Saturday, April 10, 2021

There Will Be Better Days...

Photo Credit: Dirk Shadd, Tampa Bay Times


Yankees off to usual slow start…

Can we take a mulligan on the season and start over? Slow starts seem to be a “Yankee thing”…unfortunately. It will get better. The wins will come but I always have unrealistic optimism for an undefeated streak, or least an extraordinary amount of April wins, to start the season, propelling the momentum for a strong season (much like how the 2018 Boston Red Sox charged to the championship) , but in usual fashion for our favorite team, a slow start eventually followed by consecutive series wins that puts the Yankees in the upper part of the division by June is the standard formula.

It is early, but the AL East standings appear to be in inverse order: 1. Orioles. 2. Red Sox. 3. Yankees & Rays. 5. Blue Jays. Flip the standings, drop the Jays and Rays a spot or two, and I am good.

I was hoping for more with the first game against last year’s AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays yesterday, especially with Corey Kluber on the mound. Sadly, it was not vintage Klubot. Not going to fret over one start, but it was not very pretty. Pulled with one out in the third inning, Kluber’s final line was five runs (three earned) with two walks and three strikeouts. He failed to preserve a brief two-run Yankees lead, and ultimately took the loss when Nick Nelson allowed the Rays to put the game out of reach. Bummer. There will be better Kluber starts this summer, but I was kind of hoping for a better first start against the Rays. 

Photo Credit: Associated Press

I am unsure what to think about Aaron Judge’s latest injury. The Yankees always seem to be guarded with the information they will release about Judge and his ailments. Judge will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023 (and age 31). I have growing doubts the Yankees will commit long-term dollars to Judge and it is sad. When healthy, he is such a great asset…the bat, the glove, the clubhouse personality, etc. But if he cannot stay on the field, what is the value? The Yankees would be foolish to tie up so much money for a player who will become an even greater injury risk as he moves through his 30’s. Judge remains one of my favorite players and I really hope that he can put consistent time on the field to earn an extension. It is only my optimism, not desire, that is starting to fade. If the injuries continue, the desire will exit.

Speaking of health, Gio Urshela missed yesterday’s game after side effects from his vaccine shot. He is expected back this weekend, possibly today. Glad to hear much of the team has been getting their vaccinations and they do not show the vaccine hesitancy of other MLB teams. It is unfortunate Urshela suffered the adverse reaction but hopefully he is doing much better today. 

This was not a good week for health news regarding former Yankees players. The worst was former Yankees starter James Paxton. Paxton was pulled from his first start with his new/old team, the Seattle Mariners, after 24 pitches, recording only four outs. Afterwards, it was disclosed that Paxton likely needs Tommy John surgery. If so, he will be derailed for the rest of the season and likely all of 2022. I do not wish any ill will toward anyone and certainly not against the Big Maple, but it is somewhat of a relief the Yankees did not sign him to a new contract last off-season. No doubt his injury history played into the decision and rightfully so. Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon carry their own risk, but for now, knock on wood, they are healthy. Paxton’s MRI has apparently been sent to noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles for a second opinion. Dr. ElAttrache is the Head Team Physician for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Rams. If this goes the path of Tommy John surgery, I wish Paxton the best for a successful procedure and a speedy and full recovery. He is a good man and I look forward to seeing him on the field again even if he no longer wears the pinstripes.

Photo Credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

The other ailing former Yank is New York Mets reliever Dellin Betances. Betances was placed on the 10-day injured list this week with a right shoulder impingement. Based on his last couple of seasons, Betances has picked up the tag “oft-injured” and his reduced velocity has been well documented. He was a great Yankee but it appears the Mets will never see that player. Not that I want the Mets to be successful (I do not) but I want Betances to succeed. Hopefully Dellin can overcome the latest health challenges, without missing too much time, and pitch effectively for the Mets. It is a contract year for him (with limited options last off-season, he exercised his player option which pays him $6 million this year but he is an unrestricted free agent after the season) and it is hard to see the New York native staying in the City.  He deserves better and I hope he finds it.

Photo Credit: ESPN

Color me as perplexed as anyone when the Yankees acquired the poor hitting Rougned Odor. When I saw the Texas Rangers were paying Odor’s salary, basically meaning Odor has no impact on the luxury cap, I can certainly see why he would appeal to Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner. But aside from the homers, the bat has been horrific for a long time. I know he is only 27 (that keeps seeming to be the first positive everyone puts forward) but we all know young age does not equal success. I am skeptical the Yankees can find magic in his bat (or his glove). Thairo Estrada lost his seat at the table to make room for Odor when he was designated for assignment. Honestly, I would prefer Estrada over Odor. If the Yankees somehow unlock the potential Odor once held, great for them. I would love to see it happen. Realistically, I think he is just a future ex-Yank that could not cut it. 

Photo Credit: Smiley N Pool, The Dallas Morning News

The biggest surprise of the trade for Odor was remembering that Yankees prospect Antonio Cabello, who went to Texas with outfield prospect Josh Stowers, is only 20. He’s been around for so long, it seems like he should be older. The Yankees had moved the former catcher to the outfield, but the Rangers intend to resume his catching career. I hope Cabello achieves his dreams in North Texas. As for Stowers, it never really seemed like he had a future in New York when the Yankees acquired him a couple of seasons ago for the prospect they had acquired in the Sonny Grade trade to Cincinnati (second baseman Shed Long).  I get the Yankees’ logic. It is just a roll of the dice. If it works, they will be heroes. If it does not, Odor can be easily dismissed without financial ramifications. So, for now, welcome to the Yankees family, Mister Odor.  

I hope Estrada either clears waivers and is outrighted to the minors or the Yankees can trade him for something (bullpen help?). I would hate to see him simply cut for nothing.

Congratulations to Joe Musgrove for throwing the first no-hitter of the young season. Last off-season, before he was traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the San Diego Padres, many Yankee fans were calling for the Yankees to acquire him. Instead, the Yankees went for a different Pirates starter after Musgrove went to the land of “Sunny and 74”. I certainly do not regret the acquisition of Jameson Taillon and as previously noted, one start does not define a season, but good for Musgrove and congrats to the Yankee fans who saw the potential. It is kind of funny that Musgrove’s pitching coach is Larry Rothschild.

I am glad baseball is back. It is nice to see some people in the stands again after last year’s empty seats and cardboard cut-outs in some parks. I look forward to fuller stadiums as we move into the summer and fall.  Nothing better than a packed, energized Yankee Stadium crowd for a pennant chase and trophy hunt. It has been far too long since we have had that experience.

As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Injuries are Un-a-Voit-able…


Injured List claims Luke Voit, opens door for Bruce…

Hopefully, it is a not a case of “here we go again”, but the first major injury of the year occurred when the Yankees announced several days ago that Luke Voit would undergo surgery for a meniscus tear in his left knee. He had been dealing with swelling in the knee after games and decided it was better to take care of the issue now, rather than later in the season. With no baseball activity for the next three weeks, he is expected to be out until May…possibly into June, depending upon how his rehab goes. 

The beneficiary of the Voit news is obviously Jay Bruce who had exercised his opt-out on Thursday and was within the 48-hour window for the team to decide their plans for the veteran outfielder/converted first baseman. If Voit had been healthy, I fully expected Bruce to be handed his walking papers. There was no way the team was going to trade Mike Tauchman (versatility plays, versatility pays). If Tauchman had stunk it up this spring, I would have been all in favor of his trade, but he showed enough flashes of his 2019 version. If he can prove 2020 was the fluke and not 2019, he will play a very vital role for the Yankees this season even if first base is not one of his positions. Maybe he should pick up Luke’s glove. Just kidding…maybe. Meanwhile, Bruce is the one trying to prove he can get better as a first baseman with regular playing time, at least for the foreseeable future. Let us hope Bruce’s defense does not make us miss Voit’s glove, who is not exactly in Don Mattingly’s realm as a superior defender.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, New York Post

It is anybody’s guess what happens when Voit returns. Given his linebacker’s mentality, I’d bet the under for his return. If Bruce is playing well, it will be extremely difficult to cut him. I guess that is a question the Yankees will have to address when the time comes. Other injuries will certainly determine present and immediate needs. 

To make room for Bruce on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved Clarke Schmidt (right elbow strain) to the 60-day injured list.

The loser of the Voit news is Mike Ford. As a choice for Luke’s replacement, he will instead start the season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Granted, he will be the first option for help if Bruce has any difficulty at first or gets hurt.  Ford cannot just sit back and wait for the phone call. He has Chris Gittens breathing down his neck. Not that I ever try to read too much into spring stats, but Gittens certainly represents a first base option for the future based on the past few weeks. He played more games this spring than Ford even if he did not get as many overall at-bats. He hit three homers and drove in 7 runs in 20 games while Ford had one home run and 3 RBIs in 11 games. Gittens delivered 6 hits in 19 ABs, while Ford had only one more hit despite 8 more at-bats. At 27, Gittens is a year younger and four inches taller. Not that either factor is meant to imply Ford cannot do the job or that Gittens is better, but Chris has shown flashes he may be ready to help.


I had really wanted Derek Dietrich to make the team, but he has not played well enough to justify it. After his opt-out Thursday, the Yankees gave him his release. I certainly have no issue with the Yankees’ decision. I am only disappointed Dietrich did not show or do more. I suppose there is a chance he could sign a new minor league deal with the Yankees to be a phone call away, but I think it is more likely he will try to catch on elsewhere. 

Lucas Luetge, 34, has certainly proved dreams come true. With improved spin rates, he appears to be a lock for the Yankees bullpen during the absence of the injured Zack Britton. In 10 1/3 innings, Luetge has given up only two runs and two walks while striking out 18.  The strikeouts lead the relievers and are second most on the team behind Gerrit Cole. I have my doubts Luetge will be able to sustain his spring training performance over the course of a long season but for now, he will get to experience life in Pinstripes on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. That is something no one can ever take from him. 

The clear loser is Tyler Lyons. While Lyons has struck out 13 batters in 7 1/3 innings, he has also given up six runs. Not that the Yankees need to replace a lefty with a lefty, but Lyons goes down as a camp disappointment and lost opportunity as a result.

Of the right-handed relievers, I thought Kyle Barraclough had some potential to open eyes, but he appears to be just bullpen depth to be stashed away in Eastern Pennsylvania. Maybe that is all he ever was. I just try to be a little more optimistic than I should at times. 

I am glad to hear Justin Wilson is making his first steps to return. Despite an unimpressive spring, he will be counted on as a high leverage reliever this season and we need him to round into form. 

I was a little bummed when the Boston Red Sox grabbed Yankees pitching prospect Garrett Whitlock in last December’s Rule 5 Draft and probably a little more disappointed that he has been a camp surprise who has ensured a place on Boston’s Opening Day roster. I guess it is good for him given he probably would not have achieved similar success with the Yankees. At least not right now.  The likelihood the Red Sox will be a division bottom feeder this year probably means Whitlock will be able to stay on the roster for the duration of the season. Perhaps it is just a testament to the strength of arms the Yankees have in their system. It is simply not possible to keep all of them. I would never begrudge Whitlock opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. This is what he has played for, even if he is now wearing the wrong uniform.

Speaking of the Red Sox, the COVID-19 diagnosis for Matt Barnes probably means Boston will open the season with Adam Ottavino as their closer. Look, I loved Otto as a Yankee, but I am glad he is not my team’s closer. When he is on, he is unhittable. But when he is off, balls are going everywhere except into the catcher’s mitt. Good luck with that, Alex Cora. 

Last off-season, I wanted the Yankees to re-sign Masahiro Tanaka. Instead, the team made the decision to use Masa’s money to sign Corey Kluber and trade for Jameson Taillon. It seemed a bit risky given the recent health history for the latter two pitchers. Yet, the healthy pitchers this spring have been Kluber and Taillon. As for Masa, a calf injury will sideline him and delay his return debut for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. For Masa’s sake, I am glad it is just a calf injury and nothing to do with his arm or shoulder. Hopefully, he will be back soon and ready to show Rakuten fans what they have missed while he was away in New York.

It is always tough when former Yankee greats pass. The latest is 96-year-old Dr Bobby Brown. At 96 years, he had a good run. I primarily remember him as the President of the American League, but he did have a successful post-playing career as a cardiologist in Texas. I would say it was a life well served. As a third baseman, Brown won four World Series titles with the Yankees and was the last surviving member of the 1947, 1949 and 1950 World Series champions. Brown was noted for his post-season success. In 17 World Series games and 46 plate appearances, he hit .439/.500/.707/1.207, with five doubles and three triples. I like the story of when he told his wife during their courtship prior to marriage and before he had met her parents. “Tell your father I’m a third baseman for the Yankees. Tell your mother I’m in medical school.” Dr. Brown, thank you for your accomplishments, for your memories, and for your service. You will be missed but never forgotten. Rest peacefully.


As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Deivi Pleads the Fifth...

  

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Garcia states his case today…

Today is a big day for Deivi Garcia (well, as big as Spring Training games can get). For him, it is a battle for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Facing expected top AL East challenger, the Toronto Blue Jays (sorry Rays fans), Deivi can make a statement for Manager Aaron Boone and others with a strong performance.

Personally, and although I do not care for him personally, I think Domingo German has the leg up (arm up?) on Garcia. German has pitched very effectively this Spring and with a stronger MLB resume, I think German will receive first consideration. There will be opportunities for the young guys like Garcia, I just do not think he starts the year in the rotation (barring injuries, of course).  If I had my choice, I would love to see Garcia beat out German, but the realist in me says it will not happen. Yet, I think he will receive his opportunities over the course of the long season, and it will be fun to watch him get better and better with every pitch. Maybe this time next year, we are not asking if he will make the rotation, but which spot in the order of the starters.

I am starting to think Jay Bruce is going to make the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. When he was signed to a minor league deal, I did not really see how he fit the roster, but he continues to prove he can add value with his bat, plus playing some time at DH and first base. Not sure how much I would want to throw him in the outfield, but an occasional spot start is not the end of the world. I had wanted Derek Dietrich over Bruce but at this point, if one makes it, it is more probable it will be Bruce. I think the loser if Bruce makes the team is Mike Ford, not Mike Tauchman, but who knows. There are surprises every year.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

I am not a big fan of Tyler Wade, but his ability to play shortstop provides him with some degree of roster protection. So, I cannot really see the versatile Dietrich taking Wade’s roster spot. Kyle Holder, currently in camp with the Cincinnati Reds through Rule 5, could be returned to the Yankees if he does not make the Reds (he is presently 1-for-11 this Spring). Not saying he would make the Yankees roster, but he will be a resource at the alternate training site if the Yankees need shortstop help in a pinch. The less the Yankees must rely upon Wade the better, in my opinion. I feel his position can be upgraded. Holder is probably not that guy, but he has excellent defensive skills which is a plus and if Gleyber Torres is down for any time, I would want a strong glove more than a bat at the position (considering the overall offensive strength of the team).

It is really run to watch Corey Kluber pitch. He has such a strong presence on the mound. I hated to see the Yankees face him during his dominant years with the Cleveland Indians and I am hopeful that he can create that same type of intimidation for non-Yankee fans this year. Not that Gerrit Cole needs any help to be one of the top pitchers in all of baseball, but there are things to be learned from a veteran ace like Kluber. He is just one of those guys with the ability to make everyone around him better. I like it. I look forward to the first Yankee Stadium start this year for the Klubot. Still trying to get used to number 28 on the mound (feels a little like Joe Girardi pitching) but no doubt that Kluber will soon make 28 his own. I am glad he is here (and healthy). It must be a little bittersweet for Texas Rangers fans, wondering what could have been.   

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated


I am really excited about the Yankees’ starting rotation this year. The front four of Cole, Kluber, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Montgomery is the best I have felt about the Yankees in years. Whether it is Domingo German, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt (when he returns to good health), Michael King or someone else, the fifth starter will be no slouch. Then, on the summer horizon, looms the return of the great Luis Severino. Life is good.

I know there’s concern about the bullpen loss of Zack Britton for the next 3-4 months, but the Yankees seem to believe the arms they have will step up. They could be right. The Tampa Bay Rays are notorious for seemingly rebuilding their bullpen almost every year with unknown names, yet they find success.  So long as none of the relievers give me that “shell-shocked” feeling we experienced with Tyler Clippard, I am confident they can get the job done. Like everyone else, I am quietly pulling for 33-year-old Lucas Luetge. Ten strikeouts in 4 games are an achievement, even in meaningless Spring games. With improved spin rates and the assistance of the Yankees’ pitching and analytics teams, maybe Luetge is not just a flash in the pan.  If not Luetge, then I hope Tyler Lyons claims the lefty role. Not that the Yankees need a lefty to replace Britton, but it would be nice. I liked Darren O’Day’s comment after yesterday’s game that the Yankees bullpen, as presently constructed and even without Britton, brings a different look from every reliever. I am glad Aroldis Chapman has been working on adding a split-change to his arsenal. After the recent playoff failures, we need Chappy to be the last man standing in October and not because the opposing team just hit a game-winning, World Series-ending home run off him. I want the famed Chapman stare as the last batter of the 2021 season goes down swinging.

Photo Credit: USATSI

It was not great news to read the reports Miguel Andújar has soreness in right hand/wrist and will see a specialist on Monday. With Gio Urshela’s delayed start to the regular season, Miggy is being counted on to hold down third base until Gio’s return. The Yankees can move D.J. LeMahieu to third base in the interim if Miggy misses time. I suppose if that happens, Dietrich’s chances to make the roster improve since he can play second base. Hopefully, the news about Miggy will not be serious enough to deter his availability for Opening Day but it is certainly a concern until we know more. Hoping to hear good news about Miggy on Monday.

Robinson Chirinos, we hardly knew ye. Non-roster invitee Chirinos was a long shot before he fractured his right wrist, but now, it is probably the last we have seen of him in Pinstripes. Some Yankee fans were upset about his presence, but it did not bother me. If he has rapport with Gerrit Cole, why not roll the dice? Rob Brantly’s home run on Friday was his statement that he is more than happy to be the third catcher. I feel bad for Chirinos. At age 36, any injury can be a career-ender. The wrist is always so problematic, and it is not as easy as just letting the bone heal. Wrist injuries always remind me of the struggles Mark Teixeira experienced when he injured his wrist. Brantly will not make the Opening Day roster, but he will be a phone call away in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, most likely, if the Yankees need help. With no offense to Brantly, I hope he never receives the call but that is beside the point. Sadly, injuries happen, and the Yankees need to be prepared. Hopefully, this is the year we see less injuries than in recent seasons, but we are not off to a great start. 

We are starting to move into that part of Spring Training where the excitement about the return of baseball has moved to the ‘let’s just get this over so we can get to Opening Day’ stage. With the limited travel of this year’s Spring schedule, I am starting to get tired of seeing the Phillies, Pirates, Tigers and Blue Jays repeatedly.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Have Heart, Will Travel...

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, The New York Post

Aaron Boone’s eventful week…

It is hard to say Aaron Boone’s procedure this week for a pacemaker was unexpected given he had open-heart surgery to replace his bicuspid aortic valve in 2009, but it was certainly a shock to hear the news this week that he needed to step away for the pacemaker. It is incredible how positive Boone was before this week’s procedure and after. It is a testament to the man. I certainly cannot say I would have handled the news as well as he did. I am glad he emerged from the procedure in good spirits and that all went as well as it could have.

With Boone back in the dugout today (weather-permitting), it sounds awfully quick to me. My uninformed, not medically educated, opinion is he should have taken his time. I would probably prefer to see him take at least a week off before returning to the grind of Spring Training. Carlos Mendoza, “Mendy”, is certainly capable of handling managerial duties while Boone is away. But, as we know, that’s not Boonie. There was no doubt he would be back as soon as he felt physically and mentally capable to do so. In other words, yesterday. I admire his attitude and the incredible role model he sets for his coaches and players, and it is a strong trait that, in combo with other strengths, makes him a good Major League manager. I hope the pressures of being an MLB manager do not wear on him. Managing the most storied franchise in baseball, in front of the most demanding and passionate fans in the Universe, comes with a wee bit of stress, one would think…on top of everything else (media scrutiny, ownership demands, family obligations, etc.).

So, Aaron, we are glad everything went well, and we are happy you are back. But, please, take it easy, we want you for the long haul. You have proven to us you have heart. We want it to keep beating for many championship-filled years. 

It was too bad Corey Kluber’s debut pitching performance for the Yankees was not televised, but looking at the photos, he has such an incredible presence on the mound. I remember hating how good he was as a member of the Cleveland Indians during those playoff years. If he can be that guy, I would love every minute of it. I thought James Paxton could be soft at times but that certainly will not be the case with Klubot.  Win or lose, he is going to battle hard.  I really hope he can make it back to his previous levels.  I will miss Masahiro Tanaka, but I am really looking forward to watching Kluber pitch for the Yankees over Paxton and J.A. Happ. I qualify this by saying I do respect Paxton and I would have supported his return, but I think Kluber, if healthy, can be a force a rotation without the first inning jitters Paxton routinely delivered last year.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, The New York Post

Is it wrong that I like Derek Dietrich better than Tyler Wade? Okay, Dietrich cannot cover short like Wade, but otherwise, there is something about Dietrich and feel he is a gamer. Wade has good speed, yes, but I am hopeful Dietrich makes the team. I like Jay Bruce; however, I think Dietrich fits the team better. If Mikes Tauchman and/or Ford must go, so be it. I always hate it when the Yankees cut guys like Ji-Man Choi, Trevor Rosenthal, or Kirby Yates…only for those players to find success elsewhere but if Tauchman and Ford must go elsewhere to find success, it is what it is. I know, rosters are a numbers game, and you can only protect so many people. I cannot help it I am selfish and want all the best players on my team. 

Photo Credit: Randy Miller, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

I may not care about the man, but congrats to Domingo German for the strong performance in his return for the Yankees. He pitched two innings in yesterday’s 1-1 tie with the Detroit Tigers, giving up only one hit (a second inning double), no runs, and struck out four. It was the first game he has pitched for the Yankees since he was suspended late in the 2019 season for domestic violence. I believe everyone deserves a second chance but of course that is on German to show he is a changed man. Good pitching performances are meaningless if he has not changed.  Any repeat domestic violence episodes should be grounds for immediate termination (no tolerance policy at this point).

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

I was pleased to see former Boston Red Sock Jackie Bradley, Jr. sign with the Milwaukee Brewers. JBJ’s bat never scared me but the guy was an elite defender in center. I am glad he is no longer there (Fenway Park) to snag everything hit anywhere in his jurisdiction. The entire Red Sox outfield that won the World Series on October 28, 2018 is no more. Mookie Betts is counting the big bucks in Los Angeles, Andrew Benintendi is leading a Royal life, and JBJ is pulling up his mug for a cold one in Brew City.

Speaking of Boston, I will hate to see Adam Ottavino pitching for them, but I figure he is just there until July when the Red Sox unload him for prospects with free agency impending. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, February 27, 2021

And We Have Yankees Baseball...

  

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

Spring Training Games set to begin tomorrow…

The long wait for baseball ends tomorrow with the first televised Yankees game since last October. Granted, it is just a seven-inning game but for spring games, most of the players who will see the Opening Day roster would have already hit the showers by the 7th inning anyway. The latter innings belong to guys like Trey Amburgey and Asher Wojciechowski so I think we can survive the deprivation of two innings. Nothing against Trey or Asher but it is not like you’ll see Aaron Judge making a diving catch in the bottom of the seventh to secure a win.  

I am glad that we will hear the familiar sound of the YES Network for the Yankees spring opener against the Toronto Blue Jays, the team likely to be their biggest challenger in the AL East this year. I know the Tampa Bay Rays made it to the World Series last year, but Blake Snell now resides in San Diego and Charlie Morton moved up the Eastern Seaboard to Atlanta. The up-and-coming Blue Jays, an overly aggressive player in the free agent market to mix with their plethora of young talent, figure to start making some noise even if this is not quite their year yet.  

The Greedy Pinstripes’ Bryan Van Dusen made a good observation on Twitter yesterday (@Bryan_TGP). Bryan’s words: “Cashman turned Ottavino into Gardner, O’Day, Wilson, and still has $1.425 million left over. Yeah, that’s pretty damn good work. But go ahead and bash the guy.” I know the point was directed to those bashing GM Brian Cashman on Twitter, but seriously, Cashman did convert Ottavino, an at-times frustrating pitcher to watch, into a clubhouse leader/outfield insurance and two good relievers with money to spare. The Yankees did pay the Red Sox $850,000 in addition to the prospect given up (RHP Frank German) to get Boston to take Ottavino, a free agent after the 2021 season. But, in retrospect, if someone asked me if I would trade Adam Ottavino and Frank German for Brett Gardner, Darren O’Day, and Justin Wilson, my answer is easy. All day, every day. The ability to shed payroll while getting better is clearly underrated…at least among Yankee fans.  

I liked Ottavino. I am not trying to bash him. When he was right, he was unhittable, but the games when he lacked control were very painful to watch. I think we will get better consistency with O’Day and Wilson.  I went through the winter saying the Yankees should move on from Brett Gardner but here we are. I am certainly not mad he is back. I just hope the Yankees stand behind their words left field belongs to Clint Frazier. It is his time. It does not mean Gardy will not get an opportunity to play. Hopefully, everyone can stay healthy this year so that Gardy can be used in short stints to keep him fresh. I really hope Frazier takes the ball and runs with it. He needs to make the case the Yankees were right in saying he is the starting left fielder.  After the season, I will resume my “it’s time for Gardy to go” campaign.  Let him have his final season in Pinstripes with hopefully packed Yankee Stadium crowds by the end of the season (vaccine distribution permitting). He has certainly earned the right to say goodbye on his terms and in front of the greatest fans in the World.  



It was not great news to hear pitching prospect Clarke Schmidt was shut down due to a common extensor strain in his right elbow.  Upon hearing the news, many started to wonder if it was the start of an inevitable delayed path which leads to Tommy John surgery anyway. Subsequent reports do seem to indicate this is just a muscle injury that simply needs rest (three to four weeks) and not something more serious that will require more drastic measures (i.e., surgery). It is a great opportunity for Deivi Garcia to grab the fifth starter’s spot considering Schmidt was his top competitor for the job. Hopefully, the rest does Schmidt good and we see him later this season. No doubt the Yankees will need both Garcia and Schmidt this year to be successful.  

I am getting tired of hearing the years of Mike Tauchman’s control as a reason to keep him. If you can do better, you do. Tauchman was originally one of my reasons for why the Yankees should have moved on from Gardy but now that Gardy’s back, Tauchman is not necessary despite his ability to play all three outfield spots.  I would like to see Derek Dietrich make the team over Tauchman.  I know he has not been the player he once was in Miami, but he is young enough (32 in July) to rebound. I like his versatility to play both infield and outfield positions. I would love to watch Jay Bruce hit bombs in Yankee Stadium but sadly I just do not see how he fits this roster. He is too one-dimensional in my opinion. Today’s game requires versatility, even with a 26-man roster. There is no room for multiple DH-types. 

I am quietly hoping for a strong year by Jordan Montgomery now that he has put some distance from his Tommy John surgery. He should have a good time this year following Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. If Gumby and Garcia can be consistent, you really must like the Yankees’ chances with this starting rotation. Barring injuries, it will be fun to watch every starter take his turn. If they can find their groove, extended losing streaks should be rare. The Yankees may not win 100 games this year, but it is fun to know they have the talent to do it.

This year will put pressure on both Aaron Boone and Brian Cashman to produce. Not that I expect either man to get fired if the Yankees depart October early, but there will eventually be a time when Hal Steinbrenner must make the difficult choices if the team is unable to deliver. It is tough. Winning in October is more often about who is hot at the moment than being the best team on the field. Cashman’s roster-tweaking must find the right blend of talent, chemistry, and timing. 


I am not always Cashman’s biggest fan, but I have to give him an A for his off-season. He was able to reduce payroll while improving the roster. Poor guy must please Steinbrenner and Yankee fans. Now that’s a master juggling act. No Cash bashing from me this year…not yet anyway. Let us see how the season plays out. This could be a championship year. Or not. 

As always, Go Yankees!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

New York Yankees 2021 Payroll Tracker

 I can't promise to keep it updated daily, but I will try and keep it updated as often as I can. This information all came via Spotrac, so send them their hate mail if your favorite site has a salary or option number different than what is show here. Thank you for reading. 



Saturday, February 13, 2021

Opening Soon: Steinbrenner Field...

  


Ladies & Gentlemen, I’d like to present…Major League Baseball…

Finally, it is the return of America’s favorite pastime. In a matter of days…and…between now and a number of COVID-19 tests, Major League Baseball will make its triumphant return for the 2021 season. Soon, our favorite players will be together again, working out on the fields in and around Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. It’s been a weird off-season…following an even weirder 2020 baseball season…but hopefully some sense of normalcy is waiting for us sometime later this summer as the vaccinations reach out to the mass populations. I am truly looking forward to watching a Major League game while sitting inside a Major League stadium.



Today’s big news if you want to call it that was Jay Bruce’s decision to sign a minor league contract with camp invitation for the only New York pro baseball team he has never played for. 


Photo Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images

I think immediately, me included, everyone thought the move might spell the end for Brett Gardner. From a skillset standpoint, Bruce hardly qualifies as a defensive outfielder and he certainly has no ability to play center field so he is not a replacement for Gardy. From my perspective, it is more about money. Bruce stands to make $1.35 million if he makes the team which, barring a complete flop in Tampa, he most likely will. Based on plate appearances, he can pick up an additional $500,000 if he reaches 500 plate appearances. Although it seems like he should be older, Bruce is only 34 (or will be on April 3rd) and can still do some major damage to a baseball. Given the Yankees remain in the market for another reliever and assuming they are roughly $7 million, give or take, under the $210 million luxury tax threshold, it becomes a question of how much can the Yankees offer Gardner to return coupled with how much is he willing to give up to stay?  I suppose that’s a question to be answered over the course of the next few days.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I am ready to move on Brett Gardner. He has been a great Yankee and a great leader in recent years.  But there is a time when everything must end. I subscribe heavily to the belief I’d rather give up a player a year too soon than a year too late.  I had really hoped Estevan Florial would have been ready by now, but he’ll just be reaching Triple A this year (despite playing one game for the Yankees last year). A talented younger player (i.e., cheaper) with upside is more appealing to me as a backup when you are talking about the fifth outfielder. Not that I think Mike Tauchman is all that and a bag chips, but he’s younger and can do everything Gardy can (he’s 30 compared to Gardy’s 37…38 in August). So, Tauchman makes more sense as the fourth outfielder unless the Yankees can upgrade the position. I don’t think Gardy would come back for $3 million (could be wrong…stranger things have happened) and it makes no sense at all for the Yankees to spend $7 million to get him to come back.

The man who clearly should be worried about the presence of Jay Bruce is first baseman Mike Ford. 

When I hear the name Montero, I always shudder with disappointment thinking about failed former Yankees top prospect Jesus Montero. I guess I will need to find a cure as the Yankees have signed two unrelated Monteros, both international free agents. According to Baseball America, here are the international players signed by the Yankees (the July 2nd signing date last year had been pushed to January 15th due to the pandemic).

Hans Montero, shortstop, Dominican Republic

Fidel Montero, outfielder, Dominican Republic

Ramiro Altagracia, outfielder, Dominican Republic

Kleiner Delgado, shortstop, Venezuela

Johan Ferreira, third baseman, Dominican Republic

Hans Montero, 17, is 5’10”, 160 lbs. He reportedly signed for $1.6-$1.7 million. In their scouting report, Baseball America indicates Montero is likely to stick at shortstop, “with soft hands, a strong arm, and above-average speed”.

Fidel Montero is viewed as an athletic outfielder “with impressive raw tools who shows up-and-down game performance”. It does make you wonder if the Yankees hit the jackpot if they can iron out the wrinkles in his game. Fidel signed for only $500,000 but appears to carry strong potential. He is also 17 and stands 6’1” and weights 175-180 lbs.  Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com wrote the following quote today by ESPN’s MLB prospect insider Kiley McDaniel, “Some other teams tried to steal him. Some teams thought he was a $2 million talent. He’s just one of those dynamic centerfielders. Above average power potential. He can run. He can kind of do everything.”


Photo Credit: @benbadler (Twitter), Baseball America

I guess there’s hope on the way to remove my negative connotation associated with the name Montero. Sorry, if your name is Montero. It’s not personal. I just expected a little bit more from Jesus or rather I bought into the false hype…or to be nicer…inflated perception of potential. 

Welcome to the Yankees Family, Hans, Fidel, Ramiro, Kleiner & Johan!

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the Yankees were one of the teams talking to former Yankees reliever Justin Wilson, a lefty. I’ve seen a number of people call for the return of Trevor Rosenthal. I think either would be fine although Rosenthal, after a successful 2020 season with the Royals and Padres, figures to command the larger contract. MLB Trade Rumors projected 2 years and $14 million for Rosenthal which would seem to be a bit high for the Yankees. Did I really just say that? I know, it makes no sense. Taxes and penalties do not seem to be impacting the defending World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. But to the Dodgers’ defense, they would be “first-time” offenders above the threshold since they reset penalties in 2018 when the Yankees did but unlike the Yankees, did not go over the threshold last year. 

I have seen a few fans wanting the Yankees to re-sign David Robertson. As much as I liked D-Rob during his two stints with the Yankees, the way things ended when he left last time was unsettling. I am not sure if he is the one who denied playoff shares to Yankees Assistant Hitting Coach P.J. Pilittere and others since it would have been a team decision, but Robertson’s voice was instrumental as a players representative. It is unfortunate and maybe a little sad, but I’d rather not see Robertson return. I did see the Mets are shopping Dellin Betances. Sorry, that’s another one I’ll take a pass on. I don’t think he’ll ever be the elite reliever he once was and in recent years, the injury history is just too much. So, for ex-Yankees, give me Wilson or Rosenthal. 

February 17thsoon.

As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Sound of Baseball in Tampa...

  


…is being drowned out by NFL Football…

Lots of activity near Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, this evening but unfortunately, it is of the football variety. Oh well, soon, Steinbrenner Field will be humming with the return of all players, new and old. Many of the team’s players are already in Tampa and it will be exciting when we can see player interviews as they arrive for Spring Training 2021. 


Photo Credit: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports

It was a pipe dream the Yankees would sign Trevor Bauer, I know, but there was a part of me that wanted Hal Steinbrenner to bust the budget to ensure a formidable rotation from top to bottom. Alas, he let President of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Dodger, Andrew Friedman, spend the money of Mark Warner, Chairman & CEO, and his partners, for their title defense. Given how active the San Diego Padres have been this off-season, it was time for the Dodgers to do something. They’ve lost a few of their contributors over the past few years. Joc Pederson signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Cubs, and Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez now calls the AL East home after inking a deal with the Boston Red Sox. 

With the Yankees obviously trying to stay under the $210 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold, the Dodgers blasted through it. Their payroll is nearly $240 million, and they still need to decide whether they want to spend more to bring back free agent third baseman Justin Turner. Granted, if the Dodgers win the World Series again, I doubt there’s anyone in the organization that would say it wasn’t worth it so it’s hard to criticize them until/unless they fall short of their goal. 

I guess it boils down to whether the Yankees needed to spend more to compete with the Dodgers or the Padres or in-division against the Toronto Blue Jays, the clear up-and comer to replace the Tampa Bay Rays as the Yankees’ chief rival this year. Honestly, as structured, the Yankees stand as much of a chance to win in October as any other team. The Chicago White Sox are vastly improved, with a young core talent base, yet no team has a distinct advantage in the American League this season. Baseball is not always about the best but rather who is playing the best at the end. The Dodgers can pay Bauer $105 million over three years, but it doesn’t really guarantee they’ll be successful. The Yankees, led by Gerrit Cole, will have a top rotation if Corey Kluber can turn the calendar back a couple of years and if Jameson Taillon, with a fire lit under his butt thanks to the trade to a contender, can deliver healthy, productive innings. But setting them aside, Jordan Montgomery is a good option to have at the back end of a rotation, and I do believe we’ll see a breakout of one of the younger pitchers (the most probable, of course, being Clarke Schmidt). But if not Schmidt, I think another will take the opportunity. If we get into the season and Jhoulys Chacin is starting games, then we’ll know it all went horribly wrong. Until then, I will maintain the usual pre-season optimism the Yankees are entering a championship year. If not now, when? They have the team to do it this year.



I still expect the Yankees to announce a deal to bring back outfielder Brett Gardner for at least one more year. I am not really in favor of it, as I’ve said before. I would prefer to keep the money open for other potential in-season deals. As great a Yankee and leader as Gardy has been, they do not need him. Clint Frazier will be the leftfielder and Mike Tauchman is still hanging around as the fourth outfielder.  Not that I am Tauchman’s biggest fan, but it’s time for the Gardy party to end. It’s a bummer Estevan Florial has developed like we once thought he would. This would be his time if he had continued on his path of potential. At this point, he’s starting to seem like the latest Mason Williams even if some still think of him as an up and comer. Last year seems like a lost year in Florial’s development and I can’t say I am optimistic about his chances. Place that one under the category of “I hope I’m wrong”. I’d love to see Florial flourish at the Major League level.

Given the Yankees have yet to announce reliever Darren O’Day, it does seem GM Brian Cashman is working on something to clear some roster space. It doesn’t mean I am expecting something big. Yet, it seems like it would have been too easy to just cut outfielder Greg Allen or reliever Ben Heller so something else must be in play. Or Cashman’s trying and not succeeding in making the moves he has in mind with Allen or Heller ending up on the chopping room floor anyway. 

With the recent flurry of free agent signings as we get closer to Spring Training, I am surprised the Yankees haven’t been more active. The $210 million must be a “hard salary cap” in their eyes. Reset the penalties and then go after it again next year. I only hope we do not miss out during this championship window as a result. I guess this is where I wish the Yankees weren’t saddled with Giancarlo Stanton’s contract. Regardless of who it is, there always seems to be one player contract on the team that is an albatross. Alex Rodriguez’s final years…Jacoby Ellsbury. Stanton is the latest but someone else will take his place one day (just don’t let it be you, Gerrit!).  I don’t usually like salary dumps because you have to include quality prospects to entice other teams, but Stanton is emerging as a strong candidate, in my mind, if the Yankees could only find a taker. Unfortunately, I think they’re stuck with that one.

I like Luke Voit, I really do, but if the Yankees could trade him and acquire Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, sign me up. I’ve never been a big proponent of moving DJ LeMahieu to first base (losing his valuable glove at second base as a result), but, IMO, Gleyber Torres is a better second baseman than he is a shortstop. He has time to fix it, but Story would, pardon the pun, build upon the Yankees’ status of the most storied franchise. I’ve long admired Story and now that Francisco Lindor is no longer an option, he is probably my favorite trade target at the moment…even if he doesn’t bat lefthanded. 



I’d love to have another stopper in the bullpen but hopefully one of the young guys can bust through. I am holding out hope it is Nick Nelson who proves he can be a difference maker. It feels like the Yankees will sign another reliever before training camp, but I am keeping expectations low. For all intents and purposes, the pitchers, catchers and position players showing up in Tampa are those on the roster or in camp on minor league deals with training camp invitations. No “OMG, he’s a Yankee??!!!” moments coming up soon. I guess this is to be continued in July.

I am glad we’ll have a full 162-game schedule. I had prepared myself for a shortened schedule and delayed start to the season, but I am happy we can soon watch some baseball. I am hopeful the health and safety protocols will be sufficient to ensure uninterrupted play this season. Watching the Super Bowl with a packed stadium is kind of scary but I look forward to packed baseball stadiums in the not-so-distant future. Once it is healthy and safe to do so, of course. I would hate to go through another entire season with cardboard cut-outs in the stands. I miss the real sound and energy of a crowd and the ability to attend a game in person. I am nearing a year living within walking distance of a Major League baseball stadium and I’ve not been to a game. That is so wrong and not what I expected when I moved to the area.

As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Spring Training, So Close Yet So Far Away...

  


Camps open in a couple of weeks, I think…

The final day of January means, generally speaking, we close the book on the last month without baseball (hopefully) until after the World Series. It has been an eventful January, all things considered, in the Yankees Universe. The official additions of Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon (“TIE-own”), the unofficial addition of Darren O’Day, the re-signing of hitting machine D.J. LeMahieu, and the sad farewell to Masahiro Tanaka.

When the Yankees didn’t aggressively pursue Tanaka after the season and then made the plays for Kluber and Taillon, it was fairly obvious there would be no return to Pinstripes for Tanaka. With some talk about the Toronto Blue Jays having interest in Tanaka, it was best case scenario for his return to Japan (if the Yankees weren’t going to bring him back). I am surprised more teams didn’t publicly express interest in Tanaka. He would make almost any rotation better. I get that he is no longer the pitcher, at age 32, he was at 25. The home runs could get annoying at times, but it was clear he loved New York and he loved the Yankees. When he had his opt-out a couple of years ago, I know the market conditions dictated his decision to some degree (or all of it), but I was proud of his choice not to opt-out. Time and again, we see players take the money and run (see Robinson Cano). Tanaka showed loyalty but sadly it didn’t really mean anything when it came time for the Yankees to make a business decision. 



Personally, I held out hope the Yankees would bring Masa back until the news of the official announcement of his two-year contract with Japan’s Rakuten Eagles. Suspecting his return was unlikely, I did try to hold some hope for the impossible.  For most of the off-season, I had said that I wanted one of Tanaka or James Paxton back. Now that Tanaka is gone, I can say I am not really interested in a reunion with Paxton. I like the guy and I think he’s a talented pitcher, but the first inning struggles last year wore on me and of course the injury cloud that seems to follow him is not very appealing.  Knowing that Jordan Montgomery is the team’s fourth starter behind Gerrit Cole, Kluber and Taillon, I’d rather see one of Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, or Domingo German (or even Luis Medina) take the fifth spot over a more expensive Paxton. So, I thank the Big Maple for his time in Pinstripes and wish him the best for good health in his future opportunities with other teams. It would be great to see him put together a healthy, productive season with no injured list stints. I’d hate to see him go to Toronto to do it, so I am hopeful he’ll find a new home outside of the AL East. 

Another player I am ready to say goodbye to is Brett Gardner. I know he has been a loyal, productive soldier for the Yankees, but I think it is time for the younger guys. Left field clearly goes to Clint Frazier, and with Mike Tauchman on the roster, there really isn’t any need for Gardy at this point. Not that I am all that enamored with Tauchman, the Yankees need to open opportunities for younger guys. At this point, I’d rather see the Yankees protect the checkbook and reserve more funds for potential July trades when they can better assess their needs. Not that I care how much Hal Steinbrenner spends, but it is clear the team is intent on resetting the luxury tax penalties again. 

I like the pickup of former Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves reliever Darren O’Day. After the trade of Adam Ottavino to the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees clearly had a need and O’Day should prove to be an upgrade. That’s tough to say because I had really wanted Ottavino to succeed as a Yankee. There’s always a sting when a former Yankee goes to Boston, especially when that player is a native New Yorker, and it probably added some salt to the wound that it was the Yankees who sent him there. I could be wrong, but I think his stay in Beantown will only last the duration of his current contract (more probable even less when the July trade deadline rolls round if the Red Sox, as expected, are toiling at or near the AL East cellar). I don’t think he’s a Red Sock beyond the 2021 season. Stranger things have happened, and Ottavino has a connection to Boston, having played college ball at Northeastern University. 



MLB made a proposal to the Players Association today for a delayed start to the 2021 season with a modified 154-game schedule. If the proposal is accepted, spring training would not start until late March so scratch what I said at the top of this post. I do feel the players need to be guaranteed of full pay regardless of what happens, but setting that aside, as much as I want baseball to return, I think a delayed start might be for the best as we try to move forward with the pandemic. With each passing month, we get closer to broader distribution of the vaccines. I know I don’t want any disruptions during the season, so I’d rather have caution at the start to ensure the enjoyment of a full and uninterrupted schedule. Given baseball used to only play 154 games, it’s not like sacred tradition is being broken.  The cream is still going to rise to the top with 154-game schedule. But conversely, the major downside is players are preparing for mid-February arrival and the delay could adversely impact preparation. We saw a number of players last year that didn’t have the years we expected and there’s no question in my mind the delays were a common denominator among the root causes. Not solely, of course, but the delays played a part and there were players who were not at their best from a physical conditioning standpoint.

I guess more than anything, I am trying to say I am ready for baseball to start in a couple of weeks but if it is delayed, I am not going to scream. A mutual decision must be made between MLB and the Players Association and I’ll respect said decision regardless of the outcome. 

I do really want baseball back. Yet, the greater priority is the health of players and fans. 

I feel bad Colorado Rockies fans. After living among them for the four years (before moving to Los Angeles last year), I know how much they love their team and its players. I am sure it was very difficult for them to hear the new the Rockies were putting the final touches on a trade to send star third baseman Nolan Arenado (and $50 million in cash) to the St Louis Cardinals. I have to credit Daniel Kramer, a Seattle-based MLB reporter, on Twitter (@DKramer_) with the best tweet analysis of the Rockies organization: “Let’s review: The $70M Ian Desmond Experiment. The $106M in 3 bullpen arms that they all eventually released. Inadequately evaluating DJLM and letting him turn into an MVP elsewhere. Signing Dan Murphy for same $ as DJ. Paying $50M to get rid of your franchise star.” Well, I am okay with their inadequate evaluation of DJLM. Yankee fans continue to salivate over German Marquez and Trevor Story, sensing a fire sale in The Mile High City. The talk is they’ll use Nolan’s money to lock up Story, but it’s hard to see him staying in Denver for the long term. Todd Helton was a rare exception. It seems that most Colorado superstars eventually move on to other cities to make their mark.

Congratulations to Didi Gregorius on his new two-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies recently signed another former Yankee to play for manager Joe Girardi when they gave a non-roster invitation to Ivan Nova. Ronald Torreyes will also be in Phillies camp on a non-roster invite.

As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Yankees Tai One On...

Photo Credit: Gene J Puskar, AP

Welcome to New York, Jameson Taillon…

While we continue to wait for the Yankees to make room on the active roster for D.J. LeMahieu and Corey Kluber, former Pittsburgh Pirates starter Jameson Taillon nudged his way to the first spot that opened, thanks to the trade of four prospects, including two cardholders for the 40-man roster, to the Pirates. 

My first reaction was disappointment. I am not trying to be negative about Taillon. I agree he is a very talented pitcher and I’ve admired him for a few years, but he’s had his share of setbacks which includes two Tommy John surgeries. I admire his courage and perseverance through surgery for testicular cancer so that’s certainly not viewed as a negative from my perspective. My hesitation about Taillon is only the risk, the injury risk. Yet, as the trade sank in, I think Cashman made a good trade to pick up a starting pitcher with high upside without giving up any top ten prospects. RHP Miguel Yajure, ranked at 15, was the highest rated prospect. Yajure is talented and many fans liked him but he’s replaceable. The other prospects were RHP Roansy Contreras, infielder Maikol Escotto and outfielder Canaan Smith.

I’ve heard fans say Cashman fleeced the Pirates. I don’t know that I would go that far. I think there is strong potential with a few of the prospects the Yankees gave up and it could very well be the trade works out more in the favor of the Pirates. But for a win-now team, it is a good trade for the Yankees. If the Yankees win a World Series with Taillon’s help, the trade will have been worth it regardless of how the quartet of former Yankees prospects do in the Steel City. I’ve seen some prospect-huggers lament the loss of Yajure and Contreras, but it takes quality to get quality. The Yankees weren’t the only team knocking at the door of Pirates GM Ben Cherington and they had to put together a package to entice the former Red Sox GM to make a deal over others. 

I think my disappointment was higher expectations. I wanted a very strong number two starting pitcher to slot in behind Gerrit Cole. Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon both have the potential to be strong numbers two’s and so does Luis Severino when he returns later this summer, but it’s the dreaded injury label attached to each pitcher. I get it, there are no certainties and a player who has been completely healthy over the course of his career is not guaranteed of future health. I think reading some of Gerrit Cole’s comments about Taillon and his resiliency to overcome challenges strikes a chord. Taillon has the attitude and the talent to succeed in New York. He has emerged from each setback with greater fire and determination. 


Photo Credit: Gene J Puskar, AP

My desire for the Yankees to sign free agent pitcher Trevor Bauer, the best available starter on the open market, was flawed. There was no chance the Yankees were going to make the financial commitment it would take to sign Bauer for the obvious luxury cap implications. I was hopeful the Yankees would bring back one of Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton despite their respective injury concerns. For Tanaka, it’s always been a matter of that little tear in his elbow. For Paxton, he’s just a talented guy who can’t stay healthy. I think both Tanaka and Paxton loved their time in Pinstripes and that does matter. I respect guys who see it as more than just a paycheck.  I suppose the additions of Kluber, and Taillon officially close the book on the Yankee careers of the two free agent pitchers. I thought Tanaka was a good Yankee. There were times of frustrations but when isn’t that true about any player. We’re passionate fans who care about the team and its success.  If this is the end for Tanaka, I do wish him the very best, whether it is a continued career in MLB or if he heads back to Japan to play. I enjoyed his time as a Yankee. Until he’s officially gone, I will hold out hope for a return, but the glimmer of possibility seems to be fading.

Another way to look at the Taillon trade is the Yankees remain stocked with strong upper-level prospects, meaning they have the trade chips to tweak the team in July. Luis Castillo, anyone?



It saddens me but I think another soon to be ex-Yankee is Adam Ottavino. The reason is obviously money. Heading into the final year of the three-year deal he signed with the Yankees, he counts $9 million toward the luxury cap. Eliminating the salary and going with younger cost-controlled pitchers certainly helps the Yankees stay at or below the luxury cap threshold.

In contradiction to some fans, I don’t think it’s a matter of being “luxury tax champions” for the Yankees. At the end of the day, Major League Baseball is a business, and the owners want to make money like anyone else. We love it when owners go all in for a championship but trying to be objective, it is not a sound financial strategy. I come down on Hal from time to time, but he has to be concerned with the future of the brand and the financial stability for his family. I can’t imagine the pressure associated with owning the most storied franchise in baseball history and its high expectations. I think fans, which includes me, are getting impatient to win a championship, but you can’t draw a direct correlation to amount of money spent versus the increased likelihood of success. You have to make the right personnel decisions and sometimes it involves the ‘low cost, high upside’ approach. It is simply not possible to put All-Stars, tried and true elite players, at every position. So, I’ll back off and let Team Cashman continue their roster adjustments as the Yankees prepare for the 2021 season. The proof is in the pudding. If the Yankees have a successful year (meaning championship), Cashman and Company deserve the accolades. If they fail, then we’ll cross the bridge at that time. Every year without a championship increases my desire for front office change. But until then, I hope, I pray, Cashman can field a team capable of being the last team standing in October.

The wildcard with a rotation featuring Gerrit Cole, Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon, Luis Severino (when he returns), and Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, Domingo German among others, is Clarke Schmidt. If he has a breakout year in 2021 and the rest of the guys can stay healthy, the Yankees do have a championship caliber rotation.  Ifs and buts…I know…but I do believe in Schmidt’s talent and the day of “arrival” is coming soon. 

For as often as former Yankee catchers end up in Pittsburgh, I am sure there were more than a few fans hoping Gary Sanchez would become a Pirate today. I am glad he didn’t. I remain hopeful that he’ll fulfill the promise he showed us several seasons ago. Austin Wells will be ready within a few years, so I am going to be patient with Sanchez. It’s hard for me to criticize a player on the 2020 season simply because 2020 was such a nightmare of a year all the way around. I continue to believe Sanchez will continue to mature and evolve into the catcher we hope he can be.  Until Wells is ready, it’s not like we really have any other options at the moment. Kyle Higashioka is not the answer. I am hopeful and optimistic for a better year in 2021 for Sanchez. I do believe if he continues to struggle, the Yankees and Sanchez might be on track for a change of scenery, but I’ll hold out hope it does not happen. 

I was sorry to see the passing of baseball legend Henry “Hank” Aaron. I can remember when he was an active player, but it was at the very end and I don’t think I was able to fully understand or comprehend, at my then-young age, the magnitude of his contributions to the game of baseball and to the game of life. Some players are great…elite…above all others, yet they are even better human beings. Derek Jeter is one, so is the late Kobe Bryant who passed a year ago this month.  I am sorry that I was never able to see Hank Aaron play. I always thought it was cool that the baseball announcer who made the iconic call for Aaron’s history making home run was the late Milo Hamilton “Here’s the pitch by Downing. Swinging. There’s a drive into left-center field. That ball is going to be out of here! IT’S GONE! IT’S 715! There’s a new home run champion of all-time! And it’s Henry Aaron!” Hamilton was born and raised in my hometown, Fairfield, Iowa, a small farming community in southeastern Iowa. Although I never met Hamilton, he was a bit of a local celebrity. Hank Aaron, we are glad you were here. We will carry the memories of your greatness always and we’ll remember the lessons you taught us about life forevermore.   


Photo Credit: AP

As always, Go Yankees!