Photo Credit: Getty Images
New Decade: Great Hope for Pinstripes…
It’s been an interesting year. When January opened, many of us (okay, namely me) wanted the Yankees to sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. The thought of ‘excite the Fan Base, Hal Steinbrenner’ keep reverberating through my head. On January 14th, the Yankees signed free agent second baseman D.J. LeMahieu, and the Yankees, for all intents and purposes, were out of the Harp-Chado Sweepstakes. The signing of the former Colorado Rockies second baseman was met with general indifference from the Yankees fan base, but it would prove to be a much bigger acquisition than Machado would be for San Diego or Harper for Philly. Both of those teams did so well with their new $300+ million men that they fired their managers. LeMahieu’s manager wasn’t the AL Manager of the Year but he should have been.
Photo Credit: Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports
By now, we know the Yankees won 103 games during the regular season despite a historic number of men (30) who found their way to the Injured List. The ALDS was a success against the homer happy Minnesota Twins, but the season came to an abrupt end in the ALCS playing against a team that subscribes to the theory ‘if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying’. Okay, that’s a Jim Rome quote but it fits the eventual AL Champions and then some. Someone bang on a garage can for the Houston Astros.
I keep hearing the reason the Yankees failed in the ALCS was because of the hitters. In the playoffs, you face the best of the best. No team is throwing a #5 starter at you to see if they can beat you. With Houston, they had three aces. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke. There’s a reason the Yankees couldn’t buy a hit when they needed it. Fortunately, the Yankees, after the season was over, recognized the primary goal of this off-season was to get an ace.
James Paxton, after a rough start (it seemed like the first inning was never his friend for the longest time), settled into his role as the best Yankees pitcher. I like Paxton a lot but he is not an ace. While he can be, he is more of a #2. I’ve seen countless people post on Social Media that Luis Severino is an ace. He’s not but can be (maybe even more so than Paxton). Sevy needs to prove it over the course of a long season. Consistency and good health are the two primary ingredients needed before Sevy can call himself an ace. The potential is there but it has yet to be realized. Masahiro Tanaka can be very good but he’s not an ace. The regular season is filled with those dang obligatory homers. Once the playoffs start, he pitches with laser-like focus and like Andy Pettitte, is a man you want on the mound in October. Three very good pitchers, but no current ace among them.
The problem was solved on December 18th, ten days ago, when the Yankees officially signed Gerrit Cole to the largest pitching contract in MLB history (9 years for $324 million). If the opt out after 5 years is exercised, the Yankees can add an additional year to the deal, making it worth $360 million. I’d say that Hal Steinbrenner has excited the Yankees fan base. With an ace, the Yankees suddenly have one of the best starting rotations in baseball after seasons where the rotation was viewed as the primary weakness. Weakening the lying, cheating Houston Astros was an added bonus.
Photo Credit: AP
The cautionary tale is the Boston Red Sox. A couple of years ago, Sox fans were beating their chests over a starting rotation headlined by Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello. Porcello is now a Met, Price’s name is regularly among trade rumors as a potential salary dump and Sale can’t stay healthy. If the Yankees have an advantage over the Red Sox, it is a much deeper farm system with talented young pitching prospects to provide a hedge. The Cleveland Indians have proven an ability to grow aces on trees, and of course, the Yankees now have one of those architects on the coaching staff with Matt Blake as the new pitching coach. To Boston’s credit, they have a World Series championship to show for their collection of starters and the Yankees have not. But if I had to place a bet on which team would win more World Series in the next five years, I can assure you it would not be Boston. If the Yankees can bring the World Series championship total to at least 30 over the next decade, I’d call Cole’s contract a smashing success and those Red Sox championships of 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018 will be nothing but a forgotten memory.
Even though 2019 did not bring a championship to the Bronx, it has set the stage for a very strong Yankees squad in 2020. A more complete team that is ready to take the next step. Even though 2010-19 is the first decade in a century that did not feature at least one World Series appearance by the Yankees, it figures to change in 2020-29 with restoration of appearances AND victories.
I look forward to 2020 with great optimism and I know it will be a great year for the Yankees and all their fans.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
In other news, the fan-created trade speculation for Josh Hader continues. Yet, not one reputable baseball writer with genuine sources has indicated the Yankees are close on any trades. Miguel Andujar’s name keeps getting mentioned by fans as expendable. As much as I love Gio Urshela’s glove at third base, I am fearful about a regression in Gio’s offense after last year’s breakout. The Yankees need Andujar. I know his defense is often criticized, but moving D.J. LeMahieu from second to third would force the Yankees to use Tyler Wade or Thairo Estrada at second. I’d rather keep LeMahieu, an elite defender, at second, and use Andujar at third if Gio fails. I wouldn’t be so quick to trade him. Andujar also has the potential to see some time at first and perhaps in left field with additional work in the Spring. He is trying to get better defensively and his workout videos show a man who is trying to improve his game. Personally, I wouldn’t trade Andujar for a reliever regardless of how good the reliever is. Third base is simply not a position of strength in the farm system and Urshela, as I’ve mentioned, is no sure thing.
The latest name circulating among the Twitter GM’s is Nick Castellanos. Castellanos may be a good hitter but where does he fit on the Yankees? The Detroit Tigers moved him off third base because of subpar defensive skills. I’d rather have Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Garder, and Mike Tauchman in left field. Castanellos, who became a right fielder, cannot play center and he’s certainly not going to take Aaron Judge’s spot in right. Make him a DH? It wouldn’t allow the Yankees to maximize the potential of the DH slot with the rotation of great hitters already on the team. I see no fit for Castanellos on the Yankees roster. The bat’s nice but it is not enough to make his addition a roster upgrade. In fact, you could argue it would be a detriment because of the lineup inflexibility it would cause. Personally, I like Joc Pederson, a left-handed hitter, and think he’d fit better on the roster if the Yankees could swing a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’d love to see Joc taking his shots at Yankee Stadium’s short right porch. He may be a platoon bat to face right-handed pitching but he’d mesh well with the other Yankee outfielders or at least better than Castellanos would. Steamer has projected Joc to hit 31 home runs and 76 RBIs in 2020 with .255/.345/.537 batting line and .364 wOBA and 129 wRC+ in approximately 500 plate appearances. Unlike Castanellos, Pederson is a solid defender.
It’s always nice to see the calendar page turn to January. The last full month with no Yankees baseball. There could still be a surprise addition or two before pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 12th. It continues to be speculation the Yankees will unload J.A. Happ’s contract (all or part) to reduce luxury tax penalties. I, for one, look forward to seeing how Jordan Montgomery will do in Spring Training even if he’ll be on an innings limitation this year. With no expectation to be more than the fifth starter, I think Monty could serve the role well. I think we’ll begin to see the work of Sam Briend, Director of Pitching for the Yankees, come to fruition. With guys like Briend and Matt Blake, the organization’s great young pitching talent will only get better. Soon, we’ll be growing our own Mike Clevingers and Shane Biebers.
Happy New Year, Everybody! From all of us to all of you, we hope this is your (our) best year yet. Hopefully this time next year we’ll be relishing in the Yankees’ 28th World Series Championship.
As always, Go Yankees!
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated
Preparing for the 2019-20 Hot Stove League…
While many continue to watch the World Series, except for an occasional check-in, the 2019 MLB season ended for me last weekend with the ALCS. It’s hard to get enthused about either the Houston Astros or the Washington Nationals. Sure, the Nationals as a first time participant are a nice story but I don’t really care to see either team win the World Series so let’s just get this over so that we can move on to the Hot Stove League.
It’s hard to not wonder what could have been if the Yankees had taken a better hitting approach against the Astros. Oh well, it was not meant to be. Time to move on and hope the Yankees make a stronger run in 2020. The window remains wide open. This is certainly not the last we’ve heard from this core group of Yankees.
Photo Credit: The New York Post
As much as I would like Gerrit Cole leading the Yankees’ starting rotation next season, the reality is it will never happen. Cole’s agent, none other than the infamous Scott Boras, will ensure that his client becomes very wealthy this winter. I just don’t see Hal Steinbrenner’s willingness to write a blank check. It seems as though this will end like the Patrick Corbin negotiations. The Yankees will host Cole for a visit at Yankee Stadium, they’ll toss him a token offer, and he’ll leave empty handed. Some team is going to throw stupid money at him and it won’t be the Yankees. You can talk all day about how the Yankees can afford it, but that’s not the point. The Yankees are not going to devote so many dollars to one player. They have in-house financial decisions to make. Last off-season they locked up Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks. Granted, both players missed considerable time during the regular season so you can question the wisdom of the moves, but in Severino’s case in particular, he still represents the future. An extension for Aaron Judge seems appropriate this off-season. I feel Gleyber Torres too but I think the Yankees will wait a season or two before securing the long-time services of the young burgeoning superstar. Judge can be a free agent after the 2022 season so the urgency is beginning to develop for him. Torres can’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season.
The Yankees need an ace. I think Sevy can be that guy, but last year showed you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. James Paxton has shown at times he can be an ace but he needs to show sustained excellence over the course of a long season. I think a very strong #1 starter, followed by Sevy, Big Maple, and Masahiro Tanaka would make for a championship caliber rotation. The question is who the #1 starter would be. Names will develop in the coming weeks. I keep seeing Yankee fans pining for Lucas Giolito but there’s no way the Chicago White Sox, with their abundance of blossoming young talent, will part with their young ace. If they did, they’d need quality, major league-ready talent in return, not prospects years away from the Show. I think there’s a better chance the Yankees could get the Cincinnati Reds to part with Luis Castillo, but even then the price tag will be very high. On the free agent front, Madison Bumgarner certainly represents an option. I am intrigued what he could do on a highly competitive team. I really feel the Yankees would re-energize him so I’d be happy if they were able to land him. I don’t know where Cashman’s search for starting pitching will lead. None of us do. Inevitably, he’ll surprise us. I just don’t want another season of missed opportunity and Cashman’s statements that he tried. Love or hate Houston, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow, has shown the willingness to pull the trigger when it matters. He has two World Series appearances in the last three years to show for it. It’s not that I want Brian Cashman to make stupid decisions or saddle the Yankees with another Jacoby Ellsbury contract albatross. But there are times you have to spend more than you want to get what you need.
The news that Aaron Hicks will miss the next 8-10 months due to Tommy John surgery left me wondering why the Yankees ever brought him back for the ALCS. Sure, the home run was great but in the end, it didn’t matter. I would have preferred to have Hicks for the majority of the 2020 season if he could have had the inevitable surgery earlier. The news about Hicks brought immediate speculation the Yankees have to re-sign Brett Gardner. I felt the Yankees and Gardner would come together on another one-year deal before the Hicks news and I still feel the same, but I don’t think the vision that he’ll be no more than the fourth outfielder has changed. I think Mike Tauchman has a better chance to be the regular starting option in center field with the possibility that it could be someone not currently on the roster. I really wish Estevan Florial was closer to readiness, but he’s not. I am sure the Yankees’ analytics team is at work trying to discover the next Mike Tauchman, a centerfielder who is undervalued in his current organization but blossoming with hidden talent.
I am not sure what I think about the “reports” that the Yankees could move Giancarlo Stanton to the Los Angeles Dodgers or Angels, if they can find the right mix of dollars to part with the slugger. I like Stanton and I feel he’s received unfair treatment from the Yankees fan base. Maybe there’s some validity to the criticisms he has received, but I still think he has the Dave Winfield-like ability to carry a team on his back. I’d like to see him stay with the Yankees, and have the opportunity to show he’s “the man” in October. I like Mike Tauchman but there’s no way in the World I’d take him over Stanton in left field. Stanton needs our support, not the unfair hate directed his way. If he does get traded, I’ll be disappointed, but I will enjoy watching baseball in sunny Southern CA with the Angelino kid crushing pitches in front of his hometown fans.
Photo Credit: UPI.com
Not that I think reunions are in store, but two former Yankees quietly became free agents in recent weeks. Chasen Shreve, part of the deal that brought Luke Voit to New York, is a free agent. Giovanny Gallegos has blossomed in the St Louis Cardinals’ bullpen so I doubt the Cards regret their decision to part with Voit, but I do feel bad it didn’t work out for Shreve. Same in San Diego with former Yankees prospect Bryan Mitchell. He was the prospect attached to Chase Headley in the successful contract unload a few years ago. I always liked Mitchell and had really hoped he would thrive in San Diego. He didn’t, and now he’s a free agent. Both are young enough (28 and 29, respectively) to be reclamation projects. Hopefully, for both, they’ll find better success with their next organizations.
Speaking of former Yanks, it was a surprise to see Joe Girardi land in Philadelphia. Granted, all signs started pointing in that direction over the last week or so, but before the Phillies fired manager Gabe Kapler, I felt strongly that Girardi would be the next manager for either the New York Mets or the Chicago Cubs. I never saw him as a Philly guy. I do think he’ll be better for that team than Kapler (okay, that was a statement of the obvious). It’s cool that his bench coach, Rob Thomson, is already in place. There’s been some speculation if he’ll take any of the current Yankee coaches who served under him (bullpen coach Mike Harkey, a close friend, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild). I think Rothschild gets unfair criticism but I’ve long wanted David Cone as the pitching coach so I’d be okay with Rothschild’s departure if it meant getting Coney back in the pinstripes. My absolute favorite for pitching coach is Andy Pettitte but I am not convinced he is ready to leave Texas yet. A dark horse hope for pitching coach would be former San Francisco Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti. He was the pitching coach for three World Series champions over the past decade and he oversaw Madison Bumgarner’s greatest days as a Giant. Anyway, back to Girardi, I think he’ll do well for the Phillies. He’ll have to learn the NL style of play. I know, he has one year of NL managing under his belt but that was a long time ago. For Girardi’s sake, it is a good thing that his former and future bench coach, Thomson, had a one year head start. I am glad that Girardi avoided the mess known as the Wilpon’s.
Good hire by the Boston Red Sox when they named former Tampa Bay Rays executive Chaim Bloom as their new head of operations. Assistant GM Brian O’Halloran will be promoted to GM to work under Bloom’s leadership. I wish I could criticize this move by Boston but I think they made the best possible hire if Bloom is allowed to truly run the show. I feel the New York Mets erred when they selected Brodie Van Wagenen as their GM over Bloom last year. It seems as if more and more teams are going the “chief baseball officer” route. I really wish the Yankees would promote Brian Cashman to chief baseball officer, and promote Tim Naehring to GM. Love him or hate him, Cash deserves the promotion in my opinion.
It’s funny. Last season, I could hardly wait for the World Series to be over and for the free agency period to open in November. I won’t hide the fact that I wanted either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper and was so anxious to see if the Yankees would sign one of the talented young superstars, or grab the best free agent starter in Patrick Corbin. It was a long winter that led to none of the above in Pinstripes. This season, I think I am more passive. I am not really looking forward to free agency this year like I was last year. I am very interested in seeing the moves that Brian Cashman and company will make, but not with the same excitement. What will be will be. I was never against the DJ LeMahieu signing (I knew he was better than advertised) but I never dreamed he’d be as valuable to the Yankees as he was. It only shows that we need to allow any moves time to marinate. We don’t need big splashes. We need a clubhouse full of the right mix of players to bring the 28th World Championship to the Bronx.
As always, Go Yankees!
|Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac, Getty Images|
Destination: World Series Championship is alive and well…
Admittedly, I was very disappointed with the trading deadline. I felt it was a missed opportunity to provide enhancements for the team. The Houston Astros are a very good team from top to bottom, and they are led by a very smart manager. I know I will not underestimate them nor will I compare them to a rotation-strong Tiger team that couldn’t win when it mattered. Nevertheless, Houston did not secure a guarantee of October success with their moves.
I do wish I had better confidence with the return the injured Yankee players. It’s being reported that Luis Severino will finally return to the mound next Friday as he begins his rehab back to the Major Leagues for possibly September. Honestly, he is a setback away from not pitching for the club at all this year. I am trying to keep my expectations low, but at best, he appears to be help for the bullpen barring no further setbacks. There does not appear to be sufficient time to get him stretched out for a starting role, or if he comes back to start, he’ll be like one of the starting pitchers who miss Spring Training and then struggle mightily. Still, I’d rather have Sevy on the post-season roster than not.
|Photo Credit: Severino40 on Instagram|
Maybe Dellin Betances can come back and recapture his 2018 effectiveness. It does not exactly feel like a sure bet. I probably have more confidence in Dellin at this point than Sevy but we’ll see. The Yankees really need both if they are to win the 2019 World Series. It’s not impossible but it would clearly help.
I am not even sure what to think about Giancarlo Stanton. If he hasn’t even begun baseball activities, I don’t see his return anytime soon. And when he does come back, there is the inevitable struggle to recapture his timing. In other words, we’re looking at some painful at-bats until he becomes the Giancarlo we all know and love.
It’s not great news the Yankees could be without Luke Voit for up to six weeks, a certainty if he does have surgery for his sports hernia. But at least the Yankees have Edwin Encarnacion and DJ LeMahieu to cover first base, and Mike Ford waiting in the wings at Scranton for support. When I saw the San Francisco Giants had designated Tyler Austin for assignment yesterday, my immediate thought was potential help for the Yankees. But I think that was just a sentimental feeling. While I think some team with a higher priority claim will take a shot at the former Yank, I don’t care for Austin’s splits and although he has some power, I think the Yankees have better options in-house. I really thought a trade for Justin Smoak at the trading deadline made sense, but if you truly believe the injured guys will be back, there’s not necessarily any long term room on the roster.
Oh well, the Yankees didn’t get the needed help for the rotation. It sucks but it is what it is. Time for the starters we do have to step it up. Domingo German has certainly earned his standing among the top five. After allowing the first-inning two-run homer to JD Martinez last night, James Paxton pitched like we know he can in holding the Red Sox to two hits and those two runs over six innings. This is the Pax we need down the stretch. If only he can overcome those first inning jitters. First innings with Paxton are becoming very painful to watch. I still have hope that Paxton can come up big in October. Despite his struggles, I do not believe this to be a ‘Sonny Gray-like’ situation. I think Pax will have his huge moments in Pinstripes. The talent and the desire are there. Pax just needs to find the answer within himself and I am confident he will.
|Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP|
J.A. Happ continues to concern me. I think it was his spot in the rotation that I wanted to see upgraded. His three-year contract is starting to worry me a bit. Technically, it is a two-year deal with an option, but the third year vests with 165 innings pitched or 27 games started in 2020, which, if he stays in the rotation, should be easily achievable. Frankly, I hope the Yankees can find a way to move Happ in the off-season and find a better option, but they’ll have to send a few Benjamin Franklins with him to find a taker. But for now, Happ needs to find what he had last year at this time. Currently out on paternity leave, hopefully the newly born Happ will help J.A.’s rebirth as an effective Yankees starter.
With CC Sabathia on the Injured List for his knee, a deadline starter would have been ideal but I guess we’ll have to continue with Chad Green, Opener. Green and Nestor Cortes Jr have proven to be a reliable tandem so it’s not the end of the World they have to provide the necessary support. When CC returns, I am not going to go against him. He is a crafty veteran and the final starts of his career will have a very strong impact on him in terms of the desire to go out on his own terms. I am confident he’ll have his magical moment before this is said and done.
It hasn’t been the best of seasons for Masahiro Tanaka, but like the great Andy Pettitte, Masa has a way of raising the bar in October. I have no doubt he’ll be very effective when it matters, even if he continues to give up those annoying obligatory dingers.
For those who think Deivi Garcia is the next Great Savior, my take is not this year. While it has been said he’d be in the bullpen if he does get the call up in September, I doubt he makes a significant difference until 2020 at the earliest. I am not resting any hopes on him. The kid is only 20 and he’s struggled with the promotion to Triple A. I don’t blame him for those struggles. They were inevitable. Rare is the player who can immediately master every level of the minor leagues from the start. I think he’ll be a very good pitcher one day, just not this year. At least not at the big league level. I have no doubt he’ll be frustrating International League hitters by season’s end.
I’ve always liked Aroldis Chapman, but if he opts out of his contract in the off-season, let him go. I am not interested in a renegotiation of his contract. I know Yankee fans either love or hate Zach Britton, but he’d be my choice to take over the closing duties. Not sure if the Yankees will re-sign Dellin Betances, but he’s better suited for setup. He’d be the only other name I’d consider for closer even though I’ve never been a fan of using him in that role despite his limited success. I also think Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle are better in their current roles. The Colorado Rockies tried Otto as closer a couple of years ago without success, but I realize that was before Otto rediscovered himself in his makeshift NYC pitching studio. Still, Otto’s propensity for walks when he doesn’t have his control does not play well in the ninth inning.
I keep reading there’s no way the Yankees sign Gerrit Cole in the off-season and perhaps that’s true. There will be teams like the Los Angeles Angels that will be desperate for starting pitching, particularly for someone with Cole’s resume. I think any chance Houston would re-sign Cole was eliminated when they acquired Zach Greinke and his contract. So, if anything, it gives me some hope the Yankees will be contenders for Cole’s services. We’ll see. Hopefully he doesn’t end the Yankees’ season before we get there.
I was very appreciative of the first inning grand slam by Gleyber Torres last night to answer the home run by JD Martinez and fortunately it held up to give the Yankees a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. Last year at this time, the Yankees started a four-game series in Boston on the exact same date (August 2nd, the anniversary of the death of Yankee great Thurman Munson). The Yankees entered the series in much better position than the Red Sox are in now, trailing the then-AL East leaders by only 5 1/2 games. Boston swept the four-game series which effectively ended the Yankees’ hopes of winning the division. I am really hoping the Yankees can do the same to the Red Sox this year. I remember the defeated feeling I had last year after that series. It’s a feeling the Boston fans should experience this year, in my opinion. I am not really expecting a sweep but taking 3 of 4, especially after last weekend’s disaster in Boston, would be huge. It would also leave the Red Sox severely wounded with their playoff aspirations and three good teams ahead of them in the AL Wild Card hunt.
Since the Tampa Bay Rays had the night off, the Yankees were able to increase their AL East lead to 7 1/2 games. The Red Sox are back to 11 1/2 games behind our favorite team. Too bad, so sad. I’d really enjoy it if the Red Sox players have to make non-baseball plans for October. Time to go for the jugular and race to the AL East title crown. If it happens, I will be so glad the Yankees do not have to play a one-game ‘do or die’ playoff this year. But no Boston baseball in October would almost be as exciting.
|Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP|
The Yankees play two today. The afternoon game will pit Domingo German, searching for his 14th win, against Chris Sale. It’s been a very disappointing year for Boston’s ace so hopefully the disappointment continues today. In the night cap, Chad Green-Opener will face lefty Brian Johnson. Johnson was activated off the Injured List earlier today. He has been out since June 27th with an intestinal issue. A sweep by the Yankees would obviously leave the entire Red Sox team with intestinal issues.
Before I go and despite the disappointment experienced a few days ago, I am glad the Trading Deadline has come and gone. I was tired of the endless speculation and the ridiculous trade proposals in the minds of many Yankee fans. Next year, I’ll be in favor of moving the trade deadline to August 15th to help teams better decide if they are buyers or sellers. However, on August 3, 2019, this is our team and this is THE team that can take us to the promised land. To hell with the Astros and anybody else, the Yankees have the players capable of delivering champagne in the final MLB game of the year. Let’s do this.
2019 MLB Season is here…
As we round the final turn and head down the home stretch to Opening Day, excitement and anticipation is filling the air. For the Yankees, it carries a hope there are no further injuries as the team prepares to take its best (or healthiest) twenty-five men north to the Bronx. As we sit, the Seattle Mariners have a two-game lead on the rest of Major League Baseball, thanks to their two-time sweep of the Oakland A’s in Tokyo, Japan earlier this week.
It’s unfortunate because I think he has the most talent but the guess here is that Jonathan Loaisiga is the odd man out for the starting rotation with Luis Cessa and Domingo German grabbing the two temporary starting spots opened by Luis Severino and CC Sabathia starting the year on the Injured List. Since Dellin Betances is expected to begin the year on the Injured List too, it could open the door for Loaisiga to join the bullpen as the long man but the Yankees will probably send him to Triple A to keep him stretched out. Cessa and German might need help and Gio Gonzalez is not quite ready to contribute. I expect the Yankees to begin the year with Sabathia serving his five-game suspension before he is moved to the Injured List so I’ll include him on the Opening Day roster, which is why I am going with six starters and seven relievers. It will shake out an eight-man pen after Sabathia is moved to the Injured List and the Yankees bring up Loaisiga or promote Gonzalez to take one of the temporary rotation spots, which would push either Cessa or German to the pen.
Clint Frazier has been optioned for minor league reassignment and Aaron Hicks is expected to open on the Injured List which means the debate between Luke Voit or Greg Bird at first base won’t be resolved as both guys are making the final roster. Playing time will be tilted toward Voit, in my opinion, but Bird will have every opportunity, once again, to show that he belongs if he can stay healthy. I am losing confidence in Bird’s ability to stay healthy and play consistently but I would truly love to see that beautiful left-handed swing humming at Yankee Stadium.
So, as I sit here on a Saturday morning, this is my latest projected Opening Day roster.
STARTING PITCHERS (6)
Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, Luis Cessa, Domingo German and CC Sabathia (suspended for five games, then headed to the Injured List)
Injured List: Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery
Aroldis Chapman (Closer), Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, Jonathan Holder, and Stephen Tarpley
Injured List: Dellin Betances and Ben Heller
Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine
Luke Voit, Greg Bird, Gleyber Torres, D.J. LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki, Miguel Andujar, and Tyler Wade
Injured List: Didi Gregorius
Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Brett Gardner
Injured List: Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury
Tyler Wade becomes the de facto fourth outfielder until Aaron Hicks returns.
Staying with the predictions theme, here is my projection for the upcoming MLB Season.
Division Champions and Wild Cards:
New York Yankees
AL WILD CARD
Boston Red Sox
Los Angeles Dodgers
NL WILD CARD
St Louis Cardinals
New York Yankees
Los Angeles Dodgers
And, last but certainly not least, your 2019 World Series Champions:
New York Yankees (over Los Angeles Dodgers in six games)
I know this is a Yankees blog but, hey, I am not biased! I am a realist.
The poor Dodgers. They have become the Buffalo Bills of Major League Baseball. I think 2019 will be the end of their consecutive World Series appearance streak but sadly for them it will end like the past two years, another season ending in disappointment.
In making my choices, the two teams I thought the most about but didn’t add were the Tampa Bay Rays and the Washington Nationals. I really see the Minnesota Twins and the St Louis Cardinals as the surprise teams this season. With no offense to the New York Mets or Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies, I don’t see those teams in the mix at the end. The Nationals, even without Harper, are a better team than the Mets or Phillies. Maybe Bryce can make October plans with Mike Trout for some non-baseball related activities so they can compare notes as Baseball’s two highest paid performers.
The year of contract extensions continues. While Didi Gregorius, Dellin Betances, and Aaron Judge wait for agreement on future dollars, the St Louis Cardinals finalized their extension with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (5 years for $130 million) which will be officially announced today and the Boston Red Sox locked up their ace, Chris Sale, with an extension of 5 years for $145 million. Sale can opt out after three years. He’ll earn $30 million per year for those three years, and then $27.5 million per year if he opts to stay for the final two seasons. I see so many Red Sox fans taking offense at Yankee fans making disparaging remarks about Sale but honestly the only people I ever see complaining about Sale are Red Sox fans. Health is a risk for any pitcher. I think Sale is one of the best in the game and Boston was smart to keep their ace (although I’d rate Mookie Betts, a potential free agent after the 2020 season, as a greater need). Meanwhile, the Houston Astros are close to a two-year extension for $66 million with veteran starter Justin Verlander.
As teams narrow their rosters to the final 25, some ex-Yankees are in the news. Former Yankees reliever, Chasen Shreve, who went to St Louis with Giovanny Gallegos in the trade that brought Luke Voit to New York, was designated for assignment by the Cardinals. I wonder how much the Cardinals would love to undo the Voit trade. I feel bad for Shreve. As a LOOGY, his days are potentially numbered with next year’s minimum three-batter rule. Good guy but I am not convinced in his ability to adapt to the impending changes in the game. Adeiny Hechevarria, in camp with the New York Mets as a non-roster invitee, did not make the cut.
Congratulations to infielder Yangervis Solarte, who did make the San Francisco Giants, and Curtis Granderson, who will be wearing the new Marlins gear for Team Derek Jeter. I am glad to see the Grandy Man still can.
After two massive home runs last night against the Philadelphia Phillies, I’d say Giancarlo Stanton is locked and loaded. I am really looking forward to watching him in his sophomore year with the Yankees. I am sure opposing pitchers, feeling the pain, will be saying “not so much”.
As always, Go Yankees!
Meanwhile, the Rumor Mill runs rampant…
As 2018 winds down to a close, all is quiet in the Yankees Universe except for Yankee Twitter and the endless possibilities expressed, again and again, by Yankee fans. The Yankees still have holes to fill in the bullpen and no confirmed plan at this moment in time to use anybody other than Tyler Wade and Gleyber Torres at shortstop to cover for Didi Gregorius. It does not appear these answers will be provided in 2018 and must wait until the calendar year changes.
Although Manny Machado has indicated he will not make his long-awaited decision until after the first of the year, I don’t think anybody knows what that really means. I think some Yankee fans and industry experts think we’ll have his choice on New Year’s Day or worst case, the next day. I honestly do not think this will be resolved that quickly. To account for some of the inevitable back and forth between teams (if that hasn’t already happened), I’ll predict we have Manny’s decision by Tuesday, January 8th. I think the first week of January will be trying to elicit the best possible offers from the interested teams. As much as I want the Yankees to sign Machado, it remains my belief he’ll take more money to play in the City of Brotherly Love or the Windy City. I heard Larry Bowa on MLB Network yesterday talking about how the Phillies can overcome Machado’s childhood fascination with the Yankees by adding a few more zeroes to the check. If this goes into an all-out bidding war, I have no doubt the Yankees will come in third to the Phillies and White Sox. At that point, Manny has to decide what is best for him and his family.
Manny Machado and wife, Yainee Alonso
The sooner Manny decides, the sooner we can move on to Plan B. I am ready to close the door, one way or the other. I am mentally prepared. If we have to settle for Freddy Galvis at shortstop, so be it. Let’s move on. At this point, pitching remains the team’s most critical need.
MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi is reporting the Los Angeles Angels are interested in David Robertson. Despite D-Rob’s expressed interest in playing close to his Rhode Island home, Morosi notes that Robertson would have the opportunity to close for the Angels and of course he knows Angels GM Billy Eppler well from their time together with the Yankees. It makes sense to me. I’d rather see D-Rob go to Anaheim versus pitching at Fenway Park for the Red Sox. I personally love Southern California so, in my opinion, it’s a no-brainer. I think it would be fun to play on the same team with Mike Trout. Eppler is trying to squeeze a few more wins out of his team with the recent signings of Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill. He needs to protect those investments by getting a reliable reliever to close out games. Robertson will be a much cheaper option than guys like Zach Britton and Craig Kimbrel and he’d fit well under new manager Brad Ausmus. Not that I am wishing D-Rob to the Angels. I’d still like to see him come back to the Bronx, but if that doesn’t happen, Anaheim is a preferred destination over division rivals.
Angels GM Billy Eppler
Gumby had a birthday yesterday. Jordan Montgomery turned 26 as he continues to work his way back from last summer’s Tommy John surgery. No doubt we’ll see the former Gamecock somewhere around the time Didi Gregorius returns (or maybe a little later in the season if Didi is somehow ready to go by June or July). Not expecting much out of Montgomery next season but I am looking forward to seeing him in Pinstripes again. Happy Belated Birthday, Jordan!
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Elsa)
Searching for things to watch on TV last night, I settled on the original version of A Star Is Born (1937) starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. Of course, it made me think of the 1937 Yankees. They won the ninth World Series in franchise history that year, finishing 102-52 to win the AL Pennant by 13 games over the Detroit Tigers. They defeated the New York Giants in five games to claim the World Series championship. What a year for Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig! The 34-year-old Gehrig, within two years from being forced from the game due to ALS, had 37 home runs and 158 RBIs. He batted .351/.473/.643 and had an OPS of 1.116. He took 127 walks to only 49 strikeouts. 22 year-old Joe DiMaggio had staggering numbers for such a young player. 46 homers, 167 RBIs, .346/.412/.673 and 1.085 OPS. He took fewer walks than Gehrig (64), but only struck out 37 times. Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey, Tony Lazzeri at second, Frankie Crosetti at short, Red Rolfe at third and a pitching staff anchored by Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing. Collectively, Gomez and Ruffing won 41 games as both pitchers reached the 20-win mark. Gomez threw six shutouts in 34 starts, pitching 278 1/3 innings, allowing only 72 earned runs for 2.33 ERA. Total Yankees domination. I love it! I know I left out some other great Yankees for the 1937 team but it must have been grand watching the Yankees annihilate their opponents year by year in the late 1930’s.
Moving back into current times, I felt kind of bad for Tyler Austin yesterday. When the Twins elected not to retain Logan Morrison after one year and Twins great Joe Mauer decided to retire, it appeared that Austin had a clear path to playing time for Minnesota next season. Then, the Twins acquired first baseman C.J. Cron from the Tampa Bay Rays and yesterday they inked former Seattle Mariners slugger and DH Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal with an option. Austin’s path to playing time appears to be blocked once again like it was with the Yankees. I was surprised Cruz went with Minnesota. I had really expected him to end up with the Houston Astros. He would have been a deadly bat in that lineup. I guess it’s better for the Yankees he went with Minnesota but of course he adds a weapon if the Twins can get a Wild Card rematch with the Yankees to avenge their loss in 2017. Cruz may be 38 but he has that David Ortiz knack for smashing huge home runs at the best times (or worst times, depending upon your perspective). I guess Ronald Torreyes will have plenty of opportunities for his Toe Night Show at Target Field next season.
I was reading one blog the other day that talked about trades the Yankees wish they could undo. The blogger listed the Brandon Drury trade as his first choice. I know that trade didn’t work out, but I don’t look at it as one I’d undo. I really liked Drury’s acquisition at the time of the trade. I liked the player and the potential that I thought he could bring to the team. A solid defender with some pop. I know it cost the Yankees several really good prospects (second baseman Nick Solak, currently rated as the eleventh best prospect for the Tampa Bay Rays by MLB.com and pitcher Taylor Widener, who ranks as second best prospect for the Arizona Diamondbacks) but I can’t say I’d undo the trade. It was a risk worth taking. It didn’t work out. Drury had the undisclosed migraines and never really performed for the Yankees before losing his job to Miguel Andujar and subsequently getting traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in the J.A. Happ deal. I thought then and I still feel that when healthy and given the opportunity, Drury is going to help a team. Not sure the Blue Jays are that team since 2019 should bring the emergence of top prospect Vladimir Guerrero, Jr to the Show at some point during the season to place a stranglehold on third base for years to come but Drury will make good on his promise one day. Look, I’d love to have Widener back but I wouldn’t undo the Drury trade even with the benefit of hindsight. You have to take those types of chances to get better and I’d never want to see GM Brian Cashman get “gun shy” and start holding onto prospects longer than he should. Some trades work, some trades don’t. That’s how it goes.
Not that I am trying to wish the new year to get here any faster, but I am looking forward to getting to next Wednesday so that the Hot Stove League can resume activity. The days of nothingness are long and boring on the baseball front. I am anxious and excited for pitchers and catchers to report to Tampa, FL on February 13th but there is still so much work to be done. We need to ensure that Aaron Boone, in 2019, knows what it must have felt like to be Joe McCarthy in 1937. No pressure, Cash. Talk to your boss and get it done.
As always, Go Yankees!
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…
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!