Thursday, October 26, 2023

Is the World Series Over Yet? ...


Gerrit Cole (Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Ready for the Hot Stove League…

Hopefully, the Texas Rangers eliminate the Arizona Diamondbacks in four games so that we can get on to more important matters like the 2023-24 Hot Stove League. As much as I want to see the D-Backs lose, it is hard to get motivated to watch this year’s World Series even if there are a few ex-Yankees on the Rangers roster. Give one of the teams the trophy and let’s move on. I am ready for the start of free agency, finalization of the 40-man rosters in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft, preparation for the Winter Meetings, etc. The only headlines I want to see are “Yankees acquire…”“Yankees to sign…”, or “Yankees fire…”

I am assuming this will be the Winter of Discontent as Yankees fans will heighten their expectations for a Juan Soto trade in the coming days and weeks (as if they have not already been elevated to unrealistic proportions), only to have the hopes dashed when the San Diego Padres either decide to retain Soto or trade him to a Yankees rival. I will add the usual caveat that I hope the Yankees prove me wrong and grab one of baseball’s brightest talents. Nevertheless, I must take the ‘see it to believe it’ approach with Juan Soto and the Yankees. I refuse to go down that path of disappointment.

Juan Soto (Credit: ClutchPoints)

With speculation that the Yankees will have to trade Kyle Higashioka or Ben Rortvedt now that Austin Wells has proven he is Major League-ready, I do wonder about Jose Trevino. While Trevi was outstanding in 2022, his 2023 season was forgettable. Sure, he played hurt, but so far, he is just a one-season wonder. I am not so sure the decision of whether to keep Trevi or Higashioka should be an easy one. There is an argument to make that Higgy should stay. Rortvedt, even without the hit tool, earned raves for his work with Gerrit Cole.  I think Higgy will be the one to go, either through trade in November or he will be non-tendered, but if the Yankees offloaded Trevino instead, it should not catch anyone by surprise. I have greater hopes and expectations for Wells as the everyday catcher. The Yankees have a strong history of great offensive catchers, and Wells did nothing to show that he is Gary Sanchez behind the plate. In other words, he surprised people with his defensive play (better than expected). The remaining catcher that serves as backup should be the player most capable of being a backup.  As simplistic as it sounds, if Trevino believes he should be the starting catcher, does he let it affect his attitude or does he fully embrace his reduced role, recognizing Wells is the better offensive player? The best place for Trevino could end up being elsewhere depending on how this turns out. Trevi does not strike me as an egotistical player, but the decision of who to keep should not be considered lightly. 

Hopefully, the catching tandem will be decided in short order so that the Yankees can move on to the bigger issues and challenges confronting the team.

Help Wanted: Hitting Coach

I was disappointed to hear the news that Yankees hitting coach Sean Casey has decided he will not return in 2024. I liked his work with the veteran players and thought he brought great energy to the dugout. I totally respect his reasons for leaving. He has two teenage daughters in Pittsburgh and holds joint custody with his ex-wife. He did not want to be away from his girls for eight months out of the year. Casey is not the first, nor will he be the last player or coach to decide family is more important. I respect his work in replacing the fired Dillon Lawson, and I hope the Yankees can find someone who is as passionate about hitting as Casey is. 

Sean Casey (Photo Credit: USATSI)

I have seen some fans suggest Tino Martinez. I like Tino and he was one of my favorite players when he played, but I have mixed feelings about his return as a coach. He resigned as the hitting coach for the Miami Marlins in 2013 after rumors of physical and verbal abuse of players and coaches. I have no idea if there is truth to those rumors, and at this point, I do not really care, but Tino has not received a Major League job since his departure from the Marlins. I would rather see someone who has been consistently connected with the game at the big-league level in the recent past, given how much the game has changed over the last decade. I hope the Yankees do not take the easy road and promote one of the hitting coach assistants, Casey Dykes, or Brad Wilkerson. I would prefer an outsider. Like Casey, the new hitting coach does not need to have ties with the Yankees. I want anyone who can get the MOST out of Giancarlo Stanton and the other Yankees hitters. While 2023 proved that you cannot be solely dependent upon analytics, it does remain an important skill along with the re-discovered old-school baseball acumen. 

I often see fans wanting former Yankees greats as the new hitting coach, like Paul O’Neill. Being a great player does not automatically equate to greatness as a coach. I want a great coach without regard to how successful his playing career was. The Yankees need someone who can effectively communicate with the young players as well as the veterans. Someone who can marry analytics into strong professional baseball knowledge, and help the players be the best they can be. I truly hope the Yankees take a patient approach to find the best option for the role. The Yankees cannot afford another season of hitting like the Oakland Athletics. 

We are literally wasting the best years of Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge.

I would like to see Don Mattingly come back, but I doubt he would give up his gig as the bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays. After managing the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Miami Marlins, hitting coach seems like too much of a step back. I know he is a beloved Yankee, and you would think the Pinstripes would hold special appeal for him, but it would have to be the right job for his return. I do not feel hitting coach, as much as I would like to see him do it, is the right job for him at this stage of his career. There is also the concern in the back of my mind, justified or not, that I do not want to see a Yankee legend fail in a coaching role. Even though he never won a World Series, I have great memories of Mattingly’s time as a Yankee. I never want those fond memories to fade. 

Don Mattingly

General Manager Brian Cashman and his suspect Front Office have tough decisions ahead. Time to drop the ‘smartest guy in the room’ approach and roll up the sleeves. Winning should be the theme of the 2023-24 offseason. Building a winning team for 2024 AND winning back the alienated Yankees fan base. Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner needs to stand up, take his lumps, and tell us how he is going to improve the New York Yankees. Every move this offseason will be under a microscope. As much as the Yankees like to control the narrative, it is going to write itself based on what the Yankees do or do not accomplish this offseason.

Grab some popcorn.

As always, Go Yankees! 

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