Saturday, October 16, 2021

Closing the Book on the 2021 Season...


Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Turning off the Yankee Stadium lights…

The 2021 season was a disappointment. With the severe highs and lows, it never felt like that was a championship-quality year to me, and the uninspired play in the Wild Card game was hardly a surprise. I guess all things considered, it is better to exit the playoffs by getting trounced by your bitter division rival than it is to win 106 games and the division, only to lose to your hatred enemy on a called third strike that was clearly a proper checked swing.

Excellent job by Bryan Van Dusen (as usual) with his 2021-2022 Offseason Plan! His trade proposals and acquisitions always show great thought and consideration. You may not agree with his choices, but his logic is always sound, and he has a strong understanding of what will make the Yankees a team to watch in 2022.

It goes without question, there are necessary changes in the Bronx. The week’s announcement that three coaches (Marcus Thames, P.J. Piliterre, and Phil Nevin) would not be returning was expected and needed. The body of Thames’ work has been strong, but the hitters’ struggles in 2021, unless your name is Stanton or Judge, sealed his fate as a scapegoat. I would not be surprised to see minor league hitting coordinator Dillon Lawson promoted to the Major League team as Thames’ replacement. If Lawson gets the job, there is a chance he could make Rachel Balkovec his assistant hitting coach. I think both would be excellent choices. They know and understand how the organization works, and they have familiarity with the younger hitters in the farm system. If the Yankees decide to bring in coaches from outside the organization, there is no doubt they will have similar technology savvy backgrounds for today’s analytics-driven team philosophies.

I like bench coach Carlos Mendoza, just not as bench coach. Maybe he moves to third base with Nevin’s removal. I have never understood why the Yankees have not gotten a strong bench coach with managerial experience during the Aaron Boone regime. His buddy, Josh Bard, did not work out for whatever reason, although he does find himself in the National League Championship Series as bullpen coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I saw one post this week that said the Yankees need a ying to Boone’s yang. I agree. There needs to be a strong voice that can provide Boone, if he returns, with solid options. He would never take the job and is a strong managerial candidate this off-season, but a Buck Showalter-type is what comes to mind. I have heard names like Eric Wedge and Fredi Gonzalez. Those are not names that excite me as a manager, but I think either could be a sound choice as a bench coach. They both have managerial experience, and they have past relationships with Boone. Neither man would be afraid to speak their minds to Boone and challenge him on his decisions.

I have gotten over my anger with Aaron Boone. There were a few days that I wanted his head on a platter, but I have gotten over it. I feel that he can get better by improving those around him. Coaches and players. By all accounts, he is a good guy, and the players like him. A manager needs to be more than a friend, and Boone does not strike me as a strategist like other managers in the game. Even Binder Joe seemed more prepared for games. I am not saying that I wish Joe Girardi were still manager. I keep seeing those comments, but that ship sailed. We can only look forward. If Boone had a strong right-hand man that was a strategist and visionary with experience, he would be better because he would have stronger and more informed choices. I expect an announcement that Boone will be returning on a two or three-year deal within the next couple of weeks.

Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, NY Post

I love the speculation by Yankee fans for potential shortstop and first base options. I enjoyed having Anthony Rizzo on the team. I would not mind seeing the Yankees re-sign him, although if they have an opportunity for either Matt Olson or Freddie Freeman, those guys would be preferred. The Yankees need to move on from Luke Voit. I am not enamored with the talk of moving D.J. LeMahieu to first base. He is such a brilliant defender at second base. I would rather trade Gleyber Torres and keep LeMachine at second base. I am expecting a better 2022 season for D.J. Worst-case, move LeMahieu to third, not first. Keep him within his highest and best use. If Rizzo, Olson, or Freeman is the team’s first baseman next season, I will be happy.

Like many, I would love to have one of the elite shortstops that will soon be available for money. I have long admired Trevor Story, and I appreciate the left-handed bat of Corey Seager. The best choice is a very hated Astro, Carlos Correa. Many talk about the young guys, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe, however, they are at least a year away from the Major Leagues and a few years from being potential frontline performers. The time is now. Let us not waste the prime of Gerrit Cole’s career. I would not let Peraza or Volpe keep me from pursuing an elite shortstop. If Torres is traded, Volpe could be D.J’s eventual replacement at second. Worry about where to play them when they are ready. For now, let us build a team that can challenge the Rays, Red Sox, and Blue Jays for AL East superiority.

I know Gio Urshela has expressed interest in staying at short, but that does not excite me. Either keep him at third or trade him if LeMahieu becomes the team’s third baseman.

Every off-season I say the same thing, but he keeps coming back. It is time for Brett Gardner to hang up his cleats. He has been a great Yankee and he will not be forgotten, but it is time for younger guys. Estevan Florial is ready, and I would prefer to move forward with him over Gardy. I do not trust Aaron Hicks from a health perspective, so the Yankees do need to address centerfield. I am expecting a better 2022 season for Joey Gallo. I know how awful his time in pinstripes has been, but I am truly hopeful the Yankees can collaborate with him to improve his hitting skills. He will never hit for average but if he could reduce the strikeouts, I think he can play a bigger role in the team’s success. His defense and ability to get on base did not desert him. If not, the name mentioned by many (Starling Marte) seems like such a great fit.

Photo Credit: Frank Jansky, Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Of course, the Yankees are not going to balloon payroll to $300 million so we can only dream. At the end of the day, the Yankees will be economical with their choices. They will spend but they will be financially prudent with their choices. This could prevent the possibility for a guy like Correa.

Catcher is another position that needs to be reconsidered. I have reached the conclusion that Gary Sanchez needs a change of scenery. The problem is that Kyle Higashioka is a backup at best. If the Yankees do move on from Sanchez, they need a good replacement. It is not like J.T. Realmuto is available. I keep hearing Tucker Barnhart’s name. I would not be opposed to the catcher, who will be 31 in January. Austin Wells, like Peraza and Volpe, is expected to make his MLB debut in 2023. Barnhart could keep the seat warm until he is ready and provide the Yankees with a solid bridge if Sanchez leaves. I am disappointed that Anthony Seigler, a former first round pick (2018), has not progressed as expected.

I am anxious to get the World Series over so that preparation for the 2022 season can begin. I never thought I would find myself rooting for the Houston Astros but here we are. That seems so wrong on so many levels, but there is simply no way I could ever bring myself pulling for the Red Sox. Congrats Astros for the Game 1 win, despite the heroics of former Dodger Kiké Hernández. My support for the Astros will end with the ALCS. Regardless of whether the Los Angeles Dodgers or Atlanta Braves win the NLCS (Go Dodgers!), the NL will have my full support in this year’s World Series. I hope it is the Dodgers but will stand behind the Braves if necessary.

As always, Go Yankees!

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)