Saturday, January 29, 2022

Coming Soon: Rizzo & Simmons...


Andrelton Simmons / Photo Credit: Gary A Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports

Keep Your Expectations Low…

As the calendar prepares to turn to February, the MLB Lockout continues. While the two sides met on Monday and Tuesday, the momentum seems to be moving at a snail’s pace. The MLB Owners and MLBPA need to pick up urgency with their negotiations. Lock them in a room until they get this resolved. It is disappointing that Spring Training may be delayed. Not the end of the world considering Spring Training is a bit too long, but the longer it goes, the stronger the chance the regular season will be delayed which would be a travesty and a huge error in judgment by the wealthy MLB Owners.

Once the labor dispute has ended, there will be extremely limited time to prepare for the 2022 season so brace yourself for when the Yankees biggest off-season moves are to add a stopgap shortstop and re-sign Anthony Rizzo. I remain hopeful for at least the free agent signing of Trevor Story to give the Yankees a superior player at shortstop rather than a journeyman to fill the role. I want Matt Olson or Freddie Freeman as much as most Yankees fans, but it feels as though the Steinbrenner Administration will underwhelm us in a few areas under Hal’s economic belief, right or wrong, that it does not take $200 million to field a champion. If we do not get Olson or Freeman, I would not be disappointed if Rizzo returns. We need at least Rizzo as Luke Voit is not the answer. As for shortstop, sorry, I do not want Andrelton Simmons or some cheap fill-in option.

I hope I am wrong. It would be fantastic the Yankees come out the Lockout swinging for the fences. With so many elite players available, the Yankees would be foolish not to try and improve their 2022 chances. The AL East will be incredibly competitive this year (well at least every team that does not play its home games at Camden Yards). I like Anthony Volpe and I am glad he is a Yankees prospect, but we cannot and should not rely on his Major League success until he proves it. When he does, he will find his place on the roster. A short-term fix while we are waiting for Volpe’s 2023 or 2024 arrival does not make sense to me. When you can improve the roster, legitimately make your team better, you do it.

Matt Olson / Photo Credit: Justin Edmonds, Getty Images

In his New York Post column today, Joel Sherman believes there are three avenues for the Yankees. 1) sign Carlos Correa or Trevor Story, 2) Add free agent Freddie Freeman or acquire Matt Olson, and/or 3) Spread the money over multiple areas to improve the roster. He believes the Yankees will choose the third option. The shortstop options referenced are the usual suspects, Andrelton Simmons, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Elvis Andrus and Nick Ahmed. He sees Anthony Rizzo and Simmons as the “simplest solution” for the Yankees. Ugh, I hate to read this even if the realist in me knows that Sherman is most likely correct.

I am so ready for the Lockout to end…

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Carlos Beltran returns to the Yankees Universe. I thought Beltran would be an excellent choice for Aaron Boone’s coaching staff (potential manager-in-waiting…I mean, assistant hitting coach), but congratulations to him for joining the YES Network to help fill the void of David Cone’s reduced schedule and Ken Singleton’s retirement. According to Jack Curry, Beltran will work an estimated thirty-six games, with Cone covering 55-60 games. Good for Carlos. He gets his foot back in the door and should help him find his way back into a Major League dugout at some point if he so chooses.

The first few games with Beltran may be a bit awkward. He does owe the fanbase an apology for his role in the Houston Astros cheating scandal. I am willing to forgive but I am hopeful he is remorseful and apologetic. A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora received second chances and Beltran should too. He should not ignore the situation. Make a short apology and move on. Nothing more, nothing less.

It is kind of funny the Yankees now employ the last two managers of the New York Mets even if one never managed a Major League game.

Carlos Beltran / Photo Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images

Luis Rojas / Photo Credit: Rich Schultz, Getty Images

I think the first time I heard someone suggest Jonathan Loáisiga as the Yankees closer, I was against it out of concern about his injury history. But the more I think about it, the better I feel. He has the right mental makeup (and arm) to succeed as the successor to Aroldis Chapman. It seems a given that 2022 will be Chappy’s final year in Pinstripes so the transition should start this season (utilization of both men at the end of the games without one being the designated closer). If the situation calls for it, Chappy in the eighth and Loáisiga  to finish it. Aaron Boone gets the chance to be creative with the talent in the bullpen. The key is to keep both men fresh, and not overuse either one.

This is Robinson Cano’s 39th year. He turns 40 in October. It seems like only yesterday he was a newcomer trying to break into a lineup that featured Derek Jeter. Two big IFs…if Cano had never left the Yankees and if he had not toyed with performance enhancing drugs, we would be talking about the potential retirement of #24 instead of wishing banishment to Siberia for the man who currently wears it. I do not wish Cano any ill will. I would not want him back on the Yankees. Not quite sure how the Mets will employ him, but that is their problem. Cano broke my heart when he left, and I will always wonder what could have been. I blame him for Jacoby Ellsbury although that was more about management’s response and less to do with Cano’s decision to stay or go. Yet, although I have no love for the Mets, it would be nice to see Cano write a good comeback story in Queens this season.

The New York Giants got their men with GM Joe Schoen and Head Coach Brian Daboll. Not that I follow the Giants (I do not) but it seemed like those two were the favorites among Giants fans. I thought both choices were strong, and it provides reason for optimism among the Giants fanbase. 

As for my team, the Minnesota Vikings, they got it right with their GM selection, New Jersey-born Princeton graduate Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. The last couple of days have been exciting for Vikings fans. Adofo-Mensah, with his heavy background in Analytics, is such a contrast to former GM Rick Spielman, a welcome change. My choice for head coach remains Raheem Morris, the defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams, although I would be just as excited to see DeMeco Ryans, the DC for the San Francisco 49ers, get the job. The two men will be on display in this Sunday’s NFC Championship. Giants DC Patrick Graham has been added to the interview list. I am confident Adofo-Mensah will make the right choice. I was ready for a change from the grouchy sixty-something Mike Zimmer. Zimmer, if he chooses to return to the game, is better suited to be a defensive coordinator than head coach.

I am so ready for baseball to become more relevant than football.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Wherefore art thou, Baseball? ...


MLB Lockout continues with no end in sight…

Monday, when the MLBPA is expected to present their counterproposal to the MLB Owners, will mark ten days since the Owners made their feeble first economics pitch. These talks need to pick up some urgency if Spring Training expects to open on time. At this point, it does seem Spring Training will be delayed, but hopefully the two sides can find common ground to ensure the regular season is not disrupted.

I wish the two sides would come to the table with the intent to hammer out an agreement and stay there until it is resolved. February is slightly more than a week away and it feels the two sides remain miles apart even if they really are not. Yet, neither side has brought proposals that should be seriously considered by the other side. It just seems like each side is saying ‘It is my way or the highway.’ Meanwhile, the fans suffer. From a fan’s perspective, it does not really matter who wins the latest CBA fight. We want restoration of America’s favorite pastime.

Not much happening in the Yankees Universe. With the passing of each day, I think the Yankees will take the lesser road to a stop-gap shortstop for 2022. As much as I think Carlos Correa would be a great Yankee, Hal Steinbrenner is not going to pay the elite shortstop the $350 million it will take to sign him. Scott Boras will get his new client truckloads of cash. He just won’t be getting Hal Steinbrenner’s money. I am beginning to lose confidence the Yankees will be players for Trevor Story. Nick Ahmed, Elvis Andrus, Andrelton Simmons, or Isiah Kiner-Falefa, among others, seem more likely to be Yankees than the talented Story. As fans, we want Carlos Correa, Matt Olson, and Luis Castillo. In Hal’s reality, we will end up with Simmons, Anthony Rizzo, and Carlos Rodon…if we are lucky. I do not have the faith in Steinbrenner to think he will do whatever is necessary to make the Yankees as competitive as they can be. He will do enough to give the appearance that he is trying, while ensuring his family’s cash cow continues to deliver for their pockets.

The only notable Yankees news of the past week involved former Yankees.

Melky Cabrera, two years after his last appearance in a Major League game, announced his retirement. The crown jewel of his career is the 2009 World Series Championship with the Yankees. Cabrera made his MLB debut for the Yankees in July 2005 and remained with the team through the championship season. In December 2009, he was sent to the Atlanta Braves in the trade that brought Javier Vazquez (fail) and Boone Logan to New York. Life in Atlanta did not go well for Cabrera, but he found new life in later years with the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants. He spent time with the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, and Pittsburgh Pirates to round out his career. He was in the New York Mets organization in 2020 but never made the active MLB roster.

Melky Cabrera / Photo Credit: AP, Frank Franklin II

For his career, he played in 1,887 MLB games. He hit 144 home runs and 854 RBIs, batting .285/.334/.417 with .326 wOBA, 101 WRC+ and 15.0 WAR. His time as a Yankee was fun while it lasted. I can still vividly remember his excitement in post-game celebrations. Granted, that was more memorable than his actual play on the field but still, every team needs enthusiastic supporting role players who can help. Cabrera did and I wish him the best with his retirement and post-playing career.

The other former Yankee made news for very horrific reasons. Sergio Mitre, who pitched for the Yankees in 2009 and 2010, and again late in the 2011 season, was sentenced by a Mexican court to 40 to 60 years in prison for the rape and murder of his former partner’s 22-month-old daughter. Honestly, 40 to 60 years is not enough for his crimes. It is sickening to think he once played for the Yankees. May he rot in prison and never see the light of day again.

Speaking of former Yankees, Ken Davidoff had a nice piece this week in The New York Post about Andrew Velazquez. As we all know, the Bronx native became such a fan favorite last summer. After the season, he was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. While some players could hold resentment for being traded away, Velazquez is appreciative for his time in his hometown and harbors no ill feelings. Frankly, I wish the Yankees could have found a way to keep Velazquez around, especially given the subsequent trade of Tyler Wade to the same Angels. Velazquez was never going to win the starting shortstop job but with no current true shortstops on the roster, he could have fought for a backup role. In Davidoff’s column, Velazquez was asked to identify the highlight of his time with the Yankees: “I think just putting the uniform on before the game, in the locker room. Taking the field. Little things like that. Warming up and seeing people I knew from my neighborhood screaming in the stands. That stuff, you can’t buy that stuff.” Thank you, Andrew, we are equally appreciative of your time in Pinstripes. We wish you all the best in sunny warm Orange County, California. 

Andrew Velazquez / Photo Credit: AP, Adam Hunger

While I would still love to see Carlos Beltran on Aaron Boone’s staff, I think he would be a fine addition to the YES Network crew to make up for David Cone’s reduced schedule and the retirement of Ken Singleton. The job could eventually help him open doors for future MLB opportunities. While it is tough to forgive the sins of his role in the Houston Astros cheating scandal, he deserves a second chance as much as A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora were given.

I think the New York Giants did well with their selection of Joe Schoen as the new general manager. It seems like only a matter of time until Brian Daboll is named the new head coach. But unlike many Yankee fans, I am not a Giants fan. I am a lifelong fan of the Minnesota Vikings, a team owned by a Giants fan (Zygi Wilf). I think my goal in life is to experience one championship with the Vikings. It is a very sharp contrast to life as a Yankees fan. Early in childhood, it felt like the Vikings were in Super Bowl contention every season during the Fran Tarkenton years. Yet, many years later, there have been a couple of near misses but never legitimate shots for the Lombardi Trophy. While I liked Mike Zimmer as the Vikings head coach for the past eight years, there was no question it was time for a change. I thought GM Rick Spielman might survive, but he was dismissed with Zimmer. Trader Rick always made the NFL Draft fun with his desire to accumulate as many draft picks as possible. A few more hits with those draft picks and he might still be employed by the Vikings.

So, where do the Vikings go from here? It is hard to look at the roster and feel they are Super Bowl-caliber after their 8-9 season. They did lose so many close games this season leaving us to wonder what could have been, but there will be free agent losses this off-season, and the Vikings do not have much salary cap space given how much money they pay quarterback Kirk Cousins. While Cousins is not an elite QB, I would not be opposed to his return under a new head coach that might be better suited to maximize Cousins’ talents. The offense has some talented players with RB Dalvin Cook and WRs Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. TE Irv Smith, Jr., who missed the 2021 season due to injury, will be back and is expected to be a big part of the offense. Yet, if the Vikings could trade Cousins and his contract, it would allow the team to improve other areas of the roster so I have mixed feelings on the topic. If he is traded, Kellen Mond is not ready to take over as the starting quarterback.

The decisions that must be made will reside with the team’s new to-be-named general manager and head coach. The GM search has been narrowed to two candidates. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, currently VP of Football Operations for the Cleveland Browns, and Ryan Poles, Executive Director of Player Personnel for the Kansas City Chiefs. My pick: Adofo-Mensah. The culture of the Vikings needs to change. One player recently referred to it as a fear-based organization under the Zimmer/Spielman regime. Adofo-Mensah, 40, has taken an unconventional route to the NFL. He played basketball for Princeton, graduating with an economics degree. He also holds a master’s degree from Stanford University. After a brief career on Wall Street, he spent seven years in the San Francisco 49ers organization. His roles included Manager for Research and Development and Vice President of Operations. In 2020, he was hired by the Browns in a role that is essentially the assistant GM to General Manager Andrew Berry. I like the front office experience Adofo-Mensah has gained, and he is ideally suited for success at the next level. I certainly will not be disappointed if Ryan Poles gets the job, but I prefer Adofo-Mensah. The second interviews for both men are scheduled for next week. The new GM could be in place by the end of the week.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (L) and Andrew Berry / Photo Credit:, John Kuntz

The Vikings are on record for saying the GM will be hired before the head coach. When the search started, my favorites were former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, the only NFL coach to win a Super Bowl in Minnesota (his Eagles won Super Bowl LII on February 4, 2018, at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis) and Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Since then, I have changed my mind after further researching candidates. While I should not let one game sway me, the way the Cowboys lost their playoff game against the 49ers left a bad taste.

My current favorites for Vikings head coach, ranked in order, are: 1) Raheem Morris, defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams, 2) Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, and 3) DeMeco Ryans, defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers. It is funny because after a defense-minded coach like Zimmer, I wanted an offensive coach. Yet, with more thought, there are defensive coaches who can better understand the offensive game like Morris. Some Vikings fans are quick to point out Raheem’s dismal performance as head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009-2011). Morris was only thirty-two when he was named Tampa Bay’s head coach and he admits today that he was not ready. Now forty-five, he has experienced success in coaching roles on both sides of the ball. I liken this situation to when Joe Torre was named manager of the Yankees and called “Clueless Joe” by the fans (not me, for the record). If Morris can similarly bring championships to Minneapolis, I am all for it.

Raheem Morris / Photo Credit: AP

I hope everyone, except for Rob Manfred, has an enjoyable day. Thanks for reading.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, January 15, 2022

MLB Fandom Lockout Continues...


MLB Owners & MLBPA continue to show disregard for its fans…

The MLB Owners and Players Association finally met this week in a ‘why bother?’ one-hour session. The fool in me had been hopeful the first meeting regarding core economics in over a month would yield some momentum for further talks. Silly me. Now the wait for the Players Association to counter which most likely will be as aggressive as the MLB Owners were conservative…meaning the two sides remain miles apart. No time frame has been given for the Players Association’s response. There is a threat Spring Training may not start on time, but a shortened Spring Training is probably very appealing to both the owners and players. Now, it feels like this labor dispute could drag into March and delay the start of the regular season.

I think both sides are damaging the reputation of the sport. Much has been discussed about appealing to younger fans to help continue to grow the fanbase. Yet, the current state of Major League Baseball shows young sports fans that football, basketball, and hockey are tremendous alternatives. If MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to create a lasting legacy, he is on the wrong path. Hopefully, egos can be set aside, and cooler heads will prevail to bring meaningful negotiations soon. Maybe that is an overly optimistic view, but I cannot imagine the owners walking away from regular season gate receipts, especially after the trauma of the 2020 season. I do not understand the wait until the last minute. I understand each side wants to be the big winner but compromise for the sake of the game is more important. They can and will find common ground, but the question is when and at what cost to the fans.

We get this is a fight over our money. MLB Owners and Players, please remember this is not all about you. Get in a room, lock the door, and settle this…now.

Congratulations to Rachel Balkovec, the new manager for the Single-A Tampa Tarpons! This is a well-deserved promotion for Balkovec, who joined the Yankees in November 2019 as a minor league hitting instructor. I honestly wanted the Yankees to hire her as an assistant hitting coach for the big-league club, but this new role certainly befits the talented and industrious coach who is on her way to a bigger and brighter future in the Yankees organization.

Rachel Balkovec / Photo Credit: Yankees

Balkovec’s expressed goal is to be a general manager one day. I could easily see the Yankees eventually elevating her to assistant general manager. Jean Afterman is sixty-four and relocated a couple of years ago from New York to Sonoma, California. Balkovec is a possible replacement for the much-respected Afterman, when/if she decides it is time to enjoy the wonderful Napa Valley vineyards. Such an appointment could place Balkovec in line to eventually replace Brian Cashman. If not, it is a certainty in my mind that Rachel Balkovec will accomplish her goals through determination, perseverance, knowledge, and competitiveness. She wants to be a MLB general manager which means she will be a MLB general manager. For now, low level Yankee prospects will benefit greatly from an excellent teacher. I am glad she is on our side.

No word on a replacement for short-term Yankees assistant hitting coach Eric Chavez. The latest name mentioned is Eric Hinske, a brief one-time Yankee. His name excites me about as much as Mark Trumbo. In other words, not very much. Hinske served as assistant hitting instructor for several seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks until he was relieved of his duties in June 2021. I understand the need for a coach with Major League experience, a weakness in the current configuration of the Yankees coaching staff, but the Yankees can do better than Trumbo or Hinske. I like the idea of someone who has past ties to the organization but that is not a prerequisite. I want a coach who can team with hitting coach Dillon Lawson and assistant hitting coach Casey Dykes to provide a strong collaborative and synergetic trio to help make Yankee hitters better. I keep thinking Brett Gardner would be a formidable choice if the Yankees could convince him his playing days are over.

International Signing Day. For the Yankees, they are expected to sign top international prospect Roderick Arias. MLB’s Jesse Sanchez is reporting the Yankees have signed the young shortstop to a $4.0 million deal. The Yankees have not confirmed the signing. Per Sanchez, Arias has above-average bat-to-ball skills and strike zone awareness. He shows power from both sides of the plate with emphasis on the right side. Good opposite field power from the left side. Sanchez goes on to say the overall package could develop into a plus-plus hitter. Once the signing is confirmed, Arias will immediately be inserted into the Yankees’ current list of top ten prospects.

Roderick Arias

The presence of Arias and last year’s number one pick Trey Sweeney make it easier if the Yankees decide to include Oswald Peraza in a trade with the Oakland A’s to acquire first baseman Matt Olson. The Yankee still need more than a stopgap at short, but outside of Anthony Volpe or Jasson Dominguez, there is not much I would not give up to get Olson (although the argument can be easily made to simply part with money to sign Freddie Freeman). I remain on the bandwagon to sign either Carlos Correa or Trevor Story although their signings range from highly unlikely to mostly improbable. With no disrespect to the futures of Anthony Volpe or Peraza (if he is not traded), it will sicken me if the 2022 New York Yankees shortstop is Andrelton Simmons. If that is the case, I would rather have that Falafel dude from Texas. It does bother me that the Rangers thought so highly of Isiah Kiner-Falefa that they signed not one but two of the top free agent shortstops this off-season. I would prefer him over Simmons, but I do not think either guy would move the needle for improving the team.

More minor league free agent signings. I was a little surprised to see the Yankees have signed former top prospect LHP Manny Banuelos to a minor league deal (I know, Daniel, there is no such thing as a bad minor league deal). Manny has bounced around a few organizations since the Yankees traded him to Atlanta in 2015 (in the deal that brought Chasen Shreve to New York). In 2019, while a member of the Chicago White Sox, Banuelos gave up nine earned runs in one inning to the Boston Red Sox. After some time in China, he spent last season in the Mexican League. I would love to see Banuelos, now 30 years old, finally achieve success in the Major Leagues, even as a reliever, but let us just say that I am not optimistic.

Manuel Banuelos

The Yankees also signed former Red Sock Ryan Weber, 31-year-old RHP, to a minor league contract. In Weber’s last MLB appearance for the Red Sox on June 13, 2021, he gave up eleven runs in 5 2/3 innings. I see a common theme with both Banuelos and Weber. They have both been horrible for and against the Boston Red Sox.

Can Matt Blake and the Yankees minor league pitching instructors unlock potential in either arm? Doubtful but we will see. As they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I miss baseball.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, January 8, 2022

The Story of the Week...

Trevor Story and DJ LeMahieu

Linking Trevor to the Yankees…

A new year, the same old toxic relationship between MLB Owners and MLB Players Association as the MLB Lockout continues with no resolution in sight. The longer this goes on, you really must wonder how much time the Yankees will have to improve their roster before the season starts…correction, if the season starts.

The New York Post’s Ken Davidoff released his updated free agent predications this week and has the following players signing with the Yankees after the Lockout ends.

Shortstop Trevor Story

Davidoff originally had Story signing with the Houston Astros to replace Carlos Correa for five years and $110 million. He now sees the Yankees for less money. I entered the off-season under the belief that Corey Seager made the most sense with his strong left-handed bat, and pivoted to Correa, after Seager took big money in Texas, because a great young all-around elite shortstop is a valuable commodity regardless of his past misdeeds. It seems weird to see that we may have to ‘settle’ for Story (some have even referred to him as a stopgap) when, in reality, the guy is really good. I took the position after the season ended that I would be happy with any of the three top free agent shortstops so if the Yankees sign Story, I certainly will not be disappointed. During my years living in Denver, Colorado, Story was a joy to watch at Coors Field. He routinely received huge applause from the home crowd.

First Baseman Anthony Rizzo

Davidoff continues to believe Rizzo will be back in the Bronx on a two-year, $32 million deal. No doubt most of us would prefer Oakland’s Matt Olson via trade, but if the Yankees do not grab a “big fish” (i.e., Olson or free agent Freddie Freeman), Rizzo is better than nothing or in this case, Luke Voit. I do like Voit and his football mentality, but he is more of a DH. Rizzo showed us last season how much great defense at first base can be, and that’s just not Luke’s game. I will truly be disappointed if the Yankee first baseman next season is not Olson, Freeman or Rizzo.

Outfielder Seiya Suzuki

Davidoff originally had Suzuki joining Team Derek Jeter for three years and $21 million. He has pivoted to Suzuki becoming the second Suzuki to play outfield for the Yankees. Ironically, he has Brett Gardner going to the Miami Marlins to rejoin Jeter. Recent speculation elsewhere has Suzuki signing with the arch-rival Boston Red Sox when the Lockout ends. Despite Boston’s re-acquisition of CF Jackie Bradley Jr, they could certainly use some help in the outfield. I would not mind seeing the Yankees sign Suzuki, but I do feel it is more likely he goes to Boston. As for Brett, thanks for the memories. You were a great Yankee.

If this is the Yankees’ 2021-22 off-season, it would be slightly underwhelming if they do nothing else. The Yankees need to improve center field and catching and could use another topflight starter. I like Aaron Hicks when he is healthy, but the reality is that is not very often. Keeping Hicks as the fourth outfielder would make more sense. Although Brett Gardner routinely started as the team’s fourth outfielder because of the injury-prone Hicks, a healthier starting option might help to keep Hicks fresh and less susceptible to injury.

While I keep wanting to support Gary Sanchez, I am slowly realizing that his time as a Yankee has run its course. I wish the Yankees had done something before the Lockout to improve the position, but there is still hope for action once the Lockout is lifted. It seems like Willson Contreras is the most obvious option in a potential trade with the Chicago Cubs, but there are other catchers that would be an improvement over Gary (Austin Nola and Mitch Garver to name a few). Gary, right now, is my top ‘guy in need of a change of scenery.’ If the season starts and Sanchez remains the Yankees catcher, I will support him but if he continues to struggle, the toxic situation is only going to get worse. It is best to clear the slate and start anew.

I like Anthony Rizzo. I know he is not on the same level as Olson and Freeman, but it is not like he is a shlep. I admire his baseball acumen, the defense he provides at first base, and the team-first mentality he brings every day. A great clubhouse leader, he helps bond team chemistry. I still want Olson, but I will not be disappointed if Rizzo returns.

Reports about Jameson Taillon’s recovery and Clarke Schmidt’s health have been positive, but the Yankees must improve the starting rotation. Just as I would not bet the future on shortstop prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza by only signing a true stopgap shortstop (an Andrelton Simmons type), I am reluctant to hedge the future on the emergence of Schmidt, Luis Gil, Luis Medina and/or the disappointing Deivi Garcia. When they are ready, the Yankees will make room. Until then, decisions should not be based on the hope they emerge. I want the young guys to succeed but meanwhile we are wasting the best years of Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge if we continue to wait for the youngsters to develop. Win now means we need players ready to contribute to a championship today, not tomorrow.

If only MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and the MLBPA could set aside their differences and come to an agreement for the good of the game. I am ready for some actual baseball activity to take place and end the incessant speculation about how to improve the 2022 New York Yankees.

It was disappointing to hear this week that brief Yankees Assistant Hitting Coach Eric Chavez has chosen to join Buck Showalter and the New York Mets as their hitting coach. I had really been excited to have Chavez on the Yankees staff and could have seen him as a viable option if the Yankees ever decide to part ways with fan-not-so-favorite Aaron Boone. But I do not begrudge Chavez for taking a promotion to join the Mets. As excited as I was when I heard he was joining the Yankees as an assistant hitting coach, I was little surprised that he would take an “assistant” role in any capacity. His name had been mentioned in a few managerial rumors for other teams recently. Boone’s analogy that he would be a “Swiss Army knife” made sense but in retrospect, they should have created a title that better fit the position or expectations. I knew once the Mets hired Billy Eppler as their GM, they would be a desirable spot for Chavez given his lengthy association with Eppler. He left the Yankees before to join Eppler in Anaheim, so the precedent was there. For a guy with managerial aspirations, collaborating with Buck Showalter seems to be the better play so I wish Chavez the best and we move on.

One of the names mentioned to replace Chavez as Yankees assistant hitting coach is former Baltimore Oriole Mark Trumbo. I cannot say his name excites me. Right or wrong, I cannot shake the ‘swing and miss’ association I have with Trumbo’s name. The Yankees are apparently looking for someone with strong Major League experience so it seems unlikely the Yankees will do the sensible thing like promoting the deserving Rachel Balkovec. Someone such as Carlos Beltran would be fantastic but there is absolutely no way in hell he would take an assistant role. This is where it might make sense to bring Brett Gardner back unless he is determined to continue playing. Jorge Posada has always seemed like a desirable choice although he might be too joined at the hip with Derek Jeter in Miami, and I am a little uncertain how his intensity would play at a coaching level. I have always liked Tino Martinez, but his partial season run as hitting coach with the Miami Marlins ended in July 2013 when he resigned amidst allegations of physical and verbal abuse of players.

The other big news this week involved Yankees broadcasters David Cone and Michael Kay. David Cone will be joining ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, along with Karl Ravech and Eduardo Perez. They replace Matt Vasgersian, who has left ESPN, and Alex Rodriguez, who has been reassigned. Cone will reportedly maintain his role with YES Network albeit a reduced schedule. This is one of those happy/sad moments. I am happy Cone will gain a broader national audience, but sad for us as we lose the exclusivity of Cone breaking down Yankee games for us. This was a great move by ESPN.

Michael Kay will be joining Alex Rodriguez on ESPN2 for eight of the Sunday Night baseball games. Their format will be like football’s Manningcast which features Peyton and Eli Manning in a sports bar style setting for a less formal discussion of the game, with frequent special guests. While Kay will retain his role on YES Network, I am in favor of any move that can get Ryan Ruocco into the YES Network booth more often. With Ken Singleton’s retirement and Cone’s reduced schedule, it will be interesting to see who joins the YES Network lineup. I would love to see David Wells in an expanded role although I have no idea his level of interest.

Rob Manfred, please get off your ass and kickstart the negotiations. This ‘wait until the last minute’ shit sucks.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year to the Yankees Universe! ...


Will the New Year bring Labor Peace?...

Now that we are nearly through the holidays, here is to the cautiously optimistic hope that MLB Owners and the MLB Players Association can sit down in earnest and begin tackling the core issues that divide the parties. Hopefully, they will find the motivation to aggressively seek resolution of their differing opinions and reach an agreement for a new collective bargaining agreement that will be mutually beneficial for all concerned. The owners and the players owe it to the fans to find common ground and bring Major League Baseball activity back into our lives.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens always start strong in the Hall of Fame balloting before losing their hold on candidacy as the later and final votes trickle in. This year is no different. Through 103 public and seven anonymous ballots as of 12/31/21, as reported by Ryan Thibodeaux’s 2022 BBHOF Tracker, Bonds has eighty-nine votes (80.9%), and Clemens has eighty-eight votes (80.00%). The leader is David Ortiz with ninety-one votes (82.7%). Former Yankee Alex Rodriguez only has fifty-one votes (46.4%).

Ortiz has a particularly good chance for success. Suspected of PED use, it was never proven or confirmed despite the allegations, and Ortiz has denied it. Yet, if Ortiz makes the Hall, I do feel it is time to consider the known PED users. Both Bonds and Clemens were talented players, with or without the aid of the performance enhancing drugs at various points of their respective careers. If the Hall of Fame has a high standard for its code of ethics, there are probably more than a few Hall of Famers who should be removed. I have softened on my stance with Bonds and Clemens as I once felt they did not deserve the honor. Time heals all wounds. Before other known (or suspected) PED users make the Hall of Fame, I feel Bonds and Clemens should be the first entrants. I will never forgive Bonds and Clemens for their indiscretions, but you do not have to like someone personally to respect them professionally.

Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens / Photo Credit: AP and Getty Images

Although I think he should eventually get in, I do not feel that Alex Rodriguez should be a first year HOF entrant. The early voters apparently feel the same way. Andy Pettitte, in his fourth year of eligibility, currently has only thirteen votes (11.8%) and is unlikely to ever make the Hall. He will always be a great Yankee in my mind, but I recognize he will never have a date to visit Cooperstown unless he buys a ticket to see a friend’s induction.

If the Yankees want to trade for Oakland’s Matt Chapman to play third base, it is fine by me, but I did not like Buster Olney’s report on the Michael Kay Show this week that the Yankees have had some internal discussions about acquiring Chapman to play shortstop. Chapman is an elite third baseman, and while I am sure he has the athleticism to make a position switch, the question is why? He is better than Gio Urshela and last year’s move of Gleyber Torres to shortstop did not work out. It does not mean Chapman would not be successful but clearly, Chapman is a terrific third baseman who should stay there. I personally think the Los Angeles Dodgers should consider trading for Chapman. Justin Turner is on the downside of a distinguished career and might be better suited for DH if the position is adopted for the National League. Matt Olson remains the Athletic that I most want to see in Pinstripes although I do want the Yankees to pivot quickly to Anthony Rizzo before he signs elsewhere if there are any snags in a potential deal with Oakland.

I remain fearful that Andrelton Simmons will be the shortstop answer (he is not). I love the potential of Anthony Volpe as much as anybody but until he proves it at the Major League level, it is just potential. Plus, the rise to elite status is not generally an overnight proposition. It literally takes years. The Yankees have championship aspirations if they make the right moves once the MLB lockout ends. If they settle for trying to fill the areas of need with stopgap solutions, they will spend the summer chasing the Rays, Blue Jays and Red Sox. I do not really expect Boston to over-achieve again next year but, so far, the Yankees have done nothing to close the gap with the team that sent them packing last October.

I do not want to lose Volpe in any trades. When he is ready the Show, opportunity will open for him. Let him force the day the Yankees must make the tough decisions rather than trying to make the decisions now with the hope the player fulfills his destiny. We have the best years of Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton at stake.

Although he is not a starting shortstop solution, I am anxious to see what Oswaldo Cabrera can do this year as the new and improved Tyler Wade. I guess we will see if he is an active and viable bench solution with his versatility and speed or if he is a regular rider on the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Shuttle, but it is fun to see a young prospect on the cusp of making the Major League team. Primarily a second baseman, Cabrera, 23, has played third base and shortstop.

Oswaldo Cabrera / Photo Credit: Michael Reaves, Getty Images

It was a tough week with the loss of legendary NFL coach and TV analyst John Madden. I remember how disappointed I was during the 1977 Super Bowl when Madden and the Oakland Raiders crushed the Minnesota Vikings with total domination from start to finish. The image of Vikings running back Chuck Foreman sitting on his helmet at the end of the game in sadness is burned into my memory. I so disliked Madden back then, but he won me over with his success and the brilliance he brought to the broadcast booth after his premature retirement as a coach. My wife once met Madden in a Livermore Valley, California winery, and her recollection is “Big guy!” He was big…not only in physical stature, but with the impact and imprint he made on professional football. I am very saddened to see his departure. He will be missed. Rest in Peace, Coach!

John Madden / Photo Credit: Chris Zuppa, AP

As always, Go Yankees!