Saturday, February 26, 2022

Bottom of the Ninth Inning...


Negotiation’s approach major deadline without resolution…

Well, here we are. Monday, February 28th, is the date an agreement must be reached for a new collective bargaining agreement or regular season games will be lost per the MLB Commissioner and resident jerk. Personally, I had hoped for resolution sooner this month and I am hopeful the labor dispute does not extend into March without any agreement. The lockout has lasted longer than it should have, and it is time for the return of America’s favorite pastime.

The MLB Owners and Players Association met every day this week for the first time since this lengthy, unproductive dispute began in early December. Although not much has happened to move the needle, there were reports of some optimism yesterday as the two sides approach common ground on one issue (draft order). There was also the first meeting since the labor dispute began between MLB Commissioner Rob (“Fire him”) Manfred and MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark. Today and tomorrow are extremely critical days if there is hope for a full 162-game regular season schedule. I do not care what it takes, but the two sides need to work hard over the next 48-72 hours to drive home the winning run to save the regular season in walk-off fashion. “Extra innings” will not be beneficial for anyone except for those who hate baseball.

For a brief aside, I want to express my sorrow and support for the people of Ukraine. The people of Ukraine, facing difficult and challenging odds against the advancing Russian army, have shown resiliency in their protection of democracy. I would rather see the end of the killing in Ukraine over the return of Major League Baseball. I pray for their successful defense and the end of the conflict.

Back to baseball, it seems like every team has expressed interest in Matt Olson. The Oakland A’s first baseman is the favorite acquisition target for everyone. This week, the San Diego Padres, according to reports, are the latest team to express interest. Who would NOT want a 6’5” first baseman who will be 28 years old in a month (the prime of his life) and is one of the game’s most elite at his position? As much as everyone loves Freddie Freeman, Olson makes more sense given his age. Freeman will be 33 in September so any deal for him would take him into his late thirties. There is the valid argument of cost. Olson will cost significant prospect capital whereas Freeman only requires money. Despite new teams expressing interest seemingly every day for Olson, I hope Brian “The Ninja” Cashman can put together a package that brings the beautiful left-handed bat and glove to the Bronx.

Matt Olson / Photo Credit: David Zalubowski, AP

It is unrealistic at this point to expect the Yankees to sign an elite shortstop. Carlos Correa will not be calling Yankee Stadium his home, and it is unlikely Trevor Story will be reunited with his buddy DJ LeMahieu. Without an elite shortstop, the Yankees must strengthen first base. Anthony Rizzo showed what a power lefty bat with a magical glove can do at the position. Imagine what Olson could do at the position Lou Gehrig and Don Mattingly once called home. It is exciting to think about. The Yankees simply cannot slide back to life with Luke Voit at first. I like Luke, I really do, but I appreciate the value of health and the ability to defend the position. A strong lefty bat is a huge plus.

If the owners and players come to an agreement by Monday, the month of March will be a frenzy. After months of no transactions except minor league signings, the transaction wire will be overwhelmed (something like Yankees Twitter when Aaron Boone makes a boneheaded call). It will be interesting to see the players on the Yankees’ opening day roster. Shortstop, first base, center field, catcher, and starting pitching are the positions most frequently discussed by fans. Does Cashman address all these positions, only a couple of them, or worst-case scenario, none at all? We will soon find out if a new CBA can be put in place. Strap in, this should be fun.

The pro writers really seem to be pushing the idea of a Yankee infield featuring Trey Sweeney at third, Anthony Volpe at second, and Oswald Peraza at short. We are a few seasons from that idea blossoming into fruition, but I always wonder how much the team is fueling the propaganda with the press. The trio’s entry into the Major Leagues will need to be staggered. It cannot obviously happen at the same time if the team expects to maintain elevated levels of success. Any trade for Matt Olson will most likely cost one of those guys (Peraza is the most common name mentioned). I expect Cashman’s moves to be immediate (guys who can help now) with the flexibility to allow the entry of the younger prospects when ready. Trade Peraza, sign Story. I would do it, but I seriously doubt it is the Yankees’ plan. For now, I will prospect “hug” Volpe and Jasson Dominguez. Everybody else should be on the table. The time is now for a championship.

I really hope this is the last post I must write with no Major League Baseball. Bring Major League Baseball back to us. We have waited far too long, and the MLB Lockout cannot, should not and must not go on any longer. End it now!

Rob Manfred & Tony Clark / Photo Credit: The Canadian Press

With no baseball, I have focused on pro football more than I would like. I do not think I have ever followed the assembly of a new leadership group and coaching staff like I have with the Minnesota Vikings this year. With all honesty, it has been fun watch new head coach Kevin O’Connell assemble his new staff. He has experience with defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and assistant head coach Mike Pettine. He has promising up-and-comers like offensive coordinator Wes Phillips and special teams coordinator Matt Daniels. Veteran coach and former NFL player Greg Manusky apparently reached an agreement yesterday to be the team’s new linebackers coach replacing former coach Mike Zimmer’s son Adam. Manusky is a former Vikings player. He was on the team from 1991 to 1993 under the second greatest head coach in Vikings history, the late Dennis Green. #Skol Vikings!

The New York Giants received a brilliant gift with their new defensive line coach Andre Patterson. Patterson, who was Mike Zimmer’s co-defensive coordinator last season, was perhaps the most beloved Vikings coach of the prior regime. He was extremely popular with players and fans alike. He has been credited as the coach who developed Danielle Hunter from a project to one of the most feared defensive ends in the game. I wish him the best in New York. It seems to me that new Giants coach Brian Daboll has put together a coaching staff that, unlike its recent predecessors, will have long-term success for the Giants. I recognized it was time for change in Minnesota, but it did not make losing Patterson any easier. He is the coach I will miss the most.

As it turned out, only wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell survived as a holdover from Mike Zimmer’s regime in Minnesota. There is one returnee. Daronte Jones served as the Vikings’ defensive back coach in 2020. He left to serve as defensive coordinator for LSU last season, but he is back in Minneapolis in his old role for the upcoming season.

Some of the new coaches were introduced this week, and I enjoyed listening to Wes Phillips, the new Vikings offensive coordinator. Although he is only 43 years old, he has been around pro football all his life. His grandfather was legendary Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints head coach Bum Phillips, and his father is former Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips. 

Wes Phillips / Photo Credit: Twitter via @SKORNorth

During this week’s interview, Wes was asked if he was able to see his grandfather coach, but he was only six when Bum resigned in New Orleans in 1985 and did not remember his coaching career. It was funny listening to him describe his grandfather’s comments during football games on TV. Wes served as tight ends coach for the current Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams, and has been coaching since 2004. This is his first time as an offensive coordinator, but he is ready for the call. O’Connell will call plays for the Vikings next season, but no doubt Phillips will have his imprint on offensive philosophy and strategy (like O’Connell did for Rams head coach Sean McVay) and will help O’Connell make the best decisions for the team. I am happy for Wes. With stars like Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and Irv Smith, Jr., it is only a matter of time until Wes becomes a third-generation head football coach in the NFL.

Ukraine, we stand with you.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Wanted: Major League Baseball...


Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres & DJ LeMahieu / Credit: Getty Images

Lockout continues as meaningful negotiations remain evasive…

Normally, the end of the Super Bowl signals the switch of our full attention to America’s favorite pastime, but sadly, the MLB Lockout has forced us to look elsewhere for our sports addictions. The frustration of the short, meaningless meetings that have occurred between the MLB Owners and Players Association is worsened by the fact the MLB Owners could end the lockout with a snap of their fingers. The absence of a new collective bargaining agreement is not the cause of the lockout; it is the owners trying to squeeze the Players into a new owner-friendly deal. Now that spring training has been delayed, the pain will soon begin to reach into wallets. Since nothing else seems to be working, the loss of actual dollars will hopefully motivate the two sides to negotiate, in good faith and with a degree of urgency, to hasten the return of Major League Baseball. It is unfair, in my opinion, that it is the Players who will be hurt more than the Owners until a new CBA is reached.

On Thursday, the MLB announced the postponement of spring training games until Saturday, March 5th. They had originally been scheduled to begin a week from today. To avoid further delays, next week looms as the most critical week to-date for the extended lockout. I do not understand why the two sides cannot lock themselves into a room (figuratively speaking) and burn the midnight oil until they can hammer out an agreement. I know, it is because the Owners want on new agreement on their terms and their terms only despite the pain inflicted on Players and Fans. Nevertheless, I hope they can find common ground next week so that we can be assured of a full 162-game regular season…and labor peace for the next five years.

As for the MLB postponement announcement, I felt the MLBPA’s response was appropriate: “MLB announced today that it ‘must’ postpone the start of spring training games. This is false. Nothing requires the league to delay the start of spring training, much like nothing required the league’s decision to implement the lockout in the first place. Despite these decisions by the league, Players remain committed to the negotiating process.”

Regardless of whether you side with the owners or the players, I think the MLB fans have suffered the most. The Owners’ disregard for the Fans, except for our money, has been apparent throughout this ordeal. I am tired of the lockout, I miss baseball, and I am ready for Owners and Players to work together for the good of the game.

Can reliever Matt Bowman be this year’s Lucas Luetge? Originally drafted by the New York Mets and claimed by the St Louis Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft before his release led him to Cincinnati, the righthanded reliever carved out an unremarkable career in his four Major League seasons. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020. The Yankees signed him as a free agent in December 2020 (two-year minor league contract), knowing he would not pitch in 2021. Bowman appeared in 134 games for the Cardinals in 2016 and 2017, amassing ninety-eight strikeouts in 126 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, injuries have curtailed his career since that time. Blister issues plagued his 2018 season which limited his availability and led to his release by the Cardinals. He did rebound in 2019, but 2020 was lost due to elbow soreness which ultimately led to Tommy John surgery. He will be 31 in May but here is hope he will find the fountain of youth and magic in his arm like Luetge did last year. I know he has worked on cutters in recent years and will surely seek out Mariano Rivera for advice when (if?) spring training finally gets started. It is hard not to feel empathy for guys like Bowman who have worked hard to achieve their dreams despite a series of challenges.

Matt Bowman

So, DJ LeMahieu feels badly for the fired Yankees hitting coaches. I read the New York Daily News article this week which quotes LeMahieu saying “We didn’t play up to our capabilities, it’s that simple. It wasn’t their fault by any means. It’s not on them. There were the guys that helped us get to where we were the previous few years…”. Honestly, the shift in organizational philosophy over the last few years put on expiration date on former hitting coach Marcus Thames and assistant hitting coach P.J. Pilittere. Maybe the disappointment of last year’s hitters hastened their departures, but it was inevitable. Once the Yankees brought Dillon Lawson into the organization and the shift toward analytics-driven coaches transformed the minor league system, it was only a matter of time until Lawson was elevated to Major League hitting coach. If the Yankees had not promoted him, it is very possible another team would have poached him. I am happy for both Thames and Pilittere. They both quickly found new homes in their same roles. Thames as hitting coach for Donnie Baseball’s Miami Marlins and Pilittere as an assistant hitting coach in the Mile High City (where he can hang out with Greg Bird and his hairless cat).

My disappointment with Aaron Boone’s return and the new coaching staff. I was ready to move on from Boone this off-season until an extension guaranteed his return. I am not going to go into hate-Boone mode. I will support him as manager of my favorite team, and I will always pull for him to have success. I like Boone, but my biggest disappointment is the return of bench coach Carlos Mendoza. Mendoza should be part of the coaching staff, just not the crucial role as Boone’s chief lieutenant and in-game strategist. I was in favor of experience. Bring in a bench coach who had managerial experience to give Boone better options. Mendy and Boone seem too much alike. Boone needs a guy who can make him better. Watching my favorite football team (the Minnesota Vikings) so closely the last month while they assembled a new coaching staff, it really stood out to me that the Vikings chose to hire an experienced assistant head coach to support young, first-time coach Kevin O’Connell. When O’Connell was formally announced as the Vikings new head coach this week, the team also announced that former Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine has been named assistant head coach. I do not really care that Pettine did not have success as a head coach, but he brings perspective to O’Connell, a very bright and talented guy. I feel Boone could have benefited from a similar arrangement.

The shortstop stopgap solutions took a hit this week. Much of the off-season has centered on the Yankees’ plans for shortstop entering the 2022 season as almost no one except Gio Urshela expects the third baseman to be the Yankees starting shortstop this year. Aside from Andrelton Simmons (ugh), the most frequent name has been Isiah Kiner-Falefa of the Texas Rangers. Kiner-Falefa was expected to be available due to the Rangers free agent signings of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. However, this week it was announced that Rangers third baseman Josh Jung may need shoulder surgery, and Kiner-Falefa is the most likely replacement at third base. With each passing day, my hope for an elite shortstop like Carlos Correa or Trevor Story fades. While it is possible the starting Yankees shortstop could be young Oswald Peraza, the more likely scenario is a starter that is not currently in the Yankees organization. God, I hope it is not Simmons. I am not energized by a potential return of Didi Gregorius even if he has been working out with Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela in Tampa. Presently I am praying for Story while bracing for Nick Ahmed. I hope the eventual answer is not worse.

Trevor Story / Credit: Matthew Stockman, Getty Images

As much as I hate to see Aaron Judge get to free agency, I think the Yankees would benefit from waiting until next offseason to extend Judge. If he stays on the field this season, he should be rewarded accordingly. I hope it is with the Yankees since he is the current “face” of the franchise. The premature extensions for Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks have not worked out and I would hate to see the Yankees make another poor financial decision that will impact the organization for years to come. But with that being said, I truly hope Judge is a Yankee for life.

Aaron Judge

Let us hope and pray that the upcoming week brings good news for baseball fans.

As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Pessimism is the New Optimism...


Photo Credit: Getty Images

Progress yet to be seen…

Despite hope for elevation in talks between the MLB Owners and MLB Players Association, the brief one-hour meeting on Saturday was just another sign the owners have no intent to compromise with the players. Those supporting the owners may say the players are unreasonable, however, in my humble opinion, the opposite is true. Eventually, the MLB Lockout will end. Eventually. For now, the certainty is the delay of Spring Training and possibly Opening Day if talks cannot escalate to meaningful and productive discussions with greater frequency.

It seems to me that the owners want the players to feel the pain of losing money so that they cave into the owners’ demands. Greed is alive and well in 2022.

Despite the 130-page offer presented to the Players Association, union lawyers were underwhelmed by the latest proposals. Although the lawyers will discuss the offer to the MBLPA’s executive board, there is not much optimism that the latest proposals will kickstart and accelerate negotiations.

Saturday was only the fifth time the two sides have met since the Lockout began on December 2nd. There appears no chance the pitchers and catchers will report next week, nor will the Spring Training games begin on February 26th as originally scheduled.

Highlights of the latest offer by the MLB Owners included:

  • Elimination of the penalty (third-round amateur draft pick) for exceeding the luxury tax threshold.
  • Increase the luxury tax threshold: 2022 & 2023: $214 million; 2024: $216 million; 2025: $218,000 million; and 2026: $222 million.
  • Raise the minimum salary from $570,500 to $630,000; or an alternative tier of $615,000 for initial major league players, $650,000 for players with one-year of service, and $725,000 for players with two years of service.
  • Increase the pre-arbitration bonus pool from $10 million to $15 million.
  • Limit of five optional assignments of a player to the minor leagues each season.

The current annual inflation rate for the 12 months ending in January 2022 was 7.48%. The proposed levels for the luxury tax threshold fail to keep pace with current inflation. Based on the current luxury tax threshold of $210 million, the minimum ceiling should be no less than $225 million. With the players seeking approximately $245-$260 million, the owners and players have a long way to go to find a mutually acceptable threshold.

The pre-arbitration bonus pool proposal remains $85 million below the union’s most recent request.

I have not given much thought to optional assignments, but I was surprised to hear that Yankees reliever Albert Abreu was optioned to Triple A something like fourteen times last season. That is crazy. I know teams have gotten better at roster manipulation through players with options (particularly when trying to keep relievers fresh), and agree there should be a cap. The owners’ proposal for a maximum of five optional assignments makes sense to me and seems fair, but it is hardly an issue that moves the needle toward full agreement on all core economic issues.

Like many of you, I am disappointed. Baseball is my favorite spectator sport. I like football but not nearly as much as baseball. I have probably paid more attention to football this year for no other reason than the absence of baseball. I have interest in basketball and hockey but certainly not to the same degree as baseball or football. Baseball historically is such a release from the grinds of daily life. We ride the ebbs and flows of every season with our favorite team. We legitimately care about the players for our team, those fortunate enough to wear the famed Pinstripes (well, apparently, for everybody except Gary Sanchez¹, that is…). The MLB Owners are depriving us of a great sport because they are unwilling to compromise and unable to act with any urgency.

George Steinbrenner / Photo Credit: Getty Images

I remain hopeful for a 162-game season, but time is running out. I will never forgive the MLB Owners if the season is lost. Regardless of what the future holds, I am done with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. #FireManfred

Clown Rob Manfred

As always, Go Yankees! We miss you…

¹Editor’s Note: For the record, I do care about Gary Sanchez.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Optimistic for a Spring Breeze...


MLB Owners & MLBPA dance together again today…

Will today’s planned MLB Owners’ core economics pitch to the MLBPA represent the first significant and fair proposal made or will it just be their latest attempt to cast shade on the players? I am choosing to be optimistic and hopeful today brings a sense of optimism that can yield momentum toward reaching an agreement for a new collective bargaining agreement. I am not expecting resolution today (any agreement must be ratified by the owners and players), but for once, I want to hear positive, proactive statements emanating from both sides.

Everyone had expected MLB Commissioner (fire) Rob Manfred to announce Spring Training would be delayed on Thursday, but he chose to kick the can down the road a couple of days. The announcement of the delay could come today. Realistically, I am not expecting Spring Training to start until the first of March, but every meeting that ends with contentious remarks has the potential to delay it even further.

Manfred’s words this week that MLB franchises were bad investments was humorous. Steven Cohen just paid $2.4 billion for the New York Mets. George Steinbrenner paid $10 million for the New York Yankees in 1973, and the Yankees are worth much more than the Mets. The Wilpon family, despite their mismanagement of the Mets, are undoubtedly extremely grateful for their “bad” investment. Forbes Magazine last year placed the value of the Yankees franchise at $5.25 billion. I doubt Harold Zieg Steinbrenner is walking around his Florida mansion saying, “Woe is me….”

I am not sure if it means anything but the rise in minor league free agent signings this week could be an indicator that teams are starting to feel forward movement. Or maybe it is nothing. It was interesting to see the Oakland A’s sign former Brewers first baseman Eric Thames to a minor league deal. I realize everyone expects the A’s to trade first baseman Matt Olson, but Thames is a slight acknowledgement of their plans. Or it is not. Time will tell.

I would love for the Yankees to acquire Olson, but there are other teams that would drool over the prospect of Olson in their lineups. A team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, with the strength of their farm system and their financial might, could easily overwhelm the A’s with an offer. There were reports of interest by the Texas Rangers this week, joining teams like the Atlanta Braves. Freddie Freeman remains available for only the cost of money. It seems almost a given if the Yankees trade for Olson, they will lose their most advanced shortstop prospect, Oswald Peraza. Sign Freeman and keep Peraza and other high-level prospects? Sign me up.

Freddie Freeman / Photo Credit: Carmen Mandato, Getty Images

Word of the universal DH in Major League Baseball surely enhanced the trade value of Luke Voit. I would say Miguel Andujar too, but his value is so low right now, I am not sure anything would help. If the Yankees are successful in getting Olson or Freeman, or even re-signing Anthony Rizzo, it seems a foregone conclusion that Voit will be playing elsewhere in 2022. To a degree, I am sad. I do not like his glove at first base, but he has been a good hitter and I love his football mentality on a baseball field. As they say, attitude is everything and Voit has that swagger. If he is, in fact, traded, I hope it is to a National League team so that we do not have to see him on a regular basis. The AL West (Oakland?) would be fine.

Speaking of Oakland, I would like to say I am deeply sorry to hear the news of Jeremy Giambi’s passing. I realize his death was his choice (suicide), but it shows the severity of depression. He is clearly a man who left us too soon. I always liked the younger Giambi. Sadly, most Yankee fans think of him for the famous Derek Jeter flip play, but he was more than that. I cannot imagine the pressure of playing in the shadow of a much better brother. I am not saying Jeremy was a bad player, he was a talented player in his own right. He persevered and produced a quality Major League career. I forgive him for his time wearing the dreaded Red Sox uniform. I am sorry his demons were too much for him to bear and I wish he had been able to find help before it was too late.

Jason Giambi and Jeremy Giambi (R)

There was also a death in the Yankees family with the passing of former Yankees outfielder Gerald “Ice” Williams. Any fan of the 1990’s Yankees is well familiar with Williams. He was part of the early 90’s rise of the Yankees, and when he was traded away in 1996, his return (reliever Graeme Lloyd) brought a crucial piece for the Yankees’ championship bullpen during dynasty years. Williams’ death was reported by his close friend, Yankees legend Derek Jeter.

Rest in peace, Jeremy and Ice. Thank you for the memories. `

Back to brighter topics, the experts are predicting a crazy 48-72 hours when the MLB Lockout is lifted. With so many free agents available and potential trades that have been simmering for months, we will see a wild game of musical chairs. The flurry leading up to the Lockout will probably pale in comparison to the post-Lockout activity. The postponed Rule 5 Draft has yet to take place and the Yankees routinely lose players due to the depth in their farm system. I am expecting to lose RHP Matt Sauer, 23, who was taken in the second round of the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft, among others. It seems like someone will take a chance on catcher Josh Breaux even if he does not stick. Losing Breaux is not a big deal. Mike Axisa, in his RAB Thoughts post this week, referred to Breaux as “upside is Kyle Higashioka with less defense.” The Yankees took six catchers in the 2018 draft, and the Yankees’ first two picks, Anthony Siegler and Breaux, have been disappointments. Kind of funny that the sixth catcher taken, in the 35th round, who did not sign that year, is now a top Yankees prospect. Austin Wells may not stick at catcher, but his bat will be coming to Major League stadiums soon. Not sure if it will be New York or elsewhere through trade, but he seems to be a surefire Major Leaguer. The MLB Amateur Draft can be such a crap shoot.

The Yankees should sign Aaron Judge to an extension, but they should not go crazy with the number of years. I feel bad for Judge that he does not hit free agency until after the 2022 season, when he is 30 years old, but a ten-year contract for him would be out of the question. I love Judge as a player and clubhouse leader. I want him to stay in Pinstripes, but I have no desire to see if he can still be a quality Major Leaguer in his late 30’s…at least not yet. Those are decisions for later years. Four years, five years at the most. We have no idea how the big man will age in his later years. The decline could be more rapid than smaller, compact players like Brett Gardner.

I am glad to hear that Luis Severino is ready and can part of the Yankees starting rotation from the start of the season. We know he has the potential to be second to Gerrit Cole in the starting rotation. 

However, I hope it does not deter the Yankees from seeking another top starting option. I am glad Jordan Montgomery is in the rotation, but Jameson Taillon will be delayed. Corey Kluber now pitches for the rival Tampa Bay Rays. Nestor Cortes, Jr was a fun story last season and one of the Yankees’ most reliable starters, but I think he is better suited for long relief/spot starts. Domingo German, Luis Gil, Mike King, and Clarke Schmidt will be back, but this rotation screams for a strong #2 starter, even with Severino. They need a hedge for the health questions in the rotation. 

Ideally, the post-Lockout flurry will bring a quality starter to the Yankees in any trade packages. Luis Castillo is always every fan’s favorite target, but there are other starters that can help. No doubt Mike Fishman and his staff have done a deep dive into the analytics of all potentially available starters so I have confidence GM Brian Cashman will bring in the needed reinforcement. I would not be opposed to the return of Sonny Gray. I think he would fare better under Matt Blake than he did with Larry Rothschild. Heck, even Javier Vazquez got two chances with the Yankees even if the results were unspectacular.

Finally, it is Super Bowl weekend. Here is my shout-out for the Los Angeles Rams. I hope they are successful in their quest for a championship while playing on their home field. The Joe Burrow story has been fun to watch but the fairy tale ‘worst-to-first’ story ends on Sunday. Hopefully, the post-game celebration features Rams offensive coordinator (and Minnesota Vikings head coach-in-waiting) Kevin O’Connell swimming in champagne. Go Rams!

Kevin O'Connell (L) and Matthew Stafford / Credit: AP Photo-Ralph Freso

And as always, and more importantly, Go Yankees! 

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Manfred, Greed, and Arrogance...


MLB Owners refusal to play…

I hate baseball. Or to better clarify, I hate Major League Baseball and Commissioner Rob Manfred. My ire is directed toward the MLB Owners and not the MLB Players Association. Look, I love the game of baseball. I love life as a New York Yankees fan. I hate the greed of billionaires that is keeping the beloved professional game from us. Typically, this time of year, we are looking forward to excitement to the opening of Spring Training camps in a couple of weeks. Even though pitchers are catchers are required to report earlier, many position players show up at team facilities early to begin their season preparations. The thrill of watching the Yankees begin workouts in Tampa, Florida after a winter away. The buzz around Steinbrenner Field. This year, there is only a cloud of uncertainty.

Max Scherzer, the filthy rich yet only second-best starting pitcher for the New York Mets, a MLBPA executive subcommittee member, described the differences as “We want a system where threshold and penalties don’t function as caps, allows younger players to realize more of their market value, makes service time manipulation a thing of the past, and eliminate tanking as a winning strategy.”

I know the core economics issues go much deeper than Max’s words, however, this is a start. Why cannot the MLB Owners, in good faith, come to the bargaining table with a genuine desire to find common ground and create the new Collective Bargaining Agreement to end the Lockout? The MLB Owners request for a federal mediator was a slap in the face. It was purposely designed make the MLBPA look bad. They asked for a mediator when they have not shown a willingness to participate in meaningful and productive discussions. I keep hearing words like “contentious” any time the two sides get together. The MLBPA, rightfully and correctly, declined.


San Francisco Giants pitcher Alex Wood questioned MLB’s request for a mediator. He took to Twitter to ask “How can MLB request for there to be a mediator from the Federal Government to help with negotiations when they literally haven’t even done any negotiating up to this point? Asking for a friend.”  In another tweet, Wood said “It would probably take 2 weeks just for an ‘impartial’ mediator to get caught up enough to proceed. They’d then use an already broken system/CBA as a guideline toward a new deal. Makes zero sense for anybody. Players are ready to make a fair/mutually beneficial deal!”

Yankees reliever Zack Britton also chimed in, “When attempting to negotiate a collectively bargained agreement… “bargaining” is required.”

At this point, I do not feel it matters that Spring Training will be delayed. The question is how long it will be delayed. So long as Spring Training opens by the first of March, there is the sense the regular season will begin on time. So, that becomes the new deadline. But considering this is only three weeks away, the MLB Owners need to set their egos and greed aside, and work with the MLBPA to settle their differences now. With more talks expected next week, it is paramount progress must be made. So far, there has been none despite a Lockout that is over two months old.

MLB Owners, please hear our pleas. Restore Major League Baseball. Embrace the love and passion all of us hold for the game. Treat the players and fans with respect, and we will continue to line your pockets with an overabundance of cash. There is room for compromise. Return excitement to the lives of baseball fans everywhere. We want baseball now. Oh, while you are at it, please fire Rob Manfred.

While I retain hope the Yankees will sign free agent shortstop Trevor Story to a short-term deal with high AAV, count me among those probably more willing to give the shortstop job to young Oswald Peraza over some of the stopgap names that have been thrown around. A rookie shortstop, as the team is presently structured does not make sense, but if the Yankees can improve first base, center field and possibly catching, they would be better positioned to groom a new young shortstop and survive the growing pains associated therewith. As much as I want Story, it does seem as though Isiah Kiner-Falefa of the Texas Rangers is ticketed for the Bronx once the Lockout ends. If it happens, it increases my desire for Peraza to rise to the challenge and overtake Kiner-Falefa sooner than later. 

I have given up on any hope the Yankees will sign the best available shortstop, Carlos Correa. The Yankees seem more secure just trying to build a team that can potentially make the playoffs than one who can dominate/crush its opponents. I do not want Andrelton Simmons or an encore performance by an aging Didi Gregorius. Peraza may not be ready for The Show, but the Yankees can do better until Peraza or Anthony Volpe are ready to ascend to the Bronx. It does not seem that long ago when Yankees ownership was selling us the late Tony Fernandez as the team’s starting shortstop (a Spring Training injury in 1995 opened for the door for a young lad named Derek Jeter). Cut out the middlemen and go to the future. Hal Steinbrenner loves young, controllable players. If they can play, so do I. Oswald, take Spring Training by storm (if/when it opens). Your time is within your control. Make it happen.

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals for their conference championship victories. The NFL playoffs have been very thrilling this year. I will be pulling for the Rams. Like the Dodgers are my second favorite baseball team, the Rams, since their return from St Louis, have been my second favorite football team. I am excited for Matthew Stafford. After so many years of losing in Detroit, he finally gets to play in the NFL’s greatest game and has a chance to grab a Los Angeles championship like his Highland Park, Texas high school buddy, Clayton Kershaw, before him.

Rams Offensive Coordinator Kevin O’Connell will be the next head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, my favorite team. To a degree, I am disappointed. It is nothing against O’Connell. After the failures of two successive defensive head coaches in Minnesota (Leslie Frazier and Mike Zimmer), the job screamed for an offensively minded coach. At 65, Zimmer had grown grouchy and stagnant. O’Connell is youthful (he is only thirty-six years old) and he is recognized as a bright, offensive strategist even if he does not call plays for the Rams. He has worked with new Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (they were together in San Francisco in 2016) and was one of Kwesi’s choices for head coach. 

However, Raheem Morris was the best qualified coach. This is not a statement of color, but rather a testament to a man that, despite his lack of success as a head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier in his career, has gained extensive knowledge and experience, with success, on both sides of the ball and is a known leader of men. I am sorry Raheem was not given stronger consideration. He was a finalist for the Vikings job and had a second interview, like Patrick Graham. But it seems, O’Connell, even with the team’s brief flirtation with Jim Harbaugh, was the choice all along for the Wilf Family. 

I hope Raheem gets the opportunity to be a head coach again. I passionately believe, like Bill Belichick and a few other coaches, he will be more successful the second time around. Time will tell if this is a huge mistake for the Vikings. I hope not, but I will always wonder what could have been.

I honor and respect Bryan Flores for the class action lawsuit he has brought against the NFL for its hiring practices. It is unfortunate the move may cost him another chance in the NFL (he deserves an immediate next opportunity after his dismissal in Miami), but he is helping to open doors for others.

As always, Go Yankees!