Game 67: TB vs. NYY — Old Timers’ Day joy, but a series still won

For as long as I remember, summer wasn’t summer without baseball. And baseball wasn’t baseball without my dad. So, watching a ballgame on Father’s Day is a gift for me.

It reminds me of my childhood spent with dad watching games on a grainy black-and-white set while he explained the mechanics of the game and talked of legendary players. Reminds me summer days at the ballpark cheering on a favorite team, despite its dismal record, eating peanuts and telling jokes. Reminds me of the weekend Dad spent teaching us to play ball with his old bat and catcher’s mitt in the backyard. And as always, there was joy and fun building those family memories.

It is in those moments that my strong bonds between Dad and baseball are formed. Dad so enjoyed the game that we couldn’t help but learn the enjoy it too. Our family may all root for different teams now, but the common bond is still the game itself. Though he’s been gone nearly a decade now, Dad would love knowing his kids and grandkids are now building their own family memories around this same game of baseball.

And maybe that’s what he had in mind all along. Thanks, Dad!

In the final game of this weekend series against the visiting Rays, CC Sabathia had a great game overall, throwing 102 pitches into the 8th inning. He gave up 10 hits, a walk, and 3 runs, and solidly struck out 10 Rays’ batters.

The only runs the Rays scored tonight came in the 2nd inning. He gave up 2 consecutive singles to put runners on the corners before a double scored the lead runner. Two outs later, the batter hit a solid single that scored both runners, but then the Yankees defense kicked in and got the runner trying to stretch his single into a double.

Leaving the game to a standing ovation, Sabathia would have had a great game and probably a win had the Yankees had any kind of offensive support. Adam Warren came on to close out the 8th for Sabathia and throw a solid 9th inning, but the Yankees’ offense limped through the game. They still managed 7 hits and 4 walks on the board, but they only run they got was a 2-out solo home run in the 5th by Aaron Hicks.

Final score: 3-1 Rays, Yankees win series 3-1

Next up: The Yankees travel to Washington, D.C. to complete their previously suspended game from May 15. That game will conclude first, picking up in the 6th inning with the game tied 3-3. About 30 minutes after that conclusion, they will play the make-up game from May 16. The Yankees will head back to the Bronx for their 3-game mid-week series against the Mariners before beginning their road trip against the Rays.

Before the current Yankees took the field, Yankee fans were treated to witness the celebration of the 72nd Annual Old Timers’ Day, featuring many favorite players, spanning generations of greats from the 1940s to the 2010s. Always a fan-favorite day, players from decades of former Yankee rosters take the field for a few innings, full of good-natured competition and fun.

Before the action on the field, the familiar voice of the late Bob Sheppard greeted the fans to Old Timers Day and the stadium roared to life, and current Yankee broadcasters John Sterling and Michael Kay began the introductions of each participant.

After introducing the widows of former players — Jill Martin (Billy), Kay Murcer (Bobby), Diana Munson (Thurman), and Helen Hunter (Catfish) — they continued with a plethora of former Yankee greats like Dr. Bobby Brown, Bucky Dent, Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson, Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson, and Gene Monahan, among so many others of Yankee Universe. Fans cheered with standing ovations for pitching legends Whitey Ford and Don Larsen, now in their 80s, but looking spry and all smiles today.

(Full video of today’s introductions.)

The newest members making their debut at Old Timers’ Day were Dion James, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Nick Swisher, and Yankees manager Aaron Boone. It’s a bit of stretch to call most this group “old timers” (Swisher being just 37), but it was good to see this group again. Their relative youth brought a zeal and enthusiasm to the game. Especially fan-favorite Nick Swisher, as they welcomed him back to the Bronx with roaring applause. He waved and thanked the crowd with his signature smile and genuine gratitude, obviously much missed.

As they do every year, the players divided into two teams, the Bombers and the Clippers. The sheer joy of being in pinstripes and taking the field seemed to energize the crowds, and the game did not disappoint. Wild pitches and missed catches brought good-natured ribbing, and Swisher showed off his still-sharp baseball skills with a 2-run double and a big 3-run homer into the second deck. With pitching by the likes of Pettitte and hitting by Swisher, it was inevitbale that the Bombers would outscore the Clippers, final score of 15-3 by the end of their abbreviated game.

Following the game, Swisher was unofficially dubbed the “MVP” of today’s game, saying that today’s festivities sum up the joy of what its like to play baseball for a living. He said, “I feel like every time you take the field, you have a lifetime pass to be a little kid for as long as you want. For me, I’m just happy to be here. I couldn’t believe that [homer]. You only dream of stuff like that!” Close friend David Robertson made sure he celebrated right with his own Gatorade shower during his post-game interview.

Until next year…

Go Yankees!

Game 62: WAS vs. NYY — #HOPEWeek Starts, #CCStrong & #SirDidi shut out Nationals

The Yankees are back in the Bronx, and it’s HOPE Week. While the Yankees face the Nationals tonight and tomorrow before starting their series against the Rays, they are also using their days to give back to their community in their 10th Annual HOPE Week. (More on that after the game recap.)

CC Sabathia got the start in tonight’s game and zoned into a strong momentum to keep the visiting Nationals scoreless. He threw 101 pitches into the 6th inning, gave up 4 hits and 3 walks, and struck out 3 batters. Also, he hit an amazing milestone in the 4th inning — his 1,500th strikeout with the Yankees. They stopped the game for a moment to allow the 44,000 fans at the stadium to give him a nice audience.

Sabathia has 2,893 in his career, making him 17th in the overall list of pitchers and the leader among active pitchers. And it’s worth noting that all but 2 listed above Sabathia on that list are in the Hall of Fame.

With 2 outs and a runner on 1st with a single, Sabathia handed the ball to Chad Green. While he was dealing with the next batter, the runner took off for 2nd, and Romine fired the ball to a waiting Torres at 2nd to make the tag. Originally ruled safe, the Yankees challenged the call and after review, the play was overturned. Then Green’s 7th inning followed Sabathia’s clean sheet, before Betances and Chapman’s 8th and 9th innings just got cleaner and cleaner.

While the Yankees’ pitching was strong, the Yankees’ batting needed to step it up and take advantage of the opportunities they could. In the 2nd, Didi Gregorius hit a solid 1-out solo home run to get things started fairly early. Aaron Hicks then worked a walk, and Walker’s single and a bad throw moved both runners into scoring position. Hicks then scored on Austin Romine’s sacrifice fly. Didi Gregorius later led-off the 6th with another solo home run to cap off the Yankees’ scoring.

Final score: 3-0 Yankees

Today, MLB released the first results of fan voting for the AL nominees of All-Star Game, and there were a lot of Yankeesa lot of Yankees that could make the roster this year if fans continue to pull through. Gary Sanchez leads all Catchers by about 13,000 votes; Gleyber Torres is a distant 2nd at 2nd; Miguel Andujar is a distant 2nd at 3rd; Didi Gregorius is 3rd in a tight field at Shortstop; and Giancarlo Stanton is a distant 2nd at Designated Hitter. Plus, all Yankee Outfielders are found in the top 15 — Aaron Judge is 3rd, Brett Gardner is 7th, and Aaron Hicks is 11th.

Based on current patterns and numbers, Sanchez and Judge are almost locks for the starting roster, so Yankee fans, do your stuff and vote!

HOPE Week is back for its 10th year. Helping Other Persevere and Excel is the motto of the Yankees annual community outreach for the last 10 seasons. It’s easily my favorite week of the year, and it’s something Yankees Director of Media Relations Jason Zillo calls “The greatest thing we do all year.”

Yesterday, during the Yankees off-day, the Yankees sent 3 of their biggest stars to the TODAY Show to preview HOPE Week and meet with the fans that pack Rockefeller Center every morning. Brett Gardner (a HOPE Week veteran since Day 1), Aaron Judge (in his 2nd HOPE Week), and Giancarlo Stanton (a HOPE Week rookie) went on the show to promote HOPE Week and talk about “bringing light to some special situations and meeting some really cool people”.

HOPE Week, Day 1: Monday, the Yankees visited Cindy and Louis Campbell who founded the “Muddy Puddles Project“, hosting the annual Mess Fest at Mohawk Day Camp (about an hour north of the City). The Campbell’s lost their 5 year old son Ty to brain cancer 6 years ago and his greatest wish before he died was just to jump in the mud puddles. So in his honor, they founded this messy, fun opportunity for children with cancer and their families to enjoy a day, raise money for pediatric cancer research (over $800,000 in five years).

Manager Aaron Boone, Bench Coach Josh Bard, Brett Gardner, Sonny Gray, Didi Gregorius, and Yankees General Partner Jenny Steinbrenner brought a $10,000 donation and Ty Campbell’s favorite cartoon Peppa Pig to join in today’s festivities. They got messy in the mud and then clean thanks to a big soapy washing station and a water balloon fight. Children from all over the area being treated for various forms of cancer got to hang out with the Yankees (and Peppa Pig), including one kid celebrating his 8th birthday. It was definitely a day to remember. (And now, I want to go jump in a bunch of mud puddles!)

HOPE Week Day 2: Today, the Yankees invited a special girl named Cassidy Warner to hang out with them. Many of you may remember Cassidy as the young girl who posted a video earlier this year about being bullied in her school and then asking people to just be nice to each other. The Yankees responded to her video with one of their own, inviting her to come and have lunch with them some time. That came true today.

Cassidy joined Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, AJ Cole, Neil Walker, a handful of coaches, and a group of local 6th graders from a national anti-bullying organization called “No Bully” to play kick ball at the field across from Yankee Stadium (where the old stadium used to stand). Cassidy then joined the Yankees for lunch at the Stadium and later joined Cindy Campbell to jointly throw out the 1st pitch before the game.

No Bully’s Vice President Erik Stangvik personally encouraged Cassidy for sharing her story and challenged the whole group to be an “upstander” instead of just being a “bystander” and stand up for people. He said, “Ultimately, it’s just being kind. It’s a pretty simple way to walk through the world.”

 

And that, I think, is the ultimate message of HOPE Week — that kindness matters. And that being kind is a lifestyle choice, something we all can choose every day. Kindness impacts our own little corner of the world and ultimately lands like ripples on the pond to affect further than we can possibly imagine.

Kindness matters.

Go Yankees!

Game 45: NYY vs. TEX — A strong Texas starter vs. a messy Yankees starter

Sometimes, the deficit is too large to overcome. Or there just are not enough outs for the offense to kick in. Or the opposing starter is just really good. Or the Yankees’ starter had a messy start. Or all of the above.

Domingo German got the start for the Yankees, and coming off his last, strong showing, this was less than ideal. He threw 85 pitches into the 4th inning, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs, while still striking out 6 Texas batters. In the 1st with 1 out, German gave up a single and a walk that scored as part of a bit 3-run home run to get the Rangers on the board early and big.

In the 2nd, he hit the lead-off batter that moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then advanced to 3rd on a ground out. German then threw another wild pitch to strike out the next batter, but due to the wild pitch, the batter to made it to 1st safely while the other runner raced home to score another run. Yet another wild pitch moved the runners up, and a walk loaded the bases. A grounder scored one more run before German finally got out of this messy inning.

German found his pace and struck out the side in the 3rd, but then came back to give up a lead-off home run in the 4th. Two outs and a single later, the Yankees had enough and went to their bullpen. AJ Cole came on in relief to throw 5 scoreless outs and keep the Rangers from adding to their lead. Shreve finished off the 6th inning and kept that momentum, before handing the game over toe Gallegos for the next 2 scoreless innings.

Deep in the hole already in the first 2 innings, the Yankees faced a pretty good veteran starter, who threw a solid 7 innings, only giving up 4 hits, 2 walks, and just 2 runs during his tenure. Those 2 runs were a 2-out solo home run by Gleyber Torres in the 3rd and a 7th inning 1-out solo shot by Miguel Andujar.

But once the Rangers went to their bullpen, anything was possible, and the Yankees made every effort to chip away at the Rangers’ lead in the final 2 innings. With 1 out in the 8th, Stanton singled, and then Austin Romine hit a nice 2-run home run to put the Yankees within striking distance. After Gregorius singled, the rest of the roster left him hanging out there. And a solid 9th inning showing by their closer sealed the deal.

Final score: 6-4 Rangers

So, Aaron Boone was ejected 5 times as a player, but earned his first one as a manager tonight in the 6th inning. Apparently, Boone had been having issues all night, “chirping” from the dugout until the home plate umpire whipped around in the middle of Sanchez’s at-bat and tossed the Yankees’ rookie manager. To be fair, a lot of conversation online has been about the questionable strike zones recently, especially with larger players like Judge and Stanton. I’m not sure I agree he needed to be ejected (sometimes they do, believe me), but we all know you can’t argue balls and strikes. No matter how terrible the calls really are.

Some roster moves: on Monday, the Yankees moved some of the guys from the DL to their rehab assignments at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in preparation for their eventual return to the big leagues — Greg Bird, Billy McKinney, and Tommy Kahnle. Now, this made

Scranton Shuttle: in the same shuffle that sent a bunch of players to Scranton on the rehab, the Yankees recalled reliever Giovanny Gallegos to fill out the spot that Clint Frazier left the previous day (Sunday). And despite a strong 2 innings tonight, Gallegos is heading back to Scranton for a player that yet to be announced. Someone’s coming to Texas on that return trip, but I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

Meanwhile, with the prospect of Greg Bird coming back soon, people are wondering what will happen to Tyler Austin, who has certainly been a huge part of the Yankees’ winning streak this last month. However, Boone later said in an interview that he doesn’t expect Austin to be going anywhere anytime soon, noting the same things we’ve all been seeing in him. You don’t want to lose a good player that could easily step into the game in an emergency. Though, that certainly sounds like quite a few players on the current roster.

Go Yankees!

Spring Game 14: NYY vs. ATL — Strong start, just not enough hitting

It was a beautiful, clear evening under the lights at the Disney World sports complex, the Spring home of the Braves (for the last season), a crisp 72° at first pitch just before the sun sank in the horizon. In other words, a great night for some baseball. The result, however, held mixed results.

Sonny Gray got a great start tonight, throwing into the 4th inning, holding the Braves scoreless, only allowing 1 hit, and striking out 3 Atlanta batters. Tommy Kahnle got the final out of the 4th but had some trouble in the 5th. He gave up a lead-off walk that scored on a long double before getting the inning’s first out. Chasen Shreve came on for the final 2 outs of the 5th and the first one in the 6th.

Minor league reliever David Hale came on to finish off the 6th before he got into a situation in the 7th. A lead-off single moved to 2nd on a 2-out single. They both then scored on a big double to right field. The Braves were aided by 2 pretty messy errors out there — a missed catch error and then a throwing error by the young fielder. Jonathan Holder breezed through the 8th inning to keep the Braves from adding to their partially unearned score and give the Yankees a chance.

However, the Yankees’ lone offensive breakthrough came only in the top of the 6th with Gary Sanchez’s lead-off solo home run. The Yankees’ batters racked up a grand total of 3 hits and 5 walks. In other words, they just weren’t hitting well tonight.

Can we blame “The Mouse” or that it’s a late Friday game? Nah. It’s just Spring. It’s when things like this get worked out, and they figure out what needs to be strengthened and who’s not quite ready for “The Show”. It happens.

Final score: 3-1 Braves

The first round of cuts from big league camp happened in the last 24 hours. Yesterday, the Yankees reassigned 5 pitchers and one catcher to minor league camp — Cale Coshow, Raynel Espinal, Trevor Lane, Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and (catcher) Chace Numata. Then earlier today, the Yankees announced they were optioning pitchers Albert Abreu and Jonathan Loaisiga to Single-A Tampa and infielder Thairo Estrada to AA Trenton. (Estrada, as you may remember, is still recovering from a gunshot wound incurred during a robbery attempt in his Venezuelan hometown this off-season.)

This is my standard disclaimer for this time of year: this is a good thing for these players. They won’t be making the starting MLB roster, so they are best served fine-tuning their skills with their teammates this season and focusing on their continued work to hopefully lead up to their futures in the Bronx some day soon.

Next up: the Yankees host their regular season crosstown rivals tomorrow afternoon. The Mets return the visit (from Wednesday’s game) as the crowd of New York fans cheer on their New York team. It’s always a special game, and yes, New York always wins. Previously scratched due to a sore neck, Luis Cessa gets his shot Saturday and will start against one of the Mets’ star starters (formerly affectionately dubbed “The Dark Knight”, for long-term fans), looking to have a way better year than a pretty awful personal one last year.

Also, a happy birthday to the Yankees’ new manager, Aaron Boone, who turned 45 today. Hope this year is full of moments like that special game almost 15 year ago…

Go Yankees!

 

The off-season is over, at least for pitchers & catchers…

Tuesday, pitchers and catchers invited to Spring Training camp reported for duty at the Yankees minor league campus in Tampa. Yesterday, they spent Valentine’s Day working out for the first time together this season, doing throwing and catching drills and starting this season right with a sense of team unity. For the last few days, people have lingered on the sidewalk outside the complex, fans on the right, media on the left, and players have showed up to chat with the media and sign for the fans periodically leading up to this week. Now that things are in full swing, the location has shifted from the smaller facilities (on Himes Ave.) to those at Steinbrenner Field, with limited fan viewing available for the daily workouts (free for anyone with the time).

But for the media, it means official press conferences and pictures that aren’t shot through the chain link fence. Tuesday was new manager Aaron Boone’s first official conference addressing the media, and as expected, most of the questions included how he will approach managing differently. Of course, it’s going to be different because Boone is a different person than his predecessor Girardi or his predecessor (and Boone’s own manager when he was last in pinstripes) Torre. And right now, not a single pitch has been thrown or home run hit or out made, so discussion of play, potential, or even approach is really a little premature. It takes a while for players to gel with each other, and gelling with an almost entirely new different coaching staff could also take some time. Best case scenario: all the kinks get worked out in Spring Training because that’s what it’s for.

Last November, Aaron Judge underwent shoulder surgery to remove excess and loose cartilage in his left shoulder (non-throwing) and has been rehabbing this off-season. According to a press conference Wednesday, Judge has been a frequent face around the minor league complex this off-season and is considered “right on schedule”, despite potentially missing the first few Spring Training games. Fortunately, the goal isn’t February 23 (the first Spring game) but rather March 29 (the first season game).

Meanwhile, other teammates have focused on their own aspects of prepping for 2018. Gary Sanchez spent the off-season refining his defensive skills, something of much discussion last year. Dellin Betances dropped some weight in hopes of being able to have a better 2018 than some of the lag he experienced in 2017. CC Sabathia also focused on his health, adopting a vegan diet, and hoping to build strength to combat lingering knee issues. And new Yankee Giancarlo Stanton used his social media to show #NoOffSeason in anticipation of becoming a Yankee this year.

Pitchers and catchers continue their daily workouts this week, as more fielders show up ahead of their check-in day Sunday (February 18), with the first full squad workout day this coming Monday. Meeting the team this year are an interesting group of guest instructors — veteran guests: Ron Guidry, Reggie Jackson, Lee Mazzilli, Stump Merrill, and Willie Randolph; and new(ish) guests: Tino Martinez, Hideki Matsui, Alfonso Soriano, Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira, and Bernie Williams. I expect the Opening Day cheers to be intense as they see some of these fan favorites back in pinstripes and on the field during introductions.

Spring Training is just days away, and it’s already shaping up to be quite the adventure. One that I think we’re all hoping can translate into that elusive #28, the ultimate goal of every season, but one that is completely possible at this point in the year.

Go Yankees!

Note: I was setting up to work on this post yesterday when the news broke out of south Florida, just 270 miles (about 3.5-4 hours) southeast of Tampa. In light of the unfolding story, it didn’t feel right to preempt the news with baseball preparations and wishing people a “Happy Valentine’s Day”, when for far too many it will now never be a happy day. Instead, we remember those once again lost to mass shooting, our hearts and prayers with their families and friends. I hope I never have to delay a post for such an awful reason or write another of these postscripts. It is heartbreaking and disheartening. Parkland, we mourn with you and anticipate days when such terrible news is as rare as violent home plate collisions are now in baseball.

One week left of the off-season, tying up details

There is just one week until pitchers and catchers report to the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa. Though quite a few players (like Luis Severino coming off a great 2017 season) are already working out on the fields and in the cages, a great off-season perk for being part of the organization. With some recent departures, there are a handful of spots to be earned this Spring, including 2nd and 3rd base and a finalized starting rotation and bullpen.

The Yankees announced last week that they have finalized their coaching staff behind new manager Aaron Boone, filling out most of the staff with mostly familiar faces from the Yankees organization. Larry Rothschild, as we already knew, will return as the Yankees’ pitching coach, now joined by Mike Harkey as bullpen pitching coach, Marcus Thames as hitting coach, and Brett Weber as coaching assistant and MLB leading instant replay coordinator (currently sitting at 75% success rate). Yankees settled on Reggie Willits for their 1st base coach, Carlos Mendoza as quality control coach and infield instructor, P.J. Pilittere as assistant hitting coach, Jason Brown as catching coach, and Radley Haddad as coaching assistant and bullpen catcher. They also bring in two new faces in the form of new bench coach Josh Bard (former Dodgers’ bullpen coach) and new 3rd base coach Phil Nevin (former Giants’ minor league coach).

And Spring Training invitations have gone out to all 39 men currently on the 40-man roster, plus 20 non-roster invitees. And because there’s been quite a few departures and only a few big signings (Stanton sound familiar?), here’s a list for you to prep for the Spring. On the 40-man roster: pitchers Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo, Dellin Betances, Luis Cessa, Aroldis Chapman, Giovanny Gallegos, Domingo German, Sonny Gray, Chad Green, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Jonathan Loaisiga, Jordan Montgomery, David Robertson, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Chasen Shreve, Masahiro Tanaka, and Adam Warren; catchers Kyle Higashioka, Austin Romine, and Gary Sanchez; infielders Miguel Andujar, Tyler Austin, Greg Bird, Thairo Estrada, Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres, and Ronald Torreyes; and outfielders Jabari Blash, Jake Cave, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Billy McKinney, and Giancarlo Stanton. Non roster invitees: pitchers Chance Adams, Cody Carroll, Cale Coshow, Raynel Espinal, J.P. Feyereisen, David Hale, Brady Lail, Wade LeBlanc, Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and Taylor Widener; catchers Francisco Diaz, Erik Kratz, Chace Numata, and Jorge Saez; infielders Danny Espinosa, Kyle Holder, Jace Peterson, and Nick Solak; and outfielder Estevan Florial.

On a brief side note, free agent and last year’s part-time 3rd baseman Todd Frazier signed with the Mets this week. The Mets are fortunate to have a great veteran presence on the field and in the clubhouse. However, it is almost oddly fitting for the guy who triggered the “thumbs-down” movement last year come full circle. The fan who stood up and gave the thumbs-down sign at the make-up Yankees-Rays game last September (Gary) is a die-hard Mets fan, only attending the game because he was able to get cheap tickets to a ball game at CitiField. So now, Gary can “thumbs-up” Frazier at CitiField on a regular basis, but something tells me those two will keep the thumbs down as one of those trademark “you had to be there” things for a long time to come. Good luck, Frazier! See you at the Subway Series!

The Yankees lost a fan-favorite alumnus last week. Power-hitting outfielder Oscar Gamble played 7 seasons with the Yankees (1976, 1979-1984) towards the end of his 17 year career (1969-1985) as a professional ball player. Gamble helped the Yankees with their postseason attempts in 1976, 1980, and 1981 to bookend the brief “Bronx is Burning” dynasty era. He was nicknamed the “Big O” by Phil Rizzuto, another Yankee alumnus (and broadcaster, at that point) and was known for his large afro peeking out below his helmet and ball cap, though the infamous Steinbrenner grooming rules certainly tamed that hair for a bit in those late-70s. Despite no history of chewing tobacco, Gamble was diagnosed with a rare tumor of the jaw 9 years ago and underwent several removal surgeries over the years before it became aggressive just over a year ago and ultimately fatal last week. Our prayers and condolences go out to his many friends and his wife Lovell, and their sons Sean and Shane and daughter Sheena.

Again, we’re counting down the days until baseball starts again, and the Yankees have already shipped all their goods from the Bronx, making its way down I-95 towards Sunny Florida. Hopes are running high for this year, but they always do this early in the year. Because right now, anything really is possible. And isn’t that the greatest way to live life? On positivity, hope, and faith.

Go Yankees!

Off Season Update: Holiday Wrap-up

Well, the Astros are the reigning World Champions, much to the city of Houston’s glee. The parade through the streets of Houston, which had been nearly devastated just a few months earlier was a big encouragement to those who are still trying to rebuild their homes and lives after Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast in late August.

Winter Meetings begin on Monday, and between the Astros winning Game 7 over the Dodgers and the Winter Meetings on Monday, it’s not exactly been a quiet off-season. Especially for the Yankees.

Awards Season: Almost immediately following the World Series, MLB Universe wraps up its season by handing out all sorts of awards. Mostly, it was Aaron Judge that was up for many of the awards like MVP and Rookie of the Year, but it was a tough year for nearly every category as there was some really outstanding players and plays made this season. You can catch up on all the awards (with extensive coverage and video clips) here. But I’m just going to do a brief Yankee Universe summary.

As expected, the MVPs and Hank Aaron Awards of both the AL and NL went to the Astros’ Jose Altuve and Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton, though Judge’s name was tossed about quite a bit for the AL versions of both awards. Judge did snag Rookie of the Year, voted so unanimously, the first Yankee to do so since Jeter in 1996. (Side note: also in the mix for ROTY — breakout starter Jordan Montgomery.) Judge was also awarded the Silver Slugger for right field, something he shared this year with teammate Gary Sanchez, who won it for his catching position. And Judge was also voted on by his fellow players for the Players’ Choice Award of Outstanding AL Rookie.

Now, Esurance sponsors its own array of awards for the season and quite a few Yankees graced the finalists lists. Best Major Leaguer was awarded to Altuve over 9 other finalists including MLB legends like Stanton and Trout as well as (of course) Judge. Severino was nominated for Best Pitcher, but lost to the Indians’ Corey Kluber (who had an outstanding postseason in his own right). Of the 6 finalists for Best Rookie, who else but Aaron Judge became the natural choice. The Astros’ manager AJ Hinch edged out 9 other finalists for Best Manager, including Joe Girardi, and Brian Cashman got the same treatment in the Best Executive category as the Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow snagged that one. Other awards include Best Postseason Moment, Best TV/Radio Call, Best Play, Personality of the Year, and Best Fan Catch, none of which unfortunately include any Yankees

Hello, old friend: At the end of October, before the World Series was even complete, the Yankees announced they were parting ways with their long-term manager Joe Girardi, and began the search for their new skipper. With former bench coach Rob Thomson singing on to be the Phillies’ new bench coach and 3rd base coach Joe Espada the Astros’ bench coach, the Yankees ended up narrowing the manager candidates down and included two former Yankee players — Carlos Beltran and Aaron Boone. Just a few days ago, the Yankees announced that they were going with Aaron Boone, known to most Yankee fans as the hero of the 2003 World Series and more recently as a ESPN broadcaster. Boone, who will wear #17, will be thrust back into Yankee Universe in a crucial role, one that could either expose his inexperience as a manager or one that could see him flourish thanks to his extensive baseball knowledge, legacy, and intelligence. Only time will tell.

Big splash denied, big splash made: All 30 MLB clubs were hoping to sign an international sensation, 23-year-old Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani, who is known both as a stellar pitcher and as a big power-hitter. The international market has some complex rules about signings, and many assumed that Ohtani would sign with a big name NL team so that he could use both of his famed tools. Almost immediately, most East Coast teams were eliminated, including big market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox. With most of the chatter leaning towards the Mariners (despite being an AL team), the big surprise was when the Angels (also an AL team) announced their newest acquisition just a few days ago.

But without that possibility, the Yankees started searching for their big splash. Within about 24 hours of word leaking that the Marlins were shopping their superstar Giancarlo Stanton, it was confirmed just today. Former HR Derby champion Stanton would join current HR Derby champion Judge in the Yankees outfield and in Yankee pinstripes for the 2018 season. Details are forthcoming, but it looks like the Yankees will send prospect pitcher Jorge Guzman (the #9 Yankee prospect), prospect shortstop Jose Devers, and Starlin Castro to the Marlins in exchange for Stanton and about $30 million. Castro has 2 years and about $23.7 million left on his current contract.

Okay, what that means and leaves wide open for the Yankees to answer questions this off-season. First, removing Castro from 2nd leaves a wide open space for perhaps Ronald Torreyes to play more frequently, especially as he was clearly one of the more reliable and consistent defenders and hitters (basically the ideal bench/utility player) for the last 2 seasons. However, there are several prospects that could earn the everyday position in Spring Training including the much talked about Gleyber Torres.

The Yankees now have 6 potential outfielders — Gardner, Ellsbury, Judge, Stanton, Hicks, and C. Frazier. Frazier will likely spend time in AAA once again, which leaves either Gardner or Ellsbury (mostly due to age, unfortunately) as the prime potential for a trade. However, Ellsbury has a no-trade clause in his contract, one that he could easily waive if asked or volunteer to be traded on his own if he so desires. A lot of that usually depends on who’s asking. That prevents players from being traded into a clubhouse or organization they don’t like. If I was a player, there are definitely certain clubs I would avoid like the plague, or take a pay cut to play with a better team.

Also, the Yankees are dealing with 8 arbitration-eligible players and 10 with less than 3 years on their contracts, most notably Headley, Robertson, and Gardner, who are all on their final year of their deals. Arbitration-eligible means that the Yankees will extend an offer (a proposed salary) to keep them on their roster, and the player either accepts it or counter offers and it goes to arbitration for the mediator to pick the correct number. Basically, it’s a negotiation tool, and this off-season, the Yankees will have to negotiate with Betances, Gray, Gregorius, Hicks, Kahnle, Romine, Shreve, and Warren. Unless they trade them, of course.

Again, the Winter Meetings start on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (a.k.a. Disney World’s Swan & Dolphin Resorts, for anyone not familiar with Central Florida geography). Winter Meetings are when representatives from all the MLB clubs and their minor league teams, as well as MLB executives, meet up for about four days and do business face-to-face. So, there’s going to be trades, discussions, executive meetings to discuss baseball operations and potential alterations to rule of play. Often scouts, owners, general managers, international visitors, job-seekers, and trade show exhibitors will also be milling around the meetings. In other words, we can expect more news to come out of this next week’s meetings. And I was going to wait until after that to post, just in case the Yankees make another big splash, which they could as they still need to shore up the starting rotation. But today’s news was too big to pass up.

But barring a big splash, I hope everyone has a good holiday season as we close out this 2017 and hope for a really wonderful 2018. I mean, it really looks like 2018 could be the year we finally celebrate #28.

Go Yankees!