Tuesday, February 13, 2018

My Thoughts on Pitchers & Catchers Day 2018

Good afternoon Yankees family, and a big welcome back to Major League Baseball. I missed you all. Today pitchers and catchers reported to George M. Steinbrenner Field and to spring training camps all across the south as baseball officially returned to us all today, and not a moment too soon. What a winter, huh? While the winter looked like it could be a fun one at first with the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton the market has seemingly come to a screeching halt leaving many big-name free agents still without a job as spring camps open up today. Who would have thought on February 13th that JD Martinez, Jake Arrieta and Eric Hosmer would still be looking for work? Who would have thought that Mike Moustakas would be without a hot corner to man at this point in the winter? If anyone raises their hand to either of these questions I would have zero issue with questioning your honesty and credibility as a person. It has been a weird offseason, and I hope it doesn’t lead to that “S” word that everyone has been throwing around lately.

While many Yankees fans clamored for the addition of a starting pitcher before the season I have to say that I am happy with the current state of the Yankees starting rotation. Last season the Yankees had a wonderful staff that not only kept the team in a lot of ball games but won a lot of ball games for them as well. This team was one win away from the 2017 World Series with a down season by Masahiro Tanaka, a rookie starter in Jordan Montgomery pitching for the entire season without his best pitch and with an ace from the Oakland Athletics for half a season that couldn’t buy run support if he had all the money in the world. All three of these scenarios should at the very minimum remain the same, if not improve here in 2018. Could Luis Severino take a step back? Sure. Could CC Sabathia finally let father time catch up to him? Also, sure. The thing about this team is that they have the replacements and the ammo to acquire the replacements they need to make a deep run into the 2018 postseason and beyond. The pitching is the least of my worries, especially considering the strength and depth of the Yankees bullpen.

The Yankees bullpen, at least on paper, is possibly the deepest and best bullpens in all of Major League Baseball history. Write that down, because I mean it. Relief pitching can be suspect from year-to-year with the exception of closers, who seemingly always remain consistent, which is why I feel confident that the Yankees bullpen can live up to the back of their baseball cards once again in 2018. Aroldis Chapman is the team’s closer and behind him is a slew of other former closers or pitchers with at least some closing experience including Adam Warren, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle. The bullpen will be able to take four-to-five innings a night a few times a week and completely shut down games when the starters aren’t at their best, a luxury that a lot of other teams simply don’t have.

The offense will be stellar and powerful, especially with full and healthy seasons from Greg Bird and company. This is why I don’t worry about the lack of experience the team currently employs at second and third base. The team has the pieces in place both offensively and defensively to live with and be patient with the growing pains of having a rookie on your team. No pressure Gleyber (eventually) and no pressure Miguel Andujar, we got this.

I have high hopes for this team, I really do. I am generally always optimistic around this time of the year, even when projections and the articles of “experts” tell me I shouldn’t be. Remember, I had the Yankees making the postseason as a Wild Card team last year when many did not, so ride this wave with me and let’s take home this World Series Championship once and for all. Who is with me? Go Yankees!!!

Happy Whitey Ford-Yogi Berra Day...

Photo Credit: SI.com (Kristyn Ulanday)
Opening the Gates of Steinbrenner Field…

As the saying goes, today is the first day of the rest of your life. Or as I prefer to call it, the first day of the 2018 New York Yankees. Welcome, Pitchers and Catchers! Your host, Aaron Boone, and his staff are eager and ready to serve you. 

I am excited and anxious to hear Boone’s kickoff press conference today at 12:00 pm ET. We’ve heard Boonie talk over the winter but now he’s officially in uniform and ready to lead Baseball’s most storied franchise to the Promised Land. It’ll be cool to get a glimpse inside his mind as he begins his Pinstriped Journey in earnest. Sure, he’s had the conference calls with his coaches and shared text messages, a few rounds of golf or dinner with his players, but today it gets real. It’s a very exciting time in the Yankees Universe. After meeting with the press today, Boone will lead the first official workout tomorrow on Valentine’s Day. Very appropriate given how much we love these Yankees.

My most recent fear was averted yesterday when it was the Texas Rangers (and not that the Yankees) that gave a minor league contract with training camp invite to free agent third baseman Trevor Plouffe. I was starting to get worried that we’d see him in Tampa, but alas, the Rangers saved the day.

There’s still time for new faces to appear but at the moment, the starting rotation returns intact from top to bottom and the leading contenders for second and third bases are Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, respectively. The next few days will feature many bullpen sessions and we’ll get our first images of the new season. 

I am ready for Yankees baseball.

The Freak is back…

Speaking of reclamation projects, the Yankees will send a scout to watch Tim Lincecum’s showcase in Seattle on Thursday according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Admittedly, when I first heard the 34-year-old was attempting another comeback, I scoffed. Two years ago, he signed a deal with the Los Angeles Angels after providing an open tryout in front of scouts. He failed miserably, going 2-6 with 9.16 ERA in nine games pitched.  His WHIP was an unsightly 2.374. Maybe there’s nothing left, but then again, maybe there is. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images, via Men's Fitness (Joe Robbins, Otto Greule, Jr)
People scoffed at Bartolo Colon when he made a comeback with the Yankees a few years ago, yet he continues to pitch and it is likely he’ll find another Major League contract somewhere this year. I am not saying that Lincecum is Colon, but at one time, Lincecum was a very good pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. I seriously doubt he’ll ever be anything close to that level again but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Why not take a shot? If he shows nothing, you help him pack his bags and send him on his way. He certainly won’t be cost prohibitive at this point in his career. I’d sign him if he shows anything on Thursday. He wouldn’t unseat any current starters in the rotation regardless of how well he throws but he could be a better option as a replacement starter than Luis Cessa if he has anything left. I am sure some team will take a chance on The Freak through a minor league deal to see if he can help.

Stick a fork in him, he’s done…

I am so very disappointed in Rich “Goose” Gossage. At one time, the guy was my favorite player. I loved to watch him come into games throwing heat and shutting down the opposition. It was tough to watch Goose leave the Yankees when he signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres in January 1984. Even tougher watching the Padres in the World Series that year, who also featured former Yankee Graig Nettles at third base, even if they lost to the Detroit Tigers. I was excited when he played for a couple of months with the Yankees at the end of the 1989 season despite being in the twilight of his career. I was proud when he was named to MLB’s Hall of Fame in 2008. Unfortunately, his behavior since that time has been anything but professional. 

Last year, he took shots at Hall of Famer-to-be Mariano Rivera, one of my all-time favorite Yankees over the course of my lifetime, which I did not appreciate nor respect. When I heard the Yankees had not extended an invitation to Spring Training for Goose this year, I felt it was the right thing. The Yankees did not need the unwanted attention and distraction for a new manager and coaching staff. Yet, the New York Daily News beat writers had to reach to Goose to get comment about the spurned invitation and he chose to use it as a forum to go off on GM Brian Cashman.  

Frankly, I don’t care if Gossage ever sets foot in Yankee Stadium again.  He comes across as an angry old man to me.  I am tired of his “back in my day” rants. He played in a different era but it doesn’t mean that it was better. The game has changed. Sadly, Gossage has not. There is no place for him with today’s game and no place for him in the Yankees Universe. Let him go play Old Timer’s games with the Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s or Seattle Mariners. What? Those teams do not hold their former players in same high regard as the Yankees? Sucks for him. Good riddance…

Rest in peace, facial hair…

We also say goodbye to CC Sabathia’s beard. 

While I personally feel that the Yankees should change the long-standing team policy that prohibits facial hair outside of “porn star” mustaches, it’s too bad that they can’t at least open Spring Training to a relaxed hair policy before the team heads north to put on the famed pinstriped jerseys. Sabathia had a very cool beard this winter, as did a number of other players. It would be nice to see them with a tougher look, if only for the exhibition games at Steinbrenner Field. Some guys, like Jordan Montgomery, could seriously stand an edgier look instead of the choir boy approach.  I know, the hair policy will never change. The Steinbrenner Family will always preserve George’s wishes as long as they own the team. I get the professionalism aspect to the policy but I am also a believer in self-expression. I am not crazy about Justin Turner’s flowing red hair and beard with the Los Angeles Dodgers but it is who he is and I would not want to change him. If it works for the player, it works for me. 

The baseball offseason is over. It is time to get to work...

Photo Credit: Newsday (J Conrad Williams, Jr)

 Go Yankees!