Saturday, March 26, 2022

These Are Your New York Yankees...

Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Adam Hunger, AP

For better or worse, the Yankees roster is solidifying…

While it feels like the Yankees could have done so much more this interrupted and abbreviated off-season, it is hard to not have some excitement for the 2022 New York Yankees as they are presently structured. I know many of us wanted Matt Olson or Freddie Freeman and one of the elite shortstops, but it was not meant to be. It most certainly does not mean that the Yankees will not be good…they will be exceptionally good.

  • 1B           Anthony Rizzo
  • 2B           Gleyber Torres/DJ LeMahieu
  • SS           Isiah Kiner-Falefa
  • 3B           Josh Donaldson
  • C             Kyle Higashioka (and Ben Rortvedt when healthy)
  • RF           Aaron “Pay the Man” Judge
  • CF           Aaron Hicks
  • LF           Joey Gallo           
  • DH          Giancarlo Stanton

A bench that will most likely include the versatile Marwin Gonzalez and the speedy Tim Locastro.

This is a better lineup than the one featured on Opening Day 2021 which featured Jay Bruce at first base and Clint Frazier in left field. I know we will miss the fun associated with Gio Urshela but clearly IKF and the Bringer of Rain are improvements. Gary Sanchez, well Gary, have fun in Minnesota before you hit free agency.

I had thought the Yankees would acquire an additional starting pitcher before returning north next month. For a while it seemed like they were hot after either Sean Manaea or Frankie Montas, but those talks appear to have cooled. The Yankees always seem to be hot after some pitcher, only to see the guy get traded elsewhere. With Opening Day less than two weeks away, I think the Yankees will revisit the starting pitching market in July when asking prices lower. The front office is expecting holes to be filled by the younger Yankees talent waiting for their opportunities in the Show, like Clarke Schmidt, Luis Gil and, if he has shaken off the disastrous 2021, Deivi Garcia. Schmidt is 26, Gil will be 24 in August, and Garcia will be 23 in May. Their time is now, and the Yankees do need to see what they have with these guys. Michael King pitches today, but he is better for the bullpen.

Clarke Schmidt / Photo Credit: AP

If Cashman makes any move between now and Opening Day, I fully expect him to address catching. Willson Contreras seems to be the most mentioned name, along with Oakland’s Sean Murphy. I feel we will see a new catcher before starting pitching or center field help if any trades are made. Two defensive catchers seem a bit underwhelming even if I am grateful defensive catching is no longer the liability it was just a season ago.

I doubt the Yankees trade him, but if there was one guy on the roster, I would trade today it is Aroldis Chapman. There is no chance the Yankees re-sign him when he hits free agency this fall. He is not the elite flame-throwing reliever he once was, and Jonathan Loaisiga has proven he is up for the challenge. I would love to eliminate Chappy’s salary to free up room for other areas and start Loaisiga’s run at the back end of the bullpen. No doubt we will see a transition this season. With Aaron Boone’s stated intention to use Chapman more consistently, even if that means bringing him in earlier in games, Loaisiga will be the safety net to potentially close out games.

Photo Credit: Adam Hunger, Getty Images

We have much to be excited about with this Yankees team. Toronto may be getting stronger, but they are not perfect. Although they have made some nice recent acquisitions, it can be argued they are not upgrades over the guys they lost. Boston clearly overachieved last year. They are making a huge financial commitment that Trevor Story does not show reduced production through the Coors Field effect and that he can successfully transition to second base. Just because DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado have been successful outside of the Mile High City, it does not automatically mean Story will be. I think he will, but it is not guaranteed. Nothing against former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi, but when he is your best starter (due to Chris Sale’s latest injury), there are challenges in the rotation from top to bottom. Tampa always finds a way, but there are no clearcut favorites and the Yankees can beat any of these teams.

It is time to get excited about our team, the Six Billion Dollar Men. Let’s Go Yankees!

A few new rules were announced this past week. Active rosters will be expanded from 26 to 28 players until May 1st due to the shortened Spring Training. The maximum thirteen pitchers will not be enforced during the month of April. In a rule favoring Shohei Ohtani, if a team uses a starting pitcher as the DH, he can remain the DH after being pulled from the mound. Makes me wonder if we will start to see more players attempt to become two-way players with this rule and the universal DH. Lastly, in the return of a pandemic rule that has left many fans aghast, there will be a ghost runner at second base in extra innings. Too bad we cannot sign the ghost of Lou Brock or the phantom of Rickey Henderson’s younger days. I am indifferent to the rule. I have never been a huge fan of extra-inning games going beyond the tenth or eleventh innings. The longer games make players more susceptible for injury, and with fewer off days (and more double-headers) this season, it will be all hands-on deck for nine inning games. From a traditionalist view, it seems a bit janky to put an unearned runner at second base. Oh well, it is what it is.

A "younger" Rickey Henderson

These changes were agreed to by MLB and the Players Association but need to be ratified by the MLB Owners this upcoming week (through a simple majority vote).

I had been concerned about twelve arbitration eligible cases for the Yankees this year, but they successfully signed all but one, Aaron Judge. Judge filed for $21 million, while the club countered with $17 million. I am grateful the Yankees are not a ‘file and trial’ club. The Dellin Betances arbitration case a few years ago remains on my mind for how ugly this process can be. I simply cannot imagine going into a room to hear your employer tell an arbitrator how much you suck at your job. Human emotions surely come into play. As for Judge, I did not really expect them to agree on 2022 compensation since they are actively discussing a long-term extension. I am hopeful they can work it out before Opening Day. I am all in favor of retaining Judge and making him the team captain. I have no idea how Judge will age into his late thirties but that is not a concern for today. He is a great Yankee and a guy who can help win the elusive championship(s).

Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey, MLB Photos

Speaking of Dellin Betances, whatever happened to him? I think of him every time Manny Banuelos, his former Killer B teammate, runs out to the mound as a Mini Me #68. I know Betances has had his struggles the last few years, but I would love to see the Yankees sign him to a minor league contract. As for Banuelos, I am quietly hoping he makes the team. Good health has not been his friend (the Yankees seemingly have too many of those kind of guys) but watching Banuelos in pinstripes again has rekindled thoughts of how much I had wanted him to succeed when he, Betances and Andrew Brackman were the great trio of hope in the farm system.

Manuel Banuelos

It is kind of funny that so many fans did not want the Yankees to sign Carlos Correa due to his participation in the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal, yet it did not stop the Yankees from signing his former Astros teammate Marwin Gonzalez. I had thought Oswaldo Cabrera would inherit the utility role this year from Tyler Wade, but I like Gonzalez better (for now). He may not be the player he once was (when garbage cans assisted him), but he can help. With an ability to play both infield and outfield, he provides Aaron Boone an ingredient to field stronger lineups. Maybe he only proves why the Boston Red Sox cut him last summer, maybe he is something more. With the expansion of the rosters to twenty-eight, I view his signing as ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ If he does not work out, cut him. It is not like the Yankees are making a huge financial commitment with him. He needs a spot on the 40-man roster, but I am sure Brian Cashman will figure it out.

Lastly, Eli Fishman (@elifishman on Twitter) reported this week that George Steinbrenner IV has joined the Low-A Tampa Tarpons as an advanced scouting analyst. Young George is the 25-year-old son of late Yankees co-owner Hank Steinbrenner. He mostly likely holds an ownership interest in the Yankees with his three siblings. I saw many fans cry nepotism at the news, but I like seeing a young Steinbrenner take an interest in learning the baseball side of the business from the ground up. Considering that neither Hank nor Hal exhibited strong interest in the Yankees when they were in their twenties, I like the ambition of Hank’s son. He seems driven to succeed and of course he carries a great name. For those who wish George Steinbrenner were the owner of the Yankees, maybe they will get their wish again one day.

George Steinbrenner IV

Speaking of the Tampa Tarpons, here is wishing a speedy recovery to their manager, Rachel Balkovec, who was struck by a baseball during hitting drills.

Rachel Balkovec (via Instagram)

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Cashman's Swings and Misses...


The Week of Questionable Moves…

A week into the return of Major League Baseball and I think some fans were ready to go back into the Lockout. I generally try to stay positive, but the week has been puzzling to say the least.

I get it...these are no longer George Steinbrenner’s Yankees. The days of a passionate owner who wants to win at all costs are over and have been over for more than a decade. The Boss died in 2010 but he had been phased out the last few years of his life. Outside of 2009, Hal Steinbrenner has never been “all in”, at least not to me. I know, the Yankees generally spend more on payroll than most other teams and are consistently at or above the luxury tax threshold. The criticism is mainly how those dollars have been allocated and the times when spending more money made sense, but the team choose the status quo. 

The biggest surprise of the week was the end of the Gary Sanchez era in New York. I had grown frustrated with Gary like most Yankee fans, but I recognized he was well liked among his teammates, and he carries a reputation as a hard worker, so it was not like he was not trying. Many fans have been screaming all winter for Gary’s ouster, and there was frustration each time a speculative catching target was traded elsewhere (such as Cincinnati’s Tucker Barnhart to the Tigers). El Gary remains an offensive threat, a rare quality among catchers. I was ready to support Gary for the coming season despite his defensive lapses. While I thought it was possible the Yankees might move Gary, I was surprised at the news he and Gio Urshela had been traded to the Minnesota Twins for Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ben Rortvedt. I think my first reaction was ‘why?’

Gary Sanchez / Photo Credit: Nathan Mayberg, Cape Coral Breeze

Josh Donaldson is 36, has had injury challenges in recent years, and is owed $50 million for the next two years which includes a $6 million buyout option in 2024.  Generational free agent talent is available, and the Yankees choose to provide the Minnesota Twins with financial relief. Money that helped the Twins sign the top available free agent shortstop, Carlos Correa, last night. Funny, the Yankees could have used an elite shortstop.

I will start this by saying I like Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the team’s new starting shortstop. He possesses a great attitude and has the ‘I loved the Yankees as a kid’ pic that the fan base always appreciates.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (right)

The Yankees, one of the wealthiest teams in Major League Baseball, are counting on Kiner-Falefa to be the answer at short until either Oswald Peraza or the prized Anthony Volpe are ready for their Major League debut. The Texas Rangers thought so highly of Kiner-Falefa, they signed Corey Seager to a ten-year, $325 million contract to play shortstop and Marcus Semien, a noted shortstop, to a seven-year, $175 million deal to play second base. Kiner-Falefa, an oft-mentioned name for the Yankees offseason rumor mill, seemed like he would stay in Texas to play third base when their top third base prospect and potential starter Josh Jung had surgery in February to repair the torn labrum in his left shoulder. Jung is expected to miss six months. Yet, it did not keep Texas from shipping Kiner-Falefa to the Twins for catcher Mitch Garver when they had the chance. After acquiring Kiner-Falefa last Saturday, the Twins received a financial gift from the Yankees who took the entirety of Donaldson’s and gladly handed them Kiner-Falefa as part of the deal less than 24 hours later.

Kiner-Falefa was easily moved within the past week by two lesser valued teams to be the starting shortstop for the most storied franchise in baseball history. I am sorry but I view Kiner-Falefa as a super utility guy at best. Betting the farm on top prospects who are still a couple years away does not seem to be a sound baseball decision, especially when you are wasting the prime years of Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.  If Kiner-Falefa turns out to be more, like Didi Gregorius did when he took over for Derek Jeter, I will gladly eat my words. It just seems to be heavy risk to me, especially when free agents Carlos Correa and Trevor Story were still available. Rather than pay Donaldson, I would have preferred to use the money toward shortstop and keep Gio Urshela as the starting third baseman (or DJ LeMathieu at worst).  Correa is now a Twin, and the Red Sox seem to be potentially connected to Story. 

I hope this decision does not backfire on GM Brian Cashman but unfortunately, I feel there is strong potential for it.

The Rangers grab Mitch Garver, one of the better catchers in baseball and a proven successful student of Yankees catching coordinator Tanner Swanson, and the Yankees get a young catcher with limited Major League experience with Ben Rortvedt. Despite having some serious guns, Rortvedt is better known for his defense, and presently slots into a catching platoon with Kyle Higashioka.

Ben Rortvedt

The days of loving offensive production from the catching position are over (Jorge Posada spoiled us). It is well recognized that Higgy is not a starting caliber catcher. Maybe he performs better in a platoon. I am sure Gerrit Cole will prefer the new catching tandem, but I am underwhelmed. Rortvedt is possibly an uncovered gem, but then again, it is a little bit of a pipe dream to expect more than what he is. 

In the end, I wanted the Yankees to go big at either shortstop or first base. They did neither. I like Anthony Rizzo and I am glad he is back with the Yankees. However, I had really wanted either Matt Olson or Freddie Freeman, both far superior players, but the Yankees had to get at least Rizzo with no disrespect to Luke Voit. The Atlanta Braves shocked baseball by trading for Olson, who was born in Atlanta, and signing him to a huge long-term contract. The jilted Freeman ended up going home too, returning to his Southern California roots to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I get Freeman’s decision to play closer to home, but Olson was a clear missed opportunity. Yes, I would have included Anthony Volpe in a trade for Olson if that is what it took. Olson is a young established Major League superstar. I will take that over prospect potential any day. I am not calling for the trade of Volpe, I am excited to see him play for the Yankees one day, but when the championship window is right now, you make decisions for today, not tomorrow. 

It was a little bittersweet to see Luke Voit leave yesterday. Clearly, the handwriting was on the wall that his days in Pinstripes were numbered. When Rizzo was re-signed, keeping Voit, the 2020 home run champion, seemed pointless. He could have played DH, but it would have been a job share with guys like Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton. I always appreciated his football mentality on a baseball field. Luke should be thankful the Yankees found a good home for him in San Diego, a team that has the potential to rise above the Dodgers in the NL West with its strong young talent base.  There was never any chance the Yankees would score Blake Snell in the Voit trade despite the wishes of many Yankee fans. San Diego needs every one of their elite arms to overcome their hated rival to the north. Many fans scoffed at the actual return; a single A pitcher who has been clocked at 102 mph (20-year-old Justin Lange). I am okay with the trade. Luke needed a change of scenery and the reason he was expendable (health questions and defensive concerns) limited his trade value. Lange was rated as the eighth best prospect in the strong Padres farm system by

Justin Lange

If Rizzo has a strong bounce back year, he could opt out of his contract after the season so we might be looking for a new first baseman this fall but that is not a concern for now. 

So far this off-season, Brian Cashman has seemingly made the wrong moves. I have been waiting for the huge, brilliant move to make the team better, but we have only served to help make other teams better. Meanwhile, there is a beast growing north of the border in Ontario.  The trade rumors for potential pitchers (primarily centered on A’s pitchers Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas) continue to swirl but we have yet to see any trades involving the Yankees. The Yankees, for the most part, seem content to run it back with last year’s squad who were beaten last October by the over-achieving Boston Red Sox. 

Whether it is true or not, the ‘World Series or Bust’ mentality of Yankees Ownership seems to have left the building. Build enough to make the playoffs as a Wild Card entrant and then play the roll of the dice seems to be the new mantra. If the Yankees finish third or fourth in the AL East this year, Brian Cashman should be fired. It is time for change. If Hal Steinbrenner is worried about paying his creditors and partners, maybe it is time for the Steinbrenner family to cash in their chips. I am sure there are plenty of billionaires that would love to hold the most valuable franchise in Major League Baseball and would be willing to provide a very generous retirement package for Hal and his sisters. 

I miss the old Evil Empire days. Oh well, at least Hal can pay his bills. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Coming Soon: Your New York Yankees...

Photo Credit: Getty Images

MLB Baseball is back, baby! …

Finally, the MLB Lockout has ended, and Spring Training is here.

99 days of drudgery and apathy, brought to you by Major League Baseball. It was a frustrating time for all of us. If the MLB Owners and MLB Players Association had started negotiations when the lockout began in December, we might have been able to enjoy a routine off-season. Yet, egos were at play and there is little question the MLB Owners wanted to crush the union.  At the end of the day, the collective bargaining agreement is simply a mechanism for the owners to protect themselves from themselves. Regardless of how we got here, I am glad the lockout is over, and the players are enroute to Steinbrenner Field in advance of Sunday’s reporting date.   

The longer the labor dispute dragged on, the greater potential to drive fans away. I think Major League Baseball hurt itself in more ways than they can imagine, and they will probably feel the repercussions for years to come. I am ready to jump back in to follow the Pinstripes, but the pain of the past three months will not be easily wiped away. Maybe time will help. Five years can pass like a snap of the finger so we could be headed down this path again in 2026.

Not trying to single out Daniel Burch, co-founder (along with Bryan Van Dusen) of The Greedy Pinstripes, but his tweet yesterday summed up the feeling of many fans across the nation:


I would be lying if I said that I did not harbor these same feelings. The fans were the least considered party in the labor dispute in the battle for our money.  I am hopeful once the games begin, the fans who left will come back. It would help if the MLB Owners showed some empathy for us, but at least some of the players care.

Luke Voit, who could soon be ex-Yankees first baseman, summed it up best when he said, “They locked us out and took a while for us to get discussions going, which I think was frustrating on our end, but we were ready to go at any point”. Voit went on to say, “The fans are everything in the game and we represent what they want. We put the priority or the product on the field, so we just want to be there for them and I just didn’t want to lose fans”. Luke understands, and players with his mindset will help bring back the forgotten fans. 

Luke Voit / Photo Credit: Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports

The roller coaster of the week was a challenge. Wednesday started with optimism but it was full-scale pessimism by the end of the day which ended with more cancellation of games by the MLB Commissioner. As an outside observer, it appeared the two parties could easily drift apart, which would have brought the tremendously contentious topic of backpay for lost games into the equation. I truly felt if the negotiations had derailed Wednesday night, the labor dispute had the potential to extend into the summer. Fortunately, the two sides kept trying and were finally able to come to an agreement on Thursday. I was concerned when it was reported the eight-member MLBPA executive committee, which includes Yankees Zack Britton and Gerrit Cole and former Yank Andrew Miller, had unanimously voted no against the agreement. Fortunately, it was presented to the team player representatives and passed by majority vote. Including the unanimous player executive subcommittee dissent on the agreement, only four team player representatives voted no as the final vote was 26-12.

The clear winner is Jackie Robinson. April 15th is Jackie Robinson Day, and his widow, Rachel, is 99 years old. Wiping out the celebratory day would have been such an injustice that could have never been repaired. Honestly, my first thought when it was announced the new CBA had been agreed to, was the protection of Jackie Robinson Day.   

Photo Credit: Harry Harris, AP

While I am glad they will play a full 162-game schedule, I seriously would have preferred the old standard of 154 games for this season rather than try to make up for the lost games with the revocation of days off and addition of double-headers. The shortened Spring Training heightens the risk for injury, and there is little doubt the Yankees will be leaning hard on Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for reinforcements this year. Adding a three-game series at the end of the season (moving Season’s end from Sunday to mid-week), while maintaining the dates for the World Series, will squeeze the expanded 12-team playoffs into a tighter window. Buckle in, players…no rest for the wicked.

The owners rightfully agreed to increase the luxury tax threshold which elevates from $210 million to $230 million for the 2022 season. It will escalate to $244 million by 2026, the final year of the new CBA. Although there was a fourth tier added for the most extreme penalties ($60 million above the initial threshold, or $290 million for 2022), there is no chance Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner will exceed the threshold by that much. It was clearly a shot fired across town at billionaire Mets owner Steve Cohen.  I have mixed feelings. I do not want a hard salary cap like other sports (the creative contracts in the NFL to get under the cap is insane). But I understand the need for competitive balance, which is why the changes to help discourage tanking are important. There is still a chance to reset penalties every few years, so you know that is Hal’s game plan and he is not going to play near the highest tier.  As for Cohen, how can you fault a billionaire who wants to spend to help his team? I wish we had one of those type owners. I jest of course because Hal does spend…just not with the same passion his father did.

The expansion of the playoffs to twelve teams would have allowed the dangerous Toronto Blue Jays to make the playoffs last season. The Yankees failed in a one-game matchup against the dreaded Boston Red Sox, but I think the outcome would have been the same against the Blue Jays. This screams to why GM Brian Cashman needs to build the right lineup before Opening Day.  It takes talent to beat talent.  It is more than that obviously, but the right pieces must be placed in the jigsaw puzzle to maximize the talent of the roster. I am sure some owners will take the stance of why build for a division championship when you can do less and still make the playoffs. I hope that mindset never enters Yankees ownership.

The draft lottery for the first six picks will help, but MLB needs to do more to prevent teams from tanking.

It did seem odd that the topic of an international draft became such a sticking point at the end, but I am glad they were able to kick the can down the road by a few months. The two sides will continue to talk about the international amateur system and direct draft-pick compensation (referred to as the qualifying offer). If the players want the elimination of the qualifying offer which can discourage teams from paying certain high-ranked free agents due to the draft-pick compensation, they will need to agree to an international draft by July 25th. If not, the qualifying offer remains in place. The Yankees have benefited from no international draft the last couple of years when they spent most of their international pool allotments to sign the highest rated international prospects (Jasson Dominguez and Roderick Arias).  Yet, the international system is fraught with corruption and abuse, and an international draft would help level the playing field. I know the Yankees have benefited in the international market, but I think their ever evolving and improving scouting system will help uncover the gems despite the implementation of a draft.

I expected more of a free agent frenzy on Friday, so it was a bit underwhelming when the first Major League free agent signing was former Tigers reliever Drew VerHagen by the St Louis Cardinals. It was a bit of a gut punch when I saw the San Francisco Giants had signed LHP Carlos Rodon. I had thought he would have been a sneaky good pickup by the Yankees, but I cannot fault the Yankees for not making the two-year, $44 million investment in Rodon.  I suspect Cashman is closely monitoring the pitching market and will swing a trade to bring at least one additional starter into camp. The happiest free agent signing yesterday was when I saw that the Chicago Cubs had signed the most frequently mentioned Yankees “stopgap” shortstop target Andrelton Simmons. Off the market! Nice. I did not want any part of Simmons and would gladly accept a young Oswald Peraza over him. I do not think the Yankees will go into the season with Peraza or Anthony Volpe as the starting shortstop, so it remains to be seen what the Yankees do. 

I try not to think about the potential of adding free agent shortstop Carlos Correa, but the stars do seem aligned for him to sign with the Yankees. The Cubs were the only other team frequently mentioned with Correa and their addition of Simmons seemingly removes them from the equation. New YES Network analyst and former Yankee Cameron Maybin recently said, “If anyone could handle the extra weight the pinstripes carry its @TeamCJCorrea”. Maybin added, “He is really built for the biggest stage and what bigger stage than the boogie down baby!” There is much to be said about the ability to play in New York. It is not for everybody, and New York loves its stars. I know the baggage that comes with Correa (his association with the Astros cheating scandal and his disparaging remarks about Derek Jeter’s defense), but if the Yankees choose to sign Correa, I would be down with it. He is a great player and I feel if he is on your team helping you win, his past indiscretions can be forgiven if he shows remorse. 

Carlos Correa / Photo Credit: Chris Unger, Zuffa LLC

As much as I would love to see Freddie Freeman as a Yankee, it seems like the Los Angeles Dodgers are winning the race to sign the star first baseman. There really has not been any chatter that I have seen to connect the Yankees to Freeman. I probably still prefer Oakland A’s first baseman Matt Olson even if the cost is much greater than simply money. Olson is younger, and he fits the Yankees lineup as well as Freeman would.  But if the Yankees were to make an investment in either Correa or Trevor Story at shortstop, I would be totally down with resigning Anthony Rizzo for first base. Everybody keeps wanting to pencil in DJ LeMahieu at first base and that is such a waste of his talent.  He is a better play at second or third.  If Gleyber Torres struggles again this year, make LeMahieu the starting second baseman until Anthony Volpe is ready. I would play LeMahieu at third base for now and include Gio Urshela in a trade to help improve other areas of the team.

Lastly, I am grateful to hear Miguel Andujar was not seriously injured when he was beaten and robbed of a $7,000 gold chain at his home in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday. There were apparently three shots fired but Andujar was not hit.  He is scheduled to arrive in Tampa this weekend, so I hope he is 100% despite the ordeal. Very scaring news and it certainly could have been much worse. We look forward to your safe arrival in Tampa, Miggy!

Miguel Andujar / Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, The New York Post

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, March 5, 2022

When is the NFL Draft? ...


MLB and the forgotten game…

Damn! I was hopeful last weekend that a Hail Mary pass would salvage negotiations between the MLB Owners and Players Association. I know, it was a case of overly and undue optimism. Players often talk about how Major League Baseball is a business, and sadly, that point has been driven home with us, the fans. The MLB Owners do not care about you, they do not care about me, and they certainly do not care about the players. Their singular goal is to break the union.

Clockwise from top left: Mark Walter, Dodgers; Arte Moreno, Angels; Hal Steinbrenner, Yankees; John Henry, Red Sox; Jerry Reinsdorf, White Sox; and Tom Ricketts, Cubs / Photo Credit: Getty Images

It is disappointing there are MLB Owners, small market owners, who prefer not to play in April when colder temperatures generally keep the larger crowds away and weather that forces postponement of games. The goal should be about bringing Major League Baseball to the fans. Where is the spirit of growing the game, and trying to build audiences (and future players) through younger generations? The MLB is doing a fantastic job of generating interest for the NFL, NBA, and NHL, among other professional sports.

The owners and players seem too far apart on the topic of competitive balance tax (also known as the luxury tax) for resolution anytime soon. Four owners reportedly objected to MLB’s latest proposal to raise the CBT. Bob Castellini (Cincinnati Reds); Chris Ilitch (Detroit Tigers); Ken Kendrick (Arizona Diamondbacks); and Arte Moreno (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). If owners cannot afford to play in the big leagues, they should sell. There are plenty of billionaires who like shiny new toys.

The owners proposed to raise the CBT from the current $210 million to $220 million for the next three seasons, $224 million for 2025, and $230 million for 2026. Meanwhile, for those of us living in reality, the cost of living is escalating by the day. The players propose higher but more reasonable escalated levels ($238 million for 2022; $244 million for 2023; $250 million for 2024; $256 million for 2025; and $263 million for 2026). The players are right to draw a correlation to the increasing revenue generated each year. I do not want the players to give in on this issue, even if it means a continued lockout. This is not because I am a fan of a big market team. It goes back to my belief that if teams cannot afford to play, they need to get out of the game.

I have no idea when pro baseball might return. It seems unfathomable that it would start later than May 1st, but there was a time when I thought the owners would not be foolish enough to disrupt a 162-game schedule given the COVID challenges with the audience the last few years. Silly me. We will soon reach the point where the owners will be pressured by their business partners (TV and Cable networks, radio, advertisers, etc.). It seems it will take extreme external pressure to bring resolution as the two sides have not shown any willingness to compromise on the larger issues. I really do not want a 14-team playoff format. I thought the sides had settled on 12 teams, which I reluctantly accept as if my opinion matters, but the MLBPA is offering 14 teams, the owners’ desire, as a way of helping to restart negotiations. I guess whatever it takes. I want baseball back, but I am tired of begging for it.

MLBPA from left: Andrew Miller; Tony Clark, Executive Director; Bruce Meyer, Chief Union Negotiator; and Max Scherzer / Photo Credit: Wilfredo Lee, AP

At this point, the only sports attraction I look forward to is the NFL Draft, which, for the record, will be held on April 28-30, 2022, in Paradise, Nevada. I know, many will point to March Madness in college basketball or the NBA and NHL championship series, which are exciting times, but for me, football is the only sport that carries nearly as much weight as baseball does. If anything, my love for football has grown due to the MLB Owners rejection of us, the fans.

The MLB Commissioner, I think his name is Lord Voldemort, has cancelled spring training games through March 18th which reinforces we may not see any April regular season games. With all due honesty, fuck Major League Baseball until the MLB Owners can get their acts together.

Derek Jeter’s surprise exit from the ownership ranks. I certainly did not expect to see the news this week that Miami Marlins CEO and minority owner Derek Jeter had stepped down and was liquidating his holdings in the team.

Derek Jeter / Photo Credit: AP

Social media immediately went to the ‘Yankees need a shortstop’ card which was funny, but there is a part of me that hopes he can publicly celebrate his Yankees career in future events. He belongs at Yankees alumni events and other team functions. I have no idea what his next steps will be. It will never happen, but I would love to see the Steinbrenner family allow Derek to buy a small piece of the Yankees with is his Marlins stock liquidation proceeds and Hal give him the keys to run the franchise as managing general partner. I remember when both Hal and his late brother Hank were young and neither wanted to be involved with their father’s team. Hal has always seemed like a reluctant owner. Give the game plan to Derek and let him run the show. Like I said, this will never happen, but it is nice to think about. Regardless of what he does, I hope Derek stays in Major League Baseball. Of course, I want him to be associated with the Yankees, but keeping him in MLB is more important (so long as it has nothing to do the Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays or Houston Astros).

I feel bad for all those former Yankees employees that Jeter poached from his former team when he got to Miami. With Jeter’s departure, I wonder how many more seasons Donnie Baseball will have in South Florida? Fire Aaron Boone, replace him with Don Mattingly. Makes sense to me.

Don Mattingly

Paul O’Neill Day, hopefully. Assuming there is baseball on August 21st, the Yankees will finally retire Paul O’Neill’s #21. While I understand and respect the decision as Paul certainly deserves the honor and recognition, too many numbers get retired. O’Neill’s number will be the 23rd number retired in franchise history. That is nearly 25% of available numbers not exceeding double digits. I always felt that the MLB Hall of Fame should be a prerequisite, but it has not been the case for the Yankees. I hate saying that because Thurman Munson’s number is rightfully retired even though he is not in the Hall of Fame. I feel bad for future generations as it will get increasingly difficult to stay within double digits if 25% of available numbers get retired every 125 years. Not that we should care about the 2397 New York Yankees, but it seems as though they will need to go to an alpha-numeric numbering system at some point. ‘I’ll take A1, please’, says the future reincarnation of myself preparing to play in the late 24th century.

Aside from that rant, congratulations to Paul. I look forward to The Warrior having his day on Yankee Stadium soil even if it is not the field that he spilled blood, sweat, tears, champagne, and a few water coolers. Hat tip to the old and departed Yankee Stadium.

Paul "The Warrior" O'Neill

My 2018 managerial choice is now a member of the New York Yankees. Back when the Yankees had decided to move on from former manager Joe Girardi, I had identified Hensley Meulens, then bench coach for the San Francisco Giants, as my choice for Joe’s replacement. He was a finalist for the job that ultimately went to Aaron Boone.

Fast-forward a few years, and Meulens is now a member of Boone’s staff as the new assistant hitting coach. It seems like Meulens is over-qualified, but I am glad to see him back in the organization. I can easily remember when “Bam-Bam” was a touted Yankees prospect, even if he never lived the dream of his potential. He has a championship pedigree, coaching for three World Series champions in San Francisco. He served as former Mets manager and current Yankees third base coach Luis Rojas’s bench coach for the Mets in 2020. I guess a job is a job, and even if assistant hitting coach is beneath Meulens, it gets him back in the game and helps position him for his next gig. Perhaps Boone has higher expectations for the role, like he had expressed with Eric Chavez, when he used the phrase ‘Swiss Army Knife.’ Meulens certainly can help in so many areas. Plus, with the ability to speak five languages (English, Spanish, Dutch, Papiamento and Japanese), he can relate to so many players. I respect Meulens and I am glad he is part of the Yankees again. I hope he becomes more than just assistant hitting coach.

Hensley Meulens and Luis Rojas / Photo Credit: Jim Rassol, USA TODAY Sports

This post is getting too lengthy so I will wrap up.

I am mad at the MLB Owners for the injustice and hardship they are imposing on young prospects protected by 40-man rosters. Guys like Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, Luis Gil, Deivi Garcia, and others are unable to participate in spring training with other minor leaguers such as Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominguez. The young 40-man prospects do not have million-dollar salaries and inflated bank accounts to help cushion the loss of income, and they are losing valuable training time to help with their continued developments because of the lockout.

The MLB Owners want to scrap this year’s Rule 5 Draft. Agreed. It is unfair, given an apparent shortened season and the free preview of eligible candidates in minor league training camps this spring. The Yankees always get hit hard in Rule 5 given the plethora of talent in the system. Losing Garrett Whitlock last year hurt, and the Yankees stand to get poached hard again this season. Catcher Josh Breaux and RHP Matt Sauer seem likely targets, among others, and I would prefer to keep them in the organization for another season. I am not in favor of other teams gaining the advantages of additional scouting on the players and shortened time frames to hold players on their rosters.

Thank you MLBPA for setting aside $1 million to help the supporters of MLB games (broadcast and concession crews, electricians, ushers, security, transportation, and janitors, among others). I would like to see the MLB Owners match or exceed the support. If Ashton Kutcher and his wife Mila Kunis can pledge $3 million to help Ukraine, I think a few billionaires could stand to be a little more generous with their money. I am not trying to compare the MLB Lockout to Ukraine, the latter is far worse and needs much greater help and support. I am just trying to look at the domestic concern where a hot dog vendor is trying to find money to make rent because a billionaire simply wants to make a point with the union.

As always, Go Yankees!