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!