of an organization that wants to win every year resonates as does the lifelong dreams of wearing the famed Pinstripes. We know Bryce desires to be a Yankee. Hal Steinbrenner can make it happen and provide Yankee fans with one of the greatest young players in the game today (to go with our collection of other great young players).

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

The Boston Red Sox are seemingly hamstrung by their payroll. Not that I want the Yankees to be in a similar position, but the time to strike is now. Show no mercy. I want a roster that ensures the Red Sox are the team battling for Wild Card position this season and not the Yankees. The weakest position on the team, in my opinion, is left field. Brett Gardner is simply no longer the player he once was. Getting old sucks. I have no trust in Clint Frazier’s ability to stay healthy until he proves that he can. Jacoby Ellsbury? Please. Bring Bryce Harper to New York. His presence would help the other guys in the lineup and he’d deflect pressure off guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez.

If the market moves in the Yankees’ favor and they do sign Harper for less than original estimates, it will be one of Brian Cashman’s best moves in his Yankees career. Bryce Harper, New York Yankees. It sounds so right (or should I say ‘so lefty’?). Works for me. Let J.A. Happ pick out a new number. I hope he has that problem.

Staying with the “it’s just money” theme, the Yankees got a good idea what it might take to retain CF Aaron Hicks when the Los Angeles Dodgers signed oft-injured CF A.J. Pollock to a five-year, $60 million contract this week. Hicks, if he can stay healthy this season, figures to command an equal if not greater deal. I probably wish Estevan Florial was closer to The Show but the Yankees will have some tough choices next off-season with Hicks, Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances.

It’s great to see the finalization of Adam Ottavino’s three-year contract. I am really excited about his presence on this year’s team. I wanted Ottavino to wear Number 0 but I understood the concerns of those who didn’t want the Yankees to issue a number that has never been worn in the history of the franchise. In the end, I am glad the Yankees made the decision to allow Otto to wear his number. I know many wanted Number 2 to be the last single digit worn but there’s no disrespect with Otto continuing the tradition of single digits. I was a little surprised when the Yankees retired Joe Torre’s Number 6. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the manager and I loved the championships he brought to the organization, but it’s not like he played on the field with number 6 and it’s not necessarily a number we strongly associate with him. I get retiring Casey Stengel’s number but honestly I think retiring numbers should be reserved for players, especially when the organization has so many retired numbers. Aaron Boone managed 162 regular season games last year plus the Wild Card game and ALDS, yet we could probably count on one hand the number of times we actually saw his number. Boone could win the next five consecutive World Series but I wouldn’t retire Number 17. The recognition should be for the players, not the coaching staff. Players have a greater effect on the success of a manager than the manager has on the players. The point is, Number 6 should still be in circulation, and Otto’s number 0 should not be the last single digit.

Well, since Number 6 is retired, I do think they should honor Roy White and give him equal credit for the number in the way Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra share the retirement of Number 8. Roy White was such a huge and consistent part of the Yankees in the early years of my fandom. The lifetime Yank deserves his day in the sun at Yankee Stadium, and recognition with a plaque in Monument Park. White played 15 years for the Yankees from 1965 through 1979. He was always overshadowed by the bigger names but he was the consummate professional and the glue on so many of those great Yankee teams. Maybe his numbers did not warrant the sole retirement of his number but he deserves credit for it as much as Joe Torre in a shared capacity, in my opinion.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Speaking of retired numbers, it will be interesting to see if the Yankees take Number 35 out of circulation now that Mike Mussina has been elected to the Hall of Fame. I was pleased to see Mussina make the HOF but he was never a lock to make it in my opinion. There are certainly a number of players who are equally deserving, or maybe even more so, that have never gotten the call. Nevertheless, I am proud of Mussina’s accomplishment. I had felt he should go into the Hall of Fame with his Orioles cap but I was pleased with his decision to go in with no logo like fellow Hall of Famer Roy “Doc” Halladay who was equally great on two teams (same as Moose).

Mariano Rivera. What else can you say? The first man unanimously selected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame. There is no one better deserving of the honor and recognition.  We were privileged to see one of the game’s greatest and the best to ever play his position for so many years at Yankee Stadium. Growing up, I always thought how cool it would have been to see Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle (in his prime) play. As it stands today, I am glad I was able to see guys like Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter, and the Sandman. It makes up for never having seen the earlier legends. Congratulations Mo! You were one of a kind and we may never see someone of your greatness again. It was our pleasure to watch you.

Lastly, I was disappointed to see Al Leiter’s departure from the YES Network. I get his reasons for stepping down (to spend more time with his family and mentor his 18-year-old son Jack who will most likely be seen on Major League mounds in about a half decade or so). I was glad to hear Al will continue to appear on MLB Network but his voice will be sorely missed in the YES Network broadcast booth.

I am excited that Baseball is right around the corner. After next weekend (the Super Bowl), all eyes will turn to America’s greatest game. Well, maybe not basketball fans and March Madness, but for the rest of us, the dawn of the 2019 season is on the horizon. Can’t wait.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yankees Close to Sonny Gray Trade…

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Noah K Murray)

Right-hander Appears Headed to Cincy…

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Cincinnati Enquirer (Kareem Elgazzar)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Newsday (Thomas A Ferrera)

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

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

As always, Go Yankees!

2019 MLB Hall of Fame & The Right to Vote…

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: SI.com

 

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

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

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

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

On to some current Yankee thoughts…

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

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

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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

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

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

As always, Go Yankees!

Corby, The Day After…

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Waiting for Mister Corbin…

Now we wait. Patrick Corbin concluded his visit with the Yankees last night over dinner with team executives. CC Sabathia was apparently on hand at Yankee Stadium yesterday to help lead a tour for Corbin and his wife, Jen.  Aaron Boone was also seen on the premises with pitching coach Larry Rothschild, bullpen coach Mike Harkey and postseason share non-recipient and analyst Zac Fieroh.

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Photo Credit: Richard Harbus

Multiple reports indicated there was no formal offer made by the Yankees (yet), but hopefully we’ll see movement in the coming days with the completion of Corbin’s visits to Philadelphia, Washington DC, and New York. I am sure he wants to settle the biggest financial decision of his life and move on to enjoying his off-season with his new bride.

Corbin
Photo Credit: Richard Harbus

One factor that hasn’t really been discussed much is the impact of Mike Harkey in the Corbin negotiations.  Harkey was the pitching coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2014 and 2015 which means he was part of the team that directly oversaw Corbin’s Tommy John surgery, rehab and subsequent return. I am sure Harkey learned a great deal about Corbin’s heart and determination during this process. I haven’t really seen anything written to describe their relationship but familiarity is a plus.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images (Norm Hall)

I fully expect Corbin to become a Yankee. Admittedly, there was a time when I thought Greg Maddux and Cliff Lee were going to be Yankees and we see how that turned out. I remember the heartbreak both times when we lost Maddux and Lee, but like the scales tilted slightly in favor of the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, respectively, in those cases, I hope it is advantage Yankees with Corbin. All signs seem to indicate they are. Ken Rosenthal reported last night that Corbin’s younger brother gave a best-man speech at Patrick and Jen’s recent wedding and concluded the speech by saying they all hoped the couple would be moving closer to home. The brother donned a Yankees cap as he made the statement.

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Via Twitter

As the Yankees attempt to reel in Corbin, one potential target could be slipping away. There is increasing noise over the last couple of days involving the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians regarding one of the trio of Tribe pitchers, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. It is speculated a potential deal could involve sending Yasiel Puig to Cleveland. The deal could be expanded to include Indians catcher Yan Gomes since the Dodgers’ primary catcher, Yasmani Grandal, is currently a free agent and not expected back. The Indians most likely would want some of the best Dodger prospects, like outfielder Alex Verdugo and/or catcher Keibert Ruiz (especially if Gomes is moved). 21-year-old righthander Dustin May is the Dodgers top pitching prospect. If the Dodgers and Indians consummate a deal, it presumably would remove the two remaining Indians pitchers from potential trade talks as the Indians remain a playoff contender.

J.A. Happ remains under consideration for the Yankees. While I would not be opposed to Corbin AND Happ, I would be disappointed if the Yankees only get the latter. As they say, you can never have too much starting pitching and we see every year the five starters you open the season with are never the five men left standing by the end of September. I am excited about a rotation that features Corbin-Severino-Paxton-Tanaka-Sabathia.  Severino-Paxton-Tanaka-Happ-Sabathia, not so much. Sorry, J.A., I know you wore the Pinstripes well but I’d prefer to keep the age-challenged member of the staff isolated to CC Sabathia.

Please end any Hot Stove chatter about a potential deal sending Gary Sanchez to Miami for J.T. Realmuto. Sanchez is not going anywhere, nor should he. I remain in Camp El Gary and I fully expect a rebound season in 2019.  He is a guy I want in the lineup. My confidence in his bat has not wavered and I do believe he’ll improve behind the plate. When he’s right, he is the guy you want in a clutch situation. I think Realmuto is a great catcher but we already have one.

I thought the San Diego Padres made an excellent investment to sign free agent pitcher Garrett Richards.  Richards will miss next season due to Tommy John surgery but he’s a top of the rotation starter when healthy.  I liked him as a good buy low candidate for the Yankees but a two-year deal for $18 million is not exactly buying low.  The Dodgers were in on Richards too but ultimately he chose the Padres and yesterday extended his heartfelt thanks to the Los Angeles Angels organization, calling out GM Billy Eppler by name among others.

In a bit of irony, the Ronald Torreyes trade eliminated a job for another former Yankee. After the Chicago Cubs acquired Torreyes earlier this week, they traded infielder Tommy La Stella to the Angels. To make room for La Stella, the Angels designated former Yank Jabari Blash for assignment. The Yankees had acquired Blash last off-season in the deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to San Diego, but they subsequently lost Blash on waivers. It’s funny, I saw one ridiculous (aren’t they all?) Twitter tweet saying Torreyes would become the next Jose Altuve with the Cubs. Under that logic, wouldn’t Blash be the next Giancarlo Stanton since he’s 6’6”?  Um, didn’t think so.

If the Mariners-Mets trade is concluded today as expected, I can’t say that I’ll be excited to see Robinson Cano in a Mets uniform. It will be a little bittersweet seeing Cano at second and Todd Frazier at third for New York’s second-best team.  But despite the possibility of Cano calling Citi Field home, I would not want that contract even if the Mariners pay down the $120 million left on Cano’s contract by $30 to $40 million. Sure, I think a 36-year-old Cano can help any team, but what will it look like when he is 38 or 39? In the National League, they won’t be able to hide him at DH so any defensive shortcomings caused by age will be magnified. I will be glad to see Cano back in New York City but I am happier he is not a Yankee.

Did soon-to-be Hall of Fame inductee Mariano Rivera really turn 49 yesterday?  How did that happen?! Happy Belated Birthday to Mo!  One of the greatest ever to wear Pinstripes.

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It’s a new day which means a new opportunity this could be the day Sonny Gray leaves Pinstripes. One can only hope. Waiting for Corbin to sign…waiting for Gray to leave.  I know, patience.

Patience

As always, Go Yankees!

Football, Turkey, Family, and the Yankees…

Much Love to the Yankees Universe…

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! 

We are thankful for the Yankees and a step further, we are thankful and grateful you are part of the Yankees Universe. These are exciting times for Baseball’s greatest franchise and we are hopeful next season will bring the 28th World Series Championship to the Bronx. To you and yours, enjoy the day and give your loved ones an extra hug from all of us.

Credit: @Yankees on Twitter

Unless you are a football fan, there’s probably not going to be much happening today sports-wise. I’ve seen the tweets on Twitter that it would be very much a Brian Cashman move of Brian Cashman to announce a major trade today. I doubt we’ll see any breaking news today but who knows. There’s nothing in the rule book saying trades and signings cannot happen today.

With Wednesday’s acquisition of another utility-type (speedy infielder/outfielder Tim Locastro) from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 40-man roster is full. The Yankees are just getting started with the off-season enhancement of its championship-quality roster so we know there are a few tenuous spots on the roster. Given the Yankees’ need for another high-end starter, a couple of bullpen replacement pieces for free agents David Robertson and Zach Britton, and possibly a strong option for the infield to help with the temporary absence of Didi Gregorius, there appears to be at least five roster spots that will need to be vacated.

Reviewing the roster, I see the following players at risk.

Luis Cessa – I think most of us have seen enough of Cessa and are ready to move on. There are teams that value him as a reliever so I think he’ll be moved. I know I have no trust in Cessa after hitters have seen him once or twice in a game. I just don’t see a long-term future in pinstripes for Cessa. He is simply a pedestrian starter in my eyes, and there are better options for the bullpen.

A.J. Cole – Thank you, next.

Sonny Gray – We know this is one spot that will be vacated. It is only a matter of time until Gray joins the ranks of ex-Yankees. For most of us, the sooner, the better. I’ve seen a few people on Yankees Twitter predicting a rebound season for Gray in pinstripes next year. Please, been there, done that. Like Cessa, we’ve seen enough to know Gray is not going to magically become a frontline ace for the Yankees. It is time to move on.

Domingo German – German represents insurance for the rotation, but I think Jonathan Loaisiga is a better option and the Yankees have to give Chance Adams a “chance” (sorry, had to do it). I feel Adams is better served in the bullpen but for now, he remains a starter and should be given every opportunity to succeed. My favorite pitching prospect is Albert Abreu but I don’t think he’ll be Major League ready by next season. He is on the 40-man roster so there’s always the opportunity for a late season call-up. Domingo Acevedo is also on the 40-man so I see it as a numbers game for German, and place him at the greatest risk of losing his spot among these names.

Ronald Torreyes – I know everybody loves Toe, but the Yankees seem to be bringing in other utility types (Hanser Alberto and the aforementioned Locastro). I am sure Yankees VP, Assistant General Manager Michael Fishman and his analytics team have very strong opinions about the players that will best serve the Yankees in the utility role. Thairo Estrada will be healthy and the bullet in his hip has finally been removed. Estrada, Alberto and Locastro will battle Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes, and I simply see Torreyes as the loser, making him a strong candidate to be non-tendered.

Jacoby Ellsbury – I place this name here only for my continued hope that Brian Cashman finally pulls a rabbit out of his hat to move Ellsbury. When healthy, I know, he’s a decent player. But I am done with DL’s-bury and ready to move on. If healthy, I think the Yankees should cut bait. There’s only two years left on his deal.  It’s an expensive decision to let go, but I see Ellsbury as addition by subtraction. If he is not ready to go by Spring Training, the best financial decision is to place him on the disabled list for continued insurance payments, but seriously, I just want to move on.

There are other players on the roster that could be moved in trades, but the above players are the ones that I see most at risk.

I was watching a replay yesterday of the Seattle Mariners game at Yankee Stadium on June 21, 2018 when James Paxton took the mound in his now “home” stadium against Luis Severino. The Yankees had two two-run homers in the first inning by Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar, narrowly missing a third home run when Seattle’s Mitch Haniger  leaped to rob Giancarlo Stanton of a long fly ball to the center field fence. Paxton settled down and chalked up nine strikeouts before he departed in the Yankees’ 4-3 victory. Here’s hoping his next Yankee Stadium start gets off to a better start. It was thrilling to watch the Yankees’ best two starting pitchers going at each other. I never really noticed it before but Paxton has very intense eyes when he is pitching. I also didn’t realize that he was such an Andy Pettitte fan growing up. The guy is clearly a competitor with an intensity that kind of reminds me of the heart of Lance Lynn (except Paxton has the arm to match the intensity). I don’t think we’ll have to worry about any ‘Sonny Gray-like’ meltdowns from Paxton.  Sure, he’ll have his clunkers like any other pitcher, but he seems to be a warrior to me. Paul O’Neill will be proud.

The deeper we get into the off-season, the more I want to see David Robertson return. I am so hopeful the Yankees and D-Rob can come to an agreement to allow Houdini to continue his “path in Pinstripes”. I get fired up every time I see D-Rob run off the mound at the conclusion of an inning. For the other reliever spot, I really want to see the Yankees sign Adam Ottavino but I wouldn’t be disappointed with the return of either Zach Britton or Andrew Miller. I just think Ottavino represents the safest choice. Well, actually Britton would the safest, but I think his desire for closer’s money will price him out of the Yankees’ reach.

I’ve seen some Yankee fans say the team should sign Boston’s Joe Kelly, currently a free agent. No, Hell NO! I don’t want to see that guy anywhere near Yankee Stadium in a home uniform. I prefer to see Yankees either teeing off on his pitches or slugging his face in with their fists. Sorry, I am not a proponent of violence but I do not want to see that guy on my team. He could be the greatest reliever in the history of baseball and I’d still want no part of him. I know, Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever in history but my point is I don’t care what Kelly is capable of, I don’t like the guy.

Lastly, I hope this is the year Mike Mussina gets into the Hall of Fame but I suspect he’ll fall short. He deserves his spot in Cooperstown so I hope he eventually gets there. As they say, time will tell. Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera should be a shoo-in.  There will be voters who leave Mo off their ballot for whatever reasons (which makes no sense to me), but I think he’ll come in with at least 95% of the vote. I can’t wait for the Hall of Fame inductions next year with a smiling Rivera present at the festivities. One of my all-time favorite Yankees.

Photo by Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Enjoy Thanksgiving, but, remember, Christmas is right around the corner…

As always, Go Yankees!

Happy Whitey Ford-Yogi Berra Day…

 2008 MLB All Star Game Red Carpet Parade
Photo Credit: SI.com (Kristyn Ulanday)

Opening the Gates of Steinbrenner Field…

 As the saying goes, today is the first day of the rest of your life. Or as I prefer to call it, the first day of the 2018 New York Yankees. Welcome, Pitchers and Catchers! Your host, Aaron Boone, and his staff are eager and ready to serve you.

I am excited and anxious to hear Boone’s kickoff press conference today at 12:00 pm ET. We’ve heard Boonie talk over the winter but now he’s officially in uniform and ready to lead Baseball’s most storied franchise to the Promised Land. It’ll be cool to get a glimpse inside his mind as he begins his Pinstriped Journey in earnest. Sure, he’s had the conference calls with his coaches and shared text messages, a few rounds of golf or dinner with his players, but today it gets real. It’s a very exciting time in the Yankees Universe. After meeting with the press today, Boone will lead the first official workout tomorrow on Valentine’s Day. Very appropriate given how much we love these Yankees.

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My most recent fear was averted yesterday when it was the Texas Rangers (and not that the Yankees) that gave a minor league contract with training camp invite to free agent third baseman Trevor Plouffe. I was starting to get worried that we’d see him in Tampa, but alas, the Rangers saved the day.

There’s still time for new faces to appear but at the moment, the starting rotation returns intact from top to bottom and the leading contenders for second and third bases are Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, respectively. The next few days will feature many bullpen sessions and we’ll get our first images of the new season.

I am ready for Yankees baseball.

The Freak is back…

Speaking of reclamation projects, the Yankees will send a scout to watch Tim Lincecum’s showcase in Seattle on Thursday according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Admittedly, when I first heard the 34-year-old was attempting another comeback, I scoffed. Two years ago, he signed a deal with the Los Angeles Angels after providing an open tryout in front of scouts. He failed miserably, going 2-6 with 9.16 ERA in nine games pitched.  His WHIP was an unsightly 2.374. Maybe there’s nothing left, but then again, maybe there is.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images, via Men’s Fitness (Joe Robbins, Otto Greule, Jr)

People scoffed at Bartolo Colon when he made a comeback with the Yankees a few years ago, yet he continues to pitch and it is likely he’ll find another Major League contract somewhere this year. I am not saying that Lincecum is Colon, but at one time, Lincecum was a very good pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. I seriously doubt he’ll ever be anything close to that level again but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Why not take a shot? If he shows nothing, you help him pack his bags and send him on his way. He certainly won’t be cost prohibitive at this point in his career. I’d sign him if he shows anything on Thursday. He wouldn’t unseat any current starters in the rotation regardless of how well he throws but he could be a better option as a replacement starter than Luis Cessa if he has anything left. I am sure some team will take a chance on The Freak through a minor league deal to see if he can help.

 Stick a fork in him, he’s done…

 I am so very disappointed in Rich “Goose” Gossage. At one time, the guy was my favorite player. I loved to watch him come into games throwing heat and shutting down the opposition. It was tough to watch Goose leave the Yankees when he signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres in January 1984. Even tougher watching the Padres in the World Series that year, who also featured former Yankee Graig Nettles at third base, even if they lost to the Detroit Tigers. I was excited when he played for a couple of months with the Yankees at the end of the 1989 season despite being in the twilight of his career. I was proud when he was named to MLB’s Hall of Fame in 2008. Unfortunately, his behavior since that time has been anything but professional.

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Last year, he took shots at Hall of Famer-to-be Mariano Rivera, one of my all-time favorite Yankees over the course of my lifetime, which I did not appreciate nor respect. When I heard the Yankees had not extended an invitation to Spring Training for Goose this year, I felt it was the right thing. The Yankees did not need the unwanted attention and distraction for a new manager and coaching staff. Yet, the New York Daily News beat writers had to reach to Goose to get comment about the spurned invitation and he chose to use it as a forum to go off on GM Brian Cashman.

Frankly, I don’t care if Gossage ever sets foot in Yankee Stadium again.  He comes across as an angry old man to me.  I am tired of his “back in my day” rants. He played in a different era but it doesn’t mean that it was better. The game has changed. Sadly, Gossage has not. There is no place for him with today’s game and no place for him in the Yankees Universe. Let him go play Old Timer’s games with the Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s or Seattle Mariners. What? Those teams do not hold their former players in same high regard as the Yankees? Sucks for him. Good riddance…

Rest in peace, facial hair…

We also say goodbye to CC Sabathia’s beard.

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While I personally feel that the Yankees should change the long-standing team policy that prohibits facial hair outside of “porn star” mustaches, it’s too bad that they can’t at least open Spring Training to a relaxed hair policy before the team heads north to put on the famed pinstriped jerseys. Sabathia had a very cool beard this winter, as did a number of other players. It would be nice to see them with a tougher look, if only for the exhibition games at Steinbrenner Field. Some guys, like Jordan Montgomery, could seriously stand an edgier look instead of the choir boy approach.  I know, the hair policy will never change. The Steinbrenner Family will always preserve George’s wishes as long as they own the team. I get the professionalism aspect to the policy but I am also a believer in self-expression. I am not crazy about Justin Turner’s flowing red hair and beard with the Los Angeles Dodgers but it is who he is and I would not want to change him. If it works for the player, it works for me.

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The baseball offseason is over. It is time to get to work…

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Photo Credit: Newsday (J Conrad Williams, Jr)

 Go Yankees!