One of America’s Best MLB Writers Gone Too Soon…
I know this is a Yankees blog but we have to give a hat tip to the late Nick Cafardo, a baseball columnist for The Boston Globe. Cafardo died yesterday of an embolism at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Florida while covering Red Sox Spring Training. He was not scheduled to work yet there he was covering the game he loved.
Although I did not know Cafardo personally, I am very heartbroken over his passing. Every weekend, I made time in my day to read his Sunday Baseball Notes. For me, it was required reading. Cafardo may have been a lifelong Red Sox fan but I always felt that he never sugarcoated the Red Sox and he never unfairly discredited the Yankees. If the term ‘Yankees Suck’ was part of his vocabulary, it never appeared in any written form that I saw. I didn’t read the Sunday Baseball Notes column because I wanted insight on the Yankees’ primary rival — I read it because I wanted insight on Major League Baseball through the passionate eyes of a true baseball fan who understood the game better than most. I can count on one hand the number of professional MLB writers I hold in very high regard but Cafardo was one. Through so many of his colleagues, a common theme of Cafardo’s superior professionalism and high value of his friendship resonates. I know Boston is hurting over his loss, but his impact reached a Nation (United States, not just the RSN) and perhaps beyond.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Nick Carfardo, 62, began his employment with the Globe in 1989. Prior to joining the Globe, he worked for The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, MA. He covered the Red Sox until 2001 when he switched to the NFL’s New England Patriots. It coincided with the first Super Bowl Championship for Head Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady. Cafardo has been back on the baseball beat for the last 15 years. I am not sure when I first started reading Cafardo’s work, or how I even became aware of him, but he’s been a staple for me for many years. I appreciated and valued his insight as told through an objective and impartial lens.
The Red Sox released the following statement:
We are saddened by the sudden loss of long-time baseball reporter, Nick Cafardo. For over three decades, Nick was a fixture at Fenway Park and throughout ballparks across the country. His coverage was as consistent as the game itself. His opinions on the Red Sox and the most pressing issues facing Major League Baseball were a constant, particularly through the prominent Sunday baseball notes column in the Boston Globe.
The Cafardo family will always be a part of the Boston baseball family, and the Red Sox will honor Nicks’ legacy at the appropriate time.
Boston mayor Marty Walsh probably said it best, “Nick Cafardo was a man who talent, enthusiasm, and contribution to Boston’s sports coverage was incomparable and something that I always enjoyed reading”. Me too, Marty. Even though I didn’t know him outside of his words, there’s a huge void in my life today. I am sure many feel the same way.
Cafardo is survived by his wife, Leeanne, and two children, Emilee and Ben. Ben is a communications director for ESPN.
He will be missed.
As for the Yankees, the first Spring Game is nearly here. The Yankees travel to Fort Myers to play the Red Sox tomorrow. Nestor Cortes, a non-roster invitee, gets the opening nod to start the game. Cortes, attending his first Yankees MLB Camp, was wearing a Baltimore Orioles spring jersey this time last year as a Rule 5 Draft selection. I remember a few of his starts last March for Baltimore and I am excited that he’ll be doing it for the Yankees this Spring. I know he’s not a top prospect but I’ve always liked the lefty. I doubt he ever gets an opportunity in the Bronx unless injuries force the Yankees’ hand. Most likely, he’ll need to go to another team to get his shot. Hopefully with his performance tomorrow and over the next few weeks, he can open some eyes even if they don’t belong to Yankee scouts.
Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com reported that Miguel Andujar, Greg Bird, Aaron Hicks, and Gleyber Torres will be making the trip to JetBlue Park. It’s also been reported that Clint Frazier, Kyle Higashioka and Estevan Florial will be there. Otherwise, I expect to see the lower end of the 40-man roster and the non-roster invitees on the field in the first meeting of the two AL East Superpowers. Go Trey Amburgey, Phillip Diehl and Billy Burns! Despite who may or may not be on the field for the Yankees, I know I’ll be watching and look forward to the first organized, albeit unofficial, game of the year for America’s best team (the visitors, not the home team). The soon-to-be dethroned World Champions play their first game today against Northeastern University.
I know it’s way too early to get excited but I loved seeing that Adam Ottavino struck out the four batters he faced yesterday, including Tyler Wade twice. Afterwards, Wade said, “Think about how nasty he is in highlights. Then times that by a lot.” I had wanted the Yankees to re-sign David Robertson but I’ve never once been disappointed that they signed Otto (and re-signed Zack Britton) instead of bringing back D-Rob. I think Otto is going to be one of my favorite relievers this year. I am glad he’s a Yankee.
Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky-The Associated Press
Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com had a nice column today about Miguel Andujar. In it, he quotes Willie Randolph saying, “I think he (Andujar) can be above average at third base.” Randolph added, “Listen, if you give me average defense, I’ll take that because the way he can hit. I think he’s going to be a batting champion one day.” Nice job by Randy and good read for Andujar naysayers. I know that I am hopeful we’ll be seeing Andujar dancing at third base this year.
As always, Go Yankees!
Backed by uncharacteristic run support (at least for him), Sonny Gray finally pitched on Sunday like the guy who was an ace in Oakland. We’ve seen few glimpses of that guy since he became a Yankee last July. I know, it was against one of the worst teams in the American League but it was a great Sonny Gray start. For a game anyway, this warrants a ‘Sonny Gray DOES NOT suck’ from me.
As you know, I am quick to criticize Gray so I owe it to him to recognize a wonderful performance. Gray (3-3) pitched eight innings, holding the Kansas City Royals to four hits and a single run. He didn’t allow the run until the eighth inning when he was starting to tire. He walked a batter and struck out five in the 10-1 victory. The four homers, including two by Tyler Austin, were fantastic but there was no doubt Gray was the star of this game.
A.J. Cole, in a rare appearance, pitched a clean ninth inning. Sure, he had a big lead but ask the Miami Marlins about holding a big lead in the ninth inning. They had a 9-4 advantage Sunday against the Atlanta Braves (a team many are starting to liken to the 2017 Yankees) and had Brad Ziegler on the mound to close it out. Six runs later, the Braves walked off the field a winner. So, I try to never underestimate a mop up role like the one Cole faced.
Now for the home runs. Tyler Austin is making a very convincing case to stay with the Major League club despite the impending return of Greg Bird. I’ve felt all along Austin is the most susceptible for a demotion to Triple A to make room for Bird. Even with his two home runs on Sunday, I still think he’ll be the odd man out since he has options remaining. The Yankees aren’t getting rid of Ronald Torreyes and I don’t see them cutting bait with Neil Walker. Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media speculated this morning that the Yankees will DFA Walker and trade him for a minor leaguer to use the remaining balance of his $4 million contract at the trading deadline (in addition to the space they already have) to open a spot for Bird. I suppose he may be right but I have liked the versatility Walker brings and he has hit better of late. But I have to admit that a tandem of Bird-Austin at first base is a bit scary (in a good way).
|Photo Credit: The Kansas City Star (John Sleezer)|
Miguel Andujar and Austin Romine tacked on solo homers in the ninth which did more to help their personal statistics than the team’s result.
Yankees Twitter was aghast before the game when the lineup was posted. Many had expected to see Gary Sanchez at DH, Didi Gregorius at short, and Clint Frazier in left. Instead, Giancarlo Stanton was the DH, Brett Gardner in left, and Ronald Torreyes was the shortstop for the second day in a row. I understood the move with Sir Didi who is mired in a 1-for-45 slump. Nothing against the great Brett Gardner, but I would have preferred to see Red Thunder in left. But at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. The Yankees cranked out fourteen hits with Aaron Boone’s lineup to power the offense.
Nice job by Austin Romine. During the off-season, so many Yankees fans (maybe even me) wanted the Yankees to sign Alex Avila to replace Romine as the backup catcher. Yesterday, Romine had perhaps his greatest game as a Yankee. He was 3-for-5 with two RBI’s. He had a run-scoring single in the fourth inning in addition to the ninth inning dinger. It’s worth noting that Romine is batting .326 in 48 plate appearances with the homer and nine RBI’s, while Avila is only batting .132 with two homers and four RBI’s in nearly twice as many plate appearances and has opened the door for more playing time for former Yankee John Ryan Murphy with the Snakes.
It was great to see the Yankees dominate two consecutive games against the lowly Royals after Friday night’s disappointing loss. It had been a very tough week for the Yankees with the rainouts in Washington, D.C. It was not surprising they played sluggishly in their only loss in the Royals series, but I was glad to see that it lasted only one game before they were back in expected form.
The lone disappointment yesterday was the option of outfielder Clint Frazier to Triple A after the game. I know, it was inevitable. It was a numbers game and Frazier is better served by playing every day for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He’ll head to Pennsylvania and await the next call to Yankee Stadium. It’s not what you want (to borrow Joe Girardi’s line), but Frazier is only an injury away from returning.
The Yankees now head to Dallas/Fort Worth to face the Texas Rangers. The Rangers have under-performed this year (18-30) but they are generally a handful for the Yankees. The first two games of the series feature Yankees Past and what could be Yankees Future. Today, the Yankees will face a former Yankee in the ancient Bartolo Colon while Tuesday features 2009 World Series foe Cole Hamels, whose name has been mentioned as a possible trading deadline candidate for the Yankees. There are other trade candidates I’d like to see over Hamels, but he is a proven veteran arm. After the Yankees finish the three game series in Texas, they’ll head back to the Bronx to meet up with Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a series that starts Friday night.
David Hale just keeps coming back like a bad penny. I really thought we’d seen the last of Hale when he was designated for assignment for the second time this year by the Yankees. When he elected free agency after his most recent DFA, I felt sure he’d go elsewhere. It was not to be as Hale signed another minor league deal with the Yankees and will head to Scranton, PA to join the starting rotation for the RailRiders. His addition led to the release of former Yankees prospect Daniel Camarena. I had hoped for better results from Camarena who had been re-acquired from the Chicago Cubs earlier this year after signing a minor league free agent contract with the Cubs in the off-season. But a 2-3 record and 5.08 ERA (44 hits and 20 walks in 39 innings) led to Camarena’s second exit from the organization. I wish him the best with his next opportunity. It’s unfortunate he was unable to realize his dream in Pinstripes.
Speaking of the RailRiders starting rotation, their latest addition (besides Hale) is prospect Erik Swanson. Swanson’s name hasn’t really been mentioned much since he was acquired in the trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers a couple of seasons ago. Dillon Tate was the more highly regarded name in the trade, but Swanson is the minor league pitcher of the moment. The guy has been sensational in Double A this year. The 24-year-old righty started six games for the Trenton Thunder, winning five with no defeats. He has given up a paltry two earned runs in 40 2/3 innings (0.44 ERA) while striking out 52. He has only allowed 12 walks. The superb performance led to his recent promotion to Triple A. In an organization with so many talented young prospects, Swanson has illuminated his name.
|Photo Credit: Martin Griff, via Pinstriped Prospects|
The Yankees did so well with the 2016 trades of Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they are generally recognized as the trades that highlight the genius of GM Brian Cashman. Nevertheless, the returns for Beltran (namely Swanson and Tate) and Brian McCann (Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman, who helped bring Giancarlo Stanton to New York) were spectacular. Cashman and Company were certainly well prepared when they made those “under-the-radar” trades that opened roster space for younger, more talented players.
Unfortunately, the Boston Red Sox keep winning so the Yankees and Sox remain tied atop the AL East although the Yankees (30-13) continue to hold a slight advantage in winning percentage. New York is at .698 while the Red Sox (32-15) are .681. Boston is off today so the Yankees could pick up a half-game to take sole possession of first place or they could lose to fall into second place. With 119 games to play, I suppose it does not really matter either way in the grand scheme of things but I always prefer to see the Red Sox in the rear view mirror.
|Credit: Frank Galasso Illustration|
However, the End Result is all that matters…
Despite fielding a team with primarily high numbers (on their jerseys; not their stats), the Yankees accomplished the objective on Saturday. Beat the Red Sox. The Yankees came away from their only visit to JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, FL with a 5-3 victory. I know, it means nothing but as I said yesterday, I wanted to beat the Red Sox regardless of the significance of the game. Hanley Ramirez, who promised the Red Sox Nation that they’d “step on everybody’s neck” when the Sox signed J.D. Martinez, was 0-for-3, with a strikeout.
Since the game was televised by the MLB Network and it was at Boston’s ballpark, we were subjected to the NESN broadcast crew of Dave O’Brien, Tim Wakefield and Steve Lyons. Maybe it was just me, but I found their telecast to be one of the most myopic experiences that I’ve ever witnessed. If you believed what you heard (no worries, I did not), you would come away thinking the Red Sox are an extraordinary team, made more powerful with the presence of J.D. Martinez, while the Yankees have numerous questions and are a “one-dimensional team”. They also took shots at CC Sabathia for no reason, leaving you with the impression that CC is held together by duct tape. I didn’t mind the guests they featured regarding the Red Sox Foundation and other notable causes, but it seemed like they disregarded the game at times and it was as if the NESN broadcasters knew nothing about the Yankees players in the game. As Charles Barkley would say, “That’s turrible”. I am not impressed by NESN or the Red Sox.
Miguel Andujar continued his hot hitting. He didn’t start the game but entered later as a replacement for Brandon Drury. His eighth-inning single scored Jeff Hendrix with an insurance run after the Yankees had taken a one-run lead on the Sox. The day was an enjoyable experience for Andujar who got to meet one of his childhood heroes, former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. Although Andujar and Ortiz are both from the Dominican Republic, I was not aware they were from the same hometown. No wonder Andujar emulates Big Papi’s swing.
The Yankees improved to 8-1, best in the Grapefruit League. Today, they’ll face an old friend in Nathan “Nasty Nate” Eovaldi and the Tampa Bay Rays. Nick Solak, one of the Yankees prospects involved in the trade for Brandon Drury, will start at second base for the Rays.
Here is the scheduled lineup for the Yankees at home in Tampa against the visiting Rays (sorry, I always find humor in that statement):
Brett Gardner, CF
Aaron Judge, RF
Giancarlo Stanton, LF
Gary Sanchez, C
Brandon Drury, DH
Danny Espinosa, 3B
Billy McKinney, 1B
Ronald Torreyes, 2B
Tyler Wade, SS
Chad Green will be the starting pitcher. Aroldis Chapman is also scheduled to pitch.
Russell Wilson left camp today but gave the players signed NFL footballs before his departure. Even though I am not a Seahawks fan, I knew that Wilson was a great guy. But his time in Training Camp and his words left me with the greater perception that his character exceeds his talent, which is no small task. I remain convinced that his time at Steinbrenner Field was a worthwhile experience although he struck out in his lone at-bat. His winning attitude and desire to be great is infectious. I think the Yankees players learned a great deal from the champion QB.
Clint Frazier was held out from workouts on Saturday but fortunately, his MRI on Friday came back clean. He’ll meet with a doctor today. Hopefully this not more serious than it appears to be and he’ll be back on the field in the not-so-distant future. Jacoby Ellsbury remains sidelined with the right oblique strain which is fine. That’s certainly one injury you don’t want to rush given the risk of further setback if you try to come back too soon.
Recent photos of Chase Headley and Dustin Fowler are the latest evidence the Yankees should revisit their facial hair policy. I am not a fan of the wild Justin Turner look, but cleanly groomed beards should be acceptable.
Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com has a very nice write up this morning about my favorite Yankees pitching prospect (with no offense to Justus Sheffield or Chance Adams). Albert Abreu, recovering from recent emergency appendectomy surgery, should be able to resume his throwing program soon. It will be fun to watch this very talented right-hander continue his ascent through the Yankees farm system. I am a huge Abreu fan and I look forward to the day he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium.
|Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)|
The Most Boring Off-Season Ever…
It’s kind of funny to say that this has been one of the slowest Hot Stove Leagues in recent memory, especially when your team acquires the best slugger on the planet, but I can’t remember the last time the majority of the top free agents were unsigned in January.
The Yankees never figured to be big players in the free agent market, given their desire to keep the ‘Alex Rodriguez-freed’ payroll under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million for reset purposes. But then the Los Angeles Dodgers made their big salary relief trade with the Atlanta Braves which gave them the same opportunity as the Yankees to reset their luxury tax rate so you have baseball’s two biggest spenders on the sidelines.
My personal hope is that the slow free agent market leads Todd Frazier back to Pinstripes where he belongs. Of course, rumors circulated yesterday that the Yankees had been back in touch with the Baltimore Orioles about third baseman Manny Machado. I am not convinced the Orioles would trade their best player to the Yankees despite his impending free agency, but conversely, I am not sure the Yankees should give up some of their best prospects for a guy they could sign as a free agent next fall. I wouldn’t want to give the O’s the bullets to reload. But then again, if the O’s make a trade this winter, they’ll bring in quality talent from somewhere. As long as Machado is on the table, it probably keeps any potential deal with Todd Frazier on ice (no pun intended for those of you in New York and New Jersey).
Mark Prior has found his way to the Los Angeles Dodgers as their new bullpen coach, replacing Josh Bard who decided to take a seat on the Yankees bench next to new manager Aaron Boone. The Yankees’ one-time top draft pick (he didn’t sign in 1998) and former Chicago Cub was most recently the minor league pitching coordinator for his hometown San Diego Padres. Prior attempted to make the transition to a relief pitcher in the Yankees organization during the 2011 season but could never capture the potential that was once promised to him through a series of arm injuries. I hope that he finds greater success with his coaching career.
Some teams have been very active with minor league contract signings carrying training camp invitations, but until yesterday, the Yankees had been quiet. It changed when they signed former Atlanta Braves infielder Jace Peterson to a minor league deal on Friday. Peterson has a high pedigree (he was once a first-round draft selection for the San Diego Padres) but he’s never been able to hit in the Major Leagues. He found his way to the Braves for the 2015 season but underwhelmed the team as its starting second baseman that year. The career .234 hitter was released by the Braves last month when he was non-tendered in advance of arbitration. I can’t see him as more than training camp fodder and help with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, but you can never have enough competition for Major League jobs. Good luck to Peterson as he attempts to find his place with his third MLB organization. New coaches, new scenery….who knows, crazier things have happened. In a bit of irony, Peterson made his MLB debut during the 2014 season when former and now current Padres third baseman Chase Headley was placed on the DL. Peterson seems like this year’s Pete Kozma signing to me. If he could only hit, he looks like a version of Austin Romine’s brother Andrew with an ability to play multiple positions.
Jace, just a note, please don’t scratch the big guy…
|Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports|
The New York Post ran an article a couple of days ago indicating that GM Brian Cashman is prepared to go into the season with youngsters at second and third, meaning Gleyber Torres (or Tyler Wade) and Miguel Andujar. I still find it difficult to believe that the Yankees would entrust both critical positions to youth and inexperience (at the MLB level) at the same time. The Post article included Cashman’s words “if the market changes, we’re prepared to adjust” which shows that this is just a waiting game and Cashman is hoping for prices to fall.
I am excited about Gleyber Torres and the future of second base in his hands. I’ve seen so many say that he should open the season as the starting second baseman. For as much as I love the guy, the Yankees MUST delay the start of his MLB service time to pick up an additional year before he hits free agency. That only means that he’ll spend a few weeks in Moosic, PA focusing on solely the nuances of second base before hitting the main stage in the Bronx. It will be well worth the wait for so many reasons. At this point, it’s just fine-tuning but for a guy coming off Tommy John surgery, even a position player with his non-throwing arm, a few weeks in Triple A would be beneficial. In the interim, Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade deserve the opportunity to keep the position warm for Torres.
|Photo Credit: Andrew Savulich-NY Post|
The guys over at NJ Advance Media for NJ.com do a great job covering the Yankees. Randy Miller posted a column today featuring a scout’s take on top Yankees prospects. It is well worth the read. As a huge fan of pitching prospect Albert Abreu, I thought the scout’s take on the young right-hander was excellent: “I love him. You’re going to like this kid. I saw him in the Fall League. He was throwing 91-97. He sat 94. He’ll show you a plus curveball at times that is tight with depth. His changeup needs some refinement, but it has a chance to be a plus pitch in the future. He’s aggressive. He gets swings and misses. He’s pretty good with a good body. And he’s a good makeup kid. His delivery gets out of whack at times and it affects his stuff. When he stays square and direct to the plate and he’s working downhill, he’s good. I give him a chance to be a No. 3 starter, a middle-of-the-rotation type guy. If everything comes, he has an outside chance to be a No. 2 starter. Based on what I’ve seen, I like him better than Chance Adams.” I know that Justus Sheffield is going to be a great Yankee, but the scout’s last line about Abreu is the very reason that I’d gladly give up Chance Adams in a trade for a proven MLB starting pitcher. I am very high on Abreu and I am excited about his future in pinstripes.
It’s such a great time to be young and a Yankee for so many of these guys. Who wants to join?…
|Photo Credit: Getty Images|