Sunday, October 18, 2015

2015 Yankees: #TooManyDamnHRs

Every home run the New York Yankees hit during the 2015 regular season. 

Jeff Pentland & Gary Tuck Will Not Return

The New York Yankees have announced that two of their coaches from the 2015 season will not return next season. The Yankees primary hitting coach Jeff Pentland was told when he signed that he would only be around for one year while New York's bullpen coach Gary Tuck was also informed he would not return to the team in 2016.

Pentland's assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell could get promoted to the main position while it seems like New York will head into 2016 with two hitting coaches once again. Tuck received praise from Yankees catcher Brian McCann who cited his improvement in the throwing game and defensively can be dated back to his workouts with Tuck this season.

The Importance of the Non-Trade Deadline for the Rest of the League

Earlier today we took a look at how important the July 31st trade deadline was for the four teams still vying for the postseason, what about the teams that ultimate made the playoffs but fell short. If the team had done more before the deadline could we be talking about an entirely different ball game here on October 18th? While the Cubs, Mets, Blue Jays and Royals play on because of what their GM’s did could the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees have done more?

The Houston Astros season may be defined by the non-trades more so than the actual trades that went on. Houston was “in” on basically any and all relief pitcher before the deadline making runs at both Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman before settling for Oliver Perez and an outfielder that was nearly dealt to the New York Mets in Carlos Gomez. It’s hard to say how the five game series would have went with Kansas City but having either Kimbrel or Chapman on the mound and not Tony Sipp in a huge Game 5 may have made all the difference in the world, not that Sipp has been ineffective whatsoever this season.

The Texas Rangers did make a big deal or two before the deadline acquiring Mike Napoli and Cole Hamels in July. Texas had their eyes set on 2016 when they acquired Hamels and by the team was back in the thick of things in the American League West Division many of the impact players were already traded or unavailable at the trading deadline. It’s hard to put the ALDS loss on the Rangers manager, GM or pitcher Cole Hamels. The Rangers, and specifically their defense in that 7th inning, gave the game to the Toronto Blue Jays and the Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista took it.

The Pirates made a few quiet deals at the trading deadline but the team seemed to take a step back offensively when Jung Ho Kang went down with an injury. You can fault the Pirates for seemingly not having enough depth to cover him but even with Kang I can’t see Pittsburgh making up three runs against the Cubs starter and ace Jake Arrieta. Sometimes you just run into a buzz saw and that’s what the Pirates did. They threw their best pitcher out there with their best offensive team they could muster without Kang but they learned the hard way that no team has ever won a game without scoring a run. Hard to fault the GM for that, especially after winning 98 games during the regular season.

The St. Louis Cardinals were the best team in Major League Baseball in 2015 winning 100 games and the National League Central Division. The team battled injury after injury this season losing Matt Adams, quite possibly their best offensive weapon, Adam Wainwright, their ace starting pitcher, and Carlos Martinez, their ace without Wainwright, and won despite it all. The team looked flat, tired and discouraged against the Chicago Cubs and the Cubbies fed off of it. Without Adams in the lineup and without a suitable backup Jason Heyward got little to hit for much of the second half which basically amounted to an exit in the ALDS. If Mike Matheny had more weapons at his disposal and more depth we may all be laughing about parity in Major League Baseball right now with the Cardinals battling once again for a World Series championship.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and their $300-plus million payroll surprisingly needed to do more at the July 31st trading deadline with the team trying to hold off the San Francisco Giants in the division. Instead of the Dodgers adding a more reliable starter to pair with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke they added Mat Latos, who failed, and Alex Wood in a trade with the Atlanta Braves, who could have been better, leaving the team’s pitching staff exposed in a short series. The Dodgers needed bullpen help, another reliable starter and quite possibly an outfield bat and got none of the above in July. The team added Corey Seager to the mix at shortstop and Chase Utley at second base but it was the pitching AND the offense that let them down against the Mets ultimately leading to another early exit for the team with the highest payroll in baseball and their manager Don Mattingly.

Finally we look at the New York Yankees who had seemingly a comfortable lead in the AL East Division race and were sprinting towards the finish in July. Michael Pineda went down a day before the trading deadline and instead of New York acquiring a starter they called up their top pitching prospect Luis Severino in a move that worked out exceptionally well for New York. A few weeks later the Bombers learned that Mark Teixeira would miss the remainder of the 2015 season with a fracture in his shin after fouling a ball off it in a game and once again Brian Cashman dipped into his farm system again and found a great replacement in Greg Bird. It was when Nathan Eovaldi missed the remainder of the season with elbow inflammation that Cashman and the Yankees luck seemingly ran out. New York’s offense got exposed against good pitching, especially left-handed pitching, and there was nothing the Yankees sole acquisition, Dustin Ackley, could do about it. The Yankees limped into the postseason and if the season was about a week longer they may not have even got that far all because the team lacked depth and the big acquisition to put them over the top.

In two instances, the Pirates and the Rangers, the teams that lost were unlikely to change that scenario with a big trade or acquisition before the trading deadline. In the other four instances the teams, the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers and Cardinals, would have had a much better shot at things if the trade deadline was navigated differently. Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s hard to change things now but if those team’s general managers could I believe they probably would at this point. 

Watch Game 2 of the 1995 ALDS Just Because

Do you have that 2:00 pm feeling? Are you considering watching football or taking a late Sunday nap before your Monday begins the work week all over again? Why not spend the time watching a full game from the 1995 ALDS between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners right here on the blog? Game 2, enjoy.

Just click the video and watch, it's that simple. Enjoy!

The Chase Utley Rule Already Exists

On Friday Daniel wrote about the Chase Utley Rule. This, of course, refers to the play the other night where New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada suffered a broken leg thanks to Chase Utley sliding into him while trying to break up a double play.

This was clearly a legal play *rolls eyes*.

Ultey was suspended for two games, which he is now appealing. This has caused some commotion among Major League Baseball, as they must now come up with a way to avoid such a thing happening in the future.

Daniel mentioned that MLB must protect the players, and I totally agree. While it's bad enough that the Mets will have to try and win during the postseason without Tejada, it would be worse if the same thing happened to Ben Zobrist of the Royals, who is more valuable to the Royals than Tejada is to the Mets. And could you imagine the outrage if something like that had happened to Derek Jeter during the any of the Yankees' postseason runs. You would never hear the end of it. EVER.

So putting a rule in place to keep this from happening again is not some insignificant thing.

But that's the problem... there has been a rule in place, which could have helped avoid Tejada's injury and so many others in the past, which is rarely enforced. It's in Rule 6.01, part (a) (7.09)...
Any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any 
runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following 

play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be 

declared out for the interference of his teammate;
When was the last time you saw a runner going from first to second slide outside of the basepath and into a fielder trying to complete a double play, and having it lead to the batter-runner being called out as well?

"I believe it was in the year 'NEVER'."

This isn't a case of Major League Baseball needing to implement a new rule. This is a case of a rule, already being in place, being made a point of emphasis.

I'm a basketball official. Every year a new rule book comes out, and in it some rules... which have been there for years... are made points of emphasis, meaning we are to work to enforce that rule more so than in the past.

That's all that MLB needs to do next season. Make sure the rule is enforced, so fewer runners will go beyond the basepath to try and break up a double play. If the batter-runner is automatically going to be called out, meaning there's no chance of him beating the throw, things like we saw happen to Tejada are less likely.

Note that I said "fewer runners", along with "less likely". I did that on purpose, because there are still going to be instances where runners are going to slide outside of the basepath in an attempt to break up a double play. It could be because they know the batter-runner is slow, so completing the double play is easy. Or that runner could just get caught up in the moment, and will try too hard in that situation to make a play. Heck, it could be yet another "brain fart" by that player.

The point is that plays in which a fielder could get hurt when a runner attempts to break up a double play will still happen. For such a matter a new rule is not necessary.

The rule book also says that "the league president is the league official charged with enforcing these rules, fining or suspending any player". There are only two rules in which automatic suspensions are required, and that goes for a pitcher throwing at the head of a batter or a player defacing a ball (both are ten games). For any other rule it is up to the league president on the amount of the fine or length of the suspension.

So again, there's no need for a rule change, unless the league wants to come up with an automatic suspension or fine for this infraction. However, I believe that is unnecessary. 

Like they do for me in basketball, just make the "breaking up the double play" thing a point of emphasis next season with MLB umpires. If the league wants to write a memo to teams and players, stating that there will be more fines and/or suspensions for this rule infraction, then that would be wonderful. 

Just keep in mind that doing that does not require dozens of people in MLB to approve anything. No hearings are needed. The rule is already in the book, and that same rule book has already given the league president the power necessary to hand down fines and/or suspensions.

By the way, when I say "league president", I'm not just talking about Rob Manfred. Manfred is actually the commissioner of baseball. As for the "league president", I refer you to this part of the rule book...
With respect to the Major Leagues, the functions of the League President pursuant to these Rules shall be carried out by the designees of the Commissioner of Baseball. The Commissioner may designate different officials to carry out different functions of a League President pursuant to these Rules.
"Where did he find this alleged 'rule book'?" 

It's time for Major League Baseball to take some responsibility and do the right thing before something like this happens again.

The Importance of the July 31st Trade Deadline

Major League Baseball’s own version of the Final Four is set with the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs battling in the National League to see who will face off with the American League winner between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Kansas City Royals. All four teams and their fans have waited a long, long time for a shot at winning a World Series, although Kansas City lost the World Series in Game 7 in 2014, and one of those teams will break their drought in 2015. All four of these teams were built from within the right way with a strong farm system and a good GM filling in the gaps with veteran talent either on the free agent market or the trade market. When all four of these GM’s saw an opportunity and a window in 2015 all four of them pounced on it as they went for it in 2015, something that may define Brian Cashman’s 2015 season and tenure as the Yankees GM.

We as Yankees fans are familiar with what the Toronto Blue Jays did this summer adding David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, Mark Lowe, LaTroy Hawkins, Josh Donaldson (last winter) and Ben Revere and they did while sparing no expense. The Blue Jays gave up their top prospect Daniel Norris and any other prospect opposing teams wanted in a trade because that’s the type of GM Alex Anthopoulos is. He’s not afraid to make the big deal and he won’t take no for an answer and we all see where it got him and the Toronto Blue Jays team he leads.

Their opponent in the Kansas City Royals traded away three big pitching prospects including Brandon Finnegan for the Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto and while the team did not get immediate dividends they received a gem of a start from him in Game 5 of the ALDS. Kansas City also acquired a versatile second baseman and outfielder in Ben Zobrist before the trading deadline came and went in a deal with the Oakland Athletics. Where would Kansas City be without these two key pieces this season? Not likely in the ALCS, I can say that much.

The Chicago Cubs team is made up of about 90% homegrown talent or young talent, which may be an exaggeration but not by much, but the team did make a few key moves before the trading deadline to solidify the team’s rankings in the National League. While the moves the team made were relatively minor, trades for outfielder Austin Jackson to fill out the bench and a separate acquisition of Fernando Rodney for the later innings in the bullpen, the team may not be where they are today and past the St. Louis Cardinals into the NLCS. That’s before you even mention the trade for Clayton Richard from the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Trevor Cahill giveaway sale from this season.

Finally the New York Mets went all in as well before the July 31st trading deadline acquiring Yoenis Cespedes, after failing to acquire Carlos Gomez from the Milwaukee Brewers and after making Flores cry at second base, Tyler Clippard from the Oakland Athletics, Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe from the Atlanta Braves to solidify the team’s bench and infield.

If it were not for these moves I truly don’t believe that any of these four teams are where they are today, fighting for a World Series Championship. This just goes to show you that even the best teams or the teams that seem the most stacked on paper need a little bit of fine tuning by the time July, August and September come around. The teams that make the moves necessary to get them over the hump don’t always prosper, and the teams that sit on their hands don’t always fail, but I’d say if you looked back at the Championship Series from Major League Baseball in the last 10-15 seasons or so I would think the odds would forever be in the favor of the team pulling the trigger and not the team sitting by idling watching the others get better.

A Quick Look at the 2016 Yankees Before Free Agency

The New York Yankees and their GM Brian Cashman have a lot of work to be done before the beginning of the 2016 season if the team wants to compete for a World Championship and that uphill climb begins in free agency. Let's take a quick look at the team as it stands today before the World Series is wrapped up and before hot stove news takes over the blog.

C: Brian McCann
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Robert Refsnyder/Dustin Ackley
SS: Didi Gregorius
3B: Chase Headley
LF: Brett Gardner
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
RF: Carlos Beltran
DH: Alex Rodriguez

BN: John Ryan Murphy
BN: Brendan Ryan
BN: Robert Refsnyder/Dustin Ackley

SP: Masahiro Tanaka
SP: Michael Pineda
SP: Luis Severino
SP: Nathan Eovaldi
SP: CC Sabathia

RP: Ivan Nova
RP: Chasen Shreve
RP: Justin Wilson
RP: Adam Warren
RP: Dellin Betances
CL: Andrew Miller

This Day in New York Yankees History 10/18: Mr. October

Reggie Jackson was brought in by owner George Steinbrenner to propel the Yankees to their first World Series title in what felt like forever, and that he did. On this day in 1977 Reggie hit three home runs on three consecutive pitches in the World Series in the clinching game of the Yankees 21st World Series title. The nickname Mr. October stuck immediately as he had hit a home run in his last at bat of the previous game as well making for four consecutive home runs across two games.

Also on this day in 1960 a mere five days after losing the World Series to Bill Mazeroski and the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 7 of the World Series manager Casey Stengel was fired. The Yankees cited the fact that Stengel was too old to manage in which Stengel replied “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again.”