Yanks on the brink.
Never mind the preamble:
Let’s Go Yank-ees!
The Rays handled the Yanks this season. They had the best record in the league and will be a handful for our Bombers. Irregardless—as some citizens in the Bronx still like to say—we’ll be here root-root-rooting for our boys.
Never mind the nonsense:
Let’s Go Yank-ees!
Picture by Bags
On a day when former Yankee Mariano Rivera visited the White House and it was reported that President Trump has been invited to throw out the first pitch at a Yankee game in August—both horseshit moves that are unsurprising yet repellent—the Yankees beat the Nationals in a ran-shortened season opener in Washington. The Final was 4-1. Giancarlo Stanton hit a very long home run.
Both teams took a knee before the game to honor Black Lives Matter proving that even in the ultra conservative world of baseball—and specifically the Yankee organization—all is not lost.
Hank Steinbrenner, eldest of the late George Steinbrenner’s children and co-owner/general partner of the New York Yankees has died at the age of 63 (from a non-Covid 19 related illness).
Not only is this surprising, but it’s an even sadder oddity and reminder that we are living a moment in world history; in our own lifetimes, that we have to distinguish a well-known and older individual’s death from the thousands of deaths we are experiencing on a daily basis due to an insidious virus that has caused a global pandemic. From reports that have come about at this writing, Hank had been sick for quite some time; it was the catalyst for him to step down as managing partner of the team he inherited from his father and pass the reigns to his once-reticent brother Hal.
As much as I hate to speculate, but it may have been this act alone that began the subtle rehab of his public image to the point that Yankee fans no longer saw his as a long-term threat to the organization’s prosperity, but more as a die-hard Yankee fan who happened to be co-Chairman and son of a legendary owner who did much the same thing in his latter years to recoup the grace of his involvement in all matters involving the Yankees. Fair or not, Hank did things that angered the populace to the point that stepping away from the active and visible role of managing partner was in itself a blessing to everyone involved.
But I am not here to bury the man. I never met him in person, so I don’t know what kind of guy he was. I imagine in the days to come we will hear anecdotes about things he did under the radar that will form a more substantial view of him as a human being and a person with an important role in the organization; even if it was not direct or worthy of publication at the time, and maybe I’ll feel better or worse for what I write. Hank seemed to us fans like a version of his father; loud and boisterous, reckless in terms of decisions involving the direction of the team. In fact, his most noteworthy contribution to the Yankee Universe (a phrase he used in a distinct rant against the “Red Sox Nation”) was his involvement with the A-Rod contract negotiations after the latter opted out during the 2007 World Series from his former, ludicrous contract that the Texas Rangers had gifted him some years earlier.
After all was said and done, Hank, as the de-facto figurehead of the organization management in lieu of his father, supported and glorified Rodriguez with a 10-year, $275 million dollar contract (subsc req’d). No need to rehash what came of that, but it fairly or unfairly earmarked Hank’s place in Yankee history as one of the controversial decision-makers in their storied history (if not the worst), and that’s saying a lot. Never mind that it was not solely his decision in the entire process (and that it was then-wife Cynthia who convinced A-Rod to go back to the Yanks), it was a move his father would have made in the blink of an eye, and cemented the image of Hank as a repeat offender to all anti-Steinbrenner campers (and in effect shielding Cashman, younger brother Hal , president Randy Levine and company from the main torrent of flak).
Yet outside of that, strictly in a baseball-sense Hank was if nothing else entertaining or at the very least a distraction from mediocrity in his boisterousness; a quality if you will that even the most begrudging curmudgeon of Yanks fans had to appreciate as he, often without forethought or by cynical design, gave voice to the core essence of Yankee fandom. His criticism of the Red Sox resulted in owner John Henry extending him “citizenship” as a member of “Red Sox Nation”, including lifetime privileges and perks deserving of any VIP such as Green Monster seats and an autographed hat by David Ortiz (“…”).
Hank also scattered his buckshot around the league, feuding with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Dodgers,, the National League and MLB in general; once moved to write an article for the Sporting News after the Yanks were eliminated in 2008 from playoff contention for the first time in 25 years. Hank had buckshot for everyone who was not a Yankee, much like a Hatfield would for a McCoy, and who’s to say that such rabidness wasn’t the least bit of good at a time when fortune seemed to be stagnant, if not trending downward for the Yanks and their fans.
In fact, it can be said without irony that Hank in a way kickstarted some of the self-analysis that MLB is publicly experiencing now, what with his lashing out against divisional formats and not having a designated hitter in both leagues (as a result of the once-dominant Chien-Ming Wang injuring himself running full-tilt on the base paths during an interleague game and never fully recovering from it). And for what it’s worth, Hank did differ from his father in one critical thing: he loathed the idea of selling off blue-chip prospects for the sake of a quick fix. Having directly witnessed the consequences of such decisions, he was smart enough to realize that selling the organization’s future short guaranteed nothing in the present and potentially more disaster in the future (not that it completely makes up for the one decision that did end up complicating the organization’s future). His and Hal’s support of that principle has led to the Baby Bombers Renaissance, which Hank personally loved and can rightfully receive a certain amount of credit for.
All-in-all, it is fair to criticize the man we don’t know personally; who was the face of the franchise for some glorious and inglorious moments, who seemingly made strong efforts to impersonate his demanding, complicated and legendary father, who made at least one critically fateful decision that altered the direction of the storied franchise that can be analyzed for decades, whose unbridled passion for the team he co-owned and co-chaired led him to defend that team as though he were its sworn protector and whose candor seemingly hoisted his own pertard… but in doing so, remember that he not once disgraced the franchise with scandal brought about by some personal or moral failing that would belie or deflate his outspokenness as we have seen many times with many in his position.
For all the public slather about him over the years, I don’t have any reason to hate the man. I never knew him personally, so I cannot say whether or not he was a good man. What I do know is from where I stand, it seemed like a good idea for him to step down and pass the reigns to his little brother. Now that we have a better notion of why, it’s all the more sympathetic. Strictly from a baseball sense, I think that’s fair.
Man, you hold your breath each day and hope that another Yankee doesn’t get hurt. The big boppers, Stanton and Judge, muscular and impressive as they are, certainly aren’t durable.
We’re in March now, exhibition games are being played, and we’re gearing up for the start of the season. With the world gone topsy turvy—with no end in sight to the craziness in this election year—there is something comforting about the inevitability of Opening Day and the long season.
Picture by Bags
Here’s a fun discussion to have; one I was having offline that was suggested to me to post here: what managers really have “juice” these days? Not PEDs of course, but respect; the kind that allows them to call the shots in the dugout without too much input, oversight or meddling from the GM and front office? There have been many discussions about the true role of the manager in the Age of Analytics, and how the importance of the manager has either diminished or shifted to other points of interest. I thus made an impromptu list of current managers and ranked them by service time, how many rings they’ve won, how many times they led their team to a championship series and the general perception likely by players, fans and others around the league.
The topic arose, ironically, from the latest news reports about the Houston Astros cheating scandal and former manager A.J. Hinch’s role in the whole story. The general conclusion was that Hinch, who was contrite in apologizing for not doing enough to discourage the cheating that MLB investigated and concluded in a mostly direct report, yet seemingly danced around a direct question about the use of wearable tech by players, would likely never manage again in the majors due to his apparent show of weakness among veteran players and his drop in credibility. Depending on the results of the ongoing investigation of the 2018 Red Sox due to their association with Alex Cora and how he reportedly continued his cheating methods as manager, Cora could also likely be blacklisted as a manager of a MLB team, if not worse. Also, with Carlos Beltran continually being outed for his role and impact on other players, Beltran could stand to lose the most from the scandal when all is said and done. But what is most telling is the role the front office reportedly had in both initiating and implementing the cheating in the first place, and how that impacted players who either played along or protested against the cheating. Former GM Jeff Lunhow is very likely out of MLB anything for good, due in part to his alleged oversight of the whole operation (and the fact that he denied any knowledge whatsoever), and also due to the fact he has virtually no supporters in other organizations; many people disliked his personality and hubris.
With all that said, do any managers really have power within the organization to lead or direct players in any capacity beyond writing their names on the lineup card and implementing analysis that was cooked up by a GM and his analytics department? Is there more to it than that and managing personalities anymore? Are managers more than notebook carriers and soothsayers for impressionable young stars in the making? Are style, personality, managing or coaching experience (particulary in the majors) and verifiable results actually unwelcome aspects when considering hiring a new manager in this day and age? Could a Rob Thomson or a Hensley Meulens ever get a manager job over a recently retired player or even a quality assurance coach?
Here’s the list of current managers for each team (courtesy of BR Bullpen):
Wowzers, you see it coming and yet…
Boston, still without a manager a week before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, traded two of their most significant players to the Dodgers, right fielder Mookie Betts and starting pitcher David Price, in a three-way trade also involving the Twins for regarded young outfielder Alex Verdugo from the Dodgers, and pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol from the Twins. The Twins in turn get starting pitcher Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers. It is indeed a seismic move involving three star players changing coasts and leagues at the same time (well, Maeda goes halfway, but you get the picture). In a likely corresponding move to make room for Betts, the Dodgers also traded outfielder Joc Pederson (along with a rookie league prospect) to the Angels for a young infielder I’ve never heard of, but will likely be pushing for a spot during the upcoming Spring Training portion of the show.
What’s the initial take? Dodgers pretty much get a Golden Ticket to the 2020 post-season (as long as they stay healthy) with Top 5 (Top 3?) outfielder in Betts, but then what of former All-Star and current borderline albatross David Price? Fortunately for L.A., the Red Sox are apparently sending a boatload of cash with him in the deal, and apparently by sending Maeda to the Twins, who send one of their pitching prospects to Boston, this evens out somehow. They are once again the team to beat in the N.L..
For the Twins getting Maeda, who finished 3rd in ROY voting in 2016 after eight largely stellar seasons in Japan, goes a long way in stabilizing a rotation that has Jake Odorizzi leading a staff including José Berríos, Homer Bailey and… um… yeah. Michael Pineda will finish out a 60-game suspension in mid-May while Rich Hill recovers from surgery and will probably return sometime in June. Minnesota needed this after having a huge season, yet falling short to the usual suspects in the playoffs.
The Red Sox, you say? I was having an offline discussion about this; basically this is salary relief in the disguise of retooling. They get a young(er) outfielder plus a prospect in Verdugo from the Dodgers and Graterol from the Twins, while also getting something instead of nothing for Betts. While they apparently have to pitch in a significant portion of Price’s salary to move him, he’s essentially one less conflict they have to deal with head-on (and vice-versa). Thus the price (pun… not intended, but liked) for a championship (albeit with a cloud hovering over it) and spending with near-reckless abandon to achieve it. The fans will probably HATE this move, but will definitely find ways to rationalize it.
Why does this matter to us Yankee fans, you might also ask? (You might, rabbit, you might…) Well, obviously it weakens a close competitor significantly; what Boston gets in return does not move the needle much as far as contending is concerned. If anything, they get a young player with value and more years of control and a really manageable salary… but GTFOH, he’s not Mookie Betts. He’s not charging up Aaron Judge in man-to-man WAR comparisons… not yet anyway. The pitcher they get may or may not make the rotation, that remains to be seen. All-in-all, the Red Sox accomplished their main goal in shedding significant salary, and we should be happy they did, more contending for the Yanks. And the best part is Mookie’s in the NL now, so the Yanks don’t haver to face him (or Price for that matter) nearly as much.
So that’s that so far. I may easily change my mind about all of that as more updates come; whereas much of this happened only recently as of this writing, so more details are sure to come. Comment away!
Boom. As fans, let’s take a few moments to assess what we just witnessed in the latest edition of “As The Baseball World Turns”…
I wish I had time to go in-depth on this situation, which is still evolving as we speak. But I do have some references for you to follow up and discuss if you wish.
What we know so far:
There has been and will continue to be plenty of discussion about what this all means for the people involved; we know that the Astros lose their first and second picks in both the 2020-21 drafts and also have to pony up $5 million; an unprecedented punishment indeed for the fifth-year commissioner Rob Manfred and for baseball overall, but then Crane went beyond that and fired Luhnow and Hinch for essentially embarrassing the organization and the city of Houston. Cora is still under investigation; he was singled out as the person who implemented the cheating system, then allegedly carried it over to his new job as manager and won a championship with it there. If he gets the book thrown at him, it will likely be bigger than the one thrown at Luhnow and Hinch, and likely result in his dismissal. meanwhile, Beltran, while not escaping the eye of MLB investigators, managed not to get punished by MLB. Yet, that doesn’t mean the story is over for him; there will likely be internal discussion about his suitability for running the Mets going forward, depending on what or if he told the Wilpons and GM Brodie about his part in the scandal and whether or not it means anything to them (did they even ask?) The New York press is going to have a field day with this, for real.
Happy New Year, folks, your Hot Stove is on fire…
MLB.Com (video featured)
You got to love the Yanks giving Ellsbury a hard time on the way out. After all, it was one of the worst deals in franchise history. Nobody to blame but themselves, of course, but whatever with Ellsbury, he’s a fink. And it’s funny, it’s not like this was a good gamble that went wrong. We all knew it was a turkey of a deal from the start.
Ah, well, good riddance.
Sorry that Greg Bird didn’t work out, though. I always wanted him to be the next thing. If not a star, then just a reliable, durable dude. It wasn’t to be and he’ll forever reside in the Yankee cutout bin right behind Nick Johnson.
In the meantime, it’s the first of the winter holidays. Eat, drink, and enjoy your friends and family.
Picture by Bags
Looks like free agency’s officially here and open for business.
Given the last few years, how can we tell if the market will favor legit stars like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg or… not-Cole/Strasburg? Last year, it was decidedly the latter; though Bryce Harper and Manny Machado eventually got much of what they wanted in heavy, long term contracts, they had to wait an awfully long time to actually get them (and not necessarily from teams that were first on their supposed lists). Will it be different now that we’re talking about two dominant Cy Young candidates with some good years still ahead of them heading the list? Only the GMs and the supporting stats departments know with MLB Analytics driving the conversation. As we’ve seen recently, not everything is what it seems.
Take the Yanks’ own free agents:
We already know CC is retired; hope he recovers from his latest injury well enough to enjoy his first year off from baseball in what has to have been a very long time. As for the rest, it’s easy to say that none are solid locks to be on the 2020 40-man for the Yanks; if anything, Didi would be the most likely to remain, and that’s not stated with a whole lot of confidence. Fan favorite that he is, when he came back from Tommy John surgery, he wasn’t up to what we’ve come to expect of him year-round. Personally, I would not find this to be the tipping point in any negotiations, though Didi doesn’t necessarily have the leverage he could have expected a year ago pre-injury, thanks to the year natural-shortstop-playing-second Gleyber Torres had; playoffs included. Gleyber is ticketed for stardom no matter where he plays on the diamond; provided he doesn’t get injured (which, ironically, is what we would have said about Didi last year at this time). I don’t like the idea of Didi being dismissed, given that Tommy John surgery is not something you bounce back from so quickly either as a pitcher or a position player, but the talent hasn’t disappeared either. With a full off-season to recover and rebuild, I would expect him to return to Hidden Dragon form. Hopefully the Yanks will find a way to keep him here.
Dellin Betances, too; I hope that the team will bring him back. 2019 was a disaster for Betances; first recovering from right shoulder surgery, then suffering a lat strain during rehab that cost him most of the season, and finally after returning for one game, tearing his ACL and being done for 2019. This was just a horrible season for Dellin, especially since it was a contract season where it was expected he would be lights out while either finalizing an extension or moving into free agency as one of the top sought-after relievers. Now the best he can hope for is that the Yanks decide to bring him back for a season or two to rehab and get back into form; failing that, his options are likely either accept any offer he can get from another club (which will likely be very low) or take the year off and rehab until next off-season, then take a likely pillow-contract to re-establish his value. Man, sucks to be him right now (and I mean that kindly). Again, the promise of talent is what keeps his value from slipping into AA territory, and I hope the Yanks feel that it’s worth the investment, regardless of the fact that he’s well past 30. But I dunno, it’s bad territory to be in for him.
All that being said,
the biggest name on the FA list for the Yanks has to be Aroldis Chapman has been extended for another year at an additional $18 million. He still can chuck it over 100mph, but it’s getting harder and harder as the seasons go by and we’ve seen less of it this season than in others. Then there was that slider… well, I don’t think the team will hold that against him so much (though it was not his best pitch by a long-shot) and given his usage, you can almost not blame him for using it, but that’s neither here nor there; there were plenty of other reasons the Yanks lost. The thing is, though the Yanks do have someone to replace Chapman, it came down to how much he wanted to remain in New York (a whole lot), how much they were willing to pay to bring him back (a whole lot) and, ultimately how much stronger he makes the pen (a whole lot). As freely as the team spent in the George Steinbrenner era, the team is willing to be thrifty in the Hal Steinbrenner era and seem hellbent on going down with the ship to prove to whomever that The Yanks Don’t Buy Championships (*cough-cough2018 Red Soxcough*) and also don’t need to TANK! to build a champion contender. If anything, the Winning Formula Award® now shifts to Dee Cee and the Nats, who are also the comeback players of the year (century?) and looking at some harder decisions than the Yanks this off-season. Would I like to have him back? I like having him back; having a super-duper bullpen is never-ever a bad thing, but I hope it’s not at the expense of keeping Didi + Betances and/or signing an ace; Hey-ell no.
So what’s left:
Brett Gardner… another tough call, honestly. He is the realest example of a True Yankee; drafted and bred in the Yankees system, made an impact from day one and through sheer hard work and perseverance became a solid everyday player and a fairly important one at that, even when his production went down, the team gambled on him holding the fort while others played in front of him and that gamble paid off in different ways, culminating in one of his best seasons of production in his career this past season. However, he’s 36, he’s not stealing many bases anymore even if analytics suddenly found them useful and there are quite a few guys on the team who are champing at the bit to do what he does (at a cheaper rate to boot). Between Clint Frasier, Cameron Maybin and Mike Tauchman(!), Gardner had his hands full just staying on the roster, But it says a whole lot that not only did he remain, but he competed hard and was quite productive in the process. It was a gamble both he and Cashman won this season despite ups and down throughout. This time, I don’t think fans would be so averse to having him around for another season, also given how injury-prone Stanton and to a certain degree Judge have been. Plus, he’s the last link the team has to their last championship on roster, and at a glance probably the only player in the clubhouse with a championship on his resume; at least as a starter. That cannot be discounted in any regard.
Austin Romine, however… there’s a lot to be said about having a good backup catcher. For one, they are very rare. For another, the Yanks sure do need them. With the way Gary Sanchez’ career has played out so far, they were blessed to have Romine on the roster. It may or may not stick with him, but he proved to be very valuable given the playing time he had and the number of times he had key hits that either kept them in contention or won games for them. And more importantly, pitchers liked pitching to him. That always is something to take into consideration. That said, this may not simply be a matter of if the Yanks want him back or not, but rather if they are willing to compete for him. Several teams need upgrades in the backstop department, and Romine could fit in any contender’s roster as well as a rebuilding team in search of a steadying force in the infield. He’s not a star per se, but he might be just what some team needs to keep the pieces together. I’m not sure if there;s an immediate replacement for Romine in the system if he were to walk; top catching prospect Anthony Seigler is way too far away from the majors, and Kyle Higoshioka is decidedly not Austin Romine.
Cameron Maybin, well he deserves a decent contract somewhere. He proved to be a solid contributor for the Yanks after signing with and being released by San Fran, signing with Cleveland and then being bought out by the Yanks all in 2019. After effectively replacing Frasier who was inept in the outfield and in interviews with reporters, he hustled his way to consideration as key fourth outfielder beyond all of the injuries plaguing the team until his momentum was stopped cold by the same injury bug that felled many of his teammates. But he returned in due time and was a key contributor the rest of the way, including the playoffs. He’s a talented player; even if he doesn’t often hit for power, he puts bat on ball more often than not and he’s a good outfielder to boot. I’d hate to lose him to someone else, but I would not begrudge him a starting role somewhere else (out of the division, of course).
Edwin, thanks for the memories. However, you proved to be the exact definition of a luxury; the homers were nice and it’s a good thing you could play first, but nah, we’re good. By the way, you weren’t when we needed you to be, but you already knew that. This… is an ex-Parrot.
The rest are not so much a Who’s Who gallery as it is a Who Dat? list. David Hale is the most familiar name as the Yanks have released him several times and reacquired him and sent him every which-a-way for the past couple of seasons, so I wonder if he’s also a masochist. Cliff Pennington, I only wondered if he was related to former NY Jets QB Chad Pennington (PS: I doubt it). Cory Guerrin and Eric Kratz; I’ve got nuthin’.
Okay, so feel free to chime in and sound off; this will probably stay open for a couple of weeks if it remains active, after which we’ll likely throw in another stream of consciousness or distract you with a Where & When cameo (those were fun) or even maybe try to pick up where we left off recounting famous Yanks For A Minute or who knows, something new for the Hot Stove Season to keep us engaged? Only time will tell, but thanks for the fun season, for sticking around and psst, keep
an eye on the cash register having fun>;)
The Yanks got four runs off Justin Verlander in the first and that’s all they’d get but it was enough as our boys pushed the series back to Houston tonight for Game Six.
Win or go home. You know the drill.
Never mind the odds:
Let’s Go Yankees!
[Picture by Bags]
Welp, our boys picked a hell of time to have one of their sloppiest games of the year. Now the missed chances in Game 2 and Game 3 hurt even more. C.C. Sabathia limped off the mound last night too hurt to pitch anymore, his career over. It was a long, somber moment. Even the Astros gave him a hand and it didn’t seem condescending. Then the Yanks kept making more errors and just looked terrible on a cold and windy night in the Bronx.
The good news is that they’ve got a game today. The bad news is that they’ve got to face Justin Verlander. But the good news is they’ve got a chance, they’ve been resilient all year and hopefully they can send this series back to Houston and make them sweat just a little bit.
So never mind the tears:
Let’s Go Yankees!
This is what we know. If the Yanks are gonna beat the best team in the league they are gonna have to win three games and tame Greinke, Verlander, and Cole. Easy to overlook Greinke but he’s no scrub.
Holy cow is it ever lousy weather in the Bronx. Cold, windy—not baseball weather, man.
Biggest game of the season for our boys.
We’ll be there root-root-rootin’ them on.
Never mind the windchill:
Let’s Go Yank-eese!
Picture by Bags
Game Three. Brilliant sunny autumn afternoon in New York. Yanks and Luis Severino against the best pitcher in the league and those damn ’Stros.
Here’s hoping the Yanks come out on top.
Never mind the strikeouts:
Let’s Go Yank-ees!
Picture by Bags
Yanks vs. the Astros, the two best teams in the league.
Yankees trying to avenge their 2017 ALCS loss to Houston while the Astros look to get back to the Serious.
Should be a ton o fun.
Never mind the brisket:
Let’s Go Yank-ees!
Picture by Bags
The Yanks beat the Twins in Game One of the ALDS last night in the Bronx. Game was long and it wasn’t memorable but our boys scored a mess o runs and really made the Twins’ pitchers work hard.
This afternoon gives Game 2. Course it’s not a must-win for the Yanks but let’s pretend it is:
Never mind the chill in the air, it’s Playoff-Baseball, baby:
Let’s Go Yank-ees!
Picture by Bags