Photo Credit: New York Daily News (Corey Sipkin)
It’s a meaningless game but hey, our guys take the field…
As Yankees fans, we’ve had a few enjoyable days so far this Spring. Pitchers and Catchers reporting on February 13th and everybody else, including the great Giancarlo Stanton, showing up last weekend. We’ve already experienced our first newcomer of 2018 with the trade that brought Brandon Drury to Steinbrenner Field to work out with his favorite childhood baseball team. Stanton is not a “newcomer”, he’s been here since last year (okay, December but still, Drury was an Arizona Diamondback until a few days ago). Today represents the first exhibition game of the season when the Yankees face the Detroit Tigers this afternoon at Steinbrenner Field. The game will be televised by the YES Network at 1 pm Eastern so we’ll get our first true glimpse of the 2018 Yankees even if guys like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez won’t be playing. Stanton will be there and is sure to attract a huge ovation.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Butch Dill)
Twitter is crazy place to follow Yankees baseball. There are so many fans that feel Drury is going to block Miguel Andujar and are upset about it. Personally, I don’t get it. The starter at third base on Opening Day will be the guy who earned it. Drury may have the leg up based on MLB experience, but Andujar can take the position with performance. I certainly have no problem with Andujar going back down to Triple A to further refine his defensive skills. For a team that is considered among the American League’s elite, there is no need to experiment with multiple rookies in the lineup. I’ve always liked Drury and his hard-nosed play. He strikes me as quiet but very focused and determined. Considering that he won’t turn 26 until August, his best years are ahead of him. I like his upside, and all things considered, I am pleased the way this turned out. Instead of overpaying Mike Moustakas (regardless of how much I liked his left-handed bat in Yankee Stadium) or signing a player in decline like Neil Walker, the Yankees brought in a high energy guy that will mesh well with the team’s youth.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Jonathan Dyer)
It’s worth checking out Drury’s play through YouTube. There are some great highlights shown including the time he crashed into the wall in right at Chase Field in Phoenix to record an out against the Yankees. It was good to see old friend Brian McCann as a Yankee in that clip.
I really like the way Drury has embraced Pinstripes. His words echo how much he appreciates being a part of the team and his recognition that this can be a special team. He left a team that had a very successful season last year and continues to be one of the stronger young teams in the National League, yet I’ve heard no words of remorse.
Many Yankees fans, at least on Twitter, have been livid that the Yankees traded outfielder Jabari Blash to the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named later or cash because it basically represents no return for the deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to the San Diego Padres. Nothing against Headley but the Yankees got the Padres to take his salary by including a pitcher that was at risk for losing his spot on the 40-man roster. I liked Mitchell but I think he stands a better chance for success in San Diego than he would have in the Bronx. Eliminating Headley’s contract has given the Yankees a genuine chance to reset the luxury tax penalties which meets Owner Hal Steinbrenner’s objective. If Hal is happy, I am happy. Blash was never going to be a difference-maker for the Yankees. He was an excess outfielder on a team filled with quality outfielders. He became a 40-man roster casualty candidate from the moment he joined the Yankees. Maybe he becomes a late bloomer with the Angels. That’s fine, he would have never gotten the opportunity with the Yankees. I remain convinced the Headley/Mitchell deal was a good one even if all it brought us was a box of Dunkin Donuts. Plus, I am glad that we have Brandon Drury (or Miguel Andujar) at third over Headley.
While I am not trying to date myself, the subject of firsts made me think of the first regular season game that I experienced as a Yankees fan. The date was April 8, 1975 and the Yankees were in Cleveland to face the Indians. Sadly, the Yankees lost that day, 5-3. The starting lineup featured the following players that I remember well:
Sandy Alomar (Senior), 2B
Lou Pinella, LF
Bobby Bonds, CF
Ron Blomberg, RF
Graig Nettles, 3B
Ed Hermann, DH
Chris Chambliss, 1B
Thurman Munson, C
Jim Mason, SS
Doc Medich was the starter and loser. Future, now former, Yankee Gaylord Perry was the winner for the Tribe. The Indians lineup included Oscar Gamble (a personal favorite who recently passed away), Frank Robinson, George Hendrick, Buddy Bell, and a former Yankee at catcher, John Ellis. Robinson and Boog Powell homered for the Indians in the victory. The Yankees didn’t pick up their first win until the fourth game of the season when Doc Medich’s turn in the rotation came up again. Medich was the winner in the Yankees’ 6-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers. It’s good to see these names again (at least for me) so pardon the self-indulgence with the trip down Memory Lane.
Back to today’s game, here is the starting lineup for your New York Yankees:
Jacoby Ellsbury, DH
Giancarlo Stanton, RF
Greg Bird, 1B
Aaron Hicks, CF
Didi Gregorius, SS
Gleyber Torres, 2B
Austin Romine, C
Miguel Andujar, 3B
Clint Frazier, LF
The starting pitcher is Luis Cessa but also pitching today (thanks to Brendan Kuty of NJ.com) are Cale Coshow, J.P. Feyereisen, Giovanny Gallegos, David Hale, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder (I wanted to type Kyle), Brady Lail, and Trevor Lane.
Photo Credit: New York Yankees
It is being reported that former Yankee Oscar Gamble, 68, has passed away. If true, this is a very sad loss. I thoroughly enjoyed Gamble as a Yankee and, no, it was not because of the ‘fro. He was a very good ball player, in my opinion. He hit 200 home runs over the course of his 17-year career that included stops with the Cubs, Phillies, Indians, White Sox, Padres and Rangers in addition to the Yankees. He finished his career with the White Sox in 1985, and was a .265 lifetime hitter. Certainly not Hall of Fame numbers, but you could always count on Oscar for a homer when you needed it. I loved watching his left-handed swing in the old Yankee Stadium.
During the winter prior to the 1981 season, I met Gamble in Montgomery, Alabama. He gave me his autograph and I vividly remember our conversation about the upcoming season. He was excited to play with the big free agent that the Yankees had just signed (David Mark Winfield). He came across to me as an incredibly humble and kind man. I was a nobody yet he took the time with me. It’s a meeting that I’ll never forget, and I am very saddened to hear the news of his passing.
Photo Credit: NY Daily News (Martin)
It was also sad to see the news about the passing of former Padres and Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers yesterday. During his time in San Diego, he was a frequent trading partner for Yankees GM Brian Cashman and he spent some time in the Yankees front office (2010 season) after his departure from the Padres before getting his next gig in Arizona. Most recently, he had been a special advisor for the Cincinnati Reds. Towers had been diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer in 2016. The survival rate for this form of cancer is very low so Towers must have known his time was limited. Still, it was a shock to the Baseball world. As they say, Cancer Sucks! Towers was a great force in Major League Baseball and his loss is significant. May he rest in peace…
Photo Credit: Associated Press (Ross D Franklin)
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there have been too many deaths already this year.
On to ‘less grim’ topics…I’d say positive but that doesn’t really seem to apply.
The Yankees lost a potential upgrade for backup catcher when free agent catcher Alex Avila signed a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday. Although there were no indications the Yankees were ever connected to Avila, many Yankees fans called for the signing of Avila as an upgrade for the offensively-challenged Austin Romine. Instead, Avila will represent the offensive side of a platoon with defensive-specialist Jeff Mathis in the Sonoran Desert. The D-Backs had a void at catcher when last year’s starter, Chris Iannetta, recently signed a free agent contract with his original team, the Colorado Rockies. Arizona also has Chris Hermann and former Yankee John Ryan Murphy in the catching mix.
The Yankees added a veteran infielder this week when they signed second baseman/shortstop Danny Espinosa to a minor league contract with a training camp invitation. This was one of those signing that brought a “meh” from me. I didn’t like the way Espinosa expressed his displeasure with the Washington Nationals in December 2016 when the team acquired outfielder Adam Eaton, pushing the young and talented Trea Turner from center field to shortstop, and Espinosa to the bench. The Nats ended up trading Espinosa to the Los Angeles Angels, one of three teams he played for in 2017.
Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Troy Taormina)
Espinosa is a poor hitter. Although he did have 24 home runs in 2016, his batting line was close to the Mendoza Line (.209/.306/.378). He had 174 strikeouts in 516 at-bats (601 plate appearances). In 2017, his line was worse in 295 plate appearances. He had 6 home runs, batting .173/.245/.278. He was released by all three teams he played for in 2017 (Angels, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays). The final release came a few weeks before the season was over.
If Espinosa breaks camp as the starting second baseman, it will mean that Plans A and B went horribly wrong. Alright, that might be a bit too strong. I still expect Gleyber Torres to take the position after spending the first few weeks in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But I strongly prefer the tandem of Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes as the interim solution over Espinosa. I suppose if Wade fails miserably in Tampa over the next couple of months, it is possible that Espinosa partners with Torreyes to cover second until Torres is ready. But Espinosa’s selfish behavior at the end of his time in Washington really soured me on the player.
While it looks like the Yankees will go to training camp with rookies Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar as the front-runners for second and third base, respectively, I still expect the Yankees to sign a veteran third baseman. It may not be a starting type, but it will be someone who can act as a safety net for Andujar. Oh boy, here comes Yunel Escobar. Regardless of who the Yankees sign, they will sign somebody. They’ve added second base bodies (Jace Peterson and the aforementioned Danny Espinosa) so I have no doubts they’ll do the same for third base. Admittedly, my hope for Todd Frazier’s return is starting to fade.
Gladly Accepting Jeter Rejects…
I haven’t seen his exact title yet, but it appears that the Yankees have added former Miami Marlins VP of Player Development Marc Delpiano to their Scouting department. Delpiano was fired by Derek Jeter (well, Jetes made the outgoing President David Samson deliver the news) when he took over the team. Delpiano’s position was replaced when the Marlins added former Yankees executive Gary Denbo. Delpiano is a highly respective baseball executive who drew much praise when he was hired by the Marlins a few years ago. He has experience working for both Neal Huntington and Theo Epstein. Good hire by GM Brian Cashman. Welcome to the Yankees family, Marc!
Despite the deathly slow off-season (no pun intended), training camp is almost upon us. We’ll soon have the opportunity to see Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton putting on daily home run displays instead of wearing tuxedos…
Photo Credit: Marquee NY (Chris Lavado)
All quiet on the Yankee front…
I have to give Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner credit, they do a good job of avoiding leaks to the press (unlike George in years past).
I keep trying to reconcile my mind to accept Phil Hughes as the #5 starter, but when I think of worst-case scenario (both A.J. Burnett and Joba Chamberlain down with injuries), I know that they need more if they are to compete against a Red Sox pitching staff that has 2006/07 16-game winner Brad Penny at the end of the rotation (without even getting to John Smoltz or the beefed up bullpen).
I saw that Nick Cafardo suggested that the Red Sox trade for Prince Fielder. If the Red Sox were successful in acquiring Fielder, I wonder if the Yankees would stand pat. That’s hard to imagine, but at this point, the Red Sox do have the opportunity to have the better offseason despite the huge cash outlay by the Yankees. I saw that Ken Rosenthal suggested that the Brewers trade Fielder for pitching prospects and sign Adam Dunn as his replacement. Which, of course, makes me wonder why don’t the Red Sox consider Dunn? Granted, he is a defensive liability but he is a proven power hitter with good on base percentage. He is a patient hitter (maybe too patient it has been suggested), but he’d provide solid protection for Papi. Plus, Clay Buchholz would stay on the Red Sox roster…
I have a tough time picturing Derek Lowe in a Braves uniform. I think he is a much better fit with the Mets or Phillies…assuming that he wants to win. He’d be a great fit on the Yankees, but of course, that’s cost prohibitive (you don’t pay those kind of dollars to your fifth starter..are you listening Andy?).
Whatever happened to Oscar Gamble?…