Thursday, March 21, 2019

7 Days to Yankee Stadium...

(Photo: John G Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated)
Season Opener is a week away…

Finally, we can see real baseball on the horizon. Well, if you are an early bird, I suppose you’ve been up to watch the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s play the last two days in Tokyo for an early preview of the regular season. But, c’mon, we all know that real baseball doesn’t start until the New York Yankees take the field. 

The Yankees officially announced the signing of LHP Gio Gonzalez yesterday. Initially, it was reported to be a $3 million contract if Gio makes the Major League roster, but subsequently we learned it also includes an incentive of $300,000 per start up to 30 starts so the deal could be worth as much as $12 million. I’ve seen more than one Yankee fan say the team should use an opener before bringing Gio in so that he technically does not get credit for a “start” but seriously that’s not the way the Yankees operate.  You may feel that Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner is a tight-wad but I firmly believe even if the Yankees used an opener like Jonathan Holder for an inning before bringing in Gio to cover the next five or six innings, the team would honor the performance as a start. They wouldn’t use an opener solely for avoidance of paying the incentive. Say what you will about the Yankees’ Front Office but the Yankees have proven, time and again, they take care of their own. 

It was a little weird seeing the pics of Gio without his beard. Like James Paxton, going beardless makes him look so much younger.  

Hey, maybe it will make his arm look younger too.  Oh well, wishful thinking on my part. I do hope that Gio gets an opportunity to join the Yankees with this 30-day trial.  If not Opening Day (which seems unrealistic from a timing standpoint), a few weeks into the season. I really hope it doesn’t come down to April 20th with us wondering whether Gio will be added to the MLB roster or if he’ll exercise his opt-out if he doesn’t. If the Yankees were truly the only team offering him a contract this month, it’s not like teams will be lined up for his services on April 20th unless there is an epidemic of arm injuries around both leagues.

Wednesday also saw Yankees RHP Luis Severino toss twenty-five pitches from 60 feet on flat ground with his resumption of baseball activity after two weeks of rest. Sevy reported a little rust from the time off, but overall felt good about the workout. There were no reports of pain or discomfort in the right shoulder/rotator cuff.  Sevy plans to toss twenty-five pitches at 60 feet again today on his path to hopefully return in early May. I don’t want to say the season is lost without Severino but he is such a huge part of the mission to dethrone the Boston Red Sox and bring the World Series championship back to New York. Hopefully there are no setbacks on his road to recovery. We need this man and his right arm. 

I didn’t realistically think Ichiro Suzuki would be a Mariner after the two-game series in Japan but he made it official when he announced that he would retire at the conclusion of this morning’s game. What a career! The future Hall of Famer will leave the game with 3,089 hits (or 4,367 hits counting his time in Nippon Professional Baseball). I had really hoped he would pick up one final hit in the games in Japan but it was not meant to be. In his final at-bat in the 8th inning this morning, the crowd yelled “Ich-Eee-Ro” as he prepared for the first pitch. After a lengthy at-bat, he hit an infield roller to short and the throw just beat Ichiro to first base. Bummer, I was so hopeful for a safe sign from the first base umpire. Ichiro took the field in the top of the 9th but once all of the players were in position, Mariners manager Scott Servais pulled everyone off the field. Ichiro, the last man on the field, slowly walked off where he was greeted with hugs from his teammates and coaches. The scene was especially emotional for Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi who made his Major League debut in the game. He bowed his head as he hugged Ichiro and it was evident tears were flowing down his cheeks. One Japanese career begins, another ends. A very touching moment. Congratulations with your retirement, Ichiro!  It was our privilege and pleasure to watch you perform for so many years. We wish you the very best with your post-playing career. No doubt Ichiro will forever be a Seattle Mariner but I am grateful for his 360 games as a Yankee after his acquisition from the Mariners on July 23, 2012 for Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell. I really wish that Ichiro could have had a farewell game like Derek Jeter did, but there’s no doubt this one was every bit as emotional.  I am sad we bring closure to such a fantastic career.  It’s time but it doesn’t make it any easier.  Thank you, Ichiro. We’ll see you in Cooperstown, New York in five years.

(Photo: Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)
Since I am dishing out congratulations, I should throw some towards Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the best player in the game today. His contract extension, 12-years at $426.5 million including the money he was already owed in 2019 and 2020, is official. I think it’s only right he stays in an Angels uniform for the duration of his career. Many thought he’d join Bryce Harper in Philadelphia, including Bryce, and I am sure there are more than a few Yankee fans that had hoped he would find a way to the Bronx. As much as I would have loved Trout as a Yankee, he belongs in an Angels uniform and should stay there. He is such an amazing, selfless player who is head and shoulders above everyone else in MLB. Unlike Bryce Harper, Trout deserved to be paid like the best player in Baseball because he is. 

I know the Yankees had been hoping Trout would fall to them in the 2009 MLB Draft but the Angels thwarted those plans when they chose Trout with the 25th pick of the draft (ironically, a compensation pick for losing free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira to the Yankees). With Trout off the board, the Yankees regrettably selected outfielder Slade Heathcott, no longer in the game, with the 29th pick. Dang, so close, yet so far away.  Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, there were 24 foolish picks before Trout in that draft. With no offense to top pick Stephen Strasburg, there is nobody on that list who comes close to Trout. Now if the Angels could just settle their stadium situation. I know they’ve talked with the city of Long Beach but I really hope the team stays in Orange County. I love Long Beach (one of my favorite cities) but it feels like Dodgers country to me. Maybe that’s just because the Dodgers are my NL team. Long Beach is located in Los Angeles County and is just a short 45-minute train ride south of downtown LA.  Mike Trout belongs to the Angels like the Angels belong in Orange County.  I hope they can get this figured out now that they no longer have to worry about Trout.

I don’t know about you but I am ready for Yankees baseball. One week, just one week. I can smell those hot dogs and beers outside of Yankee Stadium already. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Yankees Sign LHP Gio Gonzalez...

(Photo: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Athletic-National-Brewer Signs Minor League Deal w/Yanks…

So, the Yankees signed LHP Gio Gonzalez to a very short-term minor league deal. So what? I’ve seen so many negative comments on Social Media and I don’t get it. This late in Spring Training, the top replacement starters for Luis Severino and CC Sabathia appear to be Luis Cessa and Domingo German. After I trashed him in my last post, Jonathan Loaisiga pitched very well on Sunday. Nothing changes with the Gonzalez signing.   

I know Gonzales is not a savior. Heck, he’s not even a very good starting pitcher anymore. His signing prompted many to ask why the Yankees aren’t trying to sign Dallas Keuchel. It’s an ‘apples to oranges’ comparison. If Gonzalez makes the Major League roster, he’ll get paid $3 million. If not, he can opt out of the contract on April 20th.  He basically has a month to prepare on the Yankees’ dime. It will either get him a roster spot on everybody’s favorite team or he opens eyes in another organization who may be seeking starting pitching. No sooner than the word of the verbal agreement between Gonzalez and the Yankees had been reported, the Texas Rangers lost a starting pitcher (Yohander Mendez), who was diagnosed with a UCL sprain in his throwing arm. Shit happens and you need to be prepared. I think best-case scenario is we never see Gio in Pinstripes. It will mean that two of Cessa, German and Loaisiga are doing well. However, if one falters, Gio will be ready to step in assuming he proves he is ready. It’s really a no-lose situation for the Yankees. Dallas Keuchel, despite it being so late in Spring Training, is still going to cost you a lot of money and years. He’s not taking a minor league deal for chump change. There’s also the small issue of draft pick compensation tied to Keuchel since he received a qualifying offer from the Houston Astros. I have no problems with the Yankees’ decision to pass on Keuchel and to roll the dice the Gonzalez. 

Gonzalez is far removed from his 21-win season of 2012 or even his 15 wins two years ago. At age 33, his fastball velocity is down, strikeout rate is falling, and WHIP is increasing. The degradation of his curveball has been noted and per Fangraphs, “Without that big hook in his back pocket, it will be tough for Gonzalez to return quality innings with a sub 90 mph fastball and middling changeup and we may see Gonzalez go the way of James Shields and Ubaldo Jimenez shortly.”  

Nevertheless, Gonzalez has been a very consistent pitcher over the years even if he is on the downward slide. After his August 31st trade from the Washington Nationals to the Milwaukee Brewers last summer, Gio was 3-0 in five starts with a 2.13 ERA. He pitched 25 1/3 innings, giving up 14 hits and 6 earned runs. He walked 10 and struck out 22.  Steamer projects Gonzalez at 6-7 with 4.40 ERA in 19 starts in 2019.  K/9 of 7.80 and BB/9 of 3.72, with fWAR of 1.1. With so much pressure on the young pitchers to perform, I like the idea of a veteran insurance policy.  We’re not looking at him to be the J.A. Happ of 2019.  He may never find a spot on the 25-man roster. But I much prefer having him as a safety net as opposed to other young arms in the farm system that might not be ready should Cessa, German, and/or Loaisiga falter. 

Luis Severino is expected to resume light throwing this week in anticipation of being ready in May assuming there are no further setbacks, but the Yankees needed a contingency plan. There are too many health-related questions in the starting rotation to hook your wagon exclusively on prospects and internal options. Do we really want to see another David Hale start? To sign Gonzalez now in no way prevents the Yankees from improving the pitching staff in July if necessary.

So, welcome to the Yankees family, Gio!  We’re glad you’re here. We hope like hell we don’t need you but still, make yourself at home. You’re one of us for at least the next 30 days. If anything, you’ll be able to tell your grandkids one day that you were a Yankee for a month.

I really enjoyed Ken Davidoff’s piece in the The New York Post this morning entitled “Jacoby Ellsbury reveals firststeps of plan that’s impossible to embrace”.  I honestly cannot think of any Yankee player I’ve ever been less excited about seeing return than Jacoby Ellsbury. I honestly never thought we’d see Ellsbury in Pinstripes again, and maybe we won’t. We are at the point the Yankees could decide to cut bait with Ellsbury if he’s too healthy to collect insurance payments but not good enough to resume his Yankees career. Despite owing Ellsbury nearly $50 million on his remaining contract, the loss would hurt the Yankees less than it did for the Toronto Blue Jays when they swallowed $38 million to set Troy Tulowitzki free.  The Yankees are in much better position to absorb that type of loss.  I’ve always felt cutting Ellsbury would be addition by subtraction, but as Davidoff notes in his closing paragraph: “Stay pessimistic, Yankees fans. Let Ellsbury surprise you with a positive outcome. And if this goes the same way as the bulk of his time in pinstripes, then you’ll have no reason to feel disappointed.” Point taken, Ken. I agree. If Ellsbury can play, let him play. If not, don’t let the door hit him on the way out. 

(Photo: Edward Linsmier-The New York Times)
So much has been made of the Yankees’ Super Bullpen but I continue to hold the belief the Bullpen may not be as great as we imagine while the maligned Boston Red Sox pen could be better than expected.  Too many fans are relishing the fact the Yankees sit atop the Grapefruit League standings while the Red Sox hold the cellar. The standings mean absolutely nothing. When the Yankees and Red Sox begin play on March 28th, they’ll both be 0-0.  The Yankees don’t get bonus points because they had a better Spring and it certainly does not guarantee a spot in the American League Championship Series.  The Red Sox are the champions until proven otherwise. I am optimistic heading into the regular season but I will never underestimate the Red Sox. You may not like their bullpen (for good reason) but they still have a very good team capable of winning its second consecutive World Series.  Our job, or that of the Yankees, is to ensure it does not happen. For those of you who feel the need to boast about superiority, let’s win a few games that count first.

It is kind of weird there will be games that do matter this week when the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s open the 2019 MLB Season in Japan. I love it that former Yankee Ichiro Suzuki will be in Seattle’s starting lineup for the opener tomorrow in Tokyo. No doubt the end of Ichiro’s career is near but he’s obviously a future Hall of Famer who is very beloved in his home county. At age 45, Ichiro will probably not be part of Seattle’s roster when they return to the United States. For the trip to Japan, the teams were authorized expanded 28-man rosters which will reduce to 25 when they come home after the two-game series. I would love to see Ichiro get one more hit before he says sayonara to his lengthy and amazing playing career.  He currently stands at 3,089 hits in Major League Baseball. 

(Photo: Masterpress/Getty Images)
On Thursday, Mariners lefty starter Yusei Kikuchi will make his MLB debut in his native country against the A’s. Very cool. 

A reminder that the Yankees will be featured on the MLB Network this evening at 7 pm Eastern as part of MLB Tonight’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

As always, Go Yankees!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Gio Oh Gio!  

The Yankees and Gio Gonzalez have agreed to a minor league contract, if GiO makes the Big team he gets a $3M base salary with incentives based on starts. Gio also has an April 20th opt-out if he’s not on the big league roster. Good move by the Yanks. Yes Gio is another lefty, however C.C. Is on the Dl to start the year, and it’s a good depth move. 

As always Let’s G⚾️ Yankee’s!  


   The Greedy Pinstripes

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Crushing AL East Rivals...

(Photo: Mike Janes/AP)
Even if it means absolutely nothing…

Maybe the Yankees should use David Wells in the YES Network broadcast booth more often. He worked Friday’s game against the Boston Red Sox and yesterday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays and saw the Yankees score a combined total of 31 runs in the victories over two of their biggest AL East Rivals.  

It was enjoyable to see the Yankees win the 14-1 laugher over the Red Sox but sadly it is just a Spring Training game so it’s meaningless. I’d love to see one of those kind of games (or better yet, two) when the Yankees play the Red Sox on April 16th and 17th. The best way to get rid the memory of the devastating 16-1 loss to Boston in last Fall’s ALDS is to simply return the favor and ensure Boston’s season is shortened this year.   

Saturday’s 17-7 win, two touchdowns and a field goal, over the Blue Jays came at a price. The Yankees lost top prospect Estevan Florial when he tried to make a leaping catch against the wall in the eighth inning. He couldn’t reach the ball and came down on his right wrist against the turf, suffering what subsequent x-rays revealed to be a non-displaced wrist fracture. It’s a big loss as he’ll presumably lose valuable development time. Florial was having a great Spring with a batting line of .355/.429/.516 and .945 OPS in 13 games. In 31 at-bats, he had 11 hits and 7 runs scored to go with a homer and 4 RBI’s. He has also stolen 5 bags, which included one yesterday. There was no way he was making the big league club having just reached High-A last year, but with pitch recognition looming as the last major hurdle for him, his development will be further delayed. Florial missed three months last year after surgery on his hamate bone of the same wrist. If Florial misses 2-3 months with the latest injury, it will adversely affect his status as a potential July trading chip (not that I want the Yankees to trade him, of course). Further tests are scheduled for Monday before the Yankees will know the expected timetable for his recovery and rehab. I am hoping for better than expected results but admittedly it’s not looking good for the talented 21-year-old.  

MLB Network’s 30 in 30 focus on the Yankees is coming up this week…finally. It will air on Tuesday night at 7 pm Eastern during the hour-long MLB Tonight show. I am looking forward to the interviews with some of baseball’s greatest young stars and maybe Brett Gardner and/or CC Sabathia too.   

Listening to the many interviews with other teams around the league, there is a common phrase that Aaron Judge uses which is echoed by so many other players. “Picking (someone’s) brain.” As a fan of The Walking Dead, it’s hard not to get a visual of a Zombie, I mean a Walker, in search of food. I know, this is a game of knowledge and understanding and veteran players have so much to offer younger players. It’s just funny that the same expression gets used by so many players.  

Jacoby Ellsbury is expected in Tampa today. I am sure it will be a day of medical evaluations for him and who really knows where he is at physically except for him.  No way he makes the Opening Day roster but if healthy, for as much as I am down on him, he figures to be in position to help at some point as he works back into playing shape and redevelops his timing after being away from the game for so long. I do not expect anything from him and I had been doubtful he’d ever wear the Pinstripes again, but if he has anything left in the tank, the Yankees should give him a shot. If anything, the dude knows how to get catcher’s interference. I am sure Ellsbury, now 35, has tired of the negative comments from people like me and wants to show he is still capable of playing baseball at a high level, not too much unlike Troy Tulowitzki’s comeback attempt. If he can, play him. If not, cut bait and move on. Of course, it would be a much costlier decision with Ellsbury than Tulo, but I am sure the Yankees won’t use money as a reason not to part ways with Ellsbury if the insurance payments are no longer flowing in and Ellsbury proves to be an outfielder that can no longer play the outfield.   

(Photo: Chris Pedota/North
A couple weeks ago, I gave my projection for the Opening Day Lineup. At this point, you have to scratch Jonathan Loaisiga. He is not going to make the OD roster. For as much as we say Spring Training stats don’t count, Lasagna has stunk big time.  In four games, he is 1-1 with a 10.00 ERA.  He has given up 11 runs (10 earned) in 9 innings pitched. He has walked 6 batters and is carrying a 1.67 WHIP. Granted, you could say that J.A. Happ’s Spring has been nearly as bad, but Happ, as a veteran, “is just working on things”. Loaisiga had something to prove, whereas Happ does not. The performance has most likely earned Loaisiga a trip to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, making Luis Cessa (the pitching surprise of the Spring) and Domingo German the probable replacement starters for Luis Severino and CC Sabathia. Unless the Yankees carry an extra position player, it should mean that Stephen Tarpley will take the last bullpen spot. With Aaron Hicks’ health and the potential he misses Opening Day, it could force the Yankees to bring along an extra outfielder since Brett Gardner will need to slide to center to cover for Hicks although Tyler Wade is fully capable of covering a corner outfield spot on a short-term basis.

There was an update this morning when Hicks told the media that he WILL be missing the opening series against the Baltimore Orioles. He had his second cortisone shot for back stiffness this past week. The Yankees will have to decide whether to carry Hicks on the Opening Day roster if they feel he’ll only miss the two games against Baltimore or place him on the 10-day Injured List if they fear he’ll be out longer. It’s frustrating the Yankees could spend the majority of April “short-handed” as they’ll also be down a man when CC Sabathia serves his five-game suspension. 2020’s 26-man roster is starting to look a year too late.  

If the Yankees aren’t that high on Clint Frazier to start the year, I thought Carlos Gonzalez would have been a sneaky good pickup for some outfield help. However, that option was lost yesterday when the Cleveland Indians signed the long-time Colorado Rockie outfielder to a minor league deal. I guess we’ve reached our quota of ex-Rockies. I know CarGo carries the ‘he can’t hit outside of Coors Field’ tag but for $2-$3 million (pocket change for Hal Steinbrenner), he could have helped.

Congrats to Michael King and Brandon Wagner. They were named yesterday the winners of the 2018 Kevin Lawn Award as the Yankees’ Minor League “Pitcher of the Year” and “Player of the Year”, respectively. King has gotten much recognition after his breakout 2018 season, but Wagner is a bit unheralded. The 23-year-old, in combined A/AA, hit .267/.380/.461, with .841 OPS, last season. He belted 21 homers and 67 RBIs. He is primarily a first baseman but saw multiple games at third base and has even seen time at second and in the outfield.  Diversity is a great ticket to The Show if you have the talent. It should allow Wagner to leap-frog the ‘first base only’ types, Mike Ford and Ryan McBroom, in the farm system in the not-so-distant future if he continues his progression.   

Lastly, Happy St Patrick’s Day to all!  

As always, Go Yankees!  

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Unwritten Rules of Baseball in 2019

Baseball has been one of the backbones of the American culture for around 160 years. It has evolved as has the world, but the basis of the game is still the same. The commissioner Rob Manfred is very innovative and trying to make the game quicker and appeal to younger people. When most of the outcomes of an a bat is one of the three true outcomes, of a home run, strikeout or walk there is not much action. Hitters focus on launch angle and hitting the ball as hard as possible. They don’t try to get on base in order to create runs. Through this evolution of the game from the 19th century to the 21st, baseball has had at least one consistent thing, though it is a widely disputed topic. The unwritten rules of baseball and the things you absolutely can not do on a baseball field. Older baseball fans tend to have a more traditional perspective on this while the new players want to celebrate their accomplishments and show more personality. They play with a little bit of flare and this makes some veteran players and managers upset. Here is a rundown of some of the most present and disputed unwritten rules.

Never say the word no hitter or perfect game while it's happening. This unwritten rule is more of a superstition. When a pitcher is throwing a perfect game you probably don’t want to mess with them or say something that make them overthink what they are doing. Most of the time they are in sync with the catcher and absolutely dealing. In my personal experiences about a year ago I was throwing a no hitter in a High School game. I did not know I had a no hitter because I walked a couple of hitters and we made a few errors in the first inning. Of course one of my teammates noticed and told me. I told him that because he told me, the first batter in the next inning would hit a gapper. Of course the first pitch in the next inning I gave up a gapper between the center and left fielder. The pitch limit in the league was 95 and I was relatively close so I was unlikely to complete it but it still got on my nerves that he had to say that. Not saying those words is a just a baseball thing that not many people understand but it just has been around forever and makes sense. When watching a Yankees game on TV, Michael Kay and David Cone have said the word, and no Yankee pitcher has thrown a no hitter since the 90s. Is this a coincidence? Maybe.

When a team is up by a lot or down by a lot, base runners should never steal. When a team is winning or losing by six or more runs if a base runner attempts to steal a base.  When a team is up by ten runs it is seen as disrespectful if a runner attempts to steal a base. The pitcher is already struggling and the runner stealing is just messing with the other team even more. Stealing the base is not going to impact the outcome of the game most likely and is unnecessary. Older players take exception to this. They may throw at a batter and this creates an even bigger problem as mentioned below. When a team is losing badly, the runner definitely does not want to make an out stealing a base. The probability of them being out definitely outweighs the importance of the extra out. The team needs a bloop and a blast at least to get back into the game, the stolen base is not going to help. In the major leagues, stealing bases is becoming an even less part of the game. Why would a player on the Yankees like Aaron Hicks risk running into an out when you have Judge,Stanton and Sanchez hitting behind you. It just doesn’t make sense to take the chance unless it is a 95% chance of being successful. This rule makes sense and should continue to be exercised.

Another unwritten rule is that you should not swing in a 3-0 count unless you for a fact know that you are going to put it 40 rows deep to straight center. This rule makes sense. The player needs to make sure he is going to get a hit. In a 3-0 count the hitter has the greatest chance of getting on base, which is the most important part of hitting. If the pitcher throws three straight balls, the probability of him throwing a strike is probably not that good. If they groove one right down the middle, hit it 450 feet. I do hate to see times like Gary Sanchez in the 2017 ALCS. He was in a 3-0 count against Justin Verlander in the 6th inning. He got a curve ball in a 3-0 count and rolled it over to get Verlander out of the jam. The team is was down 3 runs in the 6th inning and missed out on a chance for a rally. Verlander went on the throw a complete game and the Astros won that game by five runs. The Astros won the series in 7 games. That could’ve been the difference in winning the World Series for the Yankees. This rule should just be using the player using common sense.  Here is a link to a clip of that game

Never admire a home run or show up the other team. Here we go, we’re to the one you have all been waiting for. When a baseball player hits home run, it is one of the biggest accomplishments in all of sports. Pitchers are throwing harder than ever with more movement. The skill it takes to make contact is downright amazing and to be able to hit a baseball four hundred feet with a piece of wood is incredible. The reaction time and decision making of a hitter in the majors is unlike that of any other sport. If the home run is in the playoffs or a walk off, that makes it even more dramatic. So allow players to bat flip if they just made history or did something they’ve been working at for their whole life. It makes the game more fun and entertaining when someone hits a moonshot and just throws their bat in the air and is excited. Luke Voits’ little hop is one of the cooler things you can see in a Yankees game. Now to showing up the other team. If it is a game where there is a large gap in the score and you bat flip, that is uncalled for. If a player bat flips and the ball is caught or hits the warning track, that is also not cool. If a player watches the ball after they hit it but they are moving up the line and not obnoxiously staring down the pitcher that is fine. Younger players in the game today bring an energy that some older fans and players don’t like or understand. For example when Francisco Lindor hit a home run in his homeland of Puerto Rico in front of all his friends, family and fans, that was one of the cooler moments in baseball history. Bat flips make the crowd go crazy, make the game more dramatic and are just fun for the game. So keep on bat flipping, they are pretty awesome.

Do not celebrate a big strikeout on the mound. Winner takes all game, in a jam, the pitcher gets a huge strike out…… That’s all I have to say about that.

Don't make the first or last out of an inning at third base. When you have no outs, a player should not take the risk of trying to get to third. There is at least three more chances for the runner to score from second base. A single usually scores a player from second so why should a player run the risk of getting an out at third. Also, with two outs, the risk of going to third should not be taken because they can’t get home from a sac fly with two outs and if they are at second base they can score from a single. This rule makes sense, a player should have common sense when advancing an extra base.

Don’t bunt to break up a no hitter. If it is the third inning and a player bunts to break up a no hitter that is fine. If it's the ninth inning, someone is getting thrown at. In my opinion a no hitter should be broken but by a solid base hit in the gap, not a little blooper or a bunt. It would be very annoying to lose a no hitter because a guy on the other team wants to be a jerk and sort of cheat to get on base. Don’t get me wrong, if it is a 0-0 game and the team is trying to win by bunting, that is fine. That’s trying to win the game and being competitive.  

Don’t show a pitcher that the hit by pitch hurt. Just rub some dirt on it and you’ll be okay. Getting hit by a fast pitch can really hurt, and pitchers throw faster now than ever. It really depends where it hits you. If it hits a very muscular part of your body like your thigh, it's probably not going to hurt that much. If it hits your elbow, wrist, back, head, ankle or where the sun doesn’t shine, it will hurt a lot. This is more of a thing of the old days where men did not want to show weakness and ruin their pride. It is okay to admit that something really hurt. MLB players have virtually no time to react so, if your afraid of getting hit by a pitch don’t play baseball.

Retaliating for HBPs. When a teammate gets hit by a pitch, intentionally or unintentionally. Some if not all pitchers take it personally. They are not going to let the other team's pitcher, get away with hitting your guy. Sometimes they just throw some chin music, or back them off the plate if it was unintentional, but if it was on purpose, you have to hit him. There is a certain way to do this. The pitcher should never throw above the letters, because that’s outright dangerous. These matches can go back and forth and cause a brawl sometimes. This is very entertaining but who wants their favorite player to be on the DL (injured player list, my bad) because of a preventable injury.

Don’t show up your teammates. Teammates are friends and family. If someone drops a ball or doesn’t perform well, they shouldn’t be made fun of or shown up. The major lesson in baseball is respect.

Don’t throw pitchers breaking balls. All I have to say about this is have a universal DH.

Baseball is the greatest sport in the world, and should be played with character and excitement. Let the kids play. They are doing what they love and if you take away their personality the sport of baseball would lose the interest of many fans.

Predicting the 2019 Season: The MVP’s

And finally, the big one. The award that every player, pitcher or positional player, dreams of winning. The Most Valuable Player Award. Who will be the most outstanding, and subsequently the most valuable, player in each league in 2019? Well, if you’re using my predictions as a gauge, I can tell you that this is your first mistake, but even a blind squirrel eventually finds a nut. At least I hope, anyway.

If I am going to be wrong anyway at least I will be able to say looking back on these predictions that I was bold. The easy pick to win the American League MVP Award is to pick Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, etc., but that’s not me. I am picking Houston Astros infielder Alex Bregman. Bregman quietly had a great season in 2018 and is still only 24-years old, he turns 25-years old later this month. Bregman is just not ENTERING his prime and is still putting up the .286/.394/.532/.926 slash with 31 home runs and 103 RBI that he put up in 2018. The sky is the limit for this guy, folks, and I think that sky peaks this season with an AL MVP Award. Plus, he hates Boston possibly as much as I do… which isn’t nothing.

If I go bold in the AL, I have to go bold in the National League as well, right? I mean, it’s only fair, so with my National League pick I am going to go with a right-handed hitting first baseman out of the Philadelphia Phillies organization. His name is Rhys Hoskins, and not only will he win the NL MVP Award, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that he wins the 2019 State Farm Home Run Derby as well. Book it, it’s happening. Hoskins turns 26-years old this month and is coming off a season where he hit .246/.354/.496/.850 with 34 home runs and 96 RBI. Now he has Andrew McCutchen and others protecting him and getting on base in front of him, so look out for him here in 2019.

Those are your MVP Award winner predictions, and I guess they could go down as bold predictions as well. Check back with me in November or so to see how well, or not-so-well, I did. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 14, 2019

MLB To Implement Rule Changes

While they haven't been made official, reports are that Major League Baseball will implement a handful of rules changes. Some of them will not happen until the 2020 season, while some will go into effect this season.

Here are the rule changes that will take place this season...

1. Mound visits will be reduced from six to five per game.

I don't remember the six visit rule having an effect on a single game last season. I'm sure it did, but not enough to care.

2. Commercial breaks will be 20 seconds shorter than last season.

This is another change that doesn't move me at all. I'm not a very patient person but I can wait 20 more seconds if necessary. As long as players have enough time to warm up before an inning then I don't care.

3. There will be a new 24 hour voting period.

Previously fans had one long voting period, but this season will be a little different. There will still be that longer vote, but at the end of that the top three at each position will then enter a 24 hour voting period that will determine the starter for the All Star game.

This change is all about Major League Baseball getting the opportunity for more traffic to their website, and to get teams to be more active in their own advertising and social media presense. That's it. I see no other reason for this change.

4. A prize pool of $2.5 million will be created for the Home Run Derby, with $1 million of it going to the winner.

I like this rule change as it gives players, particularly those that make at or near the league minimum, a real incentive to join the derby. I say "real" because I learned that previously players only had their cost of travel and hotel covered, along with tickets to the derby and All Star game.

I think there's a much better chance that we see more stars in this contest, making it much more interesting. Which will not only be good for those watching it, but will make it much more marketable for the league itself. A very nice win-win.

5. There will be a real trade deadline this season on July 31st.

In the past players could be dealt after that date as long as they cleared waivers, but this time around it doesn't matter. No trades after July 31st... period.

This is the most significant rule change happening this season, and I'm surprised it's happening right away. What this has done is make the offseason much more important as teams can not count on smaller offseason additions to fix roster issues. Like the Yankees being able to add Andrew McCutchen when Aaron Judge's return from injury was full of questions such as "when will it happen" and "how will he return". So teams will have to go into the season already having backup plans in case of something like that.

The rule change also makes the July 31st deadline so much more exciting. I don't think there will be more sellers, as a team that has a chance at the postseason is unlikely to give up that shot. However, I see better returns for those that do decide to sell, as more contending teams will be in on those players made available. A team like the Astros can't sit back and hope a team like the Tigers finally decide to sell a big-time guy like Justin Verlander on August 31st. If the Astros think they'll need a pitcher they have to move now and deal with more competition for a certain guy.

Now for the rule changes that won't take effect until next year...

1. Position players will not be eligible to pitch unless one of the following things happen...

  • a game goes into extra innings
  • a player has pitched at least 20 innings and started 20 games at a position or DH, and thus can be labeled by the team as a "two way" player (think Shohei Ohtani)
  • the run difference in a game is at least eight runs
I had no idea that this was a problem at all. I guess this is a way to get relievers more work, but I can't imagine any general manager thinking "nah, we don't need another reliever, just have the worst position player pitch."

I guess I can add this one to the "who cares" pile.

2. Rosters will expand to 26 players, with a maximum of 13 pitchers. And instead of rosters expanding to 40 in September, they will only go to 28 with no more than 14 pitchers.

Any rule that creates more jobs at the Major League level is a good in to me. Teams can sure as hell afford to pay one more player (then two more in September to the end of the season) a year.

This will also make things easier for managers, as they will have more options for their starting lineup and for making substitutions during the game. Imagine if this rule was on the books now... the Yankees would not have to possibly put one of Luke Voit or Greg Bird in AAA, as they probably don't want a first base-only guy on the bench along with Romine, LeMahieu*, and Wade.

*I'm preparing for Tulowitski opening the season at shortstop, with Andujar at third base and Torres at second.

3. Pitchers will have to face at least three batters, unless they finish the inning.

It makes a manager's job more difficult, as they can't count on a guy for a single batter. Sure, if there's already two outs a manager can go to a one-out specialist, but there's the risk that if their specialist fails that reliever will have to face at least one more hitter that they're not specialized for.

Although I think this rule is unnecessary, I do like that pitchers that can face more than one type of hitter (aka "non-specialists" like a LOOGY) will have more value and thus are more likely to get a job. It's like having a guy on a 12-man basketball team that's only there because he's good at shooting free throws, instead of a player that can be put into a game to help the team during a live ball. In other words the better player gets the job.

I read somebody on Twitter say that some of these rules will create more offense. I'm not totally on board with that being true, but I can see what he's saying. The issue I have with that thinking is that he said that as if it's a bad thing. Sure, I enjoy seeing dominant pitching performances, but I understand that such a fan is more of the "die hard" nature. And "die hard" fans are not going anywhere. They didn't walk away from the game after there was a strike in the mid 90s, and they're not going to walk away from the game now. Major League Baseball, just like any other league, is after the casual fan. And casual fans 1. do not want to be bored with more slow periods during a game and 2. typically want to see more runs scored.

If a rule change turns out to be a negative I think MLB will change back, or fix what didn't work. But the bottom line is I can't think of anything they can do to keep me from watching, and I'm definitely not alone there. So they can keep throwing crap at the wall to see what sticks. Besides, it's not like they're hard up for money, anyway.

Tanaka vs Cobb, Let's Get This Party Started...

In two weeks, the doors of Yankee Stadium will open…

Ready or not, Opening Day is a scant fourteen days away. On Thursday, March 28th, at 1:05 pm EDT, Masahiro Tanaka will fire the first official 2019 pitch at Yankee Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles and we’ll be off to the races for 162 games PLUS (heavy emphasis on the ‘plus’). The Orioles have announced RHP Alex Cobb will get the Opening Day nod over Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner.  

Cobb signed with Baltimore as a free agent in late March last year and it showed with disastrous April results. He lost his first three starts with 13.11 ERA and 2.83 WHIP.  A 6.03 K/9 pitcher for the year, he was unable to strike anyone out in two of those first three games. With the benefit of a full training camp, Cobb should be more prepared for his second season in Birdland. Steamer projects a 9-13 record in 31 starts with 4.89 ERA (4.50 xFIP) and 1.6 fWAR. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long to hear Michael Kay’s first “There it goes! See ya!” of the new season. I don’t think any of the Orioles pitchers strike fear in the hearts of the Yankees, and it should be a good opportunity to get the season started on the right foot.   

It was reported this week the MLB Players Association and MLB have agreed upon the elimination of the waiver trading deadline in August which makes the July non-waivers deadline a hard date for player trades. This year’s trading deadline is Wednesday, July 31st. In theory, it should spark more trade activity in July than in years past and will force teams to make earlier decisions about whether they are buyers and sellers. I am probably most concerned about potential injuries in August and the need to fill unplanned vacancies from within the organization. Depth at certain positions can be weak so it will force organizations to work harder to cover depth at all positions in the off-season which I suppose is an intended consequence.  The change is effective this year. 

Another change is the expansion of roster size from 25 to 26 players in 2020 with a maximum of 13 pitchers. On September 1st of 2020, the expansion of rosters will be reduced from 40 to 28 players and no more than 14 pitchers. At face value, I am glad to see the addition of a bench spot for another position player. The transition of the game to deeper bullpens has left bench roles perilously thin. Hopefully the addition of a player will help keep guys fresher for the long season. While the change is not effective this year, the potential 26th men at the present time are Clint Frazier and the expected loser of the first base competition, Greg Bird.

The new MLB-MLBPA deal is expected to be announced today. 

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, other changes include the three-batter minimum for pitchers although a start of a new inning would allow a pitching substitution. I think back a couple of years and wonder what it would have been like if the Yankees had been forced to use Tyler Clippard for at least three consecutive batters on days when he simply didn’t have it. I can see a pitcher coming into a game with an inability to throw strikes and suddenly the bases are loaded…or worse. I get the pace of play implications but I guess the traditionalist in me would like to see the game decisions in the hands of the managers. Silly me. There’s also a new $1 million bonus for the winner of the All-Star Home Run Derby. Makes me wonder if it will influence a lower paid guy like Aaron Judge to participate. I know Judge makes most of his money through endorsements right now but I am sure that a way to pick up an extra mil is enticing for some.  

It was a bummer that last night’s Spring Training game against the Philadelphia Phillies was not televised. Although the game ended in a 5-5 tie, it was Bryce Harper’s first Phillies start against the Yankees.  If for no other reason, I am looking forward to the regular season so that every game is televised. Harper was booed  unmercifully by the Yankee fans at Steinbrenner Field or so they say since I didn’t actually see it. I don’t really get it. It’s not Bryce’s fault that he is not a Yankee.  The Yankees chose not to pursue him in free agency despite the wishes of the fans. Bryce is on record saying the Yankees never reached out to him despite his childhood love for the Pinstripes. If Bryce historically crushed Yankee pitching, then maybe that’s a reason to boo him but he has been largely ineffective in his short body of work facing the Yankees. I would have liked for the Yankees to sign Harper but they didn’t and we must move on. I know I am very excited to see what Year 2 brings for Giancarlo Stanton. Regardless of whether you preferred Harper over Stanton, I think Stanton is going to be more relaxed this year and will more closely resemble the player that dominated baseball in 2017 for the Miami Marlins.  

Back to the first base competition, I thought it was funny when it was reported yesterday that Aaron Boone was wearing a Luke Voit t-shirt in the clubhouse. Boone also commented that Voit batting cleanup (as he did last night) could carry into the season, adding that he could see Voit anywhere from third to sixth in the order. In other words, it is Greg Bird and not Voit who should be making living accommodations in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.  

Jose Canseco, shut up! Your fifteen minutes of fame came and went. Let it go, Cheater. Alex Rodriguez owes you nothing.

Credit: Getty Images
For those of you who are New York Jets fans, my apologies for the Anthony Barr situation but I am glad it worked out the way it did. Granted, Barr, a linebacker, is not a superstar level player but I like his role in Minnesota’s defense. I’ve been a lifelong Vikings fan. I think Barr is capable of so much more and I hope the Vikings use Barr as an edge rusher like the Jets intended to do. For those of you not following, Barr had agreed to a free agent deal with the Jets on Monday, only to renege the next morning and subsequently sign an extension to stay in Minneapolis. I had been dreading NFL free agency, fearful of losing Barr. The Vikings had done a good job of signing their young core players despite the massive overpay for QB Kirk Cousins, but Barr had remained unsigned. With salary cap implications, it appeared Barr would be wearing a different uniform this Fall. For a few hours earlier this week, the Jets fans thought he’d be wearing hunter green and white.  For all of Minnesota’s free agents, Barr was the one I wanted to keep. Jets fans were unhappy about his change of heart but I was truly grateful. It kind of reminded me of the time David Wells had a change of heart after agreeing to a two-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and signed with the Yankees on a napkin. There may not have been a napkin involved with Barr but the impact is the same. Glad he’s on my team.  

As always, Go Yankees!