Off-season bits: February edition, part 2

In a quick follow-up to this week’s news, the Yankees announced one return and one retirement, each hosting their own press conference yesterday (Saturday). At least four more seasons with one player, and a final one with another.

Luis Severino was set to sit down for arbitration to argue out a number for his salary and years with the Yankees, but just before doing so, he (via his agent) and the Yankees agrees to terms. So Severino re-signed back to the team for 4 more years, through 2022, for $40 million, with an option for 2023. Before talking with the press with his wife and agent, he called his mom, who asked if he won. “No,” he said, “but I got $40 million.” Her response? “Oh, that’s more than $5 million.”

Severino is the presumptive Opening Day starter, after being in the conversation for the Cy Young Award last year, and really proving to the team his ace status. Severino has carved his niche with the starting rotation, taking the lead away from veterans like Sabathia and stars like Tanaka. But deservedly so. Now, he’ll be continuing to carve his Yankee legacy for the next four (or five) years, becoming the anchor to the starting rotation.

Of course, that position formerly was held by Yankees star pitcher CC Sabathia. But in recent years, his physical injuries (like his knees) and recovery from alcoholism removed him from the ace to the support, though he certainly hasn’t slowed in his production, having some of the best outings in the most recent seasons.

Sabathia, joined by his wife Amber and three of his four kids, formally announced his retirement, making 2019 his final major league season. He’s just 14 strikeouts away from the career milestone of 3000 strikeouts (something only 16 other pitchers have done). And conversations have already started about a certain voting process in 5 years, wondering if Cooperstown will make that call for the veteran pitcher. (It should, by the way, but that’s a conversation for another post.)

Missing from the Sabathia entourage was his oldest son, who was busy with his own athletics at his high school, and his mother Margie, who years ago famously donned all the catcher’s gear to help him practice his pitching. Sabathia is looking forward to playing Mr. Mom and enjoying things like summer vacations and holidays in between keeping up with his foundation that continues to impact inner city kids in his hometown of Oakland and current residence of the New York area.

Sabathia is a fan favorite, even of those who aren’t Yankee fans because of his love of the game, and a favorite among players, alumni, and other athletes all over. People’s good wishes came pouring in and will continue to follow Sabathia as he begins his “farewell tour”, also known as the 2019 season. He will also host kids from every local Boys & Girls Club at every American League city (plus San Francisco) the Yankees visit this season to honor the impact of the organization on his own life, something he credits with saving him and helping him become a professional ball player.

Both Severino and Sabathia talked a lot about the person who’d been their top supporter, their mothers. YES Network reporter Jack Curry noted this and posted a short video about how important mothers are in baseball.

It struck a chord with me too. I know my own mother is the reason I’m such a fan, and the person who usually sits next to me at baseball games. She’ll be at every Spring Training game with me in just a few days, and she’ll have a thousand things to say, opinions, questions, and comments that lead to really intense discussions. But there’s something about baseball and moms. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Go Yankees!

Off-season bits: February edition

The groundhog said it would be an early Spring, something easily laughed at by the majority of the country buried under snow at the time. Of course, Spring never actually “comes early”, as according to the vernal equinox, it won’t officially be Spring until March 20. But in the baseball world, thanks in part to the climate of the Sunshine State (and Arizona), Spring always comes a bit earlier.

Major League Baseball is celebrating its sesquicentennial. In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first salaried professional baseball team thus seen as the start of what became Major League Baseball. To honor this anniversary, all 30 teams will wear a special patch on their jerseys this entire season. It previously honored the 100th and 125th anniversaries in 1969 and 1994, respectively. Happy birthday, baseball.

And in what has to be the smallest alteration to the roster this season, Yankees’ reliever Zach Britton officially altered his name to Zack Britton. I’m not sure where the fluff up began as his legal name is actually Zackary Grant Britton, which means that Zack would make much more sense as a nickname than Zach. And as someone who’s had a few nicknames, mostly alterations of spellings, getting people to correctly address you and spell your name right is quite the ordeal. I’m still not sure why. So, welcome to the Yankees, Zack.

Speaking of new roster blood, the Yankees signed another reliever to fill David Robertson’s vacant spot after he signed with the Phillies. Adam Ottavino, previously with the Rockies for the last 7 seasons, is set to help provide a further veteran arm in the bullpen and in the clubhouse. Ottavino is joining former Rockies’ teammates like Tulowitzki and LeMahieu in pinstripes this year. Interestingly, Ottavino usually wears #0 on his jersey, so he requested to wear the final single digit available as a Yankee. It will be quite something to see a single digit on a Yankees’ jersey this year.

Yesterday, all pitchers and catchers were to report to camp, and today, they had their first workout session of the season. Manager Aaron Boone held his first press conference of the year yesterday afternoon, discussing many of the roster changes, the substitutes and competitions for spots, and surgeries and injuries this off-season. Gary Sanchez had shoulder surgery in the off-season, but he is recovering well enough to start the season and Spring with no delay.

However, Jacoby Ellsbury is one of those who will be delayed into camp this year. Though position players don’t report until Monday (Feb. 18), his recovery has been delayed by plantar fasciitis after his surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He missed all of last season due to an injury plagued year and was hoping for a triumphant return to what could be the first of his final two years in baseball (or what’s left on his contract with the Yankees).

And Dellin Betances will be a little delayed as his wife Janisa gave birth to their first child, a son they named Dellin Betances Jr. yesterday. They are a little busy being new parents, but the new father will join the team once mother and son have been discharged from the hospital in a few days. A big congratulations to the new family.

Who’s really stealing the show in this final off-season bit is CC Sabathia. Sabathia will be announcing his retirement at a press conference Saturday, calling a close to his long career after this season, his 19th in the major leagues. And thus begins his own farewell tour, which will include a trip to the UK for the much-anticipated series against the Red Sox, but follows his health and personal struggles including knee surgeries, a stint in the heart this off-season, and dealing with his alcoholism.

Add in a storied post-season career and a legacy of community outreach through his PitCChIn Foundation, Sabathia is ready to hang up the cleats in dramatic fashion. This will probably include hitting a major milestone — 3000 career strikeouts, something he will do with just 14 more big strikeouts, which by my best guess could be as early as late April. It will be quite the celebration for the retiring legend, and what a way to go out.

And in honor of what would have been Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday, Sabathia visited the Jackie Robinson School in Brooklyn (P.S. 375) to connect with the kids there and talk about Robinson’s legacy of service and activism. Upon reflecting Robinson’s life and legacy as he saw in the students there, Sabathia said that he just wants “[to] be strong and deal with adversity. Just sitting here and listening to the kids chanting his name — he would be 100 years old today. That legacy is what all players want. That’s something you can’t accomplish on the field. It’s something you have to do off the field, leaving your name for kids and organizations to deal with after the fact.”

But looking forward to this Spring, there are 40 men on the regular roster that are contractually required to be there. And every year, the team extends an invitation to others in the organization to attend camp and see if they can earn a spot or promotion or just recognition. This year, the Yankees invited 23 non-roster players — 12 pitchers, 4 catchers, 3 infielders, and 4 outfielders. (Note: the original article was written prior to 2 additions to the invitee list on Wednesday.)

Welcome to camp: pitchers Rex Brothers, Nestor Cortes Jr., Cale Coshow, Danny Coulombe, Phillip Diehl, Raynel Espinal, Danny Farquhar, David Hale, Drew Hutchinson, Michael King, Brady Lail, and Trevor Stephan; catchers Kellin Deglan, Francisco Diaz, Ryan Lavarnway, and Jorge Saez; infielders Mike Ford, Kyle Holder, and Giovanny Urshela; and outfielders Trey Amburgey, Billy Burns, Estevan Florial, and Matt Lipka.

So if you recognize a few of those names, you’ve been following the Yankees closely. If you are excited to see how those have progressed in the last year, you and I are in the same boat. I think Spring Training is always one of my favorite times of the year because you get a first-hand look at the future of the club, the future of baseball really.

And if that future gives you hope, then it’s all worth it.

Believe me. It’s always worth it.

Go Yankees!

Yankee alumni continue to make history in Hall of Fame

There was a lot of talk leading up to Tuesday night’s announcement as to who would be inducted into the Hall of Fame this coming summer. The select few would join Lee Smith and Harold Baines, the two veteran players selected by the Today’s Game Era ballot late last year. And if recent years have taught us anything, no one is ever a solid shoo-in, and certainly no one is ever voted in 100% of the time.

But no one is Mariano Rivera.

For the first time in 75 years of inductions, Rivera was the first player to ever garner 100% of the votes of the members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. And he beat some of the best in the business to get there. Ken Griffey Jr. got really close in 2016 with 99.32% of the votes, breaking Tom Seaver’s previous record from 1992 with 98.84%.

But you really couldn’t find a better person or player to be inducted with the highest honor of unanimous. Mariano Rivera was one of those players who just seemed to get better as the years went on. His 19-year professional career in pinstripes was marked by that special pitch, “the cutter”, something that was just a “lights out pitch” for nearly every batter he faced. He remains the all-time saves leader with 652 saves, was a 13-time All-Star, and was the MVP of the 1999 World Series, 2003 ALCS, and 2013 All-Star Game.

In addition, he was a family man and a man of strong but quiet faith, who brought a great sense of fun, joy, and leadership to the clubhouse and to his community. His family was with him when the announcement was made and their celebrations are just a small preview of all of Yankee Universe’s. The Hall of Fame’s glass ceiling of inaccessibility via unanimous has been broken, and the record holder was not only a Yankee, but one of the best guys to ever play the game on and off the field.

Joining Rivera this year on the stage in Cooperstown will be former teammate Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, and the family of the late Roy Halladay. Halladay enters with 85.4% of the vote. A pitcher with the Blue Jays and Phillies, he passed away in November 2017 in a plane accident near his Florida home, legacy on the field was outstanding, winning 2 Cy Young awards (2003, 2010), completed 7 games, was a 3-time 20-game winner and an 8-time All-Star. His sons continue his legacy, one currently a star pitcher for Penn State, who also got a chance to pitch in a Spring Training game last year against his dad’s former team (Blue Jays).

Edgar Martinez, a Mariners’ power-hitter for 18 seasons, boasts quite a few batting titles and 5 Silver Slugger awards. Martinez worked his way up the Hall of Fame election ladder, this being his 10th and final year eligible for the Hall, and ending up with 85.4% of the final vote.

And Yankees fans will remember Mike Mussina’s now famous moment telling manager Joe Torre to return to the dugout because he was going to finish the game in May 2006. He ended up finishing the game with 101 pitches, fending off the Tigers for the win. But that was just one of many in Mussina’s storied career, first with the Orioles and then with the Yankees for 18 seasons, including 7 Gold Gloves and being a 5-time All-Star. This was his 6th year on the ballot and finally eked over that 75% mark with 76.7% of the votes to become enshrined in the Hall.

Festivities will honor the six men this summer (July 19-22), with the formal ceremony occurring on Sunday, July 21. Seeing as Cooperstown is still in the middle of winter and about to get more snow (already over 2 inches this month alone) this weekend, summer festivities are sounding better and better. Congratulations to the whole 2019 Class on their well-deserved honor!

In quick Yankee news: the Yankees have officially traded starter Sonny Gray in a 3-team deal earlier this week. Sonny Gray and a minor league pitcher were traded to the Reds for an infield prospect and a future draft pick, but the Yankees turned around and sent that prospect to the Mariners for an outfield prospect Josh Stowers.

Gray’s deal was contingent on his acceptance of Cincinnati’s terms, which he ultimately agreed to — an additional 3-years with a club option for 2023. While Gray certainly will be missed in the clubhouse, his struggles at home led to early trade conversations. New York is a hard city to play for, so our best wishes follow Gray to the Midwest as he finds his footing in red rather than pinstripe blue.

And a small reminder: the Yankees’ first Spring Training game is exactly one month from today. Spring is just around the corner.

Go Yankees!

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!

One more sleep until baseball…

I’ve been contemplative all day really. When you write a daily blog that revolves around a single thing, your life is pretty much built around that. Like when you grow up, your entire world is built around the school schedule. You know when your vacation days are, you known when exams will be so you know when you will need to pull all-nighters, you structure your days, your life around one stable thing. And it works.

That’s me and baseball. The season technically starts tomorrow with the first Spring Training game against the Tigers (more on that in a moment). And the last baseball game was November 1, Game 7 of the World Series when the Astros defeated the Dodgers to become champions last year. For the average fan, they catch a random game some time between March and September, maybe use a mobile app a few times a week to see where their team currently sits in the standings. But my life pretty much revolves around the baseball season, which means from the first pitch of Spring Training to the final out of the World Series, I’m locked in. I take my blog with me on vacations (even to Europe a few years ago), I write after weddings and birthday parties (sometimes late into the night or early the next morning), I’m pretty much always on my phone (thanks to Twitter and my own mobile apps).

I know it’s sometimes confusing to my friends and family that I’m not always present or available during the season. I’m not quite a journalist, though because I went to school for journalism, my approach is often more sports writer than your average blogger. But I’ve found something that works. I get to appreciate the game from the fan’s perspective, recap it for those who don’t watch every game, and then talk about the state of the game and the team how I see it. My approach, my perspective, my appreciation, even my opinions have evolved over this blog, as they should, as we should grow in ourselves and expand our worldview.

I started this blog five years ago on a whim, just to see if I could do it for a season, and honestly, hoping I could follow one team through to winning the World Series. In the last five seasons, I’ve seen big retirements, big signings, and thousands of little moments that matter even more. I’ve made memories at stadiums all over the country, friends from all over the world, and discovered that the sport we love is so much more than the game we see on the field.

Now, on the eve of my sixth (!) season following the Yankees, I’ve never been more hopeful for this team. The roster is different, younger, and catching the eye of the talking heads (and actually in a good way). The fans in general are cautiously optimistic after last year, and I don’t blame them. And while the real season starts in about a month, baseball’s warm-up season begins tomorrow afternoon.

I don’t think I really understood the value of Spring Training until I started this blog. But now, I think I look forward to it more than any other time of year. I’ve been watching the likes of Aaron Judge and many prospects now on other organizations’ 40-man rosters. As much as everyone wanted to see Judge so much earlier, watching Spring Training proved both his potential but also that he needed another season or two working out the quirks. Now, he’s the reigning Home Run Derby champion, All-Star, Silver Slugger, and Rookie of the Year. Had they brought him up before he was ready, awards would not be there, and he would have had to work out all the quirks on a much bigger stage. How the “talking heads” would have loved discussing that!

But the value of Spring Training was understanding why the minor league system works. That very same system that brought all of the Core Four into the last dynasty, and the same system that is filled with prospects like Gleyber Torres, Chance Adams, Justus Sheffield, and Miguel Andujar, all of which have a very real chance to see the big leagues this year (maybe even the starting roster). The beauty of Spring Training is being able to see the random players in the organization that might be the next something special.

Or maybe they’re the star quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson. Wilson was acquired in a trade earlier this month from the Rangers and will be assigned to AA Trenton during the season. Wilson, who grew up playing baseball and football, was drafted by the Rockies in 2010 and spends his NFL off-season (which is now, of course) playing minor league ball, now with the Yankees this season. He posted on his social media today that he’s on his way to spend time in camp in Tampa, though as he’s not on the roster or not an official non-roster invitee, he won’t be playing any games at Steinbrenner Field. He’ll instead spend his time at minor league camp joined progressively by all those non-roster invitees and players on the roster that won’t be on the Opening Day roster.

So, it’s one more sleep until baseball…

And it’s all just beginning… once again…

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!