Saturday, October 17, 2015

2015 Yankees: Best Team in Instant Replays


Tyler Austin the next Slade Heathcott

In the winter of 2014 the New York Yankees designated one of their former top prospects Slade Heathcott for assignment but not before working out a behind the scenes deal that would bring the lefty back to the organization. Heathcott was ultimately DFA’d, signed back to a new minor league deal and eventually called up to the Major Leagues multiple times in 2015. Could Tyler Austin, another former top Yankees prospect who was designated for assignment in 2015 and brought back to the organization on a minor league deal, be the Slade Heathcott of the 2016 campaign?

Yankees GM Brian Cashman sent Austin to the Arizona Fall League this season marking the third time in his career that Tyler has seen the AFL. Austin was chosen to replace Yankees third baseman Eric Jagielo on the roster after it was announced that Jagielo needed more time to recover from a midseason knee surgery, a blessing in disguise for Austin?

Austin has played much of his minor league career in right field but has worked at both first and third base in his career. Austin has started out playing first base in the Arizona Fall League which could be an indication of the Yankees future plans for him. The Yankees offense was exposed in 2015 after the injury to Mark Teixeira left left-handed swinging Greg Bird as the only true first base option for New York. Could Austin be working his way into a platoon spot, eventually, with Bird if the same was to occur in 2016? Quite possibly, yes.

Austin was drafted in the 2010 MLB First year Players Draft in the 13th round as the 77th best prospect according to Baseball America. Austin started out his professional season on fire and worked his way all the way to Triple-A before injuries and ineffectiveness derailed his career. Austin now has the pressure of being on the 40 man roster off his shoulders and has the opportunity to turn all the questions and negativity into a special sort of season in 2016, just like Heathcott did in 2015.

I, for one, am rooting for you Tyler. 

Watch Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS Just Because

I don't know about you, and maybe being a fan of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets is making me this way, but I'm growing tired of watching college football. Why not watch Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners? Why? Just because, that's why!

Click the link and watch the game, it's that simple. Enjoy.

Remembering Yankees of the Past: Orlando Hernandez

Whenever I watch the Major League Baseball postseason and see the clutch hitting or the huge pitching performances it gets me thinking of the New York Yankees of old. The New York Yankees that I grew up watching, the dynasty Yankees that won World Series during the 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 series. The Derek Jeter’s, the Jorge Posada’s, the Bernie Williams’, the Andy Pettitte’s, the Mariano Rivera’s, the Roger Clemens’ and the Orlando Hernandez’s of the world to name a few. Today we remember one of those great Yankees from the past, most people called him El Duque.

Orlando Hernandez Pedroso was born on October 11, 1965 (originally thought to be 1969) in Cuba where he signed he and his right arm caught the attention of the New York Yankees. Hernandez defected from Cuba on Christmas day in 1997 on a boat leaving the city of Caibarien. Hernandez was caught by the US Coast Guard along with seven others and was eventually offered asylum in Costa Rica. After spending two months in Costa Rica El Duque negotiated a four-year deal with the New York Yankees worth $6.6 million to begin his professional career.

El Duque’s first season in the Major Leagues was in 1998 where he came into the league firing on all cylinders posting an impressive 12-4 record with a 3.13 ERA helping the team win 114 games, an American League record at the time, and a World Series victory over the San Diego Padres in four games. Hernandez followed up his 4th place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting by pitching his best season in the Major Leagues posting a 17-9 record with 157 strike outs in 214.1 innings pitched, all career highs. This was the season that Hernandez fielded a ground ball off the bat of the Mets shortstop Rey Ordonez and had the ball get lodged in his glove forcing him to throw the entire glove with the ball inside to the first baseman for the out. That was quite the comical play for all on that day but Hernandez had the last laugh winning the ALCS MVP in 1999 and another World Series ring over the Atlanta Braves in another four game sweep.

Hernandez seemingly took a step back in 2000 posting a 12-13 record with a 4.51 ERA but continued to pitch exceptionally well during the second season pushing his playoff record to 8-1 with a 2.23 ERA and his third World Series in as many seasons to start his career, this time at the expense of the New York Mets in five games. Hernandez continued his slide in 2001 posting a 4-7 record and a 4.85 ERA in 17 games, 16 of them starters, but once again the Yankees were in the World Series, this time against the Arizona Diamondbacks where the team came one bloop single away from their fourth World Series in a row. Hernandez faced off with his first ever postseason disappointment in 2001 and would face that same disappointment in 2002 when the team fell to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2002 ALDS.

Hernandez’s tenure with the Yankees ended after the 2002 season after the team sent him to the Montreal Expos in a three-team trade with the Chicago White Sox. Hernandez never appeared in a game for the Expos after suffering a rotator cuff injury which seemed awful convenient for the Yankees, especially when they re-signed Hernandez for the 2004 season. Hernandez signed a one-year deal on March 11, 2004 to return to the club knowing that he would miss the start of the season while he still recovered from rotator cuff surgery. Hernandez finished with 156 starts posting an 8-2 record with a 3.30 ERA leading the Yankees to the playoffs once again. We all know about the 3-0 lead on the Boston Red Sox, their historic comeback and the Curse of the Bambino being broken but this was also the year that ended El Duque’s tenure as a New York Yankee.

Hernandez would go on to pitch for the Chicago White Sox, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the New York Mets, the Texas Rangers and the Washington Nationals before retiring from the game of Major League Baseball on August 18, 2011. Hernandez would return to Yankee Stadium in 2013 as a part of the Yankees 67th annual Older Timers’ Day and would return for the game in 2014 before completely walking away from the game in 2015. Hernandez was a great Yankee and a great person that faced many struggles in his life only to come out on top, just like always. 

Dear Mr. Brett Gardner

I wanted to write this because there's already been a lot of talk about trading you, and there are sure to be more in the future. Some of it will come off as "just business", but it's highly likely that other things may be taken personally.

For starters, I have nothing but the utmost respect for you. During your eight years with the Yankees, not once can I remember being ashamed of you. Heck, you didn't earn the "gritty, gutty" moniker because you don't care.

In 3,058 at bats you failed to get a hit 2,251 times. While I probably shook off most of them, especially since you at least reached base thanks to a walk or whatever over 400 of those times, I know I got upset at times. And how could you be a fan of the Yankees and not be? Heck, I'd bet everything I have that you were just as disappointed, if not more so, than anyone.

Nobody can deny that you're an excellent outfielder.

I can't count how many times I've watched you run down balls hit in the gaps. Balls that should have fallen for base hits somehow found there way into your glove. There was a game against the Tigers that you not only ran one down in the gap, but jumped and caught it before it hit the wall in right-center field. I know for a fact that wasn't the first time you've caught a ball while running into the fence. A few of those times you weren't feeling too good afterwards, either.

You've also robbed your fair share of home runs. I believe there was one time, during an extra inning game against the Cardinals in St. Louis, that you took away a walk-off win.

And how about your arm? I've seen you keep runners from advancing an extra base a number of times. Like when you threw out Caleb Joseph of the Baltimore Orioles when he tried to stretch a single into a double. I believe a lot of the time that hit by Joseph would have been a stand-up double, but the combination of your speed and arm easily got him out.

While you were never a huge contributor to the offense, that's not to say you haven't had some key hits over the years.

There was a walk-off home run against the Tigers in 2013. Actually, if I remember correctly, you hit a walk-off single against the Tigers that same season. I'm sure there's more than one Detroit fan that still gets annoyed at the mere mention of you.

You can also find numerous highlights of you stretching what should have only been a single into a double, and what should have been a double into a triple. Those legs of yours have helped the Yankees score so many more runs over the years. In fact, you've led the team in runs scored in each of the last three years*.

*tied with Robinson Cano in 2013

The point is you're not some bum that fans want to get rid of, so we can make room for a shiny new toy.

Toys... that's a good comparison...

In Toy Story, when Andy got Buzz Lightyear and started playing with him more than Woody, it wasn't because Woody stunk. For a long time Woody was Andy's favorite toy, and would go with him everywhere. Andy even wore a hat similar to the one Woody wore. But time catches up to us all, whether you're a toy or a human. Besides, we're not talking about the Yankees replacing you with just any shiny toy. I mean, Jason Heyward is pretty good (114 OPS+ since 2012), and is still young (26).

My biggest fear, and I'm speaking as a fan of the Yankees here, is that you'll be back in pinstripes next season and hold a grudge. You're a pro, so I'm not saying the offseason rumors and discussions would truly affect things, but it's gotta at least hurt a little knowing that so many fans wanted you to go... for whatever reason.

Chances are you'll be back with the Yankees in 2016, and that's okay. It would be nice if you're numbers didn't crash in the second half like most of your career (career .283/.360/.421 in 1st half, .236/.326/.351 in 2nd half), but you're still an above average outfielder. You still have value to the Yankees.

And keep in mind, part of the reason people want you to be traded is because the chances of trading away Jacoby Ellsbury are between "slim" and "none" (closer to "none"). So you can take a little solace in that.

Whatever happens in the future I wish you the best of luck. Unless that means you helped beat the Yankees. If that ever happens, then know I will curse your name at the top of my lungs.

The Unpopular Decision to Root Against Don Mattingly

I learned a very interesting tidbit of information this week that I previously didn’t know, apparently it is an unpopular decision for a fan of the New York Yankees, myself, to root for the New York Mets and/or against for Yankees great and captain Don Mattingly. Who would have thought that?

Look, I am a Yankees fan first and a MLB fan second. I have no second favorite team or an American League team and a National League team like some. I root for the stories more so than I do the players, the coaches or the managers when the Yankees aren’t in it. I expressed an opinion on Thursday morning that I was rooting for the New York Mets for one night only because I wanted the New York team to win the series, I didn’t see anything wrong with that. Boy was I wrong.

My Twitter feed was lit up, was lit up for 7:00 am in the morning anyway, with questions about Don Mattingly. They are legitimate questions but it’s all dependent on how old you are and how much baseball you watched in the 80’s and 90’s. Me personally, I wasn’t born until November of 1985 and didn’t really start watching baseball as a religion until the 1994 season. I probably only started watching it then because the Yankees were so good, remember it’s okay to be a bandwagon fan at the age of eight years old.

I wasn’t watching in November of 1985 when Mattingly won his American League MVP Award and I was barely watching before the strike and the team made it to the AL Wild Card against the Seattle Mariners. I have a loyalty to all Yankees players, past and present, but it’s just not as strong for players I didn’t grow up watching I guess.

In 10-20 years when Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada are being disrespected or discussed in a way that does not fully represent the player and the people that they were I guess I’ll understand. No disrespect was intended, I love Don Mattingly and I wish him nothing but the best in LA or wherever he may go. I was just rooting for the New York team but now it’s back to Go Yankees instead of Go Mets!

Quick Hit: Replacing Chris Young on the Yankees Bench

The New York Yankees will have three major, for lack of a better word, free agents at the end of the 2015 World Series. Chris Capuano, who will unlikely be back with the team in 2016, Stephen Drew, who if he came back it would likely be as a bench piece to replace or complement Brendan Ryan, and Chris Young, who may be the toughest of the three to replace. The Yankees need right-handed power in their outfield with Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran, who is a switch hitter but who hits much better left-handed, and may have more than a few names to choose from assuming they don't hand the job to Aaron Judge or bring Young back for a third season.

Steve Pearce is no stranger to a Yankees uniform and no stranger to playing the outfield in the American League East. Taking away from the Baltimore Orioles is one thing, adding his potent bat to the team (who can also play first base) would be ideal if Young decides to walk.

Austin Jackson is another player that is no stranger to Yankees pinstripes, New York drafted him and traded him to the Detroit Tigers in the Curtis Granderson deal. Jackson can play all three center field positions, which Joe Girardi and the Yankees like, and possibly has enough pop to justify a cheap contract on a one-year deal.

Marlon Byrd likely wants a starting job but if he can be talked into "chasing a ring" then why not, right?

Drew Stubbs is terrible... unless he faces left-handed pitching. The 2016 version of Chris Young?

If Jonny Gomes didn't work out as an outfielder he may be a halfway decent right-handed relief pitcher?

This Day in New York Yankees History 10/17: David Justice Strikes Again

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman took over the reins of the New York Yankees in 1998 and immediately helped build one of the best teams of all time in Major League Baseball. The Yankees were looking for their third consecutive World Series title when Cashman acquired David Justice before the season ended hoping his impact would help in the postseason. It did help on this day in 2000 when Justice hit a three run home run to propel the Yankees to their 37th American League pennant and a trip to the Subway World Series as New York beat the Mariners 9-7.

Also on this day in 1985 Billy Martin was fired and/or replaced by the Yankees for the fourth time and replaced by Lou Piniella. Martin managed the Yankees to a 97-64 record this season and a second place finish two games behind the Toronto Blue Jays.

Also on this day in 1978 the Yankees would win their second consecutive and 22nd World Series championship overall beating the Los Angeles Dodgers by the score of 7-2. Bucky Dent was named World Series MVP.

Finally on this day in 1964 the Yankees fired manager Yogi Berra after a 99-63 record and loss in seven games in the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Johnny Keane, the Cardinals manager that season, was named the new Yankees manager after he resigned from the Cardinals after the World Series victory.