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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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…
All Quiet on the Eastern Front…
It has been a very quiet end of the year for the Yankees. There were rumors of the Yankees talking with the Chicago White Sox about Jose Quintana and David Robertson but they quickly lost legs. While the Yankees need starting pitching, I agree that it is best not to raid the newly stocked farm system. It is a risk to bet on prospects over an established major leaguer, but while Jose Quintana is a good pitcher, he’s not Chris Sale. Given Chicago’s desire for top prospects in return, it just does not make sense. Quintana will not be a 2017 difference maker.
Credit: Kevin Jairaj, USA Today Sports
I still believe the Yankees are better served by identifying an undervalued young starter with potential. Sure, that’s every team’s wish but the Yankees have the scouts and resources to uncover the hidden gems. It is harder to pitch in New York than it is in, say, Pittsburgh, but for some guys, the main stage brings out their full potential.
The New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard was once just a prospect included in a trade (when the Mets dealt knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays). I think that trade has worked out very well in favor of the Mets. It also brought them starting catcher Travis D’Arnaud. The 2012 trade was a risk for the Mets given Dickey was the reigning NL Cy Young winner, but he has never been as good as he was in 2011 and the other guys sent to Toronto are after thoughts (Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas).
The Yankees are not going to win the World Series in 2017. The current blueprint puts the Yankees on the path to World Series contention in two to three years. They have the time to develop frontline starters so why not take a chance on some other team’s “Jake Arrieta”. The Chicago Cubs saw something in the former Baltimore Orioles hurler and it has paid off quite handsomely for them.
I have high hopes for the Yankees young pitching prospects. James Kaprielian heads the list, but I haven’t forgotten or given up hope for Ian Clarkin. Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns are other homegrown prospects that come to mind. The first young starters that will be given the chance to crack the rotation next season are the obvious ones…Luis Cessa and Chad Green. There’s also the hope that Luis Severino restores the promise that he showed in 2015 and is not just another failed starter that succeeds in the pen. Trade acquisitions Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and Albert Abreu also hold promise.
If Severino is successful and just one of the young prospects stands out in the Spring, the rotation that already includes Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia does not look so bad. It might not be ‘Chris Sale-David Price-Rick Porcello-Eduardo Rodriguez’ worthy, but the foundation is being laid for future success. It will be imperative for the Yankees to re-sign Tanaka should he opt out of his contract following the season, but Sabathia’s departure as he plays out the final year of his contract will continue to create opportunity for the young prospects. Michael Pineda is a case by himself. He is either a really great starter or a disaster. If he can ever hold the focus on the former, the pitching staff will be significantly improved.
Next season, young players like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, and Greg Bird will play prominent roles for the Yankees. If any are not successful, there is another wave of young players waiting for their opportunities at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or Trenton. It is inevitable that we’ll see outfielder Clint Frazier at some point in the season, even if it is just a September call-up. I don’t want to lose this talent in the farm system for the chance on a pitcher which always seems to be the biggest risk in baseball. Gleyber Torres has already shown that he has that “it” factor even if he is still a few years away from the Bronx. Stay the course. GM Brian Cashman’s blue print so far has been successful. He has turned what was one of the worst farm systems a few years ago to one of the best. They have the talent and depth in the system to make quiet but effective trades without sacrificing the organization’s best.
2017 may not be a banner year for the team but clearly the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. Now is not the time for the Ghost of Steinbrenner Past to raise its ugly head. Young Hal seems to have a plan and one that will soon yield fruit. Patience. Stick to the plan…
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.
Don’t say it!…
As soon as I saw the words that Aroldis Chapman had claimed overuse by Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, I knew it would go viral. Within minutes, the internet was flooded with stories saying Chapman had slammed Maddon.
Given that Chapman has spent time in New York (and Chicago), one would think that he would know the importance of choosing his words wisely. In Cincinnati, he probably could have said those words, generating a few chuckles from the reporters, and never another word. But in New York, everything is magnified. I personally do not think Chapman meant any harm with the words nor does he hold any ill will towards Maddon and the Cubs. He qualified his comments by saying that he was to be ready to do his job. Maddon unnecessarily responded to the comments by saying that he had to win and Chapman always said yes.
Credit: Jamie Squire, Getty Images
I do not blame either man. In the play-offs and particularly the World Series, you leave it on the field. Whatever it takes. Was it foolish to bring Chapman into a game with the Cubs up by 5 runs in the 7th inning of Game 6. Sure, but we weren’t in Maddon’s shoes. How much did he trust his other relievers? Did he sense a potential shift in momentum? Was Chapman simply his best option? That is Joe Maddon’s decision…not ours. I felt Chapman was overused and didn’t blame him for the breakdown in Game 7 based on his workload over the preceding couple of nights. Joe did what he had to do and so did Chapman. The end result was the first World Series championship in 108 years for the Cubs. So if Maddon overused Chapman, so be it. They can cry about it as they collect their World Championship rings.
To me, this is not a red flag. I know that Joe Girardi will be selective in his use of Chapman and I think the pitcher’s presence on the Yankees is a mutual fit. I am glad he’s back. I am sorry for his prior domestic violence issues and while I don’t like what he did, I believe the man is capable of correcting his behavior and deserves the second chance. I always believed in giving Steve Howe second chances and I got burned on that one, but still, I think Chapman has carried himself well during his time in New York and Chicago. I look forward to seeing those 105 mph fastballs flying from #54 on the Yankee Stadium mound.
While I like the job Tyler Clippard did in pinstripes, he is clearly not Andrew Miller. So even with Chapman, the Yankees bullpen is noticeably inferior to last year’s No Runs DMC. I’d like to see the Yankees pick up another reliever to pair with Clippard as the bridge to Dellin Betances. I’d like to see the return of former Yankee Boone Logan but would certainly accept other options.
There’s is definitely still work to be done for the bullpen but I can’t begin to say how much better I feel having Chapman back in the fold.
Say it isn’t so…
I was so saddened to hear that Yankees beat writer Mark Feinsand was leaving the New York Daily News this week. It’s funny how we take the beat writers for granted and we grow to really appreciate the work they do day in and day out. With Feinsand, I loved his columns, tweets, and podcasts. He was always so insightful. But it was a surprising sense of loss when I heard he was leaving the Daily News.
Credit: Corey Sipkin, New York Daily News
I don’t know what’s next for Feinsand but I hope it involves the Yankees.
I don’t follow the Brooklyn Nets so admittedly I don’t know much about Feinsand’s replacement, Mike Mazzeo, but I am looking forward to his work.
Congratulations to Feinsand for his terrific work at the Daily News and best of luck in his next endeavor!
Sanchez had better get extra padding for that mitt…
Before the Yankees re-signed closer Aroldis Chapman, there was very little talk of what they SHOULD do. Now that Chapman is back in the fold after his brief hiatus to win a World Series championship with the Chicago Cubs, the naysayers are out in full force.
Credit: ESPN.com Illustration
For me, I am glad Chapman once again anchors the back end of the bullpen. If the Yankees had not paid him the record-setting 5 year, $86 million contract for a closer, the Miami Marlins were fully prepared to step in and pay him a million more. Like him or not, Chapman was going to get his money.
I know the current Baby Bombers Implementation Plan is in full effect and there are cheaper alternatives available. As great as Kenley Jansen is, he would have cost the Yankees their first round draft pick in the 2017 MLB Draft (then Number 17, but now Number 16 thanks to the Colorado Rockies’ signing of OF, SS, or 1B? Ian Desmond, thereby forfeiting their higher draft selection). In terms of dollars, in addition to the draft pick, Jansen would have cost nearly as much as Chapman.
Free agent and former Kansas City Royals closer Greg Holland is still available but he carries more questions as he attempts to come back from injury.
A reunion with former Yankees closer David Robertson was a possibility but the Chicago White Sox have shown they demand premium plus in trades.
Signing Chapman did not cost a draft pick or talent…only money which the Yankees have.
Chapman does carry the negative stigma of domestic violence but I do believe in second chances. He has not been convicted and by all accounts no one was seriously injured (or worse). I hope and pray it was a wake up call for Chapman. After 20 years of a Saint in the closer’s role for the Yankees, it’s unfortunate we have to deal with these issues. But give the man a chance for redemption.
I did not believe that Dellin Betances was suited for the closer’s role. My suspicions proved correct when we saw Betances stumble in September after the trades of Chapman and Andrew Miller. It may have been fatigue but I felt it was more mental. Betances is a great setup guy, perhaps one of the best in the game. Being a great bridge does not necessarily equate to being a great closer.
There is no doubt I would have preferred a reunion with Andrew Miller over Chapman but that was not going to happen. The Cleveland Indians recognize they have one of the most versatile and dependable relievers in baseball and possibly one of the most selfless guys you can ever hope to meet. But he is Cleveland property for the next few years under a very reasonable contract. If Cleveland was amenable to trading Miller, they would want no less than the premier talent they paid to acquire him. OF Clint Frazier is either first or second on any given Yankees top prospect list and P Justus Sheffield is a future mainstay in the rotation.
So regardless of the other options, I am glad that #54 found his way back to the Bronx. The trio of Tyler Clipart, Betances and Chapman may not be ‘No Runs DMC’ but they’ll be close. The Yankees still need other bullpen upgrades (I personally would like to see another reunion with the potential signing of lefty Boone Logan) but regardless of what happens, the pen will be a strength in 2017.
Next year’s going to seem like a Holliday…
After talk the Yankees would use the DH role to cycle through its position players as a form of rest, I was glad to see the Yankees make a short-term investment in former St Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday. Any way you slice it, Holliday will be a major upgrade over the now departed Alex Rodriguez. Last year, the Yankees offense was largely dependent upon two major underachievers, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. This year, the center of the lineup features Holliday and rookie sensation Gary Sanchez. If the Yankees can get meaningful production out of new first baseman Greg Bird and right fielder Aaron Judge, this could be a very good offense.
Credit: Google Images / STL Sports View
I am still a proponent of trading Brett Gardner. I feel strongly the team needs to open up left field for other young talent and allow Holliday an occasional start. The Yankees clearly need another starter in the rotation so if Gardner can bring in a solid #5, I’m all for it.
I think P Jason Hammel would be a good signing for the rotation but if that doesn’t happen, I am hopeful GM Brian Cashman gets creative in adding another piece. I would much rather see the team’s young talent fighting for only one rotation spot; not two. I am not convinced Luis Severino can be an effective starter but we know that he can be a very effective reliever. I would rather see Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell in swing roles, serving as the long men out of the pen. It would be much better for Luis Cessa and Chad Green to fight each other for a rotation spot than handing it to both of them.
The heavy lifting is done for the 2017 roster but the coming weeks should bring continued improvement. No major signings or trades are expected but just little tweaks to keep this team in contention while it looks ahead to brighter days in 2019. This is what Brian Cashman gets paid to do it, and so far, he’s been doing it well…
The Dawn of the Baseball Winter Meetings…
This week is always the most eventful one of the entire off-season. A flurry of activity followed by relative silence as we head into the holidays.
Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
Before the meetings start later this evening, the Yankees have already lost one option with Houston’s free agent signing of former Yankee Carlos Beltran. I had mixed feelings about his possible return to New York. He was arguably the team’s best hitter last season but he is also 40 years old. For a team that has aggressively gotten younger, adding “old” does not necessarily make sense. There is no guarantee that Beltran will be as good as last year, and it’s a near impossibility that he’d be better. Going with older veterans, I’d rather sign either Matt Holliday or Mike Napoli to a short-term deal that keeps the Yankees on the right path toward World Series contention in 2018 or 2019.
Back in the old days under George Steinbrenner, I am sure that both Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would be Yankees by now. Of the two, I’d prefer Encarnacion but I don’t feel the Yankees should lock up huge long-term dollars for either player even if it would severely weaken the Toronto Blue Jays in the short run. In a couple of years, they’ll just be over-paid, under-producing aging veterans. We’ve seen enough of those in recent seasons.
Credit: Reuters/Ray Stubblebine
There are unofficial reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers have a deal in place with starter Rich Hill so that’s one less option on the pitching front. A deal with Jason Hammel probably makes the most sense. I like Hammel as a reliable, back of the rotation guy. He would be a good complimentary piece to Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda as the team looks to fill other pitching spots with youth. I would probably take a chance with either C.J. Wilson or Tyson Ross if given the opportunity.
It’s possible that GM Brian Cashman can uncover a quality arm via trade but it’s a virtual certainty the team won’t be involved in the Chris Sale sweepstakes. Sale alone would not make the Yankees an immediate World Series contender and he would cost the best quality of the farm system to acquire. So, the Yankees need to stay the course as they continue to add the pieces for future success.
I was disappointed to see minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson leave the organization. I am happy to see him return to the major leagues as the hitting coach for the Minnesota Twins, however, I thought he would have been a better hitting coach for the Yankees than current hitting coach Alan Cockrell or assistant hitting coach Marcus Thames. When the Yankees had dismissed Jeff Pentland last year, I was hopeful that Rowson would get the job. It was not meant to be. I think he’ll be a good addition to Paul Molitor’s staff in Minneapolis and should help former Yankee and current Twins’ co-catcher John Ryan Murphy to hit again.
I remain hopeful the Yankees re-sign pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Lindgren* as they recover from Tommy John surgery. Granted, neither pitcher will help in 2017 but I would really prefer to see them stay.
Let’s hope this week brings good news for Yankees fans…
*Several hours after this post, the Atlanta Braves announced they’ve signed Lindgren to a one year deal that will allow them to retain rights to Lindgren if they add him to their 40-man roster.
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.
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.
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…