Saturday, January 22, 2022

Wherefore art thou, Baseball? ...


MLB Lockout continues with no end in sight…

Monday, when the MLBPA is expected to present their counterproposal to the MLB Owners, will mark ten days since the Owners made their feeble first economics pitch. These talks need to pick up some urgency if Spring Training expects to open on time. At this point, it does seem Spring Training will be delayed, but hopefully the two sides can find common ground to ensure the regular season is not disrupted.

I wish the two sides would come to the table with the intent to hammer out an agreement and stay there until it is resolved. February is slightly more than a week away and it feels the two sides remain miles apart even if they really are not. Yet, neither side has brought proposals that should be seriously considered by the other side. It just seems like each side is saying ‘It is my way or the highway.’ Meanwhile, the fans suffer. From a fan’s perspective, it does not really matter who wins the latest CBA fight. We want restoration of America’s favorite pastime.

Not much happening in the Yankees Universe. With the passing of each day, I think the Yankees will take the lesser road to a stop-gap shortstop for 2022. As much as I think Carlos Correa would be a great Yankee, Hal Steinbrenner is not going to pay the elite shortstop the $350 million it will take to sign him. Scott Boras will get his new client truckloads of cash. He just won’t be getting Hal Steinbrenner’s money. I am beginning to lose confidence the Yankees will be players for Trevor Story. Nick Ahmed, Elvis Andrus, Andrelton Simmons, or Isiah Kiner-Falefa, among others, seem more likely to be Yankees than the talented Story. As fans, we want Carlos Correa, Matt Olson, and Luis Castillo. In Hal’s reality, we will end up with Simmons, Anthony Rizzo, and Carlos Rodon…if we are lucky. I do not have the faith in Steinbrenner to think he will do whatever is necessary to make the Yankees as competitive as they can be. He will do enough to give the appearance that he is trying, while ensuring his family’s cash cow continues to deliver for their pockets.

The only notable Yankees news of the past week involved former Yankees.

Melky Cabrera, two years after his last appearance in a Major League game, announced his retirement. The crown jewel of his career is the 2009 World Series Championship with the Yankees. Cabrera made his MLB debut for the Yankees in July 2005 and remained with the team through the championship season. In December 2009, he was sent to the Atlanta Braves in the trade that brought Javier Vazquez (fail) and Boone Logan to New York. Life in Atlanta did not go well for Cabrera, but he found new life in later years with the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants. He spent time with the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Pittsburgh Pirates to round out his career. He was in the New York Mets organization in 2020 but never made the active MLB roster.

Melky Cabrera / Photo Credit: AP, Frank Franklin II

For his career, he played in 1,887 MLB games. He hit 144 home runs and 854 RBIs, batting .285/.334/.417 with .326 wOBA, 101 WRC+ and 15.0 WAR. His time as a Yankee was fun while it lasted. I can still vividly remember his excitement in post-game celebrations. Granted, that was more memorable than his actual play on the field but still, every team needs enthusiastic supporting role players who can help. Cabrera did and I wish him the best with his retirement and post-playing career.

The other former Yankee made news for very horrific reasons. Sergio Mitre, who pitched for the Yankees in 2009 and 2010, and again late in the 2011 season, was sentenced by a Mexican court to 40 to 60 years in prison for the rape and murder of his former partner’s 22-month-old daughter. Honestly, 40 to 60 years is not enough for his crimes. It is sickening to think he once played for the Yankees. May he rot in prison and never see the light of day again.

Speaking of former Yankees, Ken Davidoff had a nice piece this week in The New York Post about Andrew Velazquez. As we all know, the Bronx native became such a fan favorite last summer. After the season, he was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. While some players could hold resentment for being traded away, Velazquez is appreciative for his time in his hometown and harbors no ill feelings. Frankly, I wish the Yankees could have found a way to keep Velazquez around, especially given the subsequent trade of Tyler Wade to the same Angels. Velazquez was never going to win the starting shortstop job but with no current true shortstops on the roster, he could have fought for a backup role. In Davidoff’s column, Velazquez was asked to identify the highlight of his time with the Yankees: “I think just putting the uniform on before the game, in the locker room. Taking the field. Little things like that. Warming up and seeing people I knew from my neighborhood screaming in the stands. That stuff, you can’t buy that stuff.” Thank you, Andrew, we are equally appreciative of your time in Pinstripes. We wish you all the best in sunny warm Orange County, California. 

Andrew Velazquez / Photo Credit: AP, Adam Hunger

While I would still love to see Carlos Beltran on Aaron Boone’s staff, I think he would be a fine addition to the YES Network crew to make up for David Cone’s reduced schedule and the retirement of Ken Singleton. The job could eventually help him open doors for future MLB opportunities. While it is tough to forgive the sins of his role in the Houston Astros cheating scandal, he deserves a second chance as much as A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora were given.

I think the New York Giants did well with their selection of Joe Schoen as the new general manager. It seems like only a matter of time until Brian Daboll is named the new head coach. But unlike many Yankee fans, I am not a Giants fan. I am a lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings, a team owned by a Giants fan (Zygi Wilf). I think my goal in life is to experience one championship with the Vikings. It is a very sharp contrast to life as a Yankees fan. Early in childhood, it felt like the Vikings were in Super Bowl contention every season during the Fran Tarkenton years. Yet, many years later, there have been a couple of near misses but never legitimate shots for the Lombardi Trophy. While I liked Mike Zimmer as the Vikings head coach for the past eight years, there was no question it was time for a change. I thought GM Rick Spielman might survive, but he was dismissed with Zimmer. Trader Rick always made the NFL Draft fun with his desire to accumulate as many draft picks as possible. A few more hits with those draft picks and he might still be employed by the Vikings.

So, where do the Vikings go from here? It is hard to look at the roster and feel they are Super Bowl-caliber after their 8-9 season. They did lose so many close games this season leaving us to wonder what could have been, but there will be free agent losses this off-season, and the Vikings do not have much salary cap space given how much money they pay quarterback Kirk Cousins. While Cousins is not an elite QB, I would not be opposed to his return under a new head coach that might be better suited to maximize Cousins’ talents. The offense has some talented players with RB Dalvin Cook and WRs Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. TE Irv Smith, Jr., who missed the 2021 season due to injury, will be back and is expected to be a big part of the offense. Yet, if the Vikings could trade Cousins and his contract, it would allow the team to improve other areas of the roster so I have mixed feelings on the topic. If he is traded, Kellen Mond is not ready to take over as the starting quarterback.

The decisions that must be made will reside with the team’s new to-be-named general manager and head coach. The GM search has been narrowed to two candidates. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, currently VP of Football Operations for the Cleveland Browns, and Ryan Poles, Executive Director of Player Personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs. My pick: Adofo-Mensah. The culture of the Vikings needs to change. One player recently referred to it as a fear-based organization under the Zimmer/Spielman regime. Adofo-Mensah, 40, has taken an unconventional route to the NFL. He played basketball for Princeton, graduating with an economics degree. He also holds a master’s degree from Stanford University. After a brief career on Wall Street, he spent seven years in the San Francisco 49ers organization. His roles included Manager for Research and Development and Vice President of Operations. In 2020, he was hired by the Browns in a role that is essentially the assistant GM to General Manager Andrew Berry. I like the front office experience Adofo-Mensah has gained, and he is ideally suited for success at the next level. I certainly will not be disappointed if Ryan Poles gets the job, but I prefer Adofo-Mensah. The second interviews for both men are scheduled for next week. The new GM could be in place by the end of the week.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (L) and Andrew Berry / Photo Credit:, John Kuntz

The Vikings are on record for saying the GM will be hired before the head coach. When the search started, my favorites were former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, the only NFL coach to win a Super Bowl in Minnesota (his Eagles won Super Bowl LII on February 4, 2018, at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis) and Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Since then, I have changed my mind after further researching candidates. While I should not let one game sway me, the way the Cowboys lost their playoff game against the 49ers left a bad taste.

My current favorites for Vikings head coach, ranked in order, are: 1) Raheem Morris, defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams, 2) Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, and 3) DeMeco Ryans, defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers. It is funny because after a defense-minded coach like Zimmer, I wanted an offensive coach. Yet, with more thought, there are defensive coaches who can better understand the offensive game like Morris. Some Vikings fans are quick to point out Raheem’s dismal performance as head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009-2011). Morris was only thirty-two when he was named Tampa Bay’s head coach and he admits today that he was not ready. Now forty-five, he has experienced success in coaching roles on both sides of the ball. I liken this situation to when Joe Torre was named manager of the Yankees and called “Clueless Joe” by the fans (not me, for the record). If Morris can similarly bring championships to Minneapolis, I am all for it.

Raheem Morris / Photo Credit: AP

I hope everyone, except for Rob Manfred, has an enjoyable day. Thanks for reading.

As always, Go Yankees!