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!

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 81: TB vs. NYY — A walk-off error for America’s Team on America’s Birthday

Today’s game was the 81st game, which means we are officially halfway through the season. Today’s game also fell on some pretty important birthdays — Yankees long-time announcer John Sterling, the late George Steinbrenner, and of course America. So on America’s birthday, America’s team decided to remember the Boss on what would’ve been his 85th birthday with a very Steinbrenner-esque win (read: dramatic, with flair, and on top of the division). It was also the 76th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous “Luckiest Man” speech at the old Yankee Stadium. Basically, it was a big day, and the Yankees did what they do best, embraced the importance and just ran with it to its inevitable conclusion — a win.

Michael Pineda got the start for today’s game against the visiting Rays in the continuing battle for dominance in the AL East. And Pineda was certainly dominant — 97 pitches into the 8th inning, giving up 5 hits, 1 walk, and no runs and striking out 10 batters. Just amazing outing. And he was earning the win as the Yankees actually gave him some early run support.

Now, the Rays starter was a good match for Pineda, pretty much matching him in many of his statistics — 113 pitches, 7 innings, 5 hits, 2 walks, and 10 strikeouts, but the Rays starter gave up 2 runs early and spent the rest of the game trying to catch up and defend against another Yankee strike. In the 1st inning, Gardner and Headley singled to get on base, and then Gardner scored on Alex Rodriguez’s single, moving Headley to 3rd. And Mark Teixeira’s sacrifice fly scored Headley; this would make Teixeira the AL RBI leader with 59 RBIs so far this season. And the Yankees were up 2-0 very quickly.

And they spent the game guarding that lead and fending off the Rays’ attempts to catch up and jump ahead. After a lead-off double in the 8th, it was time to head to the bullpen. Justin Wilson got the first 2 outs (both strikeouts) before Dellin Betances was called on to get a 4-out save. Simple enough. It is Betances. Until it wasn’t so simple. In the 9th, Betances allowed a lead-off single and then a 2-run home run to tie up the game, blow Betances’ save opportunity, and give up Betances’ first home run in 54 games (the 4th longest Yankee pitching streak in 100 years).

So the game was tied going into the bottom of the 9th, and the Rays sent in a new pitcher, their second reliever of the afternoon. Teixeira led-off with a double, and Pirela came in to pinch-run for him. Then Young walked, and the stage was set. No outs, 2 runners on base to do some damage, and Ramon Flores is up to bat. So the idea was to move the runners over, so Flores set up for a sacrifice bunt. The pitcher charged the ball and threw it to the 1st baseman, but the throw was off and pulled the Rays’ 1st baseman off the bag, so Flores was safe at 1st and Young safe at 2nd. That’s when they all realized that Pirela hadn’t stopped running and was headed into home. The throw to a desperate catcher wasn’t in time as Pirela slid home under the tag and scored the walk-off run to win the game.

Final score: 3-2 Yankees.

Always a great time when the Yankees can win, but somehow winning today always means more — a little bit for the Boss and a little bit for America.

Also, I do want to take the time once again to honor those who have served and are serving in our nation’s military. They know firsthand why we can say that our freedom isn’t free. And while we were celebrating at ball park or around backyard grills or before thundering fireworks, there were men and women who were fighting for continued freedoms around the world. We honor you today and every day, and thank you for your continued sacrifice. Come home safe.

Go Yankees! (And Happy Independence Day to my readers in the US!)

 

 

Masahiro Tanaka in pinstripes for the win

So unless you’ve been under an NFL-sized rock today, the big news story in the MLB world is where the young Japanese phenom pitcher Masahiro Tanaka chose to play for his MLB debut. With Jeter’s agent representing him and Tanaka’s idol Matsui’s encouragement, it was only a matter of time before Tanaka declared his allegiance to the Yankees.

This means, as MLB writer Richard Justice put it, the Yankees are “back in business”. Blowing away that $189 million luxury-tax threshold “goal, not a mandate” with today’s signing, the Yankees have pulled a little George Steinbrenner-ness today (and through the off-season) creating what should be a winning team. And honestly, when you look at the new signings combined with those left on that roster, there is a lot of reason to hope for Bronx Baseball this October. Tanaka’s addition just cements what the Yankees seemed dead-set on doing, even before that last game in September.

The Yankees offered Tanaka $155 million over the next 7 years to play in pinstripes, with an opt-out clause after the 4th year. This means that stellar arm, we in America have only seen in small clips and imagined about from rumors, could be throwing his cavalcade of strike-out pitches through the 2021 season, where the now-25-year-old will be in his early 30’s and looking for another medium-term contract (like the 4 years they usually offer players in their early 30’s).

While much is being said by the fan bases of the teams who were supposedly “outbid” (Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, White Sox, and Diamondbacks) about his lack of experience in the MLB seems foolish to offer such a contract to an “untested” player, I have to look at his NPB (Japanese equivalent) record to compare — 99-35 win-loss record, 2.30 ERA, 1238 strikeouts, part of the Japanese Series championship team (2013), 5 time NPB All-Star, and 2007 Rookie of the Year. And some have questioned the pressure of playing in such a large market like New York, but Tanaka is a celebrity in Japan, handling himself with the same class we’ve grown to respect from fellow countrymen and Yankees players like Matsui and Ichiro.

And in case you were wondering about the 40-man roster count (of course you weren’t, but I’m at capacity with information today thanks to my Twitter feed that seriously needed cooling off once an hour due to all the Tanaka-news), the Yankees designated relief pitcher David Huff for assignment to make room for Tanaka. And while this may seem like a loss in a bullpen that still needs to be molded a bit more, this is great news and timing for pitchers like Huff. The free agent pitching market has been on hold while Tanaka was deciding his course because the teams with the losing bids still wanted a shot at some of the great free agents left on the market. Once that handful of starters go, the remaining guys, predominantly relievers, will be divided up and pieced into the puzzle that are the bullpens across Major League Baseball.

I guess, as the dust settles with this announcement today, I’m left thinking about how my (perhaps naively) optimistic hope for 2014 back in October seems almost oddly prophetic and very smart today. Maybe I just never forgot that this is George’s team, this is the Boss’ team, and to believe, even at any point in the process, that it wasn’t, was borderline heresy for a Yankees fan. The legacy of the man who knew you had to spend big to win, the image of whom looms above the right field bleachers and watches every action and inaction, the spirit and drive to create a legendary dynasty — he showed up today, and I have to think he might just be a little bit proud of his boys.

Go Yankees!

Hall-of-Fame ballots out

The 2014 Hall of Fame ballot went out today for all eligible BBWAA member to submit their votes. Since I am not one, I can discuss all my opinions on here with my faithful readers. Last year, the only new members were part of the Veterans’ Ballot, a special election as voted on by a small committee composed mostly of Hall-of-Fame players, executives, and other historians.

This year 19 new names are on the ballot — Moises Alou, Armando Benitez, Sean Casey, Ray Durham, Eric Gagne, Tom Glavine, Luis Gonzalez, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Jeff Kent, Paul Lo Duca, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Hideo Nomo, Kenny Rogers, Richie Sexson, J.T. Snow, Frank Thomas, and Mike Timlin. Making their second appearance on the ballot — Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa. Other repeat candidates: Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, and Larry Walker (4th year); Edgar Martinez and Fred McGriff (5th year); Tim Raines (7th year); Mark McGwire (8th year); Lee Smith (12th year); Alan Trammell (13th year); Don Mattingly (14th year); and Jack Morris (15th year).

Here’s how it works: all the candidates are then voted on by the BBWAA (Baseball Writer’s Association of America). Each voter can vote for up to 10 candidates; though this year, many may have trouble limiting their votes to just 10. Any candidate with at least 75% of the votes is then elected into the Hall of Fame; last year, the highest a candidate scored was 68.2% and thus missed the cut-off for the Hall. (Biggio is thus back on this year’s ballot.) Any candidate with less than 5% of the votes will be dropped from future voting years, unless they are deemed eligible for the Veterans’ Ballot, but they can never appear on a BBWAA ballot. A player who fails to be elected by the BBWAA within 20 years of his retirement can then be selected by the Veterans Committee.

This year the Veterans Committee has selected a variety of nominees for the Hall of Fame that will be voted on by the smaller committee — Dave Conception, Bobby Cox, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Tony La Russa, Billy Martin, Marvin Miller, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry, Ted Simmons, George Steinbrenner, and Joe Torre.

So for Yankee fans, here’s the Yankee-related news…

Former pitcher Mike Mussina is making his first year on the ballot. Mussina has a close call career of sorts, as detailed by a recent MLB article, as runner-up for a Cy Young Award (1999), one inning short of a World Series championship, and one strike away from a perfect game (2001). Mussina split his 18 years between the Yankees and the Orioles with a career 3.68 ERA, 5-time All-Star, and 7-time Gold Glove winner. Mussina was with the Yankees for the last of his career (2001-2008), and earned his only 20 win season in 2008 with the Yankees.

Two repeat Yankee candidates certainly had very different careers. Roger Clemens, in his 2nd appearance on the ballot, certainly had the kind of career that Hall of Fame voters look for. Originally with Boston and a couple of years in Toronto, Clemens spent some key years with the Yankees (1999-2003), then a short jaunt to Houston, before heading back to finish his career with the Yankees in 2007. With a career ERA 3.12, 354 wins in 709 games, and almost 5000 innings pitched, Clemens seems like a shoo-in, except for those lingering rumors about possible PED usage. Clemens was cleared of those charges in 2012, but rumors do what rumors do best — linger, contaminate, and refuse to die.

Don Mattingly, on the other hand, is looking at his 14th year on the ballot. Donnie Baseball spent his entire career with the Yankees (1982-1995) and never earned a single World Series win. Unfortunately for him, his career landed him in the middle of the low point of the recent Yankees’ history, just a year short of that storied 1996 birth of a new dynasty. Mattingly racked up 2,153 hits, 222 home runs, 1099 RBIs, and a lifetime .307 batting average. And while he will always be beloved by Yankee fans and memorialized as part of Monument Park (#23), Hall of Fame votes can’t seem to cross that threshold to Cooperstown immortality for him. Perhaps, it’s because he’s still technically “in the game” as manager of the LA Dodgers. Or perhaps, the numbers just aren’t enough for the voters.

Here are my quick thoughts to wrap up tonight. I really don’t see them voting in Mussina this early; I’d give it a few rounds. He’s close, but with this ballot, I just don’t think he’s got it made this year. Clemens will forever be chased by those rumors because of all people baseball writers do not forgive and forget any time soon; too many of those still on the ballot have been dodging those rumors for years, and with better numbers. It’ll be a long shot for years to come. Mattingly probably won’t get voted in this year, but I could see a Veterans Committee vote sometime in the next decade. He will end up there eventually, but I’m guessing his current activity hindered him, like it did Torre for so long. Speaking of Torre, he, Steinbrenner, and Martin should all slide into the Hall via that Veterans Committee because of their enormous contributions for baseball in general, let along for the Yankees; but Steinbrenner and Martin were so polarizing, short of some objective sentimentality, it might be a stretch for some votes, who might also have trouble electing a current MLB executive like Torre.

And while I do have an opinion about many of the other candidates (and honestly, some very poignant baseball memories about a couple of them), it will be interesting to see how the voters swing. I’m guessing though, unlike last year, we’ll have about 5 or 6 new Hall-of-Fame inductees this year.

Still on my bucket list: Cooperstown.

Go Yankees!

The free agency dance begins

I realize that the Yankees had a bit of a deadline with their potential free agents, but Monday seems to have been heavily laden with news for its public. Well, not really complete news, more like the beginning of news.

When looking at potential free agents coming off their roster, a club can make “qualifying offers” to agents they don’t want to let go. It’s usually seen as a sign that says “we’re still interested in you and retaining you even if we’re only offering a year contract to you”. Most players don’t take it and opt to go for bigger, longer contracts (even if it’s with the same club), and by doing so, they actually gift the club with a prime draft pick for the next draft (next July). Last year, Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano were offered qualifying offers, both opted free agency, and both were signed pretty quickly elsewhere (Cleveland and Washington, respectively).

This year, they made offers to Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hiroki Kuroda. There is a lot of speculation already as to what they’re each going to do, and I’ve been doing my own private speculating. But since I don’t speculate here, you’ll know if I’m right after the player deadline of November 11 to respond to the offer — they will either take it and sign for a year with the Yankees or refuse it and try for a better offer elsewhere. And honestly, I think we’ll be looking at three very different results for these guys.

Now, there were some people who didn’t get qualifying offers from the Yankees — Brendan Ryan, Kevin Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan. This means that all of these guys are now officially free agents, and their agents are probably busy exploring all options available to their clients. It will be interesting to see where everyone lands, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees picked up a couple of these guys at least for a year or two.

Almost on the other spectrum of things, the National Baseball Hall of Fame has released its latest ballot and is to be voted on next month by the Veterans’ Committee. There are 12 men on that list that have had a major impact on baseball history, including Joe Torre, Billy Martin, and George Steinbrenner. I think in all Yankee fans’ minds all three should get at least the required 75% votes to walk into Cooperstown next year. The annual players ballot will be released later this month and will include the five players who didn’t make the it last year but had enough vote to carry over for this coming year and a whole slew of really amazing newcomers including former Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina.

Like I said, it’s really just a “beginning of news” kind of day. At first, it sounds like there’s news, but really it’s just  something that could develop into news someday soon. But when I think about it, baseball is always an evolving story. Even when a team wins the World Series, they have to spend the off-season rebuilding and focusing on developing their dynasty. The 2012 Giants, for example, barely made any changes last off-season and ended up holding up the bottom of the NL West in 2013; they figured “why mess with success?” and it backfired big time on them. So, now they’re working on figuring out what went wrong with their 2013 formula and what went right with 2012 and then how they can make 2014 work better for them.

And (not that I ever want to glorify the Yankees’ arch-rivals) then you have the Red Sox who were easily the worst team in 2012, fired their manager, shuffled their roster, picked up some prime guys from all over free agency, and somehow powered their way to the top of the AL and became World Series Champions just a few weeks ago. But now, the Red Sox are going to spend their entire 2014 season defending their title. This is actually good news for the Yankees because unlike almost every other team in the league only the Yankees know what it’s like to establish and maintain a dynasty. Is anyone else hoping 2014 starts a new dynasty?

Go Yankees!