Tagged: Red Sox

It’s Only A Number…

Shortage: Available Yankee Jersey Numbers…

The Yankees announced a few number assignments and reassignments yesterday so I thought I’d take the liberty of putting all the numbers together on one list.

I thought it was interesting that Greg Bird’s number is shared with Billy Burns, a non-roster invitee, assuming the information on the Yankees website is correct. There are a few other duplications but Bird stood out the most. I don’t think it means anything but it is a message to Bird that he had better bring his “A” game to Spring Training if he intends to keep the number.

Not that it is our concern but I worry about how many numbers will be available a hundred or two hundred years down the road. Personally, I think they should make it mandatory for coaches to wear numbers in the eighties to free up the lower numbers for players. Phil Nevin and I seem to be in agreement on this topic although his choice of numbers makes me think of Dallas Cowboys’ greats Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin (even though I am not a Cowboys fan).

I am assuming 35 is out of circulation for Mike Mussina due to his recent induction into the MLB Hall of Fame. The number has been assigned out since Moose’s retirement, primarily held by Michael Pineda during his stay. I think Phil Nevin wore it last year after he gave up 53 to Zach Britton. But there are other retired numbers that were worn by subsequent players, like Graig Nettles with 9 or Chris Chambliss with 10, before they were taken out of circulation. A couple of other numbers are open but not in circulation (13 for Alex Rodriguez and 21 for Paul O’Neill). If, by chance, Manny Machado were to become a Yankee (unlikely), it would be interesting to see if A-Rod would consent to giving up his number. I think he would but the way the market is playing out, we may never know.

Frankly, I am not a big fan of retired numbers. I think it becomes more of a popularity contest and numbers get retired for good, not great, players when retiring numbers should be reserved for those truly special once-in-a-lifetime players like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig.

Number Player Number Player
0 Adam Ottavino, LHP 50 Reggie Willits, First Base Coach
1 Billy Martin 51 Bernie Williams
2 Derek Jeter  52 CC Sabathia, LHP
3 Babe Ruth  53 Zach Britton, LHP
4 Lou Gehrig 54 Aroldis Chapman, LHP
5 Joe DiMaggio 55 Rex Brothers, LHP (NRI)
6 Joe Torre 56 Jonathan Holder, RHP
7 Mickey Mantle 57 Chad Green, RHP
8 Bill Dickey

Yogi Berra

58 Larry Rothschild, Pitching Coach
9 Roger Maris 59 Josh Bard, Bench Coach
10 Phil Rizzuto 60 Mike Harkey, Bullpen Coach
11 Brett Gardner, LF 61 Ben Heller, RHP
12 Troy Tulowitzki, SS 62 Danny Coulombe, LHP (NRI)

Marcus Thames, Hitting Coach

13 Open 63 Domingo German, RHP

P.J. Pilittere, Asst Hitting Coach

14 Tyler Wade, 2B/SS 64 Carlos Mendoza, QC Coach/Infield Instructor
15 Thurman Munson 65 James Paxton, LHP
16 Whitey Ford 66 Kyle Higashioka, C
17 Aaron Boone, Manager 67 Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP
18 Didi Gregorius, SS 68 Dellin Betances, RHP
19 Masahiro Tanaka, RHP 69 No Comment
20 Jorge Posada 70 Giovanny Urshela, 3B (NRI)
21 Open 71 Stephen Tarpley, LHP
22 Jacoby Ellsbury, CF 72 Kyle Holder, SS (NRI)
23 Don Mattingly 73 Open
24 Gary Sanchez, C 74 Joe Harvey, RHP
25 Gleyber Torres, 2B 75 David Hale, RHP (NRI)
26 DJ LeMahieu, 2B 76 Nestor Cortes, Jr, LHP (NRI)
27 Giancarlo Stanton, DH/OF 77 Clint Frazier, LF
28 Austin Romine, C 78 Kellin Deglan, C (NRI)
29 Open 79 Francisco Diaz, C (NRI)
30 Ryan Lavarnway, C (NRI) 80 Jorge Saez, C (NRI)
31 Aaron Hicks, CF 81 Open
32 Elston Howard 82 Open
33 Greg Bird, 1B

Billy Burns, OF (NRI)

83 Open
34 J.A. Happ, LHP 84 Brady Lail, RHP (NRI)
35 Open 85 Luis Cessa, RHP
36 Danny Farquhar, RHP (NRI) 86 Domingo Acevedo, RHP
37 Casey Stengel 87 Albert Abreu, RHP
38 Open 88 Phil Nevin, Third Base Coach
39 Drew Hutchison, RHP (NRI) 89 Open
40 Luis Severino, RHP 90 Thairo Estrada, 2B/SS
41 Miguel Andujar, 3B 91 Cale Coshow, LHP (NRI)
42 Jackie Robinson

Mariano Rivera

92 Estevan Florial, CF (NRI)
43 Chance Adams, RHP 93 Michael King, RHP (NRI)
44 Reggie Jackson 94 Trey Amburgey, OF (NRI)
45 Luke Voit, 1B 95 Mike Ford, 1B (NRI)
46 Andy Pettitte 96 Matt Lipka, OF (NRI)
47 Jordan Montgomery, LHP 97 Open
48 Tommy Kahnle, RHP 98 Raynel Espinal, RHP (NRI)
49 Ron Guidry 99 Aaron Judge, RF

Bold/Italicized = Retired Numbers

NRI = Non-Roster Invitee

The Boston Red Sox seem to be scavenger hunting for bullpen help. In the last couple of days, they’ve added RHP Brian Ellington and LHP Dan Runzler. Who? Exactly…

The ping pong match between the Chicago Cubs and White Sox with former Yankees prospect LHP Ian Clarkin has finally come to an end. One team would place the player on waivers and the other would claim him. It started when the White Sox placed him on waivers this off-season, claimed by the Cubs, waivers and claimed by the White Sox, waivers and reclaimed by the Cubs. He was placed on waivers again by the Cubs but went unclaimed and was sent outright yesterday to Triple A Iowa. I’ve always liked Clarkin and hope he can find success in Chicago (one park or the other). I would love to see Clarkin back in the Yankees organization but not at the expense of a 40-man roster spot.

It is Groundhog’s Day but this is one day that I’d never want to repeat. This off-season has been brutal and I would not want to extend it one more day. February 13th, when pitchers and catchers report, cannot get here fast enough. The first workout for the pitchers and catchers will be Valentine’s Day, while the position players must show up by Monday, February 18th. Full squad workout the next day, and then the first exhibition game on Saturday, February 23rd when the Yankees travel to Fort Myers, FL to play the Boston Red Sox at JetBlue Park.

I am so ready to talk about the players on the field and not the hypotheticals about certain 26-year-old free agent superstars. Soon, very soon…

As always, Go Yankees!

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The Warmth of Baseball on a Chilly New York Day…

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Soon, The Yankees Head for Tampa…

Welcome to February! That can only mean one thing…it’s time for BASEBALL!  Sorry New England fans (hopefully there aren’t any in here…the combo of Yankees/Patriots fan seems like such an odd pairing) but the most important sport is not happening on Sunday…it’s the opening of Spring Training for all 30 Major League teams in less than two weeks although we all know there is only one team that really matters. This is a Yankees blog and we love our Yankees! February 13th is the day Yankee pitchers and catchers must report, a day we’ve been impatiently awaiting. There is nothing as exciting this month as the Yankees taking over Steinbrenner Field on 1 Steinbrenner Drive in Tampa, Florida. Super Bowl or no Super Bowl.

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It is the first of February yet, as we painfully know, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado have not signed. Well, maybe they have an idea where they’ll be spending their summers and just haven’t let us in on the secret. Regardless, I am resigned to the fact that neither 26-year-old superstar will be wearing the famed Pinstripes this season. I know, it’s not my money but I think it is a huge mistake to pass on potential future Hall of Famers, entering their primes (when the best is yet to come). Two young superior players who can be acquired for only a boatload of Benjamins, keeping all top prospects in the farm system. It kind of bugs me the San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox are in on Harper and Machado (at least by public reports) and the Yankees are not. Sure, the Yankees can never be counted out until Harper and Machado are hoisting up jerseys at press conferences held by other teams but it does seem unlikely there will be any surprise last minute signings by Team Hal.

It looks like the guys who will be on the 2019 Opening Day Roster for the Yankees have already been signed and invited to Major League Camp, barring last minute trades or signings. The reports lately focus on adding another starter, such as Gio Gonzalez or Ervin Santana, as the team’s only remaining need. I agree the Yankees need a hedge for the starting rotation. CC Sabathia, regardless of how healthy he is right now, had a stent placed in a heart artery just a couple of months ago. He’ll be on a short leash. I wouldn’t really want Gio or Santana as part of the starting five, but they’d certainly be better and more reliable options than someone like Luis Cessa should the Yankees need a guy to temporarily step into the rotation. Gio may not be the pitcher he once was for the Oakland A’s and Washington Nationals, but he could help in a swing role. Santana does not appear to be a fit based on his negative words about Yankee Stadium in the past. In 2015, after a game in which Greg Bird hit two home runs, Santana made a comment about the second dinger, “I know, probably in another park that’s a double. But here, it’s a joke.” The Yankees lost another option yesterday when Wade Miley signed with the Houston Astros.  Miley, who has reinvented himself with a cutter, pitched effectively for the Milwaukee Brewers last season and might have represented a solid choice for the Yankees. It has been reported the Yankees did not reach out to Miley before he signed with the Astros so it’s possible the team decides to stay in-house. James Shields is available but it’s been a few years since he was “Big Game James”. Francisco Liriano, Brett Anderson, Jeremy Hellickson and Clay Buchholz are other names out there (or in other words, the pickings are rather slim). I think most of us expect to see Michael King at some point this season although nobody predicts he’ll break camp with the team. The best case scenario if the Yankees do go with internal options is a healthy Jonathan Loaisiga. Unfortunately, “healthy” is a fleeting trait for the young Johnny Lasagna. I am very hopeful this is the year he proves the critics wrong. We know he has a Major League arm and it would be great if we could finally see it on a consistent basis.

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Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Heading into camp, I know the Yankees need to find a way to get DJ LeMathieu on the field. Play him at second with Gleyber Torres at shortstop, or put DJ at third, with Troy Tulowitzki at short and Gleyber staying at second. The latter situation would force the Yankees to move Miguel Andujar to DH and Giancarlo Stanton to left field. Not ideal, but it would be a mistake to leave DJ’s glove on the bench. He needs to play every day. I really hope that Troy Tulowitzki proves me wrong but his presence does not excite me. He has not been a top performer since his days in Colorado. I saw MLB Network Analyst Jim Bowden say recently that while he hopes Tulo is successful, he feels that the player is done. Sadly, that’s where I am at.  If he is finished, it’s no loss for the Yankees. They can just cut Tulo  without any significant financial ramifications. DJ should never be sacrificed for Tulo as a starting option with the infield configuration except for rest. It’s the plan for what happens if Tulo doesn’t make the cut that concerns me.  Torres would have to be the regular starting shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns which makes LeMathieu the every day second baseman for now. Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada would be leaned upon heavily if that happens, barring any veteran signings in the next few weeks. I’d still like to see Adeiny Hechevarria return but I haven’t seen any signs the Yankees are interested. Then again, Brian Cashman doesn’t have me on speed dial so who really knows.

While I’d love for the Boston Red Sox to open the season with their current bullpen, it remains my opinion closer Craig Kimbrel will slip back into their price range. It would be great if the Atlanta Braves signed their former closer or if the Philadelphia Phillies signed him to push David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez into ‘Dellin Betances/Zach Britton’ type of setup roles. But the realist in me knows the Sox won’t shortchange themselves despite current appearances. I saw one Red Sox fan who posted that their best reliever would be no better than fifth best in the Yankees bullpen. He’s right. I just can’t see the Red Sox sabotaging their chances to repeat by failing to address the needs of the pen. Last year, the Red Sox didn’t sign J.D. Martinez until February 26th. He proved to be the key to their success. I see something similar this year and I expect Kimbrel to be the late add. If not Kimbrel, then I bet Boston acquires another arm via trade. Boston is not going away and don’t sleep on the Tampa Bay Rays, especially if they are able to acquire Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto. I expect the AL East to be extremely competitive this year…while the Baltimore Orioles watch, of course.

It’s always fun when the guys start showing up in Tampa for Spring Training. I look forward to the player interviews and seeing video of the new guys like Adam Ottavino, DJ LeMahieu, and Troy Tulowitzki meeting their teammates for the first time or just AO and DJ reconnecting after their disappointing exit together as members of the Colorado Rockies, walking off Coors Field on October 7, 2018 following the NLDS sweep by the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s going to be very fun and exciting to see James Paxton wearing a Yankees cap. The Big Maple is going to be a featured attracton. I am anxious to see him throwing bullpen sessions with Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka, while Aaron Boone and Larry Rothschild watch.   All eyes will be on Miguel Andujar to see if he’s improved his defensive play. I know regardless of the results, we won’t be able to fault the effort.  I have no doubts Andujar has worked very hard this winter to improve his defense and find better positioning to aid his reactionary time. The Luke Voit-Greg Bird battle at first base will be must-watch, even if everyone expects the energetic Voit to emerge the winner. There are just so many interesting stories to keep an eye on this Spring. I am so glad baseball is almost here. The dawn of the 2019 New York Yankees. It’s a great year to be alive!

I look forward to the annual predictions by TGP’s Daniel Burch before the start of the new season and this year should be very fun. The Yankees are a World Series-caliber team ready to take the season as deep into October as possible, to be the last team standing. The goal is simple. Play the final game of the World Series and walk off the field to the spray of champagne. Anything less will be a disappointment. Mariano Duncan’s words that inspired the 1996 World Series champions echo through the halls of Yankee Stadium many years later, “We play today. We win today. Das it!” It started a roll of championships for the Core 4 and here we are again with a new Core and a new era of Yankees Baseball. I am sure Daniel will have the Yankees as the World Series favorite. He will not be wrong. This is our year. We see it, we feel it, we know it.  We just need the team to do it.

For the final weekend without baseball activity, I guess we’ll have to pause for some football. Here’s hoping Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams return the City of Angels to the NFL Championship. I was so excited when the Rams returned to Los Angeles (lived there at the time) after their years away in St Louis and now the franchise is in the Super Bowl against this century’s most dominant NFL team led by a quarterback who might be the greatest of all-time. I personally think it is Joe Montana, but whatever. It would be very exciting for a Rams victory and a Patriots loss. The secondary prize would be disappointment for the Red Sox-Patriots fans. Too bad, so sad. A nice way to start the new baseball year!

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 Go Rams! But as always and more importantly, Go Yankees!

Baseball Talk During Super Bowl Week…

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Who Cares About Tom Brady and the New England Patriots…

Yankee pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training two weeks from today. Finally, the end is in sight for the long, often grueling, off-season. Well, maybe not for the high number of MLB free agents including two “generational talents” but for the rest of us and those players signed, we’ll be hearing the sounds of baseballs popping in catching mitts soon.

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I don’t think any of us expected utility man Neil Walker to return but any chance was eliminated last night when it was announced that he had signed with the Miami Marlins. Walker is expected to platoon with former Yankees prospect Peter O’Brien at first base. Not sure where Garrett Cooper is in the mix (maybe the outfield?) but I think he’s healthy now so there should be a few ex-Yankees roaming the training fields with holdovers Starlin Castro and Caleb Smith for Derek Jeter’s team this Spring. I think I’d be hesitant to wear the Number 14 for the Yankees this year. The last two guys who wore it during the regular season now reside in Miami. Personally, I’d prefer to see Tyler Wade wear the number, giving up 12 for Troy Tulowitzki who obviously cannot wear his Number 2 (as worn in Denver and Toronto) for obvious reasons.

Speaking of numbers, I have no clue what number DJ LeMahieu will wear. If he wants to keep his Colorado Rockies 9 in his number, I suppose he can wear Todd Frazier’s old Number 29. If it were up to me, I’d go with David Robertson’s number (30). James Paxton should wear 65 so that means Domingo German will be part of the number-searching brigade.

I am surprised that we are at the end of January and neither Bryce Harper nor Manny Machado have signed. It was funny watching the unofficial reports yesterday in Philadelphia that had the Phillies signing Harper. Turned out to be fake news like so many of the Harper-Machado rumors we’ve heard this winter. I think I’ve gotten to the point that if Ken Rosenthal is not talking about it, there’s nothing to it.

Despite the infield additions, I would still like to see the Yankees bring in another shortstop. I think they need to plan for the ‘what if’…what if Troy Tulowitzki is unable to recapture his past form? No doubt we’ll see DJ LeMahieu starting at second and Gleyber Torres covering short until Didi Gregorius returns (which is the way it should be anyway with the current roster makeup). But I’d like a strong fallback plan for the Tulo experiment. The Yankees lost one option yesterday when Freddy Galvis signed a one-year deal with the division rival Toronto Blue Jays (who will compete with Lourdes Gurriel, Jr for Tulo’s old job). Adeiny Hechevarria remains available and he’s certainly a guy I’d try to bring back. I think the ship has sailed for someone like Marwin Gonzalez but the former Astro fits the roster so well given his versatility. Jose Iglesias is the only other name out there that seems like a decent possibility. As it stands, it seems as though the Yankees will roll with the tandem of Tulo and Gleyber at short, backed by Tyler Wade. If there was ever a time for Wade to step up big, now is it. I wish I had more confidence in his ability to do it. Maybe the Yankees do. We’ll see.

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The Yankees are continuing their search for another starter as a hedge against the health of CC Sabathia which I feel is a very good idea. None of us want to see Luis Cessa starting on a consistent basis. Most likely Jonathan Loaisiga, if he can stay healthy, represents the best in-house insurance backed by Domingo German.  I fully expect to see Chance Adams and Domingo Acevedo given their chances this year. If the Yankees do bring in another starter, I see someone like Brett Anderson, not Dallas Keuchel.

I was surprised to see the Boston Red Sox sign former Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia to a minors deal. The three-time PED offender who received a lifetime ban a few years ago which was subsequently lifted by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred last summer, gets a fourth chance. The minor-league contract does not include a provision to attend Major League camp but no doubt if Mejia shows anything, he has a chance to make the Red Sox roster at some point this season. Mejia represents a shot in the dark for the Red Sox who have seen their bullpen depleted with the departure of Joe Kelly and the potential Craig Kimbrel does not return. Mejia was once a decent receiver. He’s been away from the game for a long time, yet he is only 29 and could certainly surprise some people. I am sure Boston loves the price tag (Mejia would make $625,000 if he is on the Major League roster) but Mejia’s character is enough for me to pass. Better Boston signs him than the Yankees. Boston fans can stop trashing Alex Rodriguez for his PED use now.

To flip the coin, I hate to defend the Red Sox but I’ve seen so many Yankee fans quick to rip Boston about their bullpen and how the Red Sox cannot match last year’s 108 wins due to career years by a few players. The Red Sox have won three consecutive AL East division championships in a row and four overall since the Yankees last won the division. Boston’s bullpen may not match up with the Yankees at the moment but as we’ve seen, relievers can be the most unpredictable in the sport. The Tampa Bay Rays, historically, have been very good at throwing together very effective bullpens with a cast of no-names. Conversely, even the great Yankee relievers are prone to blow a game now and then. The Yankees’ super-pen may look much better on paper right now but there is still time for the Red Sox to re-sign Kimbrel even if his level of play may be slipping. I know there are some young guys coming up in the Red Sox system that can be effective arms and there are a few holdovers that should not be dismissed like Tyler Thornburg, Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes. I don’t think we should be so quick to discount the Red Sox this year. They are the defending World Champions and they made their AL Division Series with the Yankees last October look like a total mismatch. They still have many of the very talented players that made the Los Angeles Dodgers look like a minor league team in the World Series. Based on their first seasons, Alex Cora was a better manager than Aaron Boone. It doesn’t mean that Boone can’t get better but the Red Sox are simply not going away. I see the division as a total dogfight. The Tampa Bay Rays, with their pitching staff, have the potential to be the surprise team of 2019 like the Oakland A’s were last year.  I’ve gotten to the point where I am tired of people saying that Harper and Machado are “luxuries, not necessities”. Until the Yankees can win the division and advance to the World Series to claim the championship, better players are a necessity. The Yankees haven’t won the World Series since 2009 (ten years ago) and have not sat atop the AL East since 2011.  Yes, the 2019 Yankees, with no further additions, are arguably the best team we’ve seen since the 2009 Yankees, I agree. It does not mean that we cannot or should not strive to be better. No team is going to roll over for the Yankees, not even the lowly Baltimore Orioles. If anything, teams play harder, try harder against the Yankees than any other team. With or without Harper or Machado, the Yankees have much to prove before we can start beating our chests.

Congratulations to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders for the selection of their new manager, Jay Bell.  Bell, known as a player’s manager and referred to as the GOAT by his teams, has managed in the Yankees’ minor league system since 2017. In two years, he has taken High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton to the playoffs and will be looking to make it to the post-season for the third consecutive season with the RailRiders. I know that Aaron Boone likes ‘smart and confident’ which is the reason he chose Josh Bard, most likely a future manager, as his bench coach, but I can’t help but think Boonie would have benefited from someone like Bell at his side. Nevertheless, Bell is now coaching the guys who are just a phone call (and a bus ride) away from the Bronx and guys he has watched grow and develop over the last few years. The former Arizona Diamondback, who scored the winning run on the World Series-winning walk-off single by Luis Gonzalez in 2001 off legendary Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, is making a huge contribution to the Yankees organization. I guess it’s his payback for breaking our hearts so many years ago although I am sure that he’d gladly step on home plate again to defeat the Yankees if given the opportunity. I think Bell’s promotion from Trenton was an excellent move. Nothing against former RailRiders manager Bobby Mitchell but he didn’t really excite me as a manager. Bell does. He seems to have the presence or aura held by former RailRiders manager Al Pedrique, maybe even more so. He’ll do well with the top Yankees farm team and the fruits of his efforts will be highly visible in the Bronx this coming season and for years to come.

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The Yankees should be commended for their decision to sign lefty reliever Danny Farquhar to a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League camp. Last summer, it appeared Farquhar’s career was over with his brain hemorrhage. He survived the life-threatening ordeal and is pitching again.  It’s a tall order for him to make the Yankees roster but I don’t think anybody is rooting against him. It would be a great story if he does deliver this Spring and finds his moment to step out on the Yankee Stadium turf wearing the famed Pinstripes.

If I was a Major League player, I think I’d want to know where I’d be reporting in two weeks. It seems like maybe we’ll see a flurry of signings in the coming days. Starting to see reports this morning that reliever/closer Greg Holland has signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks so there’s another relief option off the board for Boston. I really hope the next week or so finally brings closure to the Harper-Machado saga, wherever they may land. It would be great if one (or both) fell into the Yankees’ lap but I am done with them, and just want to move on.

As always, Go Yankees!

A Week Closer to Spring Training…

Less Than a Month for the Road to Tampa…

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner but for pitchers and catchers when it arrives, it will mean they’ve reported to Spring Training in Tampa one day earlier. Very appropriate considering our love for America’s favorite Pastime. Flowers and chocolates for the loves in our life? No, grab a glove and bat and let’s get after it! I know that I am anxious to see the guys back at Steinbrenner Field so that we can talk about baseball activities as opposed to this dreadful offseason of rumors and rare free agent signings (or as I like to call it, the roller coaster of hope).

The Yankees were busy last week collecting former Colorado Rockies. I like DJ LeMahieu and was surprised his signing was met with much negativity among the fan base. Maybe it’s because I live in Denver, Colorado but I saw firsthand how much DJ meant to the Rockies and their fans. He has such a strong reputation for being an excellent fielder and is very highly thought of by his teammates, and we know he hits for average even if he didn’t accumulate power numbers at the hitter’s friendly high altitude of Coors Field. Even if the Rockies didn’t make DJ an offer, I know the fans and his teammates were disappointed to see DJ leave. For the Rockies, it’s well known that they are saving their pennies for Nolan Arenado. Despite the trade rumors that surfaced late in the week, the Rockies still hope to hang on to their franchise player who can be a free agent after the upcoming season. I feel that we need to give DJ a chance. He wants to win as much as anybody and he seems excited to be a Yankee even if it wasn’t his childhood dream. There’s other infield moves that I might have preferred but I still think LeMahieu is an outstanding addition.

Photo Credit: MLB.com

Later in the week, the Yankees signed former Colorado reliever Adam Ottavino, another fan favorite. I’ve never been a very big fan of the Rockies, kind of hard when your favorite NL team is the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I know that whenever Ottavino was giving an interview, I’d listen. He is well spoken and offers great insight into baseball anytime he talks. He is frequent guest on MLB Network and always makes himself accessible to the media. After his disappointing 2017 season which included his omission from the playoff roster, he didn’t sulk. He took office space in Harlem to build an indoor pitching facility and reinvented himself which led to a highly successful campaign this past year. The native Brooklynite maintains his home in NYC with an apartment in Manhattan and seems such a natural fit to pitch for the Yankees. My hope going into the off-season was for the Yankees to sign at least two of Zach Britton, David Robertson, and Ottavino. While I would have liked to have seen D-Rob return, I can’t say that I am disappointed he has been replaced by Otto.

Ottavino’s signing means the Yankees need to make room on the 40-man roster before the trade can be made official. The flurry of Sonny Gray trade rumors are intensifying which seems to imply the Yankees will be looking to trade Gray for prospects rather than proven MLB talent that might occupy 40-man roster space. It was kind of funny yesterday when Jack Curry of the YES Network fell for a false tweet by the fake Jon Heyman to send out a report Gray had been traded to Cincinnati for a player to be named later and cash. By all accounts, the Yankees are still talking with the Padres and Giants in addition to the Reds. I’ve quit trying to  speculate who the Yankees might get in a Gray trade. I am sure that GM Brian Cashman will acquire the best possible talent. There’s been some talk a reliever like Tommy Kahnle or Jonathan Holder could be included to sweeten the pot, but I’d hate to sell Kahnle low as I feel he’ll be closer to his 2017 version this year. Holder was the breakout arm last season and as a young cost-controlled pitcher, he carries too much value in terms of both cost and talent to trade (unless you are convinced Stephen Tarpley and other minor league arms are ready to ascend to the Bronx). I’d prefer to see Holder and Tarpley as the last men in the pen, aside from long relief/spot starter which I anticipate to go to Jonathan Loaisiga if Gray is traded. It’s very possible that a Gray trade could go down this weekend or early next week. The Yankees should be in position to make Otto’s signing official by Monday or Tuesday so you’d think Gray will be gone before then, although I’d have no problem, personally, in severing ties with Luis Cessa.

Jon Heyman, the real one I think, is reporting the Gray trade is expected to happen this weekend. Per his tweet on Twitter this morning: “Yankees and Reds are getting closer on a Sonny Gray trade. Teams are talking about two prospects and a draft pick going for Sonny. One of 2B prospect Shed Long and C prospect Tyler Stephenson may go. Giants, Braves, Brewers are on periphery. A deal should happen this weekend.” I liked a tweet yesterday when the commenter said that if he saw Sonny Gray was traded for a shed, he wouldn’t blink an eye. I know, I feel the same way but it would be nice to get a value return.

Congratulations to Brian Cashman for at least getting a young prospect for outfielder Tim Locastro who was designated for assignment when LeMahieu was signed. Locastro was traded to Arizona for 17-year-old LHP Ronald Roman of the Dominican Republic.  Roman had been signed by the Diamondbacks last summer as an international signee and is set to make his professional debut this year in the lower levels of the farm system. Could not really find any information on him. He’s a lottery ticket, for sure, but you can’t win if you don’t take a chance.

Back to the bullpen, the Yankees have certainly built what should be the premier pen in the league. But we know that even the best of bullpens give up a few runs now and then. I like the Yankees’ chances in the late innings, but there will be breakdowns. We can’t expect perfection but all things considered, I’d rather take my chances with the Yankees’ pen over any other team in Major League Baseball. I am surprised the Boston Red Sox have not done anything to fill their holes in the bullpen. I still think they’ll eventually get Craig Kimbrel back. I know the Sox don’t want to pay Kimbrel’s current asking price but I’d still be surprised if they let him walk away. I really thought they’d snare one of Britton, Robertson or Ottavino and I am so glad it did not happen. Given Otto’s relatively affordable contract of 3 years for $27 million, I was even more surprised the Sox didn’t make a play for him despite carrying MLB’s highest payroll. If the Red Sox do lose Kimbrel, I’d expect Dave Dombrowski to make a trade to bring in a proven closer unless they are convinced Tyler Thornburg is healthy and ready to pitch at the level he did a couple of years ago for the Milwaukee Brewers. Thornburg had 13 saves for the Brewers in 2016, with 2.15 ERA after being named their closer midway through the year. He had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in 2017, and wasn’t really able to do anything last summer  after his return (5.63 ERA over 24 innings) before being shut down early in September. I am sure the Red Sox will figure out their current bullpen mess but it’s clear they do not value the importance of a super bullpen like the Yankees do. If I ran the Sox, I’d probably sign Dallas Keuchel and move Nathan Eovaldi to the pen. No doubt Keuchel’s asking price is dropping.

As it stands right now, I like the current composition of the 2019 Yankees and certainly believe they have the talent to take down the Red Sox. There are other moves the team could make to improve the roster but if they don’t, this is still a damn good team. I am so ready to watch the baseballs flying in Tampa and seeing Aaron Judge’s grin as he arrives at Steinbrenner Field. It’s almost time for the Yankees fan base to reunite and cheer for MLB’s best team.

As always, Go Yankees!

2018 World Series Champions: The Boston Red Sox…

Equates to VICTORY for Julia, not me…

I am writing this as a result of a lost bet with a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan named Julia (@werbiefitz). During the recent World Series, I took the side of my favorite National League team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Julia stayed with the team she has stood with since her childhood, the Boston Red Sox. The loser of the bet (which turned out to be me) was forced to read a book chosen by the winner. Upon completion of reading the book, the loser was required to write an essay about the ten things they learned from the book. Not a book review, that wasn’t really the point of the exercise, but rather how did the book affect you.

The Red Sox won the 2018 World Series in five games to cap an incredible season which saw the team win a franchise high 108 games during the regular season. It represented the fourth World Series Championship for Julia since the Curse of the Bambino was broken in 2004. For me, it was a tough post-season. My favorite team, the New York Yankees, won 100 games but were eliminated in the ALDS by the Red Sox. Then, my favorite NL team gave me second life. A renewed opportunity to take down the mighty Red Sox. It was not meant to be and I suffered two heart-breaking series losses to Boston in the same October. Victory to Julia, and some book reading and an essay for me. I also had to change my FaceBook cover photo to one showing the Red Sox celebration for one week upon conclusion of the World Series.

The book Julia chose for me was Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant. At first glance, it would be easy to find the negatives in the book about the city of Boston and the Red Sox franchise, but admittedly, I found this a story of redemption.

I was shocked almost from the start when I found out the Red Sox had the first opportunity in Major League Baseball to sign the great Jackie Robinson on April 16, 1945 but passed due in large part to racism that existed within the fabric of the franchise. I didn’t know former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey but I do know that he hired his drinking buddies to hold key executive positions within the franchise and their racist beliefs prevented potential Red Sox teams that could have featured Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Ted Williams in the same lineup. It’s scary to think what the trio would have been capable of together. They certainly would have had a say in the great Yankees Dynasty of the 1950’s.

I qualify this book as focused on the Red Sox but to believe that racism did not occur within the halls of other MLB organizations, including the New York Yankees, would be very wrong. Even the Dodgers organization, as the first team to feature a black player on its roster in 1947, was later marred by the racist words of their former General Manager, Al Campanis, who was fired in 1987.  The book briefly mentioned Elston Howard, who was the first and sadly only black player on the Yankee rosters for years during the 1950’s. Howard later played for the Red Sox.

Tom Yawkey purchased the Red Sox in 1933. Yawkey had admired Eddie Collins, a former second baseman with the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox, and appointed him as the team’s vice president and general manager when he took over control of the team. Collins had been with the White Sox during the infamous Black Sox scandal of 1919 when they threw the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds but Collins had been cleared of any wrongdoing. In 1935, Yawkey traded for Washington Nationals shortstop Joe Cronin, developing close friendships with both Collins and Cronin. From basically 1933 through 1958, Collins and/or Cronin controlled all player movement within the Red Sox organization. With these two men, I believe, Yawkey tarnished his legacy. Whether he was racist or not is not really the point, he allowed racism to exist to the detriment of the city and the franchise and that makes him responsible.

After passing on Jackie Robinson in 1945, the Red Sox had a unique opportunity to sign Willie Mays four years later due to an exclusive lease arrangement that existed between a Red Sox affiliate, the Birmingham Barons, and the Negro League’s Black Barons. Cronin, by that time the GM for the Red Sox, had been tipped off about the incredible talents of the 18-year-old Mays and he sent a reluctant and racist scout to Alabama to watch Mays. According to stories, it rained for three days and the scout sent the Red Sox front office a negative review, perhaps without ever laying eyes on the legendary Say Hey Kid. It was another missed opportunity for the Red Sox, although I am sure the New York/San Francisco Giants didn’t mind.

The Red Sox were the last Major League Baseball team to add a black player to its roster. While the rest of the Major League teams were slowly starting to integrate, it would take the Red Sox over a decade before they would finally add a person of color to their team. Elijah “Pumpsie” Green, Jr. was born in Richmond, CA (East Bay near Oakland) in 1935. His brother, Cornell, someone I’ve been aware of since my childhood, was a star defensive back for the Dallas Cowboys. However, I never knew who Pumpsie Green was until reading the book. Fighting through racism within the organization and at the team’s training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, Green believed that he was going to open the 1959 season as the first black player for the Red Sox. At the eleventh hour, one of the noted racists within the Red Sox organization, manager Mike “Pinky” Higgins demoted Green to the minor leagues. Fortunately, it would prove to be a temporary decision. Higgins was fired 73 games into the ’59 season and replaced by Bill Jurges.  By that time, Eddie Collins was dead and Joe Cronin had left the Red Sox to become President of the American League. Green finally got the call to join the Red Sox later during the summer and on July 21, 1959, Pumpsie became the first African American player to take the field for the Red Sox when he was inserted as a pinch-runner for Vic Wertz and stayed in the game to play shortstop in Boston’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. After the game, Green wept in the clubhouse. I cannot begin to imagine the emotions he must have felt that day.

On a side note about Pumpsie Green, Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams routinely warmed up with Green before games. It became a superstition for Ted but for Pumpsie, he remembered Williams as one of few who treated him both as a ballplayer and a man. I personally haven’t followed Red Sox history, but the way Williams approached Green gives me newfound respect for the Hall of Famer.

Pitcher Earl Wilson might have been the first African American player for the Red Sox if not for a two-year military commitment. Originally drafted as a catcher, Wilson blossomed as a hard-throwing pitcher and roomed with Pumpsie Green for a time. But for Wilson, the Red Sox years were hard ones. After the ’59 season was over, Tom Yawkey fired Billy Jurges and restored the racist Pinky Higgins as manager. As their careers moved into the early 1960’s, Green’s career was quietly coming to a close (the lack of consistent playing time prevented him from realizing his potential) while Wilson was becoming more prominent. In 1962, Wilson (12-8, 3.90 ERA) threw a no-hitter against the Los Angeles Angels.

When Yawkey fired Higgins as manager in 1962, Wilson felt Yawkey was finally opening his eyes to what a divisive man Higgins had been. Unfortunately, Yawkey surprised everyone by making Higgins his general manager.  Higgins was the GM in June 1965 when the Red Sox traded Earl Wilson to the Detroit Tigers along with Joe Christopher for Don Demeter and Julio Navarro. Wilson won 22 games for the 1967 Tigers, although the Tigers finished a game behind The Impossible Dream Red Sox that year, and he accumulated 338 victories overall for his career. Although Wilson lost Game 3 of the Series, he celebrated a World Series Championship with the Tigers in 1968. It’s sad that a pitcher primed for tremendous MLB success in Boston saw his greatest days in Detroit.

In a twist of irony, Tom Yawkey fired Pinky Higgins as GM on September 16, 1965, the same day Red Sox pitcher Dave Morehead tossed a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. After his firing, while in Louisiana, Higgins drove his car into a group of black highway workers. He killed one man, a white World War II veteran and injured three others. He was charged with driving while intoxicated and sentenced to four years. However, he was paroled after serving only two months in 1969. But just two days after his release, Higgins dropped dead from a heart attack. As Earl Wilson would say while in Detroit when asked to comment on his former manager, “Good things happen to some people”.

I was appalled to learn that The Elks Club, as recently as the 1980’s, condoned racism. The Elks Club in Winter Haven, FL, the site of Red Sox spring training at the time would issue invitations to white players, but not the blacks. Growing up in the Midwest in the 70’s, my step father was an active member of The Elks Club and served as the Exalted Ruler for the local chapter in my hometown in 1978. I was unaware the organization condoned racism and I am deeply saddened to have been connected to such a pitiful organization. I may have been a kid but I feel a responsibility that I should have known better. I only hope that my step-father’s chapter did not practice racism like the Winter Haven chapter did. My mother and step-father have passed away so it is not a discussion I can have with them.

To back up a little, I vividly recall when Jim Rice and Fred Lynn burst onto the Major League scene for Boston in the mid-70’s. They were great players from the start.  Living far away in the Midwest, I didn’t see how the players were treated differently in their own city. Jim Rice, backed by his superior talent, had the power to be a major voice for the black community but it wasn’t his personality.  He was introspective and to the media, he was unfriendly and considered sullen. I know Rice has gotten into tiffs with Derek Jeter and CC Sabathia over the years for whatever reasons, but I am not trying to indict the man. He was an incredible ball player. In a career spent entirely in Boston, Rice hit 382 home runs and drove in 1,451 runs. His career batting average was a healthy .298 and he had 2,452 hits in a career that spanned from 1974 to 1989. He was an eight-time All Star, AL MVP in the Bucky “F**king” Dent year of 1978, a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, three-time AL home run leader, and two-time AL RBI leader. Yet, his number (14) was not retired by the Red Sox until two days after his Hall of Fame induction in July 2009. No one wore the number after his retirement but still, Rice is among the Red Sox Legends and deserved better treatment. Rice was charitable and a humanitarian. I think he is misunderstood because of his personality and I’d like to think he could have done more to help pave the way for black players in Boston, but there is no denying the man was one of the best in the history of the Red Sox to pick up a glove, bat and ball.  Noted baseball columnist Peter Gammons believed history would have been significantly different had Rice taken an active role in voicing his thoughts about the climate and culture of the Red Sox organization. To Rice’s defense, I’ll use this quote from the book’s author: “Had Rice been white, he would have been lauded as a modern-day Gil Hodges: strong, silent, important. Being black, though, meant Rice was moody, arrogant and distant.”  These words prove to me that I have absolutely no idea what it was like to walk in Jim Rice’s shoes.

The next great superstar in the Red Sox organization was slugger Mo Vaughn. He was drafted in Rice’s last year in 1989. For an organization that had featured so many outsiders over the years, Vaughn was a New Englander. He was from Norwalk, CT and had frequently visited Boston while growing up.  He was hailed as the first local Red Sox star since Carlton Fisk. As a Yankees fan, I despised Vaughn coming to the plate, much like how I’d later feel about David “Big Papi” Ortiz or more recently, Mookie Betts. These men knew/know how to use Fenway Park to their full advantage.

Vaughn was the AL Most Valuable Player in 1995.  The city of Boston accepted Vaughn as their own and he was able to transcend the issue of race in his city.  Vaughn loved the city of Boston and wanted to spend his entire career there. The GM at the time, Dan Duquette, brought an era of diversity to the Red Sox. He corrected many of the wrongs committed by previous regimes and reconnected with former black players like Tommy Harper, Dave Henderson, Reggie Smith, and Jim Rice. But for all his positives, Duquette had his faults. He had a reputation of being difficult to work with and he frustrated those who worked for him. The relationship between Duquette and Vaughn became irreparable in 1998 when Vaughn was led to believe that he would be offered four-year contract for approximately $42 million (Peter Gammons believed they had reached agreement). Yet, when the offer came, it was only two years for $17 million. Using the media, the Red Sox orchestrated a smear campaign on the popular Vaughn. Vaughn had put together six monster years for the Red Sox, but on November 25, 1998 as a free agent, he left the team to sign a six-year, $80 million contract with the Anaheim Angels. It was a sad day for Boston and for Baseball in general. Vaughn was not a So-Cal kind of guy. He was a New Englander who should have called Fenway Park home for his entire career. I certainly do not feel that Dan Duquette is a racist but this might have been one of the saddest stories while reading the book.

On February 22, 2002, the legacy of Tom Yawkey was ended when John Harrington sold the club to an ownership group led by John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino. It brought much needed closure for the Yawkey Era, and it set the Red Sox on a path that has yielded four World Series championships in fourteen years. Before reading the book, I am not sure that I fully understood the huge impact John Henry has had on the Red Sox organization and how he has, through actions and not just words, rebranded the Red Sox organization into an exemplary model of professionalism and class. Well, maybe not for Yankee fans like me, but the current ownership group should be applauded for making a difference.

As Julia pointed out to me, while the history of the Red Sox organization wasn’t always pretty, the other Boston sports franchises were ground-breakers with integration. Willie O’Ree is referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of ice hockey” (the first black player in the NHL). He made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958. Chuck Cooper became the first black player drafted in the NBA when he was selected with the first pick in the second round of the 1950 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. Legendary Celtics coach/executive Red Auerbach put together the NBA’s first all-black starting five in 1964. In the inaugural American Football League draft in 1960, the Boston Patriots selected running back Ron Burton in the first round as their first-ever pick. Rommie Loudd became the AFL’s first black coach when he was named linebackers coach for the Patriots in 1966. Loudd later became the first black top executive in major league sports as the owner of the World Football League’s Florida Blazers in 1974.

There is so much more to the book than I’ve touched on with this short essay. Racism continues to be a big part of our everyday life in 2018 and it must stop. We’ve made some progress, but we are not where we need to be. We live in a current climate of hatred and blame which allows racism to survive. If I have one wish, it is a hope and prayer I live to see the end of racism as we know it. Even this week, there were reports out of the Seattle Mariners organization that their former Director of High Performance, Dr. Lorena Martin, has made allegations of derogatory comments made by GM Jerry DiPoto, Manager Scott Servais, and Director of Player Development Andy McKay with racial and sexist overtones. Maybe it is a case of a disgruntled former employee, but maybe it is not. Where there’s smoke, there’s generally fire. If true, this is unacceptable behavior that cannot be tolerated. I think all of us want a better tomorrow for our children and their children. The work to make it happen starts here.  No looking back, the focus should be on now and the future, and how we can help each other be successful and live meaningful, rewarding lives.  As they say, none of us are getting out of here alive.  We should live these days to the best of our ability and to share love and happiness around the World.

That’s a wrap. While I wish that I had won the bet with Julia, I learned a great deal from the book and hopefully I can be a better person as a result. Enjoy your World Series championship, Julia. Your team earned it. But rest assured, the New York Yankees will be back, stronger than ever in 2019.  Until next time…

World Series: Dodgers vs Red Sox…

LA wins NLCS to advance to Fall Classic…

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been my favorite National League team and now they represent my final hope for ending Boston’s season without a championship. The Yankees couldn’t stop the Red Sox and neither could the defending Champion Houston Astros. I wasn’t too confident heading into Game 7 of the NLCS, especially with the game being played in Milwaukee, but the Dodgers showed the resiliency they’ve had all season to win the game in convincing fashion and propel themselves into the World Series for the second consecutive year.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Nothing against the Milwaukee Brewers. I think they’re a fine baseball team and I have much respect for former Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and former Yankees Erik Kratz and Curtis Granderson, but as a Minnesota Vikings fan, the thought of a World Series between the fan bases for both the Red Sox and Green Bay Packers was a bit too much for me. I am glad the Dodgers bailed me out. I guess I should also thank former Yankee Clay Bellinger and his wife for giving birth to Cody and setting the stage for young Bellinger’s go-ahead two-run homer last night.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Stacy Revere)

I wish the Dodgers had a more formidable bullpen outside of closer Kenley Jansen but the Red Sox proved you don’t need a great bullpen to make it to the World Series. I doubt we’ll see Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw closing out games in the World Series like he did Game 7 of the NLCS. But down the stretch, the Dodgers pen performed about as well as you could so I think I’ll take my chances with Dodger Blue over the course of the next four to seven games. The Dodgers have the bats to get into Boston’s bullpen and I think that will finally be the Achilles Heel for the Red Sox.

It will be fun to see Manny Machado back in Boston. Like Manny’s response last night while celebrating when asked if the win was sweet after the boos from the crowd. He said “what do you think?” and took a swig of champagne. Perfect! There is no love lost between Machado and the Red Sox from his days in Baltimore, and I am sure much will be written in the coming days about his villainess in the city. No doubt the boo birds will show up in full force on Tuesday night. I’d love to see Machado to emerge as one of the heroes of this World Series. It makes a nice segue for his future as a Yankee.

As previously written on this blog, I have finalized the wager with my long-time friend, Boston-area native/resident and die-hard Red Sox fan, Julia (@werbiefitz on Twitter). We have had numerous wagers over the years involving the Yankees and Red Sox. It was not meant to be (for me) this year so I am jumping on the Dodgers bandwagon for the latest wager. Well, it’s not really ‘bandwagon jumping’ since the Dodgers have long been my NL team and that wouldn’t have changed even if they had lost 115 games this year like the Baltimore Orioles. The Yankees are still my primary team, but for the rest of October, I am bleeding Dodger Blue.

For our wager, the loser must change her (okay, his/her) cover photo on FaceBook to a picture of the winning team celebrating their World Series championship for seven days at the conclusion of the 2018 World Series. The loser must also read a book chosen by the winner, and then post a minimum 500-word essay about the ten things they learned reading the book. Not a book review, but rather information that he/she did not previously know about the winning organization. The essay must then be posted on Social Media for all to see.

For Julia, since the Dodgers are going to win, I’ve chosen Brothers in Arms:  Koufax, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition by Jon Weisman.

Should I lose, which is obviously not going to happen, Julia has chosen Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant.

We’ve had fun with these wagers over the years. I’ve had to take pics of myself wearing Red Sox hats, including a pink one, and Julia, a Red Sox fan from birth, has had to wear a Yankee hat…in public…in Boston. Since I don’t live in the New York City area, I’ve been fortunate I haven’t had to wear a Red Sox cap in the Bronx, but I am sure it is inevitable if we keep up these wagers.

Game On, Julia! I am ready. My beloved Yankees may not have been able to take down the Red Sox this year, but I get a second chance with the Dodgers. 2018 has been a year of resiliency for the Dodgers who were once ten games below .500 (16-26) during the regular season.  They’ve battled back a few times, with their backs to the wall, and have always prevailed. They may have lost the 2017 World Series to the Houston Astros but this is a year of redemption. You’ll always have your 108 regular season wins, but sorry, my friend, your season will end on a down note. You may want to go ahead and buy the book in advance so that you are ready to start reading.

My prediction:  Dodgers in Six (with hat tip to former Yankees and Dodgers manager Joe Torre).

My apologies, I now return you to Yankees Baseball…

After celebrating Mickey Mantle’s birthday yesterday, today’s “Birthday Boy” is alive and well at age 90.  Happy Birthday to the Chairman of the Board, Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford!

Whitey was born on October 21, 1928 in New York City. A lifetime Yankee, Whitey pitched for the Pinstripers in 1950, served two years in the U.S. Army during the Korean War (thank you for your service!), and resumed his career in the Bronx from 1953 through 1967. Ford was 236-106, 2.75 ERA, and had 1,956 strikeouts for the Yankees. He was a ten-time MLB All-Star and he won six World Series championships. In 1961, he was the AL Cy Young Award winner and World Series MVP. Andy Pettitte may have surpassed Ford for most wins by a lefty in franchise history if not for Andy’s three years in Houston. Pettitte, who won 256 games overall, finished 17 wins behind Ford while wearing the famed Pinstripes. It is very appropriate for Ford to remain at the top of the list, closely followed by Pettitte, another former Yankee I hold in very high regard.

I get excited to see Whitey Ford every year on Old Timer’s Day. His health is in decay (I know, it happens to the best of us) and there will be a day when he is no longer able to take part in the Yankee Stadium festivities. Like Mantle, he was a great, great Yankee, and perhaps the greatest living one. I am so proud he is among the greatest of Yankee Legends.

I’ve seen a few Yankee fans say the team should sign Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, and Nathan Eovaldi for the starting rotation next year. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo wrote this morning in his Sunday Baseball Notes that Eovaldi, currently part of Boston’s World Series roster, should command a deal comparable to the one that Alex Cobb signed late last off-season with the Baltimore Orioles (4 years at $57 million). If the Yankees are successful in signing Corbin and retaining Happ, that’s probably too much for the Yankees to sign Eovaldi as well, especially with young guys like Justus Sheffield, Jonathan Loaisiga, Albert Abreu and Domingo German waiting in the wings. If the Yanks lose out on Happ, I’d have no problem with an Eovaldi reunion but I am not really expecting it to happen.

As for Corbin, Cafardo notes the Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and Atlanta Braves will also be vying for his services. Here’s hoping “blood” is thicker than water. Assuming all dollars are fairly equal, I hope Corbin chooses his Yankee family roots. While Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado would be nice free agent signings (or in the words of TGP’s Daniel Burch, “luxuries”), Corbin is clearly the one I want and the one the team needs. Patrick, we’re waiting for ya, bud! Come join the Party in the Bronx! We will be spilling champagne in 2019!

After previously withdrawing his name from consideration for the managerial gig with the Cincinnati Reds, Joe Girardi has withdrawn his name from consideration in Texas for the Rangers job. I am a little surprised but I have always felt Girardi’s dream job is with the Chicago Cubs. I can’t see Joe Maddon staying with the Cubs too many more years so maybe that’s what Girardi is waiting for. Who knows. Maybe he is starting to understand the reasons he is no longer Yankees manager. As for the Reds, they’ll name David Bell as their new manager on Monday. Bell, like Yankees manager Aaron Boone, comes from a baseball family.  His grandfather, Gus, and his father, Buddy, were both Major Leaguers. Boonie is creating a new trend…analytics AND baseball in the blood.

Lastly, a shout out to Didi Gregorius! He was sharing his million-dollar smile last night at the Knicks game. It didn’t help the Knicks win (they lost by two to Boston) but the pic put a smile on my face. It was a reality check to see his heavily wrapped elbow but the dude can light up any room with his effervescent personality. I can’t wait to see him back on the playing field, starting at shortstop, next summer.

As always, Go Yankees!

Yet Another Unofficial World Series…

Chicago White Sox v New York Yankees

Red Sox Advance to Fall Classic to Play Dodgers or Brewers…

Sadly, the Boston Red Sox are returning to the World Series. I was hopeful that the defending champion Houston Astros would end their season, but unfortunately, the Astros were a no-show. I still feel the Yankees and the Astros were the better teams, but for whatever reason(s), fate sided with Boston. The Red Sox, from April forward, have consistently found ways to win, en route to 108 victories over the course of the long season. They are not in the World Series by some fluke. Growing up as a kid with the Curse of the Bambino alive and well, it does kind of suck that the Red Sox have played in and have won more World Series than the Yankees this century.

Speaking of my childhood, I have never forgotten an illustrator for The Des Moines (Iowa) Register by the name of Frank Miller who used to say that it wasn’t an official World Series if the Yankees weren’t playing in it.  I know it’s something that I’ve mentioned on this site before, but I think about it every year so my apologies for the regression.

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I am already lining up a wager with a long-time friend and die-hard Red Sox fan. We’ve had numerous wagers over the years involving the Yankees and the Red Sox, but this year, since the Yankees are home for the holidays, I am riding the Los Angeles Dodgers (assuming they can get past the Milwaukee Brewers, of course). If the Dodgers make it to the World Series, the bet is on. The loser must post a picture of the winning team’s celebration as their cover photo on Facebook for seven days following the World Series, and the loser must read a book about the winning organization (as selected by the winner) and write a 500-word essay about the ten things they learned about the winning organization they did not know before. The essay must be posted on Social Media.  For my friend, I have chosen Brothers in Arms: Koufax, Kershaw, and the Dodgers’ Extraordinary Pitching Tradition by Jon Weisman should the Dodgers win the World Series.

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My friend will choose a Red Sox book for me to read if Boston wins the World Series. Of course, if the Dodgers stumble in Milwaukee and end their season prematurely, the wager is moot. I have no interest in a Brewers-Red Sox World Series and my baseball season will be officially done.  I wanted to pick a Yankees book for my friend to read, but Boston beat the Yankees fair and square in the ALDS, proving that, for this year anyway, they are the better team. Dodgers, please do not let me down. You’re my last hope for bringing down the mighty Red Sox.

I know that Manny Machado has taken much heat over the past week for not hustling and dirty play but I have not wavered in my desire for the Yankees to sign him in free agency after the season. He remains a young, special and talented superstar player who will help any team that he plays for. He has a desire to play in New York and he can handle New York.  He’s hated in Boston which is perfectly fine by me. Nothing Machado has done has deterred my wish for seeing him in Pinstripes. If the Yankees go after Bryce Harper instead, that’s fine.  I’d be stoked to have Harper as a Yankee. If Cashman and Company decide neither player is worth the investment, then so be it. Clearly, the greatest need is finding help for the starting rotation and filling in the potential holes in the bullpen. If the Yankees do nothing in the off-season but focus on pitching, I’m fine with it. But regardless, I wanted to get it out there that I continue to support Manny Machado and he’ll continue to be one of my favorite players next season, no matter what uniform he is wearing. Well, if he signs with Boston, that might hurt.

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Photo Credit: AP (Matt Slocum)

I really wish the Yankees could find a way to unload Jacoby Ellsbury. I am dreading the thought of his presence at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL next Spring. I know, when healthy, he’s a decent player.  But his history has proven he cannot be relied upon. He may be healthy in March, but, no doubt, it will not be an injury-free year. The certainties of life…death, taxes, and Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list. I am tired of the guy and I wish he’d resume his career elsewhere.

Has Sonny Gray been traded yet? Another player that I am anxiously awaiting to see place the word “former” in front of “Yankee”. I like the suggestions of Gray to Arizona in a package to get Arizona’s Robbie Ray or Paul Goldschmidt or to San Francisco for second baseman Joe Panik. I am sure that Gray will prosper in a less pressurized environment and I am confident GM Brian Cashman will get the best possible return despite Gray’s struggles in the Big Apple. Now if he could just do something about Ellsbury, too.

For those who say that Houston’s Marwin Gonzalez fits in with the Yankees, I agree. If the Yankees decide to pass on the big ticket purchases in free agency, I think Gonzalez could help this team. Or even if they do sign Machado or Harper, I think Gonzalez would be a good Yankee. I don’t like the Astros but I do like Marwin and his versatility. I know 2018 was a bit of a down year for him, or maybe it is his norm and 2017 was an unusual year, but either way, I like the character of the guy and the winning attitude he exudes. He certainly helps fill some holes with the ability to play first base, shortstop and left field.

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Photo Credit: AP (David J Phillip)

Here’s hoping the Dodgers take care of business tonight in Milwaukee. Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 1.97 ERA in 15 regular season games), one of the Dodgers’ best starters down the stretch, gets the ball.  He’ll be opposed by the resurgent one-time Red Sock Wade Miley (5-2, 2.57 ERA). Miley lost 15 games for the Baltimore Orioles last season and now he’s charged with extending the post-season for the Brewers, probably throwing to former Yankee Erik Kratz. Life is funny. No offense to those guys, but I hope their season ends tonight. The Dodgers have a date with the Red Sox and I don’t want anything to mess it up.

Tonight (and possibly tomorrow), it’s Go Dodgers.

But as always (and a lot more), Go Yankees!