Friday, November 24, 2023

31 Years Later, Brad Ausmus Comes Home...


Brad Ausmus (Photo Credit: Paul Sancya/AP)

Ausmus joins Yanks as new Bench Coach…

I hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! As much as I love Thanksgiving, it is always exciting to get past the Turkey Day Weekend so that the MLB Hot Stove League can start boiling over.  Soon, the Baseball Winter Meetings will be upon us, and…perhaps…Juan Soto will be a Yankee. 

With no major player acquisitions so far into November, the Yankees did hire a new bench coach this month when they announced veteran manager (and former Yankees prospect) Brad Ausmus had accepted the position.

Be careful what you ask for without being more specific. I have wanted, literally for years, a veteran manager to sit next to Yankees manager Aaron Boone as his bench coach. I always envisioned a guy like Buck Showalter or Willie Randolph, but the Yankees had other plans. They finally avoided hiring one of Boone’s buddies to sit next to him on the bench (Yay!) and went the route of an ex-manager. They just happened to choose a two-time loser. I know Showalter has been fired multiple times and Willie has received the managerial pink slip, but I cannot say that Brad Ausmus ever crossed my mind as a good, viable candidate. Yet, I am willing to give him a chance. 

I have been as frustrated with Aaron Boone as any Yankees fan, but conversely, I feel there is potential for improvement. I do not place the failure of the 2023 season on Boone. He played the hand he was dealt by General Manager Brian Cashman. The blame for the ‘almost a losing season’ sits squarely at the feet of Cashman and his Front Office staff. Even if I had wanted the Yankees to fire Boone after the season, there are not too many great options available. The Texas Rangers struck gold by hiring acclaimed championship manager Bruce Bochy, but sadly, there are not too many Bochy’s idly sitting by waiting for the phone to ring. I did think the San Francisco Giants snagging Bob Melvin from the San Diego Padres was a solid move, but it is hard to get enthused about any of this off-season’s new managers, such as Carlos Mendoza, Pat Murphy, Stephen Vogt, or Mike Shildt.  Houston’s Joe Espada is probably the most deserving of the new managers, but even with Espada’s history with the Yankees, I would not want an Astro as the Yankees manager. Obviously, Aaron Boone is not going anywhere, so complaining about it serves no useful purpose. 

I do think Brad Ausmus, with his experience, can help Boone make better decisions. No doubt Boone is the final decision maker, but better information leads to better choices which leads to better decisions.  Ausmus has sat in Boone’s seat, and he can offer insight that the prior bench coaches before him (Mendoza and Josh Bard) could not. 

Ausmus managed the Detroit Tigers from 2014 through 2017 and was 314-332 (.486 winning percentage) during his time in Motown. He managed the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2019, leading the Halos to a 72-90 record and a fourth-place finish in the AL West. His overall managerial record is 386-422 (.478 winning percentage). He had replaced a popular Angels manager, Mike Scioscia, and upon Brad’s firing following the 2019 season, the Angels hired Joe Maddon. History showed that Maddon fared no better than Ausmus before his departure from the Angels. The Chicago Cubs’ World Series-winning manager was only 130-148 for the Angels from 2020 until he was fired in 2022.    

Ausmus served as bench coach for the Oakland (soon-to-be Las Vegas) A’s in 2022. He only spent one season in the role before he decided to pursue a front-office position. A year later, with no front office position in hand, Ausmus must have rethought his career strategy when Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman came calling. 

The New York Mets hired former Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons as bench coach for their new manager, Carlos Mendoza, and I saw people posting on social media that the Mets were just copying the Yankees. The Mets are just doing what the Yankees should have done when they first hired Boone.  They recognized that a first-time manager would benefit from a voice of experience on the bench. 

Ausmus is an intelligent guy, and I think he will help Boone. I do not believe he will be a ‘yes’ person for the Front Office or Boone.  No doubt I would have preferred Willie Randolph, but it is what it is. I will never choose negativity over positive outcomes, so I want Ausmus to succeed, and I hope he has the support of the Yankees Universe to help him thrive in the Bronx. Years ago, he was a young prospect in the Yankees organization seeking the path to Yankee Stadium. The Colorado Rockies nixed those dreams when they chose him in the November 1992 MLB Expansion Draft, but life is about second chances. Ausmus gets a second chance to realize his dreams in Pinstripes. 

I am excited to see what Brad and new hitting coach James Rowson can bring to the team next Spring.  They are here to make Aaron Boone and the Yankees better. They are here to help rebuild our faith and trust in the organization. I have nothing against Carlos Mendoza, who is highly respected in the Yankees organization, but I feel the Yankees are better with Ausmus as the bench coach. 

Yankees interested in Jordan Montgomery

Recent reports show the Yankees, among other teams, are interested in free-agent left-hander Jordan Montgomery. While I believe the team that offers the most money will be the victor in signing Gumby, I wonder if he has any hurt feelings over his trade to the St Louis Cardinals at the deadline a couple of years ago. He has always taken the high road, and even if he has hurt feelings, it is nothing that money cannot cure. 

I would love to see the Yankees re-sign Montgomery, but I am not optimistic. I think the Texas Rangers, where Monty just won a World Series ring, hold the inside track. The Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex offers great advantages for housing and quality of life, and those factors will certainly come into play. If the Yankees do not re-sign Montgomery, my preference would be for him to stay in Texas or go to a National League club. I do not want to see him sign with the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, or Toronto Blue Jays (or the Baltimore Orioles, for that matter). 

Jordan Montgomery (Photo Credit: Julio Cortez/AP)

Monty has grown as a pitcher since his departure, and I think he can help the starting rotation. Barring any major moves this offseason, Carlos Rodón will once again attempt to become the rotation’s second-best starter after a failed try during his first season. I am unsure what the Yankees will get with Nestor Cortes, Jr. Clarke Schmidt showed improvement, but he seems to be on everybody’s mock trade list for Juan Soto. Michael King will be looking to build upon his early success as a starter.  The only sure thing in the Yankees’ rotation is Gerrit Cole. Jordan Montgomery would be the starting rotation’s great stabilizer.  The Yankees have good, young pitching coming up, and the talent is beginning to surface at Triple-A, which is a short phone call away from New York. I am excited about Drew Thorpe, Chase Hampton, Clayton Better, a healthy Luis Gil, and others, but I love the certainty that a good veteran like Montgomery would bring to the rotation. 

I hope the Yankees can entice Monty to return. I am not optimistic, but I am in favor of his return.  As they say, you can never have too much pitching. If the Yankees are successful in trading for San Diego’s Juan Soto, they WILL lose pitching. It is a foregone conclusion. I want Yoshinobu Yamamoto as well, but my confidence about the Yankees signing him has weakened considerably in the past few weeks. Too much competition, and there is always at least one random MLB owner each offseason who foolishly throws excessive cash at superstar players and potential stars. Hal Steinbrenner will never be anybody’s fool, and he will keep his pennies neatly accounted for. So, if I had my choice, I would take Yamamoto over Montgomery, but realistically, I think Montgomery over Yamamoto is the more likely successful outcome.  To walk away with neither would be a loss. I am not interested in Blake Snell, despite his NL Cy Young Award, and I want no part of Marcus Stroman. Maybe Brian Cashman surprises us, or maybe he does not. I recognize the Yankees are in severe need of roster reconstruction on the playing field, but good pitching is always needed. It cannot be Gerrit Cole and a bunch of question marks if the Yankees expect to contend in 2024. 

Yankees sign Yerry De Los Santos

Even if it is a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training, I thought the signing of former Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Yerry De Los Santos was a move worth making. De Los Santos turns 26 next month. The 6’2” righty pitched in 22 games for the Pirates in 2023. He totaled 24 1/3 innings, with 18 strikeouts. He gave up 9 earned runs while facing 104 batters. He allowed only 1 home run but surrendered 17 total hits and 13 walks. 

Yerry De Los Santos (Photo Credit: Pirates Prospects)

If the Yankees see something they can fix, I trust them. Granted, it is hard to have any trust in the Yankees Front Office, but to their credit, they have shown proficiency for uncovering talented pitchers. If De Los Santos is part of the 2024 Yankees Bullpen, this signing will be viewed as a sneaky good move. If he falters, oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.   

De Los Santos does not solve the problem of needing more left-handed relief pitching. There will be more moves, and hopefully, the next great lefty reliever will be a Yankee soon (whoever that may be). So many needs, so little time. De Los Santos is a start. 

Welcome to the Yankees Family, Yerry!

As always, Go Yankees!