A “fully functional Death Star” prepares for 2019

The Yankees are often considered “America’s team”, its interlocking NY logo globally recognized, its championship and historic legacy legendary. But to those not fans of the Yankees, for whatever reason one can dream up, a comparison to a popular pop culture villain resonated with the anti-Yankee contingent when a former Red Sox President dubbed them the “Evil Empire“, a nod to the iconic antagonists of the original Star Wars trilogy.

Now, I’ve not met any Yankee fan that took offense at the moniker. Rather, fans seem to embrace the intended insult with an almost amused chagrin, recognizing jealousy and sour grapes of its longtime rivals just before they won their recent four championships. But it hasn’t stopped the nickname from sticking. Now, sixteen years later, Yankees GM Brian Cashman affirmed their assumed villain status by saying recently that the Yankees were “a fully operational Death Star“. I can see the new merchandise already.

Cashman joined other baseball executives, owners, a few players, and sports media over the last week at baseball’s annual Winter Meetings, this year in Las Vegas. The week was full of trades, drafts, negotiations, rumors, meetings, and so many press interviews, and the Yankees continued to dodge most of the dominant rumors while working their way into a deal to re-sign starter JA Happ to the Yankees’ rotation for 2019. The final deal is being held up only by a routine physical and is expected to be confirmed before Christmas.

Actually, it’s not like the Yankees haven’t been quiet this off-season. At the end of last month, they tendered contracts to all 9 arbitration-eligible players on their roster, including those they are considering trading (Betances, Bird, Gray, Gregorius, Hicks, Kahnle, Paxton, Romine, and Severino). So, the roster remains at 40. For now.

Just prior to this move, the Yankees orchestrated a trade that irked some of the more die-hard Yankee fans. They claimed reliever Parker Bridwell off waivers from the Angels, and to make room for him on the roster, they designated fan and clubhouse favorite Ronald Torreyes for assignment. Two days later, they sent Torreyes to the Cubs for a player to be named later or cash considerations

The Yankees claimed right-handed pitcher Parker Bridwell off waivers from the Angels and designated infielder Ronald Torreyes for assignment on Monday, two days before they dealt Torreyes to the Cubs for a player to be named or cash. But “The Toe-Night Show” in Second City didn’t last long. The Cubs did not tender him a contract, and thus the infielder was once again on the move. However, within a week, Torreyes was signed to a new team — the Twins nabbed the versatile utility player. Best of luck to him, though he will be greatly missed in Yankee pinstripes.

With much anticipation on the upcoming series in London next summer, the Yankees and Red Sox are gearing up their fan bases on both sides of the Atlantic. This weekend, each team will send a well-known representative to do some press and connect with local fans to promote the series, and the Yankees will send veteran pitcher CC Sabathia. An avid sports fan himself, Sabathia and his Red Sox counterpart (outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.) will also visit other local sporting sites like the iconic cricket grounds and then each catch a Premier League football game (that’s soccer, for my American readers).  The Yankees and Red Sox face off in June at London Stadium, the former 2012 Olympic Stadium, now the home of one of London’s five major football clubs.

The committee for the Baseball Hall of Fame revealed the results of their vote on Today’s Game Era ballot to elect former players or executives to the Hall of Fame that might have missed the first go-around. While two former players (who rightly deserve the honor) did make the cut, former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was on this year’s ballot but failed to garner enough votes for induction. The “Evil Empire” mentality is alive and well and reaches all the way to Cooperstown. The new class of more recent players (the more traditional ballot) will be announced January 22, with names like Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte as possible inductees.

Yankee Universe is mourning the loss of another Steinbrenner. Surrounded by her family Joan Steinbrenner, George’s wife, has passed on at the age of 83. Following the death of her husband in 2010, Joan served as vice chairperson for the Yankees organization, but she had long been a fixture in the her native Northeast Ohio and adopted home of Tampa, serving on numerous charity, hospital, and community boards. She is fondly remembered by friends and family for her generosity and grace. May her memory be a blessing.

Finally, as you prepare to celebrate the end of the year holidays, remember that baseball will be returning in about two months. Pitchers and catchers report for duty in Tampa on February 13, with their first workout on February 14. The rest of the squad reports February 18, with the first full squad workout on February 19. The first game will be against the Red Sox (February 23) at their Spring home, with the first home opener on February 25 against the Blue Jays. Spring is just around the corner.

Go Yankees!

Game 63: WAS vs. NYY — Splitting the mini-series during #HOPEWeek

The Yankees conclude their brief series with the visiting Nationals by splitting it with the visitors. Sonny Gray got the start tonight and continued his struggles at home, throwing 89 pitches in his 5 innings, giving up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs, and striking out just 1 batter.

In the 1st inning, the lead-off batter got a ground-rule double, moved to 3rd on a single, and then scored on a sacrifice fly to get the Nats on the board early. Later, in the 4th, with 2 outs, Gray gave up a walk and a single to put runners on the corners before giving up a line drive bouncing off the left field wall for a 3-run home run to put them in the lead again.

Meanwhile, the Yankee batters weren’t exactly sitting on their laurels. In the bottom of the 1st, Gardner led-off with a single and then stole 2nd, but ended up at 3rd on a throwing error. He then scored on Aaron Judge’s sacrifice fly to tie up the game at that point. Greg Bird’s 1-out 2nd inning solo home run put the Yankees in the lead.

In the 3rd, Judge hit a 1-out double, moved to 3rd on a ground out, and then scored on Giancarlo Stanton’s single. Down by a run after that 4th inning homer, Gleyber Torres led-off the 5th inning with a game-tying solo home run.

After Gray’s night was over, the Yankees handed the ball to Chasen Shreve, who kept things as is in the 6th, but then gave up a big 1-out solo home run in the 7th to give the Nationals a slight lead again. Robertson and Holder each took an inning to keep them from adding to their lead and waiting for the Yankee bats to reawaken.

But it was the Yankee defense that was clicking in the latter part of the game. Romine and Torres teaming up to catch a runner stealing 2nd in the 8th, and Didi Gregorius being a defensive icon and throwing to 1st in the midst of falling to the ground to make the out in the 9th. Even when the Yankees did get on base, they just weren’t collecting enough to get any further runs.

Final score: 5-4 Nationals, series split 1-1

Next up: the Rays come to visit the Bronx tomorrow to start their 4-game weekend series. Remember, the Yankees will travel to D.C. to see the Nationals again on Monday to play 1 1/2 games to make up the rainy mess of last month before returning to the Bronx to finish up their homestand against the Mariners.

HOPE Week Day 3: HOPE Week continued today, with a strong theme of the week repeated again in today’s honoree. The Yankees joined Brian Williams, founder of “Think Kindness“, for a special assembly at a local elementary school. Since 2009, Think Kindness is an anti-bullying organization the runs special assemblies and programs in schools nationwide (and a few internationally) with the intent not to focus on bullying but rather on being a facilitator of kindness in your world.

Fourth and fifth graders at P.S. 73 in the Bronx were invited to a special assembly hosted by Williams and featuring Aaron Hicks, David Robertson, CC Sabathia (a clear favorite), Luis Severino, 3rd base coach Phil Nevin, and GM Brian Cashman. Williams, a former martial arts instructor, challenged P.S. 73 to be the school that does the most acts of kindness and then gave every student a journal to record their completed acts. Williams hopes display at least a million documented acts of kindness and has already has 2.4 million at their headquarters in Reno.

As with every HOPE Week honoree, Williams later threw out the 1st pitch before tonight’s game and accepted the $10,000 donation on behalf of his organization.

Once again, kindness matters. Those little moments of kindness add up. They make a difference. One moment, one act, one kindness at a time. Those matter to someone. And because they matter to someone, they matter, they count, they are necessary.

Kindness matters.

Go Yankees!

Lots of rain means tonight’s game postponed, but that doesn’t dampen the fun in the Bronx

Early this morning, the powers-that-be checked the weather radar (or simply opened their curtains) and figured out that it’s going to rain all day, with a possible minor break around game time before thunderstorms roll back in again. Basically, not exactly ideal weather for the Yankees and Royals to play their final game of this week’s series.

So, they called it postponed and rescheduled the finale for Monday, September 25 to squeeze in a game on a mutual off-day. The Yankees will be coming in from a short series in Toronto before their final homestand, and the Royals will make a brief trip eastward after a weekend series in Chicago before heading home for their final homestand.

Game information, start time, and rainout policy details are found here.

Last night, the first pitch of the game had Jacoby Ellsbury ran hard tracking down a long fly ball, slamming into the back wall with his head and right arm. He made the out, of course, probably saving a double or even a triple from the speedy Royals lead-off runner. But it also landed him on the 7-day disabled list with a concussion and sprained neck. There is no timetable for his projected recovery.

Aaron Hicks, who came on at the top of the 2nd inning to replace Ellsbury, will likely see more time on the playing field. So to fill his spot as the utility outfielder, the Yankees recalled Rob Refsnyder from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Day 4 of HOPE Week continued on as planned. Today, the Yankees recognized A Moment of Magic Foundation, a non-profit organization that began as “The Princess Project” in which college-age students dress up as popular fairy tale princess to visit children’s hospitals and schools. Now nationwide, A Moment of Magic sends out “The Fairytale Force” (the princesses) or “Mission Super Hero” (popular comic book superheroes), college students from around the US, dressed as princesses and heroes to visit children at local hospitals and schools.

In a fun twist, A Magic Moment’s local Fairytale Force paired with certain Yankees dressed as superheroes to surprise participants from another great organization called Friends of Jaclyn, an organization the Yankees honored in 2014. Friends of Jaclyn is a foundation in honor of Jaclyn Murphy, who, after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, was paired with a local college lacrosse team. Her lasting legacy is now to pair sick children with local high school and college athletic teams “to show them love, support, and friendship”.

It would be the starting rotation that showed up to surprise lucky Friends of Jaclyn at a party held at Yankee Stadium — Superman (CC Sabathia), Supergirl (CC’s wife, Amber Sabathia), Iron Man (Luis Severino), Wolverine (Michael Pineda), the coolest ninja turtle Michelangelo (Masahiro Tanaka), Captain America (Jordan Montgomery) and Spider-man (GM Brian Cashman).

What a great way to put a smile on children’s faces, giving them the amazing gift of joy and wonder! Genuine love, support, compassion, and encouragement can go a long way in recovery and healing for both the kids and their parents. It’s good to see foundations like A Moment of Magic and Friends of Jaclyn continue this legacy of compassion and joy.

One more day of HOPE Week tomorrow before the Yankees take on the Athletics as they begin their weekend series. With hopefully, a bit less precipitation.

Go Yankees!

 

All the latest updates, farewells, outreaches, and honors… it’s been a busy 5 weeks!

Between the Cubs’ victory parade, postseason awards, Thanksgiving, Winter Meetings, and now the approaching week filled with Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year, the Yankees have been everything but quiet and stagnant. Some years, Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman’s job seems to just sit back and watch other teams do the postseason dance that is somewhere between an elegant waltz and a fire-sale at times. But not this year.

Cashman has been busy, even making some pretty big moves. First, in the middle of last month, he traded catcher Brian McCann (and cash considerations) to the Astros for a pair of young pitchers Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. Sorry, McCann fans, but McCann wasn’t exactly ready to be a once-a-week player with Gary Sanchez taking a much larger (and well-deserved role). This was a good move for everybody.

Earlier this week, as part of the Winter Meetings (hosted at the beautiful Gaylord Resort, just south of D.C.), Cashman also made a play for two big players. First, he signed Matt Holliday, a veteran outfielder who is slated to primarily fill the position previously occupied by Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran (outfielder/designated hitter). Holliday, a 7-time All-Star, began his career with the Rockies, spending 5 seasons there and making a name for himself, before finding a nice home with the Cardinals for the last 7 1/2 seasons, being a crucial part of their 2011 World Series championship. Holliday seems very excited to be playing in New York, which isn’t really surprising as he wore #7 in St. Louis for Mickey Mantle. You know, David Ortiz said once last season that there are two kinds of players — those who were born to play with the Yankees and those born to play against them (Ortiz being the latter).

Another big pick-up was the deal made when the Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman to a 5-year, $86 million deal. Yes, Chapman fans, two of the Warriors Three will be back in the Bronx for the foreseeable future. This time, with Chapman’s shiny World Series ring glaring and pushing the Yankees to give him another one. A physical exam is still pending the finality of this contract, but things look good for the closer to return to Yankee pinstripes for the next five seasons.

Cashman’s focus was clearly on building up the bullpen as most of the roster moves these last 5 weeks. So try to keep up: Branden Pinder was originally designated for assignment early in November, but then was outrighted to AAA Scranton, so we’ll be seeing Pinder again; Joe Mantiply (after being claimed off waivers from the Tigers), Nick Rumbelow, and Nathan Eovaldi were designated for assignment and then released all three of them just before Thanksgiving; James Pazos was traded to the Mariners for reliever Zack Littell; Dustin Ackley was released; Jacob Lindgren elected free agency; and the Yankees then filled a bunch of holes on their roster with minor leaguers Jorge Mateo and Yefrey Ramirez (from the Single-A Tampa Yankees), Ronald Herrera and Miguel Andujar (from AA Trenton),  and Dietrich Enns and Giovanny Gallegos (from AAA Scranton).

But it didn’t stop there. In coordination with the Rule 5 Draft, the Yankees moved some minor leaguers around and said some goodbyes. The Brewers claimed reliever Caleb Smith, the Red catcher Luis Torrens, reliever Tyler Jones went to Arizona, and the Pirates got reliever Tyler Webb. The Yankees themselves picked up a few minor leaguers, catcher Jorge Saez (Blue Jays) and reliever Colten Brewer (Pirates).

All the postseason awards have been doled out, and the Yankees got… two. And nothing went to our Rookie of the Year, Gary Sanchez. No, the big Yankee winner this postseason was Brett Gardner, who took home both the Gold Glove and Defensive Player of the Year for doing the outstanding job we’re used to seeing out there in left field.

However, there are a few alumni honors come next month. BBWAA vote for the Class of 2017, with any new inductees to be announced next month. Several former Yankees grace the ballot this year, none more so than Jorge Posada (the first of the Core Four to reach such an honor). However, the chances everyone seems to hold for Posada (and the few other Yankees alums) seem rather slim, especially as the voters seem to be rather stringent in their voting, less nostalgic as your average baseball fan and more strategic in their selection parameters.

Also selected for Hall of Fame honors this year are current Braves’ president John Schuerholz and former MLB commissioner Bud Selig, both elected by the Today’s Game Committee. Other familiar faces on this ballot, who failed to make the cut this year, include former manager and player Lou Pinella, former players Albert Belle, Orel Hershiser, and Mark McGwire, and former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Debates as to which of these deserve to be in Cooperstown rage on.

Two other awards honored journalists for outstanding writing and broadcasting — the late Bill King, known for his coverage of San Francisco sports, distinctive facial hair, and his catchphrase “Holy Toledo!”, and veteran journalist Claire Smith, who became the first woman to receive the honor. Neither will be officially in the Hall of Fame, but will be part of a permanent exhibit to honor such journalist excellence and contribution to the game. I mean, without them, our knowledge of the game would not be what it is today, even with direct information like social media. It would certainly make my job a lot harder!

And speaking of Yankee alumni, the Yankees announced that they will be officially retiring the number 2 in honor of Derek Jeter on before the game on Sunday, May 14. Rather fitting really, with the extensive knowledge of how close Jeter is with his family, Jeter’s long-sacred number will become the 22nd one the Yankees send to Monument Park, and with that move, all the single digits (save a zero) are officially removed from jersey circulation. Single game tickets are not directly available yet (though they feature prominently on the secondary online marketplaces), though season tickets and multi-game ticket packages are available.

This week, in Tampa, the Yankees foundation hosted their holiday celebration, led by Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal with special guests Alex Rodriguez, Tino Martinez, and Nick & Joanna Swisher. Hundreds of local children were treated to the Yankees 28th Annual Holiday Concert, complete with gifts and carol singing, in preparation for the holidays. The Yankees also hosted other local community outreaches in New York for the holidays including a Thanksgiving food drive and giving back to the children and families of the Bronx with a great goodie bag full of both basic necessities and special gifts.

Looking ahead, many players have already committed to playing for various teams around the world in the World Baseball Classic this March. The Yankees only current representative is Dellin Betances, who agreed to play for the reigning champions, the Dominican Republic, alongside former teammate Cano. Other former Yankees who will play in the WBC include Martin for Canada and Beltran for Puerto Rico. Betances, who was also recently married, will be an outstanding contribution to any team. Also, a big congratulations to Dellin and Janisa Betances!

As far as everything else, there’s still 63 days until Pitchers and Catchers report for Spring Training. So there’s a lot of time left for the Yankees to do something else, despite reports that they’re pretty much done with big moves this off-season. That statement, however, doesn’t preclude any minor “tweaking”, and you must know by now they love their “tweaking”. Enjoy your holiday season!

Go Yankees!

NL Wild Card: SF vs. NYM — A pitching duel at its finest

Man, I am not doing well at all this postseason for my predictions. Though to be perfectly fair, all 4 Wild Card teams were relatively evenly matched with their opponent, so predicting which team for both wild card games was basically a toss-up anyway. And as is the case with any game, one team always has a 50-50 shot at winning and (oddly enough) a 50-50 shot at losing.

So, the Giants flew across the country to visit the Mets for the NL Wild Card tonight in Queens. And it was a battle of the pitching greats: postseason icon Bumgarner vs. one of New York’s aces Syndergaard, or more commonly “Bum v. Thor”. And boy, was this a pitching duel, if I’ve ever seen one. It was just ridiculous. The first hit of the game wasn’t until the bottom of the 3rd off Bumgarner. But the first hit off Thor wasn’t until the 6th inning.

Now, Thor (Syndergaard) threw 108 pitches through his 7 innings, giving up just 2 hits, 3 walks, and no runs, but what’s most impressive is his wicked 10 strike outs. Mets’ reliever Reed got himself into a bit of a jam in the 8th, precariously loading the bases in his inning, but getting out of it in the end.

But then reliever Familia got into his own set of trouble in the 9th that had more disastrous consequences for the Mets. A lead-off double and a 1-out walk put runners on base so that a big 3-run home run by Gillaspie broke the 0-0 tied game.

Two outs later, and the Giants were looking for their needed 3 outs to grab the win. They turned to the only person who can help them sail through this postseason. Their starter Bumgarner. Yes, Bum threw a beautiful complete game — 119 pitches, 4 allowed hits, 2 walks, 6 strike outs, and no runs for the win. Scary impressive for anyone who doesn’t remember the 2014 postseason.

Final score: 3-0 Giants.

Tomorrow, the ALDS begins as the Wild Card champs Blue Jays face the AL leaders Rangers in the afternoon, and the Red Sox face the Indians for the night game. Friday the NLDS begins with tonight’s Wild Card victors Giants facing the Cubs in Chicago, and the Dodgers against the Nationals.

And here’s my predictions for the Division Series (a best-of-5 game series):

  • ALDS: Rangers over Blue Jays in 5 games, Red Sox over Indians in 4 games.
  • NLDS: Cubs over the Giants in 4 games, Dodgers over the Nationals in 5 games.

And after the start of the postseason, I’m prepared to be really wrong again.

So we have some Yankee news too, Yankee Universe. First, the special committee for the Hall of Fame has nominated 10 players, managers, and executives for a special vote this December during the Winter Meetings. (Nominees: players Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, and Mark McGwire; managers Davey Johnson and “Sweet” Lou Piniella; and executives John Scherholz, Allan H. “Bud” Selig, and George Steinbrenner.) Yes, Steinbrenner and Piniella are nominated for the Hall of Fame, and deservedly so. Nominees who receive at least 75% of the vote will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame next summer.

Also, today, Yankees GM Brian Cashman gave his annual “State of the Yankees” address for the media to give a few updates. CC Sabathia will get some corrective surgery on his knee. It’s been scheduled for some time to clean-up the area that was previously repaired in 2014. Other than Sabathia, Tanaka and Pineda are expected to fill 2 other starter spots next season, leaving 2 more vacancies on the rotation. Cashman expects to look for some arms in the off-season to fill these spots with some fresh talent.

As previously predicted, there will be a few positions during Spring Training that will be a competition of sorts. First base is expected to be between Tyler Austin and the returning Greg Bird. And right field is up for grabs, between Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Rob Refsnyder. There’s always something else that no one expects to happen during Spring Training. It’s what makes March kind of fun — the unexpected. But I do expect a few interesting moves this off-season and a really good Spring. Expect the unexpected? Every day!

Go Yankees!

Game 118: MIN vs. NYY — “The Feels” continue… with power and promise

I’m starting to think HOPE Week this year might be just the kind of good luck or karma or blessing or whatever you believe in to help the Yankees keep this winning pattern alive and kicking. Whatever it is, I’m really okay with this kind of pattern. And if it means the Yankees have to continue their generosity, I don’t think anyone in Yankee Universe, especially not the Yankees themselves, have any problem with that. Not that that’s the reason to be generous because if that’s the reason, it’s usually when all that luck or karma or blessing starts drying up — it becomes entitlement and thus undeserved. No, it’s kind of like finding money in your jeans — it’s your earned money anyway, but it feels like a bonus because it wasn’t in your wallet or bank. So happy feelings ensue.

Yes, winning when you’re doing good things is a very happy feeling — some young friends of mine would say it gives you “the feels”. Well, tonight’s game against the visiting Twins certainly gave me “the feels”, especially after the Yankees gave me “the feels” with their amazing generosity for HOPE Week (more below).

The Yankees struck first again tonight, collecting a handful of hits through the first third of the game. In the 4th, Beltran hit a 1-out ground-rule double and then scored on Greg Bird’s single. This would be Bird’s first major league RBI. And it started the Yankee runs tonight on a good foot. (By the way, I haven’t done any fowl-related puns yet, and I may be the only writer I know still holding out.)

 

CC Sabathia got the start tonight and was really, really good. In fact, for a good portion of his outing, he was throwing a perfect game. The Twins just weren’t getting on base. Then the jinx went live (because those silly beat reporters love talking about/make fun of the baseball “jinxes”), and the Twins started finding the bases. In the top of the 5th, with 2 outs and runners on the corners, a double scored one run (to tie the game) and the great relay (Gardner-Gregorius-McCann) cut down the second runner for the third out of the inning.

With the game tied, the game went into what became the pivotal inning for the night — the 7th inning. A lead-off walk for the Twins scored on a 2-run home run to push the Twins ahead of the Yankees. Two outs and two singles later, Sabathia’s night was over. He had thrown 103 pitches into the 7th inning, given up 5 hits, 3 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out 5 batters. Now, he was responsible for the two runners as well. Sabathia’s rather outstanding performance earned him a nice standing ovation as he exited the game, though I’m guessing it wasn’t the kind of exit he wanted, looking at the losing end of the score right then.

Recently recalled Nick Rumbelow came on in relief and gave up a single to score one run (to give Sabathia a total of 4 runs given up tonight) before getting a strikeout to end the inning.

But all was not lost. That luck/karma/blessing thing was about to kick into overdrive. Into the bottom of the 7th, down 4-1, the Yankees were looking for a miracle. Pinch-hitting Chase Headley led-off the inning with a single, Ryan walked, and Ellsbury’s fly out put them on the corners. With Gardner’s walk, the bases were loaded, and the Twins were opening their bullpen for the second time tonight. So it would be Alex Rodriguez to come in and hit a monster grand slam, his 25th home run of the season and his 25th career grand slam (officially the MLB leader in grand slams now). An estimated 420 feet, that ball landed in the Yankees bullpen as the crowd of over 38,000 were on their feet in celebration (much better than the attempted wave during the first part of the game that the Bleacher Creatures successfully dissolved — thank you, Section 203!), and they even demanded a curtain call, which he willingly obliged the almost deafening crowd.

In the 8th, the Yankees gave themselves a bit of insurance. Bird and Gregorius hit consecutive singles and then both scored on Headley’s double. A sacrifice bunt by Ryan moved Headley to 3rd so that he would then score on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single.

Justin Wilson was his usual sharp self in the top of the 8th inning, throwing just 7 pitches to get 2 outs before handing the ball over to Andrew Miller, as it was now a save situation. Miller got the last out of the 8th and would come back to earn his 27th save of the season in the 9th inning.

And despite how good Sabathia pitched today, it was the rookie Nick Rumbelow who would get the win as he was the pitcher on record when Rodriguez’s grand slam pushed the Yankees into the lead.

 

Final score: 8-4 Yankees. (Is anyone else excited for the potential sweep tomorrow?)

 

The Revolving Door (okay, I really like this name, and it got confirmed when Suzyn Waldman, the radio announcer for WFAN, called the constant roster moves such during the game tonight)…
After exhausting some of the bullpen last night to get the last-minute win, some roster moves were expected. So Chris Capuano is back, along with Nick Rumbelow. Caleb Cotham was optioned back to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Bryan Mitchell was placed on the 7-day concussion list. Mitchell is doing much better, though they will be keeping a close eye on him  for the next few days; Mitchell himself said he knew how terrible his injury could have been and that his first thought was that he was “still alive”. (Now, that’s the kind of thought you want all the mothers of pitchers to be thinking about tonight.)

HOPE Week Day 2! Today, the Yankees surprised some amazing people at a small theater in the tri-state area. The Prospector Theater in Ridgefield, Connecticut (about 50 miles north of Yankee Stadium) is a small renovated movie theater that shows the latest movies. But what makes it special is that the entire theaters is staffed primarily by people with disabilities.

Having a sister with Down Syndrome, theater owner Valerie Jensen saw first-hand how people with disabilities often get special treatment but are often neglected when it comes to actual life experiences like finding and holding a regular job. Jensen saved this old building from demolition and established The Prospector Theater with that vision in mind, developing the theater into quite a success with a coffee shop, restaurant, production studio, and a full landscaping department. But despite being the only movie theater for 10 miles, town leadership is a bit reticent to lend its support.

That’s okay. The New York Yankees have your back. Along with general partner/vice chairperson (and one of the main drives behind HOPE Week for the past 7 years) Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, Joe Girardi (and his youngest daughter), Brian Cashman, Brian McCann, and Chase Headley came bearing gifts — lunch from Jersey Mike’s and a big $10,000 check to help keep the theater going. After a day of motivational speeches and hanging out with the Yankees in their town, Jensen took a small group of her employees to visit Yankee Stadium for the game and to throw out the first pitch.

Go Yankees!

 

Catchers away, Rule 5, and sleeping for charity

Personal life sometimes clogs up time and doesn’t allow for more frequent updates. Fortunately, in the off-season, it’s not like there’s much to talk about on a daily basis. Unfortunately, all those lovely plans I made for diving into history and legend and my own opinion have been shoved aside momentarily for the sake of off-season work.

Last week, the Pirates picked up yet another Yankees catcher. To recap the last couple of years, after the 2012 season, the Pirates signed Russell Martin (recently signed with the Blue Jays); then after 2013, they grabbed Chris Stewart; and now, they can claim Francisco Cervelli as a new Buc. Apparently, the Yankees are breeding grounds for Pirates catchers. In exchange for Cervelli, the Yankees acquired pitcher Justin Wilson, who will compete for a bullpen spot come Spring. The lefty debuted in 2012 with the Pirates and is very excited (via Twitter) to join the Yankees (but who isn’t?). Wilson: “[The Yankees:] Tradition and a first class organization. Can’t wait for Yankee baseball. Hope I look good in pinstripes!” If you’re wondering who’s now back-up for McCann, the Yankees look at Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy to fill that role; one will undoubtedly win the back-up role and the other will continue in AAA Scranton as the starting catcher there. Spring is always the definer for such cases.

Okay, Zelous Wheeler fans… you will have to pay attention to Japanese baseball now because Wheeler is on his way to play for the Japanese Pacific League’s Rakuten Golden Eagles as of today. During the course of the day, as part of this same transaction, the Yankees filled out their 40-man roster with Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, Branden Pinder, and Danny Burawa. The biggest reason behind today’s moves were the midnight deadline to protect prospects for the Rule 5 Draft in a few weeks (December 11th). The Rule 5 Draft is a rather confusing part of baseball’s minor league system in which teams can draft a minor league player (signed over age 19 and played professional ball for at least 4 years or signed at age 18 and played for 5 years) to play on their 25-man roster for the entire next season; if the player isn’t kept on the 25-man, he is offered back to his original team who may decline the offer and the player reverts into essentially free agency. If minor league players are on the 40-man roster, they are officially “protected” and thus ineligible for what is essentially poaching of fresh talent.

Speaking of fresh talent… the Arizona Fall League finished up last weekend, and a couple of young Yankees certainly caught some eyes. Outfielder Aaron Judge ranked #13, catching the eye of several scouts due to his “huge raw power, patience, and arm strength”; this is significant because the Yankees just signed Judge in 2013 and is already making his mark in the Yankee organization. And 1st baseman Greg Bird ranked #19 overall, but was honored with the league’s MVP award; scouts note of his patience and power, after leading the AFL in home runs and runs scored, and was 2nd in hits RBIs, and total bases. Bird and Judge are both prospects not eligible for the Rule 5 Draft being relatively new to both professional baseball and the Yankees, but based on their performances this fall, it won’t be long before those two could become household names, hopefully in pinstripes for seasons to come.

And as you know, one of my favorite thing that the Yankees do is give back to their community. From HOPE Week to individual foundations and charities to community projects, the entire Yankees organization is actively involved in giving back. Tonight, GM Brian Cashman spends the night on the streets of Manhattan as part of Covenant House’s “Sleep Out” movement. The goal of the event is to raise awareness for homeless youth; this is Cashman’s 4th year, and he is joined by over 750 business, sports, and entertainment executives. Covenant House is nationwide an organization that provides job training, education, long-term housing, and second chances to homeless youth. The participants will sleep (or at least attempt to sleep) in a parking lot near the headquarters of the organization. As the weather turns, let us remember all those who don’t have somewhere warm to be when it snows and take an active role in helping; sometimes all that means donating blankets, sweaters, socks, or toiletries to a charity outreach or helping out at a soup kitchen or buying a needy family a holiday dinner. Just do something to give back; you’ll never regret kindness and they’ll never forget it.

Go Yankees!