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!

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