Wishful Thinking

Alex Rodriguez announced today that he will retire after he finishes his current contract which means he is going to play two more seasons. I’m trying to stop laughing.

I will be the first to admit that Alex surprised me and surpassed all of my most optimistic expectations last season. I didn’t think he would come close to hitting 25 homers, let alone 33. I also didn’t think he would behave and not cause problems. It was truly a miraculous season.

So it won’t come as a surprise that I don’t think he is going to repeat it. I disagree with the people who say he is finished and point to his second half numbers in 2015 (.216/.324/.448) but I do think those numbers are more indicative of what will happen in 2016 than his first half of .278/.382/.515. His seven homers in September lead me to believe he can still be somewhat of a force, but I suspect time will continue to wither him as it does to all of us.

But no matter what he does in 2016, there is still 2017 and the fact that he will be 42 when his contract ends. Considering all that has happened with him off the field, and that he is only a DH on it, does he really think he will be in demand when that season ends? And, considering how the Yankees have turned to a youth movement and don’t want a full-time DH, I can’t see them offering him a contract in 2018 no matter what he does between now and then. This is clearly Alex’s attempt to bow out with some dignity. That’s his right, but considering his prior behavior, it is not something he is necessarily entitled to.

A Tough Choice

There is an interesting story playing out involving the Chicago White Sox and Adam LaRoche. LaRoche retired Tuesday because the White Sox asked him to stop bringing his son around the clubhouse so much. In doing so, LaRoche walked away from a contract that would pay him $13-million this season. Things are now getting heated as the entire White Sox team apparently thought about boycotting their game yesterday in support of LaRoche.

Ken Rosenthal wrote an interesting article about this controversy and it leaves me conflicted. On one hand, baseball players are essentially working during the times most of us can see our families and allowing them to bring their kids to the clubhouse gives them a connection with their family that’s important. On the other hand, not all players probably love having kids in the clubhouse all the time. There needs to be time for a team to be a team, devoid of distractions that family and outside people bring.

I don’t agree with LaRoche’s opinion about school. In the Rosenthal article he said,  “We’re not big on school. I told my wife, ‘He’s going to learn a lot more useful information in the clubhouse than he will in the classroom, as far as life lessons.’ ” But it is certainly his right to think that way and essentially home school his son.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, if LaRoche truly retires (the paperwork hasn’t been officially submitted), and what the ramifications are for the White Sox if he does.



Pain Points

As camp progresses for the Red Sox, there are some major sources of pain, or at least potential pain.

Pablo Sandoval: No surprise here but he showed up in poor shape.  His fielding was poor last year and he had to abandon hitting from the right side.  And his hitting from the left side (.744 OPS) wasn’t worth nearly as much as he is being paid.  If Sandoval can’t figure it out, the Red Sox can use Travis Shaw at 3b.

Hanley Ramirez: After failing as an outfield last year, the Red Sox are trying to spin the idea of Hanley being a good candidate for first base.  It seems to make sense that a former shortstop could handle this roll but we are talking about Hanley Ramirez, the first baseman who showed up to camp without any first base gloves.  I know the idea here is to bridge the 2016 season and slot Ramirez into the DH spot once David Ortiz retires, but if he fails as a 1b, then that will essentially be 2 lost seasons on his 4 year deal.

Rusney Castillo: This is his 3rd season in pro ball and I sure hope he figures things out, he’s being paid to do so after all.  Castillo posted a .647 OPS in 289 plate appearances last season, not what we were hoping for but perhaps understandable for someone who was facing major league pitching for the first time aside from 10 games in 2014.  2016 is a big year for him, he needs to prove he can hit.

John Farrell:  First off, I’m very happy to learn Farrell is cancer free and his health isn’t an issue.  That said, he hasn’t done a very good job of late while managing the Red Sox.  When he took his leave of absence last year and Torey Lovullo took over, the team played much differently.  Farrell went 50-63, Lovullo 28-21.  Add to that the recent distraction of a local tv personality resigning her post when it came to light she and Farrell were involved.  Nothing against love, but if the players sense any resentment or feel there was a mole when it came to her reporting, that can’t be a good thing.  I wish them nothing but happiness but Farrell caused a major distraction for himself and his players.  He is on a very short leash, should he stumble out of the gate, he’ll get the boot from above.

Very Cool

The Yankees did something pretty neat today that you can read about here.

Five Questions For Spring

We now have actual baseball games to follow and box scores to pursue, so what are the questions the Yankees are trying to answer this spring? To me the following five are the obvious ones.

1- Who is the 5th starter or are there 6? The Yankees could do a couple of different things here. Assuming that the quartet of Tanaka, Pineda, Eovaldi, and Severino, emerge healthy from spring, the 5th starter spot would seem to come down to Sabathia vs. Nova. But, with all the injury concerns in the rotation would the Yankees consider going with all of them in the rotation? I think they absolutely would, so I think this is the biggest question.

2- Who is the backup catcher? Gary Sanchez is an intriguing prospect and his bat can probably help right now. But making him the backup catcher comes with two drawbacks. First, he won’t have regular playing time. Second, the Yankees will lose Austin Romine, hurting their organizational depth.

3- What does the bullpen look like after the Big 3? We know how the back end of the bullpen will play out, but what about the front? There are plenty of names in the mix- Shreve, Mitchell, Pazos, Pinder, Rumblelow, Lindgren, to name a few, but who fits where? With Miller and eventually Chapman on the roster, how many additional lefties will the Yankees take north?

4- Who gets the last spot on the bench? We know the bench is going to include Hicks, Ackley, and a backup catcher, but what do the Yankees do with the last spot? If Refsnyder can cover third, does he make it? Maybe a super-utility type instead or would the Yankees put such a value on Sanchez’s bat that they carry a third catcher?

5- What’s the lineup? I would guess something along these lines-










That keeps you from stacking too many lefties in a row and balances things, but Girardi may not want to put Castro below Didi and that could create the same lefty-overload problem we saw last year.

And we only have one month to find out all of these answers because the Yankees open the 2016 on April 4th. Can you believe it?


Thirty Games

Chapman has been suspended by MLB for the first 30 games of the regular season. He will not appeal. Chapman issued the following statement:

“Today, I accepted a 30 game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my actions on October 30, 2015. I want to be clear, I did not in any way harm my girlfriend that evening. However, I should have exercised better judgment with respect to my actions, and for that I am sorry. The decision to accept a suspension, as opposed to appealing one, was made after careful consideration. I made this decision in an effort to minimize the distractions that an appeal would cause the Yankees, my new teammates and most importantly, my family. I have learned from this matter, and I look forward to being part of the Yankees’ quest for a 28th World Series title. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment.”

The statement leaves me wondering if he gets it. Does he understand that even if he didn’t harm his girlfriend in any way firing a gun eight times in anger is not ok? I guess we have to take the fact that he is sorry and that he is not appealing as a good sign, but ugh.

In baseball terms this means Chapman is out until 5/9 against the Royals. He will miss the first two series against the Red Sox, and not have to pitch in Fenway until August. The Yankees will almost certainly go with Betances for the 8th and Miller for the 9th in his absence, but the 7th inning is currently a mystery. Expect that to be a big focus of spring training as the Yankees will look to find this year’s Justin Wilson.

What Took Them So Long?

The Yankees announced today that Rob Refsnyder will work out at third base this spring. I can’t understand why he hasn’t been working out there and all over the diamond for weeks now.

Here’s what we know about Refsnyder. He has a good bat, one that projects to be decent in the big leagues. He also doesn’t appear to be an everyday second baseman. I say that because the statistics when he played there briefly last year weren’t great, and because there is no way the Yankees go and trade for Castro if they thought Refsnyder could play second on a regular basis. So why didn’t the Yankees tell him to spend the winter trying out some other positions?

It makes no sense. Castro is going to be in pinstripes for the next four years at minimum. By that time Refsnyder will be out of options and on another team. Furthermore, the Yankees have Ackley on the roster to backup second if needed. Sure, Castro or Ackley could get hurt, but the Yankees have stashed a couple of glove guys in the minors to prepare for that. So keeping Refsnyder as a second baseman only keeps him in the minors in 2016 which doesn’t make a ton of sense when you look at the Yankees bench.

We know two guys who will make the bench, Hicks and Ackley. There will be a backup catcher, and assuming that the Yankees carry 12 pitchers, always a good bet, one other player. If Refsnyder can play some third, he becomes a favorite for this spot. For one thing, he is a righty bat, something the Yankees could use. For another, he came to the Yankees as an outfielder so it is reasonable to expect that he could fill in there in a pinch.

Think about that bench. You have a backup catcher TBD. You have Hicks covering all the outfield spots with Ackley backing him up in the corners and at second and first. You have Refsnyder covering third and second, and the outfield in a pinch. You have decent pinch-hitting options, and the flexibility to use them because of the multiple ways you can cover things defensively. That makes a ton of sense for the 2016 Yankees. I just wonder why it took them so long to think of it.

Good Idea/Bad Execution

The Yankees are taking a lot of heat for getting rid of print-at-home tickets this season. Part of that is because of the terrible optics of the deal- more on that in a minute. Part of it is because of the absurd defense they have used for the idea- more on that too. But overall, this is a good idea. In fact, I would say the idea hasn’t gone far enough. They should get rid of all physical tickets.

Physical tickets were a necessary evil for years, but they are obsolete in the 21st century with the advent of the cell phone. Between smart phones and basic cell phones, the technology exists to get rid of paper tickets entirely. Just like airlines have, stadiums can provide apps with barcodes for people to get into games. And if someone doesn’t have a smart phone, how about a text message with a unique string of characters to allow entry at some sort of kiosk? With a little thought and planning, teams could easily get rid of physical tickets.

And that would be a good thing because it would eliminate the easiest way for people to defraud potential buyers- scalping fake tickets. With the printing capabilities out there today, people can easily create very authentic looking fake tickets at home and scalp them outside a stadium easily. Here’s an example from 2015 in Indianapolis. Eliminating this kind of fraud is a worthy idea.

But the Yankees have done a terrible job of making the case for it. For one thing, the crackdown on paper tickets appears to be an attempt to stop reselling of tickets on Stub Hub. The Yankees have opened their own ticket exchange and they don’t want Stub Hub taking away from that action. They can pretend otherwise, but that is the real reason they don’t want print-at-home tickets.

And they should stop with their bizarre defense that this has something to do with the free market. A free market is one without regulation, yet getting rid of print-at-home tickets is obviously a regulation. Furthermore, baseball is rife with violations of the free market. The Yankees Ticket Exchange sets a minimum price floor for tickets where a free market would allow supply and demand to determine prices. MLB allows teams to have geographic monopolies where a free market would never allow that. I could go on and on, the point is there is nothing close a free market in baseball.

So get rid of the paper tickets, but work with all secondary markets to figure out how. That’s a win-win for everyone.


The Chapman Conundrum

The Yankees have brought someone with serious character questions into their clubhouse. That’s a responsibility they cannot evade.

The Yankees should be honest. Chapman isn’t in camp with them without his electric fastball and dominant numbers. If he wasn’t a great pitcher, the Yankees would never have bothered with him considering the allegations he faces. That hardly makes the Yankees unique. Sports figures are given way too many chances because of their natural abilities. Organizations make these moral compromises all the time. It would be nice if they were more honest about them.

As for Chapman, he clearly doesn’t seem to get it. He maintains that he did nothing wrong, yet he does not contest the police report which states that he used a gun to fire eight shots from his garage. And while seven of those shots didn’t leave the garage, one of the shots landed in an empty lot near his property- meaning it could have killed someone who was simply standing outside of his house.

I in no way condone violence against women, but the sad truth of this case is we will never know what really happened that night in regards to the allegations that Chapman choked a female. The police couldn’t sort out the conflicting stories, and the DA refused to charge Chapman because they didn’t feel there was enough evidence. (I am dismayed that you can apparently fire a gun eight times recklessly in Florida and not commit a crime.) That doesn’t mean Chapman is innocent of the choking charge, but it also means he will not be found guilty by a court of law. Our justice system is based on the presumption of innocence and we have to accept that in regards to the choking allegations.

But that still doesn’t excuse the gun play and this is where I would like to see the Commissioner and the Yankees take a stand. Chapman should be kept away from guns in my opinion. He should be ordered to seek some counseling (acceptable under the CBA) and he should get some sort of suspension. It should also be made clear to him that any additional incidents will not be tolerated. MLB gets the first crack at this, but the Yankees should be ready to act if MLB doesn’t. They took responsibility for Chapman the minute they traded for him.


Three Strikes…

MLB announced this afternoon that Jenrry Mejia has been banned from baseball for failing a third test for PED use. (Technically, he can apply for reinstatement a year from now, but he must sit out two years before playing again.)

It’s an amazing story of stupidity. Mejia has been suspended at the start of the season last year for 80 games for failing the first test. He was suspended for 162 games almost immediately after returning to the team and is now out of baseball. This is a guy who was going to make over $1-million this year, despite his suspension, and has now failed three drug tests in less than a calendar year.

Give MLB credit for putting in a plan with serious teeth to try to clean up the game. I should note however that this case involves a 6-foot, 200-pound, reliever who threw in the low 90’s. You simply can’t tell who is cheating with your eyes.