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!

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