Thursday, February 28, 2019

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Reggie Willits

Last, but certainly not least, is a name that I can remember the Yankees signing to a Minor League deal way back when. Reggie Willits obviously knows the game and has been around the game for much of his adult life, now the former outfielder finds himself as the first base coach for the New York Yankees. Dreams really do come true, so let’s meet the man who saw his dreams come to fruition last winter when he accepted a spot on new Yankees manager Aaron Boone’s staff. Willits is back in the same position here in 2019, so let's meet him once again. This is Meet a Coach: The Reggie Willits Edition.

Reggie Gene Willits was born on May 30, 1981 to Gene and Judy Willits, both of Fort Cobb, Oklahoma. Willits attended both junior high and high school at Fort Cobb-Broxton before attending Seminole State College in Seminole, Oklahoma. Willits eventually transferred to the University of Oklahoma where he played baseball for the Oklahoma Sooners. While with Oklahoma he caught the eye of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim who drafted Willits in the seventh round, 210th overall, of the 2003 MLB First Year Players Draft. Willits made his MLB debut with the club just three years later on April 26, 2006 and even made the Angels Opening Day roster in 2007.

When all was said and done Willits spent five seasons with the Angels before being designated for assignment by the team on August 17, 2011. After the 2011 season Willits elected free agency but was unable to find a job before the 2012 season. Willits took the 2012 season off away from the game before returning to the game in 2013 as the head baseball coach for Binger-Olney High School. Willits was their head coach for two seasons before joining the New York Yankees organization in 2015 as their outfield and baserunning coordinator, a position he held until the 2018 season. For the 2018 season, Willits was promoted to first base coach for Aaron Boone's New York Yankees and saw the team reach the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox, before ultimatrly falling to the eventual World Series Champions. Willits is back with the Yankees, and under Boone, for the 2019 season at the first base coach position, hoping this time he sees his season end in the World Series and in the Canyon of Heroes.

Reggie Willits was named after another Yankees great, Reggie Jackson. No pressure Reggie, but with a name like that we expect big things. Congrats again on the promotion, do us proud!

Meet the 2019 Yankees: P.J. Pilittere

It seems like about ten years ago or so every team in Major League Baseball went from having just one hitting coach at the Major League level to two hitting coaches. Eventually the New York Yankees caught up with the times and hired an assistant hitting coach to help out with their crew of sluggers the team employs, and this year will be no different. In 2017, New York had Marcus Thames in the position but after a promotion for Thames the team needed to fill the position with another former Yankees farmhand in 2018, and they did so when the team hired former catcher P.J. Pilittere. Now that is has been confirmed that P.J. will be back in the same position here in 2019, let’s meet the Yankees Assitant Hitting Coach. This is Meet a Coach: The P.J. Pilittere Edition.

Peter John Pilittere was born on November 23, 1981 and is the current assistant hitting coach for the New York Yankees. The Yankees are the only organization that Pilittere has ever known as this was the team that drafted him out of college. Pilittere attended California State University, Fullerton, better known as Cal State Fullerton, where the Yankees drafted him in the 13th round of the 2004 MLB First Year Players Draft. Pilittere toiled around in the Yankees Minor League system until the 2011 season making various stops around the farm.

After Pilittere decided to retire he became a coach for numerous teams with the Yankees minor league affiliates before finally landing his first MLB gig in 2018. I love watching one of the Yankees own not only play through their minor league system, but also work their way through their minor league system all the way to the Major Leagues as either a player, a coach or both. P.J. is back with the Yankees in the same position here in 2019 and will look to continue his success with the likes of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, and others. Do us proud, and bring us a ring.

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Phil Nevin

The New York Yankees saw much of their coaching staff leave when Joe Girardi was asked not to return to his managerial position in 2018, and that included their bench coach, first base coach, hitting coach and their third base coach. The Yankees sought to promote from within at a lot of these positions, but one man opened enough eyes outside the Yankees organization to garner an interview, and eventually a job with the team. Phil Nevin was named to manager Aaron Boone’s staff in 2018 and will return to the same position as the team’s third base coach in 2019, so let’s meet the man with the thankless job of sending and holding runners at third base all season long. This is Meet a Coach: The Phil Nevin Edition.

Phillip Joseph Nevin was born on January 19, 1971 in California where the right-hander attended El Dorado High School in Placentia, California. After graduating from high school the Los Angeles Dodgers took a waiver on the infielder by selecting him in the third round of the 1989 MLB First Year Players Draft. The Dodgers were prepared to give Nevin a $100,000 signing bonus to forego his college commitment and to begin his professional career, but in the end Nevin decided he would attend California State University, Fullerton, better known as Cal State Fullerton. As a two-sport star at Cal State Fullerton, Nevin played both baseball and football, Nevin represented both teams to the fullest as a kicker and as a third baseman. Nevin led the Titans to the College World Series final as a Junior, although his team did lose to the eventual champion Pepperdine Waves baseball team and won the CWS Most Outstanding Player award. Nevin’s contributions to the Titans led the the Houston Astros to take Nevin with the first overall pick in the 1992 MLB First Year Players Draft. Much controversy was had after Nevin, and not eventual New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter, was taken first overall, especially by Houston Astros scout Hal Newhouser.

Newhouser was a scout for the Astros who had evaluated Jeter extensively prior to the Draft and had lobbied team management to select Jeter. When the Astros decided to pick Nevin instead Newhouser quit in protest over the decision. The Astros were worried that Jeter would want a signing bonus in excess of $1 million to sign with them and forego his college commitment, while the team thought the team could sign Nevin, a college Junior, for significantly less. When all he negotiations were complete the Astros thought they had their third baseman of the future after signing Nevin in June of 1992 for just $700,000.

Nevin traveled with the Astros at the end of the 1992 season despite being on the team’s active roster as the team prepared their third baseman to go to the Arizona Fall League. Nevin showed he needed little work in the Minor Leagues during the Fall League of 1992 and during Spring Training camp in 1993 where he hit .350 and showed tremendous power for the Astros. The team considered letting him skip the Minor Leagues all together and even considered letting him immediately start in the Major Leagues on Opening Day 1993, but the team ultimately decided to start him down at Triple-A with the Tucson Toros due to the fact that the team already had a third baseman in Ken Caminiti manning the position. While in Triple-A the Astros tried to get Nevin to learn left field so both he and Caminiti could be on the field at the same time, but Nevin began the season with a .247 batting average quelling any decisions to immediately promote him to the Major Leagues, at least for a little while. Nevin ultimately ended the 1993 season with a .286 batting average, 10 home runs and 91 RBI, but it was not enough to warrant a trip to the Major Leagues that season. Nevin was back in Triple-A to begin the 1994 season as well and this time he had a new position to learn, the first base position.

Nevin’s MLB debut was delayed due to less-than-stellar defense, Nevin committed 61 errors in his first two seasons, and the MLB work stoppage in 1994 that cancelled the World Series and delayed the opening of the 1995 season. Before the 1995 season the San Diego Padres had seen enough of Nevin down in Triple-A and decided to trade Caminiti to the San Diego Padres, thus opening the door for Nevin to play third base for the team. Nevin, in a bit of a head scratcher, was not invited to the team’s spring training camp for the 1995 season. Nevin and teammate Billy Wagner had previously refused to play with replacement players at the Major League level which many attributed to why Nevin was not invited to camp that season. Nevin started the 1995 season back down in Triple-A, but eventually he did too much with the bat to warrant being down there and the Astros finally promoted him to the Major Leagues on June 10 of that season. Nevin played in just 18 games that season, struggling with a .117 batting average and no home runs before being demoted back to Triple-A. Nevin, when learning of the news, cursed at Astros General Manager Bob Watson and their manager Terry Collins, an incident he would later have to apologize for.

Before the 1996 season the Houston Astros traded Nevin and his presumed bad attitude to the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Mike Henneman. Nevin was assigned to the Tigers Double-A team where he was converted into a catcher. After the 1997 season Nevin was traded once again alongside catcher Matt Walbeck to the Anaheim Angels, where former manager Terry Collins was now managing, for minor leaguer Nick Skuse. Nevin could never seemingly stay in one place for long at the beginning of his career and he was on the move again before the 1999 season after the Angels traded Nevin and minor league player Keith Volkman to the San Diego Padres. With the Padres in 1999 Nevin appeared in 100 games for the first time during his Major League career. Nevin seemingly found his way while out in San Diego enjoying a productive 2000 season before being named to the National League All-Star team in 2001 after hitting 41 home runs and knocking in 126 RBI. Nevin did lead the league in errors at third base with 27, but his offensive production more than made up for that for the Padres.

Nevin was converted back to first base for the 2002 season, his strongest defensively by many metrics and stats, but injuries would tell the tales of his 2002 and 2003 seasons, and not his defense or offensive production. In 2002 Nevin strained his elbow, then three games after returning from the elbow injury he broke his arm diving for a ground ball missing six additional weeks. In 2003 Nevin dislocated his shoulder in spring training and did not return until the month of June after left shoulder surgery. By July Nevin was back under the knife after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee in July. In Nevin’s absence the Padres acquired Rondell White to replace Nevin in the outfield while allowing Ryan Klesko to play first base and rookie Sean Burroughs to man the hot corner at third base, pushing Nevin to a utility role.

Nevin and Padres GM Kevin Towers were said to have a “love-hate” relationship and that relationship was almost severed on July 25, 2005 after the Padres agreed to trade Nevin to the Baltimore Orioles for RHP Sidney Ponson. Nevin exercised a clause in his contract that allowed him to block a trade to one of eight teams, one of those franchises being the Baltimore Orioles, but was ultimately traded five days later on July 30, 2005 to the Texas Rangers for Chan Ho Park. Nevin slumped while with the Rangers, and so did Texas who went 1-12 in Nevin’s first 13 games, which ultimately ended in him being benched after the team was eliminated from playoff contention.

Nevin had one year left on his contract for the 2006 season and he hoped that playing DH for the Rangers would revitalize his game and put to rest any rumors of him losing bat speed as he aged. Nevin continued to struggle in 2006 batting just .216 with nine home runs and 31 RBI in 46 games which prompted the team to call up rookie Jason Botts, who received the bulk of Nevin’s playing time. The Rangers ultimately traded Nevin to the Chicago Cubs who needed a first baseman to replace the injured Derrick Lee on May 31, 2006 for Jerry Hairston, Jr. Three months later Nevin was traded once again on August 31, 2006 to the Minnesota Twins for cash and a player to be named later. Nevin appeared in the postseason for the first time that season with the Twins, although Minnesota was ultimately swept by the Oakland Athletics in three games. Nevin appeared in just one of those games, batting 0-for-3.

That would be Nevin’s final game as the former third baseman and utility player announced his retirement prior to the 2007 season. Nevin played 12 seasons at the Major League level hitting 208 home runs and driving in 743 RBI with a career .270 batting average. Nevin spent the 2007 season as a member of the Padres’ pre-game radio show and as an analyst for ESPN during the college baseball regionals during the annual College World Series.

Nevin returned to baseball as a manager in 2008 after being named the manager of the Orange County Flyers in the Independent Golden Baseball League. Nevin managed the Flyers in 2008 and 2009, and planned to do so again in 2010, but after attending the winter meetings in 2010 the former MLB player was named the manager of the Erie SeaWolves, the Class-AA minor league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, replacing former manager Tom Brookens after Brookens was promoted to first base coach at the Major League level. Nevin spent one season with the SeaWlves before being promoted to Triple-A with the Tigers AAA team, the Toledo Mud Hens before the 2011 season. Nevin lasted two seasons with Toledo before being fired on August 31, 2013 after managing to a 192-238 record over his three seasons.

Nevin bounced back for the 2014 season finding a job with the Arizona Diamondbacks managing their Triple-A team, the Reno Aces. In his first season with the Aces, Nevin led the team to the best record in the Pacific Coast League, 81-63, and an eventual Pacific Coast League Championship Series berth. Nevin remained with the organization for the 2015 and 2016 season before the San Francisco Giants named Nevin their third-base coach for the 2017, replacing Roberto Kelly. After the 2017 season the New York Yankees and new manager Aaron Boone came calling in hopes that Nevin would accept the same position with their team in the Bronx for 2018. Nevin ultimately decided to make the move to the Bronx and will return to the same position here in 2019. Nevin will now be sending players home with an exaggerated windmill type arm motion all season long. It’s a thankless job, Phil. Especially in the Bronx. I hope you’re ready. Good luck, welcome back to the organization, and more importantly welcome back to the family. Do us proud.

TGP Trivia and Fact of the Day for February 28th, 2019

Good morning Yankees family!!

The enormous video screen at Yankee Stadium in center field measures 59-feet-by-101-feet. That results in some seriously huge highlights.

And my heart is so huge with you, my Kari, that is constantly overflows for you. I love you so very much!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Marcus Thames

The New York Yankees are expecting to have an offensive juggernaut take the field day in and day out throughout the 2019 season with nine-or-ten guys that are capable of coming up with a big hit, drawing a big walk, and keeping the line moving on any given night. With a lineup that will consist of some combination of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, Didi Gregorius (eventually), DJ LeMahieu, Gary Sanchez, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Troy Tulowitzki, and Gleyber Torres you have to think the easiest job in all of baseball here in 2019 has to belong to the Yankees hitting coach, Marcus Thames. Now while I exaggerate just a tad about his job being easy, I don’t exaggerate at all when I say that his job has to be one of the more fun jobs to possess here this season working with that cast of guys. Let’s meet the man in charge of keeping the Yankees offense up to the task of putting up crooked numbers in any inning of any game this season. This is Meet a Coach: The Marcus Thames Edition.

Marcus Markley Thames, born March 6, 1977, played with four different teams including the New York Yankees three separate times during his playing career from 2002 to 2011 and has since spent his time in the minor leagues with the club as a coach. During the 2013 season Thames was the hitting coach for the High-A Tampa Yankees and was promoted to the Trenton Thunder in the same position for the 2014 season drawing rave reviews from one of the then Yankees top prospects Robert Refsnyder and others.

Thames was originally drafted by the New York Yankees in the 30th round of the 1996 MLB Draft but did not make a true impact in the minor leagues until 2001. Thames was with the Double-A Norwich Navigators that season, and he batted .321 with 31 home runs and 97 RBI where he was named to Baseball America’s minor league All-Star team and where he put himself on the map for the Yankees. New York was so impressed with Thames that they called him up before a June 10 game in 2002 and Thames responded immediately. Thames, facing the Arizona Diamondbacks big left-hander Randy Johnson, hit the first home run of his career on his first at bat becoming just the 80th player in MLB history to do so. Thames earned his first curtain call from the Bronx faithful, what a moment if you were fortunate enough to see it live.

Thames’ tenure with the Yankees ended on June 6, 2003 when he was traded to the Texas Rangers for Ruben Sierra. Thames went on to hit a home run in his first at bat with the Rangers as well before moving on to the Detroit Tigers for the 2006 season. For the 2006 and 2007 seasons Thames spent time with Detroit and their Triple-A affiliate the Toledo Mud Hens due to the plethora of talent in the Detroit outfield. After injuries to Dmitri Young, Craig Monroe and others Thames worked his way into the rotation of outfielders and set career highs in every offensive category including a .256 average, 26 home runs and 60 RBI in just 348 at bats along the way. The Tigers tried to find at bats for Thames anyway they could in 2007 and had the lifetime outfielder learn first base in spring training and the team was rewarded in 2007 and in 2008 when Thames continued to impress with his power. Thames hit eight home runs in seven consecutive games from June 11 to June 17, 2008 becoming the first member of the Detroit Tigers to achieve the feat.

Thames spent the 2009 season in Detroit as well without any notable achievements but was back in the New York groove in 2010 when he signed a minor league deal with the club. Thames made the Opening Day roster and was set to be a platoon partner with Brett Gardner in left field before his defense forced him to accept a bench role. Thames was delegated to the bench behind Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Austin Kearns who was traded for before the trade deadline and ended up playing in just 82 games that season. In half of a season Kearns hit .288 with 12 home runs, mainly against left-handed pitching.

Thames elected free agency in November of 2010 but was right back with the team on July 22, 2011 after New York signed him to another minor league deal. Thames never played a game for the Yankees at any level that season and would retire from the game a member of the New York Yankees before pursuing his career in coaching with the ball club. Thames has continuously defied the odds and had defied the odds once again with his promotion to assistant hitting coach with the club before the 2016 season. Thames has continued to impress with the Yankees young hitters and has worked his way all the way to Yankees hitting coach for the 2018 season. Congratulations to him, his family and all the young Yankees hitters that he once mentored when they were in the various Yankees Minor League affiliates. Thames will return to the position in 2019 under Aaron Boone and along with assistant hitting coach P.J. Pillitiere. It should be a fun season to watch, and you would have to think that Thames will be the envy of all hitting coaches around the league here in 2019.

I mean, come on. Who doesn’t want to coach the Yankees potential offense this coming season? I know I would if Thames doesn’t want to. Just let me know. Thanks in advance.

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Mike Harkey

If you thought the Yankees pitching staff was good in 2018, wait until you see the 2019 version. With another year of experience under the belt of the likes of Luis Severino and others, the team should be just as good, if not better here in 2019 for a plethora of reasons. A full season of JA Happ, a more productive season by Masahiro Tanaka, the addition of James Paxton, and another great bullpen behind their starters should only help New York grow and achieve their goals here in 2019. The man in charge of that bullpen is a holdover from the Joe Girardi era and the current bullpen coach Mike Harkey. Let’s meet him. This is Meet a Coach: The Mike Harkey Edition.

Michael Anthony Harkey was born on October 25, 1966 and is a former starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. Before Harkey made it to the Show he was a Titan, a California State University Fullerton Titan. Harkey played college baseball at CSU Fullerton where he caught the eye of the Chicago Cubs who made him their first-round pick in the 1987 MLB First Year Players Draft. Harkey was not long for the Minor Leagues as he made his Major League debut with Chicago during the 1988 season.

When all was said and done Harkey appeared in 131 Major League games with the Chicago Cubs, the Colorado Rockies, the Oakland Athletics, the California Angels and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Harkey played in the Major Leagues during the 1988 season, the 1990 through the 1995 seasons, and finally the 1997 season before his eventual retirement. During his early years with the Cubs the current Yankees bullpen coach was plagued by shoulder and arm injuries as well as a knee injury in 1992 that occurred during a cartwheel attempt at Wrigley Field.

Harkey played through the 1997 season at the Major League level before taking a couple years away from the game after his retirement. Harkey returned to the game in 2000 when he accepted a position as a pitching coach in the Minor Leagues with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Harkey served in the same position with the Fort Wayne Wizards in 2001 and 2003, the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2002 and 2004, the Mobile BayBears in 2005, and the Iowa Cubs in 2007. Harkey did get a shot at the Major League level with the Florida Marlins in 2006, although the team struggled under new manager Joe Girardi.

Harkey would follow manager Joe Girardi to the New York Yankees for the 2008 season, once again as a pitching coach, after the Bronx Bombers hired Girardi to replace long-tenured manager Joe Torre. While the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades under Girardi’s and Harkey’s watch in 2008, the team bounced back in 2009 to win the World Series and get both men their first World Series ring as coaches and managers. Harkey stayed with the Yankees as the bullpen coach for six seasons through the 2013 season until the Arizona Diamondbacks came calling with an offer for Harkey to be the team’s pitching coach.

Harkey has minimal success with the Diamondbacks from 2013-2015 and was eventually fired by the club after the 2015 season. Harkey would return to the New York Yankees for the 2016 season and remains their today, still as the team’s bullpen coach. There was much speculation as to whether Harkey would return to the Yankees this season given his close friendship and presumable loyalty to the recently fired Joe Girardi, but Harkey remained with the organization at least through the 2019 season under new manager Aaron Boone. Harkey came back for the 2019 season as well under Boone and the Yankees, so a huge welcome back to him!

Good luck on another season Harkey, do us proud. You have a lot of weapons to work with down there, it should be a fun season for you here in 2019.

Nolan Arenado and the Fictitious Pinstriped Dream...

The Denver Post
Arenado, As Expected, Signs Extension to Stay in Colorado…

Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is no longer an option for the Yankees now that he has signed an eight-year, $260 million extension to remain in Denver, Colorado. Honestly, I think the Yankees’ rumored interest in Arenado was either a media-creation for clicks or a plant by the Yankees Front Office to deflect criticism for the team’s lackluster run at Manny Machado.

A sample of yesterday’s headlines:

– The New York Daily News

– The New York Post

– NJ Advance Media for

While I thought it was inevitable the Colorado Rockies would pony up for their best player, I do not believe for a second the Yankees decided to pass on Machado to wait for Arenado. In the present environment where players are amenable to team-friendly extensions (see Aaron Hicks and Luis Severino), I never really thought Arenado would test the free agency waters. As soon as Nolan previously signed the arbitration offer of $26 million for 2019 from the Rockies, it felt there was sufficient momentum to keep Nolan 5,280 feet above sea level for the duration of his career. If Nolan had chosen to go the route of free agency, I felt there was a stronger chance he’d to return to his native Southern California to play for either the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who have a clear need for a third baseman, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have a good but aging third baseman in Justin Turner (he’ll be 35 in November). I just never saw the Yankees as the primary destination for Arenado. If the Yankees chose not to make competitive offers for the three best free agents this off-season, including two 26-year-old’s on Hall of Fame paths, there is nothing that would lead me to believe they would be willing to spend this Fall regardless of how good Arenado is.  He is fifteen months older than Machado and carries the Coors Field Effect label. While I think he’s a great player regardless of where he plays, I am not convinced the Yankees were seriously targeting him. 

At this point, it is obvious the Yankees are committed to Miguel Andujar at third base. As a hit machine, he carries a very valuable bat in an otherwise loaded lineup. Defensively, the Yankees are expecting improvement. The bat can certainly compensate for some of the challenges in the field, but if Andujar can raise the level of his fielding to at least league average, I think everyone would be very happy. It’s tough watching the brilliant defensive plays made at third by Machado and Arenado and wonder what could have been, but that ship sailed. Machado has 300 million reasons to believe San Diego is the most beautiful city in the U.S. and the Yankees, in my opinion, were never players for Arenado. 

Andujar is our third baseman and he deserves our trust and support. There’s no question he wants to improve and he probably works harder than most of the guys on the team. I doubt you’ll ever see any ‘Johnny Hustle’ comments about Andujar’s play because he does hustle and clearly wants to be the best.  Whether or not we believe Andujar can improve his defensive game is irrelevant as long as he believes he can. If he fails for whatever reason(s), I have no doubt GM Brian Cashman will find another alternative via trade (not through high-priced free agency). A young under-valued player with great potential seems to be Cashman’s preferred player these days. Personally, I am not betting against Miguel Andujar. I feel he has the drive and desire to succeed, matched with the necessary tools. Enough with the Andujar bashing. His name has taken a beating in Social Media. It’s not his fault the Yankees chose not to pursue Machado.  Well, I guess you could say it is his fault because they see the talent and commitment to win in Miggy. If we ran the Yankees and it was our money, I have no doubt we would have come to the same conclusion. Make decisions for the good of the organization and not short-sighted moves to make bloggers like me happy. Embrace Andujar, embrace the 2019 New York Yankees. This is our team. They have a championship to capture and they need our support for every man on the roster…well maybe not Jacoby Ellsbury. We have the team to strip the Championship belt from the Boston Red Sox and we should be proud. 

Getty Images
Speaking of Manny Machado, he couldn’t help but take a shot at the Baltimore Orioles. In an interview, Machado is quoted as saying, “The Dodgers last year, they showed me some love. The Orioles drafted me. I did a lot for that community, I did a lot for the state, they didn’t show me a little bit of love. It is what it is. But going over to L.A., L.A giving up a lot of prospects for me, that kind of shows you what I meant to them, which is amazing.” Needless to say, he has ruffled some feathers in Birdland.  By comparison, former Oriole Zack Britton has been respectful and appreciative of his time in Baltimore. Take the high road, Manny. You have your money and apparently the love you sought. Isn’t that enough?

I thought it was fair yesterday when Manager Aaron Boone announced outfielder Clint Frazier will begin the year in Triple A.  After missing so much time last year following his concussion, Frazier needs consistent playing time to get himself back on a roll. I think it was wise for Boone to let Frazier know that he is not up for consideration in making the Opening Day Roster. It will take some pressure off Frazier and allow him to ramp up his game at his pace rather than an accelerated one thinking he has a shot to overtake Brett Gardner. I am not crazy about entering the season with Gardy as the starting left-fielder but I do think we’ll see Stanton out there more often. I’d prefer Stanton to stay at DH to help keep the big man healthy but there’s no question the team is better when Stanton plays the field. It frees up DH for some roster rotation to keep other guys fresh. If Frazier crushes Triple A, he’ll force the Yankees’ hand. I expect Frazier to be the starting left-fielder by season’s end. If not, I am sure Brian Cashman will provide other options as he always does. On the bright side, Sugar Shane Robinson is a Phillie so he won’t be starting any games in the Bronx this year.   

I was a bit disappointed with yesterday’s rainout of the Spring game between the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. DJ LeMahieu was scheduled to play third base and I was curious to watch. Unfortunately, the next few games will not be televised so we won’t be able to get our Yankees fix until Sunday.  They should be able to get in today’s game in Lakeland, Florida against the Detroit Tigers.  There is a chance of scattered thunderstorms but not until late afternoon so the game should be fine. Chance Adams will get the start over previously announced starter Albert Abreu. Abreu is expected to pitch in relief. LeMahieu is expected to start at second base today and will make his Yankees debut at third for his next start. But since the game is not televised, we’ll be unable to see any of it. Bummer.

It's been a few days since the official announcement but I was glad to see the Yankees sign Aaron Hicks to an extension. I was shocked at the number of years (seven) but the overall value of the deal, $70 million, is team-friendly. Hicks has the potential to fully earn those dollars within the first few years of the deal, making the back half of the contract negligible if performance does not warrant a starting position by the time the 29-year old Hicks nears his mid-30’s. Estevan Florial is still a few years away and he is far from a “sure thing”. The free agent market looked very slim for center fielders after the season (Leonys Martin appeared to be the best potential available target). In-house, Brett Gardner and the guy I don’t really expect to ever don the Pinstripes again, Jacoby Ellsbury, represented the top options had Hicks left via free agency. So, instead, the Yankees keep a player that Manager Aaron Boone has called baseball’s most underrated player and I am happy about it. Attention now turns to the two other primary pending free agents, Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius. I’d love to see both players return so hopefully the Yankees can lock up one or both before the season starts. They can worry about a big extension for Aaron Judge next off-season. Regardless of how Troy Tulowitzki plays, I want Didi Gregorius as this team’s starting shortstop as soon as he is cleared to play and for the immediate seasons in the future. Similarly, if I had to choose between Betances and Aroldis Chapman, if the latter decides to opt out of his contract after the season, I’d take Betances. Under that scenario, Zack Britton would become my closer of choice but Betances is so invaluable in his setup role, with or without Chapman. I’d love for Betances to stay as a lifetime Yank.

As always, Go Yankees!

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Larry Rothschild

While some things change, other things just stay the same. While there have been tons of movement this offseason with the Yankees and their coaching staff some things have just kept chugging along like it always has. With a new manager and bench coach, among other positions, hired by the Yankees in 2018 the team needed a familiar and proven face to lead the pitching staff, and that face (as grumpy as it always looks) belongs to pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Larry is back in the same position here in 2018, so let's get reacquainted. This is Meet a Coach, and Meet the 2019 Yankees: The Larry Rothschild Edition.

Lawrence Lee Rothschild was born on March 12, 1954 in Chicago, Illinois. Rothschild attended Homewood-Flossmoor High School before heading off to college with the Florida State Seminoles. While with the Seminoles Rothschild was a pitcher before signing with the Cincinnati Reds as an amateur free agent in 1975. Rothschild spent 11 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, San Diego Padres and the Chicago Cubs as a relief pitcher from 1975 to 1985, only reaching the Major Leagues with the Tigers. In the Minor Leagues Rothschild compiled a 66-46 record before retiring and entering the world of coaching an MLB team.

From 1986 to 1993 Rothschild worked as a coach with the Cincinnati Reds, winning a World Series ring in 1990 as the team’s bullpen coach. After taking a season off Rothschild returned back to work in 1995 as a pitching instructor with the Atlanta Braves before joining the Florida Marlins later in the 1995 season. Rothschild stayed with the Florida Marlins through the 1997 season winning another World Series ring as a coach before being offered the managerial job with the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays for the 1998 season. Rothschild remained the manager of the Devil Rays until early into the 2001 season when he was fired as the result of three consecutive losing seasons and a 4-10 start to the 2001 season. Rothschild latched on with the Florida Marlins as a consultant for the remainder of the 2001 season before having a bit of a homecoming in 2002 when his hometown Chicago Cubs hired Larry to be the team’s pitching coach.

Rothschild was the Cubs pitching coach from the 2002 season through the 2010 season and even committed to a 10th season in the Windy City before a certain team from the Bronx came calling hoping to land the great pitching and baseball mind.

Before the 2011 season the New York Yankees offered Rothschild a three-year deal to become part of joe Girardi’s staff after firing then pitching coach Dave Eiland. Obviously, Rothschild accepted and has been the Yankees pitching coach ever since. Under Rothschild’s tenure the Yankees pitching staff has pitched to a 4.05 ERA or under every single season. Rothschild has been signing one-year contracts to remain with the Yankees every year since the 2016 season and will hopefully remain with the team for years to come as we have seen pitcher after pitcher flourish under his tutelage. Rothschild has been a major part of and contributor to the recent success with the likes of Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino and could potentially be a huge part of the next wave of Yankees pitching reinforcements as well, namely Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German.

Rothschild was a huge “get” from the Chicago Cubs before the 2011 season and has been a huge part of the organization ever since over the past eight seasons. Here’s to another eight seasons, Larry. Thank you for everything that you are and thank you for everything that you do.

TGP Trivia and Fact of the Day for February 27th, 2019

Good morning Yankees family!

Who is the only Yankees player to hit a home run in each of his first two plate appearances with the club?

Highlight below to see the answer, but before you do please leave your guesses below in the comments section:

Cody Ransom, who did it in 2008. 

And a special good morning to the one woman in the world that was made just for me. I love you, Kari!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Josh Bard

The only constant every offseason, both for the New York Yankees and their coach staff, is change. Out after ten seasons in the Bronx was Joe Girardi, in was a former Yankees postseason hero in Aaron Boone. Out with the Yankees bench coach after not landing the Yankees managerial position was Rob Thomson, in his spot as bench coach is now Boone’s right-hand man Josh Bard. That was 2018, but both Boone and Bard are back for the 2019 season, as well as the entire coaching staff, so let's meet them once again. This is Meet a Manager: The Josh Bard Edition.

The only constant this offseason for the New York Yankees and their coach staff has been change. Out after ten seasons in the Bronx was Joe Girardi, in was a former Yankees postseason hero in Aaron Boone. Out with the Yankees bench coach after not landing the Yankees managerial position was Rob Thomson, in his spot as bench coach is now Boone’s right-hand man Josh Bard. Let’s meet the former MLB player and current bench coach of the New York Yankees. This is Meet a Manager: The Josh Bard Edition.

Joshua David Bard was born on March 30, 1978 (Happy Early BDAY!!) in Ithaca, New York. When bard was just an infant his family moved to Elizabeth, Colorado where he attended Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Bard was drafted out of High School by the Minnesota Twins in the 35th round of the 1996 Major League Baseball First Year Players Draft but did not sign. Instead Bard attended Texas Tech University where he was a three-time All-American while playing baseball for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. While there Bard caught the eye of the Colorado Rockies who drafted him in the 3rd round of the 1999 MLB Draft, eventually signing him on August 12, 1999. Bard’s professional career was ready to begin.

Before Bard could make his Major League debut he was traded by the Colorado Rockies alongside Jody Gerut to the Cleveland Indians for Jacob Cruz on June 2, 2001. By August 23, 2002 Bard was in Cleveland and making his MLB debut with the Indians. Bard hit a walk-off home run against the Seattle Mariners in the game becoming just the second player in MLB history to ever do so in their debut, joining Billy Parker. Bard became a semi-regular with the Indians in 2004 appearing in 91 games but missed a bulk of the first half of the season due to an abdominal injury. Bard was back in 2005 though and served as the backup catcher to Victor Martinez before the Indians shipped him to the Boston Red Sox before the 2006 season. The Indians sent Bard, outfielder Coco Crisp and relief pitcher David Riske to the Boston Red Sox for relief pitcher Guillermo Mota, third base prospect Andy Marte, and catcher Kelly Shoppach. Bard immediately became the Red Sox backup catcher for the 2006 season after the team lost John Flaherty the following season to retirement. Bard also quickly became the personal catcher for knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield while with the Red Sox.

After serving as the backup catcher in Boston the Red Sox traded Bard to the San Diego Padres along with Cla Meredith for Doug Mirabelli. The Red Sox had traded Mirabelli to the Padres just a few weeks before, had more experience and better results catching Tim Wakefield leading Boston to make the move, apparently Bard and his passed balls were not cutting it in Bean Town. Bard backed up Mike Piazza while in San Diego and hit .338 in 231 at-bats after the trade despite being a career .240 hitter before his time in San Diego. While with the Padres Bard was catching pitcher Clay Hensley on August 4, 2007 as he gave up a pretty big home run to some guy named Barry Lamar Bonds. Apparently, that was like his 755th home run of his career or something, but I don’t know because I have never heard of the guy. Anyway, Bard was finally named as a starting catcher in 2008 with the Padres, but his hot hitting from the previous season did not carry over to the new year. Bard played out the 2008 season with San Diego before leaving the Padres for free agency following the year.

Bard returned to the Boston Red Sox on a one-year deal worth $1.6 million for the 2009 season, but by March 18 he was released by the club. Three days after being released bard signed on with the Washington Nationals on a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Bard made the team and eventually got into 90 games with the Nationals, hitting just .230. After the 2009 season Bard was once again a free agent, this time signing a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners. Bard continued to bounce around with various teams including the Mariners and the Los Angeles Dodgers before retiring officially after the 2012 season.

Bard retired after the 2012 season and chose to remain with the Dodgers as a Special Assistant. Bard toiled around as the Special Assistant to the GM until the 2016 season when Los Angeles promoted the former MLB catcher to the Major League bullpen coach for the 2016 season. Bard was in the same role during the 2017 season with Los Angeles before the New York Yankees, and specifically new manager Aaron Boone, came calling before the 2018 season. Boone wanted Bard to be his right-hand man and bench coach last season, and so it is so after signing with the Yankees. Bard must have left a lasting impression because he is back in the same position for New York here in 2019.

Welcome back, Josh. No experience is no longer an excuse, do us proud and Go Yankees!

Estimating the Value of Contract Extensions: Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius

In this investigation, we will attempt to approximate the salary (dependent on the length of the deal) teams will offer their impending free agents (in their efforts to extend them) through encompassing age decline and the average cost / 1 WAR on the FA market.
In Neil Weinberg’s Beginner’s Guide To Aging Curves, he explains that…
“a basic rule of thumb is that once a player gets to 30, you sort of expect them to lose about 0.5 WAR per year of value due to aging. Some players will age better or worse, but that’s an average estimate”.
It is important to note that we will use a decline of 0.3 WAR for relief pitchers because they age differently than SPs and position player.
Another one of his articles analyzed the price teams pay per 1 WAR on the FA market. Neil Weinberg asserts that…
$/WAR is basically a measurement of how much teams are paying for players on the free agent market according to how many wins they will add over replacement level players. Right now, we think teams are paying about $8 million per every WAR they add to their roster. For example, a 2 WAR player signed for three years would theoretically provide his team with 6 WAR, so a team might want to pay him anything up to $48 million. If the team pays less than $8 million for each expected WAR, we call this a “good deal” and if they pay more, we say they “overpaid.”
Although the players we will be looking at — Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius — are not yet FAs, they will presumably insist on pay comparable (relatively speaking) to what they could have gotten on the FA market (if they had opted to go that route). 

Dellin Betances

Photo: Bill Kostroun
30-year-old flame-throwing relief pitcher Dellin Betances is due to hit free agency after this season. He has been stellar for the Yanks, putting up excellent numbers from 2014 – 18…
  1. His worst ERA during that time was 3.08 (2016) and his best was 1.40 (2014)
  2. His worst K/9 during that time was 13.50 (2014) and his best was 15.53 (2016 and 2018)
  3. His worst BB/9 during that time was 6.64 (2017) and his best was 2.40 (2014)
  4. His worst WHIP during that time was 1.22 (2017) and his best was 0.78 (2014)
  5. His worst WAR during that time was 1.3 (2017) and is best was 3.2 (2014)
Weighted average of his WAR: (0.3 * 2018 WAR) + (0.25 * 2017 WAR) + (0.2 * 2016 WAR) + (0.15 * 2015 WAR) + (0.1 * 2014 WAR) = 0.54 + 0.325 + 0.58 + 0.36 + 0.32 = 2.1
For the purpose of this investigation, let’s assume Betances loses 0.3 WAR annually starting in the 2020 season and that the cost per 1 WAR is $8 million…
2020: 1.8 WAR [Weighted average of his WAR in last 5 years – 0.3]; $14.4 million
2021 (age 33 season): 1.5 WAR; $12 million
2022: 1.2 WAR; $9.6 million
2023 (age 35 season): 0.9 WAR; $7.2 million
2024: 0.6 WAR; $4.8 million
Betances contract possibilities:
  • 1 yr, $14.4 million
  • 2 yr, $26.4 million
  • 3 yr, $36 million
  • 4 yr, $43.2 million
  • 5 yr, $48 million
Prediction: 5 yr, $48 million

Didi Gregorius

Photo: Getty Images
SS Didi Gregorius is scheduled to become a FA after the 2019 season. Due to TJ surgery, he will be sidelined for the first few months of the season. Here is FanGraphs’ 2019 Depth Charts projection for Gregorius…
  • PA: 294
  • HR: 11
  • AVG: .265
  • WAR: 1.6
If he had accumulated 575 PAs [(0.45 * 2018 PA ) + (0.35 * 2017 PA) + (0.2 * 2016 PA)], then he would have been on pace for 3.1 WAR (575 PAs / 294 PAs = 1.96; 1.96 * 1.6 WAR = 3.1 WAR).
For the purpose of this investigation, let’s assume Didi loses 0.5 WAR annually starting in 2020 and that the cost per 1 WAR is $8 million…
2020: 2.6 WAR [3.1 – 0.5]; $20.8 million
2021 (age 31 season): 2.1 WAR; $16.8 million
2022: 1.6 WAR; $12.8 million
2023 (age 33 season): 1.1 WAR; $8.8 million
2024: 0.6 WAR; $4.8 million
Gregorius contract possibilities:
  • 1 yr, $20.8 million
  • 2 yr, $37.6 million
  • 3 yr, $50.4 million
  • 4 yr, $59.2 million
  • 5 yr, $64 million
Prediction: 4 yr, $59.2 million
Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me @MaxGold81356590

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Manager Aaron Boone

The hiring of Aaron Boone as the new manager of the New York Yankees was not a smooth one nor was it a popular one among fans as all sides had very strong opinions on the matter. Me personally, I couldn’t care less. That may come off as a little shocking, given my very opinionated demeanor and tendency to rant and rave, but it shouldn’t. None of the managerial options stood out above the rest in 2018 and I personally got the sense of “six of one, half dozen of the other” while looking over the candidates and following the interview process. Aaron Boone had no managerial or coaching experience, but neither did Carlos Beltran. Hensley Meulens would have been nice, but honestly how much impact does a manager really have? Especially on a team loaded with talent. How many times have we seen the talent bail out Joe Girardi over the past 10 years? More than once, so Yankees fans need to not panic so much and trust the process. Boone will be fine; the Yankees will be fine and we as a fan base and as an organization will survive this.With a full season under his belt, Boone and his analytics should be much better here in 2019 for the New York Yankees. Let’s meet the man that may already be more hated than Clueless Joe 1.0 and Clueless Joe 2.0, Mr. Aaron Boone. This is Meet a Manager: The Aaron Boone Edition.

Aaron John Boone was born on March 9, 1973 into the world of Major League Baseball. Aaron was the son of former Major League player Bob Boone, the grandson of Ray Boone and the brother of eventual Seattle Mariners star Bret Boone. Aaron spent time with the Cincinnati Reds, the New York Yankees, the Cleveland Indians, the Florida Marlins, the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros from 1997 through 2009 before eventually retiring and heading into the Broadcast booth with ESPN as a part of their Sunday Night Baseball crew as well as a contributor to Baseball Tonight, also on ESPN.

Boone’s amateur career started at Villa Park High School in Villa Park, California where he played for the school’s baseball team. During Boone’s senior season the right-hander was named the Century League’s co-player of the year, catching the eye of the then California Angels who selected Boone on the third day of the 1991 MLB First Year Players Draft. Boone did not sign and instead went to the University of South California where he played baseball for the USC Trojans. In 1993 Boone also played collegiate summer baseball for the Orleans Cardinals of the Cape Cod Baseball League leading his team to the league’s championship. Once again Boone’s name was called during the MLB Draft in 1994 but this time it was the Cincinnati Reds doing the selecting, and this time it was Boone who was signing the contract thus starting his professional career.

Boone toiled around in the Reds minor league system until making his debut in June of 1997 for the Reds. On the final day of the 1998 season Boone was a part of history with the Reds as on the last day of the season Cincinnati became the only team to every start two sets of brothers in their infield starting Stephen and Barry Larkin beside Bret and Aaron Boone. Boone started to become a household name in 2002 hitting 26 home runs and playing in all 162 games but the third baseman really began to catch the eye of the league when he was named to the 2003 All-Star Game for the National League. One team in particular took notice of Boone’s accomplishments that season and that team was the New York Yankees who traded three prospects to Cincinnati that summer for Boone’s services and Boone was worth every penny and every prospect. Why? The new shot heard round the world.

During Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series Boone hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning of the Boston Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield to give the Yankees a dramatic 6-5 victory while also punching the team’s ticket to the World Series. Boone will forever be known for this home run as the Yankees prolonged the Curse of the Bambino for at least one more season. Boone was on top of the world after the 2003 season and the only thing that could bring him back down was a pick-up basketball game of all things. Boone was playing basketball, something that was specifically written into his contract that he was not supposed to be doing and tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee prompting the Yankees to release Boone on February 27, 2004. The Yankees later acquired Alex Rodriguez in a trade with the Texas Rangers while Boone went on to sign a two-year deal with the Cleveland Indians in June of 2004.

Boone missed the entire 2004 season with the knee injury before spending the 2005 and 2006 seasons with the Indians. Boone signed a one-year deal with the Marlins before the 2007, another one-year deal with the Washington Nationals before the 2008 season and a final one-year deal with the Houston Astros for the 2009 season before officially retiring in 2009. Boone underwent open-heart surgery to replace a bicuspid aortic valve in his heart missing most of the 2009 season. Boone made his return to baseball on August 10 playing for the Astros Double-A minor league team before being activated by the big-league club on September 1 when rosters expanded. Boone played the final month of the season with Houston before retiring at the end of the 2009 season.

Boone went on to become a guest analyst for MLB Network in 2009 covering the ALCS between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before joining the ESPN crew for Baseball Tonight and Monday Night Baseball in 2010. Boone also called the 2014 and 2015 and 2017 World Series for ESPN Radio with Dan Schulman.

Even if things don’t work out for Aaron as the manager of the New York Yankees, don’t feel bad. Boone married Laura Cover and has her shoulder to cry on when he goes home every night. If that name sounds familiar, Cover was a Playboy Playmate and was Miss October 1998. Boone is doing just fine. Welcome back Boonie!

Meet the 2019 Yankees: Jacoby Ellsbury

Did I just save the best for last, or was the information harder to come by because no one has actually seen Jacoby Ellsbury on a baseball diamond in what feels like two-or-three years? You decide, I am just here to make the formal introductions. Jacoby Ellsbury everyone, in all of his glory.

Jacoby Ellsbury, 35-years old, is a center fielder in the New York Yankees organization. Ellsbury, 6’1” and 195 lbs., is a left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder and leadoff hitter, when he is on the field. Injuries have hampered much of his contract with the Yankees that runs through the 2020 season with a team option for the 2021 season. Ellsbury has the uppercut swing, speed, and defense to do well with the New York Yankees, especially inside Yankee Stadium, but his inability to stay healthy has left a bad taste in the mouths of many Yankees fans around the Yankee Universe.

Jacoby McCabe Ellsbury was born on September 11, 1983 in Madras, Oregon where he attended Madras High School. While at the school, Ellsbury lettered in five sports including baseball, basketball and football. Ellsbury was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 23rd round of the 2002 MLB First Year Players Draft, but ultimately decided to head to Oregon State University to continue his amateur baseball career. After three years at Oregon State, Ellsbury was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the first round, 23rd overall, of the 2005 MLB Draft.

Ellsbury did not spend long in the Red Sox minor league system, making his professional debut in July of 2015, and making the big-league club by June 30, 2007, replacing an injured Coco Crisp. Ellsbury was up and down for the Red Sox throughout the 2007 season but made his mark late in the season and into the playoffs, leading the Red Sox to a World Series championship. Ellsbury was on the Red Sox Opening Day roster in 2008 and never looked back, thus becoming a regular for the Red Sox in center field and at the top of the Boston lineup. Ellsbury remained an integral part of the team in center field until the 2010 season when he was bumped to left field after the team acquired Mike Cameron off the free agent market. Ellsbury would undergo many ups-and-downs and many injuries throughout his tenure with Boston but would win two World Series with the club including the 2013 season, the final year before he hit free agency.

In the winter before the 2014 season the New York Yankees signed Ellsbury to a seven-year deal worth $153 million including an option year for an eighth season that would bring the deal to $169 million. Ellsbury had a decent first season in the Bronx batting .271 with 16 home runs and 39 stolen bases in 149 games, but the 2015 season the injury bug crept back into Ellsbury’s career. Ellsbury missed nearly two months with a sprained knee in 2015 and did not start the 2015 American League Wild Card Game for the Yankees against the Houston Astros.

The 2016 season was the season of catcher’s interference for Ellsbury and the Yankees. Ellsbury played in 148 games in 2016 and compiled 12 catcher’s interference calls, breaking the record previously held by Roberto Kelly in a single-season. Ellsbury would set the career mark for catcher’s interference calls in 2017 with his 30th, passing Pete Rose, but would ultimately lose his starting center field job to Aaron Hicks after another set of injuries derailed his season. Ellsbury would miss the entire 2018 season due to injuries and will likely begin the 2019 season on the injured list as well.

Ellsbury is an enrolled member of the Colorado ricer Indian Tribes. Ellsbury’s mother, Margie Ellsbury, is full-blooded Navajo, while his father, Jim, is of English and German descent. Ellsbury is the first Native American of Navajo descent to reach the major leagues. Now, the only thing that’s left is for Ellsbury is to bounce back healthy in 2019 and lead the team to a World Series championship as the first ever Navajo Native American to win a World Series in the Bronx. Make it happen.