Tagged: Mariano Rivera

The Empire Strikes Back, Dodgers-Style…

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

2017 World Series

Dodgers 6, Astros 2…

Series Tied, 2-2

The Dodgers ensured that the World Series will begin and end in Los Angeles with their victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday night. They may not win but Dodger Stadium will be the site of the next World Series Champions.  

This has been a very good World Series and Saturday’s game certainly added to the collection of classics. Dodgers starter Alex Wood carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. When he gave up a hit, albeit a home run, he was gone and it was time for the Dodgers bullpen. Similarly, Houston’s Charlie Morton picked up where he left off against the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS. The former Pirates starter, whom I always viewed…maybe unfairly…as very average, was magnificent with a three-hitter of his own. Neither starter figured in the outcome of the game which was decided in the ninth inning battle of Closers.  

The Dodgers started the game right when Chris Taylor led off with a single to center. Corey Seager struck out and Justin Turner got under a pitch to pop out to short. Then, with Cody Bellinger at bat, Taylor tried to do a delayed steal against catcher Brian McCann. Wrong move. McCann to shortstop Carlos Correa at second easily erased Taylor and ended the inning.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

Wood and Morton battled through the early part of the game in a very good pitching duel. While Wood was still pitching his no-hitter, the Dodgers had their first real chance for runs in the top of the 6th. Austin Barnes, leading off, was hit by a pitch on the right forearm. After Joc Pederson flied out to left, Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez singled into right center field to put runners at the corners. Chris Taylor hit a grounder to third and Barnes broke for home. Third baseman Alex Bregman took the grounder and threw it to Brian McCann to nail Barnes before he could reach safely reach the plate. 

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

Hernandez moved to second but he would stay there when Corey Seager flied out to left to end the threat with no runs for Blue.  

In the bottom of the 6th, Wood kept his no-no intact for the first two hitters. Marwin Gonzalez grounded out to third (nice recovery by third baseman Justin Turner after knocking down the ball) and Brian McCann struck out. It brought George Springer to the plate. Three successive balls and a strike put Springer in a very favorable hitter’s count. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Wood tried to place an 82 mph curveball over the plate. Springer got all of the ball to send it airmail high over the left field wall.  

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

End of Wood’s no-hitter, end of Wood’s scoreless outing, and end of Wood. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, taking no chances, went to the pen and brought in Brandon Morrow. Morrow finished off Alex Bregman by getting him to ground out to third, but the Astros led, 1-0.

The Dodgers tied the game in the top of the 7th inning. With Charlie Morton still on the mound, Cody Bellinger’s bat woke up (0-for-13 with eight strikeouts) when he rapped a one-out double to deep left into one of those weird angles in Minute Maid Park.  

Credit:  AP – David J Phillip

Astros manager A.J. Hinch came out, removing Morton after a brief talk, and brought in reliever Will Harris. Yasiel Puig flied out to right for the second out to bring former Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe to the plate. Forsythe came up with perhaps the biggest hit of his career when he singled to left center, with Bellinger racing around third to easily score. Austin Barnes hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Forsythe at second, ending the inning, but at least the Dodgers had made it a tie game.

After a quiet 8th inning for both teams, the game moved into the 9th. The Astros brought closer Ken Giles into the game, replacing Chris Devenski. Corey Seager singled to right center, past a diving Jose Altuve, and the Dodgers were in business. Justin Turner worked a walk to put runners at first and second.  Cody Bellinger, with renewed confidence after his hit in the 7th, doubled to  left center to score Seager. Turner held up at third.  Hinch pulled his closer at that point and brought in Joe Musgrove. The Dodgers also replaced Turner at third with Charlie Culberson. After Musgrove struck out Yasiel Puig, Logan Forsythe was intentionally walked to load the bases and create the potential double play opportunity. Austin Barnes lofted a sacrifice fly to right, deep enough to easily score Culberson. The Dodgers were up, 3-1. Next up was Joc Pederson, who struggled during the 2017 regular season including time in the minors. Redemption was delivered in the form of a 408 feet shot to right for a three-run homer.  

Credit:  LA Times – Robert Gauthier

The Dodgers had taken a commanding 6-1 lead. Meanwhile, closer Kenley Jansen was continuing to warm in the Dodgers bullpen. Kiké Hernandez flied out to left to send the game to the bottom of the 9th with the Dodgers holding the five-run lead.

Time for Kenley Jansen. Brian McCann had the first shot.  He laid down a bunt on the left side but Carlos Correa reacted quickly and his throw to first beat the slow-footed McCann. George Springer struck out and the Dodgers were just one out away from victory. Alex Bregman had other ideas and his shot to the short wall in left gave the Astros their second run of the game. The last lick (term courtesy of Michael Kay) was made by Jose Altuve who flied out to center to end the game. Dodgers win, 6-2!

It was great to see Cody Bellinger finally erupt. No home runs from the young slugger but his doubles were instrumental in the victory. As the Aaron Judge of the Dodgers, Bellinger is the key for Blue. After the win, Bellinger said, “It’s a beautiful game”. Yes, it is.

Credit:  LA Times – Wally Skalij

There were plenty of comments after the game that referred to Astros closer Ken Giles as Houston’s version of Dellin Betances. Ouch. Dellin has some image rehabilitation to do. There’s one way to do that…performance.

After team congratulations on the field, I liked the way Clayton Kershaw, by himself, walked to the pitcher’s mound and looked down toward home plate for a preview of Sunday night. The tall Texan has a chance to put the Dodgers ahead in the World Series tonight on his native Lone Star turf. Whichever team grabs the win today will hold a tremendous advantage when the series resumes on Tuesday in Chavez Ravine.mLike the games before it, it should be an outstanding game and another classic.  

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

Odds & Ends…

I think it was Ken Rosenthal who mentioned it first, but the hottest name bubbling on the rumor mill yesterday for Yankees manager was Jerry Hairston, Jr. J-Hair has been a Dodgers broadcaster since he retired in 2013. I like Hairston but the lack of managerial experience, or more importantly coaching experience, is troublesome. I’d love to have a guy like Hairston on the coaching staff but I think manager is a bit of a reach at this point.  

It was awesome to see Yankees Legend Mariano Rivera, the greatest Closer of All-Time, at the World Series, along with Trevor Hoffman, as they participated in the Reliever of the Year Awards for Kenley Jansen (NL) and Craig Kimbrel (AL).  

Credit:  AP – David J Phillip

I really didn’t expect Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel to lose time in the World Series for his offensive gestures directed at Dodgers starter Yu Darvish, but I thought the five game suspension with no pay to start the 2018 season was weak. His racial insensitivity was not acceptable and MLB should have made a bigger statement.  

Have a great Sunday! Missing the Pinstripes. Go Yankees!

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Guilty of Playing Favorites…

There have been better Yankees than Derek Jeter.  Yes, I said it…

I know I should not say any disparaging words about Jeter but for as many fans as he had during his playing days, he was just not one of my favorites.  Sorry guys and more importantly, gals.  I liked the player and enjoyed his time, but probably more so in the earlier part of his career.  When everyone was wearing #2 jerseys, I was just not feeling it.  Throughout the last Yankees dynasty, my favorite player was Mariano Rivera.  So, basically from the time he started until he walked off the field for the final time, Mo was my favorite Yankee.  Well, I guess I should say that he didn’t technically become my favorite until 1996 when he zinging bullets in front of closer John Wetteland.  Up to 1995, my favorite was Donnie Baseball.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed watching Jeter’s final days and the memorable last game at Yankee Stadium.  I’ll watch on Sunday with interest as the Yankees retire #2 to Monument Park.  I’ll be thankful for his time in pinstripes, and he’ll not be forgotten.  He just wasn’t one of my favorites, that’s all.  Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte…loved those guys when they wore pinstripes.  I can’t put a finger on it but I’ve never  felt the same way about Jeter.  For all his faults, I even loved Darryl Strawberry.  His home run swing is still one of my all-time favorites.  Maybe this is why it is easier for me to accept the fact that Jeter might be part of the ownership and management team for the Miami Marlins.  At that point, he’ll just be another dude.  No different than Brian Sabean, Dick Tidrow and Dave Righetti in San Francisco except that he’ll have an ownership stake in his team.  I am sure that Jeter will pull for the Yankees as long as they are not playing the Marlins but you know if they do meet, Jeter will be pulling out every stop to beat Baseball’s most storied franchise.  

I was glad when Jeter was finally out of the way and we were able to upgrade, first defensively and later offensively, with Didi Gregorius.  It was time for change.  I am sure the day will come when I’ll be glad to see Didi’s replacement. Unfortunately, all of us are adversely afflicted with aging.  Well, except for maybe Betty White.

I am not trying to offend anyone.  It’s simply a case that all of us are entitled to our own opinions.

I’ve been aware of Jeter since he was an 18-year-old from Kalamazoo, Michigan, picked 6th overall in the 1992 MLB Draft.  It was a great long successful career.  But there is nothing in the Yankees Fan Rule Book that says he had to be one of my favorites.  I always thought the crowds Jeter would draw at baseball games were somewhat humorous.  Women swooned in his presence and maybe a few guys.  He now lives a life in a mansion in Florida and is married to one of the most beautiful women in the world.  He obviously has excess cash to spend as part of the ownership group seeking to purchase the Marlins.  He lives in a world that I’ll never know or understand.  Pardon me, but I’d rather cheer for Aaron Judge or Gary Sanchez on Sunday.  Enjoy your day, Derek.  Lou Gehrig had it wrong.  You’re the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.

Since I seem to be on a negative roll today, I’ll go ahead and include Carlos Beltran.  Despite Beltran’s interest in returning to the Yankees in the off-season, I am thankful that he opted to grab the one-year, $16 million deal from the Houston Astros.  Beltran did a fine job as a Yankee and he was arguably our best hitter the first part of last year, but I strongly prefer Aaron Judge in right field (the obvious no-brainer) and Matt Holliday at DH.  I have absolutely no issue with the Yankees for not engaging Beltran in talks during his free agency period last November-December.  His present team might be one of our biggest roadblocks to October but I had/have no interest in a reunion tour with Beltran.

The Yankees fell to the Houston Astros 3-2 last night in the first game of a four game set.  This series is one of the major tests to determine if the Yankees are for real.  I knew, looking at the pitching matchup, this was going to be the hardest one with Yankee killer Dallas Keuchel on the mound.  In picking up his sixth win of the year, Keuchel dominated the Yankees as he always does.  In 50 2/3 innings, he has only allowed seven Yankees to cross home plate.  CC Sabathia would let teams do that every game if Joe Girardi allowed him to go deeper into games.  For the game, Keuchel went six innings.  He only gave up 5 hits and allowed an unearned run.  He walked one and struck out nine.  As tough as Keuchel was, the Yankees had their chances.

It didn’t help that the Astros jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning before many people had even gotten to their seats.  The first hit of the game was a double by Josh Reddick that fell between Didi Gregorius and Jacoby Ellsbury.  It was a play that Ellsbury should have called but didn’t, leading Didi to attempt a failed catch with his back turned.  With two outs, Carlos Correa homered to center, scoring Reddick.  The Yankees were never able to recover.

I certainly do not place any blame with Michael Pineda.  He did his job.  He gave up three runs over 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and a walk.  He struck out seven.  

With the bases loaded in the fifth and two outs, Jacoby Ellsbury was credited with an RBI on catcher’s interference (his bat hit Brian McCann’s glove).  It was the 28th catcher’s inference that Ellsbury has accumulated over his career, trailing Pete Rose by one.  Gary Sanchez grounded out to end the threat, leaving the bases loaded (one of the game’s missed opportunities).

The Yankees couldn’t get anything going against Chris Devenski, who replaced Keuchel in the seventh inning.  Devenski has been one of Baseball’s best setup men so far this young season.  But opportunity presented itself in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Yankees trailing 3-1.  With two outs, the Yankees had runners at second (Ellsbury) and third (Aaron Hicks) against Astros closer Ken Giles.  Gary Sanchez hit a single to left, scoring Hicks.  Third base coach Joe Espada also sent Ellsbury, but a perfect strike from left fielder Jake Marisnick to Brian McCann nailed Ells at the plate to end the game.

Credit:  Kathy Willens/AP

The Yankees fell to 21-11, allowing the Baltimore Orioles to re-take sole possession of first place in the AL East by a half-game (the O’s were off).  On the bright side, we won’t be seeing Keuchel again this series.  Tonight’s matchup will be tough as young Lance McCullers, Jr has performed well so far this year (2-1, 3.40 ERA).  The Yankees counter with Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 3.81 ERA).  

Have a great Friday!  Time to show the Astros that we are for real!

I Guess It Was In The Cards…

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Credit:  Elsa/Getty Images

The World certainly looks better when the Yankees are winning.  We have our  own problems but somehow they seem more manageable when the Yankees win.

While it was technically a quality start by definition, Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff on Friday night.  He got off to an ominous start when he gave up a two-run first inning home run to Matt Carpenter of the St Louis Cardinals.  Carpenter, by the way, makes a strong point for the Yankees Facial Hair policy as he proves not everyone looks good with a beard.  Fortunately, the Yankees answered Carpenter’s homer very quickly when Starlin Castro, no stranger to the Cards from his days with the Chicago Cubs, launched a two-run bomb of his own to tie the game.

An Austin Romine solo homer and a run courtesy of a throwing error by Cardinals second baseman Kolton Wong were the only additional runs the Yankees needed to hold off St Louis for their fifth consecutive win.  Tanaka was strong after the shaky first inning until he got into trouble in the seventh.  He finished the game with 6 2/3 innings, five hits, three runs, two walks and five strikeouts to pick up his first win of the year.

The game was in doubt in each of the seventh, eighth and ninth innings as the dynamic trio of Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman succeeded Tanaka.  Clippard, replacing Tanaka with runners at second and third and only one out, got both Wong and Dexter Fowler on fly outs with a great play by Aaron Judge on the latter as it looked like it could have been an extra base hit.  Betances was solid as he recorded all three outs in the eighth by strikeout, but he did have  brief trouble throwing strikes as he nearly walked Matt Carpenter and then did walk the next batter, Stephen Piscotty, on four consecutive balls.  In the ninth inning, Aroldis Chapman, pitching for the third consecutive day, walked Randal Grichuk after easily getting the first two outs of the inning.  The next batter, pinch hitter Jose Martinez, hit a solid double to left, which Brett Gardner got back to the infield quickly keeping Grichuk from scoring.  The Cardinals third base coach initially wanted to send Grichuk but quickly changed his mind when the ball was returned by Gardner so quickly.  That brought Chapman’s former Cubs teammate Dexter Fowler to the plate in a match-up of World Series Champions.  Chapman won the battle as Fowler grounded out to Starlin Castro, and the baseball safely made it to first base before the speedy Fowler did.

It was an intense game but with Yankees-Cardinals, you wouldn’t expect anything less.

I watched Matt Holliday with great interest as this was the first time he had played against the Cardinals since May 8, 2008 when he was a member of the Colorado Rockies.  For the game, Holliday did nothing as he was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.  I am sure that it was an emotional night for Holliday, being reunited with his former Cardinals teammates.  It would be hard to spend eight years with a team and not have emotional attachments.  Holliday’s last game against the Cardinals in 2008 was a much greater success.  He was 4-for-5, with three runs scored, in Colorado’s 9-3 victory over St Louis.  On that same night (to put into perspective how long it has been), Mike Mussina was beating the Cleveland Indians, 6-3, with a save by Mariano Rivera.  Hopefully, Holliday will have greater success against his former team today and tomorrow.

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I know that Greg Bird has struggled with the foot injury and the flu, but I am concerned about his 1-for-23 start.  He hasn’t indicated any signs of the hitter he was during Spring Training.  I had hoped the days of Mark Teixeira and his ice-cold starts were a thing of the past with the new first baseman but so far that’s not been the case.  Hopefully, Bird will get untracked soon and start hitting like we know he can.  I prefer Bird at first over Chris Carter, but if Bird continues on this path, we’ll be seeing more of Carter.

The Yankees are currently 2nd in the AL East Standings behind the Baltimore Orioles.  The biggest surprise to me isn’t that the Boston Red Sox are in the 4th place with a .500 record (they’ll catch fire sooner rather later), but rather the last place Toronto Blue Jays with only one win on the year (1-9).  I think I heard a stat that no team that has lost 9 of its first 10 games has ever made the playoffs.  The Blue Jays were predicted to battle the Red Sox at the top of the division.

I have to comment on two incidents that occurred with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens and two of their former tight ends in the last 24 hours.  One was a very heartwarming story (no pun intended) and the other was one of life’s most devastating moments.  In December, former Ravens tight end Konrad Reuland died of a brain aneurysm.  On Friday, it was revealed that the recipient of his heart and kidney was none other than legendary Hall of Famer Rod Carew.  Ironically, Reuland’s age (29) matched Carew’s playing number for the Minnesota Twins.  Also, on Friday, former Ravens tight end Todd Heap accidentally struck and killed his three-year-old daughter while moving his truck in his driveway in Mesa, Arizona.  This was such devastating news to hear and I cannot possibly imagine how Heap will be able to deal with this tragedy.  I am so very saddened by this news, and my thoughts and prayers go out to Heap and his family.

It’s kind of hard to say ‘have a great day’ after that news, so I’ll only say hug your loved ones and be thankful they are in your life.

Sticks and Stones may break my bones…

Some words are better left unsaid…

I was disappointed that the Yankees could not reach agreement with Dellin Betances before proceeding with the arbitration hearings.  It’s never good when a player has to sit in a room to hear about his faults.  It’s hard to walk away without some residual adverse impact.  Once it was determined there was no common ground, the Yankees cannot be faulted for allowing the arbitration to proceed.  It is just a very unfortunate situation.

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Credit:  Andrew Savulich, The New York Daily News

The Yankees, based on prior arbitration cases, were probably fairly confident they would prevail.    The gap of $2 million may not have seemed to be great, but in terms of the dollars it could eventually cost the Yankees on new deals with Betances or the precedent it would have set could have been very costly in the grand scheme of things.

Yet, it was absolutely out of line for Yankees President Randy Levine to gloat after the arbitrators announced Betances would be paid the Yankees offer of $3 million rather than his request for $5 million.  Levine’s comments that Dellin’s $5 million request was “over the top” and “not based on reality” were unnecessary and ultimately inflammatory.  If Betances had any lingering hard feelings before, they’ve multiplied.  Given Levine’s extensive background in Labor Law, I am very surprised that he’d make those type of comments.  The words do seem out of character for a Labor attorney.  I’ve never been a big fan of Levine’s but it’s hard to dismiss his accomplishments which included work at the U.S. Department of Justice during the Reagan administration, former Labor Commissioner for New York City, and MLB’s chief labor negotiator during the negotiations for the 1996 MLB Labor Agreement.

So, maybe that’s why the unnecessary words that Levine spoke yesterday hurt even more.  He, more than anyone, should have known better.  There was no value in attacking Dellin’s attorneys, and the long-term impact is only harmful.  If Dellin eventually walks away when free agency arrives, we’ll be able to look back at this day as the first nail in the coffin.

There are some guys in the Yankees executive management team that you want to keep away from talking to the media.  Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner is one, but you can certainly add Levine to the list.  Levine has been the Yankees president since 2000 but maybe it’s time to bring in a younger, more open-minded replacement.  If I owned the Yankees, I would probably promote Brian Cashman to President, Baseball Operations, hire a new general manager, and show Levine the door.

Goose being Goose…

Every spring, Rich “Goose” Gossage shows up and makes statements that sound like he’s been smoking too much weed in Colorado.  His remarks in training camp that he cannot be compared to “one inning” closers like Aroldis Chapman and Mariano Rivera was absurd to say the least.

Nevertheless, I felt Brian Cashman’s comments were perfect when he said that he had more important things to think about like drinking his cup of coffee and working on his tan.  That’s exactly how I take anything Goose has to say.

I loved the guy when he was the Yankees closer, and he was arguably my favorite Yankee (after the unfortunate loss of the beloved Thurman Munson).

Goose is only trying to draw reactions with his words.  He played during a different time, and it’s very hard to compare the challenges he faced in the 70’s and 80’s to modern times.  The game has evolved.  Despite nearly 500 more career innings than Rivera, Goose had barely more than half of the total career saves.  Goose was a great Yankee for 6 years.  Rivera was a great Yankee for 19 years.  Rivera’s number (42) would have been retired even if MLB hadn’t retired the number league-wide for the great Jackie Robinson.  Last time I checked, Goose’s number (54) is neatly placed on the back of current closer Aroldis Chapman.

Goose just needs to enjoy his time in Florida before he hops on a plane to travel back to his favorite Cannabis shop in Colorado Springs…

–Scott

Life as a Yankees fan…

42 Years…

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My interest in Baseball began in my childhood like most fans.

I can remember NFL Football as the first sport I discovered but my passion and love for Major League Baseball started a few years later and quickly rose to favored status.

I consider 1972 as the year I started following Football with close interest.  That’s the year I became a fan of Fran Tarkenton and the Minnesota Vikings.  I was aware of Football in the immediate preceding years, but my father died in early 1972 at the age of 42.  I found the Vikings gave me something to focus on as I processed my grief.

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Along this same time period, I started following the Oakland A’s.  In the 1970’s, they were a very colorful team with a unique owner and a collective cast of characters that were routinely championship caliber.  But the one player that stood out to me was A’s starting pitcher Jim “Catfish” Hunter.  As a North Carolina farmer, fisherman, and general outdoor enthusiast, Catfish had a very easy and engaging personality to go with the fantastic arm.

During the 1974 season, Catfish finished 25-12, with a 2.49 ERA, while winning the AL Cy Young Award.  Meanwhile, the A’s were winning their third consecutive World Series championship.

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I had been aware of the perfect game that Catfish had thrown during the 1968 season and it was easy to identify with him as my favorite active player.

One of the very first books that I read was a biography about Yankees legend Lou Gehrig so I naturally carried positive feelings about the Pinstripers and their rich, legendary history.

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This set the stage for December 31, 1974.  After aggressive pursuit by the majority of the MLB teams, Catfish, a free agent, signed a five-year contract with the New York Yankees.

I remember feelings of disappointment that the A’s had allowed Catfish to become a free agent and could not envision myself as an A’s fan without him on the mound despite their recent history of success.

So, on the day Catfish signed with New York, I officially decided to become a Yankees fan.  The team had struggled during the preceding decade but my preference was to follow Catfish, even with a potentially losing team, over continuing to root for the A’s.

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From that day forward, I have never looked back as the Yankees have been my team ever since.

After a couple of years, catcher Thurman Munson replaced Catfish as my favorite baseball player but the love of the Yankees deepened with each passing year.

I will always credit Lou Gehrig for creating my positive perception of the Pinstripes, and Catfish Hunter for bringing it all together.

42 has multiple meanings for me.  It is the number  of years I’ve been a Yankees fan, it was the number of years my father walked the Earth, it is the symbol of one of Baseball’s greatest players (Jackie Robinson), and the number of one of my all-time favorite Yankees (Mariano Rivera).

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Today, December 31, 2016, I look back on the many great memories (the tremendous victories and the heartbreaking losses) the Yankees have provided, and look forward to the the bright future and continuation of the success of Baseball’s most storied franchise.

I am grateful to be a Yankees fan…

–Scott

Ready, aim, fire!…

Winter is coming…

The dawn of the Winter Meetings.  It’s is always one of my favorite times of the year.  Last year was very quiet for the Yankees but still, so much happens in the first few days of the meetings with free agent signings and trades.

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I am very relieved that the owners and the players association agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.  I didn’t really expect a lockout but of course it was always a possibility until the two sides came to an agreement.  I understand why the CBA issue held up the Yankees due to the luxury tax implications and uncertainty associated therewith.  Now that both sides have a better understanding of the new deal, it should allow the Yankees to begin shaping the 2017 team.

I fully recognize that there will not be wholesale changes.  This isn’t 2009 when the Yankees dumped a half billion dollars on top free agents.  Sure, I’d love to have Edwin Encarnacion or Jose Bautista on the team but realistically it is not going to happen.  Between the two, I’d take Encarnacion but I still don’t think it will happen.  The Yankees have a clear need for a solid, clutch-hitting DH but I think they’ll go with either Carlos Beltran or Matt Holliday.  Staying in house is an option but that mean DH will be used as a rotation to rest the regulars.

I would love for the Yankees to find a way to move LF Brett Gardner and 3B Chase Headley but in both cases, age + contract make the players hard to move.  Gardner would probably be the easier of the two to move.  While the Yankees have in-house options to replace Gardner, they’d probably have to go outside to get a replacement for Headley.  Miguel Andujar showed in the Arizona Fall League that he is the future at third, but his arrival is still a few years away.  I’ve also seen the projections of Gleyber Torres taking over second base, pushing current second baseman Starlin Castro to third.  But Torres won’t see the Bronx until late in the 2017 season or sometime in 2018.  Despite the absence of immediate help at third, I am still ready to end the Chase Headley story even if he did recover from a horrendous April to have a very good season last year.

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Credit:  Getty Images

My wish list for this off-season still begins with closer Aroldis Chapman.  I am still very hopeful that he’ll find his way back to the Bronx.  Kenley Jansen would certainly be acceptable if Plan A does not materialize.  I am probably warming up to the idea of a Bronx return for Mark Melancon but I think he’ll either stay in Washington or go to San Francisco.  Greg Holland is also an option.  I think the Yankees have to move Dellin Betances back to a key setup role where he is better suited.  Mariano Rivera, he is not.

As for starting pitchers, I am not opposed to the potential signing of starter Rich Hill.  He is older than I would like for a team in transition to youth, but he obviously has a quality arm and would provide rotation stability.  He reminds me somewhat of Hiroki Kuroda.  A consistent pitcher who can occasionally throw a gem.  Not a frontline starter, but a very dependable one.  As for trades, I have no idea.  I’d love Tampa’s Chris Archer but I don’t think the Rays would trade inter-division and his cost would probably be too high.  I liked the Arizona Diamondbacks’ acquisition of Taijuan Walker.  A young pitcher who was not fulfilled his potential but the upside is still there.  Those are the types of pitchers I’d try to target.  I know, it does fall into the high risk, maybe high reward, possible low reward category but look where Jake Arrieta has taken the Chicago Cubs.

It was tough to see pitcher Nathan Eovaldi cut within the last couple of weeks and today’s non-tender of lefty Jacob Lindgren, both players who will miss the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery.  It wasn’t that long ago when Lindgren was tabbed as a can’t miss, fast-track prospect with the potential to make the major league roster the year he was drafted.  Injuries have held Lindgren back, but he’s still young enough to recover for a fine professional career.  I am hopeful the Yankees find a way to bring both pitchers back into the organization now that they’ve been removed from the 40-man roster.

Next week should be fun.  Unlike last year, I am hopeful and optimistic that the Yankees will be active in an attempt to improve the roster and build strength around the emerging young core.  We shall see…

—Scott

Waiting patiently for the Cavalry…

A week’s worth of crickets…

For excited as I was for the Baseball Winter Meetings, it was a very unfulfilling time for Yankees fans.  The AL East got stronger as both the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays made significant improvements, and the Baltimore Orioles, while they didn’t make a move, are still a better team on paper.

Losing David Robertson hurt.  I fully recognize that not even the Yankees should be paying multiple guys in the pen $12+ million per year so I understand the decision to let Robertson walk after signing last year’s prized lefty Andrew Miller.  Still, when I saw those words, “White Sox to sign David Robertson”, it was a painful sight to see.

David Robertson mug

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Part of me, for a few days, imagined a bullpen with Robertson, Betances, and Miller for manager Joe Girardi and the limitless possibilities.  After watching the Kansas City Royals and their stellar pen, it was hard not to dream of a similar equation for the Yankees.  With so many question marks in the rotation, a ‘lights out’ bullpen is a must.  With Robertson gone, there’s no reason why the Yankees still can’t have a superior bullpen.  But losing Robertson does show that we care about our tenured players.  Well, except when their name is Alex Rodriguez.

I am in favor of naming Dellin Betances as the team’s closer in spring training.  I think Miller will be great as the primary setup guy and the earlier innings are in great hands with Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and others.  A year ago, there were questions about Robertson’s ability to close.  His attempt to close in 2012 when Mariano Rivera got hurt was unsuccessful.  The team ultimately went to Rafael Soriano who held the role for the duration of the season.

Mariano Rivera was an exception.  Most guys are unable to pitch at the level required to close for an extended period of time.  The days of Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are over.  From a financial standpoint, it makes the most sense to have a shorter term view when it comes to a closer so that you don’t get locked into a bad contract (a la Jonathan Papelbon) as the closer ages and naturally deteriorates.  Robertson may still be playing at a very high level in four years, but equally, there’s a chance that he is not.  He always seems to pitch in and out of trouble, but as he ages, his ability to get out of those jams may not quite be there.  He’ll evolve as a pitcher and I am sure that he’ll make the necessary adjustments, but at the end of the day, the Yankees are better off not being locked into Robertson for four years at $48 million.  Betances showed that he is the team’s future closer.  Next year may be a bit premature, but it was inevitable.

The most important thing for the Yankees is to now re-invest the $12 million per year savings into other areas.  Bring back Chase Headley.  Possibly sign a short term closing alternative like Jason Grilli.  Make a run for Max Scherzer.  But the key is to do something.  The Yankees, as they presently stand, will not win in October.

 

How much?  See ya…

Speaking of bad contracts, I was blown away by the commitment the Los Angeles Dodgers made to Brandon McCarthy.  I thought McCarthy was a great pickup last season and hoped the Yankees could re-sign him to a team friendly deal.  But like Robertson, I am glad the Yankees did not commit those years and dollars to McCarthy.  He is a huge injury risk and in the Dodgers case, McCarthy failed last year in the NL West when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  While I hope McCarthy has a great Dodgers career, my fear is that he and the team’s DL list will become good buddies.  I hope I’m wrong but baseball generally proves ‘past performance equals future results’…

Slowly but surely…

The week preceding the Baseball Winter Meetings was good.  The Yankees acquired their 2015 shortstop with the acquisition of Didi Gregorius and the aforementioned lefty artist Andrew Miller, dominant against both righties and lefties.  It was a good start but the team obviously still has much work to do before spring.

I hear so many Yankees fans say that Gregorius is not Derek Jeter.  Nothing against Jeter, but I’d rather see a 24 year old Gregorius starting at short over a 41 year old Jeter.  Gregorius may not be the player Jeter was in his prime, but Jeter wasn’t in his prime anymore and the Yankees had to do something to improve following Jeter’s retirement.  So, to me, Gregorius is his own man in the position.  It is up to him to succeed or fail, without regard to Jeter.  I was a huge Don Mattingly fan, but I gave Tino Martinez a chance from his first at-bat and his early struggles did not waver my support.  Tino turned out to be one of my most beloved players over the years and I never compared him to Mattingly.

It is possible that Gregorius fails.  If so, the Yankees move on to another option.  ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’.  But at this point in time, it is his time.  Let’s give him a chance…

Paul Ruhter/Gazette Staff

All I want for Christmas is…

Now if we could just send A-Rod anyway.  I know, it’s not that easy.  The most expensive DH/bench player in baseball history.  It’s too bad those dollars can’t be re-directed to a guy like Max Scherzer.  Maybe some challenges are too much for even the Yankees to overcome.  But I’d love to have the money the Yankees have probably spent trying to find a way.

–Scott