Saturday, March 12, 2022

Coming Soon: Your New York Yankees...

Photo Credit: Getty Images

MLB Baseball is back, baby! …

Finally, the MLB Lockout has ended, and Spring Training is here.

99 days of drudgery and apathy, brought to you by Major League Baseball. It was a frustrating time for all of us. If the MLB Owners and MLB Players Association had started negotiations when the lockout began in December, we might have been able to enjoy a routine off-season. Yet, egos were at play and there is little question the MLB Owners wanted to crush the union.  At the end of the day, the collective bargaining agreement is simply a mechanism for the owners to protect themselves from themselves. Regardless of how we got here, I am glad the lockout is over, and the players are enroute to Steinbrenner Field in advance of Sunday’s reporting date.   

The longer the labor dispute dragged on, the greater potential to drive fans away. I think Major League Baseball hurt itself in more ways than they can imagine, and they will probably feel the repercussions for years to come. I am ready to jump back in to follow the Pinstripes, but the pain of the past three months will not be easily wiped away. Maybe time will help. Five years can pass like a snap of the finger so we could be headed down this path again in 2026.

Not trying to single out Daniel Burch, co-founder (along with Bryan Van Dusen) of The Greedy Pinstripes, but his tweet yesterday summed up the feeling of many fans across the nation:


I would be lying if I said that I did not harbor these same feelings. The fans were the least considered party in the labor dispute in the battle for our money.  I am hopeful once the games begin, the fans who left will come back. It would help if the MLB Owners showed some empathy for us, but at least some of the players care.

Luke Voit, who could soon be ex-Yankees first baseman, summed it up best when he said, “They locked us out and took a while for us to get discussions going, which I think was frustrating on our end, but we were ready to go at any point”. Voit went on to say, “The fans are everything in the game and we represent what they want. We put the priority or the product on the field, so we just want to be there for them and I just didn’t want to lose fans”. Luke understands, and players with his mindset will help bring back the forgotten fans. 

Luke Voit / Photo Credit: Cary Edmondson, USA TODAY Sports

The roller coaster of the week was a challenge. Wednesday started with optimism but it was full-scale pessimism by the end of the day which ended with more cancellation of games by the MLB Commissioner. As an outside observer, it appeared the two parties could easily drift apart, which would have brought the tremendously contentious topic of backpay for lost games into the equation. I truly felt if the negotiations had derailed Wednesday night, the labor dispute had the potential to extend into the summer. Fortunately, the two sides kept trying and were finally able to come to an agreement on Thursday. I was concerned when it was reported the eight-member MLBPA executive committee, which includes Yankees Zack Britton and Gerrit Cole and former Yank Andrew Miller, had unanimously voted no against the agreement. Fortunately, it was presented to the team player representatives and passed by majority vote. Including the unanimous player executive subcommittee dissent on the agreement, only four team player representatives voted no as the final vote was 26-12.

The clear winner is Jackie Robinson. April 15th is Jackie Robinson Day, and his widow, Rachel, is 99 years old. Wiping out the celebratory day would have been such an injustice that could have never been repaired. Honestly, my first thought when it was announced the new CBA had been agreed to, was the protection of Jackie Robinson Day.   

Photo Credit: Harry Harris, AP

While I am glad they will play a full 162-game schedule, I seriously would have preferred the old standard of 154 games for this season rather than try to make up for the lost games with the revocation of days off and addition of double-headers. The shortened Spring Training heightens the risk for injury, and there is little doubt the Yankees will be leaning hard on Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for reinforcements this year. Adding a three-game series at the end of the season (moving Season’s end from Sunday to mid-week), while maintaining the dates for the World Series, will squeeze the expanded 12-team playoffs into a tighter window. Buckle in, players…no rest for the wicked.

The owners rightfully agreed to increase the luxury tax threshold which elevates from $210 million to $230 million for the 2022 season. It will escalate to $244 million by 2026, the final year of the new CBA. Although there was a fourth tier added for the most extreme penalties ($60 million above the initial threshold, or $290 million for 2022), there is no chance Yankees Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner will exceed the threshold by that much. It was clearly a shot fired across town at billionaire Mets owner Steve Cohen.  I have mixed feelings. I do not want a hard salary cap like other sports (the creative contracts in the NFL to get under the cap is insane). But I understand the need for competitive balance, which is why the changes to help discourage tanking are important. There is still a chance to reset penalties every few years, so you know that is Hal’s game plan and he is not going to play near the highest tier.  As for Cohen, how can you fault a billionaire who wants to spend to help his team? I wish we had one of those type owners. I jest of course because Hal does spend…just not with the same passion his father did.

The expansion of the playoffs to twelve teams would have allowed the dangerous Toronto Blue Jays to make the playoffs last season. The Yankees failed in a one-game matchup against the dreaded Boston Red Sox, but I think the outcome would have been the same against the Blue Jays. This screams to why GM Brian Cashman needs to build the right lineup before Opening Day.  It takes talent to beat talent.  It is more than that obviously, but the right pieces must be placed in the jigsaw puzzle to maximize the talent of the roster. I am sure some owners will take the stance of why build for a division championship when you can do less and still make the playoffs. I hope that mindset never enters Yankees ownership.

The draft lottery for the first six picks will help, but MLB needs to do more to prevent teams from tanking.

It did seem odd that the topic of an international draft became such a sticking point at the end, but I am glad they were able to kick the can down the road by a few months. The two sides will continue to talk about the international amateur system and direct draft-pick compensation (referred to as the qualifying offer). If the players want the elimination of the qualifying offer which can discourage teams from paying certain high-ranked free agents due to the draft-pick compensation, they will need to agree to an international draft by July 25th. If not, the qualifying offer remains in place. The Yankees have benefited from no international draft the last couple of years when they spent most of their international pool allotments to sign the highest rated international prospects (Jasson Dominguez and Roderick Arias).  Yet, the international system is fraught with corruption and abuse, and an international draft would help level the playing field. I know the Yankees have benefited in the international market, but I think their ever evolving and improving scouting system will help uncover the gems despite the implementation of a draft.

I expected more of a free agent frenzy on Friday, so it was a bit underwhelming when the first Major League free agent signing was former Tigers reliever Drew VerHagen by the St Louis Cardinals. It was a bit of a gut punch when I saw the San Francisco Giants had signed LHP Carlos Rodon. I had thought he would have been a sneaky good pickup by the Yankees, but I cannot fault the Yankees for not making the two-year, $44 million investment in Rodon.  I suspect Cashman is closely monitoring the pitching market and will swing a trade to bring at least one additional starter into camp. The happiest free agent signing yesterday was when I saw that the Chicago Cubs had signed the most frequently mentioned Yankees “stopgap” shortstop target Andrelton Simmons. Off the market! Nice. I did not want any part of Simmons and would gladly accept a young Oswald Peraza over him. I do not think the Yankees will go into the season with Peraza or Anthony Volpe as the starting shortstop, so it remains to be seen what the Yankees do. 

I try not to think about the potential of adding free agent shortstop Carlos Correa, but the stars do seem aligned for him to sign with the Yankees. The Cubs were the only other team frequently mentioned with Correa and their addition of Simmons seemingly removes them from the equation. New YES Network analyst and former Yankee Cameron Maybin recently said, “If anyone could handle the extra weight the pinstripes carry its @TeamCJCorrea”. Maybin added, “He is really built for the biggest stage and what bigger stage than the boogie down baby!” There is much to be said about the ability to play in New York. It is not for everybody, and New York loves its stars. I know the baggage that comes with Correa (his association with the Astros cheating scandal and his disparaging remarks about Derek Jeter’s defense), but if the Yankees choose to sign Correa, I would be down with it. He is a great player and I feel if he is on your team helping you win, his past indiscretions can be forgiven if he shows remorse. 

Carlos Correa / Photo Credit: Chris Unger, Zuffa LLC

As much as I would love to see Freddie Freeman as a Yankee, it seems like the Los Angeles Dodgers are winning the race to sign the star first baseman. There really has not been any chatter that I have seen to connect the Yankees to Freeman. I probably still prefer Oakland A’s first baseman Matt Olson even if the cost is much greater than simply money. Olson is younger, and he fits the Yankees lineup as well as Freeman would.  But if the Yankees were to make an investment in either Correa or Trevor Story at shortstop, I would be totally down with resigning Anthony Rizzo for first base. Everybody keeps wanting to pencil in DJ LeMahieu at first base and that is such a waste of his talent.  He is a better play at second or third.  If Gleyber Torres struggles again this year, make LeMahieu the starting second baseman until Anthony Volpe is ready. I would play LeMahieu at third base for now and include Gio Urshela in a trade to help improve other areas of the team.

Lastly, I am grateful to hear Miguel Andujar was not seriously injured when he was beaten and robbed of a $7,000 gold chain at his home in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday. There were apparently three shots fired but Andujar was not hit.  He is scheduled to arrive in Tampa this weekend, so I hope he is 100% despite the ordeal. Very scaring news and it certainly could have been much worse. We look forward to your safe arrival in Tampa, Miggy!

Miguel Andujar / Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin, The New York Post

As always, Go Yankees!

No comments:

Post a Comment

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