Postseason wrap-up, looking to 2019, Gold Gloves 2018

Red Sox Nation spent their Halloween dressed up as Red Sox Nation as their championship team piled onto the city’s “duck boats” and paraded their way through the streets of Boston. The mayor, former champion alumni (like David Ortiz and Pedro Martinez), and fans singing along to “Sweet Caroline” (bah-bah-bah) came out to honor the World Series champions. The next day, some of the team took the championship trophy to a Celtics game in hopes of spreading their “good luck” to other Boston teams, which might have worked as the Celtics won that game.

Meanwhile, much of the talk this off-season already is about the big class of free agents. There’s a lot of conversation as to where big names like Harper and Machado will land, but the Yankees cleared the “luxury tax” (or the Competitive Balance Tax) ceiling for the first time in 14 years. The luxury tax was created in order to even out the balance between large-market teams (like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers) and small-market teams (like the Twins, Padres, and Orioles). The tax was set at $197 million in pay for the 2018 season. The Red Sox and Nationals, however, were forced to pay the tax this year.

So, without having to pay out millions of dollars to the luxury tax pool, the Yankees are free to explore a high-ticket free agent, especially to add to their starting rotation. But whether they choose to do so is still undecided. In the mean time, they have a few Yankees in the free agent pool that they could re-sign for the 2019 season, like CC Sabathia, JA Happ, Lance Lynn, Zach Britton, and David Robertson.

However, one free agent they snagged early was Brett Gardner. While the Red Sox were partying their way through Boston, the Yankees were solidifying one of the last remaining homegrown Yankees from the 2009 championship team to remain a Yankee for 2019. He had an option for the final year of his contract, but the Yankees declined it and instead offered him a 1-year $9.5 million contract.

Next season will be the veteran outfielder’s 12th year in pinstripes, though his 15th with the organization, making him the longest-tenured Yankee on the roster. He’s really the heart of the team and a leader in the clubhouse, a fixture for the Yankees on and off the field. Gardner said: “I wasn’t sure what kind of opportunities I was going to have with the Yankees beyond this year and what would have been out there for me in other places. To get this wrapped up early in the off-season, it’s great to know where I’ll be next year and obviously what to expect. I’m going back to a place where I’m comfortable and very familiar. I’m really, really excited.”

Gardner was nominated tonight for a Gold Glove, his 4th nomination (2011, 2015, 2017, 2018). The Gold Glove is an annual award given to the best defender at each position in each league. He joined Aaron Judge and Masahiro Tanaka as nominees this year. Judge was nominated last year, and Gardner won the award in 2016. None of the Yankee nominees took home the honor tonight, but all three recognitions are well-deserved.

But there’s more to come. The Silver Sluggers, the award for the top offensive contibutor at each position, will be announced Thursday. The big honors (Cy Young, MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc.) will be announced the week of November 12-15, with the Players Choice Awards announced November 27. Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are nominated for AL Rookie category in the Players Choice Awards and are up for the AL Rookie of the Year in the other awards next week. In other words, while the Yankees didn’t pick up any mantle hardware tonight, there’s still time to collect some bragging rights.

And speaking of bragging rights, today is also the 9th anniversary of the Yankees’ 27th championship. Back in 2009, Yankee Universe watched as Mariano Rivera got the batter to hit a baby grounder to Robinson Cano, who threw to a waiting Mark Teixeira for the final out of Game 6 against the Phillies. It actually came up on my “memories” feed today before veterans from that game like Swisher and Rodriguez posted their own memories online of that fateful day.

Finally, our hearts go out to the Reds organization tonight. Yesterday, three players, all 19 years old, in their minor league system were involved in a serious car accident in the Dominican Republic. Pitcher Jairo Capellan was killed in the incident, pitcher Raul Hernandez is in critical but stable condition, and outfielder Emilio Garcia is still receiving treatment for his injuries at the hospital but conscious and alert. Capellan was laid to rest this afternoon, his funeral attended by Reds players, coaches, and staff.

We join sports fans online as we extend our sympathies to Capellan’s family and friends and their prayers for Hernandez and Garcia.

Go Yankees!

World Series Game 4: KC vs. NYM — Halloween tricks and treats

World Series Game 4 — Royals at Mets

This is what you get for playing on Halloween – tricks, treats, and nothing like you’d expect. For most of the game, it seemed like it was going to be a tight game, handing it to the dominant Mets tonight, but then in one moment, it all shifted and became the Royals’ game.

And without a couple of home runs and a really terrible error, it was a rather boring

The Mets’ offense struck first in the bottom of the 3rd with a lead-off solo home run. Then a single moved to 2nd on a wild pitch and then 3rd on a sacrifice bunt before scoring on a sacrifice fly (which was challenged, but upheld).

The Royals answered back in the 5th with a 1-out RBI single, but the Mets got that back in the bottom of that inning with another lead-off home run (by the same guy that hit the one in the 3rd). A lead-off double for the Royals in the 6th scored on an RBI single to keep the Royals within one run.

But then in the 8th, all the Halloween tricks were in full play. With 1 out and 2 walks and a new pitcher, the Mets spiraled out of the lead. A rather deflating fielding error allowed the tying run to score. Then consecutive singles scored two more runs for the Royals. And with the Royals sending in their reliable closer for a 6-out, 2-inning save, it was suddenly the Royals game to take into November. Though the Mets certainly threatened at the bottom of the 9th. No such luck for the Mets.

Final score: 5-3 Royals, Royals lead series 3-1.

And in Yankee Universe: three Yankees are up for Gold Gloves — Didi Gregorius (shortstop), Mark Teixeira (1st base), and Brett Gardner (left field).  They are up against several well-known excellent players, including some in this current series. Gold Gloves are awarded based on the player’s defensive excellence at their particular fielding position. This could be Teixeira’s 6th Gold Glove (his last one was in 2012), but the first for Gregorius and Gardner. Winners will be announced November 10. (By the way, 2012 was the last time a Yankee won a Gold Glove, 2 actually — Teixeira at 1st and Cano at 2nd.)

Go Yankees!

Anticipating a new normal

I drove past Steinbrenner Field earlier today and got a little wistful for the “what if” of 2014, beginning with Spring Training that will take place right there in Tampa in just a few months. With no postseason and very little news to talk about regarding Yankee Universe, it leaves me with no option but to begin to dream and imagine for what could be next season.

I mean, we knew going into the 2013 Spring Training that there were going to be issues — Jeter’s broken ankle, Rodriguez’s hip surgery, and Sabathia’s elbow surgery meant a strong back-up for Jeter, a new guy at 3rd base for most of the season, and a little possible uneasiness regarding the rotation. What we didn’t know going into Spring Training with 88 invitees was how strange 2013 would end up — Jeter’s continued health issues, Rodriguez’s return and scandal involvement, and Sabathia’s struggles to return to form. Oh, and 52 separate people made it through Roll Call this year (just fielders, not DH, pitchers, or catchers). Nothing about 2013 was normal.

But then again, what is normal anymore? We aren’t living in the dynasty years of the Yankees under Torre with the Core Four or the Golden Age with the M&M boys or the Classic Era with Murders’ Row. But then, that wasn’t exactly “normal”. So is this normal?

Here’s the reality, though: people aren’t going to be okay with that. When you have a storied history like the Yankees, packed to the gills with wins and titles and legends and hall-of-fame careers, “normal” isn’t expected; they want exceptional. Perhaps if the Yankees were still newer to the scene or perhaps one of the less-glorified clubs or perhaps didn’t have so many retired numbers in Monument Park, maybe then normal would be an option worthy of the fans and players alike, a goal worth setting, a season worth playing.

But just maybe “normal” is subjective. Maybe “normal” for the Yankees is the exceptional. Normal on the Yankees is seen as a hard work ethic (those who are seen as not making enough of an effort get condemned until they are seen hustling consistently), normal is the clean-cut look (new players always have to shave and keep their hair neatly trimmed and professional, no Duck Dynasty in that clubhouse), normal is high standards of teamwork (divas don’t last long in the clubhouse). Normal is extraordinary for the Yankees.

What isn’t normal (for the Yankees, at least) is having no October baseball, weaknesses in every area on the roster, and continued struggles with players on the DL. 2013 was anything but normal for the Yankees. That means there’s a lot of ground for the front office to cover to get the team from whatever 2013 was back to “Yankee Normal”.

I should clarify, “Yankee Normal” also means “World Series Champion”. If 2014 is normal, we’ll be celebrating #28 this time next year. Oh, please, let 2014 be normal.

Also, Gold Gloves were announced today: catchers Salvador Perez (KC) and Yadier Molina (STL); 1st basemen Eric Hosmer (KC) and Paul Goldschmidt (ARI); 2nd basemen Dustin Pedroia (BOS) and Brandon Phillips (CIN); shortstops JJ Hardy (BAL) and Andrelton Simmons (ATL); 3rd basemen Manny Machado (BAL) and Nolan Arenado (COL); outfielders Alex Gordon (KC), Carlos Gonzalez (COL), Adam Jones (BAL), Carlos Gomez (MIL), Shane Victorino (BOS), and Gerardo Parra (ARI); and pitchers R.A. Dickey (TOR) and Adam Wainwright (STL). No Yankee winners (only Cano was nominated), and surprisingly very little representation from much of my own choices for each position. Honestly, about half of these were complete and total surprises, but if you have to start a hardware collection for some of these guys. A Gold Glove is the way to do it.

Anyway, like I said, 2013 wasn’t normal. Here’s to 2014 and the possibility of our normal rediscovered…

Go Yankees!