Saturday, January 15, 2022

MLB Fandom Lockout Continues...


MLB Owners & MLBPA continue to show disregard for its fans…

The MLB Owners and Players Association finally met this week in a ‘why bother?’ one-hour session. The fool in me had been hopeful the first meeting regarding core economics in over a month would yield some momentum for further talks. Silly me. Now the wait for the Players Association to counter which most likely will be as aggressive as the MLB Owners were conservative…meaning the two sides remain miles apart. No time frame has been given for the Players Association’s response. There is a threat Spring Training may not start on time, but a shortened Spring Training is probably very appealing to both the owners and players. Now, it feels like this labor dispute could drag into March and delay the start of the regular season.

I think both sides are damaging the reputation of the sport. Much has been discussed about appealing to younger fans to help continue to grow the fanbase. Yet, the current state of Major League Baseball shows young sports fans that football, basketball, and hockey are tremendous alternatives. If MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to create a lasting legacy, he is on the wrong path. Hopefully, egos can be set aside, and cooler heads will prevail to bring meaningful negotiations soon. Maybe that is an overly optimistic view, but I cannot imagine the owners walking away from regular season gate receipts, especially after the trauma of the 2020 season. I do not understand the wait until the last minute. I understand each side wants to be the big winner but compromise for the sake of the game is more important. They can and will find common ground, but the question is when and at what cost to the fans.

We get this is a fight over our money. MLB Owners and Players, please remember this is not all about you. Get in a room, lock the door, and settle this…now.

Congratulations to Rachel Balkovec, the new manager for the Single-A Tampa Tarpons! This is a well-deserved promotion for Balkovec, who joined the Yankees in November 2019 as a minor league hitting instructor. I honestly wanted the Yankees to hire her as an assistant hitting coach for the big-league club, but this new role certainly befits the talented and industrious coach who is on her way to a bigger and brighter future in the Yankees organization.

Rachel Balkovec / Photo Credit: Yankees

Balkovec’s expressed goal is to be a general manager one day. I could easily see the Yankees eventually elevating her to assistant general manager. Jean Afterman is sixty-four and relocated a couple of years ago from New York to Sonoma, California. Balkovec is a possible replacement for the much-respected Afterman, when/if she decides it is time to enjoy the wonderful Napa Valley vineyards. Such an appointment could place Balkovec in line to eventually replace Brian Cashman. If not, it is a certainty in my mind that Rachel Balkovec will accomplish her goals through determination, perseverance, knowledge, and competitiveness. She wants to be a MLB general manager which means she will be a MLB general manager. For now, low level Yankee prospects will benefit greatly from an excellent teacher. I am glad she is on our side.

No word on a replacement for short-term Yankees assistant hitting coach Eric Chavez. The latest name mentioned is Eric Hinske, a brief one-time Yankee. His name excites me about as much as Mark Trumbo. In other words, not very much. Hinske served as assistant hitting instructor for several seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks until he was relieved of his duties in June 2021. I understand the need for a coach with Major League experience, a weakness in the current configuration of the Yankees coaching staff, but the Yankees can do better than Trumbo or Hinske. I like the idea of someone who has past ties to the organization but that is not a prerequisite. I want a coach who can team with hitting coach Dillon Lawson and assistant hitting coach Casey Dykes to provide a strong collaborative and synergetic trio to help make Yankee hitters better. I keep thinking Brett Gardner would be a formidable choice if the Yankees could convince him his playing days are over.

International Signing Day. For the Yankees, they are expected to sign top international prospect Roderick Arias. MLB’s Jesse Sanchez is reporting the Yankees have signed the young shortstop to a $4.0 million deal. The Yankees have not confirmed the signing. Per Sanchez, Arias has above-average bat-to-ball skills and strike zone awareness. He shows power from both sides of the plate with emphasis on the right side. Good opposite field power from the left side. Sanchez goes on to say the overall package could develop into a plus-plus hitter. Once the signing is confirmed, Arias will immediately be inserted into the Yankees’ current list of top ten prospects.

Roderick Arias

The presence of Arias and last year’s number one pick Trey Sweeney make it easier if the Yankees decide to include Oswald Peraza in a trade with the Oakland A’s to acquire first baseman Matt Olson. The Yankee still need more than a stopgap at short, but outside of Anthony Volpe or Jasson Dominguez, there is not much I would not give up to get Olson (although the argument can be easily made to simply part with money to sign Freddie Freeman). I remain on the bandwagon to sign either Carlos Correa or Trevor Story although their signings range from highly unlikely to mostly improbable. With no disrespect to the futures of Anthony Volpe or Peraza (if he is not traded), it will sicken me if the 2022 New York Yankees shortstop is Andrelton Simmons. If that is the case, I would rather have that Falafel dude from Texas. It does bother me that the Rangers thought so highly of Isiah Kiner-Falefa that they signed not one but two of the top free agent shortstops this off-season. I would prefer him over Simmons, but I do not think either guy would move the needle for improving the team.

More minor league free agent signings. I was a little surprised to see the Yankees have signed former top prospect LHP Manny Banuelos to a minor league deal (I know, Daniel, there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal). Manny has bounced around a few organizations since the Yankees traded him to Atlanta in 2015 (in the deal that brought Chasen Shreve to New York). In 2019, while a member of the Chicago White Sox, Banuelos gave up nine earned runs in one inning to the Boston Red Sox. After some time in China, he spent last season in the Mexican League. I would love to see Banuelos, now 30 years old, finally achieve success in the Major Leagues, even as a reliever, but let us just say that I am not optimistic.

Manuel Banuelos

The Yankees also signed former Red Sock Ryan Weber, 31-year-old RHP, to a minor league contract. In Weber’s last MLB appearance for the Red Sox on June 13, 2021, he gave up eleven runs in 5 2/3 innings. I see a common theme with both Banuelos and Weber. They have both been horrible for and against the Boston Red Sox.

Can Matt Blake and the Yankees minor league pitching instructors unlock potential in either arm? Doubtful but we will see. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I miss baseball.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)