Saturday, February 25, 2023

Brian Cashman's Yankees...


Brian Cashman (Photo Credit: Lucas Peltier/USA TODAY Sports)

Yankees GM for a quarter of a century…

Brian Cashman has been the general manager of the New York Yankees for twenty-five years. For many younger Yankee fans, he is the only GM they have ever known. For those of us who can remember life under George Steinbrenner, the GM role, like managers and pitching coaches, was a revolving door.

Cashman is a polarizing figure in the Yankees Universe. He is one of the most criticized individuals in the Yankees organization. Cashman certainly has more than his fair share of detractors. Joel Sherman of The New York Post wrote a good article this week in defense of Cashman. I will preface it by saying I know Sherman gets accused of peddling Yankees propaganda. Covering the Yankees puts food on Sherman’s table and buys him the comfort of a home and a luxurious lifestyle. By comparison, I could not buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks for the money I have earned writing about the Yankees. He is motivated to write stories that help him maintain access to important individuals in the Yankees hierarchy.

Sherman’s column included an interview with Brian Cashman’s chief lieutenant, Senior Vice President, and Assistant General Manager Jean Afterman. I understand an interview with a Cashman subordinate is not going to yield any negative comments about her boss.

I am not trying to defend Sherman (or Cashman), but I found Sherman’s words to be thought-provoking. I have been critical of Brian Cashman over the years. There is frustration with certain moves (or lack thereof). He lives a life in that every move is questioned and scrutinized with the power of hindsight. He has had his share of successes, yet they can easily be overlooked by the failures. 

In Sherman’s piece, Afterman describes Cashman as the Wizard of Oz if there actually was a wizard behind the curtains. He lives and breathes the job 24/7. In our lives, personal priorities, at times, can take precedence over the Yankees. Cashman lives a life where the Yankees take precedence over everything.  His passion and loyalty have endeared him to the Steinbrenner family. His consistency, work ethic, and leadership style have earned the respect and admiration of those who surround him.    

A great leader makes those around him (or her) better and Cashman carries those attributes. Unlike his father, Hal Steinbrenner has rewarded those who have faithfully served the organization and the Yankees tend to have very low turnover in the front office. Afterman, an attorney, has served the Yankees for over twenty years. She was hired to replace Kim Ng as assistant general manager. Some Yankees fans probably never realized that the current Miami Marlins general manager once worked for Brian Cashman.    

Afterman was asked about manager Aaron Boone and his perception as a puppet. She quickly dismissed the thought by describing Boone as an incredibly smart manager who understands the game and the clubhouse. She states that it is not Cashman’s nature to force his beliefs on the manager. Listening to Bret Boone’s podcasts over the years, I have heard him routinely describe his brother as the smartest guy in the family.  I do not believe the front office writes the lineup card or dictates which arms come out of the bullpen. Aaron Boone is his own man, and I do believe he makes his own decisions based on analytics and his knowledge and understanding of the game. 

I am guilty of calling for Boone’s head but I respect him. He holds a job that is only successful if you win championships, a feat he has never accomplished. Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi continues to get love for no other reason than he won the 2009 World Series.  No offense to Joe, but I have enjoyed Boone’s tenure more than the tense Binder Joe’s time in the hot seat.  Boone has the respect of the clubhouse, and he enjoys a good rapport with the media and the front office. 

Despite Brian Cashman’s contract expiration at the end of last season, there was never a chance he would leave the Yankees. The subsequent four-year contract, although seemingly delayed, was inevitable.  Afterman was asked if Cashman will walk away if he wins another championship. Her response was that he would walk away when the job was no longer enjoyable. General managers tend to have a short shelf life, yet Brian Cashman has endured. The Yankees win every year. Maybe not championships but they win games on the field more than they lose.  The Yankees will win a World Series again. All things considered, I am hopeful Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone are the men to see it through. 

I am not purposely trying to write this post in defense of Cashman or Boone. Regardless of how biased it may be, Sherman's column made me pause to appreciate both men.  As Yankees fans, we have an invested interest in their success.  Supporting them means we are supporting the Yankees. It serves no purpose to attack either man. One day, neither man will be employed by the Yankees. Until then, we should trust them to do their jobs. They are trying to win with the baseball team that matters the most to all of us.    

First pitch

It is almost game time for the Yankees. Their first Spring exhibition game is later today. They will be on the road at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Florida to face the Philadelphia Phillies (1:05 PM ET). I thought former Boston Red Sox reliever and current non-roster invitee Tyler Danish was going to start, but the latest lineup card posted by MLB’s Bryan Hoch shows Ryan Weber as the starter. He will be faced by former Yankees prospect Nick Nelson.

The big names like Aaron Judge will not make the trip but it will be a good opportunity to see future stars like Jasson Dominguez. Regulars Gleyber Torres and Harrison Bader are in the lineup, and so is my favorite shortstop-to-be-replaced Isiah Kiner-Falefa. 

(Photo Credit: Twitter via @BryanHoch)

The Yankees make their home debut at Steinbrenner Field tomorrow (Sunday, February 26) in a split-squad game against Lucas Luetge and the Atlanta Braves. The other split squad will be in Dunedin, Florida to play the Toronto Blue Jays.

The first few Spring games are always exciting to watch but by March, the games become a drag while impatiently waiting for Opening Day. Maybe this year is different with the World Baseball Classic even if only a few Yankees will be participating.

Roster Moves   

The Yankees have yet to make any roster changes since camp opened. They have three guys who will be moved to the 60-day Injured List (Luis Gil, Scott Effross, and Frankie Montas). They are eligible to be moved to the IL now, but they temporarily remain on the active 40-man roster. The last transactions made by the Yankees happened over two weeks ago when they activated Domingo German and Greg Weissert. 

Unless the Yankees make a trade, it seems possible one or more of the non-roster invitees might make the Opening Day roster. Of the pitchers, Ryan Weber appears to be the most likely to make it. Wilmer Difo, Willie Calhoun, and Rafael Ortega stand out as the strongest candidates among the hitters. Many fans would love for the Yankees to promote Anthony Volpe. I will not object if he makes the Opening Day roster, but I accept the expectation that he will start the year in Triple-A. Once Volpe gets a spot on the 40-man roster, it will be a long time until he relinquishes it (or at least we hope so). His time will come soon. If he tears it up for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as he did in the lower levels, it is a near certainty he will be in the Bronx by the All-Star Break.  Injuries can always accelerate the timetable. 

Rodón versus Gallo

It is interesting to see the contrasting views of these two players. One thrives for the spotlight and pressure, and the other runs from it. Earlier this week, Rodón spoke of the differences between playing for the Yankees and the San Francisco Giants. He said, “The fans [in New York] want to win. They care. They care a lot.” Conversely, he said, “Giants fans are invested, but not like in New York. Win or lose, you’re not going to get booed in San Francisco.”

Carlos Rodón (Photo Credit: Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Rodón has taken heat from the Giants fan base for the comments, but Giants commentator and former Major Leaguer Mike Krukow came to Rodón’s defense. To paraphrase Krukow, he said fans in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York love the game, but they treat teams like their kids. San Francisco fans, on the other hand, treat the Giants players like their grandchildren. 

Regardless, Rodón’s words show he is up for the challenge of playing in front of baseball’s most passionate and demanding fans.

Meanwhile, there are guys like Joey Gallo who enjoy lesser pressurized environments. In an interview with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Gallo said, “I tried to handle it well. I took pride in the fact that I still played. I was still diving for the Yankees, running into walls for the Yankees, running hard for the Yankees. I knew I was getting traded. But I still had the pride, the integrity of the game, the respect for the fans, respect for the organization. I’m still going to go out here and bust my ass. I’m not going to just cash it in.” He went on to say, “The Minnesota market is different than the New York market. The Texas market is different than the New York market. I always just wanted to play baseball, have fun, hang out with the boys. That’s my goal, just to play baseball and win games. I don’t really like being more than that. I guess this is more my vibe, you know what I mean?”

Mental toughness defines champions. There was always a question if Gallo would thrive in New York. Sadly, he performed worse than anyone expected. It will be interesting to see if he can recapture what he had in Texas after underwhelming the fans in New York and Los Angeles. Rodón seems prepared to grab the bull by the horns and take New York by storm. 

Maybe the Analytics team should factor mental toughness into the equation when they are scouting for possible additions. Some guys can handle it, some guys cannot. It may not always be obvious who can or cannot make it, but there was nothing about Joey Gallo (or Isiah Kiner-Falefa for that matter) that screamed large market success. Rodón was born for New York. It is a huge difference.

Carlos Rodón (Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post)

On a side note, if the Yankees’ season-opening series against the Giants was being played in San Francisco, would the fans boo or would they give him a polite golf clap.  Somehow, I suspect it would be the latter.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, February 18, 2023

The Return of the Yankees...


Gerrit Cole (Photo Credit: David J Phillip/AP)

Spring Training is underway…

Pitchers and catchers have reported to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, and the baseball fields at the facility have been buzzing with activity…unlike the Yankees’ Front Office. It is good to see old faces, not literally, like Gerrit Cole, and the new ones (with mustaches) like Carlos Rodón.

Carlos Rodon (Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post)

The talk of the first week centered on Yankees starting pitcher Frankie Montas. Manager Aaron Boone announced that Montas will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder next week (February 21) and is expected to miss much of the 2023 season.

Montas has proven to be GM Brian Cashman’s latest trade folly with the Oakland A’s. Last summer, most Yankees fans wanted Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo but the price tag proved too high for the talented pitcher who was subsequently dealt to Seattle. The next best pitcher on the market was Montas, but there were known concerns about the shoulder which had caused Montas to miss a start in the month preceding his trade to the Yankees last summer. 

This is not a case of ‘I told you so’. Despite the high cost (prospects Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, Luis Medina, and Cooper Bowman), I openly embraced the Montas trade. Many Yankees fans were excited at the time. Unfortunately, the shoulder concerns proved more substantive, and we never saw the best of Montas; now, he may never don the pinstripes again if he cannot make it back this season. Montas is a free agent at the end of the year.

There should be a “Lemon Law” when it comes to trades with Oakland’s Billy Beane. Or maybe the next time Brian Cashman sees Beane calling, he should just hit the decline button.  As it stands today, I would prefer to have Waldichuk over Montas but c’est la vie.

With the fifth starter role up for grabs, Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt are the two obvious favorites. German is the likely choice if for no other reason than Schmidt can be optioned to Triple-A. Now 27 years of age, the time is now for Schmidt’s breakout season. He has the talent, and the stars are aligned in his favor if he can show he is more deserving to start than German.  A strong Spring may not be enough to land a spot in the rotation, but Schmidt will have opportunities. Hopefully, he makes the most of them. 

At the start of the week, former Boston pitcher Michael Wacha was the best available free agent. He has since signed with the San Diego Padres. The Yankees were never connected to him, but he would have been a nice pickup for the back of the rotation.

The Padres also made a low-risk, potentially high-reward signing of Cole Hamels this week. Who knows what Hamels has left yet it would have been a nice option to try. The albatross of Josh Donaldson’s contract seemingly prevents the Yankees from making the little moves to better the team. Is German so good that all other options should be ignored? Um, not really. If Ryan Weber is starting games in-season, the Yankees’ lack of planning will be on full display.     

On the bright side, Nestor Cortes Jr is recovering nicely from his Grade 2 hamstring strain. There is optimism that he will be on the Opening Day roster. 

Nestor Cortes Jr (Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post)

The Yankees will be making moves at some point in the coming days. With Montas sidelined for much of the season, the Yankees have three guys eligible for the 60-day Injured List. Montas, Scott Effross, and Luis Gil. Those are three valuable roster spots that could go for upgrades. If Cashman is penny-pinching, the three spots will create opportunities for a few of the non-roster invitees (none of whom move the needle in the ongoing attempt to catch the Houston Astros). Or he can make moves to improve the team. Hoping for the best (a trade or two to enhance the current roster) but prepared for the worst (the status quo with guys in camp).

Position players report on Monday so next week will bring more activity. The first Spring game is one week from today against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Florida. 

Woohoo! Yankees Baseball is back, baby!

The Manny Machado Sweepstakes

Here we go again…

Manny Machado has announced that he will opt out of his contract with the San Diego Padres after the season (he has five years and $150 million left).  A couple of months younger than Aaron Judge, Machado has a chance to sign his second $300+ million contract.

I wanted Machado last time he was a free agent, and I am sure I will want him again. Eventually, the Yankees will move on from Josh Donaldson (sooner if I had my way) and DJ LeMahieu is not getting any younger. The Yankees will need a third baseman. The Yankees will probably pass on Machado as they did with the elite free agent shortstops the past two off-seasons. The more likely scenario seems to be the development of prospect Trey Sweeney or maybe one of Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe moves there if the Yankees retain Gleyber Torres.

I would be excited to see Machado in pinstripes, but realistically, it will never happen. If he does not re-sign with the Padres, the more probable landing spot is a move to Queens.  Steve Cohen thought he had his third baseman of the future with Carlos Correa until he saw Correa’s ugly ankle. He will most assuredly be all-in for Manager Buck Showalter’s former star player with the Baltimore Orioles to fill the third base need, especially if the Mets underperform this season. 

Left Field Vacancy

Starting to see more articles written about Giancarlo Stanton playing the outfield. I am not buying it. Stanton is a full-time designated hitter. A fragile player like him is not going to be less of an injury risk as he ages. Maybe he starts a handful of games in the outfield, but nothing more. If he is routinely playing the field, the Yankees are playing Russian Roulette with him. 

Giancarlo Stanton (Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/AP)

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers were two teams seeking left field help like the Yankees. The Dodgers signed free agent David Peralta, while the Rangers inked Robbie Grossman. The Yankees were not in on either player. Jurickson Profar remains a free agent, yet it seems unlikely the Yankees will commit any dollars to him unless they can offload some onerous contracts. 

Aaron Hicks, Estevan Florial, Oswaldo Cabrera, Willie Calhoun, and Rafael Ortega. Sadly, they seem to be the pool that will compete for the starting gig. No needle movers in this group. Cabrera’s needle-moving ability is his versatility, not planted in left field.

All I wanted for left field entering the off-season was to re-sign Andrew Benintendi. There were better options, however, Benny was a nice fit.  I honestly believed the Yankees would do at least as well as someone like Benintendi for left field. I never dreamed that they would do nothing.  The Yankees had to bring back Aaron Judge and the Carlos Rodón signing was huge, but the inability to fix left field leaves me very underwhelmed about this past off-season. The Yankees have unsuccessfully tried Joey Gallo and Benintendi over the past two years, at the cost of multiple quality prospects, and here we are back at the starting point with a left fielder who clearly needs to be replaced. 

Jasson Dominguez, Everson Pereira, and Spencer Jones offer hope for the future, yet they are still a few years away. Impatiently waiting for guys who are not ready. 

The clock is ticking. Brian Cashman has time to fix left field before Opening Day. The only question is will he?

Derek Jeter lands new job

It is bittersweet to see Derek Jeter hired as a new analyst for Fox’s MLB studio show lineup that features Alex Rodriguez and David “Big Papi” Ortiz. 

Curt Menefee, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Michael Strahan

I have enjoyed seeing Jeter in the public eye after his short stint as a minority owner of the Miami Marlins and its chief executive. It seemed he was doing more with the Yankees lately, and selfishly I wanted Jeter as part of the YES Network lineup.

No doubt Fox offers the bigger stage, and, as we know, Jeter performs best when the spotlight burns the brightest. I honestly did not think Jeter would take a job that paired him with Alex Rodriguez. Money talks and the “rivalry” between A-Rod and The Captain continues. 

Oh well, it will be fun to listen to Jeter during Fox telecasts, and it beats the playful bantering between Rodriguez and Ortiz. Hopefully one day Jeter can take a higher-profile role with the Yankees.

Don Mattingly, the Villain

As a long-time fan of Donald Arthur Mattingly, the first images of the new Toronto Blue Jays bench coach are a bit jarring.

I know…everybody needs a paycheck. I wish he was still in some National League city or out west rather than taking a key role with an American League East rival. I guess it would have been worse had he gone to Boston as if Toronto is not bad enough. 

He is wearing his famed #23 with the Blue Jays which adds salt to the wound. Mattingly wore 8 in Los Angeles and Miami as a tribute to Yogi Berra. It would have been my preference for his new job; however, Cavan Biggio wears 8 with the Blue Jays. 

I like Mattingly, but it is hard to not let his current role influence how I view him. He is just a coach on another team trying to beat the Yankees. I want him to lose. My desire is his eventual firing by the Blue Jays. Maybe I can re-embrace him as a favorite when his Blue Jays career is over. I certainly felt better about Derek Jeter after he left the Marlins. 

I am not going to wish Mattingly well in Toronto. There is nothing about the Toronto Blue Jays that I want to cheer for…except when they lose. 

Life will be good if the Yankees can stay a step ahead of the Blue Jays.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, February 11, 2023

The Shortstop of the Present...


Oswald Peraza (Photo Credit: Instagram via @oswaldperaza27)

Oswald Peraza is expected to be the one…

The first Spring exhibition game is two weeks away, but this is the last weekend without organized Major League Baseball as pitchers and catchers report this coming week. Hello, old…and a few new…friends! We have missed you. The sights and sounds of George M. Steinbrenner Field will soon be upon us.

The biggest camp battle and one that may have already been decided is Shortstop. It would surprise no one if Oswald Peraza emerged as the starting shortstop for Opening Day.

Sure, many think Anthony Volpe should be the starter, but the Yankees never skip a level with players. Volpe played only 22 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season after his promotion from Double-A Somerset. In 2021, Volpe spent 54 and 55 games, respectively, for A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley. He played 110 games at Somerset before his latest promotion. Volpe’s limited stats at Triple-A were his worst since playing in the Rookie League with Pulaski in 2019. While Volpe may have a scorching Spring that places him on the Opening Day roster, my expectation is 30 to 60 games at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before receiving ‘the call’. My best guess is he makes his Major League debut by the All-Star break. Injuries could certainly change the timetable but as we sit here in February, it seems the Yankees want Volpe to master Triple-A before ascending to the Bronx. There is no reason to rush Volpe. I want the best possible version when he arrives. If that means more time in Triple-A, so be it.

Anthony Volpe (Photo Credit: Instagram via @anthonyvolpe7)

If Isiah Kiner-Falefa is the Opening Day shortstop, something went horribly wrong with the plan.  Probably the only people who want Kiner-Falefa as the starter are IKF, his agent, and his father. I did see one Red Sox blog this morning that suggested Boston should trade for Kiner-Falefa to help solve their middle infield dilemma. Trevor Story is out after off-season surgery and will open the season on the Injured List. Xander Bogaerts bolted for the money and sunshine in San Diego.  It leaves Kiké Hernández as the shortstop. The Red Sox acquired Raul Mondesi’s son, Adalberto, from the Kansas City Royals to play second base in a platoon with holdover Christian Arroyo. Both Mondesi and Arroyo are injury-prone, so perhaps IKF could help provide infield stability. Sure, but keep him away from the easy plays. 

The Red Sox blogger did not suggest whom Boston should send to New York. In looking at Boston’s roster, there is a clear dearth of talent. Reviewing the players Boston would legitimately consider trading to acquire IKF and I cannot say anyone appeals to me. It is not like Boston is going to trade Rafael Devers to the Yankees and give them Garrett Whitlock back. Triston Casas has too much potential at first base. Alex Verdugo? Please, no.

Best-laid plans place Oswald Peraza as the starter, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and his $6 million salary as the infield utility player, and Anthony Volpe crushing it in Eastern Pennsylvania, awaiting the bus trip to New York.

Luis Severino, Wild Card

The Yankees are expected to have one of the best starting rotations in Major League Baseball. Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón provide one of the best one-two punches in the game, but, for me, Luis Severino is the key. Once the ace of the staff, Sevy arrives in Tampa this week as the third-best starter in the rotation. He has distanced himself from Tommy John surgery and seems primed to have a strong season. It is his walk year so he has added motivation to excel and finally be the workhorse we once thought he would be.

Luis Severino (Photo Credit: Instagram via @severino40)

I know Severino was disappointed the Yankees would not allow him to play in the World Baseball Classic. Given the health issues with Sevy in the past, I do not blame them for not wanting to lose control of the pitcher, even for a few weeks. Sevy might be the most closely watched starting pitcher in the rotation based on past injuries. WBC coaches playing Severino would not have been concerned about how he would be pitching in a few months, they would only be concerned with the here and now. Granted, I am not crazy about Nestor Cortes, Jr leaving for the WBC but there is far less concern with him than with Sevy. Proper care and handling of Severino is essential, and it is mutually beneficial for both parties.

If Sevy has a big year to go with the expected elite performances of Cole and Rodón, the rotation will be difficult to beat in October. The Yankees failed last October because they could not hit. Time to turn the tables to shut down opposing offenses. I keep hearing the Yankees have done nothing to move the needle in their chase to catch the Houston Astros. Peraza, a strong defender, has more pop in his bat, and unlike last post-season, he should have strong MLB regular season experience this coming October. Hopefully, DJ LeMahieu stays healthy. If Sevy is the pitching wild card, DJ is the wild card for position players. There is hope the Yankee bats can come alive in short series when it matters the best. This is 2023 and the slate is cleared for new, exciting performances and displays of brilliance and dominance on baseball diamonds across America. Next year is officially this year, as in “Wait until THIS year!”.

If Severino has an Aaron Judge-like walk year, life will be wonderful in the Bronx. If he has a Chad Green-like walk year, well, we might be looking forward to next off-season’s retooling.

I prefer to hold visions of a twenty-eighth World Series championship.

Clay Holmes, the Enigma

I think the player that concerns me the most is Clay Holmes because we do not know what we will get. Can he recapture last year’s first-half dominance, or will he struggle like he did later in the season, or will he land somewhere in the middle? The answer is most likely the latter, but hoping it is tilted toward dominance. 

Clay Holmes (Photo Credit: Instagram via @clayholmes21)

The Yankees need a strong backup plan for Closer. Jonathan Loaisiga stands out as the most likely recipient of save opportunities if Holmes falters, and Tommy Kahnle will be in the mix. Michael King is back and so is Ron Marinaccio. Still, I would like to see a proven closer added to the roster. Former Yankee Zack Britton remains a free agent and I would love to see a reunion. I am wondering if the Yankees are awaiting further moves until players can be moved to the 60-day Injured List to free up spots on the 40-man roster. The Yankees will move to replace Scott Effross and Luis Gil as quickly as they can since both will miss the upcoming season.

My hope is the Yankees have unlocked Clay Holmes and last season’s struggles were an aberration and not a sign of things to come. Yet, until he proves consistent performance, it will be a concern. I miss the days of Mariano Rivera when the end of games, win or lose, was never a concern.

The Left Field Black Hole

The fears of Aaron Hicks as the Opening Day left fielder are, well, intact.

Another left-field option came off the board this week when former Diamondbacks/Rays left fielder David Peralta signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Peralta’s name has been mentioned a few times over the winter but there never seemed to be strong club interest. Peralta’s one-year contract worth $6.5 million (plus incentives that could push it to $8 million) seems to set the potential mark for the top remaining free agent left-field option, Jurickson Profar. For the Yankees to commit those dollars to Profar, they would need to move salary if they are truly intent on staying below the Steve Cohen luxury tax threshold of $293 million. The Yankees have been trying to move salaries but nothing has come to fruition. Profar is not the player Andrew Benintendi would have been if Benny had returned, but he is better than Hicks or locking the highly versatile Oswald Cabrera into one position.

Jurickson Profar (Photo Credit: Instagram via @profarjurickson)

I am trying to stay positive and hope the Yankees have a strong left-field plan in place by late March…or at least better than the current options until the trade deadline.

Just a Numbers Game

After an off-season with both Carlos Rodón and Domingo German wearing #55 on the 40-man roster, the Yankees finally updated their website with new numbers. 

Considering Rodón was handed a #55 jersey at his press conference, it was a foregone conclusion that German would have to change numbers. He has claimed Adam Ottavino’s old number, proving the zero that he is. Either that or he has not been assigned a number yet. As the last single-digit number available, it sickens me a little that German is potentially wearing it.

Tommy Kahnle had to choose a new number since Anthony Rizzo is wearing his old 48. He has opted to take Miguel Andujar’s 41. I thought he might take his old buddy David Robertson’s 30 but that number has been taken by non-roster invitee infielder Wilmer Difo.

Reliever Jimmy Cordero was shown with number 50 most of the offseason (even before free agent Jameson Taillon had signed with the Cubs), but the website now shows him with 70. Jhony Brito (76), Matt Krook (92), and Randy Vásquez (98) are a few of the other 40-man roster number assignments.

Of the non-roster invitees, only Difo and Willie Calhoun were assigned low (under 50) numbers. Calhoun is sporting the number last worn by Yankees Legend Matt Carpenter (24). 

There is still some cleanup needed. Some players and coaches have duplicated numbers, and new assistant-hitting coach Brad Wilkerson has no number. Maybe Wilkerson likes knowing his days are not numbered…

Super Bowl Weekend

This is one of those years that it is hard to root for either team in the Super Bowl.

As a lifelong Minnesota Vikings fan, I may not have the hatred toward the Philadelphia Eagles like many Yankees/Giants fans do but there is no love, I can assure you. The Vikings lost the NFC Championship Game to the Eagles, 38-7, in January 2018. Earlier this season, the Eagles easily thrashed the Vikings, 24-7. I know, say what you will about the Vikings, but they were 13-4 and exceeded expectations despite having their season ended prematurely by the Giants. 

I think what bothers me most about losing ugly games to the Eagles is how ugly their fans can get. Take them out of the equation and I might have respect for what the Eagles are doing on the football field. 

I have never been a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs. Not sure why. I cannot pinpoint one exact reason. Maybe it was because of family members who were Chiefs fans or maybe kids at school when I was growing up who were fans. Maybe it is because the Kansas City Royals were the Yankees’ biggest rival in the late 1970s. I do not know. The Chiefs have never been a team I cared for. 

Regardless of the reasons, I probably dislike the Eagles a little less than the Chiefs so ‘Go Green’. 

Speaking of the Vikings, congratulations to elite wide receiver Justin Jefferson who was named the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year. He is a fun talent to watch, and easily my favorite Viking. If new Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores can bring the team’s defense back to respectability, Jefferson and his teammates on offense should be flying high next season. 

Justin Jefferson (Photo Credit: Instagram via @jjettas2)

Enjoy the Super Bowl! Or if the game is not of interest, enjoy the commercials!

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Spring Forward: Pinstriped Baseball...


Steinbrenner Field (Photo Credit: Twitter via @GMSField)

The Sights and Sounds of Spring Baseball are almost here…

Players have started migrating to Florida (for those not already there), and the official reporting date is rapidly approaching. After the Winter of Discontent (The Fruitless Search for a Left Fielder Story), pitchers and catchers must report by Thursday, February 16th while those participating in the World Baseball Classic must report three days earlier by Monday, February 13th, 2023. Position players must report by Monday, February 20th.

The Yankees open their Spring Schedule on Saturday, February 25th at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Florida against the last year’s World Series losers, the Philadelphia Phillies. Two teams with seasons ended by the Houston Astros although you can say the Phillies lost more successfully since they made it to the World Series. 

Heading into Spring, while my mind is still on Left Field, the two positions of most intrigue are shortstop and the fifth spot in the starting rotation.

The favorite to replace Isiah Kiner-Falefa as the starting shortstop is the talented Oswald Peraza. I believe he will be the Opening Day shortstop. I am excited about a shortstop who can handle the easy plays in addition to the difficult ones. A shortstop with some thump in his bat and wheels on his feet. If Peraza plays to his potential, he will easily become a fan favorite.

Oswald Peraza (Photo Credit: Instagram via @oswaldperaza27)

Many fans think Anthony Volpe can snag the job with a tremendous Spring. While anything is possible, I am convinced the Yankees will send Volpe to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a little more seasoning regardless of how he performs. I think he can earn a promotion by the All-Star Break if he plays to expectations. Of course, the big question is where he will play. If Peraza fails at shortstop (which seems unlikely to me), Volpe could be the potential starter. More likely, he takes second (making Gleyber Torres a possible July trade candidate if he is not moved before Opening Day) or third. If third base, Josh Donaldson could become the odd man out if his bat remains missing in action.

I am still hoping the Yankees can move Donaldson…and Aaron Hicks…before Opening Day. I would rather see them depart than Gleyber Torres even if the return for Donaldson and Hicks (and lots of cash) would be minimal.

Domingo German is the fifth starter by default. My preference, Clarke Schmidt, has an option remaining while German does not. Barring injuries, German will be the starter and Schmidt will be in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Yankees could trade for a pitcher, but it seems like they will stay in-house for the temporary starter until Frankie Montas can return. Schmidt is probably only the starter if German is shipped away in a March trade.

In the bullpen, the reliever who excites me the most is Michael King. He was so dominant last year until the injury. Hopefully, he returns at the same high level, and he can stay healthy all year. He is the glue to the bullpen, and he helps make others better. Jonathan Loaisiga and Tommy Kahnle will play huge high-leverage roles, yet we know both carry a health risk. King may be asked to step in for one of them at some point(s) during the season. King’s name would be in the mix for the closer, along with Loaisiga and Kahnle, if Clay Holmes decides to go 2022 Aroldis Chapman on us. 

Michael King & Sheila Hill (Photo Credit: Instagram via @officialmikeking)

I am so thankful we are not talking about who the right fielder will be. How awful this offseason would have been if the Yankees had not re-signed The Captain, Aaron Judge. I am glad ‘New York or Nowhere’ held true. When Judge takes the field at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day, there will be thoughts about how differently the game would have looked if Judge took the field during the bottom of the first inning rather than the top of the inning. Fortunately, he will stand tall in Pinstripes as he always does.

I would love to see Judge and Giancarlo Stanton lock into a home run battle like Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle in 1961. On the pitching front, the one/two combination of Gerrit Cole and Carlos Rodón will be so fun to watch on successive days. The intensity on the mound is going to be off the charts. Luis Severino and Nestor Cortes Jr make for the best third and fourth starters the Yankees have seen in many years.

I love baseball, I love the Yankees, and I am so happy Major League Baseball is nearly here.

Green takes the “green” north of the border.

In a surprising move, former Yankees reliever Chad Green has signed a two-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. The contract is worth $8.5 million as Green continues his recovery from last June’s Tommy John surgery. He will make $2.25 million in 2023. Rehabilitation after surgery is generally 12-18 months so there is a chance Green will miss the entirety of the upcoming season.

(Photo Credit: Instagram via @bluejays)

Green’s new contract has a complicated structure. The second year carries a conditional player option that Green can exercise if the Blue Jays do not pick up a three-year option that would pay $9 million per season. If both sides decline the options, the Blue Jays get a two-year option with a higher AAV (totals $21 million plus $1 million in bonuses). 

If the Blue Jays decline the team option and Green picks up the player option, he will receive a salary of $8.25 million plus potential bonuses of up to $2 million.

The Blue Jays are banking on Green’s return to status as one of the premier high-leverage relievers in MLB. If it works out, Green can make as much as $29.25 million throughout the contract. If not, the Blue Jays are out $8.5 million after two years.

I liked Green as one of the better relievers in the Yankees’ bullpen. He certainly was far more effective in relief than he was as a starter. Yet Green is 31 years old with seemingly his best years behind him. He may be a tremendous reliever for the Blue Jays, but I do not fault the Yankees for letting him go. In the last few years, they have generally moved on from pitchers who fell to Tommy John surgery with expiring contracts. Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, and Tommy Kahnle are recent examples even if the latter found his way back home. Green will be nearly 33 by the time he fully recovers. 

Moves like Green’s remind me that players do not share in our love and loyalty to our teams. For them, it is strictly a business. For me, it would be hard to switch loyalties to the Blue Jays or the Boston Red Sox. I guess if it is your only and best option, you follow the money. It has been hard to see several prominent Yankees join the Blue Jays, the Yankees’ strongest current hated division rival, this offseason. Former Yankees great Don Mattingly joined the Blue Jays as their bench coach following the end of his run as manager of the Miami Marlins.

There will be no wishes from me for their success in Toronto except when playing the Yankees. There is no scenario I ever want the Blue Jays to succeed regardless of whom they are playing. So Green is welcome to give up those ill-timed home runs to any opponent.  Well, except maybe not the Houston Astros.

I saw Green’s post “Happy but Sad” on Social Media. Yeah, Chad, we are sad too. 

Brad Wilkerson joins Aaron Boone’s coaching staff.

The Yankees named former Montreal Expos player Brad Wilkerson as assistant hitting coach. He replaces Hensley Meulens who left after the season to join the Colorado Rockies as their hitting coach.

Wilkerson joins current Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson and assistant hitting coach Casey Dykes. Both Lawson and Dykes have analytics-driven backgrounds and neither played above college. Wilkerson, on the other hand, played in the Major Leagues from 2001 to 2008. He was with the Expos when they made their move to Washington, hitting 42 doubles in their inaugural 2005 season. 

Brad Wilkerson (Photo Credit: Andre Pichette/AP)

An outfielder and a first baseman, Wilkerson also played for the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, and Toronto Blue Jays. He signed a minor league deal with the Boston Red Sox in 2009 but retired after not getting a promotion to the big-league club. He did try to come back the following Spring with the Philadelphia Phillies on a minor league contract, however, he was released before the 2010 season began.

Wilkerson, 45, does not have any pro coaching experience. He got into coaching in 2014 with The King’s Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida. Following the season, he was promoted to the school’s varsity baseball coach. He also served as a coach with USA Baseball and was named Volunteer Coach of the Year by the organization in 2014. In July 2020, he joined Jacksonville University as a baseball assistant and recruiting coordinator.

I will miss Meulens. In addition to his knowledge of multiple languages and ability to speak directly with most, if not all, players, he served on the coaching staff for multiple World Series champions with the San Francisco Giants. He also has experience managing in the World Baseball Classic. Yet, it was obvious Meulens was overqualified to be an assistant hitting coach.  When the Yankees did not bring back manager Joe Girardi following the 2017 season, Meulens had been my favorite to succeed him.  Joining the Yankees as an assistant hitting coach felt like a short-term gig when it happened.

To replace Meulens, I had hoped the Yankees would seek a coach with significant playing experience. I thought they would go with a more seasoned pro coach, but Wilkerson seems to have the right background and experience to succeed. He knows firsthand what it is like to have success and failure at the Major League level, and he has learned the ability to teach and communicate through middle/high school and collegiate coaching positions. As a player, he understood the value of on-base percentage, and he should help the Yankees achieve greater plate success. 

The deal with Wilkerson came together quickly. Wilkerson is quoted saying that the team had approached him about ten days before the appointment. He did not want to leave Jacksonville University for any opportunity, but the chance to be a big-league coach with the Yankees was too much to pass up. It did make me wonder whom the Yankees approached before Wilkerson. I guess we will never know as if it matters (it does not). I wish Wilkerson the best for much success in his new role. If team hitting improves, it will certainly set him up for a strong future in Major League coaching.

Brad, I would like you to meet Estevan Florial, your new project. 

Minor League Coaching Staffs

On Friday, the Yankees announced their Minor League coaching staff for the upcoming season.

Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

Manager: Shelley Duncan

Pitching Coach: Graham Johnson

Hitting Coach: Trevor Amicone

Defensive Coach: José Javier

Double-A Somerset Patriots

Manager: Raul Dominguez

Pitching Coach: Grayson Crawford

Hitting Coach: Jake Hirst

Defensive Coach: Aaron Bossi

High-A Hudson Valley Renegades

Manager: Sergio Santos

Pitching Coach: Preston Claiborne

Hitting Coach: Kevin Martir

Defensive Coach: Rob Benjamin

Defensive Coach: Derek Woodley

Single-A Tampa Tarpons

Manager: Rachel Balkovec

Pitching Coach: Gerardo Casadiego

Hitting Coach: Rick Guarno

Defensive Coach: Lino Díaz

Defensive Coach: Michel Hernández


Play Ball!

As always, Go Yankees!