Saturday, February 26, 2022

Bottom of the Ninth Inning...


Negotiation’s approach major deadline without resolution…

Well, here we are. Monday, February 28th, is the date an agreement must be reached for a new collective bargaining agreement or regular season games will be lost per the MLB Commissioner and resident jerk. Personally, I had hoped for resolution sooner this month and I am hopeful the labor dispute does not extend into March without any agreement. The lockout has lasted longer than it should have, and it is time for the return of America’s favorite pastime.

The MLB Owners and Players Association met every day this week for the first time since this lengthy, unproductive dispute began in early December. Although not much has happened to move the needle, there were reports of some optimism yesterday as the two sides approach common ground on one issue (draft order). There was also the first meeting since the labor dispute began between MLB Commissioner Rob (“Fire him”) Manfred and MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark. Today and tomorrow are extremely critical days if there is hope for a full 162-game regular season schedule. I do not care what it takes, but the two sides need to work hard over the next 48-72 hours to drive home the winning run to save the regular season in walk-off fashion. “Extra innings” will not be beneficial for anyone except for those who hate baseball.

For a brief aside, I want to express my sorrow and support for the people of Ukraine. The people of Ukraine, facing difficult and challenging odds against the advancing Russian army, have shown resiliency in their protection of democracy. I would rather see the end of the killing in Ukraine over the return of Major League Baseball. I pray for their successful defense and the end of the conflict.

Back to baseball, it seems like every team has expressed interest in Matt Olson. The Oakland A’s first baseman is the favorite acquisition target for everyone. This week, the San Diego Padres, according to reports, are the latest team to express interest. Who would NOT want a 6’5” first baseman who will be 28 years old in a month (the prime of his life) and is one of the game’s most elite at his position? As much as everyone loves Freddie Freeman, Olson makes more sense given his age. Freeman will be 33 in September so any deal for him would take him into his late thirties. There is the valid argument of cost. Olson will cost significant prospect capital whereas Freeman only requires money. Despite new teams expressing interest seemingly every day for Olson, I hope Brian “The Ninja” Cashman can put together a package that brings the beautiful left-handed bat and glove to the Bronx.

Matt Olson / Photo Credit: David Zalubowski, AP

It is unrealistic at this point to expect the Yankees to sign an elite shortstop. Carlos Correa will not be calling Yankee Stadium his home, and it is unlikely Trevor Story will be reunited with his buddy DJ LeMahieu. Without an elite shortstop, the Yankees must strengthen first base. Anthony Rizzo showed what a power lefty bat with a magical glove can do at the position. Imagine what Olson could do at the position Lou Gehrig and Don Mattingly once called home. It is exciting to think about. The Yankees simply cannot slide back to life with Luke Voit at first. I like Luke, I really do, but I appreciate the value of health and the ability to defend the position. A strong lefty bat is a huge plus.

If the owners and players come to an agreement by Monday, the month of March will be a frenzy. After months of no transactions except minor league signings, the transaction wire will be overwhelmed (something like Yankees Twitter when Aaron Boone makes a boneheaded call). It will be interesting to see the players on the Yankees’ opening day roster. Shortstop, first base, center field, catcher, and starting pitching are the positions most frequently discussed by fans. Does Cashman address all these positions, only a couple of them, or worst-case scenario, none at all? We will soon find out if a new CBA can be put in place. Strap in, this should be fun.

The pro writers really seem to be pushing the idea of a Yankee infield featuring Trey Sweeney at third, Anthony Volpe at second, and Oswald Peraza at short. We are a few seasons from that idea blossoming into fruition, but I always wonder how much the team is fueling the propaganda with the press. The trio’s entry into the Major Leagues will need to be staggered. It cannot obviously happen at the same time if the team expects to maintain elevated levels of success. Any trade for Matt Olson will most likely cost one of those guys (Peraza is the most common name mentioned). I expect Cashman’s moves to be immediate (guys who can help now) with the flexibility to allow the entry of the younger prospects when ready. Trade Peraza, sign Story. I would do it, but I seriously doubt it is the Yankees’ plan. For now, I will prospect “hug” Volpe and Jasson Dominguez. Everybody else should be on the table. The time is now for a championship.

I really hope this is the last post I must write with no Major League Baseball. Bring Major League Baseball back to us. We have waited far too long, and the MLB Lockout cannot, should not and must not go on any longer. End it now!

Rob Manfred & Tony Clark / Photo Credit: The Canadian Press

With no baseball, I have focused on pro football more than I would like. I do not think I have ever followed the assembly of a new leadership group and coaching staff like I have with the Minnesota Vikings this year. With all honesty, it has been fun watch new head coach Kevin O’Connell assemble his new staff. He has experience with defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and assistant head coach Mike Pettine. He has promising up-and-comers like offensive coordinator Wes Phillips and special teams coordinator Matt Daniels. Veteran coach and former NFL player Greg Manusky apparently reached an agreement yesterday to be the team’s new linebackers coach replacing former coach Mike Zimmer’s son Adam. Manusky is a former Vikings player. He was on the team from 1991 to 1993 under the second greatest head coach in Vikings history, the late Dennis Green. #Skol Vikings!

The New York Giants received a brilliant gift with their new defensive line coach Andre Patterson. Patterson, who was Mike Zimmer’s co-defensive coordinator last season, was perhaps the most beloved Vikings coach of the prior regime. He was extremely popular with players and fans alike. He has been credited as the coach who developed Danielle Hunter from a project to one of the most feared defensive ends in the game. I wish him the best in New York. It seems to me that new Giants coach Brian Daboll has put together a coaching staff that, unlike its recent predecessors, will have long-term success for the Giants. I recognized it was time for change in Minnesota, but it did not make losing Patterson any easier. He is the coach I will miss the most.

As it turned out, only wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell survived as a holdover from Mike Zimmer’s regime in Minnesota. There is one returnee. Daronte Jones served as the Vikings’ defensive back coach in 2020. He left to serve as defensive coordinator for LSU last season, but he is back in Minneapolis in his old role for the upcoming season.

Some of the new coaches were introduced this week, and I enjoyed listening to Wes Phillips, the new Vikings offensive coordinator. Although he is only 43 years old, he has been around pro football all his life. His grandfather was legendary Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints head coach Bum Phillips, and his father is former Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips. 

Wes Phillips / Photo Credit: Twitter via @SKORNorth

During this week’s interview, Wes was asked if he was able to see his grandfather coach, but he was only six when Bum resigned in New Orleans in 1985 and did not remember his coaching career. It was funny listening to him describe his grandfather’s comments during football games on TV. Wes served as tight ends coach for the current Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams, and has been coaching since 2004. This is his first time as an offensive coordinator, but he is ready for the call. O’Connell will call plays for the Vikings next season, but no doubt Phillips will have his imprint on offensive philosophy and strategy (like O’Connell did for Rams head coach Sean McVay) and will help O’Connell make the best decisions for the team. I am happy for Wes. With stars like Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and Irv Smith, Jr., it is only a matter of time until Wes becomes a third-generation head football coach in the NFL.

Ukraine, we stand with you.

As always, Go Yankees!

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