Sunday, November 22, 2015

Charleston Riverdogs Have New Front Office Staff

RiverDogs Add New Front Office Staffers Four additions bring youth and enthusiasm
CHARLESTON, SC – Charleston RiverDogs General Manager Dave Echols has announced the hiring of four new staffers as the front office tackles an important offseason heading into the 20th season at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park.

Matt Dean is the new “Voice of the RiverDogs” and media relations director while Nate Kurant is the new director of promotions.  Morgan Powell will be the new box office manager and Megan Blackman is the new office manager.

Dean, a 2015 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a double-major of Life Sciences Communication and Agricultural Business Management, spent last season as the broadcast and media relations assistant for the RiverDogs’ sister team, the St. Paul Saints.  He served as the analyst and backup play-by-play man for the Saints’ home games.  Prior to that, Dean was an intern as ESPN Radio 100.5 FM in Madison and was a broadcaster for the BTN’s (Big Ten Network) student program.

Dean was recognized by the NCAA Football Student Radio Call of the Week (Nov. 17, 2014), honored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Sports Radio Story of the Year (2015) and was an Eagle Scout.

“Matt is a young talent whom I believe our listeners will thoroughly enjoy,” said RiverDogs General Manager Dave Echols.  “He spent a season with the St. Paul Saints, which gave him a solid background in broadcasting.  As ‘Voice of the RiverDogs, Matt will be an integral part of our 2015 season.”

Kurant, who will have the responsibilities of coordinating the RiverDogs’ promotional schedule, earned his undergraduate degree in Mass Communications in 2007 from the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg and added a masters in Journalism and Media Studies from USF-St. Petersburg in 2012.

For the past four seasons, Kurant served as the director of marketing and social media for the Dunedin (FL) Blue Jays where he created and developed marketing ideas to promote the organization to the local fan base and made the team more visible nationwide.  He created professional baseball’s first and only universal rain check, was a writer/graphic designer and a high school varsity baseball coach.  He also served in missions in Costa Rica, was an improv comedian and has a working knowledge of Spanish and English sign language.

“Nate comes to us with an impressive background in marketing and social media on the minor league baseball level,” Echols said.  “He possesses multiple skills, and we’ll utilize them as marketing and promotions are the backbone to the RiverDogs’ successes over the years.  I believe our fans will enjoy the results of Nate’s work.”  

For Powell, who is a native of Alpharetta, Ga., and who will handle the RiverDogs’ busy box office, comes to Charleston from the Pittsfield (Mass.) Suns, where she was the assistant general manager for the 2014 and ’15 seasons in charge of tickets.  She spent the 2013 campaign with the Hudson Valley (NY) Renegades as the box office manager and social media/marketing coordinator.  

Powell also served as an executive trainee for the rival Rome Braves in 2012 and spent two years as a media relations student intern at Auburn University, where she graduated with a degree in Public Relations in 2011.

“Morgan is another energetic, young professional whom our fans will enjoy interacting with,” Echols stated.  “She is experienced in box office management, and with our establishing a new attendance record in 2015, our fans will see a seamless transition in that area.”

Blackman, of Goose Creek, was a former RiverDogs special events intern, who most recently worked in the medical profession as a patient services representative and a physician’s office specialist.  A 2011 graduate of the University of South Carolina with a degree in Experimental Psychology, Blackman added a master’s in Health, Exercise and Sport Science at The Citadel.
“Megan has been an intern with our special events staff,” Echols added.  “She has an infectious and positive attitude, and she, too, will do a good job for us.”

The RiverDogs, the Class A affiliate of the New York Yankees, begin their season on April 7 with a seven-game homestand that features the rival Columbia Fireflies (April 7-10) and the Asheville Tourists (April 11-13).  Ticket information may be secured by contact the box office at 843/577-DOGS (3647) or online at  

Mike Napoli Actually Makes Sense for the Yankees?!

You don’t title a post with about fifteen exclamation points and question marks if you’re not looking for a few clicks or two that you normally wouldn’t get. Mike Napoli, or who I personally refer to as “Nappy Beard” on Twitter in fun, is set to hit free agency this season after a rollercoaster ride of a 2015 season. Should the Yankees take notice and would Napoli actually help the team in 2016? Honestly, as much as the Yankees vs. Red Sox rivalry doesn’t want me to say it, yes. Yes, maybe.

Napoli had been struggling mightily with the Red Sox before Boston looked to dump his salary and his 40 man roster spot at the trade deadline this season. Napoli was sent to the Texas Rangers where the former catcher and Red Sox first baseman added some versatility to the second chance that is now his career. Napoli played in 78 games for the AL West Division winning Rangers batting .295 with five home runs and 10 RBI in a return to form. Napoli’s .908 OPS was a sight for sore and un-expecting eyes in Arlington and even managed to add left field to his repertoire before it was all said and done. For Napoli to interest the Yankees though he is going to have to return to a position rather than add a new position, and that position is catcher.

According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe there is at least some discussion about Napoli, albeit as a part time player, adding the catcher position back to his bag of goodies for the 2016 season. In the team’s constant search for right-handed power, check, and a right-handed backup and compliment to Mark Teixeira at first base, check, Napoli could intrigue the Yankees this offseason on a one-year deal in a bench role. Why catcher though you ask? Well, Gary Sanchez was immediately named the team’s backup catcher by many after John Ryan Murphy was traded to the Minnesota Twins for Aaron Hicks but that talk may be a bit premature.

Sanchez, although he has done well in Double-A, Triple-A and Arizona Fall League this season, is very inexperienced and young to be handed the reigns in the Bronx. Sanchez could undoubtedly handle the position, and in my opinion he could do well at the position, but the New York Yankees are going to want Sanchez to play in more than 35 games in Triple-A before giving him the job. New York is rarely aggressive with their prospects and for that reason alone either Austin Romine or a one-year stop gap that can be easily designated for assignment in July like Napoli will be backing up Brian McCann come Opening Day 2016 in my opinion. I have been wrong though, once. 

Someone's Gotta Go!

With all of the trade talk surrounding Brett Gardner, which includes the Yankees acquiring a starter, it surprises me that I have yet to hear any talk of the logjam in the Yankees' rotation. We already have six legit rotation candidates in Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Adam Warren, and... yes... CC Sabathia. So something's gotta give.

"I don't know if I'd call CC 'legit'".

I'm pretty sure Brian Cashman has a plan, but what good would I be as a blogger if I just sat back and didn't try and guess what that plan was? Or, at least tell you what I think that plan should be? So let's take a look at each of those six rotation candidates, starting with those that I don't think are going anywhere.

CC Sabathia - Okay... imagine you're the general manager of a baseball team. Would you trade for a pitcher that is 35 years old, and over the past three years has an ERA of 4.81? Furthermore, that same pitcher, assuming his throwing shoulder stays healthy, is due $50 million over the next two years. Are you interested? No? Yeah... I didn't think so.

Masahiro Tanaka - So you don't want to trade for Sabathia. That's understandable. But how about a pitcher that is only 27 years old, and has a 3.16 ERA in 290.1 MLB innings? I see your ears perked up there. Oh, but I should tell you that this pitcher comes with a contract that has at least two years and $44 million remaining, and could very well jump to five years and $111 million remaining. How is that? Well, he can opt-out of his deal and become a free agent after the 2017 season. By the way, his elbow is kind of messed up too. *click* Damn.

Luis Severino - Alright, I'm not going to play the "you be a gm" game here. Hal Steinbrenner has said over and over again that his goal is to get the Yankees' payroll down, but at the same time the team wants to compete for a championship year in and year out. And for that to happen a team needs somebody like Severino. He's young, he's under team control for another six years, and his ceiling is that of an ace in the rotation. Luis is not going anywhere.

Now that we got through the pitchers that aren't going anywhere, I'm going to move on to a set of pitchers that I can see being traded, although I'd lean towards them remaining with the Yankees.

Ivan Nova - I don't believe the Yankees will deal Nova because that would be selling low. I think he's better than a 5+ ERA like he had last season, but I don't think he's a 3.10 ERA guy like in 2013 either. The truth, like in so many instances, is somewhere in the middle. Besides, 2016 is his final year before free agency, so other teams would view him as a possible one-year rental... which is not nearly as attractive as players under team control longer.

Adam Warren - I was going to predict he gets traded, seeing as how he's not free agent eligible until 2019, making him quite attractive. Adam's started 20 games and has an ERA of 3.98 in those, which would also stand out to a team wanting somebody for the middle to lower end of the rotation. However, out of the remaining rotation candidates, he's the only one with bullpen experience. And with so many candidates, someone's going to be a reliever, and my guess is Warren is that guy.

"Umm... did I not just say that I wanted to start?"

This next pitcher is somebody that I believe the Yankees wouldn't mind trading away at all, but the problem is that I don't see them getting enough in return to make it worth their while.

Nathan Eovaldi - after leading the National League with the most hits surrendered in 2014, Nathan actually gave up more hits per 9 innings in 2015 (10.1 to 10.2). Furthermore, his walk rate actually went up from 1.9 per 9 innings to 2.9. The good thing is his strikeout rate went up, however... like Nova... I believe the Yankees would be selling low here. Eovaldi is only 25 years old, so it's possible he has yet to reach his peak. All of which leads me to believe we'll be seeing more of Nathan in pinstripes next season.

So that leaves us with one more pitcher, and knowing how smart our readers are, you're likely saying "Bryan thinks the Yankees will trade away Michael Pineda"? Yes... I do.

Michael Pineda - So why would another team be interested in Michael? Well, for starters, he's not free agent eligible until 2018, giving the buying team two more years of team control on him. And going into his age 27 season, he's still young enough to where we may have not seen him peak. Therefore, he could not only be a solid starter in the middle of the rotation, he still has a peak as a strong #2. As for his injury history, having started 27 games last season makes him less of a risk. And then you have the fact that Michael walks very few batters, while carrying a respectable strikeout rate. I'd like to be able to hold onto Pineda, as I think he can be a nice addition to the rotation, but the numbers game is going to catch up to somebody, and I believe that "somebody" will be Mr. Pineda.

I have to mention that it wouldn't surprise me to see two of the following pitchers get traded. While I'm almost certain the Yankees will make a trade for a top of the rotation starter like Carlos Carrasco, I believe Adam Warren's ability to either start or relieve gives the team the ability to deal away two pitchers, and have a fall-back option should they miss out on somebody like Wei-Yin Chen.

But hearing more and more about the Yankees' desire to keep payroll down, I believe they would rather roll with Nathan Eovaldi in the rotation than dip into free agency and pay somebody like Chen around $80 million. Not to mention that any team wants to have some depth for the rotation. Which would lead to a starting rotation including Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, and whoever they acquire via trade.

That rotation, along with a bullpen that includes Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller, and an improved offense that includes Jason Heyward or Justin Upton replacing Brett Gardner in the outfield, would make... in my opinion... a true World Series contender.

Doesn't Jason look cute in a Yankees uniform*?
*that's a picture of Jason Heyward in Little League.

David Price Makes Sense for a Lot of Reasons

David Price is the starting pitcher on this year’s free agent market that would make any team better. The Kansas City Royals won the 2015 World Series and would vastly improve having Price on their staff. So would the New York Mets, although not vastly with their crop of young aces in the making, as Price would bring a veteran leadership and presence that the team missed last season. Price would be the ace on every team with a losing record in 2015 and would likely be the ace of 90% of the playoff contending teams in 2015, including the New York Yankees. 

We all know the reasons the Yankees should sign Price because every blogger, writer, fan and beat writer has been preaching about them all offseason long. Price has been the ace for every team he’s pitched for and led the Tigers and Blue Jays in 2015 with a 18-5 record with a 2.45 ERA, 1.076 WHIP and 6.4 WAR according to Fangraphs. Price will only be 30-years old on Opening Day and despite a few innings on his left arm, and his playoff struggles that are well noted, I think New York still has a few reasons to sign him that maybe you’re not hearing about. 

After the 2017 season the New York Yankees could potentially lose four pitchers out of their starting rotation leaving just Luis Severino and Adam Warren as viable options. CC Sabathia’s contract has a vesting option for the 2017 season and Masahiro Tanaka’s contract has an opt-out clause written into it that he can exercise after the 2017 campaign. Alongside those Yankees teammates are a pair of right-handed power pitchers that will be in their final season of arbitration eligibility in 2017 meaning they can both test the free agent waters before 2018 in Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi. Having Price not only softens the blows if potentially all four of them walk away, and honestly I can’t even see all four of them hitting free agency at the same time, but he can also be used as a negotiating tool against them as well. 

Assuming the health and productivity of Tanaka improves on or matches his 2015 totals you have to think the team brings him back while you also have to assume that Sabathia’s days as a Yankee are over no matter what in 2017 but what about Eovaldi and Pineda? Both have injury question marks surrounding them entering 2016 and while a lot can happen, either way, between now and the end of 2017 having Price softens the blow either way. Sitting at the negotiating table with the agents for Eovaldi and Pineda with Tanaka, Price and Severino leading your rotation is a lot different than sitting at that same table with those same agents having just Severino and Adam Warren, who to this point has never started for an entire season, anchoring the rotation. 

The Yankees want Price anyway, they were reportedly willing to give Severino up last season as long as Price came with an extension window and willingness to stay in the Bronx, so why not just get him? The free agent market dries up a bit over the next two seasons and the Yankees have their arms hitting free agency soon. Fill a hole now, eat the salary and relish in the dividends when those big contracts come off the books after the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Plus maybe save a dollar or two down the road while truly putting a “World Series caliber” team on the field next season. 

Meet a Prospect: Mike Harkey

The New York Yankees finalized their coaching staff this week with the official additions of Alan Cockrell as the hitting coach, Marcus Thames as the assistant hitting coach and Mike Harkey’s return to the Yankees bullpen coach position. Harkey is said to be a close friend of manager Joe Girardi’s and has spent each of the last two seasons in Arizona acting as the Diamondbacks pitching coach. Harkey was not re-signed by Arizona and was allowed to hit free agency before coming back home to the Bronx, and we officially welcome him back today.

This is Meet a Prospect: the Mike Harkey Edition.

Michael Anthony Harkey was born on October 25, 1966 and spent his college years playing for California State University (CSU) Fullerton. While playing for the CSU Fullerton Titans Harkey, as a pitcher, caught the eyes of the Chicago Cubs who drafted him in the first round of the 1987 MLB First Year Players Draft officially beginning his professional career. During Harkey’s generally uneventful playing career he made starts in a number of uniforms including playing for the Chicago Cubs, the Colorado Rockies, the Oakland Athletics, the California Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Harkey all told appeared in 131 games during the 1988, 1990 through 1995, and 1997 seasons. Shoulder and arm injuries derailed and plagued his career before he attempted a cartwheel in the Wrigley Field outfield and severely damaged his knee and essentially ended his career on September 6, 1992.

After Harkey’s injury he began his coaching career when he accepted a position with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in 2000 as their pitching coach. Harkey continued his minor league coaching career as the pitching coach of the Fort Wayne Wizards in 2001 and 2003 and as the pitching coach for the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2002 and 2004 before coaching for the Mobile BayBears in 2005. Harkey coached the Iowa Cubs in 2005 before taking his first Major League position in 2006 when the Miami Marlins made him their bullpen coach.

Harkey followed manager Joe Girardi to the Yankees to be their bullpen coach in 2008 and was an instrumental part of the 2009 World Series run for the Bronx Bombers. All told Harkey was the bullpen coach for the Yankees for six seasons before jumping to the Arizona Diamondbacks for the 2014 season to serve as their pitching coach. Harkey was fired and returned home this season, and we welcome him back. Do what you do Hark!

Yankees Continue to Get Younger

For better or worse the New York Yankees as an organization took a left turn after the 2012 season. George Steinbrenner had passed away and many of the contracts, again for better or worse, were beginning to come off the books. The players that I grew up watching as a child, the Derek Jeter’s and the Jorge Posada’s and the Mariano Rivera’s and the Andy Pettitte’s, were beginning to retire or at least think about retiring and a new era of baseball was coming to the Bronx. Gone were the days of spending freely on the free agent market and gone were the days of leading the league not only in wins but in dollars spent. Gone was the #TooManyDamnHRs mantra and gone, little by little, was the fact that the New York Yankees were considered to be an “old team.”

Whether you like Brian Cashman or not, agree with his moves or not or want him to be the Yankees GM or not is irrelevant. Cashman had a plan and while he may or may not have gone about it the entirely wrong way or whether he took the long route or not is a discussion for another day, at the end of the day the plan is almost complete. Cashman’s plan was to build a respectable farm system that produces talent, check, and the Yankees GM wanted to make the team younger almost across the board. Ever since the 2012 season the Yankees have done just that.

Entering the 2016 season as it stands today the New York Yankees have just 10 players at or above the age of 30 currently on their 25 man roster. When the season ended in 2012 that number was significantly higher at 18. In 2013 the Yankees direction changed leaving the team with 20 players at or over the age of 30 while the 2014 version was left with 20 at or over the age of 30. The Yankees have seen their average team age go from 33.0 in 2012 all the way down to 27.0 in 2016 thanks to the additions of Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Nathan Eovaldi, Greg Bird, Luis Severino and a load of other young and developing talent.

The plan may have taken longer than it should have but the plan is finally coming to fruition. The Yankees are getting versatile, flexible, durable and younger. Finally. 

Happy 2nd Birthday to my Boy, Hayden

It was this day two years ago that I had my heart stolen a second time, my second son was born. I made the joke earlier in the week that my wife had to wait until at least the weekend to have our baby boy because work was catering in turkey, ham and all the side items and deserts to go with it on Friday, November 22, 2013. I'd trade the turkey and the ham for Hayden any day.

So today we make the trip to Burger King with our Minions decorations in arms and have his second birthday party. I can't wait. Enjoy the day and enjoy your families, on a holiday or not. Have a great one!

This Day in New York Yankees History 11/22: Enter Goose Gossage

On this day in 1977 the Yankees signed Rich "Goose" Gossage to a six year deal worth $2.75 million as a free agent. Gossage was coming off of a 26 save and 1.26 ERA season with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Also on this day in 1957 Mickey Mantle edges out Red Sox superstar Ted Williams for the Most Valuable Player award for the American League. Two Chicago writers had Williams ninth and tenth on their respected ballots which slipped Ted to second place even though he had a .388 average with 38 home runs and a .731 slugging percentage.