Monday, June 1, 2015

Game Thread: New York Yankees @ Seattle Mariners 6/1

Another week day and another baseball game played in the middle of the night, this time between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners. Tonight on the mound will be a pair of aces for each of their respected teams as Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez go head-to-head inside Safeco Field tonight. The game will be played at 10:05 pm ET and can be seen on the YES Network and MLB TV.

Two more games after tonight and the Yankees come home to the Bronx and to Yankee Stadium to play host to another west coast team in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. By clicking the Yankees Tickets link at the top of the blog you can get your Yankees tickets in hand now before the team returns home to the great state of New York. If you can't make it live then simply jump on Twitter (@GreedyStripes) and the comments section of the site to chat with us during each and every single game this season.

That's enough out of me though because Big Mike is ready to take it from here. Go Yankees!

Pineda excited to return to Seattle, oppose King Felix

Facing an ace like Felix Hernandez is never an easy task for major league clubs, but Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda is looking forward to the challenge.

"I feel very happy and I want to pitch a great game and be happy on the mound," Pineda recently told "It's a great moment for me because Seattle is my original team."

Pineda -- likely the Yankees' most reliable starter right now -- is set to oppose Hernandez when the Yankees visit the Mariners Monday at Safeco Field, where Hernandez is 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA this season.

Pineda spent his rookie year with Seattle in 2011, making the AL All-Star team after striking out 173 over 171 innings. He was traded to the Yankees the following winter in the infamous Jesus Montero deal, and has not played in the Emerald City since.

Pineda says he is excited to see Hernandez perform again, the veteran having mentored him during that first campaign.

"He's the King, you know?" Pineda said. "He's a great pitcher and I love to see him. I had a great time when I was there, seeing Felix Hernandez pitching. He (taught) me a lot."

Hernandez is coming off a complete game shutout Wednesday against the Rays, with whom the Yankees are currently tied for first place in the East. Pineda -- on the other hand -- threw 6 2/3 frames of one-run ball in his last outing versus the Royals, the current holders of a .604 winning percentage.

Indeed, both right-handers have impressed lately -- something Pineda thinks will make for an interesting contest.

"It's going to be a great game," Pineda said. "I want to win it."

Yankees Sign Teodoro Martinez to Minor League Deal

The New York Yankees have signed Venezuelan born outfielder Teodoro Martinez to a minor league deal this week adding him to the depth the team has in the minor leagues. Martinez was born in La Bueora, Venezuela on 3/16/1992 and has now been assigned to the High-A Tampa Yankees. I don't pretend to know much about Martinez unfortunately, and yet, but here is his career stat line from his career in the Texas Rangers minor league farm system.


7 Seasons4982019247502802920211155103267.272.320.371.691

LF (6 seasons)RkLF2083102921082.9741.45
CF (6 seasons)FRkCF2074314091482.9812.04
RF (3 seasons)ARF558279211.9881.47

While We Wait: Oldest Living Cubs Player Dies at 98

CHICAGO (AP) — Lennie Merullo, the oldest former member of the Chicago Cubs and the last living person to play for them in the World Series, died Saturday. He was 98.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said in a statement that Merullo died earlier in the day. The team didn't include details of Merullo's death.

Merullo was a major league shortstop from 1941-47, all with the Cubs. He hit .240 with six home runs and 152 RBIs.

Merullo played three games in the 1945 World Series and went 0 for 2. The Cubs lost in seven games to Detroit, and haven't made it back to the Series since then.

Last June, Merullo traveled from his home in Massachusetts and returned to Wrigley Field as part of the ballpark's 100th celebration.

Wearing a Cubs jersey, he used a walker to go from his wheelchair toward the mound and threw out the first ball before the Cubs played the Marlins, getting a big cheer from the fans.

During the seventh-inning stretch, he took part in Wrigley Field tradition and sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" over the stadium's sound system and drew another big ovation.

Merullo recalled that after the 1945 Series, the Cubs imagined they'd make it back soon enough.

"Yeah, sure," he said. "We never gave up hope."

Merullo later scouted for the Cubs. His grandson, Matt Merullo, played six years in the majors, mostly with the Chicago White Sox.

"While I have experienced many joys as owner of this great franchise, one of the most memorable was meeting Lennie last season," Ricketts said.

"When the Cubs last appeared in a World Series in 1945, Lennie was a 28-year-old shortstop. Nearly 70 years later, he brought the same youthful spirit and excitement," he said. "To his family, friends and loved ones, our organization will never forget him."

ICYMI: The Problem With Slade Heathcott

From Bryan Van Dusen: 

Back in late March I wrote an article looking ahead at the possible 2017 Yankees, while pointing what they'll cost the team compared to this year's squad. That '17 team included youngsters like Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder, and Aaron Judge. It's pretty exciting to think about, as that season could be the start of a new-look New York Yankees team... one which could lead them well into the future.

But there's another youngster that's been turning heads since being called up, and he throws a wrench into my future plans.

No, that's not him.

Yeah, there we go.

It's great to see somebody come up through the Yankees system and succeed in Major League Baseball. However, Slade Heathcott is one those cases where I see a problem, and the solution to that problem is sure to upset some people.

The Yankees currently have two outfielders under contract, both of whom are contributing quite a bit to a very inconsistent lineup. And the organizations top prospect looks to slide perfectly into the lineup and outfield. And then there's Carlos Beltran, who we will likely have to deal with through next season, thanks to a silly contract given to him a year and a half ago.

So what do we do? Well, here are four ideas, listed in order of likeliness...

1. Trade Jacoby Ellsbury - I listed this first, meaning it's the one that's least likely to happen, due to the time and money left on his contract. He's going to turn 32 in September, and will still have five years and over $105 million left on his deal. I'm not sure anybody would be willing to take on that contract, while at the same time giving up much in return. And that truth multiples by a thousand if his current knee injury turns out to be anything close to serious.

2. Trade Aaron Judge - Even though Aaron Judge is killing it at AA Trenton with a batting line of .291/.357/.479, with six home runs, we have to remember that he's still a prospect. And prospects do not always pan out. Ruzz Canzler was the International League (AAA) Most Valuable Player in 2011, after slashing .314/.401/.530. However, since 2012 he's only appeared in 26 MLB games (Russ actually played for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season). But Aaron could very well be that big bat in the middle of the Yankees lineup in a couple years, and he's also been praised for his defense in right field (where he has an obvious spot waiting for him on the Yankees), so I don't seem them willing to trade him away unless it's for a very good player.

3. Trade Brett Gardner - Gardner has a team friendly contract, is productive at the plate, and plays great defense. But his legs are probably what makes Brett valuable. If it wasn't for his speed he wouldn't cause as much havoc on the basepaths, which helps boost his offensive contributions. That same speed is what makes his defense great, too. Take away that speed and what do you get? Not a whole heck of a lot. And it's rare for a guy dependent on speed to retain his value heading into his mid-30s. For the time being he's very much outplaying his contract, and is a part of an extremely formidable one-two punch atop the Yankees' lineup. Along with Ellsbury in centerfield, opposing hitters have a very tough time being successful while hitting the ball anywhere around them in the outfield.

4. Trade Slade Heathcott - Let's face it... he's young, and you can never be sure of what you're going to get out a player like that (see my spiel on Aaron Judge). Will he continue to do well, or will MLB catch up to him and turn him into a bench player or worse? And we can't forget the problems he had with his left shoulder a few years ago, and the problems he had with his right knee just last season. When he's healthy he's been a good player, putting up a batting average of .285 this year at Scranton, and hitting well in his short stint so far in the Majors. But what makes him the most likely player to be traded is the fact that there is no spot for him in the future, as long as those other three guys I mentioned are healthy. There's a very good chance that the starting outfield in 2017 is Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Aaron Judge. That leaves Heathcott on the bench. And if he continues to hit well in MLB, what's the point of keeping him around with no clear future outside the dugout? Especially when a kid with MLB experience, especially as part of a package, could fetch a nice return in a trade?

Chances are some of you reading this said the word "no" aloud after reading each of those, and I don't blame you. I don't want to see any of those guys sent away. But facts are facts, and unless MLB adopts slow-pitch softball rules, then only three players will be allowed in the outfield, meaning somebody will be left out. And if somebody is going to be left out, then it's in the team's best interest to get as much out of them as possible, and a trade would be that way.

And keep in mind I'm not saying the Yankees have to do this before the trade deadline this season. During the season there are going to be teams that are "sellers" rather than "buyers", but during the offseason everybody is in "buy" mode. No team goes into a season thinking they don't have a chance, and therefore look to sell off players to build for the future. If that were true the Astros wouldn't be looking at their first postseason since Ronald Reagan was elected president... the first time.

Most Popular Article of the Week: From Derek To Didi

From Bryan Van Dusen:

Like this, only somehow with better writing, acting, and... well... just better.

I'm going to start off by showing you some of the achievements, or lack thereof, of two players.

Player A
-1996 American League Rookie of the Year
-14 time AL All Star
-3 time finisher in top 3 of AL MVP voting
-5 time Silver Slugger Award winner
-5 World Series Championships
-7 AL Pennants
-5 AL Gold Glove Awards
-2000 World Series MVP
-All Time Yankees Leader in Hits
-All Time Yankees Leader in Doubles
-All Time Yankees Leader in Stolen Bases

Player B
-Did not win Rookie of the Year
-No All Star selections
-No MVP votes
-No Gold Glove Awards
-Let's just say he has no awards of significance
-.243/.313/.366 before being traded to New York

I probably don't have to tell you who those players are, but just in case...

Player A is Derek Jeter, and Player B is Didi Gregorius.

Furthermore, I probably don't have to point out that Derek Jeter was not just some "role" player with the Yankees, but was arguably the best player to wear Yankees pinstripes since Mickey Mantle. Actually, Mickey is among just four players in the history of the franchise to amass a higher bWAR than Jeter.

Let the arguments continue.

So to say Didi Gregorius is under pressure as The Captain's heir at shortstop is perhaps the understatement of the century. How can a 25 year-old succeed in such an environment? Heck, when I was that age I was under no pressure, and to call me a "success" would have been laughable. Just saying I was doing "okay" in life at that age is a whopper. But here we are watching this kid trying to follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest Yankees of all time, and do so in an era where criticism is thrown at him from every possible angle.

Back in 1996, when Tino Martinez was playing first base after beloved Yankee Don Mattingly retired, he didn't have to deal with the internet and everything that comes with it (blogs, comment boards, Twitter, etc). Tino had to answer questions from a handful of beat writers for the local newspapers, and perhaps some national reporters too.

On that note, I don't think it would be a bad idea for Didi to shut down his Twitter account. Take a step back from all the craziness that goes on there. Sure, you could say he could ignore the idiots that run amok there, but you know as well as I that that's an impossible task. We have a little over 3,000 followers on Twitter, and I see some silly stuff every time I log on there. Didi, on the other hand, has over 26,000 followers. I'm sure he sees a lot more stupid stuff than I do.

Although, I do drive around Columbus every day, where stupidity runs rampant.

Gregorius will most likely never be a great hitter. His triple slash in AAA was .287/.350/.452, and it's very rare that a player exceeds or even meets those numbers in MLB. If Didi ever comes close to those numbers we should count ourselves lucky.

One thing we can all expect out of Didi is to be a great defender. While he's had plenty of brain farts in the field this season, we've also seen glimpses of greatness. He has a fantastic arm to go along with excellent range... two things that you can't teach a player. He can be coached on how to slow things down, and not try to do too much (see the flip play he tried to make in the 8th inning of yesterday's game). In fact, by this time next year, I'm willing to bet we will watch balls hit his way and assume he's going to complete the play flawlessly. And every once in a while we'll think "no way he's got that one", only to watch him pull off a Web Gem.

We all succumb to emotional knee-jerk reactions. When Didi strikes out in a big situation we're going to get mad. When he boots a ball that should have been routine, we're going to want to punch something or somebody (namely him). But I'm begging all Yankees fans to stop themselves from calling for Didi's head when he messes up, because... again... he's a 25 year-old kid following in the footsteps of one of the greatest Yankees of all time.

Now, if nothing's improved by the end of the season, then I may write something completely different about him here. But for right now, just 41 games into his career as a Yankee, I'm cutting him some slack.

If you still can't let your anger go, then here's a picture that should brighten your day.