Thursday, February 16, 2017

Swisher and A-Rod Return to Yankees This Spring

Double dipping at the 7:00 pm ET hour, naughty Daniel. Hey, we do things our way here. Always have, always will so here’s a quick hit regarding some news you may or may not have already read. Remember, still trying to play catch up over here.

Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher will both return to the New York Yankees this spring but not as players like we’ve once seen. This time the pair will be special guest instructors at Yankees camp. How freaking cool is that? I want to be Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier right about now, how about you?

Both Alex and Nick were instructors for New York at the Yankees’ instructional league team last fall as well although this will be the first time they will be coaching during spring training, period, which is always kind of fun.

Alex and Swish will join an impressive list of instructors including, but not limited to, Goose Gossage, Reggie Jackson, Hideki Matsui, Ron Guidry, Willie Randolph, Stump Merrill and Lee Mazzilli.

Congratulations to Hannah and Derek Jeter!

Yes, yes I know I am incredibly late to this party but I had a lot of catching up to do and I am just now getting to this. I want to take a second to send a big congratulations out to the former Yankees Captain, Derek Jeter, and his absolutely beautiful wife, Hannah Jeter, on the announcement that the couple is expecting a baby girl. This will be the pair’s first child.

According to Hannah her husband, Derek, has a name picked out already although that name has not been publicly released as of the time of this writing.

Again, congrats to them both. How awesome is this little girl going to be having Derek and Hannah Jeter as parents? There are no words.

Have a great night everyone and, God willing, we’ll see you all again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day too. Friends. 

My Thoughts on Brandon Phillips to the Atlanta Braves

Yes, I realize this is a Yankees blog. Yes, I realize Brandon Phillips was a member of the Cincinnati Reds and yes I realize that he is now a member of the Atlanta Braves. Yes, I realize the Yankees won’t see the Braves this season before the World Series and yes, I am well aware that the Braves are in the National League while the Yankees are in the American League. You know what though? It interested me as I live in Metro Atlanta, Georgia now after moving here from New York, it is in the news and I want to talk about it. You have been warned, friends.

The Atlanta Braves sent left-hander Andrew McKirahan and minor league right-handed pitcher Carlos Portuondo for Brandon Phillips on Sunday. Phillips, a second baseman and three-time All-Star with Cincinnati, attended high school in Georgia at Redan High in Stone Mountain, Georgia so this is a bit of a homecoming for the right-hander. Phillips was drafted out of Redan High School by the Montreal Expos in the second round of the 1999 MLB First Year Players Draft and for the first time in his MLB career will be making a comeback to his hometown. Those are always fun stories to write about.

Phillips will be in Atlanta to finish out his contract that has just one-year left on it worth $14 million in salary. Phillips will be entering his age 35 season in 2017 and had to waive his no-trade clause and ten-and-five rights to facilitate the trade so Phillips clearly wants to be in Atlanta, and who could blame him? Atlanta has a ton of young talent and could be ready to compete as early as the 2017 season. The Braves have the potential to have something special brewing once again and Phillips may be in the middle of it as he grooms the young guys before hitting free agency at 36-years old.

The Braves basically gave up nothing for Phillips and will simply assume his salary for the season. What Phillips could teach the young Braves in a mentor role you absolutely cannot put a price tag on but if you could I’d venture to say it would be a lot higher than $14 million at this stage in the game. Atlanta gave up McKirahan who did not pitch in the Major Leagues in 2016 after having Tommy John surgery while Portuondo pitched just 17 games in 2016 with Class-A and Triple-A after spending eight seasons in the Cuban League.

Phillips is going to be great in Atlanta and I can totally see him being a fan favorite basically from Day One. I look forward to seeing his spectacular plays at second base and what he can do to help the Baby Braves going forward. My heart belongs to the Yankees, and it always will, but I also enjoy watching some good local baseball as well so I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was rooting for Phillips and the Braves a bit in 2017. 

Extra Innings, Free Baseball and Changes Coming to the Game?

If you thought instant replay was bad you may want to dust off your pitchforks and get ready to protest like the end of the world is coming, because you know… change, because change may be coming to Major League Baseball.

Major League Baseball is at least discussing and considering two possibilities that will forever change the game as we know it. First the league is considering implementing a clock to the game in order to help with the ever-growing pace of play issue while another idea will affect free baseball and extra innings. Commissioner Rob Manfred has confirmed that the notion of starting an inning with a runner on second base, you know… just because, is also being discussed and could be tested in the very near future.

Tug at my heart why don’t you. The World Baseball Classic will employ the whole “start the inning with a runner on second base” rule starting in the 11th inning this year while two rookie-level summer leagues will also begin every extra inning of baseball this season with a runner on second.

I mean, I get it. You don’t want pitchers taxing their arms any more than you have to and it saves the subsequent roster shuffling for the next week or so that the fans absolutely cannot be a fan of but this is imply going too far if you ask me. If MLB is trying to go for that whole “sudden death” feel much like the College Football overtime system is made I think they can do much better than this, no? I don’t know why but this just doesn’t feel right to me. It feels like something you would do in Little League or in the park with your friends, not at the Major League level…. Maybe it’s just me.

Just an FYI for you all. MLB’s television ratings actually go up when games go into extra innings. Also their advertising dollars and such are made on a nine-inning game. Would they not be making extra money if the game goes into extras? Would the teams not be making extra concessions money if the game goes into extras? I get the whole saving the pitchers arms things but why can’t you change another rule? Like a case-by-case basis where a player doesn’t have to stay down for 10 days after being called up and sent down in the case of an 11+ inning game the night before? Don’t put a damn runner at second base and turn this into Rock’em Sock’em Baseball.


The Yankees Rotation Will Be Underrated in 2017

Yes, let’s start off this Thursday morning with what will probably be an unpopular blog post and opinion. I can’t help it, I am who I am and you have to take me as I am or not at all. No apologies. So yes, I do believe that the New York Yankees starting rotation will be underrated in 2017 despite the lack of additions this offseason and I am 100% prepared to explain to you why I believe the Yankees rotation will be underrated this upcoming season. Keep reading friends.

Now keep in mind before I get too far into this that I don’t believe the Yankees will be underrated or termed “special” straight out of the gate and at times the rotation may seem to be held together by a string. That’s the course of a 162-game schedule and that’s baseball. I am talking in a general sense and on a larger scale. Keep reading and you will understand what I mean.

I know some don’t subscribe to this mindset but if history is an indicator of the future the Yankees are in for some huge innings and performances from Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. Why? The contract year, that’s why. Tanaka has an opt-out clause written into his contract that he can exercise after this season while the contracts for both Sabathia and Pineda simply expire at seasons end. At this point in the career of the big lefty, Sabathia, you kind of know what you’re going to get from him but this may finally be the season that a young and talented Pineda finally puts it all together. Pineda has always had the stuff and the raw talent but for whatever reason he has always had something holding him back keeping him from taking the next step. I truly believe he takes that next step and maybe another step as well in 2017. Do I have a stat or some behind-the-scenes story that makes me believe this? Nope, I don’t. I have history, I have common sense and I have my gut feeling as a fan and I am rolling with it.

Those names you know but names like Bryan Mitchell, James Kaprielian, Luis Severino, Adam Warren, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams and others are the arms that will make or break the Yankees rotation this upcoming season. I, personally, am putting all my chips on the “make” category.

Mitchell does not have overwhelming stuff but he has a knack for getting MLB hitters out when he’s healthy. Taking a line drive off the face and hurting his toe in spring training of last year have set him back some in his development but now at 25-years old it is time for Mitchell to shine. Mitchell, I will say though, is his own worst enemy unfortunately as he has shown an ability to pitch both in the bullpen and the rotation which may leave him in middle relief and as a long man in 2017. Wherever Mitchell pitches next season though he will need to garner a few more ground balls and maybe strike out another batter or two every nine innings but the good news is these things can be taught. His talent and his guts on the mound that he possesses cannot be.

Luis Cessa was great for the Yankees in a short sample size last season. Cessa, who was signed out of Mexico by the New York Mets back in 2009 as an infielder, has only been pitching since 2011 and has only just recently earned MLB pitching experience with the Yankees. Cessa needs a third pitch to really stick in the rotation long term or his future may be in the bullpen but while that is what a scouting report will tell you the eye test told an entirely different story in 2016. For that reason I’m not going to be the one to write off the 24-year old righty.

You have heard me say the names Jordan Montgomery and Chance Adams a bunch over the past few seasons and 2017 may finally be the year that these names become common and household names around the Yankees Universe. Montgomery was a 2014 fourth-round draft pick out of South Carolina and has been one of the best Yankees pitchers in all of their farm system ever since. Montgomery started the 2016 season in Double-A where he posted a 9-4 record with a 2.55 ERA with 97 K’s and 36 BB’s before heading up to Triple-A to end the season. Montgomery somehow got better when he went up to Scranton posting a 5-1 record with a 0.97 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 37 K’s in 37 innings. If that stat line doesn’t scream “Put me in coach, I’m ready to play” then I don’t know what will.

Adams was Montgomery before Montgomery was Montgomery in my eyes. I feel like I’ve been talking about Adams forever even though he was drafted just two seasons ago in 2015. Adams was originally drafted as a reliever which led me to name him as my prediction to be the first player drafted in 2015 to reach the Major Leagues. That did not happen obviously but for good reason. Adams was converted to starting pitching by the Yankees and has absolutely made the Yankees organization look like a bunch of Brad Pitt’s in Moneyball, minus the whole good looking thing. Adams is just 22-years old and the Yankees don’t seem to be in any rush to get him to the Major Leagues due to innings concerns and such but if Adams keeps pitching the way he has he may force the Yankees hand sooner rather than later.

There are others names including Kaprielian, Luis Severino who is working on his mechanics this spring and adding some movement to his fastball, Warren who can seemingly bounce back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen at any time, and others who can make or break the Yankees starting rotation this season. Me, Mr. Optimistic, I’m going with make because as Joe Girardi has proven time and time again… sometimes talent just simply wins out and outweighs bad decision making. 

Judge and Austin Will Have to Earn Spots in 2017

The New York Yankees have made it their mission to stockpile their farm system with usable, and potentially tradeable, talent for a couple of seasons now and the team will finally see the fruits of their labor as soon as the 2017 season. While the Yankees are still the Yankees, and Brian Cashman’s decision making is still as questionable as ever when you look at the Chris Carter signing for example, the team is finally turning the corner in the prospects department. New York has traded away Brian McCann to give the everyday catching duties to Gary Sanchez and the team has also plugged in young guys like Greg Bird at first base with the retirement of Mark Teixeira but there are two names that are seemingly going to have to fight for their spots. Those two men are right fielder Aaron Judge and infielder/outfielder Tyler Austin.  

Just six months ago both Judge and Austin made their MLB debuts and just six months ago both players went back-to-back in their MLB debuts hitting home runs in their first MLB at bats. Now both men find themselves facing a numbers game at the MLB level that is not helped by the fact that both players have minor league options remaining.  

Judge fought an oblique strain at the end of last season that ended his Yankees-trial just 27 games into it. Judge showed promise at the plate in the power department but much like he had in the minor leagues the right-hander struggled laying off breaking balls off the plate resulting in too many strikeouts to be comfortable with. Well, I guess that’s not really a thing anymore with sabermetrics where strikeouts count the same as hitting a 400 foot fly out to dead center field inside Yankee Stadium but I can see where some fans are concerned regardless. Especially when you consider the Yankees just signed Chris Carter who strikes out 200+ times a season but I digress. New York seems comfortable handing the reigns to the right field job to Aaron Hicks, a switch hitter, on a daily basis which may be trouble for Judge. This will be a spring training competition to watch although the Yankees organization is saying all the right things with Judge which can only help. 

Austin on the other hand seems like he may be the odd man out. After the signings of Carter, a first baseman and DH only at this point in his career, and Matt Holliday, a first baseman, DH and occasional outfielder if needed, the Yankees may simply not have enough room to carry Austin as well. Austin has spent time in the minor leagues playing first base, third base and the outfield and would be the perfect fit for the Yankees bench but the problem is the team can only bring 25 players, period. Austin may lose the numbers game despite being the best man for the job. 

Both players were not required to show up to Yankees camp until Saturday yet both men showed up early to take batting practice off Adam Warren and Luis Cessa this week. Both men are facing an uphill battle and both men seem ready to fight for the job and that is what the Yankees need more than anything at this point. They need that fire and that will to fight and these two men have it. This is going to be one of the more interesting spring trainings we’ve seen down at George M. Steinbrenner Field in a long, long time. Stay tuned.

So It Seems “Hello Friends” is Not a Suitable Response

So. I know this is a Yankees blog but at the same time it is a blog so I think I may start taking full advantage of that. If I’m being completely honest I simply don’t have enough people to talk to in my life sometimes and I consider everyone that reads this and interacts with me as family. I’ll try to keep these little rants and discussions somewhat on topic but as you know I like to ramble on, so no promises.

So on Tuesday night I made my not-so-triumphant return to the blog and apparently my response was not a suitable one. My bad. The “Hello Friends” was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek response as I slowly opened the door for my return. It was not fake, but apparently it was not suitable either. For that you have my apologies. I totally meant to stick around and simply wait on a response but life got in the way again and by the time I got back to the blog I was welcomed back with a sense of anger. I guess I need to own that, that’s on me.

Well you know what? I’m angry too. Life sucks sometimes and I took a break. I’m a creature of habit. For five years straight I worked on this blog day in and day out from sun up till sun down. There were days I would work on this blog more than I would work on anything. It became all-consuming and it became too much. I always told myself when it felt like an obligation that I would walk away until it didn’t feel like an obligation anymore.

And here we stand this morning now a couple days into Yankees camp. I missed a lot and I neglected a few and for that you have my sincerest apologies. I look forward to earning back your love, trust and admiration. Stay well friends. 

This Day In New York Yankees History 2/16: Yankees Trade Alfonso Soriano for Alex Rodriguez

On this day in 2004 the Texas Rangers traded Alex Rodriguez with a boatload of cash to the Yankees in exchange for Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias. This comes days after the Red Sox tried to acquire Alex for Manny Ramirez but the Red Sox needed Alex to restructure his contract, something Alex was willing to do, but the MLB Player's Association denied the request and ultimately the deal.

Also on this day in 2001 the Yankees re-signed Mariano Rivera to a four year deal worth $40 million. Mariano passed Dennis Eckersley's major league record with 16 saves in the playoffs the season before and was coming off a 7-4 record with a 2.85 ERA with 36 saves.

Finally on this day in 1967 Red Ruffing was selected to be in the Hall of Fame by getting the most votes on the second ballot after the BBWAA did not choose anyone in the first vote in January. Ruffing had 273 wins.