Category Archives: Mike’s Musings

S.T. Game 24. Yanks fall to O’s, 5-3.

Gerrit Cole had one bad inning (he’s had a good spring training) and as a result, the Yanks (9-14-1 in spring training) lost 5-3 to Baltimore on Sunday.

Now is around the time I really pay attention to results. Because now most of the minor leaguers have been sent down and others cut.

I read from Jon Heyman that he thinks the best Yankees infield would be Rizzo at 1B, Volpe at 2B, Peraza at SS and D.J. at 3B. Fine, but what then happens with Donaldson and Gleyber? It’s basically a given right now that IKF will serve as a utility man.

My thoughts. I think Rizzo, Gleyber, Volpe and D.J. would be best. Peraza could still go to the minors until the infield glut is resolved. Maybe there will be a trade soon. But Donaldson is hitting just .179 this spring, and despite manager Aaron Boone’s confidence that Donaldson still has something in the tank, concerns abound after Donaldson’s off year in 2022 and with Donaldson’s age (37). Maybe at the trade deadline Gleyber would be dealt, opening a spot for Volpe or Peraza, whoever doesn’t make the Opening Day cut. But in order to get Peraza and Volpe on the team, someone has to go.

As far as LF is concerned, Hicks will probably be there, but I’d prefer Cabrera. Hicks is hitting .290 this spring but mostly with no one on. When there are RISP, then nothing. Actually, the best hitter among the LF candidates has been Willie Calhoun. (.344). Rafael Ortega can play all OF positions, but after a hot start to spring training, has cooled off. Jasson Dominguez (#2 prospect) isn’t a consideration. He’s only played five games at AA, and that is where he’ll probably start the season. He isn’t far away, though.

So, my choices? Gleyber at 2B, Volpe at SS, Cabrera in LF. Until Bader is over his oblique injury, the OF alignment won’t be what I’d like (who plays CF? Hicks? Judge? Cabrera? Heck, IKF was out there the other day. Ortega?)

Boone says that Volpe is a leadoff or middle of the order hitter. As of now, he is committed to LeMahieu leading off. I beg to differ. I’d have Volpe lead off for a few reasons.1) He’d be helped by Judge behind him. No pitcher wants runners on base with Judge coming up. He wouldn’t want to walk Volpe. Volpe would see better pitches to hit. 2) Volpe would disturb pitchers more than DJ. He is a better SB threat. If the pitcher is concentrating on Volpe, there is less concentration on Judge. 3) Volpe is more likely to get the extra base, like scoring from first on a Judge double, or going first to third on a Judge single, than DJ. I’d have DJ batting fifth.

So my lineup would be:

Volpe SS #1 prospect
Judge RF
Rizzo 1B
Stanton DH
LeMahieu 3B
Torres 2B
Cabrera LF
Bader CF
Trevino C

Today’s highlights:

LeMahieu 2 for 3
Judge 1 for 4, double.
Rizzo 0 for 2, RBI, walk.
Stanton 1 for 3
Donaldson 0 for 3
Cabrera 2 for 3, RBI.
Hicks 1 for 2
Peraza 0 for 3 #3 prospect.
Calhoun 0 for 2
Trey Sweeney 1 for 2 #7 prospect

Cole (L) 5 IP, 4 R, 6 H, 1 W, 7 K. Gave up 1 HR. 1 HBP. All runs in fifth.
Abreu 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 1 K.
Cordero 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 2 K.
Marinaccio 1 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 1 W, 3 K.
Ramirez 1 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 W, 1 K.

S.T. Game 1: Gleyber and “The Martian” HR, but Yanks fall 7-4; Will new rules cause problems?

Gleyber Torres and Jasson “The Martian” Dominguez homered, and Oswaldo Cabrera had a 2-run RBI bloop single, but the Yanks fell to the Phillies 7-4 yesterday in their first spring training game.

Torres will soon be leaving the Yanks to join Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Also leaving the Yanks soon will be Kyle Higashioka (USA) and Jonathan Loaisiga (Nicaragua).

Dominguez, who turned 20 just a few weeks ago, is the youngest player in Yankees camp. He will probably begin the season at AA. He hit a hard (102.7 MPH off the bat) as he grounded out his first time up batting lefty, homered (about 110 MPH and 420 ft) batting righty his second time up, and popped up batting lefty his last time up.

Of the nine Yankees pitchers used, Ryan Weber pitched in five games last year for the Yanks, being on the shuttle and DFA’d a few times. Greg Weisssert was up and along with Nick Ramirez, is looking to make the Yanks’ bullpen. Randy Vasquez is a top pitching prospect who struggled yesterday. Alex Mauricio looked good, as did Ramirez.


Kiner-Falefa 1 for 3, double.
Torres 2 for 3, double and solo HR.
Cabrera 2 RBI but misplayed a ball in LF
Dominguez solo HR (#2 prospect)

Weber 1 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 W, 1 K.
Vasquez 1 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 1 W, 1 K. Gave up 1 HR. #14 prospect
Mauricio 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 3 K.
Weissert 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 W, 1 K
Danish (BS) 1 IP, 2 R, 2 H, 0 W, 2 K.
Ramirez 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 2 K.
Snelten (L) 2/3 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 H, 3 W, 1 K.
Pestana 1/3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 W, 0 K.
Fitts 1 IP, 1 H, 1 H, 0 W, 1 K. Gave up 1 HR. #29 prospect.

These rule changes could cause problems. I don’t like a lot of them. I understand Manfred is trying to speed up the game, but the beauty of baseball is that it doesn’t have a clock. Now there is one. And imagine if this happened in the regular season:

In the Red Sox/Braves exhibition game yesterday, it was tied in the bottom of the ninth. Two outs, full count on the batter, and since the batter wasn’t ready in time, strike three was called ending the inning (and since it was just a spring training game, it ended the game as well). Can you imagine that happening in a regular season, or worse, a postseason game? What a travesty!

I understand the desire, but is the time to get ready too short? You know I hate the extra innings rule with that “man starts the inning on second” rule. I understand the desire to speed the game along and save pitchers arms, but…. and I wonder if the clock—by not allowing pitchers to compose themselves—will hurt more pitcher’s arms.

I can live with the bigger bags. I like banning the shift. And those, along with another change I don’t like which I’ll mentioned next, are going to make the speed game more important. I understand (again) the desire not to turn baseball into a beer-league softball game where HRs decide everything, and to put speed and athleticism back into the game. But limiting the pitcher to only two step-offs or pickoffs, then giving the runner the base if the third try is unsuccessful is too much. Maybe after five, ok. But this is another rule I don’t like. And how will records be affected? Will someone steal 100 bases in a season in which 15 of those are actually bases he was given because of a third unsuccessful attempt at a pickoff? Will a pitcher lead the league with 250 strikeouts in which 15 are because of the batter not being ready in time? What about consistency of records over time? How will those records stack up against these new rules?

I see the intent. But with all these changes will it still be baseball or morph into something unrecognizable and unlikeable?

Judge in LF?

With five starting infielders for four positions, someone would have to sit if Giancarlo Stanton DH’s. Also, the Yanks right now would have either Oswaldo Cabrera or Aaron Hicks as their starting LF.

One of those infielders conceivably has a better bat than Cabrera or Hicks. Cabrera was decent in his first 44 games as a major leaguer, but Hicks was awful.

But to get all five in the lineup, Stanton would have to play the outfield. Manager Aaron Boone has said he’d like to get Stanton into the outfield once or twice a week. More would be risking injury to Stanton, who has been injury prone.

So ok, Stanton plays LF in stadiums with a short LF, like in Boston or Houston, and you probably don’t put him in the outfield if the stadium has astroturf.

But what about in Yankee Stadium? RF is the short field there, and that is Aaron Judge’s position. If Stanton plays RF, Judge can DH but you still have that infield glut.

Earlier this week, I was wondering if Judge, who played a very capable CF last year, could move over to CF with Harrison Bader shifting over to LF. Yankee Stadium has a LF that you really want a CF playing LF because of the dimensions. Two CF if you will. The better defensive one in CF and the other in LF. Which is what you basically would have with Hicks in LF and Bader in CF.

Having Stanton in the outfield and being able to use all five top infielders gives the Yanks a better lineup, as I will demonstrate below. Putting Stanton in RF … especially if the Yankees are facing a lefty pitcher, would really work.

It appears that Boone is thinking the same, but there may be one exception. He would keep Bader in CF (where he has already won a Gold Glove) and move Aaron Judge to LF in order to get Stanton in RF. Judge, being team captain, wouldn’t raise a fuss. He’d do what is best for the team. He could always move back to RF at the end of the game for defensive purposes (with Hicks or Cabrera going to LF).

So, against a lefty pitcher at the Stadium, you could see:

Peraza (I am assuming he wins the SS job)

On the bench could be IKF, Hicks, Cabrera and Higashioka. Granted there is only one lefty in the lineup, but it would be against a lefty starter. Hicks and Cabrera, both switch-hitters, could enter the game later if needed.

Putting Stanton in the lineup also helps with flexibility. LeMahieu could DH. He also could play at 1B with Rizzo DHing. or at 2B with Gleyber DHing. Or at 3B with Donaldson DHing. Or, he could play any of those positions and maybe Hicks or Cabrera DH’s, giving Torres, Rizzo or Donaldson a complete day off.

So Judge in LF some days? Don’t be surprised if it happens.

Montas (shoulder surgery) to miss most or all of the season

Frankie Montas will have shoulder surgery next Tuesday Feb. 21. Best case scenario is that he comes back in the second half of the season. The worst case is that he misses the whole year.

With Montas a free agent after the season, it is very likely that the Yankees will get nothing from Montas after a trade in which Montas (who was acquired with Lou Trivino) gave the Yankees eight starts last year, going 1-3, 6.35 while giving up young prospects in

Luis Medina, 24 this year, 5-7, 5.24 at AA in 2022.
Cooper Bowman, 23, ,215-11-47 with 47 SB at High A.
J.P. Sears, who turns 27 in a few days, 6-3, 3.86 between the Yanks and A’s in 2022 (17 games, 11 starts) and
Ken Waldichuk, 25, 2-2, 4.93 in 7 starts with Oakland after the trade.

We will see what the lefties Sears and Waldichuk do this year, but I hated giving those two up, and both look like they could be MLB help this year (both could be in the A’s starting rotation). Now it looks as if Domingo German (who Aaron Boone says looks really good on this first day of pitchers and catchers reporting) and Clarke Schmidt will be competing for the #5 spot in the rotation, but after them, who else is on the depth chart? Will Warren (hasn’t pitched above AA)? Clayton Beeter (ditto)? Randy Vasquez (ditto again)? Yoendrys Gomez (ditto)? None of those four have AAA experience, (Luis Gil is recovering from TJ surgery).

Last year’s moves at the trade deadline have really backfired for the Yanks. Besides Montas, the Yanks got Andrew Benintendi for LF but he broke a hamate bone, missed the last couple weeks of the season as well as the postseason, then went to the White Sox as a free agent. The Yanks only got 33 games and .254-2-12 out of Benintendi (yes, I had wanted him, but who knew he, Montas, and Effross—who I’ll discuss next—would get hurt?). But for Benintendi, the Yanks gave up

Chandler Champlain, 23, 3-8, 5.98 at Low and High A ball.
T.J. Sikkema, 24, 1-6, 4.83 at High A/AA and
Beck Way, 23, 8-8, 3.75 at High A.

None MLB ready yet, but Way looks AA bound.

Then there was Effross, who was great in 13 games, 0-0, 2.13, and three saves but who then needed TJ surgery which will make him miss all of this year. For Effross, the Yanks gave up

Hayden Wesneski, 25, who after the deal went 3-2, 2.18 in 6 games (4 starts) for the Cubs last year.

The Yanks could have used Sears, Waldichuk and Wesneski as depth. For them they got Trivino, Montas (out all or most of this year) and Effross (out all of this year). Ugh.

Sometimes you need to do better due diligence on a player’s health (Montas had shoulder issues before the trade) and sometimes you just get unlucky (Beninteni and Effross). Either way, last year’s acquisitions have been disastrous.

In some other camp news, D.J. LeMahieu is looking good after that toe problem ruined the end of his season last year, and Michael King looks ready to go after that fractured elbow ended a fabulous season for him last year.

Rule changes (and one I don’t like that’s staying)

One rule I hate is staying, and it looks like permanently. The extra innings “start a man on second” rule. I understand pitchers like it because of less wear and tear on the arms. Managers and the front office like it because there are less 18-inning games that mess up your roster. But it seems to me that the integrity of the game is lost. I’ve hated it and will continue to do so.

We will see about the pitch clock and how games will be sped up.

I think the speed game will be much more important because of several changes. First off, the bases are 18″ square now, not 15. Those bang-bang plays are now tilted more toward the runner. More infield hits and stolen bases could ensue.

Also, there is a limit on pickoff throws. Another advantage to the runner.

Lastly, defense. With the shift being banned, there will be more emphasis on range. The shift won’t hide a fielder’s lack of range anymore.

It will be interesting to see how these rule changes affect the game this year.

Bando, A’s 3B of 1970s champs, dies at 78; Shelley Duncan named Yanks’ AAA mgr.

Catching up on some minor and major things. Minnesota traded Luis Arraez to the Marlins for Pablo Lopez. Lopez was rumored to be a Yankees’ target but the asking price was too steep. When I heard Arraez was on the block, I hoped the Yanks could get him, but a) they didn’t have the pitching prospects the Twins wanted, and b) Arraez, although versatile and who could play LF, isn’t that great defensively.

The Yankees named Shelley Duncan as their AAA manager at SWB. Duncan was a Yankee for 68 games from 2007-2009 before going to Cleveland and Tampa Bay from 2010-2013. Shelley is the brother of Chris and son of Dave Duncan. His dad was a long-time coach after his playing career ended so Shelley can draw on his father for some coaching advice.

Prospects are suspects. No matter how highly regarded prospects are, not all pan out (Remember Jesus Montero? Clint (now Jackson) Frazier? Jose Tabata)? Didn’t make the impact in the majors you though they would. Well, Miguel Andujar was just DFA’d by Pittsburgh. Andujar was 2nd in ROY voting in 2018 (.297-27-92 with 47 doubles) but never was the same after a 2019 shoulder injury, hitting just .230 with 8 HR since then in 114 MLB games. And Justus Sheffield was DFA’d by Seattle after going just 12-12, 5.47 in 48 games (33 starts) for them. The Yanks have top prospects in Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, Jasson Dominguez, Spencer Jones, Everson Pereira and Austin Wells, but how many of them will make it? You hope for another “Core 4” but you never know.

Lastly, a notable passing. Sal Bando, 3B for the A’s dynasty that won 3 straight WES from 1972-1974 has passed away at the age of 78. That team is the only team other than the Yankees (1936-1939, 1949-1953 and 1998-2000) to win 3 WS in a row. Bando played for the A’s (Kansas City and Oakland) from 1966-1976 and then for the Milwaukee Brewers 1977-1981. He was a 4x All-Star who got MVP consideration 7x. Three of those times he finished in the top 10 for MVP voting.

1971 RUNNERUP in MVP voting to teammate Vida Blue. .271-24-94, OPS+ 137.
1973 4th in MVP. .287-29-98, Led AL in doubles and total bases. OPS+ 150.
1974 3rd in MVP. .243-22-103. Led MLB in SF. OPS+ 130.

Bando averaged 154 games a year from 1968-1979, averaging .257-20-83, OPS+ 122. His 162-game average for his career was .254-19-83, OPS+ 119.

In 44 postseason games, he hit .245-5-13.

Baseball-Reference has Bando listed as the 16th best 3B of all-time. He only spent 1 year on the HOF ballot, getting just 3 out of 413 votes. I am not saying he is a Hall of Famer, and think he just misses out, but he should have received more consideration that that.

It’s now or never: Estevan Florial.

The Yankees are still looking for a LF, preferably one who hits left-handed in order to balance out the lineup. But what if they can’t get or don’t like any of the free agents or trade possibilities out there?

You still have on the roster Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks. Cabrera is someone the Yanks would rather use in a jack-of-all-trades role, while Hicks has worn out his welcome and the Yanks really would like to trade him.

There is someone else, and for that person, 2023 is a now-or-never time for him. Estevan Florial is out of options, so if he makes the team, he would have to stick.

There is no doubt that Florial, with his speed, could handle LF defensively. He has played mostly CF in the minors but should not have too much of a problem moving over to left. The problem has been his hitting. In 29 major league games (and yes, he has been on the elevator the last few years, up/down, up/down, no consistent stays) he has hit .185 with 1 HR and 3 RBI in 54 at bats. Worse yet, is the 21 strikeouts. He isn’t putting the ball in play. You can’t steal second if you can’t get on first.

Last season, Florial hit .097 in the majors (3 for 31, with 13 strikeouts). Ugh. At AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (SWB) he hit .283 with 15 HR and 39 SB in 101 games. But with 140 strikeouts. The year before, he divided 87 games between AA and AAA and only hit .219, albeit with 17 HR, but once again, a lot of strikeouts.

There is power there, and speed there too. But potential is another word for “you haven’t done it yet”. Unfortunately for Florial, 25, a LOT of strikeouts are there too.

If the Yanks don’t make a move, an opportunity is there for Florial in spring training. But being out of options, it may be his last chance. He needs to cut down on the strikeouts, put the ball in play, and give himself a chance to showboat his speed. And if he puts the ball in play more, the lefty power will show up at the Stadium.

But as mentioned, Florial is down to his last chance.

How do you follow a season for the ages?

How do you follow a season for the ages? What are the expectations for Aaron Judge in 2023? Will fans boo if he as a great season but nowhere close to 2022? What should we realistically expect? Let’s look at what Judge did in 2022 and what baseball-reference projects for 2023.

.311-62-131. 133 R, 111 walks, 175 strikeouts. .425 OBP, .686 SA, 1.111 OPS, 211 OPS+, 391 total bases.
.288-41-99, 97 R, 78 walks, 150 strikeouts. .383 OBP, .570 SA, .953 OPS, OPS+ around 181, 297 total bases.
(projected, still MVP quality)

So, if Judge “Drops off” to the level projected, will fans get on him? How unrealistic will their expectations be? Judge did hit 52 HR in 2017. Hitting 50 again isn’t unrealistic. But if he hits 40-45, drives in 100-110, hits, .285 (something close to what is projected, will fans be happy with that?)

Personally, I think the walks projection is way too low. He drew 111 walks in 2022 and after a season like that he is only projected for 78 walks? I think pitchers will be very careful with someone after a season like Judge had and as a result, he would see as many walks or even more if he isn’t getting any protection in the lineup. Rizzo, who will probably be hitting behind Judge, is important as far as protection—just as Mantle was to Maris. How often will pitchers pitch around Judge?

A sad part of Maris’ history is the unrealistic expectations people had for Maris in 1962. Maris had hit 39 HR in 1960 but outside of 1961, never topped 40 in his career—unlike Judge.

1961 .269-61-141 132 R, 94 W, 67 K. .372 OBP, .620 SA, .992 OPS, OPS+ 167 366 total bases
1962 .256-33-100 92 R, 87 W, 78 K. .356 OBP, .485 SA, .840 OPS, OPS+ 126 286 total bases

Maris had 81 extra base hits in 1961, 68 in 1962. Maybe in 1962 he wasn’t pulling the ball as much. The balls that were HR in 1961 were doubles in 1962. His doubles went from 16 to 34 from 1961 to 1962.

In one game in 1962, Maris was walked intentionally 4x because Mantle was out of the lineup with an injury.

A good, but not great year for Maris in 1962, and his defensive play in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the WS saved the WS for the Yankees. Still, he was considered the “Flop of the Year” for 1962. Really, what were people expecting?

Maris didn’t get any MVP votes in 1962 after winning the award in 1960 & 1961. Mantle won in 1962 despite missing about 30-35 games with injury (.321-30-89 for Mickey, with 122 walks in 123 games).

Maris probably wasn’t MVP in 1962 but 33 HR and 100 RBI for a WS Champ and NO MVP consideration whatsoever?

Breaking Ruth’s record set some people off. Maris, a private person, wasn’t anywhere near as garrulous as the beloved Ruth, thus getting the “surly” rep from sportswriters.

Judge is not surly, and more affable than Maris but still a private individual. I doubt Judge will get the level of vitriol hurled at him that Maris had, and I sincerely hope not.

But I also hope the expectations for Judge aren’t ridiculous. Yes, it would be great to see him hit 60 again, but if he his .285-45-110 you would take that, wouldn’t you?

Judge named captain; Yanks DFA Luetge. NFL Legend Franco Harris passes away.

At the press conference yesterday to announce his signing, Aaron Judge was named the Yankees’ captain, their first since the retirement of Derek Jeter after the 2014 season.

A press conference regarding Carlos Rodon’s signing will be today.

In order to make room on the team for the signing of Tommy Kahnle, Lucas Luetge was DFA’d.

Sad news: Another part of my childhood is gone. I am a Steelers fan and growing up in the 1970s the Immaculate Reception kind of sealed the deal as far as me becoming a fan of the Steelers. Just a few days before the 50th anniversary of the Immaculate Reception, and a few days before weekend celebrations about that play, and a few days before the Steelers were to retire his #32 at halftime of the Steelers/Raiders game Saturday evening, Franco Harris died at the age of 72. RIP, Franco.

LF option. David Peralta?

With Michael Brantley going back to Houston, another LF option is off the board.

Besides the LF options I wrote about before (Reynolds, Kepler, Varsho, McCarthy, even having Cabrera as full time LF (and please, no Hicks!)) I ran across a few other options. Some, like Tommy Pham or Andrew McCutchen, I disregard because the Yankees need a lefty or switch-hitter to balance out the lineup and Pham and McCutchen (who was briefly a Yankee before) don’t fit that qualification.

One name I didn’t mention before is David Peralta. He is a free agent, and a lefty bat that could help. Peralta is 35, a LF and a former Gold Glove winner. At 35, Peralta would not demand a long-term deal. Good. He made $7.5MM last year, so he wouldn’t be as expensive as Benintendi, who got $15MM/yr for five years from the White Sox, would have been.

While Peralta did hit 30 HR in 2018, that is an outlier. He has a 162-game average of .281-18-78 but given his age and what he has done in the past few seasons, .255-.260, 10-15 HR and about 55 to 65 RBI is what you can reasonably expect. If a lefty pitches, maybe that is the time to sit Peralta and play Stanton in LF. You don’t want Stanton in the OF often, but this could keep Stanton fresh.

I don’t know if Peralta could be an answer or if the Yanks have him on their radar. One thing is for sure. The free agent LF are coming off the board. If not Peralta, then a trade may have to be made. Apparently, it would take a lot to pry Reynolds away from Pittsburgh. I am not sold on Kepler from the Twins. What it would take to get say Varsho or McCarthy from Arizona, I don’t know.

But the Yanks should add Peralta to the mix of LF to target if they haven’t already. Think of him as a little older, and slightly less (not by much, the stats are very similar) version of Benintendi.